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ordinances some make their boast and glory, arise from the artifices of the great enemy of souls, and are to be numbered among the most dangerous engines by which he attempts our ruin.
Let our souls again bend, in humble veneration, to him who is the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega. And if we heard his awful voice proclaiming himself by these illustrious and divine titles, let us turn, as it were, 10 behold him; and by these marvellous visions in which he manifested hiniself to St. John, let us endeavour to form some imperfect ideas of our blessed Lord, and the magnificence and glory with which he appears to the inhabitants of the heavenly regions. Every circumstance, not excepting the minutest and most inconsiderable, attending this appearance of Christ to his beloved upostle, seems designed to convey some divine truth, some important lesson, for the contemplation and instruction of future ages. It was, in general, beyond all question, intended to impress us with the lowliest reverence of our glorified Redeemer, that we may pay him our humble and devout adoration, and thus in some degree anticipate the pleasure with which we hope to appear in his immcdiate presence above.
Christ addresses the apostle John, giving him an epistle to each of the seven
Asiatic churches ; and, first, to the church of Ephesus. Ch. i. 17.— i. 7.
17 A ND when I saw him who appeared in this glorious form, I fell
down at his feet as dead ; and he laid his right hand upon 18 me, and said to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last : I am he
who liveth and was dead; and behold, I am living for ever and
ever; amen! and I have the keys of the unseen world, and of 19 death. Write the things which thou now scest, and those which 20 are at present, and the things which shall hercafter be. As to the
mystery of the seven stars, which thou seest in my right hand, and of the seven lamps of gold ; the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven lamps which thou scest, are the
seven churches themselves. ii. To the angel* or minister of the church in Ephesus write ;
These things saith he, who holdeth the seven stars in his right 2 hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lamps; I
know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and that thou canst not bear those who are evil : and thou hast tried those who
say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them to be liars : 3 and thou hast sustained with fortitude the trouble they have given
ther, and hast patience under all thy sufferings ; and thou hast la4. boured for my name's sake, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I
have something against thee, That thou hast lost thy first love. 5. Remember therefore from what thou art fallen, and repent, and do
the first works; otherwise I will come unto thee quickly, and 6 take away thy lamp out of its place, unless thou repent. Never
* The word commonly rendered angel signifies messenger, and is sometimes so translated. VOL. II.
theless thou hast this praise remaining, that thou hatest the works 7 of the Nicolaitans*, which I also hate. Let him that hath an ear
hear what the Spirit saith to the churches: To him who conquereth, I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
REFLECTIONS. With whatever humble and holy reverence this awful representation of our blessed Redeemer may strike us, let us be encouraged to look up to him by a lively faith, and to hear with joy, and with purposes of the most grateful obedience, the gracious declaration he makes of that amazing contrast of divine perfections and characters, and of human weaknesses and infirmities, which met in him. The Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, is he who lives and yet was dead, but is now alive for evermore : for us he became liable to death, but is now risen to a divine and immortal life ; in which consideration let us continually rejoice on his account, and on our own. It is exceedingly reviving to the heart of a sincere Christian, that Jesus has the keys of the unseen world, and of death ; so that whenever we are removed by the stroke of this our last enemy, it is only to be considered as his turning the key, which will let us out of this world into another, of happiness and glory everlasting. How de. lightful to reflect, that heaven is under the command of our Redeemer, and hell is under his controul ! What have his faithful servants to fear from the one ? What have they not to hope from the other? How does this cheering sentiment disarm both life and death, of their respective terrors !
Let us attend to each of these excellent epistles, which Christ condescended himself to dictate, and to address, by the (pen) of his servant John, to these Asiatic churches. Let us attend to his titles, his admonitions, bis promises, that we may be awed with holy rever. ence, that we may be animated to humble hope, and steady courage, in every encounter with the enemies of our salvation.-Let the ministers of Christ rejoice, that they are as stars in the right-hand of their Redeemer. “ Support them, O Lord, by thy almighty power, and guide all their motions by thine infinite wisdom.” Let all the churches of Christ remember, that he walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks ; may iley be pure gold ; may their lamps shine with unsullied lustre ; that their Father may be glorified, and their saviour delighted with the survey. He sces our labour, our patience, our fidelity, and our zeal. May he see that we cannot bear those who would corrupt our religion, without exerting ourselves to silence their false pretensions, and to guard the churches, to which we are related especially, from the venom they might diffuse over them ! In all these respects, may we daily approve ourselves to him in a more perfect manner. But alas ! does he not perceive in many of us, what he complained so early 'of, in the church of Ephesus ; that we have lost our first
* A sect of heretics, who taught that lewdness and idolatrous sacrifices were things indifferent, and therefore lawful
love, and that much of that zeal with which we set out in religion is declined ? If so, let us take the alarm : for dreadful indeed would it be, to have our candlestick removed out of its place ; to have the gospel and all its privileges taken away from us. To prevent this awful judgment, let us recollect from whence we are fallen, if we are indeed in a backsliding and declining state ; and humbly and heartily repent, and vigorously exert ourselves against the enemies of our salvation ; that overcoming the difficulties of this howling wilderness, we may be received to the enjoyments of the heavenly country ; and when we can no longer share in the bounties of providence, in this inferior state, be feasted with the fruit of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
The epistles to the churches of Smyrna and Pergamos. Ch. ii. 8—17.
8 A ND to the angel or minister of the church in Smyrna, write,
A These things saith the first and the last, who was dead and 9 is alive : I know thy works and tribulation, and poverty (but thou
art spiritually) rich ;) and I know the blasphemy of those who
say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. 10 Fear none of the things which thou shalt suffer ; behold the devil
will cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried ; and ye
shall have tribulation ten days : Be thou faithful unto death, and 11 I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear let him hear
what the Spirit saith unto the Churches : The conqueror shall not
be injured by the second death. 12 And to the angel or minister of the Church which is in Perga
mos, write, These things saith he who hath the sharp two-edged 13 sword : I know thy works, and where thou dwellest ; even where
the throne of Satan is fixed ; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days of danger in
which Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, 14 where Satan dwelleth. Nevertheless, I have a few things against
thee, That thou hast there them uncensured, who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before
the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and 15 to commit fornication. Thou in like manner hast those that hold 16 the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which I hate. Repent; or other.
wise I will come unto thee quickly, and I will fight against them 17 with the sword that cometh out of my mouth. He that hath an
ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches : To the conqueror I will give to eat of the hidden manna ; and I will give him a white stone*, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, except he who receiveth it.
* Among the Greeks, a white stone was a token of absolution ; a black stone, of condemnation,
REFLECTIONS. Again let us direct our eyes to that glorious person, who is the first and the last ; and who, though it may appear incompatible with that divine title, was once dead, and is alive again ; and since he is here awfully represented as with a sharp sword going out of his mouth, let us be greatly concerned, that we do not incur his displeasure by our irregular conduct, lest he smite, or even destroy us. Let us observe and imitate what he commends in the churches whom he here ad. dresses ; their humility in being sensible of their poverty, when en. riched by his grace ; their patience, their diligence, and the resolution with which they retained the honour of his name, notwithstanding the throne of Satan was in the midst of them, and the rage of persecu. tion had destroyed Antipas before their eyes ; that blessed, that tri. umphant hero, whose fidelity and constancy his divine Saviour commemorates with approbation, and even with satisfaction and pleasure. Who would not be ambitious of dying in the same manner, were it ever so severe and terrible, to be thus honoured and celebrated by our Lord Jesus Christ, or any of his faithful apostles ? Let us not be terrified at the apprehension of what we may suffer from the malice of Satan, and by his instruments, even though not merely imprisonment, but death itself were to wait us. It is only for a limited time that he can occasion tribulation to any of the people of God; and our blessed Lord will never be unmindful of that gracious promise, Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 0 ! let us by faith survey that innumerable company, who, though they have fallen by the stroke of the first death, have been, and shall for ever be, anhurt by the second: that blessed society who are encircled with immortal crowns, which their triumphant leader, whom they followed with such undaunted fortitude, hath bestowed upon them ; who though they partake no longer of the bread that perisheth, nor are feasted with earthly viands, are yet cating of the hidden manna; who have reccived the white stone, in token of their absolution ; and while the names and memory of many of them have sunk into oblivion, and the honours attending others are of little consequence, they are known in the heavenly re. gions by a new name, conferred as a mark of favour and distinction by the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. We are drawing on, if we are true Christians, to the completion of that blessed hope. And that we may not be disappointed, may we, by divine grace, be preserved from the artifices of those who call themselves the people of God, while they are indeed of the synagogue of Satan, and whatever, like the doctrine of Balaam, would ensnare our consciences, and dente our souls.
The epistles to the churches of Thyatira and Sardis. Ch. 6. 18:-ii. 1-6.
18 A ND to the angel or minister of the church in Thyatira, write,
A These things saith the son of God, who hath his eyes as a 19 fame of fire, and his feet like fine brass : I know thy works, and love,
and service, and faith, and patience, and thy works ; the last are 20 more than the first. Nevertheless I have a few things against thee; · That thou permittest that woman Jezabel*, who saith that she is a
prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornica. 21 tion, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I have given her 22 time to repent of her fornication, and she repented not. Behold,
I will cast her into a bed, and those who commit fornication with 23 her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their works : And
I will slay her children with death ; and all the churches shall
know, that I am he who searcheth the reins and the heart : and I 24 will give to every one of you according to your works. But I
say to you who are faithful, even to the rest in Thyatira, As ma. ny as do not hold this doctrine, and who have not known the depths
of Satan, as they speak ; I will lay upon you no other burden. 25 Nevertheless what you have received, hold fast till I come. 26 And as for him that conquereth, and keepeth my works unto the
end, I will give him in my final triumph, power over the nations : 27 and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and they shall be
dashed in pieces like a potter's vessels : as I have also received 28 of my father (Ps. ii 9). And I will give him the morning star. 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the
churches. iü. And to the angel or minister of the church in Sardis, write,
These things saith he that hath the Seven Spirits of God, and the
Seven Stars : I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou % livest, but art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things
which remain, which are ready to die : for I have not found thy 3 works perfect † in the sight of God. Remember, therefore, how
thou hast received and heard, and hold fast what remains and repent of thy negligence : Unless, therefore, thou art watchful, I
will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what 4 hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast however] a few names
even in Sardis, who have not polluted their garments : And they 5 shall walk with me in whitet, for they are worthy. As for the con
queror, he shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot
out his name from the book of life ; but I will confess his name 6 before my Father, and before his Angels. He that hath an ear,
let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
REFLECTIONS. Let the disciples of Christ always remember, that his eye penetrates the most hidden recesses; that he searcheth the hearts and trieth the reins of the children of men : accordingly, let them take heed to cherish nothing, even in thcir hearts, which their great Master will be
* Probably the same heresy with that of the Nicolaitans. Some think a. particular female to be referred to, resembling the great idolatres, 1 King's xvi. 31, xxi. 25. Dr. Scott supposes it was Helena, the harlot of Simon Magus, the ring-leader of the Gnostics.
t" Filled up” D. † White robes were worn on occasions of joy, and in triumphant processians.