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Rev. i. 20. “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches : and the seven candlesticks which thou gawest are the seven churches."
It has generally been believed that the seven churches, to whom the Angel instructed John to write, were seven different and distinct churches in Asia, and by almost all of our commentators at the present day are understood to mean seven literal churches. But your speaker is forced, from the reasons which will hereafter be produced, to be lieve that these seven churches of Asia are to be understood in a figurative sense, alluding to seven periods of the church militant, during the christian dispensation, down to the first resurrection and the commencing of the glorious reign of Christ on the earth, commonly called The Miblenium. If this view of the subject should prove to be the correct exposition of the text, how important and interesting is the subject to us who live in the last stage of the church. Then we who live at this day are particularly; and solemnly and awfully admonished in what is said by Christ to the church of the Laodiceans; that church corresponding with our stage of the church immediately previous to the commencing of the millenial glory, and how necessary that we should know that these admonitions do most deeply concern us.
This view of the subject will then claim our first attention. Were the seven churches used as a figure of the whole christian dispensation, or were they not? I answer, in my humble opinion, they were. Because, Ist. The book of Revelation does evidently contain a prophecy of things which did not concern those seven literal churches in Asia, for those churches have long since passed away and hecame extinct, yet the book of Revelations contains
prophecies which are daily fulfiling and have been for eighteen centuries. It is also said to be a revelation of things which must shortly come to pass." The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” Not things that have been. Yet if Christ is only giving admonitory advice to those seven literal churches, then he is only relating their characters as they then were, and thus far as these churches were concerned it would cease to be a prophecy, and the very first verse in Revelation would be violated. Again, 3d verse, “Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." We see that it is called a prophecy in this verse, and must allude to the whole book; but who will pretend that the three chapters in the beginning of Revelations are a prophecy, if we understand them as relating the character of seven literal churches in Asia only? None, none.
Again, the word seven is often used in the word of God as a mystical number, meaning the whole, as seven spirits, seven stars, seven angels, seven candlesticks, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven thunders, seven plagues, seven mountains, seven heads, seven eyes, seven horns, seven crowns, seven kings, and seven churches. All these are used in Revelations and apply to, or concerning the whole Gospel period. If, then, the number seven is used so often in this book in a figurative sense, may we not reasonably suppose that it is so used in the dedication of this book to the seven churches in Asia, and the history of those seven churches be prophetic? for no scripture is given for any private interpretation, and surely the instruction in the infroduction of the book carries us down to the coming of Christ in the clouds, “Behold he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him, even so, amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” And why all this descriptive grandeur in the address to these seven churches, if they only were meant ? Surely there were other churches of equal importance at that day. Where were the churches at Corinth, Capadocia, Galatia, Thessalonica, Phillippia, Collossia, Rome, Jerusalem, Lamoria, &c. ? Our text shows that the seven churches were to be understood in a figura
tive or mystical sense. « The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches : and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." These seven churches are represented by “ seven lamps.” See Zach. iv. 2," And said unto me, what seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps which were upon the top thereof. These seven lamps are called “the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the whole earth.” See Zach. iv. 10. If this is true, then it readily follows that the seven churches of Asia are only used as a figure representing the church “through the whole earth.” Again, the seven lamps, which are the seven churches, are called the seven spirits of God. Rev. iv. 5, “ And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of 'God.” I have clearly proved, and I think it will be admitted by all, that the seven eyes of the Lord,” and “the seven spirits of God,” are the seven churches to whom John was directed to write or dedicate his book, the Reve
And I will now show that these comprehended the whole church through the whole earth. See Rev. v. 6, “And I beheld, and lo! in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” Again, when we compare the several characteristic marks or events, upon opening the seven seals, with those marks and instructions to the seven churches, we shall be led to admire the beauty, harmony and consistency of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to his people. And I think the mind will rest satisfied that this view of the subject is the truth, because it so exactly agrees with Christ's manner of teaching by parables when he was with us in the flesh.
Some may inquire why were those seven churches in Asia used as figures to represent the church militant in her several conditions to the end of her militant state ? I answer, (if we may be allowed to answer the whys or wherefores, because the signification of the names of those seven churches describe the spirit and qualities of the several periods of the christian church, which they are brought
forward to represent, which we shall attempt to show in its proper place.
et les plus de I shall now endeavor to take up the churches in the order in which they are laid down to us in Revelations. (Read Rev. ii. 14 inclusive.) Ist. The word EPHESUS, desirable chief. This is true concerning the first age of the church in the Apostle's days, when the Holy Ghost was given the power to work miracles and the power to distinguish between good and evil spirits, and when all were of one heart and one mind, and the canon of the holy scriptures were filling up, and the inspired Apostles were setting things in order and establishing churches through the world. Yes, my brethren, these were desirable times surely. but to proceed: This church is addressed by the character “ that holdeth the seven stars,” the ministers and servants of him who holdeth them in his right hand,” under his immediate care and control, “ who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," and has said where two or three are gathered together in his name there will he be in the midst of them, and has promised that whatsoever they should ask in his name it should be granted unto them. He says, " I know thy works.” In that day they brought forth fruits meet for repentance, and they went every where preaching that men should repent; and Paul said, when preaching at Athens, “But now commandeth all men every where to repent." Yes, all, saint or sinner, high or low, rich or poor; all, all must repent. And oh! my brethren, how much we need these works at the present day. “Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do thy first works.” · Again he says, " I know thy labor.” Did not the Apostles labor night and day? II. Thess. iii. 8, “ Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you. See I. Thess. ii. 8, 9, “ So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail : for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” Again, he says, " And thy patience." This, too, will apply to the Apostle's days. For Paul says, II. Cor. vi. 4, " But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afisictions, in