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sake, hast labored and hast not fainted.” Yes, my brethren, it was for the name of Jesus that the primitive christians bore the persecutions of their day. Acts xv. 25, 26, “ It seemed good unto us to send chosen men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts ix. 16, “ For I will shew him what great things he must suffer for my name's sake.” v. 41, " And they departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” And may I not inquire, how many of us are willing and would rejoice to suffer shame for the name of Christ? Perhaps none. We had rather be called Rabbi, Rev. Dr., &c. We are contending for our names at the present day : for Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Freewills, Campbelites, &c. If we do not contend earnestly for our sect, they will decrease and we shall come to nought. And I say, may God speed it; so that you all may fall on the word of God, and rally again under the name of Jesus. But we will proceed with our subject. 4th verse, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Can this be true Did the apostolic church in its purity so soon depart from the first principles of the gospel? Yes, in Acts xv. 24,
Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circumcised and keep the whole law, to whom we gave no such commandment.” Gal. i. 6, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” I. Timothy, i. 19, “ Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck. II. Tim. i. 15, “ This thou knowest that all they which are in Asia are turned away from me.” And Paul further says, iv. 16, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. I pray God lay not this sin to their charge."
Many more evidences might be brought to prove that many in that early state of the church did fall away from the doctrine of grace, which Paul and the apostles taught. And now my brethren how is it with us? 'Are we built on the truth? Have we a “thus saith the Lord” for all we believe and do? Are we built on the prophets and appostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone?”
Look well to your foundation, the day is coming that will try every man's works.
v. 5, « Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove the candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” In this verse the great head of the church admonishes the christians of their former sins in neglecting the doctrine of grace and falling into the popular errors of the day which I have before noticed, and warns them of their duty to repent, which is the first and great command under the gospel. He also gives them notice, that except they repent he will remove the desirable” state of the church into the next, which would be a state of trial, persecution and poverty.
6th verse, But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans which I also hate. What the deeds of the Nicolaitans were we are not able from the word of God to determine; but from some things hinted at by some ancient authors, we have good reason to believe that Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, departed from the doctrine which the apostles taught, and preached a doctrine which was repugnant to the gospel of Christ, viz. a community or plurality of wives, which led Paul in his instructions to say, “Let the deacons be the husband of one wife.” I. Tim. iii. 12. “He that hath an ear let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches. Here we have another evidence that the branch of the church at Ephesus was not the only church addressed in this epistle and prophecy, for it so what propriety in using the word churches in the plural, when only one church in Asia was spoken of? No, it could not be proper, neither would it have been, as it is so used in every epistle through the whole seven, had not Christ designed it for all the churches in a certain age. There is also an admonition contained in these last quoted words to read, hear and observe the prophecy now given by the Spirit to John, the inspired servant of Christ; and for all the churches of the age spoken of to be careful to apply to themselves the admonitions designed by the Holy Spirit for their immediate benefit. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” How precious is this promise to the faithful and tried soul, who places all his hope and strength and dependence, on one who is mighty to save, and on one who has promised to bring him off con
queror over all the enemies of grace and the powers of hell? Yes, and more than all, he has overcome and entered within the vail as a forerunner for us who believe. May we all by faith have a right to this tree of life, this paradise of God
I will now examine the prophecy to the second church, which I understand to commence about the close of the first century, and lasted about two hundred years, until the days of Constantine, A. D. 312.
8th verse, " And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna, write.” The signification of the word Smyrna, is myrrh, denoting that the church in this age would be a sweet smelling savor to God, while she was passing through the fiery ordeal of persecution and affliction which always has served to weed out those obnoxious plants of pride, popularity, self dependence, the bane and poison of true faith, piety and devotion. And O, my brethren, could we learn wisdom, by what the church has already suffered in the days of our forefathers, we should be more humble the more worldly peace and prosperity we enjoyed. For it is only in the midst of persecution and trial that the church manifest great purity of doctrine or life. How well, then, might this age of the church be compared to myrrh, when she must have been separated from worldly honors, avarice, pride, popularity and hypocricy, when the hypocrite and worldling had no motives to unite with and destroy the union of the brotherhood, and when the hireling shepherd could expect no fleece that would suit his cupidity to filch from the lambs of Christ. “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.” In these words we learn the character speaking to the church. It is no less than the mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace. “I know thy works and tribulation and poverty.”
Now their works were about to be tried, although God knew them that were his, yet he designed to manifest to a world who would be faith ful even unto death and to show that pure and undefiled religion would burn with a brighter flame in tribulation and poverty, and the richness of that faith which would bring off the true christian conqueror over the powers of the world, the temptations of satan and corruptions of the flesh. “But thou art rich.” Yes, brethren, the true and genuine christian is rich. For charity can suffer long in tribulation, and the spirit of Christ will make us forsake
all for his sake and endure poverty for the name of Jesus. “And I know,” says Christ, the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, (that is people of God) and are not, but are the synagogue of satan.” Although Christ knew the hypocrites and false professors that had rushed into his visible kingdom during a time of prosperity that the church had experienced in its Ephisian state or Apostolic age, yet now the time had come when that candlestick must be removed and the next age of the church or candlestick be set up, and the same means used by God to purify the silver would purge out the dross, so that the
cal and false professors.e cleansed of its worldly, hoy pocriti
10, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer." The true child of God need not fear to suffer for Christ's sake, for the sufferings of this present evil world will work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. “Behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days.” The devil
, in this verse means Pagan Rome. See Rev. xii. 9, 17, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil.” “And the dragon was wroth with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” How exactly was this prophecy fulfilled in the days of Nero, Dominitian and other Roman emperors, and how faithful has history been to record the ten persecutions between the days of John's prophecy and the emperor Constantine. In these ten persecutions of the Roman government, in the text called ten days, we learn by the history of those days the church suffered a great diminution in numbers by apostacy and fear; yet those that remained steadfast made up in graces what they lost in numbers, and it was truly a time of trial, for many were cast into prison and many suffered torture and death rather than to offer sacrifices to their pagan gods. “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.” Yes, my brethren, if we can believe the history of those days, many of the dear disciples of Christ were faithful unto death, and have long enjoyed the crown of life promised in this prophecy.
11, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Here then we find some of
those characters who will have part in the first resurrection, the blessed martyrs who were slain for the witness of Jesus. See Rev. xx. 4. And in this passage we are again commanded to hear what the spirit saith to the churches. All, all who have ears, not the branch in Smyrna only, but all who have ears. We have long been in the habit of giving away scripture to others when it belongs to us and our children, let us therefore apply it home.
12, “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write.” Very earthy elevated is the signification of the word Pergamos, and this church represents the age of Constantine which lasted more than two hundred years, until the rise of anti-Christ, from A. D. 312 until A. D. 538. During this age the church became very earthy, having her worldly policy and like the church in the present day, attending more to the outward concerns, and the worldly part of religion than to inward piety and graces of the spirit, looking more for forms and ceremonies than for the life, power and spirit of the religion of Jesus, spending much of their time in building elegant chapels, gorgeous temples, high places to educate their ministry, and adorning them with pictures and pleasant things, and filling the hearts of their worshipers with high, popular and haughty notions. Yes, my brethren, the age of trial was gone; the holy and secret aspirations of piety fled away, and now she had obtained an earthly emperor, her divine Master was forgotten. And here was the falling away mentioned by Paul, II. Thess. ii. 3, “Let no man deceive you by any means for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed the son of perdition.” This, then, was the age that prepared the church to receive that monster the man of sin, the son of perdition into her bosom, which stung the church with the poison of asps and filled the temple of God with image worship and the church with idolatry, selfishness, avarice and pride.
“These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges. By the sharp sword with two edges, we must understand the word of God which denounces heavy judgments on the wicked and cuts off the corruptions and errors from the church. The Psalmist says, cxlix. 5—7, “Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance upon the heathen and punishments upon the