Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

proconsular

may be common to the whole, or a number of them. Yet they most accurately express those seven periods, which stand especially distinguished by seven peculiar characters not to be mistaken.

It may be well to commence our illustration by contemplating the correspondence discoverable between the names and historical circumstances of the seven real churches, and the features of the seven periods. All the seven churches are supposed to have been founded by Paul, in or before A. D. 54, during the reign of Claudius; and they all lay, according to the order in which they are addressed, within an amphitheatre in that province of Asia Minor called Asia. Of that province, Ephesus, standing on the shores of the Archipelago, was the capital. Its bishop in 65-67 was l'imothy; whose instructions from Paul, in the two Epistles, not a little attest the truth of the picture given in the Revelation. The word Ephesus, expressing either complacent desire, or an appeal from one to another, denotes, under either acceptation, the favour of God, then first shewn to the Gentiles; out of whom He then proposed to take a people for his name, during the apostasy of the Jews (Acts x. 34; xi. 1, 18; xii. 46). At the same time Ephesus was distinguished, above all the other six cities, by its idolatries, magic, luxury, and lasciviousness; especially by the temple of Diana, ranked by profane authors as one of the seven wonders of the world, and noticed with no little particularity, among the other phenomena of the place, in the xixth chapter of the Acts. So that, while the name which this city had acquired in the overruling providence of God aptly signifies the commencement of the preached Gospel among the Gentiles, its historical circumstances shew forth the height of those strong-holds, and the depth of that darkness, which the Holy Ghost had then first assailed to overthrow, and penetrated to enlighten. Ephesus long continued to be distinguished as a metropolis of the faith, and a seat of ecclesiastical councils. And its subsequent fate well accords with the terms of the warning held out to it: in 1678, 1699, 1740, and down to the present day, it has been observed that this city cannot produce one Christian family. (Ricaut, Chishull, Pocoke, Arundel). Yet the church has been removed, not destroyed : for, according to the words, “ I will remove thy candlestick out of its place” (Rev. ii. 5), it was found to subsist in 1699 at a neighbouring village, called Kirkingecui.

The word Smyrna, means myrrh, spices, or incense, which throughout all Scripture are used by the Holy Ghost to represent the faithful testimony and prayers of the saints. The burning of incense was, in Old Testament times, but a type of the dedication of the saints to the glory of God (Gen. viii. 21 ; Num. xv. 3 ; Exod. xxx. 8; xxxvii. 29; Num. xvi. 47; Psalm cxli. 2; Mal. i. 11).

And when we read, in the New Testament, that the saints are unto
God a sweet-smelling savour of life (2 Cor. ii. 15; Eph. v. 2;
Rev.v.8; viii. 3,4), we can have little doubt that the characters
of the Gentile adopted church of God, in this its second period

--so tried, and so purified through trial; so rich, though
poor; so highly honoured to shew forth the power of Christ in
upholding his tempted members (James i. 2; 2 Cor. xii.9; 1
Pet. iv. 13; 2 Cor.1.5), and therefore so well-pleasing unto the
Head of the church-are fitly expressed by the name of this
city. This city, which alone was a colony from Ephesus, and
which thus illustrates not only the sequence in time but the
progress in character discoverable in the Gentile dispensa-
tion, stood about forty-five miles north of Ephesus. It had
for its first bishop Polycarp, who in 166 became a martyr;
remarkable, not only for his stedfast holiness, but for a grace
by no means common in that age of martyrs, the grace of
not courling martyrdom. It was also distinguished for the
celebration of the Olympic games: and when we remember how
the Spirit has employed these and other such exhibitions to
illustrate that wrestling with principalities and powers, that
running of a race, that striving for a crown, that fighting the
fight of faith, that filling up of Christ's sufferings, which
ought to stamp the militancy of us the panoplied fore-front-men
in the battle of the Lord-of us, who by faith on earth delight
and inform the spirits, strengthen and crown the efforts of all
the heavenly hosts obedient to the man Jesus and his brethren-
the celebration of these games at Smyrna is no uninstructive
fact. (Eph. vi. 11; 1 Cor. ix. 24, &c.; Gal. ii. 22 ; Phil. ii. 16;
Heb. xii. 1; James i. 12; Rev. ii. 10; 1 Tim. vi. 12; 2 Tim. ii.
15; 2 Cor. i. 5; Col. i. 24; Rom. viii. 22). It is also worthy
of remark that this city was peculiarly filled with Jews, that
very "synagogue of Satan," by whose acrimonious urgency
and foul duplicities against the cross of Christ Satan stirred up
the Roman power to persecute the saints among the Gentiles, as
he had already stirred it up to crucify the Lord. The present
state, too, of Smyrna is remarkable: with one exception (that
of Philadelphia), it now contains the greatest number who bear
the name of Christ; and that, after the apparent destruction
of its church, under the atrocities of Tamerlane, in 1402. At
present it possesses two bishops, a Greek and an Armenian ;
and a somewhat zealous Christian population.

Pergamos expresses secure exaltation, on a rock or otherwise. On this account, all high places of safety were anciently called pergama. The ity, sixty-four miles north of Smyrna, was the capital of Mysia ; the great resort of the priests of Esculapius; and, above all, the residence of the once-famous Attalian dynasty. The meaning of the Esculapian priesthood may perhaps

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

afterwards appear; but the name of secure loftiness, and royal habitation, deserve present attention. It was the first city in the circuit, although not the last, in which kings abode; and so it well represents the safety and dignity with which the faithfulness of the protomartyr church in persecution was rewarded, when the faith of Christ became that of the greatest monarch and empire in the world.

By the word Thyatira may be understood the sacrifice (or sweet savour) of contrition or toil ; which well applies to the history of the Reformation church-that is, to the church during the 1260 years—and would have applied much better, had she not “ suffered " Jezebel, the self-called prophetess. The city stood forty-eight miles east of Pergamos.

The import of the word Sardis does not so directly appear; yet we ought not on that account to conclude that it has no edifying application, but to wait till God see meet to instruct us further. Its supposable meanings are various. According to the most probable, it either stands related to, or is the name of, a brilliant gem; and the full acquaintance which we expect to make in the

sequel with the characters of the Bible and other society church, may perhaps lead us to understand this name as setting forth its rotten yet renowned condition, its reputation of life, and splendour of show, as a bright jewel on the breastplate of our High Priest. Sardis, about twenty miles southeast of Thyatira, was also a metropolis—the metropolis of Lydia— noted for its high prosperity, voluptuousness, and debauchery; and in particular for its having been the residence of Croesus, that Lydian king whose wealth has for ages been proverbial. . How this fact bears on our interpretation, it is for them to see whom God has delivered from the spirit of blindness; from the honours, the snares, the strength, and the wisdom of man, which now so quench the Spirit of God in our sorely sunken church. And it is not uninstructive to take along with us the current remark of profane historians, that in the time of Cyrus (who represents our Lord as the deliverer of his people from the mystical Babylon, Isai. xliv. 28; xlv. 1, &c.; Psa. cxxxviii.) Sardis was the wealthiest city of Asia, next to Babylon.

Philadelphia expresses brotherly love, whether between those who had or between those who had not been previously brethren. Accordingly, it represents that era, so often spoken of throughout the epistles, when they that look for the Lord shall, in the midst of the strife and selfishness of the last days, be knit together, by their common faith and hope, in the bonds of his mystical body, in the unity of the Holy Ghost; and, especially, when those Jews who shall be darkly yet honestly awaiting Messiah, the King and Salvation of Israel, shall have sympathy and fellowship with such Gentiles as shall have not turned unto fables, but kept God's word, and expected the Lord to execute in truth his yet-pending word of prophecy. This city, which stood about twenty-seven miles south-east of Sardis, had, shortly before the date of these epistles, been deserted by many of its inhabitants : the greater part, however, although much impoverished, continued to reside in it. According to Gibbon, it was preserved almost untouched during the hour of temptation (Rev. ii. 10) which came upon all the other Asiatic churches in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It yet remains, a city erect amid ruins. It contained at least 1000 Christians some time ago : it now contains many more than any of the other six cities. And, what is very remarkable, it now bears the name Allah Shehr, The city of God. Now its antitype is the church in that period which succeeds the great earthquake of the French Revolution (Rev. xi. 13); which is characterized by the earnest yet patient expectation of the Lord; which receives the answer of its faith in being caught up to meet him; which is thus kept from the hour of temptation ; and which so becomes, not Laodicea chastised in love, but the victorious ministerer of the great tribulation (Rev. ii. 24, 26 ; iii. 10; Luke xxi. 36; Heb. xi. 5).

Laodicea means the righteousness of the peopleor, in other words, designates a people sufficient in themselves ; which think they have attained ; and, like God's Jewish church of old, at the very moment when he was about to give them over to Babylon, gladly hear and blindly say “ The temple of the Lord are we” (Jer. ii. 35; vii. 4). How this character befits the era thus indicated does not yet appear, for the era is future; but how it accords with the rest of the words of the Spirit concerning that era, will abundantly appear; and these words shall come to pass. The city itself, said to have been named

. from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus II., stood on a volcanic hill, about forty-two miles south of Ephesus; was surrounded by a volcanic territory ; was repeatedly overthrown by earthquakes; and was repeatedly rebuilt, at the charges either of its very opulent inhabitants, or of the Roman emperors. It now lies, however, completely desolate, the funereal monument of its former splendour: not a Christian, or even a Turk, will fix his abode there ; so that wolves and jackals are almost its sole inhabitants. In all these features we see fearfully indicated the last and dying stage of the Gentile church, before the gathering of the Jews shall give it life from the dead (Rom. xi. 15): we see the imminency, the terrors, the earthquake convulsions of the great tribulation; the ungodly league with the world; the blind plea of a fancied innocence (Jer. ii. 35); the self-complacent and Goddenying refusal to repent, save in those who shall become zealous; and the ultimate ejection of rich yet poor professors (Rev. xvi. 18), as intolerable in the sight of Jacob's mighty God, then to be revealed as the Searcher of hearts (Rev. ii. 23).

Another very important preliminary consideration is, that no one of these seven periods or conditions of the church tallies with the Papacy. The seven epistles do, indeed, contain more than one portrait of it; but this circumstance only adds to the consideration a weight additional to that which it would have had without the existence of any such notice: for while the Papacy is mentioned, it is NOT MENTIONED AS A CHURCH. We find its traces in the epistle to Ephesus; and there we might well expect to find them, seeing that Antichrist was in the world in the days of John. Under Pergamos we have it again noticed, and that in a form much more matured, and to an extent much more alarming: for sorely does God plead with his church then being, on account of her having blindly cherished in her bosom, up to manhood, the man of sin; the foulest spawn, because the right church-like and most worshipful device, of that head liar and old serpent the devil. And we should accordingly expect that the picture of the maturescent Papacy would be immediately succeeded by a picture of the Papacy matured. So it is; but, instead of finding the Papacy matured into a church, however sinful, we find the church of Thyatira, acknowledged of God, proceeding side by side with it, called upon to testify against it at every instant, and by the least sufferance of Jezebel much grieving the Holy Ghost. In short, under this fourth church we have the Papacy no longer as the latent disease, an intrinsic evil; but as the revelation of iniquity, the great extrinsic enemy, with whom the church shall at her peril cease the strife, or ever hold parley, far less fellowship. And so the very first glance at these wonderful epistles arms us with a triumphant answer to the question, so often put by Papists, and by Protestants so rarely answered, regarding the connection of the Reformed with the Apostolic church. The chronological successions are complete without the Papacy. It is not included : it is expressly excluded ; and its exclusion does not affect the continuity in the least. Let no man, then, as he honours the decision of God, call the Papacy a church.

The next thing to be observed is, that, of the seven churches, two only receive commendation almost unmixed with reproof, though not without warning; and two only reproof almost unmixed with commendation, though not without promise. The whole seven represent each a peculiar condition of a church

a militant, a sweet savour to God by the victory of faith. Each, therefore, represents a peculiar character of victory; and, consequently, each species of victory sets forth by contrast the peculiar features of its corresponding assault-namely, by temptations to coldness, terror, idolatry, unstedfastness, worldly vanity, unbelief, independency. Whence we discover in the seven Gentile periods at once the history of the wiles or ragings of

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »