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THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST AS THE UNIVERSAL BISHOP.-HIS EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH
REV. iii. 7-13.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth: I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan (which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie); behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
In the zeal of interpreters, by all means to cast light upon this wonderful vision of the seven churches, recourse hath been had to the names also; which, though they be the names of real places of the Lesser Asia, then and still existent, are not therefore to be rejected as devoid of a
mystical meaning; because the perfect wisdom of God, in making choice, from the numerous churches, of seven, whose condition should make up the completeness of the condition of the Christian church both spiritually and historically considered, might so choose them, as that by their names they should contribute to that excellent design. There is no previous improbability, much less impossibility, that the particular names should be significant, as well as the particular temptations and virtues and vices of the several churches; and no interpreter hath done his duty till he fairly examine this point also, and see what it will yield. The consideration of this, however, I have postponed till I should have laid down the great cardinal principles by which the vision is to be examined, and the great ends of instruction and warning, of encouragement and reproof, which it serveth to the Christian church in all ages, and to the private Christians of all churches. And being now acquitted of this duty, whether as respects the historical or the catholic view, I yield myself willingly to seek what new information can be gathered from the names, and so to introduce the subject of our present lecture.
Now of all subjects, especially such as are more nice and difficult, it is always best to begin with that part which is the simplest and most evident, and so to proceed to that which is more difficult and remote from the common apprehension. This is the best order for teaching and learning, though it may not be the best for arranging the subject after it hath been fully comprehended. Taking this method, there is none so proper to begin with as the name of the church now under consideration; which, beyond any question, signifies "brotherly love," and can by no ingenuity be made to signify any thing else. If, then, any doctrine be contained in the name, there should be found in this epistle something specially pertaining to brotherly love. Is it so? I think no one, considering the seven epistles, can doubt that it is so. For if the "brotherly love" be sought for in the relation between the chief Shepherd and the angel, then is there no one of them all to whom he speaks with half the affection and complacency; sheltering him from the evil to come with all the tenderness of an elder to a younger brother,
and encouraging his little strength with strong promises and cheerful prospects; if, again, the "brotherly love" be sought for in the membership of the church itself, behold how he assureth him that those, who were standing apart from him, should be brought into submission to his autho rity and fellowship with the brethren,-and this through knowing "that I have loved thee;" and finally, if the brotherly love" be looked for in the substance of the Spirit's promise, that consisteth of fellow-citizenship in the new Jerusalem, of domestication together in the temple of God, and of one common name. Here, then, we cannot choose but observe a wonderful coincidence between the meaning of the name and the substance of the epistle.
The name which, next to "Philadelphia," is of the clearest and most unequivocal interpretation is "the Laodiceans;" which, being interpreted by the name of the place "Laodicea," is, as we have elsewhere observed, "the popular voice, the judgment of the people, the public opinion;" being taken from the name of the people, by which, in this case as that of Smyrna, it is expressed, then it would more nearly signify "the people righteous, or the righteousness of the people;" coming, in either case, nearly to the same meaning, That the rightness of things is judged in that church, not by conscience nor by God's word, by the rule of charity nor the law of righteousness, but by the tribunal of the people. And how this agreeth with the substance of the epistle, any one can perceive without help of a commentator. It is self sufficiency and selfrighteousness from the beginning to the ending of it; indifference to God's holy service, independence on Christ's righteousness; a measuring of themselves by themselves, whereby they become fools. This instance would lead us to connect the significancy of the name with the state and condition of the church as the direct object of it, and with the style of Christ and the promise of the Spirit, only as indirectly connected through the medium of this.
The next of these names which we take as being the most obvious is "Thyatira," which is compounded of two Greek words; the one signifying "scent" or "incense," the other "to bruise" or "disturb," and so making together "the sweet savour of labour" or "the incense of contrition." Now we have already examined that epistle, and found
work or labour to be the characteristic feature, distinguishing it from the rest. It referreth to the state of the church under the domination of Jezebel, "the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth," for the long season of " time, times, and half a time," during which it is said to them, "Here is the patience and faith of the saints;" and at the end of which it is said, "they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them." To the saints of that time was given the grace to endure grinding oppression, and under it to yield the incense of a broken and a contrite heart; and to them, as their reward, it is promised that they shall break and bruise the nations, and tread them down as the mire of the streets; wherefore also Christ is presented to them with those feet of brass which are never worn with thrashing, and never polluted with the vileness of the tares, and chaff, and dust from which he is separating the precious wheat; with eyes of fire also, to discern every grain, however buried and to all appearance lost in heaps of rubbish. This also answers well to the name Thyatira," or "the incense of labour and contrition."
Next in the order of distinctness is "Pergamos," which hath its name from the rocky height or elevation on which it stood; for, according to Strabo, all places built on eminences were anciently called "Pergama." Now, that church is re presented as "dwelling where Satan's seat is." Satan's snare is pride, and the airy regions of pride are the seat of that ambitious spirit still; and his last and most glorious servant, the Infidel Antichrist, whose familiar spirit Satan may not disdain to be, shall perish through the daring pride which he shall conceive of " sitting upon the mount of the congregation [Mount Zion], in the sides of the north." To resist pride of place, seated glory, the honour of prelacy, the temptation of the bishop's see [seat] and the bishop's throne, into which Constantine brought the church, as by one stride, from the dungeon of death; this was the calling and controversy of that church, To withstand those Balaamite doctors, who were selling the church to the state for riches, as Balaam did, by the adoption of all courtly practices, and seductive oratorical arts; to gainsay these Nicolaitane doctors, who, as is reported of Nicolas, brought the chaste and beautiful