« AnteriorContinuar »
attended the councils of the Church for many centuries. At length this Church sank under the common desolation in the 13th century. Yet Smyrna, being at this time a principal mart of European commerce, is in a better state than others of the seven Churches. It is still a populous city, and contains some Christian inhabitants. Ib. Thus saith the First and the Last, &c.] The title, under which the Supreme Head addresses this Church, is the same which he had assumed on his first appearance to Saint John, and is explained in the note, ch. i. 17, 18. The character of it agrees with the purport of this address, which is to encourage the Smyrnaeans confidently to meet the fiery trial of martyrdom; in the sure expectation of triumphing over the power of the enemy, as their Lord had done before them. Ver. 9. Thy poverty (but thou art rich).] The Smyrnaean Christians, poor as to the goods of this transitory life, were rich in good works, through faith; “ rich towards God;” had laid up a treasure in heaven, which no worldly calamity can destroy". They were opposed and harassed by a powerful party, who, calling themselves Jews, were not, like the honest Nathanael, “Israelites indeed ti" nor like him described by Saint Paul, “a Jew inwardly, in spirit, not in the letter, “whose praise is not of men, but of Godf.” These professed Jews were men of violent character, who blasphemed the name of Israelite by calling themselves such; who were in fact the emissaries of Satan, em
* Luke xii. 21. xvi. 2. 2 Cor. vi. 10. 1 Tim. vi. 18. James ii. 5. v. 2. - - -
+ John i. 48.
! Rom. ii. 28, 29. See the true Israelite in the Christian Church described more particularly in note, ch. iii. 4.
ployed to corrupt; or to excite that persecution, which is foretold in the succeeding verse. They continued the same practices in later times; for the Jews, as was their custom, says the Smyrnaean account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, assisted most zealously to accomplish the destruction of the martyr, and to prevent his interment by the Christians". Ver. 10. Fear none, &c.] To this virtuous Church, against which no particular fault is alleged by their all-seeing Lord, persecution is announced; a persecution occasioned by that great adversary of the Church, who appears, in the sequel of this book, to be the ultimate cause of all the evil which it suffers in the course of ages. Some of them were to be imprisoned; and, as we may judge from the words, “Be thou faithful unto “death,” were to suffer martyrdom. Yet these sufferings are not denounced as a punishment, for they are not so accounted in the New Testament. Such persecuted saints our Lord encourages to “rejoice, for “great is their reward in heaven f.” So also Saint James, ch. i. 2, and St. Peter, i. 1, 6, 7, the latter of whom assigns a reason, which will be the best comment on these words, iva weigaa.0%le, “that ye may be tried ;” “that the trial of your faith,” says he, “being much “more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it “be tried by fire, may be found unto honour, and “praise, and glory, at the appearance of Jesus Christ.” Ib. Ten days.] This period may be either, literally, ten days; or, typically, ten years; for, according to the use of time in prophetical Scripture, a day is oftentimes taken for a year. It is thus expressly ordered in Ezek. iv. 6; and in earlier times, days were pronounced typical of years, as in Numbers xiv. 34. So Isaiah,
* Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. iv. c. 15. # Matt. v. 12. according
according to Bishop Lowth *, uses three days for so many years. So Ezekiel, in ch. iv. 6 f. And as a week of days ended in a sabbatical day, so there was a week of years ending with a sabbatical years. And after this manner of computation the prophecies of Daniel are generally understood. The difficulty of settling whether the persecution foretold in this passage be of days or of years, arises from this, that we have very little history of the Church in those times when the prophecy was probably fulfilled, at the conclusion of the first, or commencement of the second century. Many of the Christian records were destroyed in the Dioclesian persecution. We have indeed an account of a persecution which the Church of Smyrna underwent about the year 169; when, amongst others, Polycarp, its venerable Bishop, or Angel, suffered martyrdom $: but there is no proof that this persecution continued either ten years, or only ten days. And it seems at too great a distance of time, upwards of 70 years, to be the persecution foretold by our Lord, who addresses the Smyrnaeans then living, and prepares them, not their grand-children, for the catastrophe. Besides, this persecution was extended to the other Churches of Asia, which would therefore have been prepared by the same warning. Less reason have we to suppose that this prophecy was fulfilled at the persecution under Diocletian; for the distance of time was still greater, being upwards of two hundred years, And this persecution raged throughout the empire. Yet we find this persecution applied to the prophecy by some writers, chiefly upon the notion that it lasted ten years, which, however, seems not to have been strictly the case;
* Ch. xx. 3. + Clarke, Serm. vi. 185. ! Exod, xxiii. 10, 11, 12. § Euseb. Hist, Eccl. lib. iv. c. 15. for
for it commenced in 304, and ended, in the East, if not in other parts of the world, by the edict of Maximin Galerius, in 31 1 *. Upon the whole, it seems most probable, that the persecution, foretold in these words, was only often days, and was fulfilled in that generation; Xand that the Jews, who are described as acting against this Church, under the influence of Satan, were the authors of the persecution. This prophecy, thus fulfilled, would serve a temporary purpose; it would convince the seven Churches, that the Revelation which foretold it was from God; and that therefore the remaining predictions of the same Prophet would also receive their completion: and it would occasion them to revere, and preserve, and faithfully to deliver down to posterity, the book in which they were contained; which they seem to have done. Ib. Crown of life.] A crown denotes regal and tri---, far. * umphant power. It is a distinguishing ornament of the Messiah, who is “King of kings f,” and, as such, is represented with many crownst; and he has pro- a ...', so mised such rewards to his faithful followers. As then ** the tree of life” is used to signify immortality $, so “the crown of life” represents a triumphant immortality || ; according to an assurance given us by Saint Paul, which will exhibit the meaning, and, at the same time, the scriptural propriety of both these expressions: “If we be dead with him (Jesus Christ), “we shall also live with him ; if we suffer, we shall “ also reign with him.” Whereas, in Lam. v. 16, it is, “Woe unto them who have sinned; the crown is “fallen from their head I.”
* Mosheim, History of the Church.
Ver, 11. He that hath an ear.] See note, ch. ii. 7. Ib. Second death.] For an explanation of the expression, “he who overcometh,” see note, ch. ii. 7. To the spiritual conqueror, in that passage, immortal life is promised; but it is here inferred that he must not expect to approach to it otherwise than through the passage of death, which is the common lot of man by the divine sentence"; and by which the “Captain of Salvation, the Lord of Life,” himself passed to victory. This is the first death. But beyond the grave, (where death, in the common acceptation of the word, can no more prevail,) is the second death ; not only a total extinction of all our pleasurable feelings, and of all our hopes of happiness, but an ever-during sense of this extinction, “where the worm dieth not, and the “fire is not quenched.” To death, in this secondary sense, our Saviour frequently alludes. “He that “believeth in me shall never die, 8 p.m arobava eic rev alwva, shall not die for ever f; John xi. 26; see also John viii. 51, x. 28: in which passages it is clear from the context, that our Lord did never intend to exempt his followers from the first death, or common passage through the grave t. For, this kind of death, by the victory of our Lord, being disarmed of its sting; being deprived of the power of retaining “the soul in hell;” being to the good Christian only a short passage to immortality;-—is expressed by the gentle term sleep. “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.” And again, “The “maid is not dead, but sleepeth $.” And we are exhorted
* Gen. iii. 19. + So translated by Dr. Clarke.
t John xii. 25. Matt. x. 28.
§ Matt. ix. 24. John xi. 11, 13. 1 Cor. xi. 30. xv. 6, 18, 51. 1 Thess. iv. 14, 15. Rom. iv. 17. Matt. xxvii. 52. Luke xx. 36, 37, 38. This metaphorical application of the word sleep, so useful to divest - death