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characters! In these last days, the thing will prove too certain, and the interpretation sure! The high claims of heretics, Christ here calls blasphemy.
Such blasphemy has, in our day, been heard; and much more is
yet to come. If it has always been a truth that “there must be heresies among you, that those that are approved may be made manifest;" this is more particularly to be the case in the period just before the battle of that great day of God. The Saviour, with his eye fixed upon such, and at the same time upon his dear people, says to the latter, Fear not !
Ver. 10. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried: and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. As though he should say, “Fear not! for I am with
be not dismayed, for I am thy God.” “Who art thou, that thou shouldst be afraid of a man that shall die; and of the son of man that is grass ? Where is the fury of the oppressor ?" “ The moth shall eat them up like wool!" Much more happy was this church, than were the persecuting Roman emperors; or than was Alexander, in conquering the world! The latter would die in vexation and despair; but the followers of Christ were heirs of an immortal kingdom. For such, death had no terrors; the devil would cast some of them into prison by his wicked agents : and they should have tribulation ten days. A ten years' persecution was just ahead : Christ hence exhorts them to be faithful unto death, and he would give them a crown of life: Give up your temporal life for my cause, when you are called; and the eternal life of the soul shall take its place.
Ver. 11. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death.
This solemn direction is repeated. And who would not hear and obey it? What church would not feel a holy ambition to deserve such commendation ? Here are the
true riches; here is true greatness. O church of the Redeemer, “go thou and do likewise." The second death (the true king of terrors to the wicked) will have no power against people of this character. But the promise in the text implies that all who do not overcome, shall be hurt of the second death. They that turn back from God, as well as they who seek not God, will all be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death.
- Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing away from the living God.”
Ver. 12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges ;
Pergamos was another city of Asia Minor, to the northward of Smyrna. This church, while it had some things to be commended, had some things likewise to be censured. The trait of Christ's character now was, “he that hath the sword of two edges !” The two-cdged sword of Christ will be dreadful where sin is indulged. May delinquent churches remember this, and tremble, and reform!
With this church, Christ begins with commending what good he found among them, evincing that he is more ready to commend than to censure. This is much more the delight of benevolence, while the reverse is the malignant delight of the carnal heart.
Ver. 13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied
faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth
All their deeds and their trials were before his omniscient eye. Happy the people who act always under the full impression of this great truth! This church dwelt where Satan had a seat (throne). Pergamos was one of the head-quarters of the Prince of Darkness. Here were champions of idolatry, of heresies, and of persecution. Here Antipas (an early martyr), had been made to seal his testimony for Christ with his blood. Yet this church,
in such perils, maintained its Christian professions and the doctrines of grace. One would imagine they would escape censure. But censurable dereliction is found even here!
Ver. 14. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.
15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
Some base mercenary characters were suffered to continue in their communion. Some who were of a covetous temporizing spirit, similar to that of ancient Balaam, who savoured not the things of God, but those of men, and were ready, slyly, to give counsel against God's dear Israel. Such Antinomian counsellors of Satan were by some means retained in the bosom of this church. This spirit of Balaam can operate in many ways, according to time and place; while yet it is the same thing; viz. a covetous worldly spirit, most hateful to God !
This good church imbosomed also some who held the impure tenets of the Nicolaitans ; abominable to Christ; who practically denied that “ fleshly lusts do war against the soul !" that “they who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts !” and that the offending eye, not plucked out, will sink its owner into hell. Sensualists will forget these things : but that church should not have forgotten them, nor held such in her communion. Hence Christ adds :
Ver. 16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
As though he had said, with such offenders as these parley no longer. Take effectual and immediate measures either to reclaim them, or to sever them from
your church. Listen not a word to their vile pleas of liberty of conscience, or of sincerity in their sentiments ! Hear not
their vile appeals to charity. Be no longer blinded with such pretences. Purify yourselves at once from such scandals; or you may expect to know the meaning of the sharp sword of two edges. Faithfulness in one point will never atone for sin in another. One leak, neglected, will sink the ship! He that offends in one point is guilty of all,
Ver. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.
This solemn admonition is thus repeated, to show the danger of not yielding the pious attention demanded. Sublime motives to duty are continually presented. Here, they that overcome shall richly partake of that bread of life, typified by the ancient manna, hid in a golden pot in the ark of the covenant. Christ is the bread of life-the true bread that came down from heaven. The soul that overcomes shall perfectly enjoy him in his full salvation in heaven. And in order for this, such a soul shall be justified by Divine grace, denoted by the white stone here mentioned, in allusion to the process in ancient courts. In the trial of one indicted for a crime—the judges would vote for his condemnation, by casting into a box a black stone, or for his justification, by casting in a white one. The white stone should be here given in behalf of the true saint. And, to this figure Christ adds a rich appendage, that the white stone of justification has wrought into it a new name, which none but the receiver can construe; or none can infallibly know the evidence of grace in the heart of another. This is a thing which a person must. see to for himself, by the witnessing of the Spirit of grace. Such witnessing gives meat to eat which the world knoweth not-joys, with which the stranger does not intermeddle. The white stone of justification has indeed sanctification inscribed on it, and well may the subject of this be noted as. having a new name. “ Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name:" the new name of
Christians was indeed given to the followers of Christ, and will be the new name given to the Jews, when they shall be called in! A true Christian, is indeed a name which no one truly knows, but by being brought to the possession of it. “ The world knoweth us not, because it knew not him.”
May ministers and professors, who are called to dwell where Satan peculiarly has a seat, hear and joysully obey this address of Christ. Such places where Satan's seat is, are many: and the professed people of Christ there are in danger of becoming themselves of a temporizing character; or of being led astray by those who are of such a character. Dreadful indeed is the charge, when it applies, “ Thou savourest not the things that be of God; but the things that be of men. Ministers and churches then, have great need to maintain vigilance and prayer, and to be bold, zealous, valiant, and persevering. They must not consult flesh and blood; but the word of God.
Ver. 18. And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass ;
We have here an address full of meaning. This city south-eastward of Pergamos, had its true church of Christ; but such were the imperfections found in this church, that Christ was about to administer solemn warning and reproof. He hence assures them that the address was from Him, before whose flaming eyes their conduct lay open! that their wickedness was before Him, whose feet are like burning brass, or his ways most pure and holy. But he kindly commences by rehearsing their good deeds.
Ver. 19. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
The character of this church, it seems, had been established by exhibitions of a good degree of charity, or holy love. And they had performed services of faith, of holy patience, and of good works a second time expressed.