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Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The great point is, Service to the Church; this is too plainly enforced to be denied, though the manner in which this is attempted to be rendered is the fruitful cause of many and grievous mistakes. In truth, to know how rightly to feed and care for the Church we need to be instructed in the nature and doctrines of the Church. If that which we call the church is but an assembly bound to observe a certain ritual and ceremonies,—to serve it will fall very far short of the intention of Christ and lead to a very different course from that which a man will follow who regards every believer as a member of the mystical body of Christ, and as one who ought to be served referentially to that union, which is true in Christ, and would be declared here but for the interposition of the flesh, and is declared so far as the flesh is crucified; for the Spirit is one, and spiritual service must lead to this; not merely to a nominal union but to a union, as true and as real and as holy as that which the members in particular have with the Head. The Spirit cannot countenance less nor can He work in God's servants for less
. So that whenever any thing discordant or disaffective to the union, as it is in Christ, arises, then, just so far, there must be a breach in union, in godly union here. True service begins with Christ, who is the Head, and when Christ is forgotten then the service is defective; it has lost connection with the spring and fountain of all service, because it is from the Head that all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered increaseth. The body is of Christ and He loves it as He loves Himself, and every one who would serve it will best learn to do so by knowing His heart and purposes towards it. In a word it is Christ serves, though it may be through us.
We are but “joints and bands:" if we are not derivative and communicative from Christ, we are useless. To be useful, my eye and heart must be on Christ, and not on the issue of my service; though if true to Him, the end will vindicate me too, however disheartening the interval. He who judges of his service by present appearances will judge by the blossom and not by the fruit; and after all the service is not for the sake of the Church but for the sake of Christ; and if he
be served in the Church, though the Church own it not, yet, Christ being served, He will own it. Now the constant effort of Satan is to disconnect, in our minds, Christ from our service; and this, much more than any of us, perhaps, have fully discovered. Whether in reading, or praying, or speaking, how seldom, if we judge ourselves, do we find that we act simply as towards Christ and Him alone! How often may sentimentality and natural feelings affect us in our service, instead of simple love to Him?
Such was the sin of the church of Ephesus. You could not say that they did not show interest for the members, as far as man could see; they had works and patience—could not bear them that were evil-had tried them which say they are apostles, and are not. Laborious, righteous, strict in discipline, nay, labouring also for the sake of Christ, and yet they were wanting in the allengrossing undivided affection for Christ, which “ first love" designates. The absence of first love entailed the loss of “first works” and the inevitable judgment was the removal of their candlestick, or ability to hold light for the guidance of others. The symbol of a candlestick illustrates the peculiar and blessed office of the church upon earth to be a lightbearer in the midst of surrounding darkness, and thus a guide ; but this it forfeited when it failed in simple and abstract reference to Christ as the centre of affection and the object of all service. If the first fruits of service are not rendered to Christ, there can be no real service to the members. If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another: there could be no fellowship in the flesh; flesh is selfish ; fellowship obtains when flesh is silenced, and in the light to which Jesus has introduced the quickened members of His body, through His own life. If we love our brother we abide in the light and light is in the presence of God where Christ has set us; it is known to us by our union with Jesus—when we walk in it we walk in the consciousness of Himself, because He alone is our light. a
He is the light of men. When we walk in the light a The church is called the candlestick ; the Lamb is the candle Auxvos (Rev. xxi. 23.)
we must serve according to the mind of Christ. If we attempt to serve otherwise, it is no service.
If we are not abiding in Christ we are not in the light, and hence our service will be in darkness and we can do nothing. If we abide in Christ, we are supplied with strength and nourishment from Him who supplies the members. He is the light and gives us light, and by Him alone can we bear light ; without Him we can do nothing; we have no light to know our own course, we know not at what we stumble; apart from the light we can not guide ourselves, much less others; we are but blind leaders of the blind, we forfeit the blessing of giving light.
If Christ, who would give power and ability to us for service, is lost sight of by us, we have not the first works which grow
out of the heart devoted to Christ ; and we consequently lose the
effect which they would produce. In the church of Ephesus I doubt not but that the first incipient form of declension is denounced, and the judgment for such declension is the removal of the candlestick. The removal of the candlestick was not the penalty of open evil: it was the first punishment for the first and earliest form of declension.
Adam's first emotions which led to his fatal fall were doubts of the perfectness of the love of God. He left his first love. He was the first example of man losing the place of lightbearer to this earth, because his heart swerved in fidelity and love to God. He did not eat of the tree of life; but he that overcomes this, the first and earliest tendency of our poor faithless hearts, shall eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
I think it is important to note that there is no allusion to the intent of removing the candlestick to any church after Ephesus. The reason of this, I think, is that the other churches had sinned more grievously, and hence their judicial treatment is more severe than with Ephesus. Here let me observe, that I fear we shall err much if we forget that the seven churches mentioned in the Revelation, as representing the candlestick are all under judgment now.
This is important, because if I take them for precedents for my present action, I am manifestly, by adopting any of their maxims or principles, placing myself under judgment where they are.
True it is, I may be described by one or other of the churches, but I assert that no zealous and devoted saint or company of saints could seek to follow any of their ways as a whole, yea, rather but would seek to be unlike them, seeing that they are under sentence of judgment for being what they are, and instead of seeking to them for lines of guidance we should rather seek how we may avoid resemblance to them. We need only refer to Paul's opinion of them as expressed in 2 Tim. i. 15; where he says, “ All they which are in Asia are turned away from me.” Now I should not gather from this that all the Christians in Asia were deceivers, and had given up the profession of Christianity; no such thing. I believe they had departed from the truth relative to the churches present position and hopes; just the same as Demas in the 4th chapter ; “ Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present age (tóv vüv alớva). He had not necessarily given up Christianity; he gave up the idea that the church was purely heavenly without any earthly hopes, and that it was only to traverse this dark world as heavenly citizens bearing the light of God through it, as the body of Christ. He could not bear to regard himself as so completely cut off from earth and no longer to have a hold, position, or citizenship here; he could not brook the doctrine that our citizenship is in Heaven (see Phil.). And like him were all they that were in Asia. Hence the seven churches are presented to me not as patterns for imitation, but specimens of the declension which would occur, and from following which we ought to be deterred by the judgments inflicted on them. Ask me to shape my course by any number of Christians, whom the Apostle tells me “have turned away from him " ! no surely. Rather it relieves me to find that there is especial notice taken and judgment passed on them, who disregarded his high and holy teaching; and though, as I have already allowed, the seven churches so dealt with, may and do stand there as representative of the general condition of the church, yet this in no way affects my statement; they are not for our guidance but for our warning. And he who follows them, follows that which
was under sentence of losing its blessing. Nor is it an argument of any weight to say that because certain solemn duties are not mentioned as being observed by them, and which they are not admonished to observe, that, therefore, they were not obligatory in a condition similar to theirs. Can a church or any body exercise discipline or observe solemn duties till it first rights itself corporately as touching foundation-truth. Ephesus was applauded for her discipline, but when she lost her candlestick, would she discipline? Did any of them retain the candlestick ? Unless cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart what was the value of discipline? Does it not argue a very low state of spiritual apprehension to remind a church of one of the essential attributes of its existence as discipline undoubtedly is? Is not Pergamos censured for retaining (čxels ékei) amongst them " those that hold the doctrine of Balaam," and also, 6 those that hold the doctrines of the Nicolaitanes." How (I may ask) could they get rid of these but by discipline? and yet some quote Pergamos as a precedent to us for not using discipline. Why, their fault was that they had not used discipline. Nay more, they had not discovered the power of Christ as the sharp sword to repel and destroy such false doctrines. In like manner it is alleged, that, because in Sardis a few names are said not to have defiled their garments, and that, consequently, they shall walk in white, that this is a precedent for us to satisfy our consciences that, though we are in connection with what is manifestly erroneous, yet we may be individually pure and untainted ourselves, and hence indifferent as to separating from such unhallowed associations. If this is the light which Sardis diffuses, it savours little of Him who is the light. In a corporate character, Sardis is described as having only a name to live, and her works are incomplete before God. She is accordingly warned, that unless she remember how she has received, and heard, and holds fast, and repents, that judgment will come on her as a thief; but even in the event of this judgment being consummated, a few names will be carried through the tribulation. There are some sincere ones who have not defiled their garments, they shall overcome the evil influences affecting Sardis. They