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No. XIII.

THE SEVEN CHURCHES. The moral history of the Seven Churches appears to me to be simple. It is another and most solemn testimony to man's failure under all circumstances. That which was called as the bride of Christ, a has become Babylon, mystery, not only a harlot herself, but the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. In the Seven Churches we get, I think, the rise of this awful “mystery."

Ephesus is the first and most solemn witness. Ephesus had been, if I may so speak, the metropolis of the Spirit; at Ephesus Paul continued by the space of two years: so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." Paul wrought special miracles. Satan was mightily confounded. "So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed.” The Ephesian Church, too, we find was highest in its character. Paul in addressing them, puts the Church at once in its true position, “ Blest with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." In everything, then, it is presented to us as highest. And so it is looked upon, I think, here. It is taken up, I judge, as a preeminently fair specimen of the whole Church; and it is found failing when tested by the Son of Man. He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks with the long foot-robe, which, therefore, would meet with any defilement, if the place be unclean. He holds the seven stars. The seven stars teach them, I think, that they have a responsibility to maintain before God in heaven, even as the seven golden candlesticks owe a light to earth.

The Lord knows their works, their labour: they cannot bear them which are evil:" they had not yet come to that. A high tone of spiritual understanding was yet preserved: and oh! let saints mark this, how

a It must be understood that I speak here dispensationally, meanirg that the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, has not maintained that character before the world, but rather from its apostasy has arisen what the Spirit designates as Babylon, in the Revelation. The peculiarity of the Church's responsibility is, that it has to maintain on earth the character which it really has before God in heaven (See 1 Cor. v. 7).

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consistent these things may be with apostasy begun, in principle, before God. They had tried even them which said they were apostles, and had found them liars. They had been told (Eph.iv.) of true apostles given by Christ to the Church, and they had spiritual understanding to detect these false ones. But then comes out the principle of all apostasy, “they had left their first love' The germ of the dead Šardis, the lukewarm and nauseous Laodicea, and the judged harlot, Babylon, was in this :they had left their first love. That was all. But what is that to Christ? Everything. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love (Cant. vii. 8), it would be utterly contemned." Blessed Lord! That our love could ever be of so much consequence to Him. Again we find evidence that practical evil as yet could find no lodgement: they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. The Lord, therefore, counsels them to do their first works, in other words, to renew their first love, which was just what He wanted. Otherwise their candlestick is threatened. It is required of stewards, that they be found faithful. At Smyrna we get another, and an interesting scene. condemnation there. Their circumstances, I judge, would be favourable to their spiritual health; their poverty (which I take to be literal) and their tribulation. These were quickening them, and preserving them from the general decay. Yet I would not take this as necessarily an exception from the general rule of the decay of the Church. These things were quickening them. And even if there were anything of failure, that was not the time for the blessed Jesus to plead with them, but rather to support them in present faithful suffering for His

We remark, accordingly, that He does not present Himself in His Church, or official character, but in His personal one: the great First-last, that was dead, and is alive again, who overcame death for himself, and

We get no

b I may note again, that, in speaking of apostasy here, I do not speak of final apostasy as to salvation, from which saints are preserved; but rather that dispensational apostasy from truth committed to him, which has always marked man's history in every trial God has made of him. The saint is equally in danger, too, of departing from that full communion with Christ and His truth, to which God has called him.

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will do so for them: the same character which revived the fainting John, and which we should remember too. It is remarkable that, in the case of this lowly one, as of Philadelphia, the only other commended church, they are suffering under false church pretensions from without (Gal. iv. 17).

At Pergamos we get sad evidence that the tide of corruption has gone on. The practical evil which could not be tolerated at Ephesus, "the deeds of the Nicolaitanes," can be tolerated here. The Lord's address shows, I think, clearly, that He held all responsible." I will come to thee quickly, and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” He addresses Pergamos consequently, not as trying their spiritual state, as at Ephesus, but as judging their moral evil,“ having the sharp twoedged sword.”

We come now to Thyatira. There seems to have been in her personal state something even better than the preceding “ the last works were more than the first.” But nothing can palliate evil in the eyes of the Son of God. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. And the evil appears now to have been deeper in its character. There were not only those who held the doctrine, but there was an actual prophetess, an emissary of Satan, seducing his servants with a professed commission from God.

This was a deeper phase of the evil-a greater depth of Satan. [I may observe, that allowing for the different standard of morality now and then, the combining of the love and pleasures of the world with the profession of Christ, is the same doctrine, in principle, as the one spoken of in these Churches].

The Lord, then, denounces His judgment against the guilty. And then He seems to “rest from His fury.” He sees, perhaps, that it is vain to expect anything else from man: the torrent is set in so strong: His people are back-slidden from him with a perpetual back-sliding: and so as in the history of Israel in Kings, mercy comes in (2 Kings xiv. 26, Gen. viii. 21); and so in grace He says to the rest, “ I will put upon you no other burden. But that which ye have, hold until I come."

.And then He proposes a high reward.

Two-three warnings had been given, and now Sardis was dead-entirely dead. He seems to test her by the power of life, “the Spirits of God," and he finds her dead. She does not answer to it. There is a correspondence between this address and that of Ephesus.

Philadelphia opens to us a little revival in the time of the end. A little revival, I say. She has a little strength -not the strength; not the large place of Ephesus, but still a little strength. And let me say, beloved brethren, that that is our great power, that what we have should be real, held with God. It may not be as I said, the full compass of Ephesus, but yet it is real, her own, and that the Lord always honours. “A smoking flax He will not quench.” She has a little strength, keeps His word, and does not deny His name. She is suffering under false church pretensions, as a remnant always does at the close of an apostate dispensation (Is. lxxvi. 5; Malachi iii. 15, 16); but the Lord will make all manifest.

She keeps the word of his patience, when she can, comparatively and humanly speaking, and the Lord keeps her when the hour of temptation is such around, that none otherwise could. This hour of temptation here spoken of, and the promise, “Behold, I come quickly," first addressed to her, identify it with the time of the end (Compare ii. 25). An open door is set before her.

Laodicea closes the scene. Neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, nauseous to the Lord of love, He casts her out of His mouth. Her superior light to Sardis makes her superiorly responsible to Him. This state of things is around us.

The Gospel not denied as in a Sardis state, but acknowledged, yet acknowledged without power, corrupted by political pursuit, worldliness, education, and science, substituted for Christian and alone saving or sanctifying light; does not this bear every feature of Laodicea ?

The cry of increased light, what is it? “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art poor, and blind, and miserable, and naked. I counsel thee,'

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etc. The last state of the Church seems come down upon us, and that at mid-day!

How true it is (Is. xxix. 11), “ The vision of all is become as a sealed book," and for the same (verse 13),“ their fear is taught by the precept of men.” The Church in great measure deceiving the world, joining it in its cry of “Peace and safety !" deceiving and being deceived; whereas sudden destruction comes.

We have thus traced the downward course of the Church. Throughout it all there is no command_to separate-not even at Sardis, or Laodicea. Why? For one thing, I judge, love is best tested where there is no positive command. How many, doubtless, in different systems are waiting for a command to separate; while the evil may

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pressing upon their consciences without a remedy. What are we to do then? Float down on the open stream, till we get into the wide gulf of Romanism in the eighteenth chapter? No! Whenever matters come to a test, whenever it comes to a question between adherence to a body on one hand, and, on the other, the deliberate giving up, and rejection of God's principles of truth, and holiness for His own house, then let the saints know what to choose, I see no other

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preservation from the “great house," which Satan is now forming, and which he is ever seeking to draw around us.

May the Lord bless all that is of truth in these observations! “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly, Amen!"

G. c I strongly think there was this element in our Lord's refraining from giving positive command to separate. In the first place, the question with the seven churches was one of responsibility (“I know thy works”), and therefore the Lord lets that responsibility shew itself out, without interfering by positive command. Further, that responsibility was a responsibility of love, and that love was found at first trial, viz., Ephesus, decaying. What was wanting, therefore, mainly, was a renewal of first love, (“do thy first works"), without which a call to separate would have come without the power to do it aright, and you might say, useless when done. Neither has it been the Lord's way to forestall (though His word regulates) any movement of the Spirit, which He might bring about in the future course of the Church. Yet I believe we should notice, that constantly, if not always, any remarkable revival of the Spirit in the corrupted Church, has been with separation. Witness the Refor. mation, the Methodist revival (Wesley, Whitfield, etc.) in the last century, and His revival of truth to ourselves. The faithful found that the truth, by necessity, led them out. True wisdom is at such times not to dictate to, but to follow God.

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