« PreviousContinue »
LUKEWARMNESS IN RELIGION,
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA.
REVELATION iii. 14-22.
And unto the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans write; These things
saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich ; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten : be zealous, therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.
In the course of our observations on the epistles to the Churches of Asia, we have been able, amidst all the censures which have been passed upon those Churches, to find some consolatory circumstance. But in relation to the Church of Laodicea, now to pass under our review, we shall find a state of things of a totally different description; for in the epistle to this Church there is not one word of commendation; the whole of the address is in terms of the most severe and unqualified censure, without the acknowledgment of one redeeming principle, either of faith or of practice. And as was the character of this Church of Laodicea, so was its final catastrophe, and such is its present condition. The desolation is as complete as the imagination of man could have possibly conceived; and while I endeavour to give you some historical and topographic details, I shall scarcely find room to say any thing in relation to its present condition; for all that can here be said is,that Laodicea was, for Laodicea is not—and we may observe, the most awful expression of the Almighty's indignation, and the well established connexion between the sin by which they fell, and the catastrophe by which that sin was punished. But I must not anticipate. Let us proceed to give, as far as can be collected, all that is interesting in relation to the Church now under consideration.
In ancient geography there are four cities by the name of Laodicea, but the one which is alluded to in the text, was in that portion of Asia Minor called Phrygia. It was situated on the river Lycus, not far from the city of Colosse. Its ancient name was Diospolis, or the city of Jupiter. It was afterwards called Rhoas, and then Antiochus. It was rebuilt by Antiochus Theos, who called it Laodicea, from the name of his wife, Laodice. We learn from an incidental remark in Cicero, that Lao
dicea was once one of the most commercial and wealthy cities of Asia. The city was once distinguished by the magnificence of its public edifices. It had three large theatres, one of which was said to be able to contain twenty or thirty thousand per
There are many ruins of mighty fabrics which proclaim the former grandeur of this place, but time and earthquakes have defaced all things, and scarcely left one stone upon another. Tacitus says, that when Nero was fourth time consul, Laodicea was shaken by an earthquake, but by its own riches being rebuilt, it suffered the same judgment again; when it was deserted by its inhabitants, and lost, not only its opulence, but its name.
Laodicea is particularly remarkable in an ecclesiastical point of view. There was a Church here in the time of the Apostle Paul, but by whom it was founded has been utterly unknown. There is mention made of the Church at Laodicea in St. Paul's epistle to the Colossians, thus" for I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my
face in the flesh;” by which though we learn both of the Churches at Colosse and at Laodicea, that St. Paul had not visited either of these places at this time. The angel or bishop of this Church of Laodicea is supposed to have been Epaphras, who is alluded to in Colossians, 4th chapter, verses 12–18: Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis. Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and 'the Church which is in his house. And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans; and that
likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it. The salutation by the hand of me Paul. Remember my bonds. Grace be with you. Amen.” In the Apostolical canons it is said that Archippus, alluded to in the above extract from Colossians, was ordained bishop by the Apostle. However all this may be, a large though lukewarm Church existed in this place towards the close of the first century, as is manifest from the epistle sent by Christ through the instrumentality of John, and a form of a Church continued here for a long time. We can trace it in history through several centuries, and the detail is interesting. There was a Church here in the second century, because we learn from the testimony of Eusebius, the ecclesiastical historian, that Sagaris, its bishop at that time, suffered martyrdom in the reign of Antonius Verus. I cannot find any particular notice of this Church in the third century, but in the fourth it was very distinguished for two eminent bishops, the one named Theodorus and the other Gregory. In the fifth century the Church of Laodicea had made such strides in temporalities, that it became the metropolitan Church of Phrygia. It continued so, as far down as the seventh century, in which age we are further told that Tyberius, its bishop, was present in the sixth synod of Constantinople. After this we lose the traces of this Church
until we come to its secular history, an interval of three hundred years. In the year 1097 it was taken possession of by the Turks. In 1120 the Turks were defeated by the emperor John Commenes, who retook Laodicea and rebuilt its walls. In 1161 it was again deprived of its fortifications; many of its inhabitants were killed, among whom was the then bishop; many others, together with their cattle, were carried off by the Turks. In 1166 it was again ravaged by the Turks. In 1190 the German emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, passed Laodicea on his way to Palestine to join the crusaders, and made some diversion in favour of the Christian inhabitants. On the invasion of the Tartars in 1255, the Grand Seignor gave Laodicea to the Persians, but they were unable to protect it, and it again fell into the hands of the Turks, from which time it has been gradually sinking, till now it is utterly desolate. It is without inhabitants except wolves, and jackalls, and foxes; and a recent traveller remarks—“ We could see no traces of houses, or Churches, or mosques; all was silence and solitude. Several strings of camels passed eastward of the hill on which we were standing, but a fox, which we saw peeping over the brow of the hill, was the sole inhabitant of Laodicea.” What a picture of desolation ; and yet what was to be expected? God had given them to the curse for their lukewarmness, and had said, as we shall hereafter see, “I will spue thee out of my mouth,” a term which implies that he would utterly destroy them; and they are destroyed—a monument of the truth of prophecy; for not a Church, not a Christian family, not a solitary hermit, remains to mention the name of Christ. Its history is written in the declaration once before made, Laodicea was,