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efforts are vain, these truths would not have succeeded in the pulpit and will not in a book. But in this age, when Christians have learned so well the value and the efficiency of prayer, I feel that if I but ask and receive the prayers of God's people, this little work, and others which may succeed it, may be blessed of God to the spiritual benefit of those who read; I shall therefore without wavering or doubting, submit it to the public.
G. T. B.
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS.
REVELATION ii. 1-7.
Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus write: These things saith he that
holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil : and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake has laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works ; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and I will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. 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 tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
Of the apocalypse, or revelation of St. John the Divine, there are two grand divisions marked out by the Apostle himself, in terms so plain, that there need be no misconception. The first of these divisions contains what the Apostle calls “a svo" or the things that are; plainly implying their allusion to the then existing state of the Church. The second of these
divisions is prophetical—“a Menaec yoveodai” the things which shall be hereafter; plainly implying their relation to the future state of the Church from the time of the Apostle to the final consummation of all things. The first of these divisions includes but the first three chapters; and to these, or rather to the second and the third chapters, will our attention be confined, as they contain the seven epistles to the Churches of Asia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. These Churches are supposed to have been planted by the Apostle Paul and those immediately connected with him in the ministry of the Gospel. They lie nearly in an amphitheatre, and are addressed according to their geographical positions. I propose to take up the consideration of each of these epistles, in the order of their present arrangement, and I adopt the form of the lecture, in order more readily to present to your view all the particulars of interest which it will be in my power to gather. Their geographical situation,—their past and present history, will come before us, as well as their doctrinal and practical characteristics; for my object is (if by the grace of God I may,) to interest as well as instruct. The principle of interpretation which I shall adopt, will be that placed so conspicuously before us by the Apostle himself—viz: that these epistles are meant to apply to the then existing state of the Churches to which they were severally addressed. This is mentioned, because it has been the opinion of several eminent commentators, that the seven epistles to the apocalyptic Churches are prophetic of so many successive periods and states of the Church from the beginning of Christianity to the consum
mation of all things. Apart from the fanciful character of this opinion, it is contradicted by the plain declaration of St. John, and by the facts of the case; for “the things that are,” evidently allude to existing circumstances. Besides, the state of the Church, according to the whole tenor of prophecy, is to be most glorious in its latter days; whereas, if this opinion were true, the last condition of the Church would be worse than any previous, inasmuch as the spiritual condition of Laodicea last addressed, is the worst and most desperate of all. The existing state of the Asiatic Churches at the time of the Apostle, is the principle assumed in this interpretation; and the desire to collect and to place before you all that can be done, whether of interest or instruction, connected with the subject, and thus to seek to advance the glory of God, is the feeling which will govern me in the progress of these lectures. And I
that God, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy, may see fit, in his infinite mercy, to own and bless the humble attempt to the glory of his own great name, and to the salvation of your souls, my brethren, beloved in the Lord.
With these preliminary considerations, I take up the epistle to the Church of Ephesus.
The epistle is addressed to the angel, or bishop of the Church, who is supposed to have been Timothy, the beloved disciple of St. Paul, his son in the Gospel; and who continued in that office until the year of our Lord 97. Timothy is said to have suffered martyrdom while preaching against idolatry, in the vicinity of the celebrated temple of Diana. It is evident from the construction of the epistles, that, though addressed in the first instance to the