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angel or bishop of the Church, they are meant to apply as well to the people of his charge, for it is the invariable exhortation, "hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
The Church at Ephesus was probably first addressed, because it was the place in which St. John had principally resided, and perhaps also from the circumstance of its being so distinguished a city. It was the capital of Proconsular Asia, situated on the shore of the Egean sea, in that part anciently called Ionia, [but now in geography designated as Natolia.] Ephesus, once so distinguished, now bears no vestige of its original splendour. A few years ago the number of nominal Christians was reduced to three, and these three are probably now no more, having either sunk beneath the red scimitar of the Turk, the victims of oppression, or purchased a more honourable death in the cause of their country's liberty. "What would have been the astonishment and grief of the beloved Apostle, and Timothy, if they could have foreseen that a time would come, when there would be in Ephesus neither angel, nor Church, nor city! When the great city should become 'heaps, a desolation, a dry land and a wilderness, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby.' Once it had an idolatrous temple, celebrated for its magnificence as one of the wonders of the world, and the mountains of Corissus and Prion re-echoed the shouts of ten thousand tongues, 'great is Diana of the Ephesians.' Once it had Christian temples almost rivalling the Pagan in splendour, wherein the public image that fell from Jupiter lay prostrate before the cross, and as many tongues moved by the Holy Ghost made public avowal that
great is the Lord Jesus. Some centuries passed on, and the altars of Jesus were again thrown down to make room for the delusions of Mahomet; the cross was removed from the dome of the Church and the crescent glittered in its place, while within, the Keblé is substituted for the altar. A few years more and all is silent in the mosque and in the Church! A few unintelligible heaps of stones, with some mud cottages untenanted, are all the remains of the great city of the Ephesians. The busy hum of a mighty population is silent as death. 'Her riches and her fairs, her merchandise, and her mariners, her pilots, her caulkers, and the occupiers of her merchandise, and all her men of war, are fallen.' Even the sea has retired from the scene of desolation, and a pestilential morass covered with mud and rushes has succeeded to the waters which brought up the ships laden with merchandise from every country."* Wonderful indeed are the ways of Providence, and well for our warning may the Spirit of God cry to us-" he that hath an ear let him hear." The topics to which your attention will be called in the present lecture, are
I. The introductory description of the speaker, and
II. The commendation passed on the Church of Ephesus.
I. "These things saith he who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, and walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks."
The "seven stars" are meant to represent the
• Arundel's seven Churches of Asia.
angels or bishops of these Asiatic Churches. The Apostles are called by our Saviour "the light of the world;" and John the Baptist is spoken of as a "burning and a shining light." The same representation suits the character of the bishops and ordinary ministers of the Gospel in every age, when they are duly qualified for the office which they bear; for by the doctrine which they preach, and the wholesome example which they manifest before the world, they shed forth the beams of heavenly light in the several spheres in which it is appointed them to move. These "seven stars" are represented as held by our Saviour "in his right hand," which is intended to intimate that the true ministers of the Gospel are under his special care and direction; that he fixes them in the various orbits in which it is intended they should move; that he guides their motions, imparts to them the light and influence they are to reflect upon the world, and holds them in his hand to keep them from falling.
Another particular in the description of our Saviour is, that he "walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." This will be easily understood as alluding to the seven Asiatic Churches. The expression intimates, that in some peculiar manner our Saviour is present in the Churches which his right hand hath planted, according to his declaration, "wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them;", that he walks among the Churches as a man in a garden in which he delights, to inspect the tender plants and watch over their growth. The idea is beautifully expressed in Canticles-"I came down into my garden, to behold the fruits of the valley, to
see how the vine flourished and the pomegranates budded." The purpose of Christ's presence in the midst of his Churches is to perform the part of chief bishop or overseer, to inspect, to aid and to bless. "As the High Priest of the Jews was to order the lamps in the temple, and keep them continually burning, so our Lord, walking amidst the golden candlesticks, amidst the Churches of his saints, diffuses among them the oil of grace, causes them to shine as lights in the world, and rejoices over them as the objects of his special regard."*
II. We consider the commendation passed on the Church of Ephesus, "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 sake hast laboured and not fainted."
As preliminary to the commendation, our Saviour expressly declares his omniscience-"I know thy works." Nothing is hidden from me, I am perfectly acquainted with every thing connected with the affairs of your Church at Ephesus, as if I was visibly among you and personally connected with all your concerns. When the Lord Jesus Christ thus declares his omniscience, who can doubt but that he claims for himself the honours of a true and proper divinity? "I know thy works." From the terms of the commendation, we ascertain that the Ephesian Church was at that time composed of those who were fruitful in every good word and work. That the ge
* Wadsworth's Lectures, p. 12.
neral aspect of all outward affairs was promising, and that the members appeared to be adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in holiness of living; and that there was still among them that which might constitute them a peculiar people, zealous of good works. They had "laboured" for the promotion of the cause of Christ, and the motive by which they were actuated was the glory of their master. Our Saviour not only declares that he knew their works and their labour, but their "patience;" that is, their meek endurance of trial, of temptation and of suffering "for his name's sake." What those difficulties were, which they had borne with patience and yet with firmness and resolution, we are not able accurately to ascertain, but may gather some information from the next declaration, "I know that thou canst not bear with them that are evil, and that thou hast tried them which say they are apostles but are not, and hast found them liars." This appears to be principally a commendation of the Ephesians for their zeal in the cause of truth and godliness. They had not only sought to remain free from gross evil themselves, but they had a holy indignation against those in whom it was exhibited. They were so far from being indifferent to the evil which is in the world, that their zeal was ardently directed against all those practices which had a tendency to dishonour their Master, and bring discredit on his cause: and the difficulties into which they brought themselves may have been on this account, for zeal in the cause of Christ will most generally bring down the indignation and opposition of the world. But there was a still further cause of commendation. Some, it appears, had come to these members of the Church of