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the smooth and easy current of their wishes; for then their roots strike deeper, because meditation and prayer and watchfulness are their sources of consolation. And while there will come a wo on the heads of those who throw in the way of religious character one solitary obstacle; and while they will be answerable at the bar of judgment for their ungodly efforts to hinder the work of grace, God will overrule it all to the good of the individual, and his or her graces and virtues shall grow brighter and purer, because tried in the furnace. I doubt not, but that the very persecutions endured by the Church at Smyrna, may be counted among the subordinate causes why this Church is altogether commended. They lived in fiery times, and on the history of the world, there are no brighter examples of purity of Christian faith and devotedness and beauty of Christian conduct, than in those days, when it cost many a confessor his life to say that he was a Christian. "Wo unto you when all men speak well of you," says Christ; for they never will speak well of him who, by his zeal and his fidelity, and his devotedness to God, puts to shame the lukewarmness and the inconsistency of others. I know that it is good for a Christian minister, that he suffers tribulation and persecution for the sake of his Master; and what is good for him, cannot but be good for a private Christian; for in the matter of personal religion, there is no difference between them. What is good for the one, is good for the other; and if both can be upheld by a conscience void of offence towards God and man, they may rejoice that they are counted worthy to suffer shame for his name, and they may both be con
soled that he who "was dead and is alive again," hath said, "I know thy tribulation."
One of the principal sources of tribulation to the members of the Church at Smyrna, arose from the existence of a body among them who are thus described "I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." This may mean, that in the city of Smyrna, there were persons who professed the Jewish religion, and consequently said that they were worshippers of the true and living God, and yet who, by their practices, proved that they had not among them any proper sense of religion. The members of the Church of Smyrna, therefore, were in tribulation, to observe a set of individuals who not only rejected the true religion of Jesus Christ, but who blasphemed by their wickedness the very name of God, by which they called themselves, and therefore testified that they were not a synagogue of God, but animated by the spirit of the devil. Our Saviour once addressed himself precisely to such, as recorded,-"I speak that which I have seen with my Father, and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father; if ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." This is one meaning, as commonly given of the passage. Another is, that there were some in the very body of the Church at Smyrna who were hypocritical professors, endeavouring to hide an unholy life under the sacred garb of a religious profession; thus endeavouring to deceive God as well as men. But "I know their blasphemy," says
God, and it is declared of such, that they are animated by the spirit of the devil; that they serve him instead of God. But whether the passage be understood in this sense or the former, it was a serious trial to the souls of the faithful. The sacred cause of religion itself was liable to be dishonoured, as well as the individuals themselves exposed to ruin from the righteous judgment of God. It is always so. In every Church, those who really strive to love and serve the Lord, suffer tribulation from the ungodly walk and conversation of those who, while they name the name of Christ, are yet found not to depart from iniquity. Religion is never so severely wounded as when she is wounded in the house of her friends; no more fatal enemy has she than the enemy who is disguised under the garb of friendship, and who causes the name of God to be blasphemed, by not adorning the doctrine he professes by a life of holiness corresponding. Never was there a censure more severe, cast on any individuals calling themselves by the name of Christians, than that which the Spirit utters when it speaks of ungodly professors of religion as belonging to the synagogue of Satan; as actuated by the very spirit of the devil to bring reproach and disgrace upon one of the noblest, and one of the holiest of causes. Religion lays her claims at the door of every individual who professes to entertain her, and demands a steadiness and a perseverance and a consistency which alone can do her honour. Outward persecutions may rage; they may make their fiercest and most desperate attacks; but all their rage and fury is spent in vain, while there is within a holiness, and a piety, and a devotedness, which
mark the vitality and energy of the faith which is competent to overcome them all; but once let error in fundamental doctrines, and ungodliness in practice, make their insidious advances, and the very emissaries of Satan have worked their way within the walls, and will make their efforts to break down all the remaining defences, and thus to leave a way open and easy to the access of the enemy. Every ungodly, every unholy, every inconsistent professor of religion, is the author of incalculable mischief; and instead of belonging in spirit and in truth to the Church of the living God, serves to make another of that synagogue of Satan, by whom the work of God is hindered, and by whom the name of God is blasphemed. Happy was it for the Church of Smyrna, that nothing of this kind was countenanced. There appears to have been a holy jealousy to maintain, with the purity of Christian faith, the holiness and integrity of Christian conduct; and while the members of that Church themselves walked in the ways of God's laws, and in the works of his commandments, they had their faith and their patience tried by the evil courses which were pursued by others. They appear to have regarded it somewhat like the Psalmist, when in spiritual sorrow for the ungodliness of others he exclaimed, "rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law." Somewhat like the prophet who wrote while his heart was almost bursting with the pressure of his sorrows-"O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night" for the daughter of my people. Yes, my friends, the righteous do grieve over the misconduct of the wicked. To see the
ungodliness which surrounds them; to observe the vanity and wickedness which riots so largely; and above all, to see the name of God blasphemed and his cause dishonoured, by those who say that they are Christians, but who in conduct and conversation deny the Lord that bought them, is a source of tribulation which is more bitter than the persecution of the foe. This had the members of the Church of Smyrna to endure, and this has many a Church to endure, for that glorious time of Christianity has not yet come, when there shall be none who have the form, without the power of godliness; none who name the name of Christ, and yet depart not from iniquity.
To all the outward array of persecution, and to all the internal tribulation of the kind last mentioned, there is superadded by the Lord, "I know thy poverty." No circumstance of external splendour seems to have marked the condition of this Church of Smyrna. The members of this Church do not appear to have possessed the miserable comfort of an outward prosperity. It is more than probable that this Church had been reft of all its riches by the hand of violence and oppression; and not only so, but that its members, individually, had been stripped of their possessions, and like the poor and persecuted of the Churches of the Waldenses, in the valleys of Piedmont, nothing left them but the inheritance of faith and hope, of which no tyrant could possibly divest them. But against this, outward poverty would weigh as the small dust of the balance; for what is persecution, what is tribulation, and what is poverty, where the Church or the individual can retain the faith which overcomes the