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REVELATION ii. 5.
Remember from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
THESE are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to the church of Ephesus. They contain a call to repentance and reformation, with a severe and terrible threatening in case of disobedience. In the second and third verses, we have an acknowledgment of what was good in that church, "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 hast laboured, and hast not fainted." Nevertheless, says he, in the 4th verse," I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Their affection was cooled, their zeal was abated, they were become
more remiss and lukewarm in the duties of religion. Now, this our Saviour could not bear; he therefore calls them to remember their first estate, to consider their present degenerate condition, to mourn over it, and to rise from it by a speedy repentance and reformation. And to give this summons the greater efficacy, he threatens them with the removal of the gospel from them, if they did not repent: "I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."
Many useful observations might be made from this passage; as, first, That our Lord Jesus Christ takes special notice of those to whom the gospel is sent. His eyes are in every place, beholding the evil and the good; but he walks in the midst of the golden candlestieks, and carefully observes the improvement which men make of this precious light. This teaches us what manner of persons we ought to be. We are placed here, as it were, on a theatre, and act in the immediate view of our King and Judge. Yea, he hath in a manner entrusted us with his glory, and called the world to take notice of us, as the persons by whom he expects to be honoured, and therefore our behaviour cannot be indifferent to him. He may wink at others, but cannot wink at us. The husbandman is not dishonoured by the unfruitfulness of a wild tree, upon which he has bestowed no culture; but the barrenness of what is planted in
his garden, or inclosed field, reflects upon himself, and therefore he cannot be unconcerned about that, but must vindicate his honour upon it, by cutting it down, and casting it out as a cumberer of the ground.
Secondly, We may observe, that not only gross apostasy, but even the smallest decays among his people, are highly offensive unto him. This church had many good things among them, and after the commendation that was given them in the second and third verses, one would be ready to put the question, What lack they yet? But our Lord remarks the coldness of their hearts, and resents that inward and secret declension from their former love and zeal, and threatens them with swift destruction if they did not repent. O how does this magnify God's patience towards us! and what cause have we to tremble and be afraid of his judgments, seeing we have not only fallen from our first love, but by gross and open acts of enmity have made it extremely doubtful, whether there be any remains of love abiding with us at all? But, without insisting upon these, my design is, to consider this threatening separately by itself. And my method shall be,
I. To shew that God may be provoked by the sins of a people, to remove the gospel from them. II. I shall represent to you the terribleness of this judgment. And,
III. Direct you to the proper use of this awful subject.
In the Scriptures we have many comfortable promises of the church's stability: it is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It was Christ's promise to his apo stles," Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world;" not with their persons, for these were soon to be removed out of the world by death, but with their doctrine, which was to endure throughout all generations; so that we have the fullest assurance, that the Zion of God, or the universal church, shall never perish ;-that the light of the gospel shall never be extinguished; but that the King of Zion shall always have subjects to serve him in some corner of the earth or other. But though the gospel shall never be removed out of the world altogether, yet it may be removed from particular places. The candlestick is a moveable thing, and not an entailed inheritance.
The Jews are an eminent instance of this. Never was a nation so highly favoured as they. To them pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; theirs were the fathers, and of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. They were God's chosen people, his peculiar trea
sure, his first born, and his spouse; for by these honourable titles were they long distinguished from the rest of the world. Nor were they only distinguished by titles, but actually blessed with all the privileges which these titles imported. God was indeed a father and husband unto them: he cherished them in his bosom, and employed his almighty power for their preservation. He conducted their arms, and dictated their laws; he formed their state, and was present among them by a visible glory, and established a method of correspondence, by which they might have constant access to him for counsel and direction in every case of difficulty. Never had any people such illustrious displays of the divine providence in their favours. Some nations have had a long tract of prosperity, a series of lucky accidents, as it were, by the help of which they have grown up to a very flourishing condition; but the various steps of their advancement were visible, and easy to be accounted for, and were nothing more extraordinary than a plentiful crop after a favourable seed-time and harvest, or the riches of a skilful and industrious merchant. But it was not so with the nation of the Jews; their prosperity was the admiration of all that beheld it, and forced them to acknowledge that the Lord was with them of a truth. God brought them out of Egypt by a high hand and an outstretched arm; the sea opened a passage for their retreat, and