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ish synagogue, in which one of the officers was thus called; but though primarily addressed to the ministers, they refer to the whole body of the people.
The first epistle is addressed to the angel of the church of Ephesus, which of all these churches was nearest to Patmos. It was in this city that the Roman proconsul, who governed Asia Minor, resided; and here also St. John had for a long time dwelt. The gospel was first preached among them by the apostle Paul, as he went from Corinth to Jerusalem, A. D. 53, to keep the feast of Pentecost. (Acts xviii. 19.) The city had been peculiarly noted for its idolatry, and for that splendid temple of Diana, which, though built at the expense of all proconsular Asia, was not finished in less than 220 years. Yet even in such a spot, the prospects of Paul were so encouraging, that after celebrating the festival at Jerusalem, he returned, and spent three years in this city, declaring the gospel, and confirming it by the most splendid miracles. His labours were attended by the most abundant success; a large and important church was founded. After Paul had been expelled from the city, in consequence of the tumult raised by Demetrius, Timothy still continued here to animate, to instruct, and to console the body of the faithful. While there, Paul wrote to him the first of those two important epistles, which are preserved in the New Testament; and the year before his martyrdom this venerable apostle addressed to the whole church of the Ephesians that admirable epistle, which has tended so much to the edification and comfort of Christians in every age. This church, thus favoured by the labours of Paul and Timothy, was also blessed, according to the universal tradi
tion of the ancient writers, by a long residence of the apostle John among them.
From its first establishment it had been troubled by false teachers, who denied or perverted the most important truths of the gospel. Against these, Paul speaks in his epistle to Timothy, and of them he warns the elders of Ephesus, in his touching and eloquent farewell address. Thus put upon their guard, the Ephesians carefully examined the doctrines that were brought to them, and rejected those that were not conformed to the gospel. They opposed with zeal the Nicolaitans, who were viewed with peculiar abhorrence by the Saviour: these were heretics, who, while they dared to call themselves Christians, taught that impurity and idolatry were harmless, and authorized by gospel liberty.* For this rejection of those who would seduce them from the true faith; for their works of piety; and for their patience under afflictions, the Ephesian believers are commended by the Redeemer. But he beheld in them the want of that zeal which they once possessed; they "had lost their first love." Strenuous in maintaining the true faith, they yet had not that vigorous affection to Jesus, to his cause, and people, which once glowed in their hearts, and produced correspondent effects in their lives. He calls upon them to repent; threatening that otherwise he will soon come in the dispensations of his providence, and "remove their candlestick out of its place;" take away their name from among the churches, and deprive them of spiritual privileges. To animate them to repentance, and to encourage
See the sentiment of Eichhorn on the identity of the names Nixes and by, both signifying conquerors of the people.
them to maintain a good warfare, he declares, that all who overcome shall enjoy in the heavenly paradise blessings sublime and immutable; blessings, the greatness and perpetuity of which would have been but faintly represented by the privileges which would have resulted from eating of the tree of life in the earthly paradise, had man continued innocent during the time of trial, and then been permitted to partake of it.
My brethren, ought not the church of Ephesus make us think of ourselves? Have we all of us as much of the joy and life of religion as we once possessed-as lively exercises of faith, and love, and obedience? Oh! let us listen to the kind and monitory voice of Jesus, and repent; he is yet waiting to be gracious; he has not removed our candlestick; let us in time deplore our declensions from him. ✓ About forty-five miles north of Ephesus, was Smyrna, a city so ancient, that it had been celebrated even in the time of Homer. Here Christianity was early introduced; and such was the purity of the church here established, that the epistle addressed to it contains no reproofs, but consists only of commendations and directions. There is little doubt that the venerable Polycarp at this time presided over it. He is the same person of whose glorious martyrdom many of you have read; when urged, in order to avoid the flames, to renounce the Redeemer, he exclaimed, "Fourscore and six years have I served him, and he hath never forsaken me: shall I then now deny my King who hath saved me ?"
The members of this church are declared to be "rich" in faith and good works, though they had suffered much affliction, and been reduced to worldly poverty; they had undergone peculiar trials from
some pretended Christians, who yet were "of the synagogue of Satan:" for this is probably the meaning of that expression," them who say they are Jews, but are not." In the epistles of Paul we are thus to interpret many such passages as, "the seed of Abraham," the "Israel of God;" and in several parts of this book, where so much of the scenery is drawn immediately from the Jewish temple and worship, we must adopt the same mode of exposition.
Piety will not exempt us from sufferings; this church is forewarned, that it should endure tribulation for "ten days," which may refer to the ten years' persecution under Dioclesian, but more probably is here, (as in other passages of the scripture,) a definite term put for an indefinite, and meaning a long period, during which their graces should be tried. That they might not shrink from these sufferings, Jesus promised to those who should be faithful unto death, the never-fading crown of the conqueror; the crown of immortal life for that temporal life which they might be called on to lay down for him; and declares, that this shall be the privilege, not merely of the martyr, but of all who overcome, that they "shall not be hurt by the second death;" that awful state of misery which must be experienced by all the enemies of the Redeemer; that living death, that dying life, under which the wretched sufferers shall in vain sigh for annihilation, and long to be blotted from existence.
Sixty-four miles to the north of Symrna, was Pergamos, the ancient residence of the kings of the race of Attali; celebrated for the pomp with which Escu- ✔ lapius was here worshipped, and for the extent of its library; for the birth of Galen and the death of Scipio. So furious and zealous were the idolaters
of this city, that Satan seemed here to have established his throne. No wonder then, that the church here had been exposed to persecution, and that Antipas had been put to death. Of the history of this “faithful martyr," who is commended by the infallible Judge, we know nothing: history has suffered the events of his life to perish from amongst us; but they are recorded in the Lamb's book of life, and will be declared to us at the last great day. But though this church had remained unshaken by persecution, some of its members had so far apostatized, as to unite with the Nicolaitans, who, repeating the detestable artifices of Balaam, were by idolatry and impurity, corrupting the church, and preparing for it divine judgments. The Saviour calls upon them to repent, declaring that he will otherwise come speedily in the course of his providence, and "fight against them with the sword of his mouth;" that is, will execute upon them all those judgments which his word denounces against those who depart from the truth and purity of the gospel. On the contrary, he assures those who continue faithful, that he will give them "to eat of the hidden manna:" they shall be supported and refreshed by communion with me, the true bread which came down from heaven; they shall have those blessings of the spiritual and eternal life, which the stranger intermeddleth not with ; which are safely hidden in me, as the manna was laid up before the Lord, and concealed in the ark. Jesus adds, "To him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it." The allusion is either to a white stone, by which anciently the acquittal and absolution of those who were accused, were declared; or to the white