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stone given at the Grecian games to the victors, to entitle them to receive rewards. The meaning then is, that whatever reproaches or censures from the world sincere believers may sustain, they shall be acquitted and crowned by their Judge. Of this they already have a pledge in those characteristics of the new man, which none but those who bear them can suitably, conceive, prize, or value; which now give them peace, and assure to them the rewards of glory.'
Forty-eight miles south-east of Smyrna, was Thyatira. The church in this place is praised by the Redeemer for its Christian graces, and benevolent conduct. These too had continually increased: instead of apostatizing or becoming lukewarm, "the last were more than the first." Ah! why is not this more frequently the case? Why, after we have experienced so much of the goodness of God and the compassion of the Redeemer, after having bound our souls with so many obligations, why is it not always true, that our last works of piety, and love, and obedience are more numerous and spiritual, than when we first gave ourselves up to Jesus?
But even this church is not without reproof. Some woman, who is here called Jezebel, from a conformity of disposition and crimes with this impious wife of Ahab, pretending to extraordinary divine influence, and to the prophetical spirit, endeavoured to deceive the faithful, and to introduce all the abominations of the Nicolaitans. The Saviour had long borne with her, and given her space to repent, but she had abused his long-suffering, and the church had neglected to silence and to expel her. Jesus declares that he will inflict upon her and her companions sufferings conformed to the nature of their
crimes, so that in their punishment they may read their guilt; and that all should be forced to acknowledge his omniscience.
To encourage those who had not been seduced, they are taught that they shall not participate in these afflictions; that no new doctrines or ceremonies shall be imposed on them; and they are exhorted to maintain the same purity of doctrine and practice for which they had hitherto been distinguished. Acting thus, they are assured that they shall partake of the dignity, and be sharers in the conquests, of the Redeemer; and that all opposing powers shall be subdued under them. Jesus adds, To him that overcometh" I will give the morning star :" all the light and grace, the comforts and enjoyments which are to be found in me, who am the bright and morning star; all the glory and lustre which cause the morning star to be hailed when, after the gloom of night, it foretels the approaching day; all the splendours of that world where "they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever."
Sardis was situated thirty-three miles south of Thyatira: it had once been noted for its opulence; had been the capital of Lydia, and the place where Croesus reigned. The church here is not charged with any corruption of doctrine, nor with any licentiousness of manners. Embracing all the principles of the gospel, there was nothing immoral in their conduct. Were they therefore blameless in the sight of the Redeemer? Alas! there were many of them who while they "had a name that they lived, were dead." Regarded as saints by men, too many of them were still dead in trespasses and sins; and others were lifeless and cold in the performance of
all sacred duties. They are solemnly admonished to recall the emotions and sentiments which they had when the gospel was first brought home to their hearts; to repent of their declensions; lest the Saviour should come suddenly, and surprise them individually by death, or as a church by his judgments.
Yet in the midst of this general declension, Jesus perceived a few who had not defiled their garments;" who had kept themselves from the pollutions of the world, and preserved all the spirituality and ardour of religion, and the power of godliness. To these he promises that they should "walk with him in white," in this world: as worthy to be here regarded as his children, and ever rejoicing in the sense of his presence and care; and in the world to come they shall be clothed in robes of righteousness, light, and glory, that have been "washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb;" and instead of having their names blotted from the book of life, where they were enrolled as heirs of glory, they shall be openly acknowledged by the Saviour in the presence of the Father and his holy angels in that day when the everlasting sentence of all shall be pronounced.
Philadelphia was about twenty-seven miles southeast of Sardis: it received its name from its founder, Attalus Philadelphus. In the epistle to this church there is no reproof. It is declared that a door which none could close was opened to them by the Omnipotent, to admit them to blessings here and hereafter. Feeble in comparison with other churches, they had yet resisted all opposers; in the midst of trials, they had remained faithful. Some proud, presumptuous pretenders, boasting of the peculiar influences of the Spirit, and censuring all who did not
unite with them, had endeavoured to seduce them, as persons of the same character had assailed the church of Smyrna. But their efforts were in vain; the Saviour promises that these shall be humbled at the feet of those whom they had reproached, and compelled to acknowledge his care over his church. He assures the believers of Philadelphia, that they shall be preserved in the midst of those temptations that were coming on the earth, and exhorts them to keep in continual view that crown which should be given to all that persevere; he assures them that they shall be admitted to that world of glory represented as the city and temple of the Lord; that there they shall stand as immoveable pillars consecrated to God, marked with the name of the Redeemer.
To the south of Philadelphia was Laodicea, receiving its name from Laodice, the wife of Antiochus Theos, (the Syro-Grecian king,) its builder. The most awful reproofs are given to the members of this church; they retained the profession of religion, but were unaffected by it. They appeared careful only to preserve the name of Christians, regardless of the Christian spirit. For such criminal indifference the Saviour threatens entirely. to reject them. Their guilt was aggravated from their high self-conceit; destitute of the only true riches, they yet supposed that they had "need of nothing;" that they possessed every gift and blessing of believers. Odious as was their state, Jesus does not immediately reject them: he compassionately entreats them to come to him, sensible of their wants, and obtain from him all that they need. He tells them that without repentance, they must expect the severest chastisement, if they are not given up as in
corrigible; he declares, that notwithstanding such frequent repulses, he still stands and sues for admistion to their hearts, into which he will bring the richest blessings; and he concludes by a promise of greater dignity to the faithful than the most ambitious could desire, or the most sanguine imagine: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." He shall be partaker of the inconceivable power and glory conferred on the exalted Mediator, and shall eternally reign with him.
And now "let him that hath an ear, hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." These epistles were written for our instruction, as well as for those to whom they were more immediately addressed; the admonitions and directions contained in them should teach us what is our duty.
Jesus still bears the same relation to his churches: he is present with us; he observes our conduct and our hearts; and to him we must approve ourselves. It is of little consequence "to be judged by man's judgment; to our own Master we must stand or fall."
Human nature is still the same; we are exposed to the same temptations with these early churches. Let us guard against any corruptions of the truth; any loose doctrines, any unrighteousness of life, any diminution of zeal and fervour; let us cherish the spirit of true piety, remembering that it is indeed of little importance to "have a name that we live, if we are dead;" never forgetting that "he who walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks has eyes of fire, and searches the heart."
Let the woes denounced against the open enemies of the church, rouse the careless and unbeliev