REV. viii. 13.
And I beheld and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying, with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth, by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels which are yet to sound.
IN prophetical scripture, the sounding of trumpets is always used to denote the downfall of some empire, nation, or place, or some dreadful battle, which may decide the fate of empires, nations, or places. At the fall of Jericho, the trumpet was the instrument, in the hands of the priest of the mighty God of Jacob, which cast down her walls, destroyed the city, and a curse pronounced against the man that should ever build up her walls again. Again, the trumpet was the instrument by which Gideon put to flight the armies of the aliens. And the prophet Amos says, "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?" Therefore we may reasonably conclude that a trumpet is the harbinger of destructive wars, and the dissolution of empires, states, or the earth, as the case may be. The seven trumpets mentioned in Revelation, the three last of which are mentioned in our text, indicate the final overthrow of the powers spoken of in the prophecy. The four first had their accomplishment in the destruction of the Jews and their dispersion, in the fall of imperial Rome, in the overthrow of the Asiatic kingdom, and in the taking away of Pagan rites and ceremonies.
The last three trumpets will claim our attention in this discourse; the first four having their accomplishment under Rome pagan; to the last three under Rome Papal. These three trumpets and three woes are a description of the judgments that God has sent and will send on this Papal beast, the abomination of the whole earth. Therefore we see the propriety of the language of our text, "Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabitants of the earth," meaning the worshippers of this Papal beast, the followers of this abomination. The fifth trumpet alludes to the rise of the Turkish empire under Ottoman, at the downfall of the Saracens. Ottoman uniting under his government the four contending nations of Mahometans, which had long contended for the power during the reign of the Saracen empire, viz., the Saracens, Tartars, Arabs, and Turks. These, all being by profession Mahometans, were ready to follow any daring leader to conquer and drive out from Asia (and even make excursion into Europe) all who professed the Christian faith. They, having embraced the errors of that fallen star, Mahomet, whose principles were promulgated by conquest and the sword, became one and perhaps the only barrier to the spread of the Papal doctrine and power in the eastern world. Here the Roman Church had long held a powerful sway over the minds and consciences of the Christian or Greek church in the east, by the aid of the eastern emperor at Constantinople. But the Turks or Ottomans, whom the Lord suffered to rise up in Bithynia, on or near the head waters of the Euphrates, as a scourge against this Papal abomination, now became a check to the Roman power; and from this time we may reasonably date the declension of Papal authority. Therefore on the sounding of the fifth trumpet, Rome Papal began to show a weakness which in every succeeding age has been more and more manifested, until her civil power has crumbled to ruin, and her ecclesiastical assumptions must sink, at the sounding of the seventh trump, to rise no more forever.
In the description of these trumpets we shall be able to apply the prophecy, as the writer believes, to those events designed by the vision which John saw.
Rev. ix. 1. "And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit." After the downfall of Pagan Rome, and the rise of the anti-Christian abomination, Mahomet promulgated a religion which evidently came from the bottomless pit; for it fostered all the wicked passions of the human heart, such as war, murder, slavery, and lust.
2d verse, "And he opened the bottomless pit, and there arose a smoke out of the pit as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air was darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit." The figures used in this text are, the bottomless pit, which denote the theories of men or devils, that have no foundation in the word of God. Smoke denotes the errors from such doctrine, which serve to blind the eyes of men, that they cannot see the truth. As the smoke of a great furnace shows the great extent or effect of this error over the world. The sun denotes the gospel, which is the great luminary of the moral world. The air denotes the moral influence on the mind, which is commonly called piety. As air supports or gives to the lungs animation in the physical world, so does the piety of the heart to the moral.
This, then, is the true sentiment of this passage. And by reason of the Mahometan errors which would be believed or followed by a great multitude, the gospel and the pious influence of the same would be in a great measure hid or lost to the world.
3d verse, "And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth; and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power." By these locusts I understand armies. See Joel, 1st and 2d chapters. Therefore I should read this text thus: And there came out from these Mahometan followers large armies, which should have great power to execute the judgments of God on this anti-Christian beast, which had filled the earth with her abominations.
4th verse, "And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree, but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads." By grass, green things, and trees, Ps. lxxii. 16, Hosea xiv. 8, I understand the true church, or people of God. By those men having not the seal of God, &c., I understand the anti-Christian church, or Papal Rome. Then this would be the sense: And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the true church, or people of God, but only the anti-Christian beast, or powers subject to her.
5th verse, "And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months; and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man." To kill is to destroy. Five months is in prophecy 150 years. To torment as a scorpion, &c., is to make sudden incursions and irruptions into the country &c. Then this is the sentiment to me conveyed in the text: And the Turkish armies would not have power to destroy the Papal powers for 150 years, but would make sudden and quick incursions into their territories, and harass and perplex the nations under the Papal control.
6th verse, "And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them." About this time the Greek church, in Constantinople, was so harassed by the Papal authority, that it gave rise to a saying among them, that they "had rather see the Turkish turban on the throne of the Eastern Empire, than the Pope's tiara." And any one who has read the history of the 14th century, will see that this text was literally accomplished.
7th verse, "And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were, as it were, crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men." In this verse we have a description of the Turkish armies. In the first place they are represented as being all horsemen. This was true with the Turks, and no other kingdom since Christ's time, that we have any knowledge of, whose armies were all horsemen. They wore on their heads yellow turbans, which can only apply to the Turks, looking like crowns of gold.
8th verse, "And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions." They wore long hair attached to their turbans, and they fought with javelins like the teeth of lions.
9th verse, "And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron; and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle." By their breastplates I understand shields, which the Turks carried in their battles; and history tells us that when they charged an enemy, they made a noise upon them like the noise of chariot wheels.
10th verse, "And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails; and their power was to hurt men five months." The Turkish horsemen had each a cimeter which hung in a scabbard at their waist, that they used in close combat after they had discharged their javelins, with which they were very expert, severing a man's or even a horse's head at a blow. And from the time that the Ottoman power or Turkish empire was first established in Bithynia, until the downfall of the Greek or Eastern Empire, when the Turks took Constantinople, was five prophetic months, or one hundred and fifty years.
11th verse, "And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon." The Turkish government had a king when they began, as before mentioned, and he was a follower of the Mahometan faith, and truly a servant or messenger of this doctrine of the bottomless pit. The name of their first king, who is styled in history the founder of the Turkish empire, was Othoman or Ottoman, from whom the empire took its name, and has been called to this day the Ottoman empire. And great has been the destruction which this government has executed upon the world; and well may this empire be styled Destroyer, in prophecy the signification of Abaddon or Apollyon.
12th verse, "One woe is past; and behold, there come two woes more hereafter." This closes the fifth trumpet and the first woe, commencing at the foundation of the Turkish empire in Bithynia, in the year A.D. 1298, and lasting five prophetic months, or 150 years, which carries us down to the year A.D. 1448. When we take into view the object and design of God in sending this judgment or scourge upon the men who have not the seal of God on their foreheads; the anti-Christian beast, who profess to be Christians, but are not; when we compare the history of those times with the prophecy--we have been examining, and the events which have transpired concerning the Ottoman empire, with the descriptive character given of them in this prophecy,--we cannot, I think, hesitate for a moment to apply the fulfilment of this trumpet and woe, to these events, time, and place; and must be led to admire the agreement between the prophecy and fulfilment, and to believe this book of Revelation to be indited by the unerring wisdom of the Divine Spirit; for no human forethought could have so exactly described these events, dress, manners, customs, and mode of warfare 1200 years beforehand, except the wisdom of God had assisted him. And if these things are revealed by God himself unto us, surely no one will dare to say that it is non-essential whether we believe this part of the revealed will of God or not. Shall God speak and man disregard it? Forbid it, O Father; and let us have "ears to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
We shall now follow the revelation of God into the sixth trumpet and second woe; and may we have the Spirit of God to assist us and lead our minds into the truth of these things.
13th verse, "And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God," 14th verse, "Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates." By the sounding of the trumpet, I understand the commencing of those judgments which were to be poured out upon the earth under this trumpet; and by the "voice from the four horns of the golden altar," the agreement of all the powers of heaven and earth to execute the design of God in this thing. By loosing the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates, I understand that God was now about to suffer the four principal nations of which the Ottoman empire was composed, which had in vain attempted to subdue the Eastern Empire at Constantinople, and made but little progress in conquering Europe, now to take Constantinople, and to overrun and subdue one third part of Europe, which was the fact about the middle of the fifteenth century.
15th verse, "And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, to slay the third part of men." The four angels, we may reasonably conclude, are a representation of the four nations that had embraced the Mahometan religion, and were now under the control of the Ottoman, viz., Turks, Tartars, Arabs, and Saracens. The time expressed in the last-mentioned verse is 391 years and 15 days. "To slay the third part of men," is to destroy and conquer one third part of the governments or kingdoms of which the Papal beast had the control, which was true in the end.
16th verse, "And the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred thousand thousand; and I heard the number of them." In this verse the precise number of the army of horsemen is given, for John tells us "he heard the number of them." And if we should understand the prophet to mean, as some suppose he does, 200,000 multiplied by a 1000, then the sum total would be 200,000,000, which would be more men than were ever on our earth at one time capable of bearing arms; therefore I believe this is not the meaning of the prophet, neither do I think that it was a succession of armies during the whole period of 391 years, making the sum total of 200,000,000, for this, too, would be incredible; for allowing a standing army of 15,385,000 to be recruited every 30 years, it would only make the two hundred millions; and this sum would be more than five times the number of all the standing armies in the known world. And from these considerations I have for myself given this construction, that the prophet John heard the number of 200,000 repeated, or twice told, which would make an army of 400,000 horsemen; and this would not be incredible. And what is to me strong proof of the fact is, that the history informs us that Mahomet II. came against Constantinople about the year A.D. 1450, with an army of 400,000* horsemen, and after a long siege took the city in the year 1453, and destroyed the Eastern Empire, which had stood more than ten centuries from its foundation by Constantine.
17th verse: "And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth and brimstone; and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions, and out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone." 18th verse, "By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths." 19th verse, "For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails; for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt." In these verses which we have now read, we are plainly informed that it was an army of horses, and men on them, which John saw in the vision. And the implements and manner of fighting, such as the trapping of their horses, and the instruments offensive and defensive, gunpowder and guns, are as exactly described as any person could describe it without knowing the name by which we describe it at the present day. Fire, smoke, and brimstone, would be the most visible component parts of gunpowder. Fire and smoke we should see, and brimstone we should smell. And who ever saw an army of horsemen engaged in an action but would think of John's description, "out of their mouths issued fire, and smoke, and brimstone," and in the breech of the guns were bullets, "like heads, and with these they do hurt"? Every part of this description is exactly applicable to an army of horsemen with fire-arms; and what is equally strong in the evidence is, that guns and fire-arms were invented but a short time previous to this trump-sounding, and the Turks claimed the honor (if honor it can be called) of inventing gunpowder and guns; and it is equally evident by the history that guns were first used by the Turks at the taking of Constantinople, they having one single cannon that took 70 yoke of oxen to draw it at the siege, as says Dr. Gill on this passage.
20th verse, "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk." 21st verse, "Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts." In these verses, we have the character of the persons or government on whose account these plagues were sent. In the first place, they are represented as idolaters, as worshipping devils, idols of gold, &c., full of murder, sorceries, fornication, and theft. This exactly agrees with the description John has given of the "woman sitting on the scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots, and the abominations of the earth." So we see that the fifth and sixth trumpets, and the two first woes, were sent as the judgments of God upon this anti-Christian beast, and clearly shows the decline of the power which she had exercised over the kings of the earth and the people of God for more than eight centuries, to the commencing of the sixth trumpet, when the Turks were let loose upon those kingdoms under the control of Papacy, conquered all Asia and about one third part of Europe, and were in the end the means of opening the eyes of many of the inhabitants of the world to see that the Pope's pretension of being the vice-gerent of God was not well founded; for, if he could not foresee and resist the inroads of the Turks,--that infidel nation,--surely he could not perform those great miracles which he pretended to perform in order to support his ecclesiastical and civil power: and individuals, and afterwards nations, began to disregard his authority, excommunications, and bulls, until his power is now but a little more than a bishop of Rome.
Here we see the wonder-working ways of our God, who, in wisdom and providence, suffers the corrupt and infidel nations of the earth to pull down each other, and to bring about his purposes and designs, and will eventually destroy all the kingdoms of the earth, by such means, and in such ways, as the prophets have foretold; and whoever lives until the year 1839 will see the final dissolution of the Turkish empire, for then the sixth trumpet will have finished its sounding, which, if I am correct, will be the final overthrow of the Ottoman power. And then will the seventh trump and last woe begin, under which the kingdoms of the earth and the anti-Christian beast will be destroyed, the powers of darkness chained, the world cleansed, and the church purified.
See the 10th chapter of Revelation, 5th, 6th, and 7th verses, "And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven." This is the angel of the covenant, the great Mediator. See the first verse, "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud." So is Christ to come in the clouds with power and great glory. "And a rainbow was upon his head." This shows plainly that it is Christ; for the rainbow is a token of the covenant. "And his face was as it were the sun." The same as when he was transfigured, Matt. xvii. 2, "And his feet as pillars of fire." See Rev. i. 15, "His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." Surely this must be Christ. "And he had in his hand a little book open." None could open the book but the lion of the tribe of Judah--another strong proof that the angel in Rev. x. 5 is Christ. And who but Christ could stand upon the sea and upon the earth, and lift "up his hand to heaven, and swear by Him that liveth forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that therein are, and the sea and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer"? that is, gospel or mediatorial time should cease. No more time for mercy; no more Spirit to strive with you, sinner; no more means of grace; no more repentance unto life; no more hopes of heaven; for Jesus has sworn by himself, because he could swear by no greater, that your day of probation "should be no longer." For "he that is filthy shall be filthy still." The Bridegroom has come, and shut to the door. I know, sinner, you will then cry, Lord, Lord, open unto us; but he will say unto you, Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity, for I know you not: when I called to you to open the door of your hearts, that I might come in and sup with you, ye refused; when I stretched out my arm all the long day of the gospel, ye regarded it not; I will now laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh. Then will the angel, flying through the midst of heaven, cry, with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth; for, when the last woe is pronounced, and "in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets." "The second woe is past, and behold the third woe cometh quickly. And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever," Rev. xi. 14, 15. By these passages we learn that, when the sixth trumpet has done sounding, when the second woe is past, then the third woe comes quickly. The seventh trump begins to sound; the mystery of God is finished--all that has been spoken by the prophets, that is, all that concerns the kingdom of Christ; for then will be brought to pass the saying, Death is swallowed up in victory; for, when the last trumpet shall sound, the dead in Christ shall be raised: "For as in Adam all died, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." "But every man in his own order. Christ the first fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming." "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second Man is the Lord from heaven." "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." "And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now, this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." "Behold, I show you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed; for this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." "Then will be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory," 1 Cor. xv. 22-54.
* Some authors say 300,000
REV. i. 20.
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
IT has generally been believed that the seven churches to whom the angel instructed John to write, were seven different and distinct churches in Asia, and by almost all of our commentators at the present day are understood to mean seven literal churches. But your speaker is forced, from the reasons which will hereafter be produced, to believe that these seven churches of Asia are to be understood in a figurative sense, alluding to seven periods of the church militant, during the Christian dispensation, down to the first resurrection, and the commencing of the glorious reign of Christ on the earth, commonly called The Millennium. If this view of the subject should prove to be the correct exposition of the text, how important and interesting is the subject to us who live in the last stage of the church! Then we who live at this day, are particularly, and solemnly and awfully, admonished in what is said by Christ to the church of the Laodiceans, that church corresponding with our stage of the church immediately previous to the commencing of the millennial glory; and how necessary that we should know that these admonitions do most deeply concern us!
This view of the subject will then claim our first attention. Were the seven churches used as a figure of the whole Christian dispensation, or were they not? I answer, In my humble opinion, they were. Because, first, the book of Revelation does evidently contain a prophecy of things which did not concern those seven literal churches in Asia; for those churches have long since passed away and become extinct; yet the book of Revelation contains prophecies which are daily fulfilling, and have been for eighteen centuries. It is also said to be a revelation of things which must shortly come to pass. "The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." Not things that have been. Yet if Christ is only giving admonitory advice to those seven literal churches, then he is only relating their characters as they then were, and so far as these churches were concerned it would cease to be a prophecy, and the very first verse in Revelation would be violated. Again, 3d verse, "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand." We see that it is called a prophecy in this verse, and must allude to the whole book; but who will pretend that the three chapters in the beginning of Revelation are a prophecy, if we understand them as relating the character of seven literal churches in Asia only? None, none.
Again: the word seven is often used in the word of God as a mystical number, meaning the whole, as seven spirits, seven stars, seven angels, seven candlesticks, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials, seven thunders, seven plagues, seven mountains, seven heads, seven eyes, seven horns, seven crowns, seven kings, and seven churches. All these are used in Revelation and apply to or concerning the whole Gospel period. If, then, the number seven is used so often in this book in a figurative sense, may we not reasonably suppose that it is so used in the dedication of this book to the seven churches in Asia, and the history of those seven churches be prophetic? for no scripture is given for any private interpretation, and surely the instruction in the introduction of the book carries us down to the coming of Christ in the clouds--"Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him; even so, amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." And why all this descriptive grandeur in the address to these seven churches, if they only were meant? Surely there were other churches of equal importance at that day. Where were the churches at Corinth, Cappadocia, Galatia, Thessalonica, Philippi, Collossee, Rome, Jerusalem, Bithynia, &c.? Our text shows that the seven churches were to be understood in a figurative or mystical sense. "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." These seven churches are represented by "seven lamps." See Zach. iv. 2, "And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps which were upon the top thereof." These seven lamps are called "the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the whole earth." See Zach. iv. 10. If this is true, then it readily follows that the seven churches of Asia are only used as a figure representing the church "through the whole earth." Again: the seven lamps, which are the seven churches, are called the seven spirits of God. Rev. iv. 5, "And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God." I have clearly proved, and I think it will be admitted by all, that the "seven eyes of the Lord," and "the seven spirits of God," are the seven churches to whom John was directed to write or dedicate his book, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
And I will now show that these comprehended the whole church through the whole earth. See Rev. v. 6, "And I beheld, and lo! in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns, and seven eyes, which are the "seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." Again: when we compare the several characteristic marks or events, upon opening the seven seals, with those marks and instructions to the seven churches, we shall be led to admire the beauty, harmony, and consistency of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to his people. And I think the mind will rest satisfied that this view of the subject is the truth, because it so exactly agrees with Christ's manner of teaching by parables when he was with us in the flesh.
Some may inquire, "Why were those seven churches in Asia used as figures to represent the church militant in her several conditions to the end of her militant state?" I answer, )if we may be allowed to answer the whys or wherefores,) Because the signification of the names of those seven churches describe the spirit and qualities of the several periods of the Christian church, which they are brought forward to represent, which we shall attempt to show in its proper place.
I shall now endeavor to take up the churches in the order in which they are laid down to us in Revelation. (Read Rev. ii. 1-7, inclusive.) 1st. The word EPHESUS, desirable chief. This is true concerning the first age of the church, in the apostles' days, when the Holy Ghost was given the power to work miracles, and the power to distinguish between good and evil spirits, and when all were of one heart and one mind, and the canon of the Holy Scriptures were filling up, and the inspired apostles were setting things in order, and establishing churches through the world. Yes, my brethren, these were desirable times surely. But to proceed: This church is addressed by the character "that holdeth the seven stars," the ministers and servants of him who holdeth them "in his right hand," under his immediate care and control, "who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks," and has said, where two or three are gathered together in his name, there will he be in the midst of them, and has promised that whatsoever they should ask in his name it should be granted unto them. He says, "I know thy works." In that day they brought forth fruits meet for repentance, and they went every where preaching that men should repent; and Paul said, when preaching at Athens, "But now commandeth all men every where to repent." Yes, all, saint or sinner, high or low, rich or poor; all, all must repent. And O! my brethren, how much we need these works at the present day! "Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do thy first works." Again he says, "I know thy labor." Did not the apostles labor night and day? 2 Thess. iii. 8, "Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you." See 1 Thess. ii. 8,9, "So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail; for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable to any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." Again he says, "And thy patience." This, too, will apply to the apostles' days. For Paul says, 2 Cor. vi. 4, "But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses." Also, xii. 12, "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. And again the apostle says to Timothy, "But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience." And who can read the history of the first age of the church, but will admit that works, labor and patience, were prominent features of that age, and virtues which adorned the Christian church in its infancy, more than any age since? "And how thou canst not bear them which are evil." Who can read Paul's instructions to his Corinthian brethren, in 1 Cor. v. 11, without seeing this text fulfilled? "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother [as though such a one could not be a real brother, but only called so] be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat." And had the servants of Christ at the present day the power of the apostles to discern the spirits by which we are governed, how many in this congregation would blush when "fornicator" is mentioned! How many "covetous" would hide their faces! How many "idolaters" would bow their heads, or "railers" would begin to murmur at the plainness of the speaker! How many "drunkards" would not have staggered into this house! And how many "extortioners" would have staid at home! O God, thou knowest. Or who can read the 2d chapter of the 2d epistle of Peter, and John's first epistle, Jude, and others, and not be convinced that the apostles could not bear with them that were evil? Again: "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars." This sentence was fulfilled in the apostles' days. Simon Magus, after he was professedly a disciple of Christ, was found out by Peter to be in the "gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity." Hymeneus and Alexander, whom Paul delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. 1 Tim. i. 20. Also Philetus, Demas, and Alexander the coppersmith, were all found to be liars, and many others who went out from them, as the apostle says, because they were not of them. And how many are there now, my brethren, among us, who, when tribulation cometh, will be offended, and go out from us! Lord, is it I? "And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast labored, and hast not fainted." Yes, my brethren, it was for the name of Jesus, that the primitive Christians bore the persecutions of their day. Acts xv. 25, 26, "It seemed good unto us to send chosen men unto you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts ix. 16, "For I will show him what great things he must suffer for my name's sake." Verse 41, "And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name." And, may I not inquire, how many of us are willing and would rejoice to suffer shame for the name of Christ? Perhaps none. We had rather be called Rabbi, Rev., Dr., &c. We are contending for our names at the present day; for Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Free-wills, Campbellites, &c. If we do not contend earnestly for our sect, they will decrease, and we shall come to nought. And I say, May God speed it; so that you all may fall on the word of God, and rally again under the name of Jesus. But we will proceed with our subject. 4th verse, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Can this be true? Did the apostolic church, in its purity, so soon depart from the first principles of the gospel? Yes, in Acts xv. 24, "Forasmuch as we have heard that certain subverting your souls, saying, ye must be circumcised, and keep the whole law, to whom we gave no such commandment." Gal. i. 6, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." 1 Timothy, i. 19, "Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck." 2 Tim. i. 15, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia are turned away from me." And Paul further says, iv. 16, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. I pray God lay not this sin to their charge."
Many more evidences might be brought, to prove that many, in that early state of the church, did fall away from the doctrine of grace, which Paul and the apostles taught. And now, my brethren, how is it with us? Are we built on the truth? Have we a "Thus saith the Lord," for all we believe and do? Are we built on "the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone"? Look well to your foundation--the day is coming that will try every man's works.
Verse 5, "Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove the candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." In this verse the great Head of the church admonishes the Christians of their former sins in neglecting the doctrine of grace, and falling into the popular errors of the day, which I have before noticed, and warns them of their duty to repent, which is the first and great command under the gospel. He also gives them notice, that, except they repent, he will remove the "desirable" state of the church into the next, which would be a state of trial, persecution, and poverty.
6th verse, "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." What the deeds of the Nicolaitans were, we are not able, from the word of God, to determine; but from some things hinted at by some ancient authors, we have good reason to believe that Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, departed from the doctrine which the apostles taught, and preached a doctrine which was repugnant to the gospel of Christ, viz., a community or plurality of wives, which led Paul in his instructions to say, "Let the deacons be the husband of one wife," 1 Tim. iii. 12. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Here we have another evidence, that the branch of the church at Ephesus was not the only church addressed in this epistle and prophecy; for, if so, what propriety in using the word churches, in the plural, when only one church in Asia was spoken of? No, it could not be proper, neither would it have been, as it is so used in every epistle through the whole seven, had not Christ designed it for all the churches in a certain age. There is also an admonition contained in these last-quoted words, to read, hear, and observe the prophecy now given by the Spirit to John, the inspired servant of Christ; and for all the churches of the age spoken of, to be careful to apply to themselves the admonitions, designed by the Holy Spirit for their immediate benefit. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." How precious is this promise to the faithful and tried soul, who places all his hope, and strength, and dependence, on one who is mighty to save, and on one who has promised to bring him off conqueror over all the enemies of grace, and the powers of hell! Yes, and, more than all, he has overcome and entered within the veil, as a forerunner for us who believe. May we all, by faith, have a right to this tree of life, this paradise of God.
I will now examine the prophecy to the second church, which I understand to commence about the close of the first century, and lasted about two hundred years, until the days of Constantine, A.D. 312.
8th verse, "And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna, write." The signification of the word Smyrna, is myrrh; denoting that the church in this age would be a sweet-smelling savor to God, while she was passing through the fiery ordeal of persecution and affliction, which always has served to weed out those obnoxious plants of pride, popularity, self-dependence--the bane and poison of true faith, piety, and devotion. And O, my brethren, could we learn wisdom, by what the church has already suffered in the days of our forefathers, we should be more humble, the more worldly peace and prosperity we enjoyed. For it is only in the midst of persecution and trial, that the church manifest great purity of doctrine of life. How well, then, might this age of the church be compared to myrrh, when she must have been separated from worldly honors, avarice, pride, popularity, and hypocrisy, when the hypocrite and worldling had not motives to unite with and destroy the union of the brotherhood, and when the hireling shepherd could expect no fleece, that would suit his cupidity, to filch from the lambs of Christ! "These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive." In these words we learn the character speaking to the church. It is no less than the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty." Now, their works were about to be tried; although God knew them that were his, yet he designed to manifest to a world who would be faithful even unto death, and to show that pure and undefiled religion would burn with a brighter flame in tribulation and poverty, and the richness of that faith, which would bring off the true Christian conqueror over the powers of the world, the temptations of Satan, and corruptions of the flesh. "But thou art rich." Yes, brethren, the true and genuine Christian is rich. For charity can suffer long in tribulation, and the spirit of Christ will make us forsake all for his sake, and endure poverty for the name of Jesus. "And I know," says Christ, "the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, (that is, people of God,) and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." Although Christ knew the hypocrites and false professors that had rushed into his visible kingdom during a time of prosperity that the church had experienced in its Ephesian state, or apostolic age, yet now the time had come, when that candlestick must be removed, and the next age of the church or candlestick be set up; and the same means used by God to purify the silver would purge out the dross, so that the kingdom would again be cleansed of its worldly, hypocritical, and false professors.
10, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer." The true child of God need not fear to suffer for Christ's sake, for the sufferings of this present evil world will work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. "Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days." The devil in this verse means Pagan Rome. See Rev. xii. 9, 17, "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil." "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." How exactly was this prophecy fulfilled in the days of Nero, Domitian, and other Roman emperors, and how faithful has history been to record the ten persecutions between the days of John's prophecy and the emperor Constantine! In these ten persecutions of the Roman government, in the text called ten days, we learn by the history of those days the church suffered a great diminution in numbers by apostasy and fear; yet those that remained steadfast made up in graces what they lost in numbers; and it was truly a time of trial, for many were cast into prison, and many suffered torture and death, rather than to offer sacrifices to their Pagan gods. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Yes, my brethren, if we can believe the history of those days, many of the dear disciples of Christ were faithful unto death, and have long enjoyed the crown of life promised in this prophecy.
11, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." Here, then, we find some of those characters who will have part in the first resurrection, the blessed martyrs who were slain for the witness of Jesus. See Rev. xx. 4. And in this passage we are again commanded to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches--all, all who have ears; not the branch in Smyrna only, but all who have ears. We have long been in the habit of giving away Scripture to others when it belongs to us and our children; let us therefore apply it home.
12, "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write." Very earthy elevated is the signification of the word Pergamos; and this church represents the age of Constantine, which lasted more than two hundred years, until the rise of anti-Christ, from A.D. 312 until A.D. 538. During this age the church became very earthy, having her worldly policy, and, like the church in the present day, attending more to the outward concerns, and the worldly part of religion, than to inward piety and graces of the spirit, looking more for forms and ceremonies, than for the life, power, and spirit of the religion of Jesus, spending much of their time in building elegant chapels, gorgeous temples, high places to educate their ministry, and adorning them with pictures and pleasant things, and filling the hearts of their worshippers with high, popular, and haughty notions. Yes, my brethren, the age of trial was gone; the holy and secret aspirations of piety fled away, and, now she had obtained an earthly emperor, her divine Master was forgotten. And here was the falling away mentioned by Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 3, "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." This, then, was the age that prepared the church to receive that monster, the man of sin, the son of perdition, into her bosom, which stung the church with the poison of asps, and filled the temple of God with image worship, and the church with idolatry, selfishness, avarice, and pride.
"These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges." By the sharp sword with two edges, we must understand the word of God, which denounces heavy judgments on the wicked, and cuts off the corruptions and errors from the church. The Psalmist says, cxlix. 5-7, "Let the saints be joyful in glory; let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people." Paul says, Heb. iv. 12, "For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And John saw, Rev. i. 16, "And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." Then this is the meaning of the passage under consideration, "These things saith he," which hath the word of God, and showing us the importance of attending to the subject following, by the importance of the speaker, "He that is Christ." And now, while we read or hear, let us keep in memory that it is no less a personage speaking, than Him of whom the prophets did write; who holdeth the stars in his right hand, and created and preserves all things by the word of his power. Hear him.
"I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is. Here, again, we have an evidence that this church is mystical, "dwelling in Satan's seat," the fourth kingdom, the great red dragon, imperial Rome, whereon the great mystical whore of Babylon sitteth. The church, in this age, became immediately connected with this power called Satan, which is the devil, Pagan Rome. "And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith." In this time of popular religion, and when many, from political and worldly motives, united their names to the people of God, still there were some who held to the doctrine of Christ, and did not deny the faith.
"Even in those days, wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth." It is supposed that Antipas was not an individual, but a class of men who opposed the power of the bishops or Popes in that day, being a combination of two words, Anti, opposed, and Papas, father or Pope, and many of them suffered martyrdom, at that time, in Constantinople and Rome, where the bishops and Popes began to exercise the power which soon after brought into subjection the kings of the earth, and trampled on the rights of the church of Christ. And, for myself, I see no reason to reject this explanation of the word Antipas in this text, as the history of those times are perfectly silent respecting such an individual as is here named. Yet many, who opposed the worship of saints and pictures, and the infallibility of the bishop of Rome, were excommunicated, persecuted, and finally driven out from among men, and in the next age of the church had to flee into the wilderness. All this happened in the kingdom of Rome, "where Satan dwelleth."
"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication." The world have always been endeavoring to draw the church of Christ into fellowship with them, and to a mixed communion of idolatry, as Balaam taught Balak to draw the children of Israel from their God and his commands, by mixing with the Jews in their worship, and, at the same time, by degrees, introduce their priests, their altars and idol worship into their camp. In Constantine's day this mode of warfare was introduced with great success by Pagan worshippers, so that in little more than two centuries the greater part of the professed Christian church became the image of the beast of which we are now speaking, viz., Pagan Rome. Here, then, we see the rise of Papacy on the downfall of Pagan Rome. Whosoever will take the pains of comparing the Pagan manner of worship, forms, and ceremonies with Papacy, cannot help being forcibly struck with the similarity of the two. One deified their departed heroes and poets, the other her departed saints and votaries. The one consulted her oracles and priests for laws and instructions, the other her Popes and cardinals. The one had her altars, images, and statues, the other her chapels, pictures, and crosses. Both had them erected in every public place, for the multitude to fall before and worship. Both had their holy fire, holy water, and both claimed to perform miracles; the one by the response of her wooden oracles, and the other by her carnal priesthood. Here, then, we see how the church, in the fourth and fifth century, was led over the stumbling-block of Paganism, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.
"So, also, hast thou them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." This doctrine was promulgated in the fourth century. See the church history, and our former observations.
"Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Again the Lord calls for repentance, and threatens the judgments of his word upon them that obey not. O! may we take warning, my brethren, and tempt not the heavy judgments of God upon us, for our idolatry and fellowship of that which is not the religion of Jesus.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Again, all that have ears are commanded to hear, and those who remain faithful, that do not fall away, receive a promise of spiritual food, and a name and righteousness which none can know but they who receive it.
18, "And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write." The signification of Thyatira is, a "sweet savor of labor or sacrifice and contrition," and is a description of the church, after she is driven into the wilderness by the anti-Christian beast. This church lasted until about the tenth century; and little of her history is known to the world; but some authors have pretended to trace her into the north-west part of Asia, and in the north-east part of Europe, where they lived until about the tenth century, unknown unto the rest of the world, or taking but little concern with the nations around them. Yet it is said they retained religion in its purity, and held to the doctrines of the word of God. At any rate this church is represented as being in a state of heavy trial, and subject to seduction by some power represented by that woman Jezebel, of which I shall speak in its place. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;" representing, as in all the other declarations to the churches, that the character addressing them is no less than the mighty God, the omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent Jehovah, who says, "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first." When this church existed, which was when anti-Christ began her reign, there was great need of the exercise of those graces of the spirit which in this passage are enumerated. 1st. In works they had to, and without doubt did, combat the anti-Christian doctrines which began in the sixth century to overwhelm the Christian world, such as worshipping angels, departed saints, subject to councils and bishops, infallibility of the Pope, &c. They, in charity, too, had many of their brethren to sustain while combatting these errors against the power of this beast. They did much service in holding up the hands of their pious teachers and pastors who were not led away by this wicked one. How much faith, too, must they have been in possession of to have withstood the power of their councils, the excommunications of the Pope, and a majority of their brethren who had fell into Papal errors! how much "patience" to have remained unwavering amidst persecution when driven from their homes, their country and friends, into the wilderness, where God prepared a place for her! and how much more necessary were their last works to support each other in exile, poverty, and distress, the natural consequence of being driven from among men! But these things were so, according to the best account we can obtain of those times.
20, "Nothwithstanding, I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols." In this verse we have strong testimony that the exposition we have given of the seven churches is correct; for no character given the woman Jezebel will apply so exactly, as the woman sitting on the scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, "having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication."
Jezebel is a figurative name, alluding to Ahab's wife, who slew the prophets of the Lord, led her husband into idolatry, and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. A more striking figure could not have been used to describe the Papal abomination. See 1 Kings xviii. xix. xxi. chapters. It is very evident from history, as well as from this verse in Revelation, that the church of Christ did suffer some of the Papal monks to preach and teach among them. See the history of the Waldenses.
21, "And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not." 22, "Behold I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds." 23, "And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts, and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." We cannot be mistaken in the character given to this mystical Jezebel, when we compare the descriptions here used, and the judgments threatened, with other passages of like import in Revelation, where mystical Babylon is described and threatened. See Rev. ix. 20, 21, "And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts."
If these last texts mean anti-Christ, of which I believe none have any doubt, that is, no commentator that I have been able to consult, then it is equally evident that this woman, called Jezebel, in this prophecy of the church in Thyatira, means the same; and the conclusion is strong the Thyatira church represents the churches in some age of anti-Christ, and the prophecy contained in the verses we have already quoted are the judgments God has and will pour out on that great city that rules over the kings of the earth, and has for ages past trodden the church under foot, and contaminated the people of God by her seductions, sorceries, and fornications.
24, "But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, As many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan as they speak, I will put upon you none other burden." 25, "But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come." In these verses the church which have not fellowshipped the anti-Christian doctrine, and have not followed the practices of the satanic blasphemies of their abominations, are here promised to experience no other persecution except what they may experience from this beast or woman Jezebel, which is another proof of this being anti-Christ; for the church in Thyatira has long been extinct, if there ever was such a church, and was when the man of sin was revealed; and yet they are promised to have none other burden until he come, as it is more than implied; and this power is to stand until he comes. For Paul says, "Whom he shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming." This is Daniel's fourth kingdom, which was to be broken without hand, and to be carried away like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor before the wind, that no place be found for it.
26, "And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations," 27, ("And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers,) even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star." 29, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
In closing the prophecies to the churches, our divine Instructor carries them down to that day when he shall come to be admired in all them that believe, or to glorify his saints, to crown them his in his kingdom of glory, to break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth as a potter's vessel is broken to shivers, as the last text says, which proves that when Christ comes, he will bring all the saints with him, and this too when the kingdoms of this world and anti-Christ will be destroyed. And this proves another important point in which many good and pious people are greatly mistaken, viz., that there will not be a thousand years' happy reign previous to Christ's coming the second time without sin unto salvation. What happy reign can there be while the kingdoms of the earth stand as they now do; while the anti-Christian beast has power to seduce and draw the servants of God into idolatry, and lull to her serpentine folds thousands and tens of thousands human beings yearly, and deceive the nations by her siren song of mother church; while by means of her poison, subtle, secret, and deep, she is undermining and sapping the foundation of every religious sect but her own; of every civil government but such as will resign their power unto her control? And now, while I am speaking, she is exerting an influence in this once favored land, by means of her Jesuits, that will set father against son, and son against father, and drench our country in blood. Can this monster of murder, iniquity, and blood, retain her life, her standing in society, and we have a happy reign? No. She must and will sink like a millstone in the mighty deep, and God will avenge the blood of his servants. Her flesh must be eaten by dogs; yea, the kings of the earth shall eat her flesh, and God shall consume her with fire before the happy reign comes. "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly."
REV. i. 20.
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
IN my former lectures I have given my views of four of the churches spoken of in the text. Three more remain, which will complete the prophetic history of the church through all the ages of the New Testament times until the state of trial shall be fulfilled, and the church shall enter her glorified kingdom in triumph. You have undoubtedly been led, by the comparison of the churches with the history thus far, to admire the agreement of the prophecy of the four churches with the history of the times; and truly this is one of the greatest evidences we have of the truth of the divine inspiration of revelation, and this evidence fixes the authenticity of the Scriptures beyond a reasonable doubt. I shall now claim a few moments' indulgence while I attempt to show where and when the other three churches have been or will be fulfilled. See Rev. iii.
1, "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write." Song of joy, or that which remains, is the signification of Sardis. The last signification is the one which the heavenly Instructor has affixed himself to this church in the second verse, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain." The church preceding this had passed a long, dark, and benighted age of the world, and every writer of these times calls them the dark ages; and truly it was an age of superstition, bigotry, and ignorance; therefore we must reasonably suppose that but few were the true worshippers of God, and those few enjoying but a faint knowledge of divine things. But we will pursue our course. "These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars, I know thy works, that thou hast a name, that thou livest, and art dead." The same character that has addressed the other churches, still gives himself a quality by which we may know that it is he who is called God man, having the spirit of God, and as man governing his church as the star of Bethlehem. This church began about the tenth century, and lasted until the Reformation under Luther, Calvin, and others. They had a name, were called Waldenses, Valdenses, &c., "and art dead;" that is, she was or would be of little use to the rest of the world, hiding her influence within her own sphere, and of course did not manifest her light to the world, was inactive, idle, not performing the work which God had commanded them to perform, to set their light on the candlestand, that it might give light to all. This was the case with the church in the valleys of Piedmont during the time of the crusades to the Holy Land; and while the Pope had the command of all the armies of Europe, the church lived in these valleys of the Pyrenees, nearly in the centre of Europe, unknowing and unknown.
2d verse, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God." Although the church in this age retained some of the leading principles of the gospel, the ordinances were in part retained among them, yet towards the close of this Sardis age, the Papal monks and priests were sent in among them, and many of the Waldenses became corrupted by the Papal beast and her doctrine. Therefore the admonition, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain."
3d verse, "Remember how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent. If, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." The judgment threatened in this verse, "I will come upon thee," is undoubtedly a prophecy of the persecution of the Waldenses and Lollards, by the Papal authority, and through the inquisition, as an instrument, about the close of the fourteenth century, when, for their departure from the true doctrine of the gospel, and the commands of God, they were persecuted and scattered among all nations, so that by the judgments of God, for their transgressions, they were made instruments in the hands of God of spreading the knowledge of the gospel among the nations, which they ought to have done in obedience to his word, and for the love of souls. And these judgments served the double purpose of punishment for sin, and opening a door for a more general display of salvation.
4th verse, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." There were a few even in this age of moral darkness who followed Christ in his laws and ordinances, and they receive the promise of justification before God, "walk with me in white."
5th verse, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; but I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels." Whenever the phrase, "he that overcometh," is used, it always implies, I think, in the Scriptures, that the persons addressed are, or will pass through a time of persecution; and in this text the church in this age is shown that those only who can endure tribulation and persecution will be acknowledged at the bar of God as the children of faith. And then this church is again warned to hear and believe what the Spirit saith to the churches.
6th verse, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
I shall now attempt to show to what age we may calculate the Philadelphia church should answer, and when this prophecy was fulfilled.
7th verse, "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth." This verse is a description of the character addressing the church and gives an account of his holiness, his veracity, authority, and power, and leaves us without a doubt that it is Jesus the son of David, the Holy One of Israel, the faithful and true witness, he that hath all power in heaven and in earth. And he thus addresses them, 8th verse, "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it, for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." The signification of the name of this church, Philadelphia, is brotherly love, and this age began about the time of the Reformation; for then God opened an effectual door for the gospel to be spread which no man or set of men has been able to shut. And the early reformers displayed a zeal and fearlessness in their cause which astonished their friends and confounded their enemies. At this time, too, Christian love and fellowship was evidently one of the strongest marks of the day and manifested that the work was of God.
9th verse, "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie." The characters here spoken of are the same as those who sit in Satan's seat, who profess to be Christians, but are anti-Christians; they are worshippers of the Papal beast, professing to be the mother church, but are only that part which are fallen away, as Paul has told us, "there should come a falling away first, and then the man of sin should be revealed, who opposeth, (or is anti,) and exalteth himself (calling themselves Jews, a figurative expression, or name for Christian) above all that is called God." "Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." This sentence shows that anti-Christ would be humbled in this age of the church and brought to take the back ground, or in some measure lose her civil power over the Protestant church and be humbled at her feet. Has not this prophecy been accomplished strictly according to the letter? Witness Great Britain, Germany, and other nations. And to this day she has not been able to bring into subjection any of the Protestant states, and is only permitted to dwell among them by toleration. And although within a few years past she seems to be making an effort to regain her lost power and authority, yet it is but a last struggle, a dying gasp; for soon she must and will fall, to rise in civil power no more forever.
10th verse, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell upon the earth." This part of the prophecy was fulfilled on or before the French revolution, when Atheism and Deism made such rapid progress through Europe or the Roman government, which in prophecy is called the earth. See Rev. xii. 9. And it is a fact, that through this age of profligacy and corruption, the church retained her principles as pure and with as little defection as any age in modern times; although men of the world were led away by the plausible writings of Voltaire, Hume, Tom Paine, and others, yet it had no effect on the Christian church: and the promise, "I will keep thee from the hour of temptation," was fully and faithfully accomplished; and the very means that Satan used to destroy the religion of Jesus Christ, or "the twelve fishermen," was the means of bringing the church out of the wilderness. And those governments of the world which had for more than twelve centuries persecuted the children of God, now granted free toleration for all men to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. And from this period we may see the "angel flying through the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth." Now the church began to awake to the subject of missions; and while the world was tempted and tried, the kingdoms of the earth shaken to their centre, (yet not destroyed;) while the civil power of the mother of harlots, the inquisition of Spain, and the horrible means of torture, persecution, slavery, and cruelty, were all swept away in one revolution,--the church, by the power of Him who had promised to "keep them," passed through the fiery ordeal without the smell of fire on her garments.
11th verse, "Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." In this verse we have notice of his second coming, and that it would be quickly; by which I understand that the age of the seventh church, which was yet to come, would be short, and the second coming of him, who will overcome and subdue all things, would be quickly. He likewise admonishes us to hold fast that which we have, giving us, as I understand, warning that the next age of the church would be an age of invention; of lo heres, of departure from the true faith, of denying the crown of the church, the twelve stars, the apostles' doctrine. And amidst the confusion of the doctrines and revelations of the present day, if any one should inquire of me what sentiment it would be best for them to embrace, I would first point them to the Bible, and second, back to the fathers and teachers of the last century, and say, Hold fast that they held; let no man take thy crown. Let us then, my brethren, be watchful, and remember "him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; and I will write upon him my new name." The blessings promised in this text are to be realized when the New Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven; then shall the spiritual born child of heaven be a pillar in the temple of God, in that building made without hands; then, too, will he receive that rich inheritance that is laid up in heaven for those that love God, and there obtain that eternal crown, that immortal life which is now hid with Christ in God, and then and there realize that "blessed hope at the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ." "And he shall go no more out" of that glorious temple; no tempting devil there, for he will be chained; no persecuting kingdom, for they will "all be destroyed and carried away like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor." Then will he receive the new name, "The Lord our righteousness," for the Lord is there. Then, too, a citizen of the glorified kingdom, the New Jerusalem, married to the Lamb, and shall live and reign with him forever and forever. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." This closes the prophecy to the sixth church; and now let us see to it that we do not lose the blessings promised by refusing to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. Hear, and your souls shall live; disobey, turn a deaf ear, refuse the offered grace, and you will die; for the soul that sinneth shall die.
It now remains for me to show the age of the seventh or Laodicean church, and the characteristic marks of that church or age. And if I am right in considering these churches in a mystical sense, as our text more than implies, and our arguments and references strongly prove, in my humble opinion, then, this part of our subject becomes doubly interesting to us, who live in the very age of the fulfilment of this prophecy. Yes, my brethren, we live at the very time when the great head of the church says,
14th verse, "And unto the angel of the church in Laodicea write, These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." Laodicea signifies the judging of the people, and may have reference to the church in its last stage, when God would pour out his justice and judgment upon a guilty world, and upon a haughty, proud, and self-exalted church, and spue them out of his mouth. This idea may be warranted from the subject in connection. The address to this church begins by showing that it is the closing up of this dispensation, by saying, "These things saith the Amen." It also teaches us that it commences the judgment, or prepares for a judgment, by bringing forward "the faithful and true witness." It also shows the universality of this judgment by the knowledge of the witness being "the beginning of the creation of God."
15th verse, "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot." To be neither cold nor hot in religious things implies a profession of religion without a spiritual life, or the middle way between the world and Christ; taking much pains after worldly things, to the neglect of spiritual things; endeavoring to move between the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of men; taking the middle ground, as I have often heard it expressed.
16th verse, "So then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." For this cause, that is, because they are engaged more for show, honors, or profits of this world than for God, he would spue them out of his mouth. The word spue is used in three places in Scripture, besides the one under consideration; in Levit. xviii. 28, xx. 22, Jer. xxv. 27; and in all these places stands connected with the judgments of God upon Israel, or the nations spoken of, and implies a shaking out or driving from their present standing, either among nations or in the kingdom of Christ, as the case may be. And this passage, I suppose, alludes to the time when God hath promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven," Heb. xii. 26. So we may expect a shaking of the church of Christ, if this is the age spoken of, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. This, too, is the age when the wise and foolish virgins are sleeping and slumbering together.
17th verse, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Our heavenly Instructor has given us in this verse the reason why they are lukewarm; "because thou sayest, I am rich." The church in this Laodicean state, like the rich man, will be laying up goods, or making great calculations for the outward or worldly concerns of the church for many years to come, building places for worship, establishing colleges, high schools, academies, theological institutions, to raise up a popular ministry, that the world may be pleased, the ministry well supported, and they become the most popular sect of the day, "increased with goods." This, too, is the church. What shall be called the goods of the church? It is those contributions which are deposited for charitable and pious uses, such as Paul informed his brethren to lay by them in store on the first day of the week. These will be increased to a great and astonishing degree in this age of the church. Theological writings and publications, too, are the goods of the church: there will be a great increase of these. "Come, see what great things we are doing," will be the general language of the church, and the names of donors and the sums they contribute will be published through the world. "And knowest not that thou art wretched." The corruptions of the church will be kept out of sight; and pride, popularity, self-righteousness, depravity, will be the besetting sins of the members and great body of public professors, and few, very few of the ministers of the churches will be valiant or bold enough to tell them the truth. "And miserable." Real piety will be very little enjoyed; the hopes of a large body of professors will be but the hope of a hypocrite. "And poor." Without a tried faith, suffering but little or no persecution, the church will lack those riches which are more precious than fine gold, the trial of their faith. "And blind," without faith, living by things seen more than on the promises of God. "And naked," having on their own righteousness. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire." That is, the Amen, the faithful and true witness, counsels the Laodicean church to buy the gold tried in the fire, which may mean either that faith which will stand the fiery trial of temptation and persecution, or that truth which is like "apples of gold in pictures of silver;" "that thou mayest be rich;" rich in faith or in the knowledge of the truth; "and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed," that raiment which John saw the saints in heaven clothed with, which is the righteousness of the saints, the imputed righteousness of Christ, "the Lord our righteousness." If it is not so, why counsel the church to buy of him? Yes, my brethren, we are counselled to buy a raiment without spot or wrinkle, "and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear." Truly, when Christ comes, and we find we have been trusting in self, although we have called ourselves by his name, we have worn our own clothing, and eat our own bread, and instead of being clothed upon, we shall find ourselves naked. Shall we not be ashamed before him at his coming, if we are in this situation when he comes? O, what an awful thought! Therefore let us now receive the further admonition, "And anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." To anoint the eyes, in a figurative sense, is to examine the truth and evidences of Scripture, that we may see clearly our state and standing as it respects our character towards God and our hope in his future aid, promises, and blessings. It is to see our sins, and feel the need of help, to know our weakness, and trust in his strength--in one word, it is to repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. For he says, "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent." Here, then, is one comfortable promise to this lukewarm church. If there is any tried, chastened, penitent soul in this church, this Laodicean state or age of the church, they have the promise of his love, his everlasting love, his unchangeable love; his loving kindness he will not take from him, although he should "visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquity with stripes." Be zealous, therefore, brethren, and repent.
20th verse, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." He that is the "Amen" is now at the door. In this Laodicean age of the church he comes; he knocks by his judgments, by the fulfilment of the signs, by his word, by all the means of grace that God has ever used to alarm the sleepy, slumbering virgins of his approach. He gives the cautionary word, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." In this passage of prophecy we are brought down to the marriage supper of the Lamb--another and a strong testimony that the churches are to be considered in a mystical sense, and the language or subject prophetical. For this is certainly the saying of Jesus, the faithful and true witness; "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rev. xix. 7-9, "Let us rejoice and be glad, and give honor to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." We see, my friends, by the similarity of the sentiments given in the marriage supper, and those admonitions and prophecies to the Laodicean church, that they must mean one and the same event. To hear the voice of the bridegroom, and to open the door, and go out to meet him, is the way which the bride makes herself ready; and his supping with them and they with him, shows that it is when Christ shall come, and live, and reign with them.
"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." Here is another expression which proves we are brought down to the end of time, "to him that overcometh." What can the faithful and true witness mean by this expression? He explains himself, "even as I also overcame." How did Christ overcome when he sat down with his Father? I answer, By bursting the bands of death, by conquering the grave, he arose a glorious conqueror, and was seated at the right hand of God. Then this is the true meaning of the text, to him, that hath part in the first resurrection, will I grant to sit with me in my throne. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be kings and priests of God, and of Christ, and shall reign with him." What light may we not receive from the word of God, when taken together, when explained by its own language, when kept unbroken! "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." This closes what I call, and what Christ, I think, calls, a prophecy. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand."
This Laodicean church began about A.D. 1798, and will last the forty-five years. When this dispensation will close, the judgment will set, and the books will be opened; the hypocrites will be spued out of the church, and the sanctuary cleansed.
Will the situation of the church, the character of Christians, the doctrines taught, and the signs of the times warrant us to believe that we live in the Laodicean age of the church? Let us for a moment examine the evidence and see.
1st. The situation of the church, enjoying peace in and among the kingdoms of the earth, enjoying all the privileges of citizens without persecution, making great and many improvements in her worldly concerns, rich in this world's goods, having at her command many millions of funds, and almost swaying the destinies of the world; great, learned and rich men enlisting under her banners, controlling the fashions, customs, and laws of the day, swaying a mighty influence over the education of our youth, and giving a general tone to the literature of the world, increasing her demands for power, establishing bishoprics, presbyteries, national and state conventions, conferences, councils, associations, consociations, societies innumerable; and all these controlled almost exclusively by her clergy. May we not say truly, "She is rich and increased in goods?" But is this all? No. Look at her colleges, theological schools, academies, depositories, public edifices, presses, theological writings and publications, in almost every nation, kingdom, state, and territory, and in this country in almost every county and town; and all this by contributions. Well may it be said, she has need of nothing. These things, too, among all sects and denominations, one cannot outdo another apparently, yet each is striving for the mastery.
2d. The characters of Christians generally. In speaking of the character of our brethren, it becomes the speaker to be very careful and unassuming, for God has not made him a judge over his brethren. Therefore, to judge this one is right, and that one wrong, we shall leave for the judgment seat of Christ. But on a general scale surely we may be allowed to examine and compare ourselves with the prophecies. In all ages back, Christians, when living godly, have been a poor, despised, persecuted people, pilgrims and strangers in the world, plainly showing that this is not their continuing city, but that they are seeking one to come. But is it so now? Have not professors generally, for more than thirty years, been seeking for the riches of this life, for the honors of the world, and following the fashions of the times as greedily as men of the world? Yes. And can we distinguish a professor of religion in our public assemblies from a man of the world, except we are informed? No. Where, then, do Christians plainly show they seek a better country? Nowhere. May we not live in the same neighborhood with professors for years, and not hear them recommend the religion they profess? Yes. But do we not hear the same persons talk freely, flippantly, and zealously about the world, the politics and the fashions of the day? Yes. Is it not a general complaint with all of our churches, of coldness, of a want of spiritual life, and a great failure in active spiritual duties? Yes. Has not a spirit of sloth and supineness seized upon professors generally? Do not many think, if they have a hired servant to talk religion, and visit the widow and fatherless, and keep themselves unspotted from the world, for them it is enough? Yes. And does not all this, and much more which might with truth be said on this point, declare loudly that the professors of Christianity, generally, are in a lukewarm state? Yes. We must respond, Yes.
The doctrine taught. Here again your speaker feels a diffidence in speaking on this subject, knowing that many great, learned, and good men differ on this point; but we must all stand or fall to our own Master, and I must answer how I speak or shun to declare the whole counsel of God. Your speaker believes that the depravity of the human heart, our dependence on God, and indebtedness to grace, are abundantly taught in the Scriptures. See Eph. ii. 4-13. But how stands this doctrine with our public proclaimers at the present day? Some few may preach it, but there is more than ten to one who do not preach it, or, if they do, they so cover it up by their plausible and specious reasoning, that the force of the doctrine and the object of the inspired writers are wholly lost. We are now taught that man can make himself a Christian as easily as he can turn about in the highway; that obedience or baptism is regeneration; that works are the medium of acceptance with God, and that the righteousness of Christ is not imputed. How can such doctrine be more clearly pointed out than it is by the "faithful and true witness" to the Laodicean church? "And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." That is, they know not their depravity. "I counsel thee to buy of me (see here their dependence on God) gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." Grace, grace, from the foundation to the top stone. Surely, my dear friends, no candid observer of the doctrine taught at the present day, but what must in his heart acknowledge that the doctrine taught by many, among the different sects, is the same described by our divine Master in the prophecy to the Laodicean church.
The signs of the times. In the close of Christ's instructions to the church under consideration, he says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice," &c. Daniel says, "At that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince that standeth up for the children of thy people." And Christ says, "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many." These were particular signs given by Christ and the prophets. And how have these come to pass? Witness the great and many reformations which for thirty years have progressed in our land, in Europe, and the islands of the seas. See also the word of God published, in whole or in part, among all nations. See the missionaries of the gospel running to and fro through the whole earth. Do not these indicate that Christ stands at the door, and that his voice has gone out even unto the ends of the world, and that Michael has stood up for the children of thy people? Yes. Again: how many new sects have arisen, how many false Christs have come in this blaze of gospel light, and are drawing away their hundreds and thousands after them! It is almost incredible, when we take into view the light and knowledge under which we live; but all go to prove that Christ is nigh, even at the door.
In reviewing our subject, we learn by the events of the Sardis church, and by the admonitions given, our duty to guard against the introduction of errors into the church, and to strengthen ourselves in the truth; and likewise of being active in all the duties of religion, that we may not only have a name to live, but have the life and power of the gospel, that we may resist all the temptations and fiery darts of the enemies of the church.
By the church of Philadelphia, we learn that if we keep the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, he will keep us from those trials and judgments which he sends on an ungodly and rebellious people, and that God has opened a door for the spread of the gospel, which no power on earth will be able to shut, until the angel standing on the sea and on the land, shall swear that time shall be no longer. We also learn the importance of having brotherly love and perseverance in holy things, that no man take from us the crown which is laid up for those that love God, and which will be given to them who remain steadfast in Christ Jesus at his coming, which is promised quickly to this church.
By the Laodicean church, we learn the important lesson that we cannot serve two masters; we cannot love the present evil world, and at the same time be the servants of God; that to be lukewarm in religion is to be cast out of his presence, and call down the vengeance of God's final judgment upon our heads, and, while we may flatter ourselves that we are righteous, find to our everlasting shame, that we are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
Think, O think, my dear friends, you that are trusting in your own goodness, when that day of justice shall come, and the faithful and true witness shall stand against you, when your goodness shall pass away like the morning cloud, and the righteous Judge shall pronounce the dreadful sentence, Depart--what must be your feelings! The world, which you here worshipped, is burning up; the friends with whom you here associated are gone to meet the Lord in the air, or are sinking with you into endless and hopeless misery. The Savior, whose name you are now ashamed to own, or whose righteousness you think you need not, is now your Judge, seated on a great white throne, from whose face the heavens and the earth shall flee away. Think, O sinner! where wilt thou be found!
REV. v. 9, 10.
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue,and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests; and we shall reign on the earth.
THERE is such harmony, beauty, and knowledge in every part of the word of God, that the Bible student, whose heart is interested in the same, has often, while reading, been led to stop and admire the order, wisdom, and light which burst upon his enraptured vision, at the unfolding of the figures and truths which until that moment, perhaps, lay in darkness, doubt, and obscurity, and seemed to be wrapped up in a mysterious veil that almost makes the reader quail, and come to the conclusion that he is treading on forbidden ground; but, perhaps, in an unexpected moment, the inspired penman, seemingly having anticipated our ignorance or darkness, throws out a spark of that live coal which had touched his lips, and our darkness is dispelled, ignorance vanishes before the fulness of knowledge of the word of God, and we stand reproved and admonished for our stupidity and ignorance in the figures and truths before explained. Our text is a brilliant spark of that fire which is upon the altar between the cherubims, and gives us a clear ray of light to discover the allusion of the figures contained in the fourth and fifth chapters of this book. It is conveyed unto us by way of a chorus, like the angel's song at the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem of Judea. It explains to us in a divine song what the four beasts are, and gives a key to unlock the mystery of the twenty-four elders, and clearly shows who opens the seals of the book. I shall, in illustrating this subject, inquire
I. Who they were that sung this new song;
II. Show the song, and the occasion of it; and,
III. Speak of the reign and the place where.
I. We are to inquire who are the singers in this grand chorus. The prophet calls them "the four beasts," or, as it might have been more properly translated, four animate beings; and the "four and twenty elders," he also calls them "saints," See the 8th verse, "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints." Then comes in our text, "And they sung a new song," &c. The four beasts is a figurative representation of the whole New Testament church, not only in character, but in chronology, representing the four different stages of trial through which the church should pass in her pilgrimage in the wilderness of this world, before she would enter the visible kingdom of her glorious Redeemer, the New Jerusalem, and reign on the earth. And every individual Christian, who may live any length of time after his conversion, passes through some or all of these states of trial. The four and twenty elders are the twelve patriarchs, which are sometimes called prophets, and the twelve apostles of the Lamb. For it is said, we are built on the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone; and figuratively it may represent the faithful and true ministers of Jesus Christ, the same as the twenty-four courses of the priesthood under the Jewish economy. See 1 Chron. xxiv. 7-19. And the four beasts are typified by the four grand divisions of the Jewish camp under Moses. The first, on the east, was to follow the standard of Judah; that on the south side, and second in the march, was the standard of Reuben; on the west side, Ephraim, and his, was the third standard in the march; on the north side was Dan's standard and Dan brought up the rear in the march of the Jews through the wilderness. What their several standards were, I cannot tell, except that of Judah, which marched in front, immediately after the ark, which in all probability was a lion. And our "first beast" under consideration was "like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle." These represent the four grand divisions of the gospel church. The first represents the church in the apostolic age, when the church went forth, bold as a lion, preaching and proclaiming the gospel among all nations. The second state or division of the church was the times of persecution and slaughter by the Roman emperors, represented by the calf. The third state of the church was in Constantine's day, when the church enjoyed privileges as a man, and became independent, and like a natural man, proud, avaricious, and worldly. The fourth and last state of trial was when the anti-Christian beast arose; and, under the scourge of this abomination, the church having two wings given her, like the wings of an eagle, she flew into the wilderness, where, a place being prepared for her, she is nourished from the face of the serpent a thousand two hundred and threescore days, Rev. xii. 6, 14.
This of course would include the whole Christian church until Christ's second coming, when anti-Christ will be destroyed, and the church delivered from all her foes, and brought into her New Jerusalem state, where John now sees in his vision the whole family of the redeemed, singing the grand chorus as in the verses following our text. "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousands and thousands of thousands." In this vision John has the same view which Daniel had in his vision. See Daniel vii. 10. Daniel saw the same throne, and the same numbers stood before it; which proves, almost beyond a doubt that Daniel's vision carries us into the eternal, immortal, and glorified state; for John, in the next verses, carries us into the eternal state of the righteous.
12th verse, "Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth forever and ever." Nothing can be more evident than that John here saw the whole family of the redeemed, as they will be after the first resurrection; for he gives the several situations of every part of the whole family as they actually were, that is, in body, or the situation of their bodies at that very time when he was writing, "every creature," that is, in person, in their bodies, as they will be after the resurrection; not all mankind, as some vainly suppose, but those who are redeemed, or who may hereafter be redeemed, "out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." See our text. If it had been "all nations," &c., he would not have said, "out of" &c. Therefore we must take the whole in connection. But John saw every creature whose bodies then were some of them in heaven as Enoch and Elijah; every creature who was then alive on the earth, like himself and brethren; every body of the saints that had slept and been buried under ground, or in the sea, and all the saints who were yet in the loins of their fathers. In one word, he saw the whole general assembly, and church of the first born, whose names were written in the Lamb's book of life. These four beasts are the same living creatures which Isaiah saw when he had a view of the glory of God. Isa. vi. 1-3, "In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims; each one had six wings: with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory." Ezekiel also saw the same living creatures that Isaiah calls "seraphims," and John "four beasts." Ezekiel calls them "cherubims." See Ezek. i. and x. chapters. John says, Rev. iv. 8, "And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him," the same as Isaiah's "seraphims." These wings are the graces of the Spirit, as is strongly implied by Ezekiel ii. 12, "And they went every one straight forward; whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went." "With two they covered their face"--humility and repentance; "with two they covered their feet"--that is, they walked by two of the graces, faith and patience, faith in God and patient in tribulation; "and with two they did fly"--hope and love. They "mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, walk and not faint," says the prophet Isaiah, xl. 31. And again John says, they were "full of eyes before and behind, and they were full of eyes within;" showing that they would have just views of sin, of God, and his word, and of themselves: they could look back and see their sins, and the pit from which they had been delivered, and with gratitude remember their Redeemer. They could with eyes of faith look forward and believe in the promises of God, and have a view of the glory that shall be revealed at his second coming. With eyes within, they could look into their own hearts, and see the remaining corruption and hidden depravity that lie lurking in every corner of the soul, and by this means put off the old man with his deeds. They are represented by John as being praying souls, "and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of saints." Every one had these vials, says John. How then, I ask, can the prayerless man or woman think to join this celestial throng? "Having every one of them harps;" showing that all of them would have new hearts, be born of God; so they would be enabled to sing in the New Jerusalem state the new song.
These are the characters and persons which John saw represented by the four and twenty elders and the four beasts. I shall now,
II. Show what we may understand by the new song, and the occasion of it.
The prophet John had been led by the angel through seven different stages of the church, by the vision of the mystery of the seven stars and seven golden candlesticks, under the name of the seven churches of Asia, which ought to be understood symbolically down to the time when the judge stands at the door ready to enter into the supper of the great God, when all wicked flesh will be destroyed, and till the marriage supper of the Lamb arrives, when all the righteous will be raised, enter into the glorified state, and live and reign with him on earth. Then it is perfectly natural that after we had read the history of the church through all her trials, persecutions, and imperfections, we should be led to see her deliverance on the other side of the banks of Jordan, or beyond the power of death, and to hear a part, at least, of that new song which no man can sing unless he is redeemed from the earth.
In the second and third chapters of Revelation, we have the history of the church, as I have endeavored to show in my lectures on the churches. In the fourth and fifth chapters we have a view of the glorified state, and the characters given of those who will enjoy the privilege of that state, the song which will employ the golden harps, and the place where. The characters I have already given. The song is represented as a new song. it is new because it is sung only in that state where all things are made new. See 2 Pet. iii. 13, "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Rev. xxi. 5, "And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." Now John saw, in Rev. iv. 2, the same throne, and him that sat upon it, and in the verse above quoted he speaks as though he had mentioned before "him that sat upon the throne." And as he has not mentioned him in this language in any other place, we may have strong reason to believe that the time and subject matter is the same in the 4th chapter of Revelation as in the 21st chapter. Again: we are expressly told that no man could learn the new song, but those who are redeemed from the earth, Rev. xiv. 3. And redemption from the earth is no where spoken of until the resurrection of the body. Christ says, in Luke xxi. 27, 28, "And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh." And Paul says, Rom. viii. 23, "Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies." In this state they can sing, "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." It is also a holy song; for they cry, "and rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come." The church in this state are not all holy; they have but a faint view of the holiness of God's character, his law of government; neither could they endure the sight; for when God has seen fit to reveal a small part of his holiness, men have fainted under it. Isaiah cried out, "Woe is me." Ezekiel fell upon his face, Ezek. i. 28. Daniel's comeliness was turned into corruption, so that he retained no strength, Dan. x. 8. Therefore it is evident that this holy song can only be sung in a state of immortality, when we shall be holy, even as God is holy. This new and holy song will not cease, for they rest not day and night, which proves it to be in the eternal state. And the dress and crowns of the elders, "clothed in white raiment," and they had on their heads "crowns of gold," and they "cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power"--all proves that the new song is sung after the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; for Paul tells us, that a crown is laid up for him which the righteous Judge shall give him at that day; and not only him, but to all them also that love his appearing. So neither the elders nor the beasts can sing this new song until the New Jerusalem is formed, their bodies redeemed from the earth, and they brought into the eternal state of the righteous. It will not be sung until the last child is born into the kingdom--the last enemy conquered--the elect gathered from the four winds of heaven, and the cap stone brought forth, when the heavens will ring with this general chorus. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty: blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever; and the four beasts will say, Amen."
III. I shall now show the reign spoken of in our text, and the place where.
There is much speculation at the present day on the reign of Christ on the earth, which is promised in his word, and in the text. Some have supposed that it would be purely spiritual, by the Holy Spirit's influence, when all, or a large share of mankind who then should be on the earth, would be regenerated and become the subjects of his spiritual kingdom; that there would be no tempting devil to deceive, nor any kingdoms on the earth, but what would be subject to Christ's spiritual reign, and the church would enjoy a long Sabbath of rest; and the long-desired period of some who profess to be the servants of Christ would come; when church and state would be united, and war would cease to the end of the world, and the world would increase in riches, arts, and science to an amazing degree, beyond any thing we have yet conceived; thousands would inhabit the earth where there are but tens now, and man would live to a good old age, and nations be born in a day. This theory is the most rational one I have been able to discover, aside from the glorious reign of Christ with his people in a state of immortality.
To the above theory I have many scriptural objections. Although the advocates of this theory call it spiritual, yet a large share, if not all, are temporal blessings of this kingdom, and are exactly the same that the Jews believed they should possess at Christ's first coming. Again: they must suppose, if this be true, that the rulers of the world must all be Christians, or professedly so. Then what must we say to Christ's words, "My kingdom is not of this world"? and again, "In the world ye shall have tribulation"? The world hate you, and if ye live godly, ye shall suffer persecution, and these (meaning the whole family of the redeemed) have come out of much tribulation. How could those millions who are born or live in this happy period, come out of great tribulation? But where do the advocates of the above system prove their doctrine? Some pretend to bring the same passages in the Old Testament that the Jews did, to prove their temporal kingdom over the Gentiles, and do not see that much of the Old Testament prophecy was, and has been fulfilled in its typical sense. And it is very easy to show that the passages they pretend to bring in the Old Testament were all fulfilled 1800 years ago.
But, if they had believed in this theory, would not some of the New Testament writers have mentioned this important period? I remember, when I was but a child, of hearing an old minister of the gospel make a remark like this:--"All the Old Testament prophecies," said he, "which were not fulfilled when Christ came in the flesh, are carried into the New Testament, and further explained." I then thought there was reason and propriety in the remark; I think so still, for the two witnesses must and will agree. And where do the believers in this system bring us one word from Christ? Not one. But we can show much to the contrary. The parable of the tares and the wheat carries us to the end of the world; and he expressly says, "Let them grow together until the harvest." His prophecy and parables in Matt. xxiv. and xxv. give us a prophecy until his second coming, and not a word about a happy period previously, but much about lo heres, and lo theres, and wicked servants beating and bruising their fellow-servants, and eating and drinking with the drunken, saying in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming. Can this be a millennium? No. Too much devil in such conduct as this. Where does Paul, a very prominent writer, give us a hint of these important things? He must have understood the Old Testament as well as some, if not all, of our modern divines. But he, too, has given the reverse. In his epistle to the Thessalonians, he tells us plainly, "Then shall that wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy by the brightness of his coming," 2 Thess. ii. In his 2 Thess. i., he tells them of the necessity of patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations; which, he says, is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; and then goes on to show Christ's coming, and destruction of an ungodly world; nothing that looks like a millennium in this, or any part of Paul's writings, before Christ's second coming. Where, then, shall we find it in the New Testament? Perhaps they may say in Rev. xx.; but this chapter can never be given to them until they do away the first resurrection; for all in that chapter is after the first resurrection, and, of course, is after the personal and second coming of the Savior; and all the arguments to do away or destroy the word resurrection are so futile and weak that it needs no argument to refute them; for what could do it in that place might in every other case, and we should be Sadducees at once. James, Peter, and Jude mention the last days in their epistles, and describe them as being very wicked, yet make no mention of a day of the spread of the gospel in this wonderful manner. James speaks of their heaping up treasures for the last days. "Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton: ye have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." Can this be the millennium? No! unless proud, earthly pleasure, wantonness, and murder, are the spirit of their millennium. Yet, if it is temporal, this would be the most likely fruits, if we judge of the future by the past; for the greater the temporal blessings, the greater is man's rebellion. Read the second and third chapters of 2 Peter, where he expressly speaks of the last days. "Knowing this first, that there shall come, in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" &c., agreeing with what Christ said the wicked ministers would be doing when he comes. They would say in their hearts, My Lord delayeth his coming. Can there be this happy time described in the above theory? All must answer. No. Then let this suffice as answer to the above theory, until our opponents prove their own sentiments by the word. There are many more branches of the above system, but none that I have seen but are liable to the same objections.
I shall now undertake to prove that this reign is in the immortal state, after the resurrection; that Christ will be present with his people, and, of course, personally, and that it will be on the earth.
I. Then I am to prove that it will be immortal after the resurrection.
The present reign is called, in Scripture, a reign of grace; "So might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord." This reign has been ever since Christ was in the world, for 1800 years past. We shall now show that this reign must continue until after the resurrection of the dead. See 1 Cor. xv. 23-26; "But every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits, (resurrection;) afterwards they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have given up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall put down all rule, and all authority and power. For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Here we have plain Scripture that the same reign of grace must continue unto eternal life; and in the other text, until the resurrection of them that are Christ's, and death, the last enemy to the church, is destroyed. Where, then, shall we get in a spiritual or temporal reign? We see evidently there is no change of the reign of Christ in the gospel or grace, from the apostles' days until the time comes when the saints shall possess the kingdom in the immortal state. Paul says, Rom. v. 17, "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ." Here the saints are promised to reign after the gift of righteousness, (which the righteous Judge shall give all those who love his appearing at that day,) in life, that is, eternal life. See 21st verse. 1 Peter v. 4, "And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." This must, of course, be in the immortal state, for it fadeth not away.
II. That Christ will be present with his people in a state of immortality, can hardly be doubted when we read such texts as these:--John xii. 24, "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my servant be." Again John xiv. 3, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am there ye may be also." So much for Christ's promise to his disciples. And now let us read his prayer to his Father on this point, John xvii, 24, "Father, I will that they, also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." Paul says, 1 Thess. iv. 17, "And so shall we ever be with the Lord." "For it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." Our text says, "And hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Rev. xx. 4, 6, "And they lived and reigned with Christ." "And shall reign with him." xxi. 3, "And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."
III. "And we shall reign on the earth," says our text. Not under its present dispensation, but after it is cleansed by fire; after the wicked are destroyed by fire, as the antediluvians were by water, after the resurrection of the saints, and when Christ's prayer, taught to his disciples, shall be answered, "Thy will be done on earth, even as in heaven." When the bride has made herself ready, and married to the bridegroom, he will then move her into the New Jerusalem state, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband, where we shall reign with him forever and ever on the new earth and in the new heavens; "and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Then the whole earth "shall be full of his glory;" and then, as says the prophet Isaiah, liv. 5, "For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called."
And then, my dear hearer, if you have had your heart broken off from sin; if you have by faith been united in spirit to the Lamb of God; if you have patiently endured tribulation and persecution for his name,--then you will live and reign with him on the earth, and this earth will be regenerated by fire and the power of God, the cursed destroyed, sin, pain, crying, sorrow, and death banished from the world, and mortality clothed upon by immortality, death swallowed up in victory. You will rise up in that general assembly, and clapping your hands with joy, cry, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is now come." Then you will be in a situation to join the grand chorus, and sing the new song, saying, "Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth, saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing." And all who meet in that grand assembly will be then heard to shout, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever." And methinks I can now see every one who loves our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in this assembly, rising upon their feet, and in one united prayer of faith, crying, "Come, Lord Jesus. O come quickly."
But you, O impenitent man or woman, where will you be then? When heaven shall resound with the mighty song, and distant realms shall echo back the sound, where, tell me, where will you be then? In hell! O think! In hell! a dreadful word! Once more think! In hell! lifting up your eyes, being in torment. Stop, sinner; think! In hell! where shall be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Stop, sinner, stop; consider on your latter end. In hell! "where the beast and false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." I entreat of you to think--in hell! I know you hate to hear the word. It sounds too harsh. There is no music in it. You say it grates upon the ear. But think, when it grates upon the soul, the conscience, and the ear, and not by sound only, but a dread reality, when there can be no respite, no cessation, no deliverance, no hope! You will then think, yes, of this warning, of a thousand others, perhaps of this hour, with many more that are lost; yes, worse than lost, that have been squandered in earthly, vain, and transitory mirth, have been abused; for there have been many hours the Spirit strove with you, and you prayed to be excused. There was an hour when conscience spake; but you stopped your ears and would not hear. There was a time when judgment and reason whispered; but you soon drowned their cry by calling in some aid against your own soul. To judgment and reason you have opposed will and wit, and said, "in hell," was only in the grave. In this vain citadel, on this frail house of sand, you will build, until the last seal is broken, the last trump will sound, the last woe be pronounced, and the last vial be poured upon the earth. Then, impenitent man or woman, you will awake in everlasting woe!
Be warned; repent; fly, fly for succor to the ark of God, to Jesus Christ, the Lamb that once was slain, that you might live, for he is worthy to receive all honor, power, and glory. Believe, and you shall live. Obey his word, his spirit, his calls, his invitations; there is no time for delay; put it not off, I beg of you; no, not for a moment. Do you want to join that heavenly choir and sing the new song? Then come in God's appointed way; repent. Do you want a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens? Then join in heart and soul this happy people, whose God is the Lord. Do you want an interest in the New Jerusalem, the beloved city? Then set your face as a flint Zion-ward; become a pilgrim in the good old way. "Seek first the kingdom of heaven," says Christ, "and then all these things shall be added unto you."