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The Church of Laodicea was one of the seven which the immediate Apostles of our Lord established in Asia Minor. At first, she enjoyed the most exalted privileges. But, proving false to her great Head, inasmuch as she grew languid in her efforts to extend abroad the blessings of the Word of Life, and perverted the rich and abundant grace of heaven, which ought to have actuated her with deepest gratitude, and most unbounded zeal in “well-doing,”—to spiritual security, listless aspirations, and sinful indifference to the cause of the Gospel throughout the world; her “golden candlestick” was, in divine judgment, removed. And, thus degraded from her proud position in the Christian community, in consequence of the religious declension of her members, her very city itself, which stood, like imperial Rome, upon seven hills, encompassed by a vast wall, and containing—striking proof of the civil and political splendour, as it was thought in those days, to which it had attained—three large amphitheatres and a circus, was at length buried in ruins by repeated earthquakes ; and the utmost difficulty is now experienced by modern travellers even in ascertaining its ancient site, from the Mahometan idolators who at present people the country: awful monument this, of “the wrath of the Lamb,” and of the terrible and enduring doom that awaits, in like manner, every other church in Christendom, which, abusing or neglecting her advantages, continues “slothful in business”—not “fervent in spirit,” nor“ always abounding in the work of the Lord !”
I would here call your attention, for a few moments, to the character of the Laodicean Church, to whose
dreadful doom we have just adverted, as that character is given by him who is the 6 Amen—the faithful and true Witness.”.
He says, “ I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.” It would hence appear, brethren, that the members of the Church of Laodicea had all assumed, at least the name and badges of Christianity; and that they confessed the doctrines, and owned the laws of, their Divine Master, and the various obligations resulting from them. Thus, then, they were not absolutely “cold.” But neither, on the other hand, were they entirely “hot;" for there was no spirit—no flame of zeal in all their religion. There was no substance in their profession, and no vital influences animated their hearts. Religion and the concerns of immortality wielded only a nominal or speculative sway over their minds, and roused them neither to vigorous exertion, nor to ardent thoughts. Their whole habits of soul were worldly and carnal. They “ had the form of godliness; but its power they denied.” Their principles of faith were not active and lively. They “followed” Christ as “the Captain of their Salvation;" but, like Peter, on a most memorable occasion, it was only " afar off;" for they loved him not with any degree of affectionate warmth. They “served neither God nor mammon;" but partly both. Their religious character was a composite, at once of the frigidity of the hardened and thoughtless transgressor, and of the hallowed fire and burning devotion of the genuine disciple. It stood at a medium temperature between the two, just as “lukewarmness” partakes of the qualities both of cold and of heat.
Now, it may impress you, perhaps, as not a little remarkable, that our Saviour, while he declares his abhorrence of the spiritual and religious condition of the Laodiceans, should do so by expressing his wish that they were even altogether “cold,” rather than 5 lukewarm ;” in other words, that they were openly apostate than only moderately, or to a certain extent, so: “I would thou wert cold or hot !” But we cannot suppose, my friends, we must not, that our blessed Lord's intention is, by the peculiar and emphatic language which he employs, to make affirmation to us of his preference for the most aggravated wickedness and faulty short-comings as such, compared with negative goodness merely, and faint and far-between endeavours in his cause. His meaning is, that, were the Laodicean Church to assume at once an avowedly hostile attitude with respect to Christianity, she would thus be acting a more straitforward and intelligible—a more consistent and honest part, and be doing less injury and prejudice to the Redeemer's name, and to the interests of the truth, than by remaining in her present state of unworthy apathy and sinful unconcernedness; whereby the enemies of the faith were made to blaspheme every day. At the same time, too, there was this aggravation, Christ knew, belonging to the “lukewarm ” professor of religion, which rendered him signally obnoxious to the mind of Heaven, that to all his other guilt and crimes, he superadded the sin of hypocrisy,
and of pride, and of daring presumption, and of selfflattery. And, besides, the repentance and conversion ultimately of such a character are much more improbable events, than the conviction and reformation of the reckless and unrestrained profligate himself; simply upon the principle, that the publicans and harlots of the Saviour's time were more accessible to the appeals of Divine Revelation, and received the Gospel more readily than the self-righteous Pharisees,—or that even a shock of palsy, or the paroxysms of a raging epidemic, are often controlled and modified-overcome and completely removed—while another malady, milder in its onset and more impalpable in its progress, insinuates itself into the vital functions of the human frame
-stealing its way there with consumptive effect, until, having reached the destined crisis, it undermine the entire system, and, in utter mockery of the physician's skill and the power of his medicines, issue at last in the wretched patient's dissolution !
The expression “ lukewarm,” is well calculated to convey to us an idea of the intense disapprobation entertained by the Lord our God, towards all professing Christians, like the Laodiceans of old. Scarcely can any beverage be conceived more nauseating, nay, more absolutely revolting, to the stomach of man than water, which is neither positively cold, nor yet altogether warm, but just “lukewarm.” And, as the human stomach shrinks from such a draught—will, in many instances, be effectually mastered by it, and would even prefer it, were its temperature some degrees nearer to the boiling point, and as much so as might be compatible with its being taken ; so, in like manner, brethren, for “ lukewarm" Christians, Jesus has no relish whatever, but cherishes greater predilections, in a sense, for sinners themselves of the intensest depravity; of the former he is sincerely sick-between them and him there is no community of feeling—all is revulsion, and there is no congenial taste and such persons, consequently, thus grossly destitute of all 6 meetness" for the hallowed services and the holy joys of “ the saints in light,” he will repudiate utterly away from him on “ the day when he numbers his jewels,” and will “spue them out of his mouth,” into the depths of everlasting woe. When they shall then “ begin to say,” in order to recommend them to his mercy, and escape his righteous indignation—" Lord, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets,”_his reply to them will be in those terrible terms—“ I tell you, I know you not, whence ye are ; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity!"
The Church, and also, as we have remarked already, the very city itself of Laodicea, has now lain overwhelmed in ruins for many hundred years; but the 6 lukewarm” spirit which entailed upon them that tremendous judgment, has still survived, and possesses too great a proportion of the acknowledged Christians amongst us at the present day. We shall now, then, consider the passage before us in direct application to our ownselves, and with a view to our religious improvement and eternal well-being.
I. We shall consider and illustrate the RELIGIOUS CHA