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even academic honours on his brow, who never could endure the pungency of Ephesian or Berean criticism. What is the reason, for instance, that those errors, which aim their deadliest blows at the very root of the Christian religion, denying the proper divinity of Jesus Christ, and the vicarious character of his atonement, are even tolerated by many who with an obvious inconsistency wear the name of Christian? What is the reason, that minor errors of doctrine, which do indeed more slowly, yet effectually injure the progress of the truth, find their
of the truth, find their way unimpeded into many a pulpit? Why is it, that the vital principle of Christianity, justification by faith only—why is it that the natural and total alienation of the unregenerated heart—why is it that the necessity of a change, radical and complete, by the influence of the Holy Ghost—why is it, that these are so frequently lost sight of, or softened down to the disparagement of the truth as it is in Jesus? These questions are to be answered by the fact, that the generality of congregations know so little about, and take so little interest in, the investigation of evangelical truth. Where there is a praying people, and where there is a Scripture-reading people, nothing but sound doctrine and consistent practice can be endured. Where there is not a praying people, and where there is not a Scripture-reading people, they are not qualified to judge whether, in all its important shades, truth be preached to them. It was a most glorious trait in the character of the Bereans, that they made it a point of conscience to look into these things; and the circumstance which raised them in the opinion of the Apostle far above their neighbours of Thessalonica was, that when they
heard the word, they “searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so ;” and had it not been that the truth as it is in Jesus was known by the members of the Church at Ephesus, they never would have been able to achieve that conquest over erroneous teachers, and erroneous doctrines, which gained for them the commendation of the text. To the Bible then, my brethren, and to the Holy Spirit, as the only infallible teacher, you are to be directed. The knowledge and the experience of truth, are things essential to your everlasting welfare. With an humble distrust of yourselves, and an humble dependance upon the grace of God, you will not materially err. With a sound Scriptural knowledge, others will not be able to mislead you; falsehood, be it ever so minute or insidious, will be detected; truth alone will stand. “The faith once delivered to the saints” is only safe with a heart right with God, and knowledge built on the foundation of his word.
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS.
REVELATION ii. 45.
In the portion of the epistle to the Church at Ephesus which came last under notice, we considered the commendation of our Saviour, who had described himself as "holding the seven stars in his right hand, and walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." The commendation was this: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil : and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not; and hast found them liars : and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” Thus, for works and labours of love, done in the "name” of Christ, or what is an equivalent expression, springing from a vital faith in him-for patient endurance of suffering—for soundness in the faithand for a determination to discover and to discountenance error, this Church was unquestionably commended. But it is melancholy to relate that here there was evil mingled with the good—there were tares sown by the enemy among the wheat, and the portion of the epistle which will now occupy our attention, is that in which this melancholy fact is recorded, with its accompanying exhortation. “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent.”
This portion obviously places before you, three prominent topics of discussion
I. THE REBUKE.
I. The rebuke. “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.”
It is here apparent, even to a superficial observation, that they had not forsaken the object of their love—the Lord Jesus Christ: in other words, they had not apostatized—for this would have made shipwreck of faith and love. This, therefore, was not the difficulty complained of. “Some degree of love to Christ, and zeal for his truth and cause, evidently existed among them still. Their activity, however, might be partly owing to previous habits, formed after they had first embraced Christianity, when their souls were more alive to God, and their religious affections more ardent and vigorous. That habit, as well in religion as in other things, especially when seconded by the dictates of conscience, has great influence on a person's course of action, is perfectly reasonable to admit. Hence it appears that many duties may continue to be performed, even after the real spirit of piety has very much declined.” The difficulty with the members of the Church at Ephesus was, that they had lost that fervency
of love which had characterised their Church when they were in the youth and vigour of a new profession. They did not retain that strong and ardent affection for God and heavenly things, which had existed when they first knew the truth. The fair plant of early affection had withered away under some unkindly influence, and of course love had given place to coldness and deadness as to spiritual things. They retained, it is true, the faiththey were willing to endure suffering, and they even wrought many good deeds; but the animating principle which had previously governed them, was in less active operation. Perhaps undue attachment to the things of this world, creeping in, had weakened the force of their impressions—perhaps the fear of reproach had caused some to stumble at the word-perhaps some gradual neglect of the means and opportunities of grace had made an effort at the foundation of their faith, and hindered their growth in grace—for like the animal, the spiritual life needs its constant nourishment. The liveliest affections will abate and cool, if pains the most unremitted be not taken to keep them in constant and active exercise; and that love which might have burned with a pure and holy flame, if the oil which should have fed it had not been exhausted, will sink, and will die away till it is totally extinguished, if the