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of him that overcometh. "Judge ye yourselves, my brethren, that ye be not judged
be not judged of the Lord; and that ye may form a judgment which shall stand, “ hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churchesto Him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life which grows in the paradise of God;" the promise, and the pledge of an immortality of bliss.
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS.
REVELATION ii. 6, 7.
In the foregoing lectures, I have spoken of the character in which our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, addresses us in the text, and of the appropriate language in which the introduction to the epistle is couched. “ These things, saith he, which holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, and walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” We then passed on to notice the commendation which was bestowed on the members of the Church at Ephesus. “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, but 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.” From this commendation, which embraced many particulars of the utmost importance, we passed to the consideration of the rebuke which fell on this Church, otherwise so distinguished—“nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." Declension in religion was the crime charged against this Church, and that charge was followed by a most emphatic exhortation, accompanied by a threat of awful import—“Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works, or else I will come to thee quickly and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” This exhortation, we have seen, was unheeded, and this threat we have seen executed upon the Church at Ephesus; and as with this portion of the subject I closed my remarks, I took occasion to make a few plain and practical observations immediately suggested by the occasion.
After this hasty recapitulation, I shall proceed to take up the subject where it was then left, and of course the concluding portion of the epistle will claim our present attention. “But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 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 tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
To the conquering Christian how grand an issue.
In the portion of the epistle thus presented to your consideration, we have
I. AN ADDITIONAL COMMENDATION BESTOWED ON THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS.
II. A CALL TO UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. III. A CONCLUDING PROMISE. These practical remarks grow so immediately out
of these divisions, that they cannot be separated. The special practical consideration of the subject of decay in religion, will form a distinct and closing discourse.
I. We have an additional commendation,—"But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
And here let it be remarked, that in the case of the Church at Ephesus, God saw fit to enforce the previous exhortation to repentance, not only by the awfulness of a threat, which was calculated to arouse every slumbering faculty, but by the milder means of another commendation; thus verifying the apostolic declaration, that “God is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The terms of this commendation, as you have already seen, are peculiar—“This thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate." As if it had been said, though thou hast declined in the love of that which is good, yet there are evils against which thou hast still indignation. What the amount of this commendation is, we at this late period are somewhat at a loss to ascertain. It is no where positively ascertained who these Nicolaitans were, what was the character of their peculiar opinions, or what the nature of their abominable practices. If they were a set of religionists, or if they made any pretensions to religion, they must have entertained opinions which were totally subversive of every thing like truth; and indulged in practices of the most debasing character, for the language which our Lord employs when he speaks of them, marks the utter abhorrence in which they were held by him. He declares that he hates their deeds, and commends the Church of Ephesus for a similar hatred. These Nicolaitans are by some supposed to have been followers of Nicholas, a corrupt deacon of the Church of Antioch; but this is all'mere suggestion. A distinguished Hebrew scholar has supposed, that they derived their name from the Hebrew word Nicolah, which signifies to eat, and that the term Nicolaitan is therefore a term of reproach bestowed upon these wretched sensualists who made their appetite their God, and consumed their time in making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. No matter, however, what were the opinions or the practices of this sect, they were altogether hateful in the eyes of a pure and holy God, and the Church of Ephesus is commended for having held these principles and practices in utter detestation.
To hate that which is hateful in the sight of God, is a matter which rests upon the conscience of every individual who calls himself a Christian; for the precept to “cleave to that which is good,” has no more imperativeness than the one which precedes it, to “abhor that which is evil." A real Christian can no more look without disgust on that which he knows is dishonourable to that God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, than he can do that dishonour to God in his own personal act. Either the one or the other affects his claims to the character he has assumed. This is not generally considered in the light in which it ought most unquestionably to be placed. Many an one, who passes current in the world for a follower of Christ, will calmly hear God defamed, and see God dishonoured without a movement to