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had of themselves and which they so falsely supposed to be correct, proceeds to lay open their real character and condition, and a more expressive and a more melancholy description is not to be found in the records of reprobation—“Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
Taken in the mere ordinary every-day acceptation of these terms, they portray a most desperate spiritual condition; but our Saviour as he appears purposely to have employed the very strongest figure he could find to express his abhorrence, so he employs the most powerful terms which could be found to tell the deep debasement of their condition. Let us examine these terms with some critical minute
“Thou art wretched." The original word, according to the ideas of a distinguished critic, means, to be worn out and fatigued with grievous labours, as they who labour in a stone quarry, or are condemned to the mines; so that instead of being children of God, as they supposed, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven, they were in the sight of God in the condition of the most abject slaves. To the term, wretched, thus considered, he adds the term, miserable, meaning most deplorable objects of real pity for the degradation of their condition. To this is added, they were poor. They had boasted of their riches, and they supposed they had need of nothing; but he proceeds to tell them that they were, in fact, destitute of every thing which can in any wise constitute valuable riches. They were really and emphatically poor; they had no provision for their souls to live upon; they were, in fact, in a state of spiritual starvation in the midst of all their vain imaginings of plenty. To this he adds the declabrink of per
ration that they were blind; the eyes of their under-
very light which was in them was darkness, and to judge of the awfulness of this condition, we have only to recur to the language of our Saviour-"If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light; but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness; and if the light within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." Added to the terrific predicament of blindness, they were naked; their souls had no covering; they were, in the sight of God, in such a state of sin and corruption that no part was hidden. They had no living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently had not on that robe of righteousness wrought out by him who alone could cover the nakedness of their sins, and hide the guilt of their corruptions. In fact, the words of the Saviour mean that they were neither justified nor sanctified; and to use the language of Holy Writ, so emphatic as it is, they were clothed only in the filthy rags of their own imagined
righteousness. They not only had not on the whole and the seamless garment of Christ, but were clothed in rags, which could not hide the deformity of their condition. Take this striking language of our Saviour, that a lukewarm Christian is "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” and a more deplorable state, in relation to spiritual things, it were beyond the possibility of imagination to discover; and this is the situation of those, who, instead of having a proper estimate of themselves, did all the while suppose they were “rich, and increased with goods, and had need of nothing." This was their state.
In looking at this subject attentively, brethren, one incidental remark offers itself, which I dare not to omit, however melancholy and heart-rending the consideration. Truth and faithfulness compel me to say, that while the lukewarm yet proud self-justifying state of the Church of Laodicea finds a parallel in many branches of the Church of Christ in these days; and while among all denominations of Christians there are multitudes of individual instances of such as are here represented, still to no branch of the visible Church of Christ is the remark more deplorably true than to our own; and in no other branch of the visible Church of Christ are the individual instances so manifested out before the world. If, in a studious examination of these various epistles, any individual of serious reflection should desire to ascertain to which of the Asiatic Churches the Episcopal Church, in its general aspect, more nearly conforms, truth, sacred truth, though it would be with an eye filled with tears, and a tongue tremulous with emotion, would still pass by Ephesus, and Smyrna, and Pergamos, and Thyatira, then laying one hand on Sardis, and the other on Laodicea, would say—“Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches. Thou hast a name to live, but art dead. Thou art lukewarm, and thou sayest I am rich, and have need of nothing, and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
I speak not unadvisedly or rashly, brethren, and it is necessary thus to speak, for we are apt to deceive ourselves most grossly, and no cure can be expected while we are perseveringly blind to the disease which preys on our vitals. It is to little purpose that we profess to be built on the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone; it is to little purpose that our organization is so complete; it is to little purpose that our forms of devotion are all but inspired, if amidst all these excellencies, and privileges, and blessings, the eye of Omniscience rests on us, and when he says, “I know thy works,” he sees the great pervading features, formality on the one hand, and lukewarmness on the other, and then from the habitation of his holiness pours down on us the cup of malediction—"I will spue thee out of my mouth.”
But let us pass from this subject, so fraught with melancholy, both retrospective and prospective, and take up the
Vth division, the wise and affectionate advice of Christ—"I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see.”
Under these terms is expressed all that is essential in the formation of the Christian character. They are figurative terms, but terms of easy comprehension, and adapted with most wonderful minuteness to the existing melancholy state of things.
You will observe, that the declaration which our Saviour had made in relation to these lukewarm
professors, was that they were poor, spiritual beggars, with nothing, and worse than nothing; his counsel is, that they should seek gold. As gold is the most valuable of the metals, it seems put to represent the most valuable of the Christian graces, and consequently, it means faith ; and not only gold, but gold purified in the fire; that is, that faith, which, having sustained the purifying of affliction, is like the gold which, by the process of the fire, is purged of its dross, and stands out in its most brilliant lustre and its most perfect purity. By some it is supposed, as a general consideration, to mean pure and undefiled religion, or that divine grace which produces it, and which itself is more valuable to the soul than gold can be to the body. They before had had but imaginary riches: this alone can make them truly rich. And when Christ gives an exhortation of this kind, he is careful not to leave them at a loss for the source from whence this gold could be obtained. He does not direct them to the golden sands of the Pactolus, whose stream is fabled to have rolled its mighty riches to the feet of the Lydian king, famed in ancient story; but he directs them to himself, as the sum and source of all spiritual blessing; the omnipotent Imparter of all true riches; the Author and Giver of every good and perfect gift. “I counsel thee to buy of me.' And are these riches to be bought? Could the poor, and miserable, and wretch