« EdellinenJatka »
BISHOP HORNE, in his preface to his inimitable commentary on the Book of Psalms, thus beautifully expresses his feelings as he contemplated the termination of the work on which he had bestowed so much unwearied attention.
“ And now," says he, “ could the author flatter himself, that any one would take half the pleasure in reading his exposition which he hath taken in writing it, he would not fear the loss of his labour. The employment detached him from the bustle and hurry of life, the din of politics, and the noise of folly ; vanity and vexation flew away for a season, care and disquietude came not near his dwelling. He arose fresh as the morning to his task; the silence of the night invited him to pursue it; and he can truly say, that food and rest were not preferred before it. Every Psalm improved infinitely upon his acquaintance with it, and no one gave him uneasiness but the last, for then he grieved that his work was done. Happier hours than those which have been thus spent in these meditations on the songs of Zion, he never expects to see in this world. Very pleasantly did they pass, and moved smoothly and swiftly along: for when thus engaged, he counted no time. They are gone, but have left a relish and fragrance upon the mind, and the remembrance of them is sweet."
In quoting these words of Bishop Horne, your speaker, my brethren, feels a sacred sympathy. He is just about to close a series of discourses on a subject which has demanded all the energies of his mind, and almost exhausted all the energies of his body. But it was a subject the interest of which grew as its progress advanced, and though he cannot regret its termination, he feels as if a portion of labour had ceased from which he had derived uncommon satisfaction. On the epistles to the Churches of Asia, twenty-eight discourses have been now delivered in your hearing, and without being able to calculate exactly the measure of benefit which has been derived, I can truly say, that in their course no doctrine essential to the furtherance of the Gospel, and no duty growing from faith, have been, in any wise, neglected. Every subject of essential faith or practice has been considered and pressed with a proportionate zeal. One thivg has been truly gratifying; the delivery of this course has been uniformly attended with a large, and serious, and apparently interested auditory, and nothing can add to the satisfaction experienced, but the knowledge that God hath blessed the word thus spoken, to the conversion or edification of your souls. I propose, in the present discourse, to give one rapid view of the topics to which our attention has been called, and I beseech you, brethren, hear me patiently while I seek to call up before you the passing history already detailed, for the purpose of your practical advantage. And remember, brethren, that in this address, and in a very peculiar sense, you are to "hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
Ephesus was commended for a zeal in the preservation of a pure and holy faith. The members of this Church were not disposed to tolerate any thing like a departure from the simplicity of that Gospel which was once delivered to the saints. But alas, there was a worm at his work of destruction, and the Spirit of God declares—"I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” Declension in religion was the crying sin of Ephesus. They had a zeal for purity of faith, but personal religion decayed. The condition of Ephesus tells the condition of one class of professing Christians, who, in their burning zeal for externals, forgot that the personal purification of the heart, and growth in grace, are essential to salvation. And let us learn these lessons of deep practical advantage taught us by the Spirit—“Repent, and do thy first works.” Look within as well as without. All without may be well, and yet all within be in a state of spiritual decay bordering upon death. Decay in religion will not only bring down the curse of God in the removal of privileges and blessings which have been thus wantonly neglected, but it will end in the blackness of darkness for ever. Permit me to say“Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” That growth in grace which is as the morning spread upon the mountains, is that which alone can issue amidst the full splendours of that heavenly kingdom, which, through grace, is the inheritance of “him that overcometh.” Judge ye yourselves, my brethren, that
ye be not judged of the Lord, and
that ye may form a judgment which shall stand hear again “what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” “To him that overcometh,"—to him who, from a state of decaying spiritual energy, is brought to the animation of a new and spiritual vigour—"to him 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.
Again: The Church in Smyrna was entirely commended. Here was a Church a living monument of faith amidst the fires of persecution. It was rich in faith, and gave glory to God. As in Ephesus, so in Smyrna, there was a burning zeal, for truth and integrity was maintained against all the rites of the synagogues of Satan.
of Satan. But better than Ephesus, there was here a living principle of heartfelt religion, and amidst all the gloom cast on their present and future prospects by present and anticipated persecutions, God, from the habitation of his holiness, encourages them to press toward the mark. "Fear none of these things which shall come upon
Who need to be dismayed, no matter what the condition in which he is placed—who need to be dismayed, when the eternal God is his refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. "Be thou faithful unto death,” says God, “and I will give thee a crown of life.” “He that overcometh," that is, he who is able to sustain the fury of the persecution and not make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience; he who will cleave to his integrity, though death is the consequence, “shall not be hurt of the second death.”
Are any suffering persecution for the cause of Christ and the maintenance of principles growing from
the experience of religion? “Fear not, I am with thee; be not dismayed, I am your God." Are any shrinking from the profession of the name of Christ, ashamed of Jesus? “Be thou faithful unto death." It is only he who overcometh the fear of man as well as the temptations of the devil, who “shall not be hurt of the second death."
“Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” Life and death are set before you. On the one hand is a crown of glory, of immortality, of eternal life, promised on the veracity of God to the faithful; on the other, threatened on the same veracity, the unmingled horrors of a second death. Choose the first, be faithful and persevering, and then, when the first death comes to sever you from time, it will exalt you to a happiness which less than an angel's tongue cannot even attempt to sing. Choose the last, and you sign the sentence of your own destruction, and when the first death comes, it will but come to anticipate the infinite horrors of the second. In the name of him who poured out his soul upon for your redemption, I ask you, sinners—careless, unconcerned, indifferent, formal, lukewarm, ungrateful—I ask you, why will ye die? Ye know not what it is to die. The terrors of the first death I could feebly picture, but eternity, eternity alone, can explain the terrors and the horrors of a second death. “Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
The members of the Church of Pergamos are commended for an unshaken fidelity in the cause of truth, even in a city which was distinguished as well for its abominable licentiousness, as for a vile and hateful spirit of persecution. It is called the city where Satan's seat is. The one great evil which