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À PASTORAL CHARGE
TO THE ANGEL AT SARDIS.
Verse 1. And unto the angel of the Church in Sardis write ; these things
saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and
art dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are
ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold
fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will
come upon thee. 4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled
their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they
are worthy. 5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life,
but will confess his name before my father, and before his ani gels. 6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the
Churches. This charge is given to the gospel ministry of the Greek church, and comprehends that body of men from the time of the great and fatal schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, to the commencement of the Millennium. Those well acquainted with the internal state of the Eastern churches since that time, will readily admit; that it contains a faithful and applicable description of their · general character, even to the present day. I presume
that Dr. Young, alias Stilling, is under a mistake, when he explains this charge to the angel at Sardis, as also referring to the Latin church; since that community beyond all doubt, has already been the subject of the former charge, for the following reason. By that call on our particular attention, to what the Spirit saith in the Churches, these seven charges are divided into two parts. The three first stand peculiarly connected among themselves, by bearing that remarkable form of expression in front of the promise annexed to each charge; and concern the ministry of the general Church of Christ, before it was rent into different communities. The four last charges are again united, by having this call to attention annexed after the promise, and at the end of each pastoral letter; because they refer to the gospel ministry of four distinct Churches, and each charge is addressed, to a particular ministerial succession in one of these communities. No impartial historian can doubt, but that the Western clergy made the first schism in the Church, by suffering that woman Jezebel to rise and establish herself among them, in the power of the Pope. For this reason the first of these four last charges is, in the order of prophecy, as well as of things, addressed to that ministerial succession; and the one now under consideration to the anger at Sardis, concerns the ministry of the Eastern church exclusively, as also its contents will evince and zerify.
Verse 1. He that hath the seven spirits of God. The reason, why the Holy Ghost is here represented by these seven spirits, is neither obvious, mor probably within the limits of human research. By this representation the Lord may refer to his peculiar mode of existence in the Godhead, or to his manner of communicating himself to the Churches in a sevenfold influence on the human soul. But there is certainly a particular motive, why the Lord declares to the angel at Sardis, and to him especially, that
He had the seven spirits of God. It is notorious, that the separation of the Greek and Latin churches was indeed begun by the aspiring views and haughty conduct of the Roman pontiffs, towards the patriarchs of the Eastern churches; but this was by no means the only cause. The breach was still widened by that famous and unhappy contest about image-worship, and the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son. This the Eastern bishops denied, and charged the Latins with heresy, and with the crime of having corrupted the creed of Constantinople; by adding the words filio que, i. e. and from the Son, without authority. The Greek church has ever since asserted this doctrine, that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father only; and therefore the Lord here declares to his ministry in that community, in order to rectify their confession, that He also hath the seven spirits of God, as well as the Father. . . .
I know thy works, &c. &c. The last part of this verse should be rendered thus: I have inspected thy offices: though thou hast a form as if thou livedst, yet thou art dead. For this sense of the word, óvoud, see Hypom. Ernest. in loco, and for my translation of ori, Glassius, and Math. v, 17. Here the Lord describes the character of his ministry in the Grecian church-a lamentable picture indeed, but notoriously true, even to the present day. For many centuries already, that Church has been covered according to the best authorities, with a thick and gloomy veil of ignorance and superstition, and its guardians, or priesthood has been equally destitute of knowledge and vital religion. Though there were at all times a few judicious and pious servants of Jesus among them, yet the generality placed the whole of religion in a laborious round of rites and ceremonies, and knew very little of the life and power of godliness in the soul of man. ..
Thou hast a form, saith the Lord—a liturgy, a Church government, a round of external services in worship, which
makes a good appearance, and produces you the name among the congregations of being my ministry. Those who can see no further than the surface, may judge, that also your souls were alive to God and to my cause in them; but my eye has penetrated this veil of hypocrisy, and my judgment differs widely from that of unenlightened reason..
Thou art dead, a lifeless corpse, a body of unregene, rated men, not quickened by the spirit of him that raised op Jesus from the dead. Your heart is unchanged, your reason not illuminated from above; you only understand the external meaning of the Scriptures by means of human learning, and not that which is spiritually discerned, and gives life, energy and activity to the soul. Therefore you want zeal, and all your labours are void of spiritual success and blessing among the sons and daughters of men.
Verse 2. Be watchful. give yengoewv, Be thou awakened, from thy spiritual sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light, Eph, v. 14. By the original the Lord commands him to awaken from his state of sloth and carelessness, to a sense of duty ; but our common version refers more particularly to the duty of remaining in a state of watchfulness. A man must first awake to a sense of his danger, before he is capable of guarding against the enemy of souls.
And strengthen the things which remain, &c. Kad snežox Tá dosta à péane Tot avaiv. And support the forsaken, which are ready to die. See Pasor's Lex. and Kypke in loco. Tá n017 d., Týs Monés (Trávtas), reliqua, i. e. reliquos omnes. The Church at Sardis contains three sorts of people: 1. The angel, or properly acknowledged gospel ministry, who are the immediate subjects of this charge. 2. The rest, the forsaken, the removed. 3. The few names, which the angel at Sardis had; by which we may understand the ministry of separate parties, who yet remained under the jurisdiction of the Grecian church. By these agitt si, the rest, the forsaken or removed, I understand such
as had been excommunicated by the ministry of the Greek church, forsaken and persecuted against the will and pleasure of the Lord; among which the falsely accused Paulicians hold a chief place. I know the prejudices, which have been handed down in church histories from Greek authors, respecting this Christian and pious society of men; but I am also convinced from reading Gibbon on the decline and fall of the Roman empire, that these Greeks, their inveterate enemies, are bad authorities in this case. This society was formed by a certain Constanține, at Manalis, beyond Samosata, in the seventh century, and at first consisted chiefly of those Gnostics and Mani' cheans, who during thefirst centuries of the Christian æra, had been driven to the banks of the river Euphrates. Constantine preferred the writings of the Apostle Paul, and adopted them as his particular rule of faith and practice; and hence their name of Paulicians. This society soon extended itself over all the provinces of Asia Minor to the Eu. phrates, and established numerous congregations throughout all Armenia. They were founded in the true spirit of Christianity, and flourished as a garden of the Lord, until the Grecian emperors Constans, Justinian II, Leo the Isaurian, the empress Theodora and others, with a corrupt and restless priesthood, began to persecute them with a degree of bitterness and barbarity, horrible beyond expression. During the reign of Theodora only, more than 100,000 suffered martyrdom, by every kind of tortures; because they would not return to the bosom of a corrupted Church, and submit to the tyranny of a worldly minded priesthood. In order to get rid of these sincere disciples of Jesus, who had become troublesome to a lifeless and indolent clergy, large bodies of them were transported from Armenia into Thrace; from whence they passed on into Bulgaria, Sclavonia, Italy and France, where they united with the Vallenses, Albigenses and Waldenses, and were again cruelly persecuted by the Roman pontiffs. Those