Page images

This charge is given to the new succession of the gospel ministry in the Protestant Church ;, which is called Philadelphia, because of the brotherly love that subsists between the different communities belonging thereto, and their unanimous testimony against Popery and its corruptions, both in doctrine and worship. It is worthy of re mark, that the different names of these seven Churches, when considered according to the meaning of the primi. tive words, of which they are composed, are all expressive of the internal state of these Churches at their distinct periods of time. 1. Ephesus, signifies ardent desire or desirable, and ex

presses that ardent wish and zeal of the Church during the apostolic period, to extend and propagate the Christian religion, and her amiable and lovely char

acter in the sight of heaven. . 2. Smyrna, dénotes myrrh or' bitterness, and in pro

phetic language is an emblem of persecution and suf

ferings, to which period it also refers. 3. Pergamos, an exalted tower, or steeple. This was the

name of that well fortified castle at Troja, from whence this signification originated; which here indicates that firm and invincible stand, which the Church had taken from the time of Constantine the

Great. 4. Thyatira, from Jów, I sacrifice, and taqw, I cor

rupt, a corrupted sacrifice, and expresses that corrupt worship of God introduced by Jezebel, which was not a sweet savour, but the offensive smell of a mor.

tified offering before the Lord. 5. Sardis, from the Hebrew word Sarad, to remain;

signifies the remainder, the residue. After the schism, the Greeks were under the proud impression of being the only Church of Christ left, after the great conflict with Paganism and the establishment of Popery among the Latins; but after the Mahome

dan inundation on the Eastern part of the Roman.

empire, their Church became a remnant indeed. 6. Philadelphia, signifies brotherly love.

Laodicea, signifies judicature of the people, or the rights of the people; because in that Church the highest authority is lodged in its members, who rule the Church as a political polity, according to reason and conveniency of circumstances. Here all Ecclesias

tical discipline and Church censure is lost. Verse 7. He that is holyis true. The holy one of Israel, Jer. xlv. 11; the true antitype of the Jewish high priest, who was considered the most holy person in Israel, Exod. xxviii. 36. Among all the sons of men he is holy without sin, and perfect in his own person. He is the real antitype, in whom all types and figures of the old covenant were actually fulfilled; true in all his promises to his Churches in all his threatenings to his enemies. The only infallible guide through the dark valley of this world.

He that hath the key of David. By this expression the Lord refers us to that memorable prophecy, Jer. xxii. in which the prophet foretells the final doom of the kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians. According to the use the Lord makes of that prediction in this place, Jerusalem and the land of Juda denote the Christian countries in Europe, and Sebna, the proud and haughty treasurer over the kings house, signifies the Pope at this present time; who abuses the keys of the kingdom of heaven in the vilest manner, as Sebna did his authority in Juda; He shall be violently turned and tossed like a ball, driven from his station, verse 18, 19; and the Lord himself will be the true Eliakim, who will make a better use of these keys to the castle and royal treasury of David, than he has done And what he does will be final.

Every year on a certain day, the Pope assumes the pretended authority of his chair, and pronounces a host of most horrible curses and anathemas against the Protesa

tants, giving them over to the devil for eternal damnation, because they will not acknowledge the pretensions of his holiness. The poor man seems to be ignorant, that the Lord has seven Churches in one; though no doubt, there are also seven principal parts in his own body, from which he might learn wisdom. Weak children of God might be terrified by this unchristian and audacious conduct of the Roman bishop; the Lord therefore comforts them, that he has the key to the heavenly treasury, and that the tyran

nical anathemas of the haughty Popes are of no effect. .. Verse 8. I have set before thee an open door. Sed exäe

su únióv, might be rendered, I have established publicly before you an opened door. See Eph. i. 22. and Luke xii. 9. where sídwuo signifies to constitute, establish, and gwahov, publicly before an assembly, council, or diet. Here the Lord refers to that great work of reformation, which was begun in Germany by those eminent men of God, Luther, Zwingel and Calvin, in the year 1517. Luther stood singly before that grand assembly at Worms, A. D. 1521; and with great resolution and presence of mind contended for the Word of God, as the only rule of faith. At the diet of Augsburg, A. D. 1530, those ministers and churches, which had embraced the evangelic doctrine of Luther, made that famous confession of faith, by which the Lutheran community stands distinguished from other Protestant so. cieties of later date. A. D. 1548, the Interim was agreed to, and 1555, on the 25th of September, the Protestants obtained legal authority for the free exercise of their religion in Germany, which they have enjoyed to the present day. Thus the Lord has publicly established an open door, for the progress of the Evangelic doctrine, and for an extensive propagation of the gospel of Jesus among many nations. And the Protestants did not want for zeal, to enter this open door. The light of the reformation soon spread all over Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Britain, and into some parts of France, Bohemia, Poland,

and the Netherlands; where thousands of congregations have since been established in unison with the different Protestant societies, which form the Church of Philadel


Thou hast a little strength. The Protestants are but a small number, in comparison with the many Roman Catholic countries and kingdoms; but yet they have a power and they will retain it till the Lord comes.

Thou hast kept my word. This was the great theme of the Protestant Reformers against Popery and its corruptions. No traditions, no pretended infallibility of the Pope, or the fathers; the word of Jesus was their only authority and rule of faith, of worship and practice. The Reformation of the Church rests on this foundation, this is her distinguishing character from Popery. The original is not xpater, to keep, to hold, but thverv, to guard, to preserve, and refers to the Protestant endeavours to defend the authority and dignity of the Word of God, against traditions and the inventions of men.

Hast not denied my name. The name of Christ signifies in this place, his person and religion. Never, before these

last fifty years, was the Protestant Church in danger of : denying the Lord Jesus, or his religion. The Romish

Church, although corrupted, is still a Christian Church, in which souls may be trained up to eternal felicity. The Protestants had nothing to fear from Popery in that respect. But since Voltaire, Rosseau, and with them a host of French infidels began to write against religion-since the Kantian philosophy has become the fashion of to day-since even eminent divines have begun to trace out a new system of what they call the higher exegesis, for the explanation of the Scriptores ; since then a flood of infidelity has overflown all Europe. Even Germany, which by the blessed reformation had become the fountain of light and truth to other countries, and was since that time so eminently adorned with great and good men for near

three centuries, has lost much of her glory by those numerous Hluminati and other infidel societies established among all ranks of her inhabitants. These vain pretenders to philosophy have not yet discovered their delusion many of her respectable divines have still neither taste nor relish for divine truths--and the higher ranks consider it a condescension to read any thing serious, unless it comes recommended by all the charms of wit and elegance. However, there still are many thousand respectable and faithful divines in the Protestant Church, and in all her distinct fraternities, of which she consists; and among the middle classes of society, this temptation to infidelity will never produce any great effect. Whatever our anticipation may be from present appearances of apostacy in Europe or America; the Lord may thoroughly purge his floor ; but the Protestant Church will remain firm and faithful in the confession of Jesus Christ, and his doctrines, till he comes

Verse 9. I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, come and worship before thy feet. These words are not yet fulfilled. If they are to be understood in their natural meaning, as in the charge to the angel at Smyrna, properly of Jews; then the Protestant Church during the fu.. ture persecution by the adherents of Popery, will have to expect a renewed scene of Jewish animosities, as of old; and at last a harvest with some of them. This sense is very probable. But if we are to take these words as being of figurative import, they may imply that some of the great champions of infidelity will lay down their weapons of unrighteousness against the Church, and make public confession of their false accusations and guilt. It has often been the case during the first century after the Reformation, that those who falsely called themselves members of the Church of Christ, and were only the sycophants of the Romish Jezebel, after many fallacious and perfidious accusations, made public acknowledgment of their guilty con

« PreviousContinue »