Page images

reject them with contempt and indignation. This is the signification of mpèson in the original.

Verse 17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. négw here should be rendered to teach, to preach, Math. xxiii. 9. to declare publicly, 2 Cor. ix. 3. Heb. ix. 11. Math. iv. 14. Rev. iii. 9. Math. xiii. 14. These three sentences contain those peculiar points of doctrine, which the ministry of the Laodiceans inculcate, and by which they stand distinguished from the Philadelphians, as a separate Church. I am rich: Man is not in a depraved and fallen condition by naturethere is no such a thing as original sin. The image of God has never been defaced in the human soulhe is suited to his state and place, as perfect as he ought to be in the gradation of the whole chain of rational beings. All the vices and corruptions in the world derive tlieir origin from education and the necessary circumstances of our existence here. Our modern metaphysicians have now explored the ocean of the human soul, and probed all its fac culties to the bottom. Reason is a pure and unsullied light; the will of man is not alienated from the life of God; our affections are not estranged by nature; and conscience is the mere child of education. This is the cominent on the above sentence: I am rich; which seems to refer solely to their general course or drift of doctrine concerning the natural capacities and dignity of man.

I am increased with goods. Man is fully sufficient to make himself virtuous—it only requires a firm and steady l'esolution of being so; and of this resolution he himself is master, at his own pleasure. As all our disorders are not the effects of sin, but consequences of our limited nature; all evil inclinations may be overcome by reason, without the grace and assistance of God. Our happiness is in our own power, and we may change our habits and disposition, by a mere philosophic use of the natural and Christian means in hand. What great progress have we

not made in arts and sciences, in civilization and polites ness! To what a great degree of illumination has the human mind arrived since the days of the Reformation! Superstition is turned out of doors—the wings of fanaticism and enthusiasm will now soon be sufficiently clipped. We soon will have a rational body of exegetic rules, for a more reasonable explanation of the Bible, and are already fur. nished with means sufficient to determine the flowers of Hebrew poetry, and the bold flights and fire of oriental genius, Blessed be God! we now say little more of Creeds, or Confessions of Faith ; our province is the practice and moral part of religion. Whether the people believe one God or twenty Gods, that will neither pick my pocket, nor break my leg. These are just inferences and a true explanation of the words : I am increased with goods, and have need of nothing; by which the Lord refers to their boasting of acquired abilities in science, religion and virtue,

And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. You are most egregiously deceived full of self-conceit and vain presumption, says the Lord; your real condition is quite the reverse, of what you conceive yourself to be, or to possess. Your boasted metaphysics, and essays on human understanding are like a transmigrating soul among the ancients, which in every generation assumed a new body, and in essence always re, mained the same, Your endeavours to model the principles of exegetical theology after this meteor of so transitory a nature, can only serve to confuse and perplex divini, ty, in order that others may again disentangle and simplify it from your heterogeneous wisdom, which is foolishness before God. You boast of superior illumination in Divine things by the help of reason and philosophy, like a blind man of sight. The empire of reason can never be extended beyond the limits of the material world; and that inward illụmination from above, by which alone spirit.

ual things can be discerned, is not your present portion. 1 Cor. ii. 14.

All your fine moral discourses upon virtues and vices, without scripture motives, and the whole system of redemption, will never win one soul to Christ and his hea. venly kingdom. You act the part of a foolish physician at the side of a sickbed, who would, without administering wholesome and effective medicines, prescribe exercise to a dying man, professional employment to the sick, and diet where all appetite is lost. Would not an intelligent patient in that case answer: Doctor, this is reversing your proper order of proceeding'; first cure my disease, and your prescriptions shall be implicitly obeyed. Such a preacher of mere morals, separates what God has united, and complies only with half his commission to the world he builds the fabric of a mill, but neglects to bring the water to run upon the wheel, which is to put the whole machine in motion. Practical holiness is the great end of religion, and faith is the means it would be folly to expect this end, without the use of means in a proper manner. Not mere morality, but vital religion is the chief good of man, and this also is the principal aim of an Evangelical preacher in all bis sermons. These only are the sermons, which the Lord has ever blessed to rescue immortal souls from perdition into the arms of Jesus, and to nourish them unto eternal life. For man is radically corrupted, and his restoraţion must begin from the heart. A minister, therefore, without vital, personal religion-sermons, thus void'of the genuine spirit and savour of Christianity—the private and public conversation of such a moralist, in the garb of a pastor of Christ's flock, without the unction from above, are indeed wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

Verse 18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire. Here the Great Counsellor from heaven advises the manner, how this angel may recover himself from his de

plorable condition. He was defective in three material points, being poor, blind and naked; and in this wretched and miserable state, cold, insensible, and full of self-conceit, as if he wanted nothing. In order to his recovery from these three distempers, the Lord recommends the following means : 1. Pure and most refined carat gold, against his poverty—2. White raiment, against his spiritual nakedness—3. Eyesalve, to cure the philosophical cataract of his eyes. As his poverty consisted in a total deficiency of divine knowledge, and his imaginary riches, in a presumption that he knew all things that pertain to his station in the Church; this pure and most refined gold must denote the illumination and unction from above, by which the Holy Spirit of God teaches his friends knowledge and wisdom unto salvation. Without this illumination we rely entirely on our own reason, and often explain away the doctrine of gracewe only understand the Word of God by nature, and not by grace; by human learning, but not by the secret inspirations of the Holy Ghost ; by reason, but not by love; the outward letter, but not the secret of the Spirit, or that which is spiritually discerned, and which alone nourishes the vital principle of eternal life in the soul of man.

White raiment, is the righteousness of saints, Rev. xix. 8; even the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, Jer. xi. 10. which we obtain by faith. For the Laodicean morality is self-righteousness, and the filthy rags of a beggar'; in which we shall for ever be indigent, ashamed, and in everlasting contempt before the citizens of the kingdom of God. These we are to buy, i. e. to receive, Jer. Iv. 1. for wherewith will a poor man buy gold, andcostly raiment to cover his nakedness? But it will cost all our imaginary riches.

And eyesalve. This denotes a true and impartial selfexamination, by which we look inwardly, and take an interesting view of the present state of our heart, respecting God and our fellow creatures. Of this eyesalve the min

[ocr errors]

istry of the Laodiceans stand very much in need. They are totally ignorant of the real state of their mind and heart, and what is still worse, full of self-flattery and de. ceit. Unconvinced of their ignorance in the things of the Spirit, of the weakness and unworthiness of their corrupted heart, they never seriously inquired into the health of their soul, with any solicitude for grace and illumination from above, in order to restore them to Divine life, and to religious sensibility. Thus they administer the holy offices as a profession, without devotion and zeal for the temple of Jesus—without solicitude for the salvation of souls-without a good and Christian example in their conversation and behaviour—and without prayer. Gracious Lord ! Can thy servants so far forget themselves, as to devote their ministry to the service of the enemy of mankind, and lead those very souls to perdition, whom they are appointed to save, and whom thou hast redeemed by thy precious blood!

Verse 19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. By this expression, the Lord mitigates the severity of the above censure, and enlivens their hope of recovery. You are not all sunk to the very brink of destruction; there are yet many among you, whom I love with tender compassion, and therefore take them into my school for a better education, (ελέγχω και παιδεύω) that they may learn to know sin and God. This discipline consists in the vital operations of his Spirit on our hearts in affliction. A severe illness, a great loss, a disappointment, the death of a beloved parent, consort, child, or friend, have often reclaimed a prodigal son to submit to the vital influence of Divine grace, in order to his restoration. Into this school of discipline I will take you, saith the Lord—therefore beware of grieving or quenching my Spirit; but be zealous, and repent, before it be too late.

Verse 20. Behold, I stand at the door and knockHere the Lord seems to speak of revivals of religion, and spe


« PreviousContinue »