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promises. And even there the pious prelate Bengelius reads instead of: Tí TÒ TvEūna nézer Tais éuxansidos, what the Spirit saith the Churches, with an ellipsis taken from chap. xxii. 16. thus : what the Spirit saith Ști Tais ÉxxAnsicos, in or at the churches ; so that the gospel ministry in or at those churches is still, even in the annexed promises the principal object in view. .
It is the gospel ministry then, which here receives special instruction, concerning their official conduct, and the most successful mode to manage the affairs and government of the church, during those times of extraordinary trial and temptation, to which these pastoral charges refer. The contents of these charges have heretofore been explained, as only concerning the conduct and practice of private christians during perilous times, and their state of vital religion; but the Lord here describes the general character of his ministry, as it is at each period, with praise or censure where due. This being the nature and design of these epistles, we may expect to meet in them with many prophetic views of important events to the church; which also afford light to many of the following prophecies, more particularly, where the pastoral instructions, praise or censure given, are of a spea cial nature, and refer to particular times and places in the church
Pause then, ye Shepherds of souls! Read and study these charges with renewed and double attention, as exa pressly addressed to you; to you my reverend brethren in particular. Our candlestick is among these seven, and we constitute one of these angels, to which the Lord of life and death addresses himself. Consider, how serious are his forewarnings-how loving his admonitions—how full of comfort his encouragements-how great his promises, and how faithful his advice. We are in his hand, and the Lord walks in our midst, observing our labours, and inspecting our flocks, with eyes like a flame of fire,
too penetrating to behold. If we enter the conflict under his banner, and fight the good fight of faith; if we perform our duty well, as officers under his command; if we overcome the enemies of our souls, and of his church, our happiness will be complete. But how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation. Hebrews xi. 3.
THESE angels of the seven churches then, are not selected in imitation of the Scheliach Zibbur, or ruler of the Jewish synagogue. They are not physical persons, or bishops of churches in Asia, at that time; but moral representatives of the whole body of the gospel ministry, at seven different periods, to which these charges refer. Though ministers of the gospel are often represented in the 'emblematical style of scripture as stars and angels; yet there is a great difference, to be termed a star among millions of other stars, and to be one of these seven in the right hand of the Lord. There is more glory, dignity and excellence attached to these, than can ever fall to the share of one servant of Christ. The angels at Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea are also in different places addressed in the plural number, to assist us in arriving at the true sense af this word.
The seven candlesticks, by which the Church of Christ. is represented in these pastoral letters, were no doubt lighted, and burning in very different degrees of brightness, though it is not expressly mentioned in the text. The first christian churches had a great measure of light and grace, and bore a clear testimony concerning Christ, to all Heathen nations. They were candlesticks burning with a holy flame of love and zeal for the glory of Christ and the
conversion of souls. Some churches now scarcely shine , or burn--gome burn without shining, and others shine
without burning. Knowledge and testimony avail not they are but half the character of a christian church; oar hearts must be filled with the love of Jesus, and all our conversation sanctified and zealous for the good of souls, to meet the approbation of the Lord.
It is worthy of remark, that these seven charges of the great Bishop of souls to his gospel ministry, are all con, ceived and arranged after one uniform method and disposition. A few slight deviations excepted, where the state and situation of the ministry is so very different, and the time peculiarly eventful; the contents of every charge are adjusted in the following order of the charge unto the angel at Ephesus.
A PASTORAL CHARGE
It contains from verse 1 to 7. I. A command to write, what the Lord Jesus Christ was
about to dictate. II. A declaration of part of his glorious title. These
things saith he, that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. The Lord here declares him. self the great presiding Shepherd of souls, from whom the whole body of the gospel ministry derive their office and authority in the church. He upholds. them in his hand, and protects them by his power, against all attempts of their enemies towards their destruction; and employs the light they emit, according to his own pleasure. In the midst of the churches, he is every where present, omniscient to discern all their wants-all powerful and willing to
help. III. The pastoral charge itself, to the gospel ministry, in
two words, works and labour, are no tautology;