« PreviousContinue »
A PASTORAL CHARGE
12. And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write;
these things saith he which hath the sharp sword
with two edges. 13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even
where Satan's seat is : and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days, wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan
dwelleth. 14. But I have a few things against thee, because
thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things
sacrificed unto Idols, and to commit fornication. 15. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of
the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. 16. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly,
and will fight against them with the sword of my
mouth. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit
saith unto [at, in] the churches; to him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth
saving he that receiveth it. Here is an other proof, why these addresses should be considered in the light of pastoral charges. The Lord
appears at the head of his church, in his episcopal character, and pronounceth public excommunication against the corrupters of his institution, in the face of all. He protests at Ephesus, against the false Apostles ; at Smyrna, against the false Jews; and here at Pergamos against those, who confused Christianity by blending it with Paganism; and these together with the Nicolaitanes, are hereby solemnly excluded from the sheepfold of Christ. Against all these heretics and their principles, the ministers of those times seem to have been too lenitive and surrendered privileges, derogatory to the prosperity and majesty of the Church; for which the Lord here censures them, and corrects their faults.
Verse 12. A sharp sword with two edges. See chap. i. 16. · Verse 13. Thou dwellest, where Satan's seat is. Ogóvos ought not to be translated seat, but throne. Seat is only a place of rest and abode; but throne implies government, regal authority, the centre of empire; and this last signification is certainly the meaning here. Such a residence and throne of Satan has been Paganism, and the city of Rome in the Roman empire, in which Satan made the emperors his magistracy, and the Pagan priests his legal instruments of persecution against the religion of Christ, as the 9th, and 10th verses clearly affirm. For though all sanguinary persecutions ceased, after the conversion of the emperor Constantine to Christianity; yet Satan's kingdom fell into many paroxysms of rage and fury in the provinces, where even after this happy change the Heathens retained their temples and religious rites for several centuries. But also in the very heart of the empire Satan held bis throne for a considerable time, where the Román senate, and many of the magistrates, philosophers, rhetoricians, military leaders, and persons of eminence and distinction, remained attached to the service of the Pagan deities. But the words of the Lord convey an other idea on this subject, which it imported the church
very much to know. He tells them, that Paganism in the Roman empire is the throne and centrepoint, the visible residence of Satan's kingdom in this world, where his power and influence was of the first importance. Thus he informs them of their danger and peril, and what momentous effects their constancy and faithfulness would have, towards the glory of Christ's Church, and the destruction of the power of Satan on earth.
But also Pergamos was such a little throne of Satan's, wholly given to idolatry, and full of images, of Pagan deities, priests, and worshippers in the temples of Æsculapius and Diana. In this city, many Christians praised God by martyrdom.
Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith. This praise of their constancy and faithfulness in such a place, and on the lips of the Lord, makes their virtue in our estimation of high worth and excellence. However, it does not appear to me, as if the Lord by these words, alluded only to the struggles of Paganism against Christianity; his expressions indicate a time, in which the pu- . rity of the christian doctrine was in great danger of being perverted, and particularly his name and faith. His name denotes the doctrine concerning his person and office, as the Son of God, and the Redeemer of the world. This they were very much in danger to deny, during the rage of Arianism, in which the orthodox Christians underwent severe trials and sufferings on account of their confession; especially in Africa, where the name of Christ, as being equal with the Father, and considered the Redeemer of mankind, bad many martyrs. The fuith of Christ here signifies his religion, the doctrine generally which he taught. To deny the religion of Christ, the gospel ministry also were in the greatest temptation during the reign of Julian the apostate, who reduced the Church to the brink of destruction by art and stratagem, which he carried on especially against the ministers with the utmost
bitterness, and at the same time, with the most consummate. dexterity.
Verse 14. But I have a few things against thee. You suffer those without public reproof, which act the part of Balaam and Balak over again. He taught the Moabites an artifice, to unite Paganism with the worship of the true God, to please Balak against his better knowledge. And these endeavour from politic views to confound Heathenism with the Christian worship, in order to make Christianity palatable to the great ones of this world. They introduce Pagan rites and ceremonies under a Christian explanation, from motives of self-interest and a desire of power and dignity. The sons of Israel polluted themselves in the sight of God, by being caught in such stratagems, and what else can you expect now? It would however appear from comparing this text with the historical fact alluded to, Numbers xxxi. 16. that this attempt had been projected by some few lifeless Christian doctors, and prosecuted by the great ones among the Pagans, when the gospel ministry, as the proper guardians of the church, gave way and too much connived at the corruptions, till it was too late. But here is something, wherein they are still more culpable.
Verse 15. So hast thou also in your ministerial body them, that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. This sect was founded in the second century by one Nicolaus, upon the principles of the Gnostics. They seem not to be the same with those mentioned in the charge to the Angel at Ephesus, or they were at least since that time reformed on a new principle. We know little of their doctrine or practice now; but they must have been licentious, since our blessed Lord mentions them with abhorrence. . .
Verse 16. Repent. Change your mind, reform your heart and practice, for you have hitherto been guilty of two great faults. You have been indifferent to preserve the Christian doctrine and worship in its pristine purity, as it
was delivered unto you by your predecessors, in regard to those who follow the artful scheme of Balaam; and you have not ex-communicated all such from the ministry and body of the Church, who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes. Rouse therefore, amend your ways, and attend to your duty with more diligence and faithfulness; or I will come quickly and purify you, by bringing judgment on those who make my religion an engine of state, and corrupt my doctrine for purposes of self-aggrandizement and worldly interest.
Verse 17. To him that overcometh will I give. Our blessed Lord considers the gospel ministry in these charges as a separate body, particularly consecrated to himself and appropriated to his use and purposes. They are therefore to be estimated in a double point of view. As Christians and members of the Church of Christ, they have a common interest in all the promises of God to his people; and as ministers of the gospel, they are to make peculiar sacrifices, for which they are promised a special reward, of which but little had been said in other parts of the New Testament as yet: the great Shepherd of souls, having allotted this place in his Apocalypse, more immediately to treat of their peculiar duties at the different periods of his Church, as also of the special recompence, which faithful and valiant combatants are to receive from his hands. The enemies with whom they were to enter the conflict at this period, were the followers of the artful schemes and stratagems of Balaam and Balak, and the adherents to the doctrine and vain philosophy of the Nicolaitanes. This temptation was a general one to the whole body of the gospel ministry--they had all to engage in this conflict. For only times of general temptation and peril, are here taken notice of. And now behold the goodness of their great Captain, in the promised reward to him that overcometh. Though they fell, if they only rose again, though they received many a wound, if only they overoame at last