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the experience of religion? "Fear not, I am with thee; be not dismayed, I am your God.” Are any shrinking from the profession of the name of Christ, ashamed of Jesus? “Be thou faithful unto death." It is only he who overcometh the fear of man as well as the temptations of the devil, who "shall not be hurt of the second death."
“ Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” Life and death are set before you. On the one hand is a crown of glory, of immortality, of eternal life, promised on the veracity of God to the faithful; on the other, threatened on the same veracity, the unmingled horrors of a second death. Choose the first, be faithful and persevering, and then, when the first death comes to sever you from time, it will exalt you to a happiness which less than an angel's tongue cannot even attempt to sing. Choose the last, and you sign the sentence of your own destruction, and when the first death comes, it will but come to anticipate the infinite horrors of the second. In the name of him who poured out his soul upon the cross for your redemption, I ask you, sinners—careless, unconcerned, indifferent, formal, lukewarm, ungrateful—I ask you, why will ye die? Ye know not what it is to die. The terrors of the first death I could feebly picture, but eternity, eternity alone, can explain the terrors and the horrors of a second death. “Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
The members of the Church of Pergamos are commended for an unshaken fidelity in the cause of truth, even in a city which was distinguished as well for its abominable licentiousness, as for a vile and hateful spirit of persecution. It is called the city where Satan's seat is. The one great evil which stands recorded against the members of this Church is, that they were too lax in discipline; they tolerated evils which were hateful in the sight of God; they permitted those to remain in the Church who were antinomian in principle; that is, who sought to graft an unholy and impure life on a faith itself pure and holy. It is one thing, my friends, to hold fast the name of Jesus, and not to deny his faith, and it is another thing to have the faith of Jesus in full and practical exemplification. The worst heresy is a life which is dishonourable to God; and let this be your abhorrence. But let it not be forgotten that false doctrines naturally produce errors in life; and though Christians, like many in Pergamos, may with an undue confidence rest in their orthodoxy, without it they are never safe. Correct principles are the pure element of spiritual health. Are you disposed to maintain soundness of doctrine, then let faith give its exemplification in the purity and holiness of your lives. If God sees that which is hateful in the one, he will never be disposed to tolerate that which appears to be excellent in the other, for they stand or they fall together. Notwithstanding the fidelity of the members of the Church of Pergamos in the one respect, they were too lax as to the other, and the Spirit of God rebukes them for their conduct. The necessity of repentance is placed before them as well as others, and it is only to him that overcometh, that is, who, to a pure and holy faith, adds the celestial testimony of a pure and holy life, that there are promised the exalted blessings of the hidden manna, and the white stone with its new name written, the promise of heaven with all its glory, the friendship and communion of the Lord of life. “Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”
The epistle to the Church of Thyatira is also of a mixed description. There was much that the Spirit of God saw fit to commend in the conduct of the members. Their charity or love to God and man was in active and increasing operation ; their faith and their patience was highly commendable, and these exhibitions of their piety were of a progressive description. But on the other hand, they tolerated among them a fatal imposture, and apparently in consequence of the distinguished situation held by the erring individual. They had suffered some one, or a party, to remain in their Church, whose object it was to seduce the servants of God into errorin religion, and viciousness in life. Here was a palpable dereliction of duty, and it teaches us a most valuable lesson. It is our duty, not only to abstain from all unrighteousness ourselves, but to make up our minds with absolute decision, to give no countenance to it in others. I hesitate not to say, that a real Christian should have no more connexion with the irreligious of the world, than that which is rendered absolutely essential by the necessary business and state of society. To refrain from all intercourse with vicious and worldly men, is on the whole impracticable, for then we must needs go out of the world; but to stand aloof from every thing like evil, is that which is the indispensable obligation of the Christian; and when thrown where the wicked is, his object must be not to tolerate, but to reclaim. There were those in Thyatira who had kept aloof from all sinful compliance, and the exhortation of the Spirit was, “ hold fast till I come.” Are temptations placed in your way to indulge in worldly compliances ? Are seductions abroad to lead you from the simplicity of Gospel conversation? Hold fast your
integrity; overcome these allurements; live above the world, and near to Christ, and, according to the promise or this epistle, you shall have for your reward the morning-star, the bright possession of Christ's peculiar presence; the day-star rising in your hearts; the herald of a greater glory, when the full-orbed Sun of Righteousness shall shine on your souls in the eternal splendour of his living and enduring beams. “Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”
In reviewing the awful condition of the Church in Sardis, it is melancholy to remark, that while it is a condition most alarming, it is at the same time one which is most deplorably common. Formality is, if the term may be used, the epidemic paralysis of our religion; and it is a most heartrending consideration, that there are multitudes who have no claim to the name of religion, and no claim to heavenly glory, save that which rests on the sandy foundation of an outward profession. Are there any of you, my friends—alas! that the question is too readily answered—are there any
who have a name to live, but are dead, professing the form of godliness, but destitute of the power thereof? Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches, “I will come as a thief;" your foundation of sand shall be overthrown; your air-built castle shall be demolished. Nothing will answer but that religion which has its seat in the regenerated heart. Your mere profession of religion is abominable in the sight of God. Nothing but the heart—nothing but the heart will answer that God, who abhors the mere service of the lip, and who will pour out his indignation upon those who come before him, with their mouths filled with de
ception, and their right hand with lies. Rouse then, ye formal, from the ruinous deception of
formality; overcome this temptation of the devil to shut you up in utter perdition : for it is only on your escape from this state of imminent peril, that there will be room to hope for the promise—“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 I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”—“Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
The members of the Church of Philadelphia were universally commended. They were not placed in outward circumstance of influence, but the faith which they had was genuine, and it was well improved. They were kept from the hour of temptation, and they received from him who is faithful, a crown of glory, which fadeth not away. To you, as it was to them, a wide door of opportunity is opened; and I exhort you, as you love your salvation, not to permit that opportunity to pass by without its
To each and every individual of you God has given facilities for improving by the Gospel, for the word of God is not hindered among you, and wo be to the man on whose ear the sound of the Gospel continues to fall, but into whose heart it enters not. To each and every individual of you God hath given facilities to improve the opened door for the promotion of the Gospel; and wo be to the man who refrains to do his duty in relation to the great evangelical operations of the age. If the Bible, and the Missionary, and the Tract Society, fail in the support you ought to give, then will the heathen of other lands, and the heathen of our own, and the destitute of our