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cannot, without the utmost violence, be applied to the word of grace and consolation, but to the word of wrath and indignation. This is put beyond a doubt by the use which is made of that sword in the last verse of the sixth chapter of this book : “ The remnant were slain with the sword of Him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth; and all the fowls were filled with their flesh." Taking, then, this for the interpretation of the sword, and recalling the interpretation of the candlesticks and the stars, what have we in that group of objects of which the first vision is composed ? We have the Son of man standing in the midst of his churches, holding in his right hand the ministers of his churches, and speaking from his mouth words which shall pierce unto the quick, and divide asunder between soul and spirit, between joints and marrow, and discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. Here, now, are three distinct ideas : first, the idea of episcopacy, oversight, or supervision, suggested by the person of the Son of man standing in the midst of the golden candlesticks; secondly, the idea of preservation and action, suggested by his holding the stars in his right hand, the seat of safety and the instrument of power; and thirdly, the idea of pruning discipline, and even entire rooting out, expressed by the sword with two edges proceeding out of his mouth.
This much, then, we gather from the general and combined aspect of that which the Apostle saw; to wit, that it represents Christ in the midst of the churches, watching over them as a good Shepherd, as their great Head and Bishop; and serving himself herein with the instrumentality of their angels, or ministers, whom he holdeth in his right hand; threatening also severity, and having the intention and the means, if need be, of utter destruction. It is most worthy of observation, that in this symbol of the church universal, with all its ministers
(for so much have we seen imported in the number i seven), there is only one Person--the person of the Son
of man—and all the rest are symbolized by things. It is not, as in the next vision, where the church is represented by the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures; for here the ministers are symbolized by stars, and the churches by candlesticks. They are, as it were, but
adjuncts of his one person, circumstances for setting forth his pastoral office. He is the one life, the only liver, in the whole. Both ministers and people are but earthen vessels, in which he putteth the glory of his great
We rise into the dignity of persons only in virtue of our conjunction with him. We are but the materials of his one body. From looking therefore at the vision as one thing, we gather that it is the vision of Jesus Christ, the universal and only Bishop of his church, and intended to shew forth the use he makes of us the ministers, and the care he takes of you the people. Let us now take up the objects in order, and consider them apart.
The first thing which the seer beheld was the candlesticks : “ And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; which (saith the interpretation) are seven churches."-In all languages truth and knowledge are likened to light; and that by which truth is propagated or sustained, is frequently called the lamp of truth, the torch of truth. In the Old Testament such expressions as the following are frequent to characterize the word of God: “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” The Psalmist prays that God would - light his candle within him.” These floating expressions of likeness were stamped with Divine authority, and combined into a symbol, at the institution of the Mosaical economy which prefigured the good things to come with Christ: for, while the inmost place of the sanctuary which was not yet open, and only entered once a year, in promise that it should be opened, was lighted with the light of the glory of God, which shone forth from between the cherubim, the holy place into which the priests did continually minister was lighted by a lamp or candlestick consisting of six branches, whereof each contained a light, with a seventh in the centre, This candlestick was fed with oil of a consecrated kind, and trimmed by holy bands; and, as hath been said, it stood in the holy place whether nove but priests might enter; and it was an emblem of the church which then was, as the seven candlesticks in our text is an emblem of the many Christian churches which now are. In the holy place there was, besides, the table of shew bread, of which the priests alone might eat. This was the symbol of our Lord's offered body, upon which the royal priesthood of his church are supported. The candlestick was also the symbol of the church
; his body the fulness of the wisdom of God, giving light unto the world; as it is written, “ Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid; neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushei but on a candlestick, and it giveth light to all that are in the house." Christ saith of himself, “ I am the light of the world : he that believeth in me shall not walk in dark. ness, but shall have the light of life.” The church, therefore, of enlightened men holding forth Christ's light in the midst of darkness, is the true antitype of the candlestick which stood in the holy place. In the former dispensation the unity of the church stood in the Jewish nation, restricted to place, and under conditions of time, and standing in the entireness and uniformity of various ceremonies and circumstances; therefore the lamp was of one piece, one lamp ; whereas, under the Christian dispensation, where the unity of the church standeth not in the conditions of time, place, and circunstance, but in the oneness of the sustaining Head and quickening Spirit, the symbol is not one candlestick, but seven candlesticks; having a separateness in appearance, but a unity in the one High Priest, or Bishop, the Son of Man, who walketh in the midst of them. Yet though the candlestick under the former dispensation was one, it had seven burning lights; one in the centre, and six
the branches; to signify, as I take it, that out of the Jewish stem was to come forth a sevenfold or universal light (according to the power of number seven, set forth in the two, former lectures); and as the one candlestick of the tabernacle, with its seven burning lights, did signify the one Jewish church limited to place and to nation ; so the seven candlesticks, now watched over by the true High Priest, do signify the same church with its partition-wall broken down, its handwriting of ordinances destroyed, the veil of its temple rent in twain, in order that it might embrace all nations, and all countries, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free. In one word, I consider the candlestick to signify the catholic church, made up of many parts;
the one body of Christ, made up of many members, and these members gathered into several individual churches : so that this symbol of the seven candlesticks doth not express mere unity, but a unity made up of several individuals, which are not persons, but churches; and the truth taught is, that the catholic church under Christ was to consist of several distinct churches, which yet should be one in faith, and in spirit, though different in place, in time, and in circumstance. When, therefore, you hear from the mouths of men, affecting much purity and zeal, such expressions as these, I know no church of England, nor of Scotland, but only one church of Christ,' you do so far forth hear a confession of their ignorance ; for we are taught that Christ's church was to subsist in several individual churches. I do not say how much malice and contempt of authority may be contained under this speech, which I so often hear; but this I know, that it contains a direct disavowal or entire igoorance of the thing conveyed by this symbol of seven distinct candlesticks.
It is a mean interpretation of this grand symbol of the seven golden candlesticks, to limit its application to those seven churches of Asia then existent: whereas the substance of the epistles is, as we shall see, altogether universal as to persons, and as to time; ranging onward through all time, until he come who shall proclaim that time shall be no more, and his eternal kingdom begun. But, while this limitation of the symbol to the then condition of the seven Asiatic churches is narrow and mean, it is perfectly true so far as it goes, seeing they were true specimens of Christian churches, and did actually exbibit those varicties of condition to which Christian churches should be liable, standing also in need of those instructions which they received, and actually sustaining those judgments that were threatened, or actually receiving those promises which were held out, and therefore forming the basis of fact, which ifies and authenticates all the lessons taught. So that to apply the lessons to these churches is altogether right, but to limit them thereto is altogether wrong. Yet this is nothing so much to be blamed, as is the method of those who would throw the matter of fact altogether out of the question, and hunt for allegorical interpretations of the seven names, and then endeavour to substantiate these allegories, by finding seven successive conditions of the church auswerable thereto; which is, not only to let in first the refinements and subtilties of the fancy, and next, the accommodations of the ingenuity of man, but likewise to destroy the very character of the prophecy, which, unless it rest upon some basis of fact then present or coming into being, doth altogether lose the nature of certain prophecy, and pass into the nature of a mystery or morality. But the true view, of which these two are the disjointed parts, consisteth in regarding all that is said of these seven churches as most veritable matters of fact upon which the great High Priest of our profession, the universal Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, doth build a superstructure of commendation, counsel, reproof, instruction, promise, doctrine, discipline, and laws, unto his universal church, in all times subsisting, until the number of the elect shall be accomplished, and his kingdom shall be come.
If, now, any one inquire into that which constitutes the individuality of a church, I seek my answer in the consideration of the seven churches before us, of which one was in Ephesus, the metropolis of proconsular Asia ; another in Smyrna, a city of great celebrity both ihen and now; another in Pergamos, the metropolis of Mysia, and the seat of the Attalian king; another in Sardis, the renowned capital of Cresus, and the Lydian king; another in Philadelphia, a city still abiding in considerable dignity; and the last in Laodicea, of which the ruins testify its former grandeur, and God's severity upon its impenitence. These seven churches therefore, being all constituted in different cities of the same Roman kingdom, (forall Asia within the Euphrates had become a Roman province a full century before this time), have their distinctness, not from diversity of civil government or kingdoms, but simply from diversity of place; for it is not to be believed that at this early time there had crept in any diversity of doctrine, ordiscipline, or government, or forms of worship. Mere diversity of place, therefore, doth constitute the individuality of a church. The language is, the church in Ephesus, the church in Smyrna, &c. It is also to be observed, that the saints in each of these cities are