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thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John xvii. 23). Now, this the Father's love, this love of Christ, love in the highest mood, the pastor is called to bear to the church, and to propagate through the church; and as he doth so, so shall increase be given to him, and splendour and majesty Not the love of the evangelist merely, who proclaims a crucified Redeemer unto a guilty world, who proclaims pardon to a condemned world, with that earnestness of love with which the Father
his Son, and the Son gave himself;—but the love of a pastor who to those in the church that are lending only a deaf ear to his ministry, and cold of heart, doth, so far from resenting it, gò away and cherish them in his bosom, and clasp their benumbed feelings; with fond love, bearing and loving, forbearing and loving. Such affection, I say, even such affection as was manifested on the day of Pentecost, by the shedding down of the Holy Ghost upon the thousands of that city which had put him to death ; this, even this, is the diligence in which a church shall have many sons born unto her, and shall flourish more and more in the loving-kindness of the Lord, and the favour of her great Head.
But if otherwise it be, as otherwise it is in so many cases around me, no matter what be in the stead of love : be there eloquence, it shall be like the sounding brass and the tinkling cymbal; be there learning, it shall be moth, eaten, and turn to pride and bigotry; be there zeal for truth, it shall breed controversy and coldness; be there honour and honesty, it shall end in the applause and esteem of the world; be there state and dignity, it shall issue in resistance and contempt; be there, social kindness, it shall breed hospitality and charity : but not one of them shall beget children to God; nothing shall brighten and burnish the candlestick, nothing shall fill the house with light, but love ; the love which the Father beareth to his own, the love which the Head of the church beareth to the l'ather's election, --such love let a pastor keep warm at his heart, and let this be the spring of all his exertions, let this make him eloquent, learned, faithful, and unsparing in the truth, honest, and honourable, and dignified, and kind; and he shall not see his flock declining
away under his hand, but be shall rejoice in its increase ; yea, and of its increase he shall partake : and if so be that he hath come in upon a flock thus declining under the indifference and coldness of a former minister, he shall by this means stay the consumption, restore the life, and recover a congregation from being lost unto the church. Oh, what a lesson this is to my brethren and me! God hath written it strong upon my conviction. I know it, and I feel it. Now may he give me grace to reduce it to practice, and mercifully forgive my short-coming and transgression in the times of my ignorance. For never, O God! as thou knowest, till I studied this vision, did I know these things as I now know them; double, yea tenfold will be my guilt, if I do not give to all my brethren the example of a paster's love.
One word more, before leaving this important topic, upon the extent of that love. Doubtless it begins with our own flock, and bath its centre and its focus there ; but not there hath it its boundary. It doth however gather its oil and its fuel thence, and it resteth thereon for its support; but from thence it sendeth the light of its beams and the radiation of its heat to the widest distances, always affecting and cheering the church first, and thence passing outward into the world. The church glows with its own inbred heat of love, and radiates forth light and heat upon the cold bosom of the world around. The pastors of the church are like so many burners, which together constitute the one light of the church, which is that polar star of the world's course. The pastors of the church are like so many live coals, which together constitute the fur. nace of the church, and melt out the gold from the dross of the world, that it may be cast into the various pieces of the cherubim, whereon the glory of the Lord shall for ever rest : “ That they may be made perfect in one, that the world may know that thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Much, much my mind moveth me to say upon this subject; but let me never forget that I am doing
: ; the office of an interpreter, and not of a preacher. The Spirit of God be the preacher of these great truths to the hearts of my dear brethren, the angels of the churches.
Having thus admonished the bishop of the church in Ephesus, of his short-coming in love, the cardinal virtue of a pastor, the Great Bishop returneth to his more congenial mood of commendation; giving us therein a beautiful
example of how much he loved, and with this he endeth his charge.
“ But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate." Who these Nicolaitanes were, hath been a subject of no small disputation with commentators. The fathers who wrote on heresies, as Irenæus, Augustine, and Epiphanius, distinguish them as those who divided between Jesus and Christ, alleging Jesus to have been a mere man, upon whom the Christ of God descended at his baptism, and removed from him again before his passion, enabling and informing him for his words and works, but not abiding with him for ever, nor united in one person with him for ever, as the orthodox church hath always believed. It was a common opinion, even in the days of Clemens Alexandrinus, as it is not infrequently in these times, that this heresy had its origin from Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, who was a proselyte of Alexandria. Which notion, the father above named, rejects and refutes in these words, which I translate from the Second Book of the Stromata, page 413. Where describing some of the sensualities of the Gnostic school of heretics, he thus speaks : “ Such, however, likewise are those who say that they follow Nicolas, wresting something transmitted from that man, to the effect that we ought to exorcise the fesh.
But that famous man, signified that we ought to forbid pleasures and passions, and by such exercise weaken the impulses and inclinations of the flesh: but they, &c. &c. (here follows a picture of their sensuality).....following the dogma of their lust, and not of the apostolical man.
In what do such differ from Sardanapalus,” &c. And in another place of the third book, page 436, he again defends him from all connection in any way with these impure sensualities. And the same do other of the fathers. From these passages we gather, that like all heretical pravities, it descended from doctrine into action, and brought them into a condition beneath the brutes that perish ; of which if you would have a particular description, read it in the Epistle of Jude. There is a curious criticism upon this term Nicolaitanes, by Eichorn, a German divine of the Neological school, more remarkable for its ingenuity than its soundness; namely, That the word Nicolaitanes in the Greek is a translation of a word in the Hebrew, Ba
laamites,-being derived from the root Balaam, the name of the deceitful prophet, signifying “ Conqueror of the People,” the same which Nicolas signifies in the Greek ; and his idea is, that the term Nicolaitanes is not descriptive of any heretical sect in particular, but of the false prophets in general, who, like Balaam, misled the people, and were briefly called, from their great leader, Balaamites, which, rendered into Greek by the word that properly translates it, is Nicolaitanes.
This is very ingenious, and also very true in the principle of it; and would, I think, be worthy of all acceptation, as giving a more dignified sense: for the leaders of heresies did infinitely abound, and wonderfully mislead the people. And could I get over the authority of all antiquity, and the circumstance of its being mentioned (ver. 15), in addition to the mention of the Balaamites, I would gladly adopt it. But perceiving that the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes is set forth as another thing from the doctrine of Balaam, I think it safer to rest in the ordinary interpretation given above.
What the works of the Nicolaitanes were, we learn from the passages of Clement already referred to; indulgences of the sense in every form : not merely the natural inclinations of the flesh, for such is the condition in which the Gospel looks to find all men, but these inclinations perverting the truth of Christ Jesus unto their own use, and sanctifying themselves under the pretence of pleasing and serving God. In the first ages of Christianity, there was no sense of decorum and decency such as now exists in Christendoni ; no bounds or moderation either to the sensual inclinations or ambitious revengeful dispositions of men. There was no influence of good custom, nor awe of public opinion, to preserve men from running into all possible excesses and extravagances. It is one of the benefits which the Gospel hath conferred upon the world, to have constituted written and unwritten laws, customs of temperance, the sense of modesty, and the feeling of honour; and, in one word, that common sense of what is becoming to every station and office of life, all which inAuences together working do train us up under their wholesome influence to obedience, and prevent us from those wild and wide excesses into which it is the nature of every passion to carry its unhappy votary. Nothing
of all this influence counteracted the natural workings of men's minds in those ancient times. Let any one read the form of human character, as it was exhibited in Rome from the days of Marius and Sylla, onward to the days of Domitian, and remember that Rome was for self-command like the Great Britain of the world which then was ; being nothing so huge in its vices as the Greeks and Asiatics : or let him study it as it is exhibited in the familiar letters of Cicero, or by any other writer of these times ; or let him take it from the strong contrasts which are to be found in the apologies of the Fathers of the first and second centuries : or let him take it from the epistles of St. Paul, which is infallible authority : and he will have some notion of the fearful scope which men gave not to their natural lusts only, but even to those which are against nature. When such men therefore being brought into the church outwardly, were not baptised inwardly with the Holy Ghost, their natural inclinations, the will of the flesh, strove against the discipline of the church with an impetuosity of which we cannot even have a conception. And because an evil heart can corrupt any form of truth, these terrible forms of wickedness to which the hearts of men were familiar in those rank times, did engender most fearful corruptions of the truth, whereof in these Christian times we have not an example or even an idea. In reading the history of the Eucharist, the most holy of our mysteries, my hair has almost stood on end to know the awful things which certain of the Gnostics were wont to practise ; and I have too much regard for the purity of my reader's imagination to give them expression. Now it was necessary to reconcile these sensual indulgences in some way or other to the name of Christian; for Satan did not bring these servants of his into the church for nought; for his highest end of dishonouring the name of Christ, and prejudicing men against that communion, under the cover of which such fearful things were transacted. He then began to shew himself as Antichrist, or the opponent of Christ. Now no one could doubt that the Christian religion insisteth upon self-denial on this side the resurrection; because, till then, the will of the flesh is against the will of the Spirit, but after the resurrection it is. as true that the will of the flesh will be conformed to the will of the Spirit, and therefore restraint shall last no longer, because there will