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by Dr. Chandler, in his time, is as follow : “ The inhabitants are a few Greek peasants, living in extreme wretchedness, dependence, and insensibility........ Its streets are obscured and overgrown. A herd of goats was driven to it for shelter from the sun at noon; and a noisy flight of crows from the quarries seemed to insult its silence. We heard the partridge cry in the area of the theatre and the stadium. The glorious pomp of its heathen worship is no more remembered; and Christianity, which was here nursed by the Apostles, and fostered by general councils, until it
, increased to fulness of stature, barely lingers on in an existence hardly visible.”. A modern visitant says, “preserving no vestige of Christianity, except the desolated ruins at Ayasaluck.”
Thus have I, dearly beloved brethren, set before you the contents of the first glorious vision of St. John, the revelation of Christ as the High Priest and Universal Bishop of his church with his first epistle. See what a light it casts upon all things concerning the church. It is, indeed, a very fountain of instruction,
to every minister, and to every saint. But to those to whom it was first written, it was more than instruction-it was life and sustenance. They lived in the days of stern persecution : they were just merging into the 'awful persecutions of the second and third centuries of the church. These words, therefore, were to the church as if they had been uttered into the ear of every persecuted man,
from the mouth of Christ, on the other side of the vail. Him whom Stephen saw in glory, the first martyrs seemed to hear uttering these glorious words of promise. More dear to them than other Scripture, therefore, was this book of the Apocalypse; dearer than the rest of the Apecalypse was this vision of the great Bishop and Shepherd of their souls, pledging to every one that overcometh the glories of this earth redeemed from the curse. But that anarch, that old hierarch of evil upon earth, that great Antichristian Head, the pope of Rome, seeketh lodgment and honour in our land for his damnable pretensions to the glory and the power of the Universal Bishop. He would claim unto himself the Divine prerogative of all that which we have vindicated for Christ alone ; and like a wolf upon
the fold, he is hastening to the prey; and perhaps it may yet come to pass that we may look to this vision, with the same eyes of earnest consolation with which the first Christians did. If truly he, with his cunning marches, shall insinuate himself as universal bishop into this land, then between Belial and Christ there will be no agreement. I pray you to be stirred up with zeal and indignation against the man, who hath claimed for himself the primacy of the universal church. If there be any honour, if there be any glory unto Christ, in this title of Universal Bishop; if any dignity to the minister, if any consolation to the churches; then upon the pope, and upon the system that
, supporteth him, who claimeth, who arrogateth to himself this honour and consolation of Christ, be your anathemas pronounced. We cannot love the good without hating the evil; we cannot honour Christ without dishonouring Antichrist. Therefore I pray you be of one mind to resist the torrents of evil, which now threaten the bulwarks of our land.
CHRIST THE UNIVERSAL BISHOP-HIS EPISTLE
TO THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA,
Rev. ii. 8-1). And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These
things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive ; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer : behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days : be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear Let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches ; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.
It is a low view and a loose interpretation of the Apocalypse, which would represent those innumerable coincidences which it hath with the old prophecies as an accidental thing, or which would account for its varieties of imagery by the exuberant riches of the word of God. It is a very common abuse of the Prophets to quote them for the effect of their sublime imagery, and to examine no further into the matter or substance of the prophecy; yea, to abuse and contemn, as unsober men,
those who seek for the truth of interpretation. I know not whether more to pity or to blame such tampering with the solemn and solid word of God, as if any part of it were for ornament, any part of it for poetical or oratorical effect. But to me it is a low view even of poetry and of oratory, to seek for words or figures therein for any other sake than that of interpreting, and truly interpreting, the spirit of truth in the poet and
orator. But thus to deal with the word of God, whose very jots and tittles are more solid and substantial than the heavens and the earth, is a most unworthy calumny, yea, even blasphemy, of Him by whose Spirit the words were indited. The poetical language, the rhetorical power, the depth of feeling, the richness of symbol, the exuberance of figure with which it aboundeth, are nothing due to any wanton, unregulated, playful humours or tastes of the writers; but they are the most proper, the most exact, the inost complete forms for expressing the fulness of that eternal truth which God would express concerning his Christ; for “the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.” I have learned, God be praised, a higher reverence for the written word than so to regard, than so to treat it. I have learned to look upon its minutest particles as sacred, and to study it with more care, than wherewith I was wont to read the most condensed demonstrations of the Principia of Newton, or the most learned and adorned passages of the Paradise Lost; and where I cannot find a consistent meaning for any thing which I find written in the word of God, I no longer think of explaining it away, by what they call a spiritual interpretation, but am content to confess my ignorance, and wait till God send me a teacher, which I ever find him most ready to do. There is, indeed, a spiritual interpretation of every history and prophecy in God's word. The events aod incidents are but the means of conveying to us insight into the being of God, who is a Spirit, and the being of man, who is an embodied spirit. To raise, therefore, a spiritual interpretation upon the basis of every action of God, whether past or to come, is the bounden duty of every preacher, of every interpreter, and of every reader of God's word. The rest is but the means, this is the end ; the rest is but the acting of the faculty which considers means, this is the acting of the faculty which looks at God. Man was not made merely to consider the machinery of a purpose, but through the consideration of this to see the mind and will of Him who purposeth. Would that such were the spiritual interpretations now contended for! then would there be no objection to literal and historical interpretation, which doth but prepare the materials for the spiritual; bearing to it the same relation which
the knowledge of God's ways beareth to the acknowledgment of his wisdom and faithfulness and loving kindness to the children of men. But that thing which they are contending for, under the name of spiritual interpretation, is really no interpretation at all. It is the privilege of remaining ignorant of the particular, and even general, purposes of God, for which they plead, and justify themselves in following after. They want the liberty of reading whole sections of the word of God without affixing any meaning to them at all: they want the licence of casting the adamantine word of God over again in the sandy moulds of their own narrow systems of knowledge, faith, and practice. Like school-boys, they would cull Bowery passages out of the Prophets to ornament their speech withal: like children, they would find sweet morsels here and there, to please their own and their people's ill-regulated taste. As a minister of Christ, I am a guardian of God's word, and I have a right to speak. God hath given me a wardenship of the treasure, and I must not sleep upon my watch: therefore I lift up my voice to all concerned in the honour of God's word, and solemnly protest that this attempt of what are called Evangelical writings and preachings, to withdraw the mind of the church from the prophetic parts of Scrip!ure, is a more dangerous and a nuore subtle work of Satan than when he moved the Council of Trent to intersperse the Apocrypha through the Inspired canon, and our Bible Society to give effect to that daring dishonour of God's faithful word. Let the men confess that they cannot interpret those passages of the word, and seek help from the Holy Ghost, who searcheth the deep things of God. Let them honour the office of an interpreter in whom they discern an orthodox faith, a right charitable spirit, and a trembling reverence for the word of God. An interpretation is that which answers to the words and sentences of the Scripture, understood as the same words and sentences in any other book would be understood; for God doth not write in a cipher, nor doth he deal deceitfully with speech, the organ of intelligence. There is no exoteric and isoteric school of interpretation of the Scripture: there is no Egyptian priestcraft hiding truth in hieroglyphics; nor any mysteries, Greek or Roman; nor any Druidical secrecies, revealed