Revelation 2:1
To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.
Sermons
The Stars, the Lamps, and the LordS. Conway Revelation 2:1
The Seven Epistles Compared: Homiletic PrologueD. Thomas Revelation 2:1-3:22
An Exhortation and Encouragement to Individual ChristiansC. H. Irwin, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Ashes on a Rusty AltarJ. Hamilton, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
BackslidingEssex RemembrancerRevelation 2:1-7
BackslidingP. C. Turner.Revelation 2:1-7
Christ'sR. Hall, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Christ's Care in Glory for His Church's Good on EarthWm. Strong.Revelation 2:1-7
Conquest and ImmortalityBp. Phillips Brooks.Revelation 2:1-7
Decay of LoveRevelation 2:1-7
Declension from First LoveC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 2:1-7
Emotion Wanted in ReligionRevelation 2:1-7
EnduranceThomas Manton.Revelation 2:1-7
Ephesus -- the Strenuous ChurchA. Mackennal, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
False ApostlesJames Durham.Revelation 2:1-7
First Love LeftH. Bonar, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
Forsaking the First LoveE. Griffin, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
God's Voice to the ChurchJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Hatred of Evil Essential to LoveIsaac Williams.Revelation 2:1-7
Heaven, a GardenD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
His Lost IdealJ. Caird.Revelation 2:1-7
How to ConquerF. J. Sharr.Revelation 2:1-7
Inward DeteriorationW. Mitchell, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Labouring and not FaintingC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 2:1-7
Letter to EphesusJ. Parker, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
Loss of the First LoveW. H. M. H. Aitken, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Love's ComplainingC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 2:1-7
Neglect of the Gospel Followed by its RemovalH. Melvill, B. D.Revelation 2:1-7
Neglected LoveW. W. Andrew, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Now, and ThenF. F. Goe, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
On Leaving Our First LoveEssex RemembrancerRevelation 2:1-7
ParadiseJ. O. Dykes, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
Peculiarities of This Ephesian LetterCaleb Morris.Revelation 2:1-7
Phases of Church LifeJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Red-Hot ReligionW. L. Watkinson.Revelation 2:1-7
Religion ActiveS. Charnock.Revelation 2:1-7
Religious DeclensionT. Morell, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Spiritual DeclensionH. Melvill, B. D.Revelation 2:1-7
Spiritual Declension Reproved, Admonished, and ThreatenedW. Jay, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Spiritual DeclensionsB. Beddome, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
The Address to EphesusG. Rogers.Revelation 2:1-7
The Coming of Christ a Warning Against DeclensionH. E. Manning.Revelation 2:1-7
The Conflict of the Christian LifeJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
The Decline of Spiritual LoveE. L. Hull, B. A.Revelation 2:1-7
The Enthusiasm of the First LoveJohn F. Ewing, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
The Epistle to the Church At EphesusS. Conway Revelation 2:1-7
The Epistle to the Church in Ephesus: the Decay of Early LoveR. Green Revelation 2:1-7
The False Apostle Tried and DiscoveredW. Bridge, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
The Fatal Flaw in the Ephesian ChurchesH. Crosby.Revelation 2:1-7
The Gospel RemovedS. Charnock.Revelation 2:1-7
The Great ConditionS. S. Mitchell, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
The Heavenly Christ's First Promise to the VictorsA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
The Nicolaitane Doctrine Hateful to Christ and His ChurchRevelation 2:1-7
The Paradise of GodG. T. Coster.Revelation 2:1-7
The Peculiarities of the Christian's First LoveA. Alexander, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
The Seven Stars and the Seven CandlesticksA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
The Tree of LifeA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
The Tree of LifeR. Watson.Revelation 2:1-7
The True Problem of Christian ExperienceH. Bushnell, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
The Words of Christ from Eternity to the Congregation At EphesusD. Thomas Revelation 2:1-7
The Words of Christ to the Congregation At EphesusD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
Unwearied PatienceT. Adams.Revelation 2:1-7
Watchman, What of the NightH. Bonar, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7
What Christ Likes to See in a ChurchC. H. Irwin, M. A.Revelation 2:1-7
Zeal for Truth Must be LovingW. Milligan, D. D.Revelation 2:1-7


Ephesus was a notable place in the days of St. John. It and Corinth, on either side of the AEgean, and between which there was a regular traffic, have been likened to the Liverpool and New York of our day, on either side of the Atlantic. Ephesus was large, populous, wealthy, the capital of the province and the centre of the religious worship of the great Diana, whose magnificent temple was accounted one of the wonders of the world. Nor is the place less notable in sacred history than in secular. The great names of SS. John and Paul, of Timothy and Apollos, are intimately associated with it; and the history of the planting of the Church there, given in Acts 18:19 and 19., is full of interest. It was the chief of the seven Churches to which St. John was bidden to write. We have previously spoken of the title which in this letter the Lord takes to himself, and will therefore come at once to the contents of the letter itself. Noting -

I. THE COMMENDATION SO GREAT AND HIGH THAT IS GIVEN TO THIS CHURCH. It is indeed a great thing to have such commendation bestowed on any Church or individual Christian. Happy they or he who deserves it. The Church at Ephesus is commended for:

1. Their works. "I know thy works." No idle, listless people were they, but active, alert, open eyed to note and enter where the kingdom of Christ might gain new subjects. The Lord locked down upon them with approval, and here tells them, "I know thy works."

2. Their labour. Twice is this mentioned (vers. 2, 3), and it denotes the Divine delight in the quality as well as the quantity of their works. It was strenuous, whole hearted, earnest. Too many who work for the Lord do so as if with but one hand, or even with one finger. It is the merest shred of their activity that they give to the Lord's work. But here it was as "with both hands earnestly." And they did this though it involved:

3. Their suffering. Thou "hast borne" (ver. 3). It means that they were not allowed to labour as they did unmolested. There would be plenty, as we know there were, from all manner of motives, to raise opposition and to resent what they so little liked, indeed hated. Cruel, fierce, relentless, unjust, the sufferings might be and were that their enemies inflicted, and which they had borne; but these did not daunt, dismay, or deter them from going right on. For next:

4. Their patience is commended. Generals in the armies of earth value highly what is called elan in their troops - the dash and rush and enthusiasm with which the brave fellows spring to the attack; but they value yet more "staying power" - that which depends more on dogged pertinacity and enduring courage than on aught beside. And there is the like of this in the spiritual warfare. High, eager courage at the outset, hearts filled with enthusiasm, - yes, these are good; but better still is what will ever be needed, and that is the grace of patience, the power to endure and not to faint. Thrice is this great and indispensable grace commended in this epistle, as if the Lord would show in how high esteem he held it. Oh for this power to labour on and not weary in well doing, to be patient and faint not! For one who has this there are many who will set out and set out well, but they soon get hindered and turn aside or stop altogether, and some even turn back to the world they had professed to leave. Blessed, then, is this grace of patience.

5. Their holy intolerance. There is an intolerance, and there is far too much of it, which is the fruit of conceit, of spiritual pride, of abject narrowness, of gross ignorance, and blind bigotry. They in whom it is found are perhaps amongst the very chiefest enemies of the Church of God, although they loudly boast to belong to its very elect. The intolerance of such is never holy. But, on the other hand, there is a tolerance which is a mere giving in to wickedness because we have not enough zeal for God and righteousness to withstand it. Such people boast of their broadness, but it is far too much of what Carlyle once called it when indignantly repudiating some of its teachings, "None of your heaven-and-hell amalgamation societies for me!" Of such people it could never have been said, as is here said of the Ephesian Church, "Thou canst not bear them which are evil." They would have palliated and explained and found some plausible pretext for even the most evil deeds. Now, in righteous contrast to these, the Ephesian Church would have no compromise with evil. That which is told in Acts 19. indicates this admirable quality in them. They brought their costly books of magic and burnt them - not selling them, or giving them away, or shutting them up, but getting right rid of them altogether, though so much might have been urged for milder measures. But these books, contaminated as they were with the foulness of idolatry, burning, they believed, was best for them, and burnt they were. It was a prelude to that after excellence of character which is here commended of the Lord. Under the ban of this righteous wrath two sets of persons deservedly came, both being generally described as "them that are evil."

(1) Pretended apostles. Renan and those who with him accentuate so strongly the undoubted differences that there were between Christians of the Pauline and the Petrine types, affirm that by "those who say they are apostles, and are not," John meant Paul. But they seem to forget that it is added that the Ephesian Church had "found these pretended apostles false." If, then, Paul was one, it is strange that, instead of finding him out as false, the Ephesian Church and its bishops - in the scene at Miletus - should have cherished the most tender affection and reverence for him; and that Polycarp, one of St. John's most distinguished disciples, should speak of Paul, as he does, as "the blessed and glorious Paul." No; it was not such as Paul that St. John meant, but wolves in sheep's clothing, base, bad men, lured by the bait of the influence and power which they saw the true apostles had, and pretended to be such in order that they might make gain for themselves. But it could not have been very difficult to detect such as these, and, being put to the test, they were cast out for what they were. Woe to the Church that tolerates, knowingly, impostors in her midst! that lets them remain amongst the true, though they be false!

(2) The Nicolaitans (see Exposition). They were practically antinomians. The sect flourishes still. Nicolaitans are everywhere, because everywhere there are men who will profess, believe, and do almost anything by which they think they may escape the hard necessity of obeying the moral laws of Christ. Well is it for the Church, well is it forevery one of us, to allow no pretence whatsoever to palliate evil deeds. Even the grace of God may be turned into lasciviousness, and it seems impossible to keep men back from presumptuous sins - sins, that is, for which they find, or think they find, encouragement in the doctrines of God's great mercy, and the all-atoning efficacy of our Saviour's death. But the Lord hates the deeds of such men, and may he help us to hate them too. The Church at Ephesus hated them, and are especially commended of the Lord for that they did so. But now the Lord says to them, "One thing thou lackest." Surely if ever there was a Church that seemed able to ask, without fear of an unfavourable reply, "What lack we yet?" this Church was such a one; but now, behold, the Lord turns from commendation to -

II. THE CENSURE. "I have... because thou hast left thy first love" (ver. 4). And this censure is very grave. It speaks of the conduct it condemns as:

1. A grievous fall. "Remember... whence thou art fallen." That which they had left and lost had lifted them high in the Divine love, had made them exceeding precious in his sight. But now all was changed. The Lord looked not on them now as he once did; they had "with shame to take a lower place."

2. A calling for prompt and practical repent. once. They were to "repent" and "do" their "first works."

3. Terrible in its consequences if there were not this repentance (ver. 5). Let Gibbon tell how, after more than a thousand years had passed - such was the Lord's long suffering - the dreadful threat was fulfilled, and the light of the lamp of gold that represented Ephesus was, with all the rest, faithful Smyrna and Philadelphia alone excepted, finally quenched. Then "the captivity or ruin of the seven Churches of Asia was consummated; and the barbarous lords of Ionia and Lydia still trample on the monuments of classic and Christian antiquity. In the loss of Ephesus, the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelation; the desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana or the church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the god of Mahomet, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamos; and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by a foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom above four score years; and at length capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies and Churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruins; a pleasing example that the paths of honour and safety may sometimes be the same" (ch. 64.). But this grave censure, and the awful consequences that ultimately ensued, lend urgency to the inquiry as to -

III. THE SAD CHURCH CONDITION THE CENSURE INDICATES. Probably it pointed:

1. To a slackening in those qualities for which they had been commended. And the moral atmosphere of a place like Ephesus could not but try them very severely. Even Timothy had to be warned against yielding to the sensuality of the place, and also against that rigorous asceticism to which tempted ones often resort as a sure defence against such sin. But the needs be that there must have been for such exhortation shows how strong the stream of evil tendency was in the place, and how difficult to continuously maintain that firm stand which in the first ardours of the Christian life they had taken and for a long while been faithful to. And undoubtedly this is how, in our own day, this leaving of our first love shows itself. What sincere Christian heart is there that has not once and again been pierced as he has remembered how true this censure is for himself? That sad but well known hymn of the saintly Cowper, "Oh for a closer walk with God!" is but one continued comment on this all too common sin. And so common has it become that we now almost expect that there will be this slackening of zeal when the first novelty of discipleship has passed away. The "goodness" of such will be, we all but assume, "as a morning cloud and as the early dew that goeth away." And the present all but impossible practice of personal and private pastoral dealing with individual souls lets this condition of things go on with all too much facility. But he who is faithful with himself will mark with sorrow the decline of his own spiritual life. When he has to drag himself to duty; when prayer and worship and work for Christ are turned from, in heart if not in act; when there is no longer any glow or fervour of feeling Christwards; when temptation, once resisted and spurned, now approaches and solicits, and is suffered so to do; - all these, and others like them, are symptoms, sure and sad enough, that the Lord has this against him, that he has left his first love. And this fact shows itself also:

2. In the altered spirit in which work is done. And this, we expect, was the gravamen of the charge as it referred to the Ephesian Church. We are not told that they had left off their works. But it was possible for them to continue and even to increase them, and yet this censure to be deserved. For it is the motive at which the Lord looks. Ere ever he would restore the recreant Peter to his apostleship, thrice over was the question asked, "Lovest thou me?" as if the Lord would teach him and all of us that love to himself is the one indispensable qualification of all acceptable service. And if from any one out of a multitude of other motives - mixed, and maybe mean, manifold certainly, as they are sure to be - the works we do are done, for all acceptance with Christ they might as well, and sometimes better, have been left undone. You may work and labour, suffer and be patient under it, hate many evil things and persons, and yet there be scarce one shred of love to Christ in it all (cf. 1 Corinthians 13.). It is well, indeed, for us to ask ourselves not merely what we do, but why? The answer to that might lead to some strange self revelations, but they would be salutary too. Without doubt they would be if they led us to listen to -

IV. CHRIST'S ENCOURAGING CALL TO COME BACK TO HIMSELF. For he does not close this letter without such call, which may "he who hath ears to hear" hear indeed. In what was said on the common characteristics of these letters, it was noted how they all taught that all might overcome. Victory was possible to all; none need despair. And this lies in these last words of the letter. It said to the Church at Ephesus, "You need no longer yield to that which draws you away from me; you can resist, you can overcome, and so return to me whom you have left." Such is the force of the words, "to him that overcometh." And then, that the possible may become the actual, Christ holds out the prize of victory, the recompense of their return to their first love (ver. 7). The promise seems to point back and on. Back to the primeval Paradise from which our first parents and all their descendants were shut out, lest they should eat of the tree of life. Now it is promised that that prohibition shall be withdrawn, the flaming sword of the cherubim "which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life," shall be sheathed, and access granted once more. But the Paradise shall not be the primeval one, but the heavenly, "the Paradise of my God" - so the Lord speaks of it. Far more, then, than all that has been lost shall be theirs if they repent and return, and so win the victory and overcome. The temptations to which they were exposed were forever clamouring that they should seize upon the sensual pleasures of this short life, and fill it up with them, such as they were. But the Lord's promise holds out to them the prize of a pure and perfect and perpetual life in the presence of God, and amid the pleasures forevermore which are in the Paradise of God. And that prize is held out to us as to them, and if it work in us our Lord's will and purpose, it will lead to that diligent culture of the soul, by constant and fervent prayer, and by the cherishing of all spiritual affections, and by yielding to all the Christward drawings of which once and again we are conscious; and so the soul's first love left and lost shall be found again; though it was as dead, yet shall it be alive once more. - S.C.







Ephesus.
I. The FORM OF ADDRESS.

1. The place. Ephesus. Situated in a rich and extensive country, and upon the banks of a luxuriant river, it became, in all probability, celebrated for the pleasures of the chase, on which account its richest offerings were presented on the shrine of Diana. It was in its greatest glory in the apostolic age, its population at that time amounting to some hundreds of thousands. The ruins of its theatre still remain, which is computed to have accommodated twenty thousand spectators. Its commerce, its literature, its opulence, and its luxury were in similar proportion.

2. The Church of Ephesus.(1) How great were the advantages which the Ephesian Church enjoyed! The foundation is laid during a few months' visit from the great apostle of the Gentiles. It is sustained by the labours of Priscilla and Aquila. It is favoured with the discourses of the eloquent Apollos. It next enjoys the entire ministrations of Paul for two years and three months. He is succeeded by Timothy, of whom Paul says, he knew no man so like-minded with himself, who evidently gave the prime of his days to the Ephesians. A most instructive and encouraging letter is sent them by Paul, for their guidance both in doctrine and practice. Timothy receives full instructions from the apostle for the performance of his pastoral duties among them. And to crown all their privileges, during the apostolic age, John, the last of the apostles, gives them the benefit of the rich experience of his latter days, and the benedictions of his last breath.(2) The chief difficulties with which the gospel had to contend in this city.

(a)The prejudices of the Jews.

(b)The pride of human learning.

(c)The influence of a popular idolatry and an interested priesthood.

(d)The effect of riches.

(e)Sensual indulgence.(3) The gospel when faithfully preached, and accompanied by pastoral visits and fervent prayer, will surmount all opposition, and extensively prevail.

3. The angel of the Church at Ephesus.

4. The character in which Christ addresses this Church.

II. THE SUBJECT OF COMMUNICATION.

1. The Ephesians are commended here for their zealous and active performance of Christian duties; for their patience and submission under trial and persecution; and for their purity of discipline.

2. He has something against them, as well as in their favour. He does not dispute the sincerity of their love, but reproves them for its diminished fervour. It was not so pure, burning, and enkindling as at first. Diminution of love in His people is displeasing to Christ, on their account as well as His own. Love is the fruit of all other graces of the Christian combined. If this decays, the whole work of grace in the soul is on the decline.

3. The admonition: "Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen," etc.

4. The threatening: "Or else I will come unto thee quickly," etc. Unless the flame of love be kept bright and glowing, He will withdraw His support. He will not hold up an expiring lamp. The light of the gospel is not extinguished, but is removed from one place to another. If it has become dim, or ceased to shine in one part of the earth, it burns with brilliancy in another. While its first fervour was declining in Judaea, it burst forth in the cities of the Gentiles. The gospel seeks the hearts of men. If they are withheld in one place, it seeks them in another.

5. The closing commendation: "But this thou hast," etc.

III. GENERAL APPLICATION is appended to the address to the Church at Ephesus, and the same order is observed in the rest: "He that hath an ear, let him hear," etc.

(G. Rogers.)

Ephesus is the type of a strenuous Church. There is something singularly masculine in the first part of the description. "I know thy works" — that is, thine achievements; not thy desires and purposes and aspirations, not even thy doings, but thy deeds. This Church in its severe self-discipline affords a welcome contrast to the easily-excited populace amid whom they lived, rushing confusedly into the theatre and shouting for two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The patience of the Church is twice men tioned; the second time it is patience not as a feature of the workman, but the patience of him who can suffer, and suffer in silence. And this virtue has a threefold delineation — patience, endurance, fortitude. "Thou hast patience, and thou didst bear for My name's sake, and thou hast not grown weary." There is another mark of the masculine character in Ephesus, a noble intolerance of evil — "thou canst not bear bad men." And with this intolerance is the power to discriminate character, the clear judgment which cannot be deceived — "thou didst try them which call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false." There is no surer mark of a masculine nature than this keen insight into pretentiousness, and fidelity of rebuke. Then comes the exposure of the great defect of Ephesus. "I have against thee that thou hast left that love which thou hadst at the first." It is love in its largest sense which the Church once had and now has lost; the love of God animating piety undoubtedly, but no less certainly the love of men making service sweet. Nor is it the feeling alone which has changed, it is not that love as a sentiment is lost; but love in its far reach has gone, kindliness and tender consideration and disregard of self, the grace that suffers long and is kind, that beareth all things, hopeth all things, believeth all things. The toilsomeness, the endurance, the stern self-judgment, the keen discrimination of character, are obvious; but the spirit that rises above toil or sweetens toil, the grace to woo and wed, has fled. We can understand the history only too well. Life has many sore trials, none sorer than this — that virtues which are unexercised die out, and that the circumstances which call for some virtues and give occasion for their development seem to doom others to extinction. The Christian character cannot live by severity alone. There were two demands which the Church at Ephesus had forgotten — the demand for completeness of Christian character, never more urgent than when the times are making us one-sided; the demand of God Himself for the heart. There must be impulse in His people if they are to continue His people; there must be love in all who, not contented with doing "their works," desire to do the work of God.

I. There is an obscured, a limited perception of the grace of Christ. "These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars," etc. A strenuous Lord for a strenuous Church; but also a Lord holding His manifold graces in reserve when He has to do with a reserved people. For the nurture of piety we need all that He will reveal to us of Himself, all that can endear Him, all that can startle us, all that can exalt His image. There is not a single channel by which Christ finds His way to the soul which should not be open to Him; a full Christ is needed for a full man and for a complete Church.

II. The warning of the fifth verse must have been very surprising to the angel of the Ephesian Church. The Church seemed to be so efficient. Its works had been so hard, and yet they had been done. Its achieve-merits were patent. Especially its service in the cause of truth was conspicuous; the Church had not lost its zeal, its candour, its piercing vision. Ephesus warns us against the perils of the Puritan temper; it warns us also against the stoical temper, with its tendency to a not ignoble cynicism, of which some of our gravest leaders in literature have been the exponents. Puritanism plus love ham accomplished great things, and will do yet more; for a masculine tenderness is God's noblest gift to men. But Puritanism, when the first love is lost, drags on a sorrowful existence, uninfluential and unhappy; its only hope being the capacity for repentance, which, God be praised, has never failed it. Perhaps the most solemn part of the message is that in which the Lord Himself declares — "I am coming; I will shake thy candlestick out of its place." The Lord can do without our achievements, but not without love. He can supply gifts unendingly, can make the feeble as David; but if love be wanting He will shake the noblest into destruction, and remove them out of the way. There is one striking word immediately following this warning, a word of commendation; it is the only one of the messages in which a word of commendation does come in after the warning has been uttered, and it is a commendation of feeling. "But this thou hast, that thou hatest," etc. Hatred is hardly the feeling we should have expected to be commended: but it is feeling, and any feeling is better than apathy or stolidity. Where men can feel hatred, other feeling may come; love may come where men have not reduced themselves to machines.

III. An altogether unexpected thing in the message to the Church at Ephesus is the promise with which it ends — "To him that overcometh," etc. In only two promises of the New Testament does this word "paradise" appear, with its suggestion of the primeval garden, where the father and mother of men wandered innocent and happy: in the promise made by the dying Jesus to the penitent thief, and here. The faithful men of Ephesus, stern-featured, with drawn brows, fighting on, knowing that their hearts are withering in the conflict, and yet not seeing how they can relax, are caught with a word. An image is presented to them which may break down even their self. control, and set them longing for the wondrous things God hath prepared for them that love Him. And this was exactly what Ephesus needed, although it was the one thing it had schooled itself to do without. Ephesus had too little of what so many have too much of — sensibility, passiveness, willingness to receive, to be made something of, to be quiet and let the Blessed One save them who had long been striving, and of late so ineffectually, to serve Him. Good as strenuousness is — and of human virtues it is among the chief — even better is the responsive spirit. When God is the giver, it is well for us to receive rather than to give.

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

I. THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH HAS A MINUTE KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THE SERVICES OF HIS PEOPLE.

1. There is distinguished labour. "I know thy works, and thy labour." The Church at Ephesus had been a working Church. It had been operating on the sat. rounding regions of depravity, darkness, and death. In its early life it was eminently an aggressive Church. I would have Christ's Church as ambitious as Alexander. As he waved his battle-flag over a conquered world, so would I that the Church might unfurl the banner of a nobler conquest over every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue.

2. There is distinguished patience. This patience may be understood as indicating long-suffering in relation to those by whom the saints in Ephesus were surrounded — long-suffering both in waiting for the germination of the seed which they had sown in many tears, and in the meek endurance of fiery trials. The point to be noted here is, that Christ is mindful, not only of the outward manifestations of the spiritual life — such as many labours and many offerings — but also of the hidden graces which cluster round the heart. He sees not only the moral warrior brandishing his sword in the thickest of the battle, hut also the wounded and suffering soldier; and sweetly says to such, "I know thy patience." How few can tone themselves to the high strength of doing everything by doing nothing! Patience is undervalued by an excited world; but Jesus notes it in its long vigils, marks it trimming its dim lamp in the solemn midnight, and sweetly,whispers His word of commendation, which is always invigorating as the breath of immortality.

3. There is distinguished jealousy for the right. "Thou canst not bear them which are evil," etc. It must ever be remembered that there is a spurious charity. It is morally impossible that Christians and anti-Christians can have any sympathetic fellowship. Woe unto the Church when moral distinctions are lightly regarded! To confound light with darkness, sweetness with bitterness, is to mock the first principles of holy government, and to destroy for ever the possibility of holy brotherhood. While, therefore, we would not presumptuously ascend the judgment-seat, we believe it is impossible to burn in too deeply the line which separates the sympathy of compassion from the sympathy of complacency.

3. There was distinguished persistence in the right course. "And hast borne, and hast patience, and for My name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted." The eulogium might be read thus: "I know thy labour, and yet thou dost not labour, i.e., thou dost not make a labour of thy duties": in such case duty was not a hard taskmaster. There was such a sunny joyousness and musical cordiality about these saints, that they came to their work — work so hard — with the freshness of morning, and under their touch duty was transformed into privilege. There is a lesson here for Christian workers through all time. When work is done with the hand only, it is invariably attended with much constraint and difficulty; but when the heart is engaged, the circle of duty is run with a vigour that never wearies and a gladness which never saddens. Not only so, the Ephesian saints eminently succeeded in uniting patience with perseverance. They were not only patient in suffering, but patient in labour. They did not expect the morning to be spring and the evening to be autumn, but, having due regard to the plan of Divine procedure, combined in wise proportions the excitement of war with the patience of hope. The Ephesians were right: they blended persistence with patience, and were extolled by Him who knew the hardest toil, and exemplified the most unmurmuring endurance. The fundamental point is, that Christ knew all this. "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience." There is not a toiler in the vineyard on whose bent form the Master looks not with approbation. He sees the sufferer also. All that He observes influences His mediation, so that in every age "He tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb."

II. THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH MARKS EVERY DECLENSION OF PIETY. "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee." This method of reproof is eminently suggestive. It gives a lesson to parents. Would you be successful in reproving your children? Let commendation precede rebuke; let your "nevertheless" be winged with love and hope, and it will fly to the farthest boundary of your child's intellectual and moral nature, and showers of blessings will be shaken from those heavenly wings. It gives a lesson to pastors also. Our words of remonstrance or rebuke will be more successful as they are preceded by every acknowledgment which justice and generosity can suggest. When the Master is compelled, so to speak, to rebuke His Church, He proceeds as though He would gladly turn. The rebuke comes with a hesitation which did not mark the eulogy. He resorts to a negative form of statement — "Thou hast left thy first love." Look at the declension spoken of.

1. This declension is described as having begun in the heart. Christ does not charge the saints at Ephesus with having changed their doctrinal views; but, placing His finger on the heart, says, "There is a change here." You know the enthusiasm of "first love." If any work is to be done in the Church — if any difficulties are to be surmounted — if any icebergs are to be dissolved — if any cape, where savage seas revel in ungovernable madness, is to be rounded, send out men and women in whose hearts this " first love" burns and sings, and their brows will be girt with garlands of conquest. Our business, then, is to watch our heart-fires. When the temperature of our love lowers, there is cause for terror. It is instructive to mark the many and insidious influences by which the gush and swell of affection are modified. Take the case of one who has been distinguished for much service in the cause of God, and see how the fires pale. He becomes prosperous in business. His oblations on the altar of Mammon are costlier than ever. He toils in the service of self until his energies are nearly exhausted, and then his class in the school is neglected; the grass grows on his tract district; his nature has become so perverted that he almost longs for an occasion of offence, that he may retire from the duties of the religious life. Could you have heard him in the hour of his new-born joy, when he first placed his foot in God's kingdom, you would not have thought that he ever could have been reduced to so low a moral temperature. What holy vows escaped him! How rich he was in promise! But look at him now; turn the leaves over, and with eager eyes search for fruit, and say, Is the promise of spring redeemed in autumn? Innumerable influences are continually in operation, which would cool the ardour of our first enthusiasm for Christ. Satan plies us with his treacherous arts; the world allures us with its transitory charms; our inborn depravity reveals itself in ever-varying manifestations; pride and selfishness, ambition and luxury, appeal to us in many voices, and beckon us with a thousand hands.

2. This declension may be accompanied by an inveterate hatred of theological heresy — "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate." The head may be right while the heart is going in a wrong direction. I am indeed anxious that we should maintain a Scriptural theology, that we should "hold fast the form of sound words"; at the same time we must remember that a technical theology will never save a soul; and that a mere verbal creed will never protect and increase our love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. This declension evoked the most solemn warnings and exhortations.(1) The Church in its collective capacity may incur the Divine displeasure. There may be good individuals in the fellowship, yet the community as a whole may be under the frown of Him who "walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks."(2) The Church in its collective capacity must betake itself to repentance. This is evident when we remember that there is certain work properly denominated Church work. Take, for example, either home or foreign evangelisation. It is not my work solely as an individual to "go up and possess the land" of heathenism: but it is our work as a Church to carry the light of heaven into "the dark places of the earth." It can only be done by individuals, in so far as they are atoms in a fabric — parts of a whole. If, therefore, we have neglected to enter the door of opportunity as a Church, the cry of the angry Saviour is, "Repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly."(3) Jesus will unchurch every organisation that is unfaithful to His name; lie threatens to "remove thy candlestick out of his place." Such language may well make us pause. Organisation is not spiritual brotherhood. Tell me not of gorgeous temples, of skilful arrangements, of complete machinery; I tell you that you may have all these in an unparalleled degree, and yet "Ichabod" may be written on your temple doors! What is your spiritual life? Is your ecclesiastical mechanism the expression of your love?

III. THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH HAS THE RICHEST BLESSINGS IN RESERVE FOR ALL WHO OVERCOME THEIR SPIRITUAL ENEMIES. "Overcometh" — the word tells of battle and victory. There is intimation here of an enemy. There is a hell in this word, and in it there is a devil. That your spiritual life is a fight you need not be reminded: every day you are in the battle-field; you live by strife. "Eat" — the word tells of appetite. Desire is in this word, and desire satisfied. Our desire for more of God shall increase as the ages of our immortality expire, and yet increasing desire is but another way of saying increasing satisfaction. "The tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." It is but little we can say concerning such a tree: no worm is gnawing at its root, no serpent coils around its stem, no sere leaf trembles upon it as the prophet a coming winter; its every leaf is jewelled with purer dew than ever sparkled on the eyelids of the morning. A tree! 'Tis but another word for beauty, for beauty walks forth in ever-varying manifestations. A tree! 'Tis but another name for progress, for the circling sap bears through every fibre life and fruitfulness. A tree! Shall we assemble around that central tree? We cannot do so until we have assembled around the Cross.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. Those which concern HIMSELF.

1. His relation to the Church.

2. His knowledge of the Church. He knows not merely overt acts, but inner motives.

II. Those which concern the CONGREGATION.

1. He credits them with the good they possess.

(1)Their repugnance to wrong.

(2)Their patience in toil.

(3)Their insight into character.

(4)Their hostility to error.

2. He reproves them for the declension they manifest.

3. He urges them to reform.

III. Those which concern the DIVINE SPIRIT.

1. The Divine Spirit makes communication to all the Churches.

2. Proper attention to these communications requires a certain ear.

IV. Those which concern MORAL. CONQUERORS.

1. Life is a battle.

2. Life is a battle that may be won

3. The winning of the battle is glorious.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. OPPOSITION TO ERROR.

1. The origin of religious error is often involved in great obscurity.

2. The manifestation of religious error is in deeds as well as doctrines. There are those, alas l who are orthodox in doctrine, but corrupt in character. Why is this?(1) Because the sound doctrine remains in the head, and never enters the heart, and the heart is the spring of action.(2) Because sometimes the tempting spirit suddenly excites impulses which for a time bury the beliefs.

3. The defence of religious error is generally by an appeal to Divine authority. The men who set themselves up as "apostles" are more likely to be apostates.

4. The dissemination of religious error is often very rapid.(1) Because human nature in its depraved state has a greater affinity for it than for truth.(2) Because religious errorists are generally zealous propagandists.

5. The very existence of religious error should be hated by Christians. Nothing is more damning to the intellect, heart, soul.

II. PATIENT ENDURANCE. It needed patience —

1. Because it had to disseminate truth. The stupidity, prejudices, and indifferentism of men call for this.

2. Because it has to encounter opposition.

3. Because patience is necessary to wait. The results of Christian labour are not reached at once, and are seldom so manifest as to compensate the labour expended.

III. THE DECAY OF LOVE.

1. "Remember." Review the past, and call to mind the sweet, delicate, blooming affection of thy first love, with all the fresh joys and hopes it awakened.

2. "Repent." This does not mean crying, weeping, confessing, and throwing yourself into ecstasies, but a change in the spirit and purpose of life.

3. "Reproduce" — "do thy first work." Go over thy past life, reproduce the old feeling, and re-attempt old effort.

4. "Tremble." Let declension go on, and ruin is inevitable.

(Caleb Morris.)

I. THAT THE CHURCH WHICH IS DECLINING IN MORAL ENTHUSIASM MAY BE CHARACTERISED BY MANY COMMENDABLE EXCELLENCES.

1. This Church was active in work. Ministerial and Church work ought to be labour — so earnest in its spirit and determined in its effort that it shall not be mere occupation, but a moral anxiety.

2. This Church was patient in suffering. The Church, in our own time, has great need of this virtue, to prayerfully await the culmination of all its purposes, when its victory shall be complete and its enthronement final. We have far too many impatient men in the Christian community who cannot bear reproach or impediment.

3. This Church was keen and true in moral sensibility. The world delights in calling the Church intolerant, how can it be otherwise of evil? It cannot smile upon moral wrong.

4. It was judicious in the selection of its officials. Who these false apostles were we cannot determine; suffice it to say that their credentials were examined and found defective. Such deceivers have existed in all ages of the Church, and have become the authors of innumerable heresies. Christians should always test the conduct and doctrine of those whose pretences are great, and who seek to obtain authority amongst them; as men will even lie in reference to the most sacred things of life, and as zeal is not the only qualification for moral service.

5. It was inspired by the name of Christ. His name is influential with the pious soul, because it is the source of all its good and hope.

II. THAT THE CHURCH WHICH IS DECLINING IN MORAL ENTHUSIASM IS IN A MOST SERIOUS CONDITION, AND INVITES THE DIVINE REBUKE.

1. In what may the first love, or moral enthusiasm of the Church, be said to consist? It is, indeed, sad when the Church is beautiful in the face but cold at the heart.

2. What is it for a Church to decline in first love or moral enthusiasm?

3. What is it that occasions a decline in first love or moral enthusiasm?

4. What is it that Christ has against the Church which declines in first love or moral enthusiasm? He regards such a Church as neglectful of great privileges; as guilty of sad ingratitude; as inexcusable in its conduct; and earnestly calls upon it to repent and do its first works.

III. THAT THE CHURCH DECLINING, IN MORAL ENTHUSIASM MUST EARNESTLY SEEK THE RENEWAL OF ITS FERVOUR.

1. A Church in such a condition must have a vivid remembrance of its past glory.

2. A Church in such a condition must have deep contrition of soul.

3. A Church in such a condition must repeat the loving activities of its new and early life.

IV. THAT THE CHURCH NEGLECTING TO REGAIN THE MORAL ENTHUSIASM OF ITS EARLY LIFE WILL MEET WITH TERRIBLE RETRIBUTION.

1. The retribution of such a Church will consist in the solemn visitation of Christ. It means affliction — it may be judgment.

2. The retribution of such a Church will consist in woful obliteration.

V. THAT THE CHURCH DECLINING IN MORAL ENTHUSIASM SHOULD GIVE TIMELY HEED TO THE THREATENED RETRIBUTIONS OF GOD. Lessons:

1. That the Church is surrounded by many hostile influences.

2. That the Church should, above all things, seek to retain its moral enthusiasm.

3. That the discipline of heaven toward the Church is for its moral welfare, but, if not attended to, will issue in great dejection.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

These things saith He who holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst
I. WHY IS THE CHURCH CALLED A CANDLESTICK?

1. A. candlestick hath no light in it of itself, but light must be put into it: and therefore in the case of the candlestick under the law, to which this here is an allusion, the priests were to light the candles.

2. The use of a candlestick is for no other end than to hold up and hold out the light, and to this very end the Lord hath instituted Churches.

3. A candlestick is a thing movable, and with the removing of the candlestick you carry away the light; the Lord removes the candlestick from place to place; though the land remain, the Church is gone, that is a dangerous judgment: not only an immediate removing of the ordinances, but of the Church, for which all ordinances were appointed; the kingdom of God shall be taken from them.

4. It is an allusion unto the candlestick under the law in the tabernacle, in Exodus 25:31, which was a type of the Church of God.

II. WHY IS THE CHURCH CALLED A GOLDEN CANDLESTICK?

1. Because gold is the purest metal, and the Lord will have His Church such; they shall differ as much from other men as gold doth from the common clay in the streets.

2. Because gold of all metals is the most precious, and of the highest esteem; there is as much difference between the Church of God and other men as there is between gold and dirt in the street; as between diamonds and pebbles in the Lord's esteem.

III. How IS CHRIST SAID TO WALK IN THE MIDST OF THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK? It denotes a promise of especial presence and fellowship; this is the promise that the Lord made unto the Jews (Leviticus 26:12).

1. There is a gracious presence of Christ with His Church in all Church administrations.

2. There is the great glory of God to be seen in heaven; and you shall find that there is a great resemblance between His presence in His Church and in glory (Hebrews 12:22, 23).(1) Christ in heaven is present in majesty and glory; it is called the throne of His glory, and such is His presence in His Church too, and therefore observe it, He is said to sit upon a high throne in the midst of His Churches (Revelation 4:8).(2) In heaven the Lord is present as revealing His mind and will unto His people; there we shall know as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12), and so He is present in the midst of His people (Deuteronomy 23:3).(3) In heaven there shall be a glorious and full communication of all grace; as your communion shall then be perfect with Him, so shall the communication of all His grace be to you.(4) In heaven the soul is wholly as it were resolved into God, that is, God wholly takes up the whole soul.(5) In heaven there is the presence of His saints and angels. Application:

1. How should this command reverence in every soul of you when you come to have to do with any Church administrations!

2. Is there such a gracious presence of Christ in Gospel administrations, labour to see it there, labour to have your souls affected with the spiritual presence or absence of Christ there.

3. Remember Christ is present, but He is present in holiness.

4. Take notice He is present in jealousy.(1) If you come at an adventure with God in Church administrations, the greatest temporal judgments shall be inflicted upon yon (Ezekiel 10:2).(2) If the Lord spare you in temporal judgments, He will pour out spiritual judgments.

(Wm. Strong.)

I. THE CHURCHES AND THEIR SERVANTS. I see in the relations between these men and the little communities to which they belonged, an example of what should be found existing between all congregations of faithful men and the officers whom they have chosen, be the form of their polity what it may.

1. The messengers are rulers. They are described in a double manner — by a name which expresses subordination, and by a figure which expresses authority. The higher are exalted that they may serve the lower. Dignity and authority mean liberty for more and more self-forgetting work. Power binds its possessor to toil. Wisdom is stored in one, that from him it may flow to the foolish; strength is given that by its holder feeble hands may be stayed. Noblesse oblige. The King Himself has obeyed the law. We are redeemed because He came to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many. He is among us "as He that serveth." God Himself has obeyed the law. He is above all that He may bless all. He, the highest, stoops the most deeply. His dominion is built on love, and stands in giving. And that law which makes the throne of God the refuge of all the weak, and the treasury of all the poor, is given for our guidance in our humble measure. But to be servant of all does not mean to do the bidding of all. The service which imitates Christ is helpfulness, not subjection. Neither the Church is to lord it over the messenger nor the messenger over the Church. All alike are by love to serve one another; counting every possession, material, intellectual, and spiritual, as given for the general good. The one guiding principle is, "He that is chiefest among you, let him be your servant," and the other, which guards this from misconstruction and abuse from either side, "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren."

2. The messengers and the Churches have at bottom the same work to do. Stars shine, so do lamps. Light comes from both, in different fashion indeed, and of a different quality, but still both are lights. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for the same purpose, — to do good with. And we have all one office and function to be discharged by each in his own fashion — namely, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus.

3. The Churches and their messengers are alike in their religious condition and character. The successive letters treat his strength or weakness, his fervour or coldness, his sin or victory over evil, as being theirs. He represents them completely. Is it not true that the religious condition of a Church, and that of its leaders, teachers, pastors, ever tend to be the same, as that of the level of water in two connected vessels? Thank God for the many instances in which one glowing soul, all aflame with love of God, has sufficed to kindle a whole heap of dead matter, and send it leaping skyward in ruddy brightness! Alas! for the many instances in which the wet green wood has been too strong for the little spark, and has not only obstinately resisted, but has ignominiously quenched its ineffectual fire!

II. THE CHURCHES AND THEIR WORK.

1. The Church is to be light.(1) "Light is light, which circulates." The substance which is lit cannot but shins; and if we have any real possession of the truth, we cannot but impart it; and if we have any real illumination from the Lord, who is the light, we cannot but give it forth.(2) Then think again how silent and gentle, though so mighty, is the action of the light. So should we live and work, clothing all our power in tenderness, doing our work in quietness, disturbing nothing but the darkness, and with silent increase of beneficent power filling and flooding the dark earth with healing beams.(3) Then think again that heaven's light itself invisible, and revealing all things, reveals not itself. The source you can see, but not the beams. So we are to shine, not showing ourselves but our master.

2. The Church's light is derived light. Two things are needed for the burning of a lamp: that it should be lit, and that it should be fed. In both respects the light with which we shine is derived. We are not suns, we are moons; reflected, not self-originated, is all our radiance. That is true in all senses of the figure: it is truest in the highest. In ourselves we are darkness, and only as we hold fellowship with Christ do we become capable of giving forth any rays of light. He is the source, we are but reservoirs. He the fountain, we only cisterns. He must walk amidst the candlesticks, or they will never shine. Their lamps had gone out, and their end was darkness. Oh! let us beware lest by any sloth and sin we choke the golden pipes through which there steals into our tiny lamps the soft flow of that Divine oil which alone can keep up the flame.

3. The Church's light is blended or clustered light. Union of heart, union of effort is commended to us by this symbol of our text. The great law is, work together if you would work with strength. To separate ourselves from our brethren is to lose power. Why, half dead brands heaped close will kindle one another, and flame will sparkle beneath the film of white ashes on their edges. Fling them apart and they go out. Rake them together and they glow.

III. THE CHURCHES AND THEIR LORD. He it is who holds the stars in His right hand, and walks among the candlesticks. The symbols ere but the pictorial equivalent of His own parting promise, "Lo, I am with you always"! That presence is a plain literal fact, however feebly we lay hold of it. It is not to be watered down into a strong expression for the abiding influence of Christ's teaching or example, nor even to mean the constant benefits which flow to us from His work, nor the presence of His loving thoughts with us. The presence of Christ with His Church is analogous to the Divine presence in the material universe. As in it, the presence of God is the condition of all life; and if He were not here, there were no beings and no "here": so in the Church, Christ's presence constitutes and sustains it, and without Him it would cease. So St. says, "Where Christ, there the Church." For what purpose is He there with His Churches? The text assures us that it is to hold up and to bless. His unwearied hand sustains, His unceasing activity moves among them. But beyond these purposes, or rather included in them, the vision of which the text is the interpretation brings into great prominence the thought that He is with us to observe, to judge, and, if need be, to punish. Thank God for the chastising presence of Christ. He loves us too well not to smite us when we need it. He will not be so cruelly kind, so foolishly fond, as in any wise to suffer sin upon us. Better the eye of fire than the averted face. He loves us still, and has not cast us away from His presence. Nor let us forget how much of hope and encouragement lies in the examples, which these seven Churches afford, of His long-suffering patience. That presence was granted to them all, the best and the worst, — the decaying love of Ephesus, the licentious heresies of Pergamos and Thyatira, the all but total deadness of Sardis, and the self-satisfied indifference of Laodicea, concerning which even He could say nothing that was good. All had Him with them as really as the faithful Smyrna and the steadfast Philadelphia. We have no right to say with how much of theoretical error and practical sin the lingering presence of that patient pitying Lord may consist. For others our duty is the widest charity, — for ourselves the most careful watchfulness. For these seven Churches teach us another lesson — the possibility of quenched lamps and ruined shrines.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

care over Churches and ministers: —

I. WHAT IS MEANT BY OUR LORD'S HOLDING THE STARS, HIS MINISTERS, IN HIS HAND.

1. It implies that it is He who appoints them to their office.

2. It is He who imparts the qualifications which are necessary for the effectual discharge of their office.

3. They are, with all their concerns, at His absolute disposal.

II. THE IMPORT OF HIS WALKING IN THE MIDST OF THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICKS.

1. It imports an accurate impression of the state, both as a society and as individuals.

2. It implies that His business, so to speak, lies in the management of His Churches. It is His "building," His "husbandry."

3. It denotes the complacency He takes in them.

(R. Hall, M. A.)

The mention made of "stars" and "candlesticks" (or rather "lamp-stands") shows that it is night. It is the world's night; it is the Church's night. Day needs no lamps nor stars; night does both, for the outside earth and the inside chamber.

I. WHO IS HE THAT THUS WALKETH? It is as Priest and King that He appears in the midst of His Churches: as such they are to acknowledge Him. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we see Him specially as Priest; in the Book of Revelation as King.

II. WHERE DOES HE WALK? Among the seven golden candlesticks.

III. WHAT DOES THIS WALKING MEAN?

1. He is near. A present Christ is specially taught us here — Jesus in the midst of His saints and His Churches. He is near to all of them, even the backsliding; as near to Laodicea and Sardis as to Ephesus and Philadelphia.

2. He watches over them. "I know thy works." His eye, the eye of the watchful Priest and King, the eye of the watchful Saviour and Shepherd, is upon them. He inspects them, oversees them, cares for them, values them, delights in them, takes all interest in their welfare.

3. He supplies their need. All His fulness is at hand for each of them.

4. He mourns over their sins. His holy eye detects the sin; His loving heart mourns over it. There is no anger, no fury here. All is gentleness and grace.

5. He cheers them with the promise of victory and recompense. As if He would say to each, "Fight on, for I am with you; faint not, for I, with all My fulness, am near. Shine on, for I delight in your brightness, and will enable you to shine. And My reward is with Me: to him that overcometh!"

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience
1. Christ would have us always walking in the sense of His Omniscience.

2. Christ is an unprejudged witness, as Its taketh notice of their good as well as their evil.

3. Such as Christ never called, may take on them highest titles in the Church, as it seemeth these had who called themselves apostles.

4. That diligence in duty, and difficulty in the performance of it, often go together: to do and to bear are often joined.

5. Patience in suffering, and impatience against corruptions and corrupt men, can well stand together.

6. There is no name, privilege, or title that should scare people, especially the ministers of God, from searching or trying corrupt men, that bring corrupt doctrine, though they should have the pretext of apostles, and had never so great gifts.

7. If folks will put to proof many things and persons that have fair names, they will be found very unlike the names they take.

8. The censuring of corrupt unsent ministers is a most difficult task, what from their nature, and sometimes from their parts; what from the addictedness of many unto them, yet it is a special duty: yet that it is acceptable before Jesus Christ may appear from these considerations.(1) That the Scripture holdeth forth no kind of persons as more abominable in themselves and more hateful to Him (Isaiah 56:10).(2) There is no kind of persons that prove more dishonourable to our Lord Jesus and to His gospel than such: these make the law to be despised.(3) The scandalous unfaithfulness of ministers brings a special blot upon all religion, as if it were but mere hypocrisy.(4) There is no such contempt done to our Lord Jesus, as for one to pretend to have commission from Him; and yet to be running unsent by Him; or, having gotten commission, to miscarry by unfaithfulness in it.(5) As there is a suitableness in the censuring of such Church-officers to Christ's mind, so there doth appear in the same a tenderness of and zeal unto His glory. Hence it is, that His most zealous servants, as Elias, Paul, did set themselves most against that generation.(6) There is no sort of men more hurtful to the Church.(7) Not only is there an obstruction to godliness by such, but they have a main influence upon the advancing of profanity.

(James Durham.)

1. Jesus likes to see a Church at work. He does not like to see a Church standing still, doing nothing to lengthen its cords and strengthen its stakes. It is our duty to ask ourselves, Does our work as a Church come up to the standard of what a Christian Church ought to be?

2. He likes also to see His people patient. He likes to see them labouring and not fainting, not becoming weary in well-doing. He likes to see them continuing instant in prayer, depending on Him to send the answer in His own good time.

3. Then, also, He likes to see within His Church a zeal for truth. "Thou canst not bear them which are evil." The dread of being thought narrow-minded, or of giving offence to the godless, makes the Church become far too tolerant of sin. No society of men is considered strict or narrow-minded if it has certain rules of membership, and if it expels those who violate its rules. Why should the Christian Church be afraid or ashamed to maintain a discipline which even the societies of the world will carry out? Let us try to imitate the Church of Ephesus in this — and let us not be afraid of the charge of intolerance in doing so — that we cannot bear them who are evil.

(C. H. Irwin, M. A.)

The new creature is not a marble statue or a transparent piece of crystal, which has purity but not life. It is a living spirit, and therefore active.

(S. Charnock.)

Patience must not be an inch shorter than affliction. If the bridge reach but half way over the brook, we shall have but an ill-favoured passage.

(T. Adams.)

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars
What a dangerous and mischievous people false teachers and false apostles are. They do deceive men in the matter of their souls; they are called deceivers and seducers (John 2:7; 2 Timothy 3:13), and deceitful workers (2 Corinthians 11:13, 6). Now a man loves not to be deceived in anything, no, not in a small matter. If I had spent or given away much more, it would never have grieved me, you say; but I cannot endure to be cheated and deceived. And if a man cannot endure to be deceived in lesser things, what an evil thing is it then to be deceived in the matters of his soul? Such are the things that these false teachers do deceive men in; yea, they will and do subvert men's faith, and spoil them of the very fundamentals of their religion. Though they be a dangerous and mischievous people, yet it is an hard thing to discover them, for they walk in the dark, and transform themselves into ministers of light; they creep, and they privily creep into houses, saith the apostle; and they will come to you, saith our Saviour, in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15). That is, look whatever garb the true prophet was or is found in, that will they be found in also. Did the true apostles preach Christ? so did the false apostles also (Philippians 1:15, 167. Did the true apostles and prophets declare the deep things of God? (1 Corinthians 2:10), so did the false prophets also (chap. Revelation 2:24). Look what that is which the true preachers do, that will false teachers in appearance do. The same crow of iron, the same scripture that is in the hand of a friend, is made use of by a heretic, one that is a thief, who comes to make a prey of your faith. All teachers are to be tried three ways. By their call; their doctrine; their fruits or lives. And thus you see how those that are false apostles, or false teachers, may be tried and discovered. And is it a commendable thing in the eyes of Christ to make discovery of them? That it is the special work of Church officers to try and discover false teachers; for this epistle is directed to the angel of the Church of Ephesus. But though it is their work especially, yet it is a work incumbent upon all the saints and Churches. Therefore, yet more practically, go to God for wisdom and the spirit of discerning; it is Christ alone that doth see men's fruit under all their leaves: beg this discerning spirit, therefore, at the hands of Christ. Take heed that you do not lie in any sin or error, for all sin and error blinds. How shall you see the error of another, if you be blinded with your own sin and error? Be sure that you keep to the Scripture, and take heed that you do not judge of doctrines by impressions. Take heed that you have not too great a charity towards, and opinion of, those that are suspected to be false teachers. And. if you would be sure to make up a right judgment in this great discovery, then stay your time, and wait long before you close with any of their opinions; for saith Christ, Ye shall know them by their fruit. Now the fruit of a tree is not presently seen; an ill tree in winter may seem to be as good as the best: stay therefore your time.

(W. Bridge, M. A.)

This hate (of evil) in as essential to true love as shade to light, ever deepening with the intensity of it.

(Isaac Williams.)

For My name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted
I. THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE GOOD HERE COMBINED.

1. "Thou hast laboured." To labour means hard work, vigorous action. Men may work, but yet not labour, and I fear there are many who claim to be working men who do not often trouble themselves with anything approaching to "labour." There are also working Christians who do not approach to labouring; yet a lifetime of such work as theirs would not exhaust a butterfly. Now, when a man works for Christ he should work with all his might. If any master is to be served badly, let it not be our Master who is in heaven: we owe Him too much to wish to be eyeservants towards Him. If anywhere a dilatory servant may be excused, certainly it cannot be in the service of Him who redeemed us with His most precious blood. If I may use the figure, we ought to employ every particle of our steam power: we should drive the engine at high pressure; we have no force that can be allowed to escape in waste. But labour implies not merely strong effort, but a continuance of it, for a man might take up a workman's tool and for a few minutes make a mighty show of effort, and yet be no labourer, unless he kept on working until his task was done. He merely plays at labour, that is all. So have we known too many whose service for God has been occasional; fits and starts of effort they have, but they are soon over; their spasmodic zeal is to-day so hot as to be well nigh fanatical, and to-morrow it will be succeeded by an indifference far more astounding. If the Church is said to labour, it means that she puts forth all her strength as a regular thing. Like the sun and moon she continues in her orbit of duty. She keeps at her life-work; with all her might she continues in well-doing, and is not weary. There is the positive good.

2. The negative crowns the positive — "And hast not fainted." Now, there are different degrees of fainting. Some may be said to faint comparatively when they flag in exertion. They drop from running to walking, from diligence to indolence. They did run well; what did hinder them? Many continue to do as much as ever they did outwardly, yet their heart is not in it, and so they faint. Some flag by growing weak in all they do. They do put forth such force as they have, but they are essentially feeble. The power of God has departed from them, and, though they may not know it, Ichabod is written upon their works. Too many go further than this; they renounce all or a large part of the Christian work they were accustomed to do. Content with the efforts of other days they surrender to the sluggard's vice. And some go even further than that, for after retiring from labour themselves, they cease to have any care about the Lord's work.

II. EXCUSES FOR FAINTING.

1. There are some who faint in the work of God because the work itself has proved very tedious to them. When they first undertook it and the novelty was upon it they did not tire, but now the freshness is gone, and they have come into the real wear and tear of it, they do not enjoy it quite so much as they thought they should. They hoped for an office in which the chief labour should be to gather lilies, or lie upon beds of roses. The service of the Crucified is far less romantic, and far more laborious. There is no royal road to eminence in anything, it is always uphill work and rough climbing; and certainly there is no such road in the service of God.

2. Other excuses, however, will be sure to come, and amongst them this, that we have been disappointed up till now in the success of what we have attempted. We have sown, but the most of the seed has fallen upon the wayside, or upon the rocks. We must not give up the war because we have not conquered yet, but fight on till we can seize the victory. Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.

3. Another set of excuses I must mention. They are little, pettish, pitiful, proud excuses, but they are very common. Here is one. "I shall leave the work, for I am sure I am not appreciated as I ought to be." Do you mean to give way to such pettiness and silliness? If so, I have done with you, for you will never do any good in this world. The slave of such a mean feeling is incapable of being free. "Ah," cries another, "my complaint is more reasonable, for I am discouraged because no one aids me in my work." Oh, my brother, does your life after all depend upon the breath of other men's nostrils? Has it come to this, that you cannot live upon the approbation of your master unless you gain also the smile of your fellow-servants?

III. THE REAL CAUSES OF FAINTING.

1. The first is an actual decline in spiritual strength. It is not merely that you do not do so much, it is that you are not so much; you have not the amount of life in you which you once had. And is not this a sad thing? Oh, to be dead to these spiritual realities in any degree is a dreadful death, and to be callous to holy things is a terrible hardness. May God keep us from spiritual insensibility, and may we be sensitive to the faintest motion of the Holy Spirit.

2. It is to be feared, also, that those who faint have lost their reliance upon Divine power, at least in a degree. Confidence in God makes us strong, but by turning away from our great unseen Helper, we straightway begin to faint.

3. Moreover, I am afraid that we forget that the Lord requires of us an unselfish dedication to His service, and that we do not serve Him at all unless His glory is our chief object. You must feel that you would have the Lord use you just as in His infinite wisdom He sees fit to do. You should be a piece of iron on the Almighty's anvil: to be welded into a sceptre, if He chooses with you to break the potter's vessels; to be beaten into a ploughshare and plunged into the earth, if by you He means to turn up the furrows of the fallow ground; or fashioned into a spear-point, if by you He intends to smite His enemies.

IV. I have A LITTLE MEDICAL BUSINESS to do in closing. Four sorts of persons are very common among us. To each of these four I desire to administer a little medicine.

1. There are some who neither labour nor faint.

2. The next sort of persons to be dealt with are those who faint but do not labour.

3. Our third patient is one who did labour once, but has fainted.

4. But there are some who labour and are ready to faint.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

To lift up some heavy weight from the ground argues some strength; but to carry it for an hour, or all day, is a more perfect thing.

(Thomas Manton.)

Thou hast left thy first love
Does it not often happen in the Christian life that the soul retains earnestness, patience, truth, endurance, a hatred of evil, long after it has left its first love; that its religious service is continued, apparently unaltered, while the spirit that prompted that service is changed for the worse? But though love is altered, there may yet remain the sense of duty. None without can detect the difference. The soul itself is perhaps hardly conscious of it. Or if conscious of anything, it is that prayer is not so easy and pleasant as it used to be, that the thoughts are more wandering, that temptation is more attractive, and thanksgiving is irksome, unreal, and unblessed. The whole tendency of our being is to deteriorate. Most of us can remember a time at which we think we were more fit to die than we are now. Our self-examination has told us that we are not now what we were; and perhaps self-examination was hardly necessary for the acquirement of this knowledge. It is forced upon us continually throughout the day as we feel and act so coldly towards good, so readily and kindly towards evil. Now if it be really that we have fallen back only one step in faith and love, if we have left our first love, what must we do? We must struggle against the languor which threatens to benumb us. We must struggle with all our might, not giving up any one duty merely because it is irksome. This may not indeed be restoration, but it will at least maintain that communication with the Source of all strength by which restoration may be looked for. When we have realised what we once were, and reflect that by God's grace we might have lived the rest of our lives according to that beginning, and neared the goal in the heavenward race, then we may be able to measure our decline, and, weeping over what we have lost, pray for grace to regain it. "And repent." Yes I this must be, We will not trust in that which remains, in our hatred of the worst sins, in sympathy with Him, not in our works, or our labour, or our patience, our distrust of false teachers, our perseverance under trial. These are nothing without love. We will confess that other lords besides Him have had dominion over us. We will confess that we have left our first love, and implore Him to recover us, and turn our hearts.

(W. Mitchell, M. A.)

I. WHAT IS IT? Most of us can probably remember an early enthusiastic preference or affection for some one. It was like nothing else in our lives. It stirred in us as the spring stirs in the earth when the green shoots appear. New capacities of working, enjoying, suffering, began to reveal themselves. Now, the same thing happens when Christ and His love are first revealed to us, and we rise up and meet them. It is an absolutely new experience. We feel an intense interest and a strong drawing of the heart. Spiritual things which seemed far off have suddenly come near. Life has become of meaning and value, not so much for what it brings to us, as for what it is; because it has become so full of love and of God. And we feel within us the working of a new passion — a yearning to do good, to sacrifice ourselves in some way, to make some return to that wonderful Divine love which seems to surround us like an atmosphere and lift us like an inspiration. It is so easy to do right; it seems shameful, almost impossible, to do wrong; we could not be so disloyal as to think of any forbidden thing, and a keen remorse seizes us if we appear to swerve by a hairbreadth from the straight path. In this first love, where vividly experienced, there are these three elements — an awakening, an enthusiasm, and a jealous preference. We realise God; we realise life; we realise the claims of men, the beauty of goodness, the baseness of sin, the triumphant power of righteousness, and the wide, deep meaning of eternity. But this love is not mere contemplation. We are eager to act in the light of this revelation, because all these beliefs are full of conviction and impulse, and we must do something for the Christ who has made all things new — who has given us a possession in all things, and, above all, a possession in Himself. That is the enthusiasm of the first love. But love is not love unless it is jealous — jealous not in a mean, but in a high sense — jealous of any interference with its course. Nothing can be tolerated which takes the edge off the soul, that keen edge which ensures success in work and conflict and prayer.

II. LOSING IT, OR RATHER LEAVING IT. Sometimes a man looks back on the first love he felt to Christ with philosophic indifference: "Yes, I was rather interested in these things at one time — enthusiastic even after a fashion. Very curious, you know, how the mind works; I can scarcely credit it now. Oh, one of those passing phases of feeling, of course." Sometimes a man looks back to it scoffingly or contemptuously: "I believe I did once rather make a fool of myself about religion. I have got more important things now to attend to." Others assume a tone of self-congratulation. They narrate how they threw themselves into this piece of work or that; how there was nothing they would not do. A man plumes himself on the fact that, though, of course, he would never think of making sacrifices and exerting himself in Christ's cause now, that at one time he was just as active and self-denying as any ardent young Christian. Others I have known look back despairingly: "Yes, I once had these experiences you speak of — hopes bright beyond expression, and feelings fresh as the dawn. But the light is gone; the tide has ebbed, and won't flow again. I would that these feelings could come back, but we don't look for miracles nowadays." That is what some people say despairingly. Now the ways by which men generally forfeit their best spiritual possession are mainly these: Failure to feed it. All love is hungry, and the finer and purer a love is, the more it demands suitable nutriment. If your first love shows signs of failing, ask yourself, "Am I not starving it?" You are starving it if you are not seeking Christ as you sought Him at first, asking Him to reveal Himself to you; setting apart "still hours"; letting your heart go out to the only object to whom it is quite worth while for our hearts to cling. Or again, perhaps you are failing to develop your first love-to give it exercise. What sacrifices is your love making? what is it bringing to the Divine loved one's feet? Once more, you may be forfeiting your first love through failure to guard it. There is a keen spiritual edge with which all the best part of spiritual work is done. We must whet the edge; but we must also sheathe it. In contact with certain things it gets blunt.

III. KEEPING FIRST LOVE. There are two theories about love that are thoroughly false — the theory of disenchantment and the theory of emotional exhaustion. Sometimes we are told that all love in its very nature is illusion; that our enthusiasm for a person or cause is very largely a creation of our own fond imagination; and that the cold touch of reality slowly dispels all that sort of thing. This is the philosophy of the cynics, and cynics are a set of fools, blinded by the conceit of their own superior wisdom. Of course there is excuse for disenchantment when the object of our affection changes, or when we have been deceived in it. But that cannot happen here; Christ does not change. And then as to what may be called emotional exhaustion. Love necessarily exhausting itself! what ignorant nonsense! Why, love grows by what it feeds on. And to love Christ is to keep near the fresh fount of all love. It is not an emptying of our full hearts; it is a filling of our empty hearts. Of course the Divine love — the first love — is not stereotyped. It does not retain always the same complexion or the same expressions, but it retains, or ought to retain, the same intensity. All love passes through phases, and develops not by standing still, but by moving forward. It is not meant that our first love to Christ should retain its juvenile form. But it is meant that it should retain its ardour, its capacity of sacrifice, and its jealous watchfulness.

(John F. Ewing, M. A.)

The prominent characteristic of every soul truly converted to Christianity is love to the Saviour. The faith which is the gift of God, and which is wrought in Christians by the Holy Spirit, always works by love. Love is, therefore, set down as the first and principal fruit of the Spirit. Now, there is something peculiar in the exercise of this first love of the young convert.

1. Its exercise is fervent and tender, not founded, indeed, on such accurate views of the character of Christ as are afterwards acquired; and commonly less pure from mere animal excitement, than that of the mature Christian, but accompanied with more joy and exultation.

2. Another thing which stamps a peculiarity on the first love of the Christian is the novelty of the objects and scenes which are now presented to his enlightened mind. All his lifetime he has been in darkness respecting the true nature of spiritual things. But now the eyes of his understanding being opened, and the true light shining into them, everything appears new and attractive; and sometimes a Divine glory is exhibited to the contemplation of the enlightened mind.

3. Again, God deals with His children in the infancy of their spiritual life as mothers with their children while they are young. They furnish them with the sweetest nutriment, cherish them in their bosoms, carry them in their arms, and rock them in the cradle. But when they have been weaned, and have grown strong, they are turned out to shift for themselves. Thus, our heavenly Father, who exercises a warmer and tenderer affection for His children than the kindest mothers, is pleased to deal very tenderly with young converts; and often pours streams of Divine comfort into their susceptible hearts. They are for a season led in smooth and pleasant paths. In their prayers and other religious exercises they enjoy liberty of access to their heavenly Father. These are indeed halcyon days, and will be often afterwards remembered with a mournful pleasure, when the scene is greatly changed; and especially when inbred corruption grows strong. The early days of the true Christian may also be well illustrated by the feelings of the newly enlisted soldier. He rejoices in the "pomp and circumstance" of the military life; is animated by the sound of martial music, and by the sight of splendid banners, and the gorgeous costume of his officers. But how different are the condition and feelings of the same person when he receives marching orders; and especially when he is led into battle.

(A. Alexander, D. D.)

I. A REPROOF. Who does not lament to see an exquisite piece of workmanship marred by some one defect; for in this case, the neighbourhood and prominency of the excellency renders the fault more obvious, and more offensive. Everything in the Divine life is prone to degenerate. Where is the denomination or church that has long remained in its glory? But the reproof is addressed to individuals. There were those who had fallen, and the charge is-dereliction of their first love. Now in Christianity provision is made not only for a believer's perseverance in the ways of God, but for his growth and progress. "Add to your faith, virtue," etc. And as the Saviour demands this, so you must acknowledge that He deserves it; and why, do you love Him the less and serve Him less. "What," says he, "have you been mistaken in my character, have I injured you; have I not been increasing my claims upon you; and while I am doing more for you, are you doing less for me?"

II. AN ADMONITION.

1. "Remember." All religion commences in serious thought. There is nothing more useful than self-recollection; there is no means better for reviving the soul than a review of former experiences.

2. "Repent." This is enjoined in Scripture not only on sinners, but also on saints; and they will be the subjects of it as long as they remain in the world, as long as the performance of duty has deficiency in it.

3. Renewed obedience, "do the first works"; begin again, be as simple, as earnest, as patient, as circumspect, as at first. How mortifying would be such a requisition to an Israelite in the wilderness, to be turned back to walk over all his journey again; — how mortifying to an apprentice, after being for years engaged in business, expecting to get forward, to be put back to his first work, and to have the first rough implements put into his hands again; — how mortifying to a scholar when hoping to be dismissed from his studies, and to return home, to be led back from class to class, and have the first elementary book again put into his hands.

III. A THREATENING.

1. How are we to understand this threatening? how is it to be accomplished? It is accomplished when men tall into such languor and insensibility in Divine things as to be incapable of edification. If a man cannot use aliment, or it he cannot digest it, it is the same as if it was taken away, for he will surely die; and such is the condition of thousands who, from week to week, hear the gospel; it makes no impression, they hear it, but they are sermon proof, heaven proof, and hell proof. The gospel is to them of no avail whatever.

2. The dreadfulness of this state. If God were from tiffs hour to declare that the sun should never rise again on this country, or that no rain should ever again drop upon the land, it would be an infinitely less judgment, than if he were to withdraw the gospel and the means of grace; for this judgment does not so much regard the body as the soul; or time so much as eternity. Some judgments are corrective, but this is penal. Some judgments are meant to convert, but this to destroy.

3. The certainty of this threatening. We are slow to believe. How superficial our belief is in this respect appears from the unsteadiness of our Christian practice. Surely if we believed we should be established; but when you hear such language as this, you are prone to suppose it never can be realised. It; will be necessary for me, therefore, to inform you, that he who has denounced this threatening is faithful. "God is not a man that He should lie, or the Son of Man that He should repent."

(W. Jay, M. A.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. A CHARGE PREFERRED. "Thou hast left thy first love."

1. What is meant by the first love? Ask the young convert, who, after having received the sentence of death in his conscience; after trembling under the curse of a broken law; after struggling in the bondage of darkness, doubt, and fear, has come forth under the leading of the Spirit, into the light, liberty, and joy of the gospel!

2. What then is it to leave this happy state? It is to let the heart grow cold and indifferent to Him whom we can never love enough! It is to lose the sweet enjoyment of privileges, and consider duty wearisome. It is to have services formal and ordinances barren. It is to have idols in the temple of the soul, so that the whole is not, as it ought to be, consecrated to the Lord.

II. WE HAVE AN ADMONITION GIVEN.

1. This admonition relates to the past. The Lord here calls the Ephesian Church to bring their past experience and character to mind. They had fallen. They had been once much higher in Christian standing than now. Their minds had been more elevated in holy and heavenly conceptions, and their practice more dignified and honourable. Then, leaving our first love to Christ is falling. Now, this is a state just the reverse of what a Christian's state ought to be.

2. This admonition relates to the present. "Repent!" seeing by a review of the past, to what danger the soul has been exposed; what guilt has been contracted; what honour and enjoyments have been lost; what injury has been done to religion; what injustice to Christ, the work of reformation must immediately begin.

3. This admonition relates to the future. "And do thy first works." All will be vain and unreal without this. There must be fruits meet for repentance, to prove it genuine.

III. A THREATENING DENOUNCED. Lessons:

1. It is possible for there to be many things commendable in Christians, and yet something to call for a solemn threatening, like that in our text.

2. It is evident that leaving our first love is very criminal in the sight of Christ.

3. The removal of the gospel from souls in any way is a most awful punishment.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. CHRIST PERCEIVES.

1. He does not so perceive the faults as to be forgetful of that which He can admire and accept. He has a keen eye for all that is good. When He searches our hearts He never passes by the faintest longing, or desire, or faith, or love, of any of His people. He says, "I know thy works."

2. But this is our point, that while Jesus can see all that is good, yet in very faithfulness He sees all that is evil. His love is not blind. It is more necessary for us that we should make a discovery of our faults than of our virtues.

3. This evil was a very serious one; it was love declining. It is the most serious ill of all; for the Church is the bride of Christ, and for a bride to fail in love is to fail in all things.

4. It was Jesus Himself who found it out. How good of Him to care one jot about our love! This is no complaint of an enemy, but of a wounded friend.

5. Jesus found it out with great pain.

6. The Saviour, having thus seen this with pain, now points it out.

7. The Saviour pointed out the failure of love; and when He pointed it out He called it by a lamentable name. "Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen."

8. The Master evidently counts this decline of love to be a personal wrong done to Himself. "I have somewhat against thee." It is an offence against the very heart of Christ.

II. WHAT THE SAVIOUR PRESCRIBES.

1. The first word is Remember. "Thou hast left thy first love." Remember, then, what thy first love was, and compare thy present condition with it. At first nothing diverted thee from thy Lord. He was thy life, thy love, thy joy. Remember from whence thou art fallen. Remember the vows, the tears, the communings, the happy raptures of those days; remember and compare with them thy present state. Remember and consider, that when thou wast in thy first love, that love was none too warm. Even then, when thou didst live to Him, and for Him, and with Him, thou wast none too holy, none too consecrated, none too zealous. Remember the past with sad forebodings of the future. He who has sunk so far may fall much farther.

2. The next word of the prescription is "Repent." Repent as thou didst at first. Repent of the wrong thou hast done thy Lord.

3. But then he says in effect, Return. The third word is this — "Repent, and do the first works." There must be in every declining Christian a practical repentance. Do not be satisfied with regrets and resolves.

III. HE PERSUADES.

1. With a warning. "I will come unto thee," etc. Our Lord means, first., I will take away the comfort of the Word. But the candlestick also symbolises usefulness: it is that by which a Church shines. The use of a Church is to preserve the truth, wherewith to illuminate the neighbourhood, to illuminate the world. God can soon cut short our usefulness, and He will do so if we cut short our love.

2. With a promise. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." Observe, those who lose their first love fall, but those who abide in love are made to stand. In contrast to the fall which took place in the paradise of God, we have man eating of the tree of life. and so living for ever. If we, through grace, overcome the common tendency to decline in love, then shall we be confirmed in the favour of the Lord. Note again, those who lose their first love wander far; they depart from God. "But," saith the Lord, "if you keep your first love you shall not wander, but you shall come into closer fellowship. I will bring you nearer to the centre. I will bring you to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God." The inner ring is for those who grow in love; the centre of all joy is only to be reached by much love. Then notice the mystical blessing which lies here, waiting your meditation. Do you know how we fell? The woman took of the fruit of the forbidden tree, and gave to Adam, and Adam ate and fell. The reverse is the case in the promise before us: the Second Adam takes of the Divine fruit from the tree of promise, and hands it to His spouse; she eats and lives for ever.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE SIN OF COLDNESS IN CHRISTIANS, AND HOW OFFENSIVE IT IS TO GOD.

1. You have no right to feel this indifference towards God or man.

2. This coldness is not a mere defect, it bespeaks some degree of the positive action of the most polluting passions.

3. It is a dreadful abuse of God. It is passing by His infinite glories after other objects.

4. It involves all the guilt of base ingratitude.

5. There is in this thing the violation of an oath, or a solemn breach of covenant.

II. WHAT IS TO BE ALONE, AND HOW WE ARE TO ESCAPE FROM. THIS FEARFUL CONDITION.

(E. Griffin, D. D.)

Essex Remembrancer.
I. ITS NATURE.

1. Some backslide in heart. This consists in the withdrawment of the affections from God.

2. Some backslide in life. When a person becomes careless of God in his heart, he will probably soon manifest the defect in his conduct.

3. There are others who backslide in doctrinal sentiment.

II. ITS SYMPTOMS.

1. Love of the world.

2. A cold formal spirit in the exercises of devotion.

3. When the heart has lost all delight in spiritual things, we have another evidence of being in a backsliding state.

4. Association with men of the world is another evidence of a backsliding state. By this we mean, all that association which is uncalled for by the business or relationships of life.

5. A state of backsliding is testified by negligence in attending the means of grace.

III. ITS EVILS.

1. It dishonours God.

2. It deprives us of happiness. The pleasures of religion are suspended where there is inconsistency of conduct, and where the spirit of the world reigns.

3. It gives our enemies advantage over us.

4. It prepares us for terrible darkness in a dying hour.

IV. ITS CURE. We must take heed of that disposition which would lead us to suppose that the case is incurable. This is the greatest obstacle in the way of recovery. We must remember that against such reasoning the testimony of the word of God is directed. The facts of Scripture prove it. David, Peter, and others fell far from God; and they verified the word, "the' a just man fall seven times, he shall rise again."

1. Come back with fervent prayer.

2. If we would have this state rectified, we must begin where we began at first: we must repent and do our first works. And in doing this, let us be sure that we rest on the right foundation.

3. We must call to mind former days, and compare them with the present.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

I. WHAT WAS OUR FIRST LOVE? Oh, let us go back — it is not many years with some of us. Then if you are Christians, those days were so happy that your memory will never forget them, and therefore you can easily return to that first bright spot in your history. Oh, what love was that which I had to my Saviour the first time He forgave my sins. I could realise then the language of Rutherford, when he said, being full of love to Christ, once upon a time, in the dungeon of Aberdeen — "O my Lord, if there were a broad hell betwixt me and Thee, if I could not get at Thee except by wading through it, I would not think twice, but I would plunge through it all, if I might embrace Thee and call Thee mine." Now it is that first love that you and I must confess, I am afraid, we have in a measure lost. Let us just see whether we have it. When we first loved the Saviour how earnest we were; there was not a single thing in the Bible that we did not think most precious; there was not one command of His that we did not think to be like fine gold and choice silver. That first love does not last half so long as we could wish. Some of you stand convicted even here; you have not that burning love, that ridiculous love as the worldling would call it, which is, after all, the love to be most desired. No, you have lost your first love in that respect. Again, how obedient you used to be. If you saw a commandment, that was enough for you — you did it. But now you see a commandment, and you see profit on the other side; and how often do you dally with the temptation, instead of yielding an unsullied obedience to Christ! Again, how happy you used to be in the ways of God. There was a time when every bitter thing was sweet; whenever you heard the Word, it was all precious to you. Now you can grumble at the minister. Alas! the minister has many faults, but the question is, whether there has not been a greater change in you than there has been in him. Again, when we were in our first love, what would we do for Christ? Now, how little will we do.

II. WHERE DID YOU AND I LOSE OUR FIRST LOVE, if we have lost it? Have you not lost your first love in the world, some of you? Is it not marvellous, that when you grew richer and had more business, you began to have less grace? It is a very serious thing to grow rich. Dost thou not think, again, that thou hast lost thy first love by neglecting communion with Christ? Has there not been, sometimes, this temptation to do a great deal for Christ, but not to live a great deal with Christ? Perhaps, too, you attend the means so often, that you have no time in secret to improve what you gain in the means. Mrs. Bury once said, that if "all the twelve apostles were preaching in a certain town, and we could have the privilege of hearing them preach, yet if they kept us out of our closets, and led us to neglect prayer, better for us never to have heard their names, than to have gone to listen to them." We shall never love Christ much except we live near to Him.

III. SEEK TO GET YOUR FIRST LOVE RESTORED.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I have often been constrained to notice that when Christians, from time to time, throw themselves into actual labour for the Lord, there is a great danger of a reaction coming, a consciousness of weariness: they begin to grow "weary of well doing"; perhaps there are a few disappointments; the work is not going on so flourishingly. When the wind and tide are in our favour, there are some of us who can work very hard; we can pull a very lusty oar as long as the boat. It seems to make progress, but when we find the tide dead against us, and it seems as though we were making no headway, we begin to feel faint, and weary, and ask somebody to take the oar. That is a dangerous snare. Can we honestly and truthfully say that we are workers, that we are labourers, and that we are patient labourers, so plodding that we have "not fainted" in spite of all the difficulties with which we have been surrounded? Is there anything more that could be said in their favour? Yes, something still. These Ephesian converts had held to God's truth in a day when there was a good deal of theological discussion, and also theological misconception and error. They were "orthodox to the backbone"; our Lord had no fault with them in this respect; they "hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes," they would have nothing to do with them. How happy were these men! the Word of God, how they loved to pore over it! what treasures they found in it! It was a joy to them to open the sacred page. "But," you say, "I suppose Christian experience will not always be identical": and, certainly, it is not. Well then, when we have first passed out of darkness into light, it is natural that there should be a good deal of emotion in our experience, and much of this may reasonably be expected to pass away as we become more established Christians. Now there may be a great deal of truth in all this, and yet such pleading may indicate but too surely "the loss of the first love." Our experience is subject to change. But how is it to change? I wonder whether St. Paul loved his Master less, or more, when he said towards the end of his life, "I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness," than he did at the moment when he first committed his soul into His hands. Do you suppose it is a sign of ripening experience to substitute work, energy, and a thousand other things for "love." Oh, let us not delude ourselves. There is one thing more important than "work," yes, more important than "labour," even more important than orthodoxy, and that one thing is Jesus Christ Himself. If we have got Him we shall have all the rest, and if we have got the rest and have not got Him, we have nothing. "I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love." How do people "lose their first love"? We think, as we first experience it, that it is so delightful in itself, there is so much of heaven upon earth in such experience, that we must be worse than mad ever to forfeit it. Now do not suppose that anybody throws it away wilfully. "It is little by little that the first love" is lost.

1. Many people "lose" it by earthly business. They lead bustling lives; they have so many cares pressing upon them, so much to think about, so much to be undertaken. It is even so with some of our Christian workers. Or, perhaps, in our worldly employment, we are bent upon certain objects which are out of harmony with the will of Christ. There is some dark form of worldly care, or it may be of religious activity — something or other has crept in between us and God, and the whole heaven is darkened, the light is eclipsed, and the blessedness is gone.

2. Or, again, there are many Christians who "lose their first love" by forming another love. Thou art forfeiting that blessed inner life of love, which can only be realised by those who understand the full force of the first great commandment, "Thou shalt have none other gods but Me."

3. Yet again, how many of us " lose our first love" by little acts of thoughtlessness. Love is a very jealous thing.

(W. H. M. H. Aitken, M. A.)

I. ITS SYMPTOMS: The first test, to which we would bring the professing Christian who is anxious to determine whether love is growing cold in himself, is that furnished by secret prayer and the study of God's "Word. Prayer has been not inaptly called the breathing of the soul; and you may be sure, that where this grows shorter and more difficult, there can be no healthful play in the organs of life. And as one great symptom of spiritual decline may be derived from the more private means of grace, so may another from the more public. The Christian in whom vital religion is in a healthy condition, attaches great worth to the public ordinances; neglect of these is, however, a sign of declining love. But now take another symptom — equally decisive, though perhaps more easily overlooked. There is no feeling stronger in the Christian than that of desire to promote God's glory in the salvation of his fellow-men. But suppose him to become comparatively indifferent to the diffusion of the gospel — so that it is not with the heart, though it may be with the purse and the hand, that he helps forward the cause of the Redeemer; ah! who will say that the love is not losing its fervour? who will deny the spiritual decline? But again; there is a broad separating line between the men of the world and the men of religion. And the healthful Christian is quite aware of this. He guards accordingly with godly jealousy against any such conformity as would do violence to his profession. But there may be — and there often is — a great change in these respects. The man of religion comes to view the world with less fear, and less repugnance. Alas! this is one of the strongest of symptoms that the fervour is departing from the love. And not unlike the symptom of making light of the difference between religion and the world is that of making light of the difference between various creeds. The distinguishing doctrines of the gospel are prized by the ardent Christian as treasures without which he were unutterably poor. Hence he looks with abhorrence, for example, on Socinianism; it would strip Christ of His Divinity, and this he feels would be the stripping himself of immortality. But this repugnance to error may not continue. And wheresoever there is this lowered sense of the indispensableness of fundamental truths, and of an increasing disposition to think gently of wrong systems of religion, you may be sure that the love is fast losing its fervour. You may be certain, further, that where there is no increase in religion there must be some radical deficiency; nay, where there is no increase there must be a decrease. Judge then yourselves, ye who would know whether ye are the subjects of spiritual declension. Is it a greater privilege to you to pray, and a less labour to be obedient? Have you a firmer command over your passions? Is the will more in harmony with the Divine? Is the conscience more sensitive, and is the judgment prompter in deciding: for what is right against what is agreeable?

II. ITS DANGERS. For some of you might be disposed to say — "Well, what if our love be less ardent than it was? it does not follow that we must be in great peril; the love may be warm enough for salvation, and yet not as warm as it was at first." But if you remember how our Lord reasoned in regard of "the salt which had lost its saltness" — and this is but another figure to express the same thing as the love losing its fervour. The grand difficulty is not that of producing love at first, but of restoring its heat when it has been suffered to grow cold. Even amongst ourselves, in reference to human attachment, the difficulty of rousing a decayed affection is almost proverbial. The party who has loved and then ceased to love, is of all others the least likely to love again. The ashes of the decayed sentiment seem to smother the fresh sparks. And the difficulty which is experienced in the revival of human affection might be looked for, when it is the love of God and of Christ which has grown languid. You are to observe, that a great deal must have been done for the man in whom the love of God has once been kindled. The Spirit of God must have striven with this man — so as to arouse in him the dormant immortality, and brought him to experience the power of the gospel. But it is not the course of this celestial Agent, to persist in working where there is no earnestness in holding fast what He has already granted. If you expose yourselves to the damps of the world or unnecessarily permit the icy winds of temptation to beat upon you, He will work on you with less and less energy or communicate less and less of animating grace. And we cannot but suppose, that this Spirit is more displeased when neglected by one on whom He has effectually wrought, than when resisted by another with whom He has striven in vain. But the Spirit may be recalled; and then the smothered flame may be rekindled. We will not deny it; God forbid that we should. We are not required to make the case out hopeless, but only full of difficulty. Take away the life from religion, leave us nothing but formality, and there is not upon the face of the earth an individual, so useless to others and to himself, as the one in whom the love remains, but remains in its ashes and not in its fires. It is the insidiousness of the disease which makes it so difficult to cope with. The resemblance is continually fixed on us, between what our medical men call consumption, and what our theological call spiritual decline. You know very well, that the presence of consumption is often scarcely suspected till the patient is indeed past recovery. There is perhaps no disease which less tells its victim what its fatal errand is. You know how beautifully brilliant it often makes the eye and the cheek. Alas! this is but emblematic of what it does to the heart, flushing it with hope and suffusing it with life, when the winding sheet is woven and the shadow is falling. But this disease, so insidious, so flattering, so fatal, is the exact picture of spiritual decline. Ministers and kinsmen may perceive no difference in the man; equally regular in the public duties of religion, equally large in his charities, equally honourable in his dealings, equally pure in his morals. The fatal symptoms may be all internal; and because they are not such as to draw observation, there may be no warning given by others; and the sick man, not examining himself, and not finding that his religious friends suppose him to be on the decline, will be all the more likely to feel persuaded of his safety, and to learn his disease, alas! only from his death.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. THE RELATION OF THE FIRST LOVE, OR THE BEGINNING OF THE CHRISTIAN DISCIPLESHIP, TO THE SUBSEQUENT LIFE. — What we call conversion is not a change distinctly traceable in the experience of all disciples, though it is and must be a realised fact in all. There are many that grew up out of their infancy, or childhood, in the grace of Christ, and remember no time when they began to love Him. Even such, however, will commonly remember a time when their love to God and Divine things became a fact so fresh, so newly conscious, as to raise a doubt whether it was not then for the first time kindled. In other cases there is no doubt of a beginning — a real, conscious, definitely-remembered beginning — a new turning to God, a fresh-born Christian love. It is now realised, as far as it can be — the very citizenship of the soul is changed; it has gone over into a new world, and is entered there into new relations. But it has not made acquaintance there; it scarcely knows how it came in, or how to stay, and the whole problem of the life-struggle is to become established in what has before been initiated. What was initiated as feeling must be matured by holy application, till it becomes one of the soul's own habits. A mere glance at the new-born state of love discovers how incomplete and unreliable it is. Regarded in the mere form of feeling, it is all beauty and life. A halo of innocence rests upon it, and it seems a fresh made creature, reeking in the dews of its first morning. But how strange a creature is it to itself — waking to the discovery of its existence, bewildered by the mystery of existence. An angel, as it were, in feeling, it is yet a child in self-understanding. The sacred and pure feeling you may plainly see is environed by all manner of defects, weaknesses, and half-con-quered mischiefs, just ready to roll back upon it and stifle its life. It certainly would not be strange if the disciple, beset by so many defects, and so little ripe in his experience, should seem for a while to lose ground, even while strenuously careful to maintain his fidelity. And then Christ will have somewhat against him. He will not judge him harshly, and charge it against him as a crime that has no mitigations; it will only be a fatal impeachment of his discipleship, when he finally surrenders the struggle, and relapses into a prayerless and worldly life.

II. THE SUBSEQUENT LIFE, AS RELATED TO THE BEGINNING, OR FIRST LOVE. The paradise of first love is a germ, we may conceive, in the soul's feeling of the paradise to be fulfilled in its wisdom. And when the heavenly in feeling becomes the heavenly in choice, thought, judgment, and habit, so that the whole nature consents and rests in it as a known state, then it is fulfilled or completed. At first the disciple knows, we shall see, very little of himself, and still less how to carry himself so as to meet the new state of Divine consciousness into which he is born. At first nothing co-operates in settled harmony with his new life, but if he is faithful, he will learn how to make everything in him work with it, and assist the edifying of his soul in love. A very great point to be gained, by the struggle of experience, is to learn when, one has a right to the state of confidence and rest. At first the disciple measures himself wholly by his feeling. If feeling changes, as it will and must at times, then he condemns himself, and condemning himself perhaps without reason, he breaks his confidence towards God and stifles his peace. Then he is ready to die to get back his confidence, but not knowing how he lost it, he knows not where to find it. But finally, after battering down his own confidence and stifling his love in this manner by self-discouragement for many years, he is corrected by God's Spirit and led into a discovery of himself and the world that is more just, ceases to condemn himself in that which he alloweth, so to allow himself in anything which he condemneth; and now behold what a morning it is for his love! His perturbed, anxious state is gone. God's smile is always upon him: first love returns, henceforth to abide and never depart. Everywhere it goes with him, into all the callings of industry and business, into social pleasures and recreations, bathing his soul as a divine element. By a similar process he learns how to modulate and operate his will. On one side his soul was in the Divine love. On the other he had his will. But, how to work his will so as perfectly to suit his love, he at first did not know. He accordingly took his love into the care of his will; for assuredly he must do all that is possible to keep it alive. He thus deranged all right order and health within by his violent superintendence, battered down the joy he wished to keep, and could not understand what he should do more; for, as yet, all he had done seemed to be killing his love. He had not learned that love flows down only from God, who is its object, and cannot be manufactured within ourselves. But he discovers finally that it was first kindled by losing, for the time, his will. Understanding now that he is to lose his will in God's will, and abandon himself wholly to God, to rest in Him and receive of His fulness; finding, too, that will is only a form of self-seeking, he makes a total loss of will, self, and all his sufficiency; whereupon the first love floods his nature again, and bathes him like a sea without a shore. And yet it will not be strange if he finds, within a year, that, as he once overacted his will in self-conduct, so now he is underacting it in quietism; that his love grows thin for want of energy, and, returning to his will again, he takes it up in God; dares to have plans and ends, and to be a person; wrestles with God and prevails with Him; and so becomes, at last, a prince, acknowledged and crowned before him. At first he had a very perplexing war with his motives. He feared that his motive was selfish, and then he feared that his fear was selfish. He dug at himself so intently, to detect his selfishness, as to create the selfishness he feared. The complications of his heart were infinite, and he became confused in his attempt to untwist them. He blamed His love to God because he loved Him for His goodness, and then tried to love Him more without any thought of His goodness. He was so curious, in fact, to know his motives that he knew nothing of them; and finally stifled his love in the effort to understand it, and act the critic over it. At length, after months or years, it may be, of desolation, he discovers, as he had never done before, that he was a child in his first love, and had a child's simplicity. And now he has learned simplicity by his trial! Falling now into that first simplicity, there to abide, because he knows it, the first love blooms again — blooms as a flower, let us hope, that is never to wither. His motive is pure because it is simple; and his eye, being single toward God, his whole body is full of light. You perceive, in this review, how everything in the subsequent life of the disciple is designed of God to fulfil the first love. A great part of the struggle which we call experience, appears to operate exactly the other way; to confuse and stifle the first fire of the Spirit. Still the process of God is contrived to bring us round, at last, to the simple state which we embraced, in feeling, and help us to embrace it in wisdom. Then the first love fills the whole nature, and the divine beauty of the child is perfected in the divine beauty of a vigorous and victorious manhood. The beginning is the beginning of the end — the end the child and fruit of the beginning. Where the transition to this state of Divine consciousness, from a merely self-conscious life under sin, is inartificially made, and distorted by no mixtures of tumult from the subject's own eagerness, it is in the birth, a kind of celestial state, like that of the glorified — clear, clean, peaceful and full, wanting nothing but what, for the time, it does not know it wants — the settled confidence, the practically-instructed wisdom, the established and tried character of the glori-fled. And yet all the better is it, imparadised in this glory, this first love, this regenerative life, this inward lifting of the soul's order, that a prize so transcendent is still, in a sense, to be won or fought out and gained as a victory. For life has now a meaning, and its work is great — as great, in fact. in the humblest walks and affairs as in the highest.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

I. ITS INDICATIONS. How can we discern the subtle beginnings of this decline? At the outset, let us clear away an error which has been the source of perplexity and even needless despondency to some earnest men. The loss of the first freshness of spiritual emotion is not necessarily a decline of spiritual love. The early excitement is not strength — true strength comes when it passes into action. The early splendour of the morning is beautiful, but who would wish that it should never melt into the stronger glory of the noonday? The first emotions of childhood are beautiful, but who would not exchange them in all their freshness for the calm, sober power of manhood? So in Christian life: the young excitement must mature into more quiet but abiding power. We must, then, look deeper than the changefulness of emotion to detect the signs of declining love; we must enter into the very nature of love itself, and we shall find them there.

1. Love is profound self-sacrifice. In love the soul comes out of the sphere of merely personal life: the thought of the "I," and the "mine," are no longer supreme; they almost vanish in living for another. A man's self becomes associated with another self, and the two souls become one in devotion. Therefore, when our life finds another centre, and the world, or its friendships, or its ambitions, create our ruling emotions; when to be alone with God is no longer blessedness; when prayer loses its inspiration; when we begin to trust in our own power — to rest in self, and be coldly contented there; when the feeling rises, "I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing," knowing not all the time that "we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind," then the light of love is fading, and earthborn clouds are quenching its brightness.

2. Love proves its reality by the resemblance it creates to the beloved. No man can long conceal the fire that burns on his heart's altar, so no true Christian can conceal his love to Christ. If we do not grow more true, more holy, more submissive, our resemblance to Christ is .growing fainter and our love is declining.

3. Love proves its reality by its courage m confronting opposition. Therefore, when men can turn us aside, when expediency can mould us, when we stand like cowards looking back lingeringly on the path we have forsaken, afraid to return, afraid to go on; when, in the midst of a sinful generation, we are ashamed of Christ, and deny Him by selling our Christian principle for gain, truth for peace, devotion for safety, Christian profession for the friendship of the world — then is the fire of our love going down, the altar becoming cold, the temple growing dark, and "we have left our first love."

II. ITS DANGERS.

1. It renders the Christian a hindrance to the power of truth. A man professing to live for Christ, professing to be inspired by an infinite love, professing to believe in a glorious immortality, and yet cold and indifferent! The world reads that, and what wonder that it mocks at faith? Like an iceberg, such a man stands between the world and the sun of God's gospel, chilling its warmth, and killing its power.

2. The inner coldness of heart is the beginning of denial in the life. The man whose love is declining is going on a path that will soon lead him into open denial, for when spiritual love lights not his altar, there are dark powers ever slumbering near that will kindle another fire there. The man's besetting sin is never far away, and it will soon crowd his circumstances with temptation. And this danger is all the greater because it is so silent.

III. ITS REMEDY.

1. "Remember." It is sad work to look back over the past, and trace the path of failure and decline. The decay of all beautiful life is sad, but sad it is indeed when a man can trace it in his own soul. It is well to be thus sorrowful; it is a blessed thing if the tears do fall!

2. But rest not in mournful retrospect. "Repent, and do the first works." Go back to the Cross of Christ, and gaze there till your coldness is melted and your love springs afresh.

(E. L. Hull, B. A.)

I. INQUIRE INTO THE NATURE OF THIS FIRST LOVE, AND THE MANNER IN WHICH IT GENERALLY OPERATES IN THE COMMENCEMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. The early love of true believers has in it something which distinguishes it from that which follows afterwards, not indeed in its nature, but in its adjuncts and mode of operation. An increasing knowledge of Christ will increase and confirm our attachment to Him, and we shall be rooted and grounded in love, in proportion as we cultivate communion with Him. Yet at first there is often a greater warmth of affection, a more operative energy, a greater disposition to make sacrifices and to encounter difficulties, than is displayed in the subsequent parts of life.

2. This "first love" is probably so-called because it is generally the first principle that discovers itself in Christian converts; and before the other parts of their character have had time to develop themselves, we often witness some of the effects of this holy principle.(1) In producing an aversion of the mind from what is displeasing to the object beloved.(2) The Christian's first love produces ardent desires and a vigorous pursuit after spiritual and heavenly objects.(3) It appears in a fixed and decided resolution to cleave to the Lord, and to follow Him.(4) Early love discovers itself in an affectionate regard for those who have been the honoured instruments of bringing us to the knowledge of Christ.(5) Another effect of this principle is, a readiness to submit it to the institutions of the gospel, and openly to profess the name of Jesus, notwithstanding the difficulties which may lie in the way.

II. POINT OUT SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS OF SPIRITUAL DECLENSION, OR WHEN IT MAY BE SAID THAT WE HAVE "LEFT OUR FIRST LOVE."

1. Losing that relish and savour of heavenly things which was formerly experienced, is an unhappy sign of religious declension.

2. A vain and trifling conversation is another of these symptoms of decay. When persons are disposed to talk about anything rather than the concerns of their souls, and the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, though there may be nothing directly sinful in the subject of discourse, yet it betrays a great want of spirituality, and a declension in the power of religion.

3. Religious declensions generally begin at the closet; and where the important duties of meditation, self-examination, and private prayer, are either totally neglected or performed in a superficial manner, we need no stronger proof of having indeed forsaken our first love.

4. The prevalency of a selfish spirit is another fearful sign. Instead of adding grace to grace, and building up themselves on their most holy faith, they are adding house to house, and land to land, while the edification of the Church and the general interests of religion are only regarded as secondary objects. What can more fearfully portend the ruin of a people who are in such a case!

5. A disposition to contend for doctrinal religion, rather than for that which is practical and experimental, is a sign of spiritual decay. Where persons are over-zealous about minor points, and are little concerned to promote the religion of the heart and a universal obedience to the will of God, they resemble the Pharisees, who were punctilious enough in tithing mint and anise and cummin, while they neglected the weightier matters of the law, judgment, faith, and the love of God.

6. When the care of our families is neglected, and the observance of the Sabbath is not strictly inculcated, this also is a sign of spiritual declension.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

These are words of complaint; some would call it fault-finding; and, as such, might have repelled us from the complainer. But such is the nature and tone of the complaint, that we feel attracted, not repelled; humbled, but not hurt. The reproof is keen, yet it casts no shadow on the grace of the reprover. But the preface to the complaint claims special notice; for that complaint does not stand alone. And what strikes us most in it, is the minute enumeration of services performed by this Church, ere He speak the words of censure. "I know thy works," etc. He was no austere man, no hard master, no censorious fault-finder, but loving and generous, possessed to the uttermost of that "charity which suffereth long," etc. But it is not the mere recital of His servant's good deeds that strikes us; it is His manifest appreciation of these, His delight in them, His grateful sense of the service rendered. Faults there would be in these labours, but He sees none; imperfections in the endurances of trial, but He makes mention of none. He speaks as one full of gratitude for favours conferred. He names His servant's name, and is not ashamed to confess him. What a dignity, what a value, is thus affixed to every act, even of the simplest, commonest service for Him! But our text goes beyond all this. It teaches us His desire for our love, and His disappointment at losing it, or any part of it. It is not so much our labour as our love that He asks. The star had grown dim, the flower faded, warm love had cooled, and the Ephesus of the second generation was not the Ephesus of the first. Over this lost first love He mourns, as the gem which of all others He prized the most. It is not of slothful service, or waning zeal, or failing liberality, or slackening warfare that He complains. This is the substance of the complaint, the burden of the disappointment — the loss of half a heart! What true hearted man but must be humbled and melted down beneath it! Why should He love so much and I so little? But let us follow out a little further this Divine rebuke, this touching remonstrance. "Thou hast left thy first love!" And for what reason? Did the coldness begin on My side or on thine? Have I become less lovable, less loving? "Thou hast left thy first love!" And what or whom hast thou substituted? Hast thy power of loving ceased, and thy heart contracted? Or is there some second love that has usurped the place of the first? Is it the world that has thus come in? Is it pleasure? Is it literature or science? Is it business? Is it politics? Is it the creature in some of its various forms, and with the seductive glitter of its many-sided beauty? "Thou hast left thy first love!" And what hast thou gained by the leaving? What has this strange turn of capricious affection done for you? Has it made you a happier, holier, truer, stronger, more noble, more earnest man? Ah! ask your hearts what has been your gain? A few indulgences which once you did not dare to venture on. A few gay smiles of worldly companionship. A few pleasures, for which, till your first love had gone, you had no relish. These are some of the things for which thou hast exchanged thy first love! For these thou hast sold thy Lord! Oh, heartless Ephesian, retrace thy steps at once! Thou didst run well: who hath hindered thee? Begin once more at the beginning. Go back to the fountain head of love — I mean thy Lord's love to thee, the sinner — there refill thy empty vessel. Go back to the blessed Sun, whose light is still as free and brilliant as ever; there rekindle thy dying torch; there warm thy cold heart, and learn to love again as thou didst love at first.

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

It is curious that a Church so marked for its patience and purity should be threatened with the loss of its very existence unless it repented. Had sensuality, or violence, or fraud entered the Church? Far from it, the Church is praised for its exclusion of the evil lives. A high morality marked its members, and in maintaining their high standard they had exercised their patient endurance of the world's scorn and opposition. Such a character had seemed to us almost perfect. But God looks upon the heart. He saw beneath this admirable exterior a weakening in the springs of spiritual life. The pride of consistency had continued to keep the Church to its old forms of excellence, but the Divine love in the heart, which had been before its only source of conduct, had lost its strength. The outward life was beautiful, but the heart was decaying. Zeal, orthodoxy, carefulness, boldness, heroism, were all there, but the love of God, out of which all these virtues should spring, in order to be Godlike and permanent, was failing, and on this failing oar Lord rests His eyes as He warns this prosperous Church of its danger. It had begun to lose its spiritual stimulus: to substitute self for Christ, pride for humility; to change principle into routine, and to make the religious life a perfunctory life. It was only a beginning, but God saw the danger of a beginning, and warned the Church accordingly. The beginning was the great departure; all else would be but natural sequence. Hence the beginning was to be stoutly rebuked. The beginning was the sin, the root-sin, to be repented of. We do not know to what influences the Ephesian Church yielded when it began to lose its love principle as the source of its life. It may have been a strong satisfaction with its own attainments. It scarcely could have been a conformity to the world. That side of error it seems to have avoided, and to have exposed itself on the other to spiritual pride. But these extremes meet. They are equally hostile to a genuine godly life. The worldly conformity is the more odious because it is so open and conspicuous, but the spiritual pride is as really a departure from God and a surrender to Satan. It is often hard to detect, because it goes clothed with the garb of a strict outward life, and this fact makes it peculiarly dangerous as a guide to undeveloped Christians. Still, there are marks by which even this type of Christian can be discovered, and its harmfulness avoided. These spiritually proud Christians are apt to show great severity toward all who differ with them. They are right in all their views and practices, and all others are wrong. Dogmatic and dictatorial, they will brook no opposition, and in disposition and in action (as far as they can be) they are as relentless as the Dominican inquisitors. Their faith is presumption, their zeal fanaticism. And all this comes about because their love is giving place to pride. You will see these zealots oversetting the Divine order for their favourite hobby. They will dip the shafts of controversy into poison and spend their strength in aiming them at their brethren who cannot pronounce their shibboleth. In all this they are most sincere. Their lives are pure and honest. They have much that commands commendation, and their steadfastness is a glory to the Church. But they have allowed the principle of love to fade in their hearts, and Satan has found an entrance there to vitiate motive and impulse.

(H. Crosby.)

has its place and value, but white-hot religion, the silent, intense force which acts without sparks or noise, is a diviner thing. Is it thus with our love to God? Has that passion simply changed from red to white? Has sentiment become principle, the ecstasy a habit, the passion a law? If so, the former days were not better than these.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

The religious profession of some people is like the ashes on a rusty altar, which show that there once were warmth and light and flame, but which also show that it is long since they worshipped there.

(J. Hamilton, D. D.)

It is said we want principle in religion, not sentiment. We want both. As well say we do not want sails, only the hull of the vessel. With conscience for the rudder, and truth for the hull, we want emotion — for that is motion, surely. And Christ says: "I know thy works. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou has left thy first love."

"As when the root of a tree perisheth," says Thomas Manton, "the leaves keep green for a while, but within a while they wither and fall off; so love is the root and heart of all other duties, and when that decayeth other things decay with it."

The hottest heart of love, like heated iron, if left, will get cold of itself.

(W. W. Andrew, M. A.)

There is something without which even zeal for truth may be but a scorching and devouring flame; and that is the "first love," the love ever fresh and tender for Him who first loved us, the love which teaches us to win and not to alienate, to raise and not to crush, those who may only be mistaken in their views, and are not determined enemies of God.

(W. Milligan, D. D.)

Remember therefore from whence thou
A celebrated orator once delivered a lecture, the title of which was "Now and Then;" and he proceeded to point out in eloquent language the vast improvements in civilisation and in useful arts which had been effected since his own early days. But a very different Now and Then is suggested by the text.

1. First, consider man as he appears to view when newly created. How great he seems! He was created in the image, after the likeness, of God Himself. This was true of him in respect of his personality. As distinguished from the things and creatures having life, which had been previously created, man was a "person" with powers of will, of origination, of causation, of thought. As a person, he was made capable of holding communion with a personal God. Man .was created in the image of God, too, in respect of his dominion. He is the vicegerent of God on earth, ruling a mighty empire; the rest of creation lies at his feet. Everything animate and inanimate was subjected to his sway. And this supremacy of man was a shadow of the sovereignty of God. Again, man was created in the image of God in respect of purity. There was not a thought of his heart which he would have been ashamed for God to know. His will was in entire harmony with the will of God. He rejoiced in fellowship with Him.

2. "Remember from whence thou art fallen." The fall of man. It is an event which we cannot ponder without being oppressed by a sense of awful mystery. Like all the facts connected with sin, its nature, its punishment, and the cure provided for it in the gospel, the narrative of the Fall leaves on the mind a deep conviction that God regards sin with a hatred which we cannot fully comprehend, and to which revelation itself does not supply the key. Mysterious as this doctrine of original sin is, the whole religion of the Bible assumes the truth of it and is based upon it. The evil extends not only to the actual deeds of men, but to the imaginations, the thoughts, desires, and affections of the heart. Those who have been brought up in a moral and religious atmosphere are happily guarded from the outbreak of sin by their habits and associations and the good opinion of those around them. But this outward appearance does not affect or govern the state of the heart. Even under favourable circumstances the corrupt state of the heart may be recognised. "Remember from whence thou art fallen."(1) Let the remembrance of it remind us of the absolute necessity of conversion. Man must be changed in nature and disposition, in mind and heart, in order that he may be restored to the image of God.(2) Let the remembrance of it deepen our humility. There is nothing which effectually hides pride from man, save the consciousness wrought in him by the Holy Spirit that he is by nature sinful. "Where is boasting then? It is excluded."(3) Let the remembrance of it strengthen our hatred of sin. It is the man who comes up to the Temple, crying out of the depths of a contrite heart, "God, be merciful to me a sinner," whom God sends "down to his house justified."(4) Lastly, let the remembrance of it exalt our conceptions of the surpassing love of Christ, and of the mighty work of redemption, which He died to accomplish. He came to restore in man the image and likeness of God. There is no salvation in any other. Think of what man is. There is no tribe, no race, not infected with this taint of sin. The holiest men ever known are those who have most keenly felt, most bitterly lamented, their own sinfulness. There must be a mediator, a sacrifice, an advocate, to make such beings acceptable to God.

(F. F. Goe, M. A.)

I. What then, in the first place, are THE GREAT EVILS which are peculiar to the sin of backsliding from God?

1. In the first place, I say to you that it is awfully aggravated for the reason that it is committed against more light than others have. There are men that sin through ignorance. This cannot, however, be said of the man who has once "tasted that the Lord is gracious: " he does not sin because he knows no better. But you are to observe that there is a light which he cannot extinguish: and what is that? There is the light which his memory casts upon him.

2. Secondly, backsliding is a sin not only against light, but against the love of God. Backsliding is a sin against pardoning mercy.

3. In the third place, remember that this conduct greatly injures the cause of God. First of all it has a saddening effect on the Church itself. And, secondly, it very often happens that when one backslides from God he takes others with him.

4. This conduct condemns itself, and is a witness against itself. Observe the two states. Once you sought the Lord earnestly, and called on Him in sincerity and in truth. Remember what you were, and look at what you are now. I ask you for a moment, which of these two states is the right one? Would you say, I am right now; or must you not be obliged to say, Oh, no, those were the days in which indeed I was right.

5. Remember that you are bringing, by your conduct, an evil report on good men. How is it that you left the Lord, and left His people? What is the language of this conduct to those that are round about you but this — "I tried religion, and I did not like it?" There are, as I have said, evils in your case. And will you just allow me to remind you that you are in danger. You are in danger of desertion from God. Secondly, I must remind you that you are in danger not only of desertion, but of the terrors which are consequent on the fulfilment of His awful threat. If this be the case, then take heed, brethren, some of you are standing on the brink of a precipice now, into which, if you fall, oh, the terrors of that eternity, the horrors of that state, into which you will plunge yourselves by the carelessness of walking and backsliding from the Lord your God!

(P. C. Turner.)

I. WHAT ARE THE FIRST WORKS OF THE SINCERE CONVERT? They were penitence, prayer, and faith.

II. A STATE OF RELIGIOUS DECLENSION, OF SPIRITUAL DECAY, WILL MANIFEST ITSELF EITHER IN A PARTIAL OR TOTAL ABANDONMENT OF THESE FIRST WORKS.

III. THE ONLY WAY IS TO RETRACE THE STEPS YOU FORMERLY TOOK, OR AS IT IS EMPHATICALLY DESCRIBED IN THE TEXT, "TO DO THE FIRST WORKS."

(T. Morell, M. A.)

The degenerate plant has no consciousness of its own degradation, nor could it, when reduced to the character of a weed or a wild-flower, recognise in the fair and delicate garden-plant the type of its former self. The tamed and domesticated animal, stunted in size, and subjugated in spirit, could not feel any sense of humiliation when confronted with its wild brother of the desert, fierce, strong, and free, as if discerning in that spectacle the noble type from which itself had fallen. But it is different with a conscious moral being. Reduce such an one ever so low, yet you cannot obliterate in his inner nature the consciousness of falling beneath himself; you cannot blot out from his mind the latent reminiscence of a nobler and better self which he might have been, and which to have lost is guilt and wretchedness.

(J. Caird.)

I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent
The awfulness of this warning will the more appear, if we consider to what Church it was directed. It was not spoken to the Church of Galatia, which had been so soon shaken from the faith, and entangled in the heresies of Gnostics and judaising teachers: nor to the Church in Corinth, which had been rent by schisms, tempted by rivalry among its gifted members, and profaned by a contemptuous usage of the Holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood. It was spoken to the Church in Ephesus, famous from the beginning for its burning and indignant zeal against the illusions of Satan; in the midst of which they that had used curious arts brought forth their costly books and burnt them before all men; illustrious for the long abode of St. Paul; for his three years of tears and warnings; for his epistle of prayers and commendations; it was to this Church so cherished, illuminated, and blessed that these words were spoken; "I have somewhat against thee: because thou hast left thy first love." The Ephesian Church in its outset so kindled and ardent, had, by slow and measured decrease, parted with its inward devotion. There are certain inferences which bear pointedly upon our own state and probation to be drawn from this warning, and to these we shall do well to turn.

1. For example, one great practical truth issuing from what has been said is this: that there may be much fair and really commendable religion, where all is not right at heart. Whole branches of the Church, with all their altars standing, and with all their visible appointments of Divine worship abundantly and publicly maintained, may yet be far gone before God. And a Christian, with all his usages of religion still continued, may yet have left his first love. For these outward and passive customs are the last to give way; the inward disease must be far advanced towards its full and fatal ripeness before the outward habits, which cost so little and imply so much, are visibly affected. Cankered trees still put forth their leaves, long after their source of fruitfulness is dry. A sense of duty outlives all fervour of heart. What was once a delight is still felt to be an obligation. There can be no doubt that such is the state of multitudes whom the Church refrains to censure, and the world believes devout.

2. Another truth we may learn is, that when there is anything wrong at heart, all beside, how good soever it may appear and be, is marred. The state of the heart is the very soul of a religious life; and it is on this that the direct eye of God is fixed. Where there is any permitted declension of the heart, there two evils are always present. It cancels and annuls the whole worship and service of outward religion. It opens the beginnings of incalculable departures from God. And that for this reason. All acts of a religious life are thenceforth done with a slack and unmeaning intention. But all the force of obedience is in the motive. It is this that gives emphasis and meaning to fasts, prayers, labours, alms, for the Name of Christ. To feed natural hunger from mere natural benevolence is not ministering to Christ, but obeying a mere animal impulse, good indeed, but stunted, and not necessarily Christian. The same is more manifestly true of the higher acts of religion; for instance, the Holy Communion. What does it become but a dutiful formality, a heartless reverence? And further, as the motives of the heart grow slack, they become divided. It is intensity that unites the will; when it moves slowly and with reluctance it is soon distracted by s multitude of forces. Self-sparing, neighbouring temptations, worldly regards, personal schemes, private attachments, the influence of example, indulgence of particular affections of the mind, soon come in to divide a heart which has ceased to be united in the love of Christ. "Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together." And this slack and divided state of heart, as it cancels the force of all religion, so it is the beginning of unknown declension. Even though it begin in no more than a colder affection or a relaxed resolution, yet it may end in quenching the Spirit of God. Slight diseases bring on great decays: the least bias in a never-resting wheel tends to the extremest deviations: a selfish heart may end in crucifying Christ afresh unto itself; and a soul without love may sink into the darkness of atheism. There are certain classes of people to whom these truths are especially needful.

1. As first, to those that have been carefully broughti up from childhood in the knowledge and duties of religion. It often happens that those who in childhood have been deeply affected by religion, become in after years cold and relaxed. Little by little a new tone of feeling comes over them, and combines uneasily with old practices; and as the new power strengthens, they must needs give way first in one habit, then another, till the barriers of the whole character are broken through.

2. Another class of persons to whom these warnings are most pointed are those who, after a sinful or careless life, have once been brought to repentance. Afflictions, death of friends, great sicknesses, narrow escapes of life or ruin, worldly reverses, and the like, often bring about great changes of heart. They awaken sharp pangs of remorse, and a sudden sense of danger. This is followed by deep humiliation, and by emotions of sorrow and shame, by earnest resolutions. Perhaps few people have been afflicted without some such emotions as these; and true and heartfelt as they are, they often endure but a little time. They are the sudden burst of a forced shoot, not the steady growth of years. Their very fulness makes them unstable. After recovery or return to the usual ways of life, their first emotions gradually find a level in the ordinary commonplace of former habits. After awhile they countenance doubtful acts, and in the end themselves commit them: and then begins a reaction against the change. Little by little it is rescinded: first one resolution is annulled, and then! another. In the end they return into their former selves with this only difference, that they have once repented, and again turned from their repentance.

3. And once more, these thoughts are full of wholesome admonition to those that habitually communicate. It is the effect of the Holy Communion to confirm the habits of mind with which we approach the altar. If we come to it with a lively repentance, and an awakened conscience, with thankfulness, and love, howsoever faint, be it only true, the spiritual virtues which go forth from that Holy Sacrament will deepen and perfect all these devout affections. Ii we come with unimpressed hearts and a sluggish conscience, with shallow emotions, and thoughts that terminate on the bread, and on the wine, frequent communion will be an occasion of making these dangerous states of heart inveterate. Perhaps you can remember that day when, after long preparation, and fear, and anxious searching of yourselves, you came with a beating heart to the altar. How you were only half aware, as you knelt before the unseen Presence of your Lord, how near He was to you; and yet your hearts burned while your eyes were holden; and all that day, and all the day after, the consciousness was present still. Have you ever so communicated since? Do you now go to that Holy Sacrament with a cold self-possession, as to some familiar thing which you have measured, and weighed, and scrutinised; or with a mind less sensitive and fearful, and with a whole tone of character lowered and less devout? To all these, then, and to all who are conscious that they are not what they were, there is but one way of return. The first step is penitent recollection. "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen." Call up again with all the vividness of memory the holier seasons of your past life. Remember your confirmation — your first communion — your earlier devotions — the aspirations you once breathed towards Him whose love has waxed cold in you; and the tokens of His tender care, to which you once clung so fast. The next step is by special confession of our particular and detailed offences, to repent; that is, in sorrow to forsake our present self with a perfect change of heart. Before we can be once more what we have forfeited, our new and debased character must be thoroughly put off. This is the penalty of sin. And, lastly, we must begin the greatest work of life all over again. "Do the first works"; that is, the earliest and the best — the first-fruits we offered in better days to God. This is the inevitable law of our recovery. "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven."

(H. E. Manning.)

What then is it which a man has to do who is desirous of becoming truly repentant? We reply that his great business is earnest prayer to Christ, that he would give him the Holy Spirit, to enable him to repent. Of course we do not mean that he is to confine himself to prayer, and make no effort at correcting what may be wrong in his conduct. But there is more in this exhortation than the summons to repentance: memory is appealed to as an assistant in the duty to which men are called. The great evil with the mass of men is, that, so far at least as eternity is concerned, they never think at all — once make them think, and you make them anxious; once make them anxious, and they will labour to be saved. We should feel that we were gaining a great moral hold on a man, if we prevailed on him to contrast what he is with what Adam was ere he ate the forbidden fruit. It is a contrast which must produce the sense of utter degradation. And if I have been like the Ephesian Church, what Scripture calls a backslider, may not memory tell me of comforts I experienced, when walking closely with God, of communion with eternity so real and distinct that I seemed already delivered from the trammels of flesh? It may well be, if indeed I have declined in godliness, that through musing on past times, there will be excited within me a poignant regret. There will come back upon me, as upon the criminal in his cell, the holy music of better days; and there will be a penetrating power in the once gladdening but now melancholy strain, which there would not be in the shrill note of vengeance. And thus in each case, memory may be a mighty agent in bringing me to repentance. But we turn from the exhortation to the threatening contained in our text, "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Where are those Christian societies to which St. Paul and St. John inscribed their Epistles? Where is the Corinthian Church, so affectionately addressed, though so boldly reproved, by she great apostle of the Gentiles? Where is the Philippian Church, where the Colossian, where the Thessalonian, the letters to which prove how cordially Christianity had been received, and how vigorously it flourished? Where are the Seven Churches of Asia, respecting which we are assured that they were once strenuous in piety, and gave promise of permanence in Christian profession and privilege? Alas, how true is it that the candlesticks have been removed. And never let it be thought that such sentence is of no very terrible and desolating character. Come any evil rather than the unchurching which is threatened in our text. It is not merely that Christianity is taken away — though who shall measure, who imagine, the loss, if this were indeed all? — but it is that God must frown on a land from which He hath been provoked to withdraw His gospel; and that, if the frown of the Almighty rest on a country, the sun of that country's greatness goes rapidly down, and the dreariness of a moral midnight fast gathers above it and around it.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. THAT A NATION HAS BEEN UNCHURCHED, AND THE GOSPEL HAS BEEN REMOVED.

1. The Jews are an eminent instance. They had the gospel in a type while they enjoyed the ceremonies, they had the gospel unveiled while they had the presence of Christ among them.(1) They were a people that had the greatest titles. They were called by His name (Jeremiah 2:2, 3). They were His peculiar treasure; yet He hath flung this treasure out of His coffers.(2) The privileges they enjoyed.(3) The multitude of strange providences they had. He delivered them to the amazement of all round about them; they were a happy people, in being a people saved by the Lord (Deuteronomy 33:29). They never were conquered, but God raised them up some patrons. Yet notwithstanding all these providences, whereby God so miraculously owned them, and all the dangers from whence He so powerfully delivered them, they are now pulled up by the root, persecuted by man, abandoned by God, the generation of His wrath (Jeremiah 7:29). No spiritual dew falls upon these mountains of Gilboa.

2. The Seven Churches of Asia, to whom these Epistles are written, are another instance. How do their places know them no more, as once they were? Not only their religion, but their civil politeness is exchanged for barbarism. They have lost their ancient beauty for a Turkish deformity. Mahomet's horse hath succeeded in the place of the Gospel-Dove. The triumphant banners of an impostor advanced where the standard of the gospel had been erected.

II. THAT THE REMOVAL OF THE GOSPEL AND UNCHURCHING A NATION IS THE GREATEST JUDGMENT. Can there be a greater judgment than to have the Word of God removed, to want a prophet to instruct and warn? The shutting up the book of mercy is the opening the book of justice.

1. The gospel is the choicest mercy, and therefore the removal of it the sharpest misery. The gospel is so much the best of blessings, as God is the best of Beings. Without this we should sink into an heathen or devilish superstition.

2. It is made worse than those judgments that are accounted the severest. Plagues, wars, famine, are lighter marks of Divine anger than this. God may take notice of a people under the smartest afflictions, but when He takes away His Word He knows a people no longer. We may live in our souls by the influence of the Word, when we have not bread to convey strength to our bodies; but how must the soul languish when it is deprived of spiritual food to nourish her (Isaiah 30:20)? how doleful would it be to have the ground parched by the sun, the sky emptied of clouds, or the bottles of heaven stopped close without venting a drop of refreshing rain? But how much more deplorable is this judgment than the withholding the clouds from dropping upon our earth, or the sun from shining upon our fruits?

3. When the gospel departs all other blessings depart with it.(1) The honour and ornament of a nation departs.(2) The strength of a nation departs. The ordinances of God are the towers of Sion. The Temple was not only a place of worship, but a bulwark too. When the gospel of peace removes eternal peace goes with it, temporal peace flies after it; and whatsoever is safe, profitable, prosperous, takes wings and attends it.

4. God hath no other intention in the removing the gospel, and unchurching a nation, but the utter ruin and destruction of that nation. Other judgments may be medicinal, this is killing; other judgments are but scourges, this is a deadly wound.

5. This judgment is accompanied with spiritual judgments, which are the sorest. The pounding of the jewel is far worse, and of greater loss than the breaking the casket.Use: — Doth God often remove the gospel upon provocations, as the severest judgment he can inflict upon an unworthy people? Then —

1. Be afraid of this judgment. How do we know but that God hath limited the preaching of the gospel, and the standing of the candlestick in this and that place only for a time; and when that is expired, it may be carried to another place? We see it hath been so with others.(1) Is not our profaneness a just ground of our fear? Have not many that have been lifted up to heaven by the presence of the gospel walked as if they had the seal of hell in their foreheads? A fulness of iniquity makes the harvest ripe and fit for the sickle (Joel 3:13).(2) Is not the slighting of the means of grace a just ground of this fear? What can be expected, when children throw a precious commodity in the dirt, but that the parents should take it away, and lay it in another place, and lash them too for their vanity? God will not obtrude the gospel long against men's wills.(3) And what shall I say of the barrenness of the Church? When the ground yields but a faint increase, and answers not the cost and labour of the husbandman, he lays it fallow. The abatement of the powerful workings of the spirit is a presage of a removal or dimming the light in the candlestick.(4) And may not the errors in the nation step in as the occasion of our fears? Not little petty errors, but errors about the foundation.(5) What should I speak of the divisions amongst us? These preceded the ruin of the Jews, and made way for the fall of the Seven Churches of Asia. We may justly fear God will take away that light which we quarrel by, instead of walking and working by.

2. If the removal of the gospel be so great a judgment we have reason to bless God for its continuance so long among us.

3. It should teach us to improve the gospel while we enjoy it. The time of the gospel revelation is the time of working. Good entertainment and good improvement invites the gospel to stay; ill-usage drives it out of doors.

4. Let us prevent by repentance and prayer the removal or eclipse of the gospel. The loss of your estates, the massacring of your children, the chains of captivity, are a thousand times more desirable than this deplorable calamity. Estates may be recovered, new children raised, fetters may be knocked off, new houses may be reared upon the ashes of the consumed ones, the possession of a country regained; but it is seldom the gospel returns when carried away upon the wings of the wind. Let us therefore seek to Him, chiefly to Him, only to Him; He only can remove the candlestick; He only can put His Hand as a bar upon the light.

(S. Charnock.)

To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life
I. THE VICTOR'S REWARD.

1. As for the substance, it is simply that all-comprehensive, and in one aspect greatest of all hopes, the promise of life. It is as impossible for us to conceive of what the manner of future existence is as it is to predict, from looking at the egg, what plumage shall deck the wings of the creature that shall, in due time, come forth from it and soar to the empyrean. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." Only this we know, that life in all its meanings shall be perfect. Limitations shall drop away; weariness, weakness, languor, disgust, which often creeps over us, shall have no place there. The eternal life of heaven is one in kind with the eternal life that Christians possess here. If we are to have the life beyond, we must have its beginnings to-day.

2. Turn to the form which this promise assumes. It carries us back to the beginning of Scripture, and reminds us of the story of Eden, and the tree of life there. So the end circles round to the beginning, and the purpose of God shall be fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, and all the weary centuries, with their sin and crime and failures, shall be, as it were, in a parenthesis.

II. THE GIVER OF THE REWARD. Jesus Christ steps into the place here of the absolute disposer of all human affairs and settler of man's destiny. In another place in Scripture we read that the gift of God is eternal life; here the Giver of it is Jesus Christ. So He said on earth, as well as from the heavens. He is the Judge. He knows the history and the affairs of all men. He gives eternal life. The Giver is more than His gift. No mere humanitarian ideas of Jesus Christ and His mission avail to explain such words as these of my text.

III. THE CONDITION OF RECEIVING. "To him that overcometh." Well, then, all noble life in the world is a fight. And to say "I trust in Jesus Christ" is not enough, unless that trust manifests itself in strenuous antagonism to evil, and realises victory over it. "To him that believeth" the promise is made in other places, but we must carry with that promise this other, "to him that overcometh"; and remember that no man who cannot say "I have fought a good fight" will ever be able to say with truth, "henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." What is an overcoming life? Many a man goes out of this world apparently a dead failure, beaten; none of his plans having prospered, none of his enterprises having been much else than semi-failures. And yet he may be one of the victors. And, on the other hand, a man that has achieved all that he desired, prospered in his business, been successful in his love, happy in his family, abundantly blessed with good, and crowned with universal applause, that man may be one of the beaten ones. For he conquers the world who uses it to bring him nearer to Jesus Christ; and the world conquers him whom it draws away from God. And how is that victorious life to be achieved? "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." I have said that mere trust without conflict and conquest cannot inherit the crown, but I also say that, wherever there is the true trust there will be conflict, and wherever there is the trusting conflict there will be victory.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. SUCCESS IN THIS WORLD IS NOT A MATTER OF COURSE. Life in this world is surrounded by dangers, beset by enemies, liable to failure. This truth has its illustration in all spheres of life; even down to the lowest. The conflict of the ages is miniatured in the life of the ephemera. The few hours of their existence are full of little dangers, little enemies, possible ills; and so with these the battle of life goes on. Now come up a little higher, and into a clearer region. Every species of vegetable life is shut off from its highest and fullest end by the line at the enemy. Every grain of wheat is menaced; so is every stalk of corn, every springing grass-blade, every flowering shrub, and every fruiting tree. And not otherwise is it in the animal kingdom — in the region of organised physical life. Of birds and beasts only a few reach the end. The rest perish by the way; are beaten back; are overcome. How full is our earth's crust with the dust of infant forms I And even if they continue, why continuance is often not health, not strength, not beauty, not the victory of physical life. But I widen the view. Within the body hides the true man, who, with the hand of his free choice, reaches out for the supreme object of life; and, by the voice of his will, summons all his powers to the contest. But is success sure to such s one? Why, the world is full of men who have failed here. Full of men who have murdered their manhood for gain, and then failed of the gain. But now come up higher. Introduce moral quality, and how still farther does this reduce the class who have overcome t Ever in the highest regions the classes are smaller. There are more toadstools than Yosemite pines. There are more ants than elephants. There are more in the schools who know how to read than there are who are able to call the stars by their names, or to paint a Madonna. So there are more who have made money than there are who have grown manhood; more who haze gotten office than there are who have gotten character.

II. THE DANGER TO EACH HUMAN LIFE IS SPECIAL. That which is a temptation and a snare to me is none to you. The rock upon which you may split may be altogether out of your neighbour's path. He may not be steering in that direction. As with the body, so with the soul. What is poison to one is harmless to another. Some men can be trusted with money. It is not a bait for them; not what they care to sell their souls for. While others never can feel the money of others passing through their hands without an involuntary itching to close upon it. Then there is alcohol; nausea to many a stomach. No more desired, no more palatable, than croton oil. There is no possible danger to such from this quarter. Then right by their side are others who, with diseased brain and trembling nerves and blood on fire, would jump into hell itself for a draught of the accursed poison.

1. Natural constitution rules here. I do not mean in such a sense as to rid any man of responsibility. No matter where his blood came from, when at last it runs in his own veins a man must feel that it is his own. "My father was a drunkard before me, and I must be one." This is fatality, contradicted by our sense of freedom. It is materialism, contradicted by our own knowledge of ourselves, as more than mere matter. It is reasoning which no man's conscience accepts, and with which no man can go to the bar of God. So with a man's mind. It is his own at last. His own to correct, to guide, to inform. And if a man finds himself with a sceptical tendency, it is his duty to overcome here, as truly as in the region of physical appetite.

2. Providential circumstances rule here. Joseph was thrown into Egypt, and into the presence of great temptation, by no choice of his own. What now? Is Joseph thus relieved from responsibility? By no means. His providential circumstances govern as to the danger which he must overcome. The responsibility is still his own. So with us all. Your great spiritual danger may lie hidden in a circumstance which you had no voice in choosing. This may be wealth, or it may be poverty; your familiar associations, or an unavoidable crisis in your business affairs. But this does not free you from responsibility. Your obligation is still found in the word "overcome." You must overcome the temptation which is brought to bear upon your integrity, or you fall guiltily, and shall never "eat of the Tree of Life."

III. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR A MAN, FOR ANY MAN, TO OVERCOME. His crown is his own, and he may defy any hand of earth or hell to rob him of it.

1. This truth rests upon the sincerity of the Saviour of men. "To him that overcometh," says He. And, when He so declares, He surely does not mean to mock men by grounding their salvation upon an impossible condition.

2. This truth, that a man may overcome, rests upon the infinite love of God. It is not possible for the human mind to conceive of infinite love allowing man to be placed in a condition that he may not overcome.

3. This truth rests upon the great provision of salvation which God has made for man. This salvation, inaugurated by the Great Father's love, must reach unto the end of making the salvation of every man to whom it comes possible.I now turn to the applicatory fulness of the text.

1. It holds up religion before us in its true greatness and worthiness. Overcome. This is the voice with which Christ speaks to men. Overcome. This is the true view of religion; the religion which thoughtful men need, which endangered lives need; which this world, so full of shams, needs.

2. Again, this subject Palls to a careful ordering of the external circumstances of our lives, so far as these are in our power. If your fortune depended upon your lifting a certain weight, you would not first place your feet upon bog or quicksand. Yet, in the moral world, how many needlessly expose themselves to disadvantage!

3. This subject holds up the Church and all the means of grace in their true light. They are so many helps to man in his great struggle. Let us not think of the Church as an end in itself; as a beautiful and dignified institution to which we ought to contribute our quota of respectable living. But rather let us think of the Church as our servant; as something out of which we can get help. So of the prayer hour in the midst of the busy week. So of any Christian service, and of every Christian duty.

(S. S. Mitchell, D. D.)

I. THE CONFLICT OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The Christian life is one of severe moral conflict. Its enemies are seen and unseen. They are malignant. They are subtle. They necessitate constant vigilance on the part of the good.

1. It is a conflict with evil principles. The soul of the good must be pure in its feeling, holy in its dispositions, loyal to Christ in its affections, and devout in its contemplations.

2. It is a conflict with evil men. It is sometimes hard to withstand the charming, but sinful, attractions of a friend, who would lead us into the very camp of the enemy.

3. It is a conflict with evil spirits. They watch the varying attitudes of the human mind, as manifested in external conduct, and seek each moment to effect the moral ruin of the good.

II. THE VICTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. The victory is present. This is a distinguishing feature of the battle of the soul. It feels now the inspiration, and can sing the hymn of triumph, though, no doubt, when the last enemy has been conquered, which is death, and the soul joins the army above, its triumph will then be more jubilant.

2. The victory is progressive. Every time the soul is victorious in its battle it gathers new energy, and is more prepared for the conflict of the future.

3. The victory is glorious. It is a token of heroic manhood. It is strengthening. It is ennobling. It makes the soul veteran in goodness.

III. THE REWARD OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. The Christian victor shall be rewarded with eternal life.

2. This reward will be Divinely bestowed and richly enjoyed. Christ is Himself the life, which He will bestow upon the faithful victor. The life will be such that the soul will be able to appropriate.Lessons:

1. That the Christian life is a stern conflict.

2. That the Christian has many aids in the conflict.

3. That victory over sin is possible to the good.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

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