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is called Patmos, for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. 10 I was in the spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars : and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead: and he laid his right hand upon me, 18 I saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last : am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter, 20. The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest, are the seven churches.
It was usual for the most eminent prophets to be introduced to their work by an extraordinary vision. Such was the introduction of Isaiah, of Jeremiah, and of Ezekiel ; * and such is that of John. Having been banished to the Isle of Patmos by Domitian, for preaching Christ, the spirit of prophecy came upon him on the Lord's day; when he heard from behind him a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last,
*Isa. vi. Jer. i. Ezek. i.
and what thou seest write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia. Turning to see from whence the voice proceeded, he saw "seven golden candlesticks, and in the midst of them one like unto the Son of man.' It was from him therefore that the great voice proceeded. In short, he saw the Lord Jesus Christ, who as to his human nature had lived and died on earth, but who as to his divine person was "the first and the last," standing as the great High Priest over the house of God, in the midst of his churches, clothed with ineffable glory.
The effect of such a vision was more than a frail mortal could sustain. He who when his Lord was upon earth leaned familiarly on his bosom, now "fell at his feet as dead." But, laying his right hand upon him, he said, "Fear not, I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death." This impressive vision would not only excite in his mind a deep interest in the kingdom of Christ, and so prepare him for what he was to see, and hear, and write; but must have tended greatly to relieve him from those anxieties for his brethren and companions in tribulation from whom he had been separated. All the apostles were dead: he only was left, and they had banished him. Hell and death threatened to swallow up the church. In this situation he is told not to fear, for that his Lord lived, and had the control of both the invisible and visible world.
Being commanded to write "the things which he had seen, the things that were, and the things that should be hereafter," we may conclude that what he wrote respected not only the future state of the church, from the time of the vision, but the whole gospel dispensation, from the ascension of Christ to the end of the world.
What is said of the "seven stars and seven golden candlesticks," would tend greatly to encourage both the ministers and the churches of Christ. There was a golden candlestick in the
tabernacle, and in the second temple,* That was but one candlestick, though it had seven branches; but these are seven candlesticks; agreeing with the different constitutions of the Old and New Testament church, the former being national, and the latter congregational.
*Exod. xxv. 31-40. Zech. iv. 2.
THE EPISTLES TO THE CHURCHES.
Chap. ii. 1–17.
BEFORE we enter on these Epistles distinctly, it is proper to make a few general remarks.
First, Some have considered these churches as prophetically representing the different states of the church at large under the gospel dispensation. There is no doubt but analogies may be found between them: but it appears to me that the hypothesis is unfounded. The church of Ephesus, if designed to represent the
. whole Christian church in the age of the apostles, might be expected to sustain as high a character at least as any that follow; whereas Smyrna in respect of its purity is manifestly superior to it. Every thing addressed to the latter is in its praise ; which is not the case with the former. But surely it is not true that any age of the church since that of the apostles is to be compared with it, much less that it has excelled it in evangelical purity.
Others, doubting the justness of this hypothesis, have considered the Epistles to the churches as referring to the then present state of the church, and the sealed book to that which was future. And this they consider as agreeing with the division of the book into things which the writer had seen, things which were, and things which should be hereafter.* This is Mr. Lowman's view of it. When I entered on these Discourses from the pulpit, I adopt