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repentance. “Remember whence thou art fallen, and repent.” Be grieved, be ashamed, be confounded, be filled with godly and pungent sorrow, for having suffered yourselves so unnecessarily to have fallen from your state of spiritual prosperity ; confess yourselves guilty in the sight of God; add to your zeal in externals, that humble and contrite spirit which your declining condition most imperiously demands. Judge yourselves, that ye be not judged of the Lord; condemn yourselves, that ye be not condemned, and turn from your evil ways; repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance; testify the sincerity, the depth, the reality of your repentance, by returning to the Lord your God with all your heart, and by regaining the situation you have lost. “Remember whence thou hast fallen, and repent, and do thy first works."
This is the height of the climax in this exhortation. As if it had been said, you must begin again; the steps you have taken backward must be retraced; the zeal and diligence which had been formerly your characteristic, must again animate your bosoms; that watchfulness and
which cannot be neglected where the things of serious religion would flourish, must be resumed; that tenderness and seriousness, which is the evidence of real sensibility to the things of religion, must again appear; that spiritual attention to the various means of grace which can keep alive the vital spark of piety, must be sought with the energy and devotedness which were yours when first you walked in the light and liberty of the children of God. You have lost your ground, and you must regain it, or perish.
Repent, and do thy first works.” This was to the Church of Ephe
sus, what it is to every Church, a most serious con
Ruin, both of a temporal and spiritual character, stared them in the face, in case this advice was disregarded, and that Holy Spirit who had condescended to give the exhortation by considerations of the most fearful character. This leads me to notice
III. The threat-"Or else I will come unto thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
Decay in the spiritualities of religion, no matter what the external condition of a Church or an individual be, if not stopped most speedily when discovered, will inevitably end in ruin, as the righteous judgment of God. “I will come quickly”-that is, in the way of judgment, by the speedy manifestations of mine anger. Let externals be what they may, I will never rest satisfied with them, but I must be served in spirit and in truth. "I will remove thy candlestick out of his place.” This figurative language is easily understood. It means that God, in the execution of his most rightous indignation upon those who had declined in the spiritualities of religion, would take away the means and the privileges which they had heretofore enjoyed; that he would remove from them the benefit of his ordinances, his word and his ministers, and thus leave them in a state of spiritual ignorance; that he would withdraw his loving kindness in displeasure, and make them, as the just recompense of their doings, feel the weight of the evil which they had brought upon themselves. “It is obvious, on a moment's consideration, that if the word of truth and the ordinances of religion are taken away, no Christian society can
continue longer to exist. Accordingly, when Christ threatened the Ephesians, that unless they repented he would remove their candlestick out of its place, it was evidently his intention to deprive them of every thing which was essential to the subsistence of a Church ; and that what he declared to them in particular, was applicable to other communities in similar circumstances of declension."*
Viewing the subject in this light, it may be well worth our inquiry, whether this threat was ever executed on the Church of Ephesus. Alas, my friends, among the melancholy recollections of sacred history which now are brought to the mind, we may recur with peculiar solemnity to the glory and the grandeur of this once distinguished city. It was once the capitol of Proconsular Asia, and spoken of as the light of the earth; but now it is sunk into a mass of ruins, and trodden down by the feet of the Infidel usurper. As long ago as the fourteenth century, the Turks burst in upon this region like a desolating flood: they laid low this city of Ephesus, and reduced it to nothing; and they have quenched in the horrible night of their superstition, almost every ray of light which had ever broken in upon the scarcely more palpable night of heathen idolatry. Now, as has been said, hardly a vestige remains of any thing which bears the remotest analogy to the religion of the cross; and the poor, wretched Christian inhabitants (if any such there be) of this once famed and privileged city, now quail beneath the frown of the turbaned follower of the impostor Mahomet; and are strangers to the living principles of
that holy religion which once flourished so extensively among them; and strangers to all those holy hopes of immortality which would enable them to bear the pressure of their present calamity, on the ground of an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved for them in heaven. No Gospel privileges hath now the city of Ephesus, save, perhaps, when some missionary of the cross from Europe or America, comes along to weep o'er its ruins, and to search among its mouldering columns for some straggling individual who would receive the boon of a Bible, of the existence of which he had till then been most probably in utter igno
All this comes from having neglected the warnings of God to repent and do her first works. The threat was accomplished—the candlestick was removed-privilege after privilege failed—till at last, the warning totally unheeded, Ephesus fell, apparently never more to rise. The arm of the Almighty appears still outstretched in punishment, and his anger not yet turned away. If the cloud which hath gathered so thick over this portion of Asia shall ever break away, and her sons walk abroad in the freedom which for years they have been bleeding to purchase,—if the power of the Turk shall ever be prostrated, and the cross be planted on the spot when the crescent is laid low-if the unadulterated word of God shall find its way amidst these scenes of desolation and of death, and if the voice of the missionary shall ever be heard crying “prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a high way for our God”—then may the Church at Ephesus recover from the shock which she hath received at the hand of God, for the sins of which she refused to repent when warned. She hath drunk, indeed, of a bitter cup, and there may be something better in reserve. God grant it; but as yet, there hangs over the scene a dark and dismal cloud, which it is impossible for us to penetrate.
Brethren, it would be unjust to you, and detrimental to my subject, if I should attempt, in the brief space which may yet be allowed me, to crowd together the many remarks which belong to other particulars embraced in this epistle. I shall, therefore, here close the subject for the present, intending to proceed with it in another discourse, and with one word of exhortation, I have done.
Let me ask you to carry to your homes, serious and deeply interesting thoughts on the evils of decay in religion. They are, ruin, ruin, temporal and eternal-lost glories—lost privileges—lost hopeslost immortality of bliss. And while we know that the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, and that his ear is not heavy that it cannot hear, yet sin unrepented of will separate for ever between God and us; and for this he will refuse to hear. Repent, and call upon God, and do your first works, or iniquity will inevitably be your ruin. The warning voice of God now unheeded, will be awakened in indignation, when it must be heard, and even as a city and a Church, we may share the fate of Ephesus; for God has not lost his power, neither is his justice or his holiness impaired. It may be said to us, “How often would I have gathered thy children together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, but ye would not : behold your house is left unto you desolate.” But even if this shall not take place ; if God shall not pour out