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enforcement of the subject. To these things I shall call your
attention in their appropriate place, but in the mean time feel reluctant to pass over the following remarks of a traveller, who lately visited this city. “Smyrna,” says he, “will ever be to the Christian a most interesting spot; the conflict which was maintained here, was one of no common description: it was not only Polycarp himself, who was the gainer by his sufferings; on the firmness of the Christian martyrs depended, under Divine Providence, the transmission of the truth to the latest generations. Had they yielded to the fury of their foes, and denied the Lord that bought them, we should still have been immersed in the ignorance of our forefathers, without God and without hope in the world. We do well then to cherish the memory of these faithful servants of God, and it is just for us to bless the most High for his grace bestowed upon them. I must confess that I tread the ground signalized by the death of a Christian martyr, with unspeakably more delight than I should visit the plains of Marathon. Here was a conflict, not for the liberty which is merely co-existent with the span of human life, but for a freedom which is eternal. Here, without arms, without allies, the world and its God were vanquished. Here was honour won, not that empty honour which fallen man admires, but that eternal weight of glory, which God has prepared for his faithful servants."*
Smyrna is the largest and richest city of Asia Minor, situated between forty and forty-five miles north of Ephesus, of which it was formerly a colo
* Jowett's Researches.
ny. It bears, as you will observe, the same name at present which it did when the Apostle wrote, though also called Ismir by its present barbarian masters, the Turks.
While the address of the Spirit of the Church to Ephesus contained both commendation and censure, it is remarkable of this Church of Smyrna, that the address of the Spirit is composed entirely of commendation. And we may notice the providence of God in a circumstance quite as remarkable. It is the only one of these Churches whose present bears any kind of comparison with its former condition. We believe these things to have a reciprocal bearing on each other, for as the Christians in the city of Smyrna were commended for their constancy in obedience, so they have since been in a much better condition than any of the seven Churches, and their number far greater than all the others, if united,
My hearers are much more familiar with the name of Smyrna, than with that of any other city mentioned in the Apocalypse, because from its situation and its commercial relations with our own, as well as other Christian nations, its name is continually occurring in the public vehicles of information.
By some, the population of Smyrna is estimated at 140,000. Of this number 26,000 are said to embrace the peculiarities of the Greek Church; about 5000 are Roman Catholics; 6000 Armenians, included in the number belonging to the Greek Church; 11,000 Jews, and 140 Protestants. This was previous to the late Greek struggle. A much more accurate estimate is most probably to be found in the travels of Mr. Hartly, who supposes
population to be 75,000, thus distributed: Turks, 45,000;
Greeks, 15,000; Armenians, 8000; Jews, 8000; Europeans, less than 1000. The Turkish mosques in the city are more than twenty. The Greeks have three Churches; the Armenians one; the Catholics two; the Protestants two; so that there are of Churches nominally at least Christian, no less than eight. The Jews have two synagogues.
But to the religious portion of the American community, there are special reasons which render Smyrna a place of interest. From its advantages of intercourse, many of the missionaries destined for Judea and Greece reside here during a portion of their preparation for their work. Smyrna is said by travellers to be a beautiful
city, contrasted with other Turkish cities, having, however, the terrible disadvantage of being in continual danger of the ravages of the plague and quently visited by earthquakes.
It is to the Church in Smyrna, as existing in the time of the Apostle, that the epistle to which I now call your attention, was directed. “And unto the angel of the Church in Smyrna write; these things saith the first and the last, who was dead, and is alive; I know thy works and tribulation and poverty, (but thou art rich,) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer; behold the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days; be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."
The topics which will come under our consideration, as the natural division of this subject, are as follows:
I. THE INTRODUCTORY DESCRIPTION OF OUR SAVIOUR.
II. THE DIFFICULTIES WITH WHICH THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF SMYRNA WERE CALLED UPON TO CONTEND.
III. AN ATTESTATION TO THE EXCELLENT SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE CHURCH.
IV. AN ALLUSION TO THE DIFFICULTIES WHICH THEY WOULD HAVE TO ENCOUNTER.
V. AN EXHORTATION TO FAITHFULNESS, and VI. Lastly, THE PROMISE WITH WHICH THAT EXHORTATION IS ACCOMPANIED.
Among the most important subjects which of a mere doctrinal character can be presented to the consideration of an audience of those who call themselves Christians, is that which relates to the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the preacher of the Gospel would be wanting in his duty if he should permit any opportunity to pass by unnoticed, in which he might press this matter upon the attention of his hearers. It is utterly impossible to read the introductory portion of this epistle, without being fully persuaded that the speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ; for to none other can many of its terms in any sense be applied. Taking along with us this preliminary observation, mark what a singularly strong attestation it contains to the divinity of the speaker, as claimed by himself—“ These things saith the first and the last.” These terms expressively assert the claims of a true and proper eternity.
“I am the beginning and I am the end.” “The same yesterday, to-day and for ever.”
To this is added the particularly consolatory declaration, “who was dead and is alive,” evidently alluding to two of the most important circumstances in the Christian dispensation—the death of Christ, which we learn from the other Scriptures was as a sacrifice for sins, “the just for the unjust,” that he might bring us unto God; the resurrection of Christ, which is the Christian's confirmation of the hope which in faith he hath fastened upon his Lord and Saviour; for it is an admirable, as well as a most pressing argument, that “if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your hope is also vain, and ye are yet in your sins; and if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable; but now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.” Not only dead, not only risen, but alive for ever, death hath no more dominion over him.
The Christian, my friends, will have no difficulty in applying this introductory passage as spoken by our Saviour, for of him alone, as testified to by all the other Scriptures, of him alone can it be said, “He was the first and is the last, who was dead and is alive.” He emphatically was dead, because, when he poured out his soul as an offering and a sacrifice for sin, he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross : he was alive again, because, when in accordance with the scheme of prophecy he had rested in the tomb the appointed time, he burst its iron bands and rose triumphantly from its bosom. Having spoiled the monster in his own dominions, he rose from the grave, he led captivity captive, and