Page images

character of the universal Church has been supposed to be mysteriously expressed. Bede, in the eighth century, is the first author in whom I recollect to have seen this mode of interpretation. He finds myrrh in the word Smyrna, and then applies the qualities of myrrh to the city of that name; others following the example (exemplum vitiis imitabile), have extended this method of interpretation to all the seven churches.

Ib. Ephesus.) This is the city, in which the apostle Saint John commonly resided*, and from which he would visit the six remaining Churches, in the order in which they are here named. It is also the first seaport to one proceeding from the Island of Patmos, from which the distribution of our Lord's injunctions to the seven Churches would begin. Strabo, who wrote about 50 years before the date of this vision, and who had been educated in the province of Asia, and was personally acquainted with every part of it, has described Ephesus as the most considerable city in that regiont. So likewise Pliny I. Possessing the famous temple of Diana, which had been endowed with peculiar privileges by the conquerors Xerxes and Alexander, it became a distinguished seat of heathen idolatry. Hence the preaching of the Gospel was opposed in this city from political prejudices and mercenary motives s. But the cause of true religion prevailed, by the diligent preaching of Saint Paul assisted by the Holy Spirit. That Apostle made Ephesus bis abode “for the space of two years ;" and, as this city was the grand mart of Asia, so it

Iren, adv. Hær. lib. iii. c. 1. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. lib. üi, c. 23. Strabo, ii. p. 865, 941,

1 Nat. Hist. lib, V, C. 89, Acts xix. 26,


became a central point, whence the Christian Religion was successfully propagated; “so that all they “ who dwelt in Asia, heard the word of the Lord “ Jesus, both Jews and Greeks*.” Therefore, when Saint John, some years later, came to dwell in Asia, Ephesus became the proper place of his residence.

We may learn somewhat of the state of this Church, about 30 or 40 years before the date of this vision, from the Epistles of Saint Paul to Timothy, whom he had left at Ephesus, and who was Angel or Apostle, of this Church at the time when the letters of Saint Paul were addressed to himt. It was then assailed by zealots, probably Jews, who taught their “ fables and endless gevealogies," and made little account of that charity which is “the “ end of the commandment.” We might obtain additional information on this subject, from the Epistle of Saint Paul which is inscribed to the Ephesians, if it should appear to be written peculiarly to the inhabitants, of that city. But doubts have been advanced upon this subject: and some have supposed that this Epistle is that which Saint Paul had sent to the Laodiceans, and which, at the conclusion of his Epistle to the Colossians, he orders to be read, interchangeably with that Epistle, by the two Churchest. But how


• Acts xix. 10.

+ 1 Tim. 1. 3. 1 See Whitby on Coloss. iv. 6. Paley's Horæ Pauliuæ. Lardner's Cred. vol. vi. Bp. Pretymau's Christian Theology, vol. i.Certainly this Epistle contains nothing personal to the Ephesians, wbich might be expected in the letter of an Apostle who had resided above two years among them. And to me it appears probable, that containing only a general exposition of the Christian dispensation so far as it relates to the Gentiles, and a general view of the Christian doctrines as applicable to all, and confined to no community in particular, it was


ever this matter may be determined, it is certain that the Church of Ephesus had enjoyed very considerable advantages, beyond most other churches, at the time when our Lord now addresses it. Saint Paul had resided at Ephesus upwards of two years, and afterwards Timothy, under his immediate direction ; lastly, the Apostle Saint John had fixed his abode there. All this accords with the address of our Lord to this Church, in which it is (1st) represented, as free from heretical doctrines ; (2dly) is reprimanded severely for a defect in charity; for to whom much is given, of the same much will be required.

The History of Ephesus, from the apostolical times to the present, is in abridgment as follows.

This city stood very high in the commonwealth of Christians for some centuries. She sent her bishops to the general councils, and councils were holden at Ephesus. About ten or twenty years after this address of her Lord to her, at the time of Ignatius's martyrdom,

intended to be circulated not only at Ephesus, but in all the adjacent region; and accordingly might be addressed also to the Laodiceans. Arguments for this hypothesis may be seen in Michaelis's Introduce tion to the New Testament, ch. xx. Add to these, that Tychicus was the bearer of this Epistle; and Tychicus appears to have been often employed in bearing the communications of this Apostle to the Churches ; (Col. iv. 7. 2 Tim. iv. 12. Tit, iii. 12.) From Rome, wbere Saint Paul wrote this Epistle, Tychicus had to travel over. many regions before he would arrive at Ephesus. This Epistle, as a Catholic universal address, was of a 6t character to be distributed as he passed through the Churches. The copy left at Ephesus had the words Epson inserted, and this copy principally was preserved, and acknowledged by the Fathers of the Church. But in some of the MS$. now extant, the words - Epey are not to be found, and in some the word waar is added after syrois (such is the case in the famous Alexandrine MS.) which gives some colour to this supposition, of its being a Catholic Epistle, designed for many of the Geptile Churches.



she appears to be in a flourishing state, having in her bosom great numbers of Christians professing a pure faith, and directed by Onesimus an excellent bishop; The heresies, which then began to prevail throughout the Churches, had not yet corrupted her * In the third naval expedition of the barbarians from the Euxine, during the reign of Valerian, Ephesus suffered great calamities. But the grand desolation of this city, under which she now lies prostrate, was that which she underwent in common with the maritime coast of Lesser Asia, in the year 1312, from the devastating armies of the Turkst. Ephesus is described by modern travellers as little better than a heap of ruins ; so completely is her “ lamp-bearer removed.”

Ib. Thus saith he, &c.] The supreme head of the Christian church is now in the act of visiting and superintending. To the church of Ephesus, with which he begins, he represents himself in that character and office, as walking amidst his churches, and directing and supporting their teachers 5.

Ver. 2. Canst not endure. The word endure (Becclckw)

Ver. 3. Hast endured. is twice applied to the Ephesian Church, which in the same passage is commended, ist, for enduring; and 2dly, for not endur. ing; for enduring the yoke of Christianity without fainting under the afflictions and persecutions which attended it; for not enduring another yoke, namely,

• Ignatii Epist. ad Ephes, sect. 9.
+ Gibbon's Hist. i. ch. 10. vi, p. 314,

1 For accounts of the present state of Ephesus, and of the other six Churches, as briefly reported in the ensuing notes, see at large, Smith's Septem Asiæ Eccles. Notit.; Rycaut's Present State of the Greek Church; and the relations of Wheeler, Spon, Heyman, and Van Egmont, in their voyages and travels. See note i. 12,



the yoke of doctrines and ordinances of pretended Apostles, who under the name of Christianity had attempted to deceive them. This Church had ceeded, according to the injunction of our apostle *,

to try the Spirits,” to bring the doctrines of these pretended apostles to the test of Apostolic Religiont; and upon this trial had rejected them. If the Chris. tian Church, mindful of this commendation, (which is again studiously repeated in verse 6,) had been careful in succeeding times to model its conduct by the example proposed, it would not have been betrayed into antichristian apostacies, or have submitted to antichristian domination, such as will be seen described in the sequel of this prophecy.

Ver. 4. Thy former love.] It seems justly remarked by Grotius on this passage, that zgwiny, as in John i. 15; has the force of apolegyv. Tertullian thus understood it, desertam dilectionem Ephesiis imputat I. The Church is accused of having forsaken that warm and extensive communication of charity which characterised Christianity in its infancy, and which in the days of Justin Martyr, and of Tertullian, is described to be its distinguishing ornament ş. To fail in this, is to fall from primitive purity; and the fall is great; zobEV Entetlw«s; and the punishment threatened, naturally follows: for the Church, which is defective in Christian Charity, cannot long remain "a shining light;" her lamp-bearer is removed ||

Ver. 6. Nicolaitans.] It is observed by Mosheim, that our knowledge of the sects and heresies of the first

* i John iv. 1.

+ 2 John vi. Mat. vii. 16. De Pænitentia, sect. 8. 3 Just. Dial. cum Tryphon. p. 254. Tertullian. Apol. c. 31. p. 31. 1 2 Esd. x. 22.


« PreviousContinue »