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to thee. But thou hast a few names in Sardis which have not defiled their garments ; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot his name from the book of life ; and I will acknowledge his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
And to the messenger of the church in Philadelphia write: These saith he who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens ; I know thy works. Behold, I have given before thee a door opened, which no one can shut; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but lie; behold, I will constrain them that they shall come, and shall fall before thy feet, and know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, which is about to come on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I come quickly. Hold what thou hast, that no one may take thy crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he can never more go out. And I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from my God, and my new name. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
And to the messenger of the church in Laodicea write : These saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Head of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot. So because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to cast thee from my mouth. Because thou sayest, I abound, and am enriched, and have want of nothing; and thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold, purified by fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white garments that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not appear, and eye-salve to anoint thine eyes that thou mayest see. As many as I love I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefore and reform. Behold, I 'stand at the door and knock. If any one hear my voice and open the door, I will enter to him and sup with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes I will give to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat with
his throne. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The epistles, though resembling each other in many respects, differ in the attributes and prerogatives which the Redeemer pre sents as the ground of his title to the homage of the church. It
is he who holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, who addresses the church at Ephesus; the First and the Last, who was dead and nas revived, who speaks to the messenger of Smyrna; and the Son of God, who has his eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet like glowing brass, who utters the terrible denunciations to the apostates, and the sublime promises to the faithful of Thyatira. It is he, who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, that exhorts the church at Sardis to reformation, vigilance, and steadfastness; he who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens, who promises deliverance and a victory to the saints of Philadelphia; and the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Head of ihe creation of God, who forewarns the lukewarm of Laodicea of their rejection. These annunciations of himself are inimitably grand, and suited, immeasurably above any others that can be conceived, to impress those to whom they were addressed, with a sense of his infinite knowledge and power, his universal dominion, the awfulness of his justice, and the riches of his grace; and they close with an expression of condescension and love which is scarcely equalled in any other part of the Scriptures. He exhibits himself as standing at the door, and soliciting admission to the presence of his people, and promises to those who allow him to enjoy their society here, a participation in the regal honors to which he is exalted in heaven. What a beauty of condescension! What a grandeur of benignity!
The term öyzɛhos, translated in the common version angel, literally denotes a messenger, and is undoubtedly employed in that sense. It is certain that it is used literally, inasmuch as it is used, chap. i. 20, in the explanation of the symbolic stars; which are employed to represent the angels of the churches. To use a metaphor to explain a symbol were incongruous. "Ayqeos, messenger, is undoubtedly therefore used as literally in that interpretation, as is exxhmsia, church. But it has no literal meaning as a title of men, except that of messenger; and its secondary use as the name of an order of spiritual agents, is founded on their employment as messengers ; it being applied to the whole order, because those of them who have visited our world, have come as the ministers of God. There is no conceivable ground for the use of the term in these instances as a metaphor. Whatever theory is entertained of the ministers of the seven churches, there is no relation in which an angelic being can be imagined with any propriety to be used to metaphorize them. An angel most certainly is not an appropriate representative of authority. Angels are ministers in their relations to men, as well as to God, not rulers; and their office as ministers who bear messages, is that which the name literally denotes.
That it is used in its original sense of messenger, is seen finally from the fact, that the letters were to be sent by the apostle to the churches, and sent therefore by messengers, and messengers doubtless commissioned by the churches themselves, as it is not probable that appropriate persons could have been found by the apostle in the desert isle of Patmos. This supposition moreover is in accordance with the customs of the primitive church. Paul speaks of it with surprise and disapprobation, that on his first arraignment at Rome, all his friends forsook him, 2 Tim. iv. 16; which indicates that it was deemed becoming, and was customary, that the associates of those who were suffering persecution, should attend and sustain them in their trials. He commended Onesiphorus, that he sought him out on his visit at that city, refreshed him often, and was not ashamed of his chain, 2 Tim. i. 16, 17. He was allowed during his long residence there as a prisoner, to live in his own hired house, and all who chose were permitted to visit him.
The representation in the letter to the Romans, ascribed to Ignatius, and in the story of his martyrdom, that some of the church of Antioch accompanied him in his journey to Rome, and that in his progress through Asia Minor, pastors and members of the churches visited him, administered to his wants, and testified their interest in his approaching martyrdom, though those writings are undoubtedly supposititious, may justly be regarded as founded on the custom of the churches to delegate some of their number to attend the martyrs on their removal to distant places, and at their death.
It was indisputably customary during the later pagan persecutions, for the members of the church to visit the confessors in prison, supply their wants, and comfort and encourage them. Dionysius of Corinth, in a letter to the church at Rome, written between the years 168 and 176, when Soter was its bishop, represents it as having been the custom of the Christians of that city from the first, to assist their fellow-believers who were in want or suffering persecution; sending to the numerous churches in other cities, such things as were needful both for the supply of the poor, and the relief of those of the brethren who were sentenced to the mines. Tertullian in like manner relates that the Christians of Africa, were accustomed to appropriate a portion of their earnings to the relief, not only of orphans, the aged, and the unfortunate among them, but of those who were imprisoned or condemned to the mines for their confession of the faith.? Cyprian in his first letter written to the presbyters and deacons of Carthage during his concealment, while exhorting them to take all needful care to supply the indigent, and relieve those who were imprisoned for their confession of Christ, desired them also to caution the people against unnecessarily exciting the displeasure of their enemies, by assembling in crowds at the prison, in order to administer to the necessities of the brethren who were held in confinement. It is represented by Eusebius as an unusual cruelty in Licinius, that he prohibited the Christians from visiting their associates whom he had imprisoned, and supplying them with food, though no adequate provision was made for their sustenance by the magistrates.
* Ignatii Epist. ad Rom. c. 9, 10. Martyrii c. 3. Eusebii Eccl. H. lib. iii. c. 36.
The ministers of the churches also in their imprisonment, exile, or voluntary retreat into seclusion, to avoid the persecuting magistrates, were accustomed to communicate with their people by messengers and letters. Cyprian appointed certain ministers of the church of Carthage, to convey his letters to his people and return their replies, and maintained a continual correspondence with them during the two years of his concealment."
It was customary likewise to employ ministers of the church as messengers to convey letters to distant churches and individuals, and give and receive advice. Thus Clemens sent the letter of the church of Rome to the Corinthians by messengers, and intimates the expectation that the Corinthians would respond by a written or verbal message on their return. The letter of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, exhibits it as becoming them to ordain a deacon to go on an embassy to the church of Antioch, to congratulate it on its release from persecution, and represents that some of the neighboring churches had already sent bishops, presbyters, or deacons ;' and that that letter was to be sent to Philadelphia from Troy, by one who had been commissioned by the churches of Ephesus and Smyrna, to attend him to that place, on his way to Rome. There is a similar request in his letter to the Smyrnians, and to Polycarp.10 This custom of the church is accordingly represented by the author of the supposititious constitu· Eusebii Eccl. Hist. lib. iv. c. 23.
Apologetici. c. 39. * Epist. v. Edit. Lips. 1838.
* Eccl. Hist. lib. X. c. 8. Epist. xxix. c. 59.
c. 10. . c. 11. ? c. 11. 10 c. 7.
tions ascribed to the apostles, as expressly enjoined by them. “If any Christian be condemned by the idolaters to the spectacles, the beasts, or the mines, for the name of Christ, do not neglect him, but send of your earnings for his sustenance, and a gift to the soldiers, that he may be better treated."!
It is apparent thus from the New Testament, and the histories of the ages that immediately followed the period of the revelation, that messengers were customarily sent by the churches to those who were imprisoned or banished, to administer to their wants and ask instruction, who carried back their letters and verbal counsels. There is no reason to doubt therefore that the individuals denominated angels, were messengers sent by the churches to which the letters are addressed, to visit the apostle in his exile, express to him their affection, and receive from him encouragement and instruction in their difficulties. They were ministers of the word, manifestly from the duties enjoined on them, and were delegates doubtless of the teachers of the several churches, and were on that account addressed as their representatives. The reason accordingly that the epistles were addressed to those churches and not to others, probably was, that messengers were sent by them to the apostle ; while the reason that they sent those messengers probably was, that they were the great and conspicuous churches of that part of Asia, that they sustained peculiar relations to him, and that they eminently needed instruction and encouragement in their trials. He represents himself as their companion in the affliction and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. He is said by the early writers to have resided at Ephesus toward the close of life, and to have died there. He not improbably therefore had visited all those churches which were in the circuit round Ephesus, and become familiar with their ministers and members.
CHAPTER IV. 1-11.
THE VISION OF THE DEITY.
After these, I looked, and behold a door opened in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard as of a trumpet speaking to me