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all doctrines or principles are to be tried, and by which all that is false in them is to be consumed, or manifested to be worthless, (1 Cor. iii. 13.) A lake or pit of fire, as it were an immense furnace, we suppose to be a very powerful revelation, or development of the revealed word, which is to act in a more than ordinary manner, in trying the truth, and testing the falsehood of all principles, or elements of doctrine, at that period of peculiar manifestation, when these two anti-evangelic systems, Death and Hades, are to meet their final destruction. This instrument of trial is also spoken of as a lake of fire and brimstone; we suppose in allusion to the popular opinion that the sulphuric composition of volcanic fires is the cause of their perpetuity. Hence a lake of fire and sulphur, or brimstone, is an instrument of trial, as by fire, perpetual and eternal. To be hurt by this second death, is to be manifested in this final trial to be in a state the opposite of justification. A principle hurt or unjustified by this trial, or test, is one manifested to be inconsistent with divine truth-inconsistent with the truth of sovereign grace. Such a fate as this the angel of the church in Smyrna is assured cannot attend the overcoming principle, ó vixãv. The principle of salvation, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, will abide the test of the revealed word in its most spiritual sense. And this we suppose to be preeminently the overcoming principle of faith—the principle of sovereign grace, which overcomes every principle of legal condemnation.
Epistle to the Angel of the Church of Pergamos.
V. 12. And to the angel of the church
in Pergamos write; these things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two
Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Περγάμῳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὴν ῥομφαίαν τὴν δίστομον τὴν ὀξεῖαν·
$58. He that hath the sharp sword.'-Of the different titles assumed by the speaker in addressing the churches, six refer us back distinctly to the account given in the first chapter, of the form and language of the one like unto the Son of man, while the title assumed in the seventh address leads to the faithful witness, declared (Rev. i. 5) to be Jesus Christ, thus identifying the form seen in the midst of the golden candlesticks, with one of the personifications of the source of grace and peace.
The sharp sword is not an uncommon figure in Scripture. David says of the enemies of his soul, Ps. lvii. 4, alluding no doubt to the legal principles of condemnation, that their tongue is a sharp sword; and again, Ps. lxiv. 3, "who whet their tongue like a sword," preparatory to a work of legal destruction. The spirit of truth and the spirit of error have each their respective swords; but the two-edged sword seems to be the peculiar weapon of the Holy Spirit; and this we have already described as divine revelation by the written word with its twofold sense, (§ 33.)
V. 13. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, (even) where Satan's seat (is): and thou holdest fast my name, and last not denied my faith, even in ihose days wherein Antipas (was) my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where
Οἶδα τὰ ἔργα σου καὶ ποῦ κατοικεῖς, ὅπου ὁ θρόνος τοῦ σατανᾶ· καὶ κρατεῖς τῖ ὄνομά μου, καὶ οὐκ ἠρνήσω τὴν πίστιν μου, καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐν αἷς ̓Αντίπας ὁ μάρτυς μου πιστός, ὃς ἀπεκτάνθη παρ ̓ ὑμῖν, ὅπου ὁ σα
§ 59. I know where thou dwellest.'-To say that the Divine Spirit, here speaking, knew that the angel of the church dwelt in the church, or that the church of Pergamos was located in Pergamos, would be to suppose the enunciation of a mere truism. This dwelling must refer, not to locality, but to position. Speaking of a system personified-I know thy position. This seems to be said in extenuation-as if allowance were made for a certain disadvantage under which this angel laboured-as one who of necessity dwells in a place where he is under restraint from the action of a hostile power.
'Where Satan's seat,' or throne, 'is,'-that is, the seat of his power: ó Vgóvos rov aarava,-the throne of the Satan. The seat of the accuser's power is where the law is in force; for where the law is fulfilled, the legal adversary, or accuser, can have no power. The disadvantage, therefore, under which this system labours is, that it admits in some degree at least the continuance of the legal economy. Its position supposes the requisitions of the law to be still unsatisfied—an admission widely differing from the representation of the apostle Paul, Rom. vi. 14, "Ye are not under the law, but under grace;" and Rom. vii. 4 and 7, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law." "We are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter." Opposite to this is the error, that the law continues in force, not merely as a rule of conduct, or guide to what is pleasing in the sight of God, but as a system of penal ordinances, involving the treatment of the disciple on his own merits, and thus subjecting him to the power of the accuser.
'And holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.'-Notwithstanding the false position, as we may call it, of this system, there were two commendable characteristics in it: the holding fast or wielding the name of Christ, as a weapon of defence ;-trusting in his name, and pleading the power of his name, and not denying the faith. Such a general sentiment of trust in Christ we often find in individual disciples, mingled with some erroneous views influenced by the spirit of legality. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth (it is said, Rom. x. 9) the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." This holding fast the name of Christ, may correspond with the confession of that name spoken of by Paul; while Paul's belief of the heart corresponds also with the not denying the faith. From the context of this passage in
Romans, it is evident that Paul contemplates but an imperfect knowledge of truth on the part of the disciple, who may yet draw the assurance of his salvation from these two simple elementary tokens of divine favour. Such an imperfect view of the scheme of salvation, may be supposed to be possessed by the angel of the church of Pergamos. Represented as a disciple, it might be said of him, with the heart he believed unto righteousness, (or justification,) and with the mouth he made confession unto salvation, giving professedly and confessedly the glory of that salvation to that name, of which it is said, there is none other given amongst men whereby we can be saved.
$ 60. Even in those days wherein Antipas (was) my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.'-The first was is supplied by our translators, probably to make the sentence correspond with the use of the relative who, preceding the second was. It would be taking much. less liberty to suppose the name Antipas to have been originally written in the genitive; which requires only a dropping of the final s. On this supposition the sentence might be read, in those days of Antipas, the faithful witness of me, who was slain on your account, where Satan dwelleth; that is, under the legal dispensation-the peculiar position of the accuser.
The preposition zaoà translated among in our common version, and apud in the Latin version of Leusden, might have been rendered for, or on account of, which meaning it also sometimes has, (Rob. Lex. 541.) The name Antipas is composed of the preposition Avrì, which sometimes signifies for, in the place of, and nas, all. The appellation Antipas thus signifying in the place of all, or instead of all: pro omnibus, (Leusd. onomas.)-leading to the suggestion, that this name is put for Christ himself in his vicarious character-add to which the term, rendered here faithful martyr, is precisely the same in the original as that rendered, Rev. i. 5, the faithful witness, o μágrvs ó morós, a title peculiar to Christ—God the Holy Spirit here speaking of God manifested in the flesh-the personification of the Deity in Jesus Christ -the word made flesh-being the faithful witness, or representation of Jehovah. The word rendered by our translators even, is the common conjunction zai (and); which, when repeated as it is here, may be rendered by also. The whole sentence is susceptible of being paraphrased as follows: and holdest my name, and hast not denied my faith in those days also of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was slain in your behalf under that dispensation of the law which is characterized as the habitation of the accuser. Christ, the true Antipas, having placed himself in this position, pro omnibus, in behalf of all men, especially of those that believe. This we suppose to be spoken of a system represented by an angel, whose fidelity under the circumstances alluded to may be considered an opposite of the conduct of one who, in a parallel situation, denied his master three times before the cock had crowed
thrice. Notwithstanding this fidelity, however, there were defects in the system, arising probably from the peculiarity of the influence adverted to in the first part of the verse-a consequence of dwelling where Satan's seat is.
V. 14. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught
Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacri
ficed to idols, and to commit fornication.
̓Αλλ ̓ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὀλίγα, ὅτι ἔχεις ἐκεῖ κρατοῦντας τὴν διδαχὴν Βαλαάμ, ὃς ἐδίδασκε τῷ Βαλάκ βαλεῖν σκάνδαλον ἐνώπιον τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ, φαγεῖν εἰδωλόθυτα καὶ πορ
§ 61. A few things,' &c., small in number, but evidently not unimportant in character. The Pergamean system has within it certain principles, figuratively spoken of as persons, inculcating in a spiritual sense that which Balaam taught in a literal sense.
The doctrine of Balaam,' &c.-Balaam was sent for by Balak, king of the Moabites, (Numbers xxii. and xxiii.,) to curse Israel, with the promise of great rewards for so doing. His desire of obtaining these rewards was but too evident. The spirit of prophecy, however, was so strong upon him that he could do no otherwise than declare the truth committed to him to speak : but what he could not do as a prophet, he readily did for the compensation promised as a man. He taught Balak how to bring the Israelites into a snare of such a character as he knew must necessarily be followed by disastrous results to that favoured people, at least of a temporary nature. Acting in this, no doubt, upon his knowledge of the rule of divine providence towards them, that their transgressions should be visited with the rod, and their iniquities with stripes, although the loving kindness of their God would not be utterly taken from them.
A trap,' or stumbling-block, as the term is employed here, must be something causing those affected by it to err from the faith. If meat, says the apostle, 1 Cor. viii. 13, make my brother to offend—that is, place a stumbling-block before him, "I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I place a stumbling-block before my brother." As if he had said, as appears from the context, speaking of the liberty of the people-I will not use my freedom, if my use of it lead a less enlightened brother to suppose that I do that which I do not believe myself at liberty to do, and thence prompt him to do the same thing without my belief of freedom-thereby leading him to sin against his own conscience; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin, (Rom. xiv. 23.) Here was a doctrine of self-denial, the opposite of that of Balaam, who, to gratify his desire of gain-for a reward, it is said, (Jude 11)-hazarded the welfare of those whom, as a prophet of the Most High, he should have regarded as brethren.
Things sacrificed to idols.'-The sin of the children of Israel, is spoken of as the eating of things offered to its idols; not, however, merely in eating the things, (as we learn from 1 Cor. viii. 7,) but in eating them as
things offered to idols—participating in the act of idolatrous worship. As it is said, 1 Cor. x. 18, " Are not they which eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar?" Their offence was idolatry itself.
In a spiritual sense, he who places his hopes of salvation upon any other merit than that of Christ, makes such merit, or the source from which such merit emanates, an idol, or object of religious worship. If he trust to his own righteousness, he must necessarily ascribe his salvation to his own merit. In doing so, he depends upon himself and upon his own ability for that salvation, the glory of which he takes to himself, feeling indebted to himself alone even for his eternal happiness. While working out his salvation, as he considered it, he was actuated by no motive but that of serving and glo
ying himself; and now having, as he supposes, effected this object, his obligations of gratitude and love, in his estimation, are to himself. His own self is his idol of worship; and all his works, however good they may appear outwardly, are but so many sacrifices offered to his idol. His error is not in performing works, but in doing them as things offered to an idol.
§ 62. There is a similar analogy between the crime of fornication and the error in doctrine illustrated by it. As the illicit indulgence into which the Israelites were betrayed through the teaching of Balaam, is the opposite of the lawful enjoyments of the marriage state,—the type or figure of the mystic union between Christ and his people, so the criminal intercourse alluded to, in a spiritual sense, as a matter of faith, is a reliance upon other means of eternal happiness than those of a union and identity with Christ— righteousness of his righteousness, and merit of his merit; as the wife, in relation to her husband, is accounted one and the same person, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, (Gen. ii. 23.) The spiritual body of the disciple's righteousness being taken out of that of his Redeemer's, as the woman was taken out of man.
The teachers spoken of as holding or wielding the doctrine of Balaam, in the Pergamean Church, we suppose to symbolize principles leading the disciple astray from views of faith requisite to the true worship of God, and to an undivided reliance upon the merits of Christ: principles personified as teachers, professing, no doubt, to hold the name and not to deny the faith, while the tendency of their doctrine is that here described.
In allusion to errors of this kind, apparently, the apostle Paul speaks of those who cause offences, (rà oxárdala, stumbling-blocks,) Rom. xvi. 17, 18, as persons serving not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; making use of good words and fair speeches to deceive the simple-teachers actuated by selfish and mercenary views, and probably inculcating principles of a corresponding character; self-righteous principles, perhaps, sustained by literal constructions of the language of revelation-teachers, forsaking the right way and going astray, as it is said, 2 Peter ii. 15, following the way of Balaam, who