The preceding notes of lectures, whose object was the practical edification of the saints of God, leave room for expressing with more precision what I believe to be the successive states of the church, to which the moral condition unfolded in each of the church respectively applies.

The reader of the “Lectures” will remember, that he is not to expect in any case to find the active energy of the Spirit of God which produces the blessing of the church, but the form or condition of the professing church after that energy has been in operation and man’s responsibility comes into play. There may be a measure of blessing, or great culpability. But the energy of the Holy Ghost cannot be the object of judgment.

The first church indeed shews the decline of the saints from the first condition of blessing, produced by the power of the Holy Ghost. This sufficiently indicates the epoch to which it refers, while it characterises, in a general way, the result for the whole professing church, as a system established by God in this world, as a light in the world (and as such the church is considered here); not in its safety as the true living body of Christ, according to the power of redemption secured by the unfailing power of Christ.

It had left its first love. This was the point which marked that man had failed under the blessing of God. If the church as seen in the world, did not return to do its first works, it would be removed. This was already its state in apostolic days, immediately after its first planting; for such is man. Responsibility under the gift of the Holy Ghost, failure, threat of removal if there was not a return to its first state—such is the word to Ephesus. She is called back to the work of the Holy Ghost, in practical result at the beginning. There was much that was yet good, among other things maintaining the bonds of natural relationship as moral ties, and the judgment of those pretending to authoritative teaching. But there was practical departure of heart from Christ.

This soon paved the way for putting the church into tribulation (for a limited time, however). The poor of the flock, the faithful ones, would be subject to injurious accusations from those professing to have established claims to be God’s people, and persecution from without. This characterised the church. This state lasted from Nero to Diocletian.

After this, another state of things characterised the church. It had gone through persecution, and there had been faithful martyrs. The world, where its earthly dwelling was, had been its enemy. Now doctrines, or rather teaching, came in, which led it into association with the world—to commit fornication, and eat things sacrificed to idols; so, when he could not curse and destroy as an enemy, Balaam had not done with Israel; he counselled corruption as a friend. There were also doctrines that led to evil deeds, that sanctioned the breach of direct moral ties. Personal faithfulness was called from the midst of the evil. This went on from Constantine—was creeping in before, but now characterised the church, and continued to do so till it became an established system; and popery, as such, was the mother of children in the professing church.

Such is Thyatira. Jezebel is not simply a prophetess to seduce God’s servants, as those who held the doctrine of Balaam; she is the mother of children. Those that associated with her would be in great tribulation—her children under utter judgment. Here already the call to hear is after separating the remnant. In the first three churches, it was still in connection with the whole body; and, further, all repenting and restoration of the body at large is dropped, and Christ’s coming held out and the entire change of dispensation as the hope of the saints. This closes, I apprehend, the general prophetic history of the wliole body at large.

We have next protestantism (I do not say the Reformation, as a work of God’s active power in the Holy Ghost, but), the great public result among men in professing Christendom. Christ is seen therefore afresh with all in His hand for the church. As to the church itself, it has a name to live, but is dead. It is not Jezebel producing children of corruption, and whoredom, and idolatry; but there is no answer to what has been received and heard. It would be visited as the world in judgment at Christ’s coming. (Compare 1 Thess. 5.) It may be remarked that the general characteristic states go down to the end, as Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and, of course, Laodicea, though some may begin late.

But all was not to be left in this state. There was not to be restoration of strength. If I may so speak, the seven Spirits and seven stars were useless in Christ’s hand, if it was not to condemn. But there would be a company true to Christ, keeping His word, not denying His name, having only-a little strength, but the door open before it. Christ’s character, not His power, is put forward; and consistency, obedience, dependence, and owning Christ, are marked by the Holy Ghost as characterising those whom Christ would shew He had loved. They were comforted with the thought that He was coming quickly.

The result remained, apart from these despised ones—the result to the general professing body. It was not Jezebel-corruption, but lukewarmness, having a high idea of what it had, but without divine righteousness, without spiritual discernment, without the fruits of a spiritual character. It was spued out of Christ’s mouth. Such was the end of the professing world as distinct from Jezebel. Thus the whole characteristic history of the professing church is given from the apostles’ days, till it is utterly rejected, or judged by the judgment of God: a warning given already to Ephesus, but executed, after marvellous patience, in Jezebel and Laodicea, Christ then, as in His title in the address to Laodicea, taking the place of witness, which the church had not been able to maintain. The Lord give us now a true Philadelphian character.