on Revelation 2 :4
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee - The clause should be read, according to the Greek, thus: But I have against thee that thou hast left thy first love. They did not retain that strong and ardent affection for God and sacred things which they had when first brought to the knowledge of the truth, and justified by faith in Christ.
on Revelation 2 :4
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee - Notwithstanding this general commendation, there are things which I cannot approve.
Because thou hast left thy first love - Thou hast "remitted" (ἀφῆκας aphēkas) or let down thy early love; that is, it is less glowing and ardent than it was at first. The love here referred to is evidently love to the Saviour; and the idea is, that, as a church, they had less of this than formerly characterized them. In this respect they were in a state of declension; and, though they still maintained the doctrines of his religion, and opposed the advocates of error, they showed less ardor of affection toward him directly than they had formerly done. In regard to this we may remark:
(1) That what is here stated of the church at Ephesus is not uncommon:
(a) Individual Christians often lose much of their first love. It is true, indeed, that there is often an appearance of this which does not exist in reality. Not a little of the ardor of young converts is often nothing more than the excitement of animal feeling, which will soon die away of course, though their real love may not be diminished, or may be constantly growing stronger. When a son returns home after a long absence, and meets his parents and brothers and sisters, there is a glow, a warmth of feeling, a joyousness of emotion, which cannot be expected to continue always, and which he may never be able to recall again, though he may be ever growing in real attachment to his friends and to his home.
(b) Churches remit the ardor of their first love. They are often formed under the reviving influences of the Holy Spirit when many are converted, and are warm-hearted and zealous young converts. Or they are formed from other churches that have become cold and dead, from which the new organization, embodying the life of the church, was constrained to separate. Or they are formed under the influence of some strong and mighty truth that has taken possession of the mind, and that gives a special character to the church at first. Or they are formed with a distinct reference to promoting some one great object in the cause of the Redeemer. So the early Christian churches were formed. So the church in Germany, France, Switzerland, and England came out from the Roman communion under the influence of the doctrine of justification by faith. So the Nestorians in former ages, and the Moravians in modern times, were characterized by warm zeal in the cause of missions.
So the Puritans came out from the established church of England at one time, and the Methodists at another, warmed with a holier love to the cause of evangelical religion than existed in the body from which they separated. So many a church is formed now amidst the exciting scenes of a revival of religion, and in the early days of its history puts to shame the older and the slumbering churches around them. But it need scarcely be said that this early zeal may die away, and that the church, once so full of life and love, may become as cold as those that went before it, or as those from which it separated, and that there may be a necessity for the formation of new organizations that shall be fired with ardor and zeal. One has only to look at Germany, at Switzerland, at various portions of the reformed churches elsewhere; at the Nestorians, whose zeal for missions long since departed; or even at the Moravians, among whom it has so much declined; at various portions of the Puritan churches, and at many an individual church formed under the warm and exciting feelings of a revival of religion, to see that what occurred at Ephesus may occur elsewhere.
(2) the same thing that occurred there may be expected to follow in all similar cases. The Saviour governs the church always on essentially the same principles; and it is no uncommon thing that, when a church has lost the ardor of its first love, it is suffered more and more to decline, until "the candlestick is removed" - until either the church becomes wholly extinct, or until vital piety is wholly gone, and all that remains is the religion of forms.
on Revelation 2 :4
2:4 But I have against thee, that thou hast left thy first love - That love for which all that church was so eminent when St. Paul wrote his epistle to them. He need not have left this. He might have retained it entire to the end. And he did retain it in part, or there could not have remained so much of what was commendable in him. But he had not kept, as he might have done, the first tender love in its vigour and warmth. Reader, hast thou?