Page images
PDF
EPUB

of His unsearchable riches. It is to this Last Will and Testament of the risen Redeemer that I now call your attention, under two heads. First, the Saviour here prescribes a work—"that repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations in His name." Second, He prescribes the order in which that work is to be undertaken—“ beginning at Jerusalem.” Let us consider the two in their order.

I. THE WORK prescribed by the Saviour.

The end of this work is, that sinners should be saved. This practical end we must ever keep in view. If we lose sight of it our ministrations will not be such as are fitted to achieve it: they will be fitted to leave lost men in stable equilibrium, coldly gazing on the system we exhibit to their view, rather than to unfasten them from the anchorage of their worldliness, and to throw them, penitent and believing, on the mercy of God in Christ. Let us, then, always remember that the work is not a success, that the will of the Lord is not effectively administered by us, unless lost sinners by our means are brought to repentance and remission. And let us remember that the work must extend to “all nations,” until the last of the impenitent has been brought back to his lost life in God, and all the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ, so that He may visibly reign for ever and ever.

In its nature and extent, in depth and breadth, as thus set before us, the work is stupendously great. The actual salvation of one sinner is a miracle, greater than the first origination of life: a miracle not merely of power, bringing something out of nothing, but of grace, bringing a clean thing out of an unclean, transforming a child and image of Satan into a child and image of the living God. But what is here set before us is the new creation of a world, a creation more wonderful than the first: the spiritual resurrection of a race, dead in sin, to life in God, a resurrection more marvellous than the physical resurrection to judgment before Him. And as we consider this end, we are struck and appalled with the vast disproportion of the work, in its greatness, to the feebleness of the workmen. As we think of creating an Egypt in the desert, restoring a dead world to life and beauty immortal, we are driven upon the question, What is the means, and what the power, by which we may hope to accomplish a work so transcendant in its greatness? The answer is furnished by our text.

a

M

1. The means here prescribed is preachingpreaching repentance and remission of sins. This ordinance of preaching, even in the general sense of public religious teaching, is all but peculiar to the religion of Christ. Generally speaking, the pagan religions are not aggressive, and are maintained among their devotees by the merely mechanical force of custom, and of sensuous representations, which stimulate and gratify the animal and ästhetic sensibilities, but send the soul to sleep. The Mahommedan delusion, when it was aggressive, was propagated by the power of the sword. Hardly one of those religions has ever relied for its maintenance and propagation on the public teaching of its doctrines and facts: in only one of them, so far as my recollection extends, does the public teaching form any recognised part of the office of its ministers. And the “foolishness of preaching” is so distinctive a characteristic of our religion, that an apostle has spoken of it as if it had been another name for the religion itself. To the worldly-wise man this ordinance is “foolishness."

" For in its total abnegation of every species of mere force, whether of violence or of sensuous representations or of custom, it presents at first sight an aspect of weakness. But in its exclusive appeal to the reason, the conscience, the affections of man, and in its adaptation so far to his nature as rational, it really constitutes one of the sources of our strength. The Good Shepherd will not climb with robber violence over the wall: if He enter the fold, it is only by “ the door”—the lawful way.

And the lawful power, of adaptation to the nature of man, we have in the ordinance of preaching,

But, appearing in the form of preaching, the adaptation still farther appears in the substance of what is preached. The true preacher does not confine himself to iterating and reiterating the words, “repentance and remission :” he labours for the things as the fruits of his ministry. And in order to this fruit, there must be the appropriate seed—the doctrine of a crucified Christ; and sunshine—the whole truth of God revealed in Him; as well as the gracious rain of the Spirit. Even in order to produce “repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," we must declare “the whole counsel of God” (Acts xx. 21, 27)-not only His law, “ repent,” “ believe," but the whole doctrinal system of the Bible,—such, for example, as the truths of the Unity of God, the Trinity of persons in the Godhead, the Incarnation of the Son, Regeneration by His Spirit,

:

[ocr errors]

and above all, Atonement by His blood, Justification by the righteousness of God in Him (1 Cor. i. 23, ii. 2).

And this matter of our preaching is adapted to the mind of all nations, revealing their “desire." In preaching “Jesus and the resurrection ” Paul declares to the Athenians the God whom they have been all along “ignorantly worshipping” (Acts xvii. 18, 33). The barbarians of Lystra are already prepared to believe that the gods have appeared in human form to man (Acts xiv. 11), and to unite with all nations in confessing the truth, that the acceptable way of coming to the deity is through a sacrifice of blood (13). The traditions of the nations regarding a golden age of the past, and dreams of a golden age of the future, betray their consciousness of a fall, and at least longing for redemption: even the most degraded Australian savage will tell us that there is another and better life, in which the black man shall be white. It might be shown that the way has thus been prepared for all the leading doctrines of the gospel to the mind of the race; that corresponding to these there are rudimentary ideas—e.g., of the unity of God, the plurality of divine persons, an incarnation of deity, expiation by blood, and regeneration by a life-giving spirit — lying at the root of every false religion that has ever lived on earth. And these ideas, however much corrupted and perverted, constitute something to begin with, a basis of operations by no means unimportant to the preacher of the Gospel. For the “ repentance and remission” he proclaims are what all nations long for as their life: the doctrinal system he teaches presents a pure and perfect realisation of those ideas which underlie all the living religions of the peoples. For here observe,

2. The power indicated in our text is the power of truth, of the true word of God. In the preceding context the Saviour formally proves, and in the structure of our text He implies, the truth and divinity at once of His Gospel and of its teacher. Thus (1), with reference to His Gospel. To the two disciples on their way to Emmaus He has shown, that His suffering as the Messiah, followed by His resurrection to glory, has been prescribed by the eternal will of God as revealed by “Moses and all the prophets” (25-27). And now He shows the eleven apostles elect that the origination and diffusion of our new life in Him have emanated, not merely from the mind of the man Christ Jesus, but from that eternal counsel of the sovereign love of God (44-49).

[ocr errors]

And here we see the ultimate source of our strength, in the revealed will of God. The so-called crusaders, in their wild enterprise for the recovery of God-forsaken Palestine from the infidels, were animated and sustained by the battle-cry, “God wills it.” What they wrote on their banner is true for us, the true crusaders, who really take up the cross in order to follow the crucified Lord. In seeking to win the lost world to its life in God, from the bondage of sin and death and hell, we have to cheer us and sustain us the Bible truth, “God wills it.” For the work which He has ordained shall certainly be done (Isaiah lv. 10-13).

This glorious work the Gospel is fitted instrumentally to achieve by its nature as true and Divine," the Word of God." In view of the ceaseless assaults of unbelievers against our religion, we often give ourselves much needless uneasiness. “The Lord shall scorn them all.” His truth is great and shall prevail. That which is really true and Divine must, sooner or later, conquer the world. Its truth and divinity is evidenced by its truth and divinity: just as the sun is shown by shining, by being the sun, so the Gospel is shown to be true and Divine by its own internal evidence, by being true and Divine. And so, while unbelieving teachers are “raging," and their disciples “imagining a vain thing," the Gospel is seen and felt to be true and Divine by all the true-hearted, whom God will call into the kingdom of His Son.

(2.) Not only the Gospel is true and Divine: its teacher is true and Divine. It is ordained in this Will, that the preaching shall be “ in the name" of Jesus the Christ.

In the very act of thus preaching “in His name,” we silently bear witness to the truth, that Jesus our teacher is the true eternal Son of God. It is in this indirect way that the Saviour Himself most frequently reminds us of His Godhead. When, for example, He cries, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” He claims to be the God who cried of old, “ Look unto me and be saved, all ye ends of earth :" in undertaking to bear the whole burden of our sorrowladen and sin-laden humanity, He affirms His own deity as strongly, though not so plainly, as when He plainly says, “I and the Father are one (thing).” And so it is when He instructs us to preach the Gospel among all nations “in His name." This would be astounding and impious presumption in any one who is not God. Even in matters of natural history and philosophy, those

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

who believed on the strength of the mere ex cathedrå statement of a human master were deservedly the scoff of pagan antiquity. But here, with reference to the “heavenly things” of that unseen world which no man has trodden, the “deep things” of that God whom “ no man hath seen at any time,” we are divinely instructed to rest our own faith, to command all nations to rest their faith, and stake their life, now and for ever, on the mere ipse dixit of Jesus the son of Mary. And a demand upon our faith so stupendously great can be justified only by the fact, that the son of Mary is that “only-begotten Son” of God, who eternally “is in the bosom of the Father,” heart to heart, in blissful communion, knowing even as He is known (John X. 15); and therefore (John iii. 11) speaking what He knows, and testifying what He sees, when He declares to us the Father, in the mysterious deeps of His invisible nature and inscrutable counsel.

And it is well that we should thus have the truth of His deity ever full in our view. For in thus setting forth this truth regarding Him, we give due glory to our Master, openly shewing by “preaching in His name” that we regard Him who died on the cross as the “true God, our eternal life.” And further and especially, in remembering this truth we are strong and very courageous, filled with exulting confidence of success, in our great war for the world's liberation by the Gospel. For remembering that He is God, omniscient and omnipresent, we know that He is “ with us always” in our work, “even to the end of the world” (Matt. xxviii. 20), so that, if a new creation be required for men's true life, the Eternal Creator is here to effect it by His power, through the means of the preached Word. And we also know that the truth of His deity is one in whose light the nations can see and feel the truth of our Gospel of “repentance and remission :" His deity is a rock, the only rock, on which a church of rational souls can be built.

For first, this truth, too, has its own evidence in itself: in order to be believed by all the true-hearted it needs only to be proclaimed as the Bible reveals it. Not only is it declared to us by Jesus Himself, whose perfect truthfulness no one with any moral or spiritual sensibility ever thought of questioning. It shines through all His life on earth: in reading the Gospel histories no one ever dreams of thinking that His claims to the attributes and offices of deity do not become the "meek and ·lowly” Jesus; every one sees and feels that they sit easy upon

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »