Page images
PDF
EPUB

He labours incessantly to obstruct the entrance of the light of life into the souls of men. His whole wiles and appliances are employed in blinding them so as to prevent the shining into them of the glorious Gospel of Christ. And this fact is of itself fitted to show us our need of the Gospel, the efficacy of it, and also God's great design in it, for that is, and must be, just the opposite of Satan's. Let us then defeat the deceiver and destroyer; let us no longer allow him thus to blind us; let us open our eyes and admit the light of heaven. “Look, ye blind, that ye may see.” May that God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shine in all our hearts, giving us the light of the knowledge of His own glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

[ocr errors]

THE APOSTOLIC COMMISSION:

A SERMON.

BY

JAMES MACGREGOR, D.D.,
PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, NEW COLLEGE, EDINBURGH.

“And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."-LUKE xxiv. 47.

On the first Christian Sabbath, very early in the morning, the newly-risen Saviour appeared to the weeping Magdalene, and healed her breaking heart. In the course of the day He revealed Himself to those two disclples who, on their way to Emmaus, had betrayed to Him the darkness of their despairing unbelief. And in the evening He mysteriously entered through those closed doors, behind which were assembled the eleven apostles, awestruck and terror-struck with the recollection of him who had gone out from them into night eternal, and of that Master who had been torn from them by the death of the cross. When He thus shewed Himself among them they were seized with new terror, thinking that He was not a man, but a frightful spectre. But on His hands and His feet, pierced by the nails of the cross, He shewed them the certificate of His being the Master they had lost. By partaking of their food He shewed them that He still remained partaker of their nature. And when the agony of their terror and the first ecstacy of their gladness had given place to some measure of composure of mind, He proceeded to speak the words among which we have found the text.

These words, in the first place, expose to our view the fountain of the Church's new life, in the sufferings of Jesus the Christ, followed by His glorious resurrection. Then for the regulation of her life, procured by His death and applied by His Spirit, He declares His last will and testament regarding the administration 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.

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, 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).

« PreviousContinue »