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that truth is the grand instrument which God employs to over. throw the kingdom of Satan, and advance and establish the kingdom of His Son. Now we know that the truth can be available for this high end, only as it is brought into contact with the human mind; and this, of course, involves a great enterprise on the part of the church of the very character spoken of in the text. The Word of God must not only be translated into all the languages of the earth, but it must be carried to every man's door; nay its truths must be pressed home upon every man's conscience. What a mighty work here opens for Christians of every name; it is, moreover, eminently an aggressive work, a missionary movement. How are they to accomplish it by shutting themselves up in nunneries and cloisters, and giving themselves up to divine contemplations? Is this the way to cause their light so "to shine before men, that they, seeing their good works, may glorify their Father in heaven ?" Alas for the preposterous teachings of a perverted Christianity!
Surely there are facts enough before the church to show her that the strongholds of error and sin cannot be demolished by sighs and prayers alone. They are not to fall down before her as the walls of Jericho fell before Israel of old, at the sound of a trumpet. The Captain of her, salvation has seen fit to appoint other means of success—means which must task all her energies, and demand all her resources-her resources of men and of money, of talent and of influence,
" Her power to suffer,
And her will to serve."
3. Again: Both the necessity and the vital importance of the aggressive movements of the church appears from the very attitude of a fallen world toward God. It is one of hostility to His character, and opposition to His truth. I know there are those who love to represent the human heart as favorably disposed toward God and his gospel. Their theory is that all which men need is light-a fair and liberal presentation of the truth to the mind. But on what page of the Scriptures is this flattering picture of our nature drawn? Does not the divine Teacher himself say: “ He that doeth evil hateth the light;" and again, “ This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Hence the darkness that overspreads the earth-the gross darkness that covers the people; and mark, this darkness is not confined to this or to that place, but it is, to a deplorable extent, in every place. It is in every city and village, in every house and heart. Even the children of light, how often does obscurity brood over their minds and sadden their hearts! They have need to be exhorted to cast off
the darkness and its works, to put on the armor of light and walk as children of the light and the day. Does not this moral condition of the race indicate plainly the duty of the church ?
The Bible teaches doctrines and records facts. It seldom makes direct appeals, and still more rarely pursues a course of reasoning for the purpose of enforcing duty. This is the business of the church. God knew our active natures, and he has prepared work for us suited to develop and strengthen all our faculties and all our Christian graces. The world will not come to the church and crave instruction at her lips. As her Saviour sought her, so He requires her to seek sinners. In other words, she must make external and Eggressive movements. She must not study so much her own comfort as her enlargement. And this general rule of duty for the church as a body, applies to each member of the church individually. So Christ teaches. The man who wandered among the tombs, a miserable victim of Satan's power, having become the bappy subject of the Saviour's mercy, desired to follow in His train. But no, it was not for him the sphere of greatest usefulness. Hence the direction given to him; “Return to thy house;" or, as Mark's gospel has it, “Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and had mercy on thee.”.
4. The whole current of Scripture precept and representation is in perfect accordance with this view of the subject. The Bible never instructs the church, that she is to conquer the world by her passive virtues, nor by any means which aim chiefly at conservation rather than aggression.
Look at Christ's own instructions on this subject. His immediate disciples are not permitted to remain permanently with him. They are in His family, temporarily, and for a specific purpose. They are to be fitted for their great work as ambassadors for God. The moment this is accomplished, their divine Teacher sends them forth into all the cities of Judea, to preach repentance, and warn the people "to flee from the wrath to come." Call to mind also his last command: “ Go teach all nations;"_"go ye into all the earth, and preach the gospel to every creature.” “My religion is as leaven: its first movements are silent and apparently feeble, but it is in its nature an active, all-pervading principle. It moves forward to a mighty consummation. It shall, ere long, fill the world with righteousness and peace.”
5. The entire history of the gospel confirms this view of the subject. When has any signal advance been made in the work of human salvation, except by a movement similar to that described in the text? The very foundations of hope towards God were laid in our world by a stupendous 'movement of this very character. Christ's great redeeming 'enterprise-what was it but one of agression? What, but the boundless bene.
volence of Heaven bearing down upon the dominions of sin and darkness, in this apostate world ? His mission was gratuitous on God's part, and unwelcome on ours. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not." Look at bis whole career from the manger to the cross. It was a missionary career. He left the hallowed places of the temple, and his sweet retreats for meditation and prayer, amid the olive groves that were round about Jerusalem, and sought out, often at the hazard of his life, the miserable victims of disease and sin. He traversed various portions of Judea again and again, journeying on foot, • " without a home of his own," and as he himself affectingly says, “ without a place to lay his head." The Evangelical re. cord describes his manner of life in one short sentence: “He went about doing good.”
The Mosaic institution was peculiar. It was conservative rather than aggressive. It did not, indeed, repel the proselyte from Paganism, when he came to the gate of Zion, and knocked for admission; but it did not go out after the wanderer to bring him to the fold of God. It was the mysterious arrangement of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own glorious will. Still it was true then as now, that religion made no decided progress, even in Israel, except as the servants of the Lord made specific movements for this purpose. To this end pious kings and holy prophets must be raised up to unite their efforts in reviving and extending the work and worship of the true God. The feasts must all be kept; the daily sacri. fices offered, and the law publicly explained and enforced.
In times of growing declension and abounding wickedness, some Elijah must come forth to warn the wicked of their wicked ways to stand in the breach and roll back the outbreaking tide of iniquity and death: the bulwarks of idolatry must be assaulted, and all the faithful must unite their efforts, calling on God, and putting their hands to the work of reform. Piety may retire to the caves of the earth, and weep her life out in secret places. It is all in vain: the abomination of desolation will spread wider and wider; false prophets will multiply in numbers, and grow bolder in blasphemy, until not only the holy city, but the holy temple, shall have become a den of iniquity. No, religion must not retire from the field, nor be content to occupy only neutral ground. She must make an ag. gressive movement or all is lost. Some Nehemiah must rouse and lead that remnant of God's host that has not bowed the knee to Baal; and pressing on from conquering to conquer, must, in the name of the Lord of Hosts, achieve the victory.
If this aspect of things strikes us in the history of the Old Testament dispensation, how much more in that of the New? Mark how faithfully the first preachers of the gospel carried out their Divine commission. They began, as directed, at Jerusalem. But having set up thousands of trophies to the power of the truth at that central point, they took up the standard of the cross and bore it in triumph round the globe. They traveled from city to city, and from region to region; and everywhere they acted aggressively. They assailed pagan superstition in all its strongholds; they overturned its alters of blood; they cast down its false gods, and called its deluded: votaries to repentance-exhorting them “to turn from these dumb idols, to serve the living God.” It was thus that the apostles, their coadjuters and successors conquered the earth for Christ. Thus they subdued all nations to the obedience of faith, until shouts of victory and songs of deliverance went up to Heaven from a regenerated world.
Turn to a still later page in the history of the church. How was it at the Reforination? Luther was a monk, shut up in a cloister. There, as be read his Latin Bible, the grace of God touched his heart. The scales of error fell from his eyes, as they did from the eyes of Saul of Tarsus. Having received the great doctrine of Justification by Faith, he rose upon Germany as a new and glorious star. He went forth as the sun when he shineth in his strength. By God's help be rolled away the thick darkness of ages, and filled Europe with intellectual and spiritual light. But mark, this great work was not affected, chiefly, by the prayers of the cloister, but by many a hard-fought battle for God and his truth, in the open field.
At length the zeal of the Reformers declined; their missionary movements were remitted. Then the cause of truth began to lose ground; and the Protestant church ignobly surrendered field after field wbich she had so gloriously won. How was it in our mother country at the period when White. field and Wesley appeared? The English Church, proud of her strength, had long reposed amid ber privileges, surrounded by the defenses and sustained by the aid of the secular arm. She had well-nigh forgotten the very end of her being. Vital piety had declined, until it had become nearly extinct. Then the Spirit of God moved upon the hearts of the devoted men I have just named. They were both young, but they were endued with much of the spirit, if not with all the wisdom of the first preachers of the gospel. It was the missionary spirit, and their movements were missionary movements. Through the impulse which they were chiefly instrumental in imparting, spiritual religion revived and extended both in Bri. tain and our own country, and in all branches of the Evangeli. cal church. So it has ever been; and so, I believe, it will continue to be to the end of the world. Just in proportion as any branch of the Christian church, in the spirit of Christ, at. tempts spiritual aggression, missionary enterprises, at home and abroad, in the same proportion its interests are smiled upon and prospered. It is seen fulfilling its high destiny.
If these things are so, then our main position is established,
namelj', that it is chiefly by the external and missionary move-. ments of the church that she is to maintain life and health in. her on a soul-extend the empire of pure religion abroad, and. fill the earth with the light and glory of God.
1. We see why the church is organized. It is partly for social religious improvement; but this is as a means to an end. It is organized pre-eminently with a view to united and powerful external action. Hence the obligation on all the true friends of Christ to join themselves to some evangelical branch of the church, and to stand fast in the faith and hope of His gospel ; that the sacramental host of God's elect being perfectly joined together, hand and heart, may move forward to final and universal triumph.
2. This subject also indicates the grand object of all preaching to the church. It is not chiefly the personal enjoyment of Christians. It is indeed the duty of the spiritual husbandman to cultivate the Lord's vineyard already inclosed; but is not even this in reference chiefly to a higher duty, that of enlarging its borders and causing new plants of righteousness to spring up and bear fruit to His glory?
The late William Ward, so well known as a devoted missionary and an accomplished preacher, in his letters addressed to British and American Christians, suggests his belief that too much of the public preaching of the Sabbath is, in many parts of Protestant Christendom, devoted to the edification of the church, and too little to the conversion of sinners. And he assigns this as one reason why the gospel has hitherto had such limited success. The suggestion from such a quarter should have great weight, and though more applicable perhaps to the British than the American pulpit, is well worthy of being pondered by all.
3. This discussion throws light upon the providences of God towards the church. Now, as in former days, He allows heresies, persecutions, schisms, and various forms of affiiction, from time to time, to invade the church. This is not because the church is not dear to him, for Ho hath loved her with a perfect and an everlasting love; but it is because He loves the end for wbich be established her, even more; and this end she has perhaps lost siglıt of. What was the effect of the persecutions and sufferings alluded to in the text ? Plainly to scatter more widely the seed of God's truth, t) spread abroad into other regions the gospel of the kingdom, which was shut up mainly within the narrow limits of Judea. The converts at Jerusalem did not even yet fully understand the gospel's glo-. rious mission, and their duty to give it to a lost world. It may