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rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them.” The result was :-“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Acts xi. 1–4, 18.) Here then, again, the kingdom of God was planted in connexion with the church at Jerusalem ; and we find that the “brethren,” as well as the Apostles, felt that an explanation was due to them from Peter, on account of the novelty introduced into the system by his eating with the “uncircumcised,” and preaching the Gospel to them. Peter gave it; and not only were the murmurs of the brethren silenced, but their language was altogether changed, and they "glorified God.” The whole of this transaction shows, that the church at Jerusalem was led by the providence of God, the calls of his Spirit, and the impulses of faith and duty, to consider their communion as a concentration of power given them only for the purposes of extension and enlargement.
Antioch became one of these central posts. The account of the introduction of the Gospel to this celebrated pagan city, where the disciples were first called CHRISTIANs, is very instructive. It is said, “ Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the GRECIANS, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them : and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” (Acts xi. 19-21.) This place seems soon to have become a parent church, and to have sent out its ambassadors to the regions around. In the next chapter but one it is
“ Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain Prophets and teachers ; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted, and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia ; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” (Acts xii. 1—4.) The narrative then goes on to give an account of the ministerial career of these Apostles to the Gentiles, and especially that of St. Paul. After preaching in various places, and founding numerous societies, it is said at the close, on their return, “ And thence” (from Attalia)“ they sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith
unto the Gentiles." (Acts xiv. 26, 27.) Besides the mission from this place to Jerusalem, on the subject of circumcision and the obligation of the believers to keep the law of Moses, St. Paul and his companion went forth from this city, on two other occasions, to fulfil their evangelical mission to the world. (See Acts xv. 36—40 ; xviii, 22, 23.)
These cases are sufficient to indicate the principle on which we are insisting ; namely, that the apostolical churches admitted the obligation of our Lord's injunction to “preach the Gospel to every creature,” and acted upon it. No doubt all the principal places were centres of an aggressive operation ; and when they became more settled than they appear in their infant state, and had their Bishops, Elders, or Angels, to preside over them, still Evangelists were employed to preach in the adjacent country, and proclaim the truth where Christ had not been named. When, it may be inquired, does this obligation cease?
The answer is, Never, so long as the world continues in an unevangelized state. The commission belongs to the dispensation. It is not an accident of time and place, to be attended to as taste, inclination, or convenience may dictate. The duty of a church of Christ to make its concentration, union, grace, gifts, and power, the foundation of an onward movement, is essential to the state itself. Moral obligation is uniform. This is of the nature of an immutable, moral, or rather divine, obligation, because it rests on the command of our Lord, and is inherent in Christianity. In case a Christian church could succeed in planting the truth in one region, and giving a rich and plentiful supply of the means of grace, duty would not terminate there. The
regions beyond” would still require to be blessed with the same visions of light and pastures of grace.
In the instances referred to above, geographical and national demarcations are not at all regarded, Every new footing gained is only made an occasion of an advance ; till, in the course of a comparatively short time, by the united labours of all, the Gospel was preached in the greater part of the civilized world.
Now this we consider the practical developement of the understanding of the Apostles and disciples respecting the purport of our Lord's commission. The fact, that the most remote period—as far back as antiquity in its remains and history conducts us—shows that some form of the Episcopal government existed, is taken—and not without reasonas a presumptive, if not an absolutely conclusive, proof of the existence of that regime from the beginning. Hence Episcopal churches are deemed apostolical on this ground. The argument may be good as far as it goes. But something more is necessary.
If these churches cease to perform apostolical service, and, besides conserving the truth amongst themselves, neglect to extend it to others, even to the ends of the earth ;
they may retain the name, but they fail in preserving the spirit, and even, properly speaking, the government of a church : they drop the commission of our Lord, and cease to be in doctrine, as far as this is concerned, as well as in practice, what our Lord taught as essential to the characteristics of his true followers, and as entitling them to the promise, “ Lo, I am with you alway even to the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 20.) And, on the other hand, those communities which are acting on this divine commission, possess the marks of having received the mantle of the Apostles, whatever may be their name.
3. The connexion of the primitive societies of Christians for mutual support and strength, and, through this, their beneficial influence on the world, indicate the principle we are considering; namely, that a church must be evangelizing in its labours in order to be apostolical.
The recommendatory letters of the Apostles, and various incidents mentioned in the New Testament, show, that the communion of the primitive church was general, and that a person who was a member of this general body would be received, as such, by every local society throughout the world. By this means, an interest for the common good was produced; and the affectionate zeal of the disciples, instead of being limited to some narrow bounds, and sectarian objects, embraced the whole community in every place. This stood intimately connected with the progress of Christianity. The body, being one, became strong and vigorous; the young scions and offshoots which extended themselves, were supported by the parent tree; the more distant and feeble portions of the general community received counsel, succour, and aid from the more mature and advanced ; and the poor and persecuted were aided by the pecuniary contributions, and messages of condolence and sympathy, of those who were placed in better circumstances. Thus, an intercommunion being constantly kept up, life circulated rapidly through the veins of the whole body, stimulus was furnished, and a high tone of activity ensued.
This was not only beneficial to the church, as such, but it eminently fitted it to advance in its career of usefulness. Every member, in spirit and heart, was, what in modern phrase would be called, a Missionary. Feeling an interest in the whole state of Christianity, his thoughts and affections would take this specific mould, because its prosperity, in his views and notions, would not consist in mere peace, or even purity, but in progress. And by being trained in the love of the united church in every place, he would be eminently fitted to contribute his portion of aid, in every possible way, for its enlargement.
Hence we find directions of a practical nature, on points of duty, together with censure or approval, as the respective societies had acted aright or negligently in these matters. We find a lengthened
discourse on these points in the eighth and subsequent chapters of St. Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians : “Moreover, brethren,"
we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia ; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves ; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God...... Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also...... For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened : but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance
may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also
may be a supply for your want : that there may be equality : as it is written, IIe that had gathered much had nothing over ; and he that had gathered little had no lack......For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you : for I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago ; and your zeal hath provoked very many...... For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whilst by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; and by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift...... But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.
For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you : for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the Gospel of Christ : not boasting of things without our measure, that is, of other men's labours ; but having hope, when YOUR FAITH IS INCREASED, THAT WE SHALL BE ENLARGED
RULE ABUNDANTLY, TO THE GOSPEL IN THE REGIONS BEYOND you, and not to boast in another man's line of things made ready to our hand.” (2 Cor. viii. 1-5, 7, 12–15; ix. 1, 2, 12-15; X. 13—16.)
In these passages, with their context, we have the whole case of the primitive churches, as far as the principle under review is concerned. But from the latter portion of the extract it is evident, that the sympathy, bounty, gift, grace, mutual relief and succour, referred to
throughout, was to become an occasion for the Apostles and teachers “ to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond.”
From all this it seems, that the very religion of the primitive churches embraced this duty. The individual members would not have been considered Christians, had they not embodied in their faith and feelings a zealous concern for the extension and triumph of the Gospel ; and the communities of believers would not have been recognised as parts of the body of Christ, had they not manifested a united affection towards other parts of the family of God, and contributed their proportion of exertion towards the multiplication of its numbers, by the conversion of the Gentile world around.
4. The promise of increase, up to the point of universality, indicates the aggressive nature of the means to be employed by the church,
The doctrines and promises of the new covenant were held in their obvious meaning by the primitive disciples. Catholicity with them was not an unmeaning abstraction. Though they did not employ the word, yet they held the doctrine, of universality in a most important
In the Christian theology, God is represented as universal in his love, his grace, his authority, and in the designs of his counsels. The Saviour is spoken of as universal in his redemption and salvation, in his mediatorial functions and power, and in the message of his Gospel. The Holy Ghost is exhibited as universal in his light, his influence, and power, and in his various offices as a Witness, Comforter, and Sanctifier. The church is described as universal in its foundations, and in its provisions and rights. On this covenant-fulness of truth and grace, the Apostles proceeded to build a really universal fabric; and had not their successors narrowed the dispensation by their doctrinal speculations and ecclesiastical systems, this noble design would, long ago, have been carried out into practical and beautiful effect. It is difficult to imagine how the doctrines of the Gospel can be truly and consistently held otherwise than in their sublime catholicity. We instance, more particularly, in that of the atonement. It is stated, By the grace of God” Christ “ tasted death for every man.” (Heb. ii. 9.) Our Lord said, “ And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John xii. 32.) And again : “ Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day : and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Luke xxiv. 46, 47.) Then, it may be inquired, How can this doctrine be maintained in its legitimate meaning, unless it is so placed in the polity of the church as to make it the ground of a universal movement amongst the destitute nations of the earth, and the offer of salvation to all men ? The apostolic doctrine on this, and on all other subjects, was so understood as to