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THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE.
Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth pot, shall be damned. (Mark xvi. 15, 16.)
WE ought not to be surprised, that men are now so slow to believe the truths of the Gospel ; for the apos. tles themselves, who had been eye and ear witnesses of the heavenly wisdom and almighty power of their divine Master, did not readily believe the fact of his resurrec. tion. Listen to the language of our Lord on this subject; mark how plain it is, and how difficult it is to understand it in any other way than according to its lite. ral import, and its literal fulfilment. (Mark xvi. 14.)
Jesus, going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disci. ples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be be. trayed unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall arise again. (Mat. xx. 17, 18, 19.) If we are asked, what could possibly be the reason, why it was, that with such plain assurance from their Lord, of his death and resurrection, they did
not believe the report of those that had seen him after he was risen ? We answer, their conceptions of the Messiah's character were so sensual, that even at the time when our Lord was instituting the observance of the supper, in memory of himself, and his atoning sacrifice, there was a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. (Luke xxii. 24.) Nor even after his resurrection, when they were convinced of the fact by ocular demonstration and personal intercourse, were they entirely free from this spirit; for we find them, even then, asking him, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ? (Acts i. 6.)
Was not the restoration which they then looked for, a freedom from the Roman yoke, and the establishment of national independence? It was only after the place of Ju. das was filled by the election of Matthias, and the gift of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, that this delu. sion was entirely done away, and all things brought to their remembrance, according to the promise of the Sa. viour, (John xiv. 26,) and the first apostolic sermon preached by the zealous Peter.
What a lesson of humility does this picture of the apostles teach us! What are we better than they were before they received knowledge and power from on high ? Are not we sensual ? Do not the things of time and sense occupy too much of our attention, and divert us from one thing needful above all others, even the knowledge of our God and his Christ, in the knowledge of whom is found the enjoyment of eternal life ? (John xvii. 3.) If conscience is permitted to act, we will lay our hands on our mouths, and our mouths in the dust, and with humility listen to what God the Lord hath to say
concerning us. It is remarkable, that the verse imme. diately preceding our text tells us, that our Lord appear. ed unto the eleven, as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. This hardness of heart in the apostles proves, that God does not choose his messengers for their excellence, but that he will send by whom he will. (Ex. iv. 13.) And does it not raise in our minds the inquiry, whether this hardness of heart did not blind the understanding, and whether the blindness of the mind does not tend to increase the hardness of the heart? O, then, let us ask of God, that we might see him as he is; and that we might see ourselves as we are seen of him.
With this humble fear, and pious desire, let us ap. proach to the words of our text.
The language of our text is imperative-Go. And where the direct appointment, or the providence of God, makes it a duty, man must not hesitate. Such was the sentiment of Paul, when he said, though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of : for necessity is laid upon me, yea, wo is unto me, if I preach not the Gos. pel. (1 Cor. ix. 16.) This text appears to be the com. mission of the apostles; and the missionary zeal of the present day appears to accord with the extent of the field of action, stated in the text, “all the world,” and
every creature.” What language could be used that would more perfectly include the whole, without the exception of any, than all and every? Is it not reason able for us to conclude, that he who sent the message considered those to whom he sent it as interested in it;
and that they should be ultimately led into the enjoy. ment of the blessings it contains ? if not, why send it to them ? And when we observe, that it is to be preached, or proclaimed, we are sure it is of no private interpreta. tion; and the publicity thus required to be given to it, is an evidence that it fears not, but invites investigation. How different from the mysteries of the heathen, where the few only were initiated, and the multitude obliged to bow to their sovereign dictate! Here it is required that every creature be instructed.
If we inquire, what is this Gospel, that is of so exten. sive interest, that every creature is interested in it? We shall probably be told that it is good news, that the word means this : and we receive this interpretation with pleasure. If we inquire further, what is the news? we may be answered, that it is found in the language of the angel to the shepherds, that it is "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people ; for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke ii. 10, 11.) Our hope of the nature, extent, and accomplishment of this divine com. munication, is strengthened by the heavenly glory which accompanied and followed its delivery ; for the glory of the Lord shone round about the shepherds ; (ver. 9.;) and as soon as the angel had delivered his mes. sage“ suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to. ward men." (ver. 13, 14.)
We have seen that the Gospel communicated by the angel to the shepherds, was the birth of the "Saviour, who is Christ the Lord :” and it is our duty to inquire
into the import of this divine character. And first, we think, it is a perfect absurdity to think of a Saviour where there is no impending evil, which (without the interference of that Saviour) we would have been sub. jected to; we, therefore, reject all the miscalled divinity, which does not receive this Saviour as the ground of hope. And if we are told that he is our Saviour by pre. cept and example, though we acknowledge an inexpressible value in each of these, while we are willing to say that he was wisdom and virtue personified, we are not willing to say that by our imitation of these, we can blot out our sins ; niuch less are we able to pur. chase,, by such imitation, a title to the endless joys of heaven.
This Jesus the Saviour, is Christ the Lord, and we think it our duty to inquire into the character of the Saviour as Christ. The word signifies anointed, and is borrowed from the Jewish economy, under which their priests and kings were anointed with a holy anointing oil, prepared by the command of God; and they were thus inducted into the offices they were to sustain: the prophets of God were anointed with the Spirit of God. Professing Christians, of various and opposing senti. ments, have so generally agreed to acknowledge Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King, that we do not consider it necessary to prove the fact ; but rather to inquire what we are to understand by the application of these words to Christ. And first, we take leave to observe, that we consider the word as the official name of the Saviour, and that it is by his being the Christ of God, that he is the Saviour of the world ; in other words, by