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• Therefore they that were scattered abroad went ererywhere preaching the. word._Aors 8: 4.
Our text carries us back to days of persecutiou for the Words sake. The empire which Satan had so long held was now rapidly waning before the power of the Cross, and “be rime down in great wrath because his time was short.” But his devices against the truth were vain. The cause of righteousness gained ground daily: it gained fresh strength from fresh opposition. Converts to Christ were multiplied even around the stake; and the agents in this work of intended extermination were made to see that all their apparent victories were reallydefeats. “The blood of martyrs proved the seed of the church." One reason for this is intimated by the fact stated' in the text, “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere," and wherever they went they acted out their religion -publishing with their lips, and enforcing by their lives, the gospel of the grace of God. From this statement, I deduce the doctrine of this discourse—That it is preeminently by aygressive movements that the Church is to prosper. By this means she is to maintain spiritual life in her own soul-cause religion to flourish at home, and extend its triumphs abroad.
1. The truth of this doctrine is suggested by the first impul
ses of the religious principle, the spirit of love in every Christian's bosom.
False religionists, both among Pagans and nominal Christians, have, I know, taught that piety was a kind of dormant, contemplative spirit; that its power was to be manifested in patient endurance rather than holy action ; in it voluntary withdrawment from the world, to avoid its contaminations, rather than in resolute efforts to make the world better. This was a leading feature in the ancient stoical philosophy. The same idea is incorporated into several of the religious systems prevelent in the East at the present day. It is this false notion, in nominally Christian churches, that has sent thousands of self-deceived, and, no doubt, some truly good men, into the seclusion of the cloister, to spend their days in penances and prayers, rather than in executing plans of benevolent Fort. Now it is not the true spirit of religion, but the want of it that leads to such erroneous views of Christian duty. The unsophisticated promptings of the new-born soul are always to active effort for God. This is strikingly exhibited in young converts. It is illustrated with great beauty in the conduct of Christ's earliest disciples. So it must be; for true religion is the spirit of Christ. It looks with pain upon the amazing evils of sin, under whatever form they may appear. It sees the world lying in wickedness; and it is not satisfied with sighing over its miseries. Its language is, something must be done. It conceives plans, it demands efforts, for the world's conversion. Every real Christian that lives in the spirit of religiou may consult bis own consciousness on this subject. In bis most favored hours and nearest approaches to God, he will find his impulses to religious effort strongest. The history of the apostles and primitive Christians confirm this view.
Take up the lives also of eminently holy men in later times ---Baxter, Brainard, Martyn, Payson. At the moment of meditating these thoughts, I open Payson's Memoirs lying before me, and one of the first sentences that meets my eye. in his private Diary, reads thus: “ Enjoyed this morning endeared communion with God-felt his love constraining me, and had such desire for the salvation of souls that I could not rest at home-felt that I must go out and stir up Christians to pray, and exhort sinners to repent.” What an impressive illustration of the truth of our doctrine; and, let me add, of the identity of true religion in all ages of the church. Payson's religion is Buen working out precisely the same results with that of those persecuted refugees referred to in our text. Such coincidences bave a wonderful power to strengthen our faith in the reality of religion as a Divine principle, and they ought to be used as a searching test of the genuiness of our own professions of it.
2. The doctrine I have stated further appears from the fact that truth is the grand instrument which God employs to overthrow 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 aggressive 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 Cbrist teaches. The man who wandered among the tombs, a miser. able victim of Satan's power, having become the happy 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 ain 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
ye gospel to every creature into all the earth, and preach the
.” “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 record 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 bis 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 iu 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 Je. rusalem. But having set up thousands of trophies to the