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§ 4. The Calling of the Gentiles.
The first great event which is to precede the second coming of Christ, is the universal proclamation of the Gospel.
1. The first argument in proof of the position that the Gospel must be preached to all nations before the second advent, is founded on the predictions of the Old Testament. It is there distinctly foretold that when the Messiah appeared the Spirit should be poured out on all flesh, and that all men should see the salvation of God. The Messiah was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel. The feet of those who brought the glad tidings and published peace, were to be beautiful upon the mountains. God said in Hosea ii. 23, “I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.” And in Isaiah xlv. 22, 23, “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself . . . . that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” That is, the true religion shall prevail oyer the whole earth. Jehovah shall everywhere be recognized and worshipped as the only true God. It is to be remembered that these and many other passages of like import are quoted and applied by the Apostle to the Gospel dispensation. They are enforced on the attention of those to whom they wrote as showing the Gentiles that the Gospel was designed for them as well as for the Jews; and to impress upon the Church its obligation to preach the Gospel to every creature under heaven.
2. Christ repeatediy taught that the Gospel was to be preached to all nations before his second coming. Thus in Matt. xxiv. 14, it is said, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Mark xiii. 10) “The gospel must first be published among all nations.”801
3. Accordingly our Lord after his resurrection, in giving his commission to the Church, said: “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.) In Mark xvi. 15, the commission reads thus: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” This commission prescribes the present duty of the Church; one that is not to be deferred or languidly performed until a new and more effective dispensation be inaugurated. The promise of Christ to be with his Church, as then commissioned, to the end of the world, implies that its obligation to teach the nations is to continue until the final consummation.
4. Having imposed upon his Church the duty to preach the Gospel to every creature under heaven, He endowed it with all the gifts necessary for the proper discharge of this duty, and promised to send his Spirit to render their preaching effectual. “He gave some, Apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” Of these officers some were temporary, their peculiar function being the founding and organizing the Church; some were permanent. Their common object was the perfecting of the saints. Their mission and duties were and are to continue until “all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Eph. iv. 11-13.) The duties of the ministry, therefore, are to continue until all, that is, all believers, the whole Church, or, as our Lord says, all the elect, are gathered in and brought to the stature of perfection in Christ.
5. The Apostles understood their commission in this sense and entered on their duties with a clear view of the task set before them. Our Lord, in his high-priestly prayer said concerning them, “As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.” He would not leave them alone; He promised to send the Paraclete, the Helper, who should bring all things to their remembrance; He would give them a mouth and a wisdom which all their adversaries should be unable to gainsay or resist. The Spirit was to abide with them and dwell in them, so that it would not be they who spoke, but the Spirit of the Father who spoke in them; that Spirit was to convince the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; He was to render their 802preaching the wisdom and power of God unto salvation. Their simple duty was to teach; their commission was, “Go teach all nations.” One of the great elements of the Papal apostasy was the idea derived from paganism, that the main design of the Church is “cultus,” worship, and not instruction. The Apostles, as Peter teaches (Acts i. 22), and as is everywhere else taught in Scripture, were to be witnesses of Christ; to bear testimony to his doctrines, to the facts of his life, to his death, and especially to his resurrection, on which everything else depended. As, however, of themselves they could do nothing, they were required to attempt nothing, but to abide in Jerusalem, until they were imbued with power from on high. When thus imbued they began at once to declare the wonderful works of God to “Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians;” thus making the first proclamation of the Gospel after the resurrection of Christ typical of its design and destiny as the religion of the whole world.
The Apostles accordingly “went everywhere;” and everywhere taught (1.) That God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles; that He is rich in mercy towards all who call upon him, justifying the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith. (2.) That the Gospel, therefore, was designed and adapted for the whole world; for all classes of men; not only for Jews and Gentiles, but also for the learned and unlearned, the young and the old, for the wicked and the righteous. It is the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth. (3.) Being thus suited to all men, it should be preached to all men. “How shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Rom. x. 14, 15.) Paul magnified his office: he thanked God for giving him the grace to be the Apostle of the Gentiles. He said that he was under obligation to preach the Gospel both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise. He devotes no small portion of his Epistle to the Romans and the greater portion of the doctrinal part of that to the Ephesians, to setting forth the purpose of God to bring the Gentiles into his Church, and to make them equally with the Jews partakers of 803the redemption of Christ. He teaches that the middle wall of partition between the two had been broken down, and that the Gentiles were no more “strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Eph. ii. 19.) The great object of the Epistle to the Hebrews is to show that the Gospel is the substance of which the old dispensation was the shadow; that nothing more glorious, real, and effectual was to be, or could be, so far as the salvation of sinners is concerned. The eternal Son of God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of his person, had assumed our nature to become the Apostle and High Priest of our profession. There was no hope for those who neglected the great salvation which he announced, and no more sacrifice for sin remained for those who refused to be cleansed by his most precious blood. The final revelation of God’s truth, the offering of the infinitely meritorious sacrifice for sin, and the cooperation of the everywhere present and almighty Spirit of God are all made known in the Gospel; and the Bible knows nothing of any other arrangements for the salvation of men. It is evident that the Apostles considered the dispensation of the Spirit under which we are now living, as the only one which was to intervene between the first advent of Christ and the end of the world.
6. In 2 Corinthians iii. the Apostle contrasts the new and old dispensations, showing that the former excels the latter, (1.) Because the one used the ministration of the latter, the other uses that of the spirit. (2.) Because the one was the ministration of death and of condemnation, the other is the ministration of the Spirit and of righteousness; and (3.) Because the one was transient and the other is permanent. “If that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” (verse 11.)
7. In Romans xi. 25, Paul teaches that the national conversion of the Jews is not to take place “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” The πλήρωμα τῶν ἐθνῶν, is that which makes the number of the Gentiles full; the full complement which the Gentiles are to render to make the number of the elect complete.
This ingathering of the heathen is the special work of the Church. It is a missionary work. It was so understood by the Apostles. Their two great duties were the propagation and defence of the truth. To these they devoted themselves. While they laboured night and day, and travelled hither and thither through all parts of the Roman world, preaching the Gospel, 804they laboured no less assiduously in its defence. All the epistles of the New Testament, those of Paul, Peter, John, and James, are directed towards the correction of false doctrine. These two duties of propagating and of defending the truth, the Apostles devolved on their successors. During the apostolic age and for some time after it, the former had the ascendancy; to preach the Gospel to all nations, to bring all men to the knowledge of the truth, was felt to be the special vocation of the Church. Gradually, and especially after the conversion of Constantine and the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the Roman empire, the mind of the Church was directed principally to securing what had been attained; in perfecting its organization and in stating its creed and defending it against the numerous forms of error by which it was assailed.
From this time for long centuries the Church found its hands filled with its internal affairs. Its energies were expended mainly in three directions, in building up a hierarchy with a supreme pontiff, surrounded by ecclesiastical princes, which sought to concentrate in itself all power over the bodies and souls of men; in founding numerous orders of monks; and in the subtleties of metaphysical discussions. The work of missions during this period was almost entirely neglected.
When the Reformation came, the Protestants had as much as they could do to live. They had arrayed against them everywhere the tremendous power of the Romish Church, and in most cases all the power of the State. They had to defend their doctrines against the prejudices and learning of the age; to organize their Churches, and alas! they were distracted among themselves. Under these circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” was almost forgotten. It is only within the last fifty years that the Church has been brought to feel that its great duty is the conversion of the nations. More, probably, has been done in this direction during the last half century than during the preceding five hundred years. It is to be hoped that a new effusion of the Spirit like that of the day of Pentecost may be granted to the Church whose fruits shall as far exceed those of the first effusion as the millions of Christians now alive exceed in number the one hundred and twenty souls then gathered in Jerusalem.
That the conversion of the Gentile world is the work assigned the Church under the present dispensation, and that it is not to fold its hands and await the second coming of Christ to accomplish 805that work for it, seems evident from what has already been said, (1.) This is the work which Christ commanded his Church to undertake. (2.) He furnished it with all the means necessary for its accomplishment; He revealed the truth which is the power of God unto salvation; He instituted the ministry to be perpetuated to the end of the world, and promised to endow men from age to age with the gifts and graces necessary for the discharge of its duties, and to grant them his constant presence and assistance. (3.) The Apostles and the Church of that age so understood the work assigned and addressed themselves to it with a devotion and a success, which, had they been continued, the work, humanly speaking, had long since been accomplished. (4.) There is no intimation in the New Testament that the work of converting the world is to be effected by any other means than those now in use. (5.) It is to dishonour the Gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit, to suppose that they are inadequate to the accomplishment of this work. (6.) The wonderful success of the work of missions in our day goes to prove the fact contended for. Barriers deemed insurmountable have been removed; facilities of access and intercourse have been increased a hundred fold; hundreds of missionary stations have been established in every part of the world; many thousands of converts have been gathered into churches and hundreds of thousands of children are under Christian instruction; the foundations of ancient systems of idolatry have been undermined; nations lately heathen have become Christian, and are taking part in sending the Gospel to those still sitting in darkness; and nothing seems wanting to secure the gathering in of the Gentiles, but a revival of the missionary spirit of the apostolic age in the churches of the nineteenth century.
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