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THE WORK OF MISSIONS A DIVINE INSTITUTION.
Matthew xxviii. 19.
"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations."
THIS command of the risen Saviour is plain and imperative. It was addressed in the first instance to his immediate disciples; and in the opinion of some was addressed exclusively to them. But if so, then that which follows it in the same sentence, and with which it is most intimately and necessarily connected, must have been addressed exclusively to them: "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And if both these commands were limited to the Apostles, then the assurance annexed to them must be understood with the same limitation: "Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." This gracious assurance has been the comfort and support of faithful Ministers and Christians, from the time when it was uttered to the present hour. But on the supposition under consideration, none since the Apostles have had any rea
son to take comfort in it; for it was addressed exclusively to them. Is it not plain, therefore, that this supposition is unscriptural and untenable? The gracious assurance of the Saviour, that he would be with his Ministers and people "always, even unto the end of the world," was not, and from the nature of the case could not have been, limited to the Apostles; but extends to the whole body of the faithful in all succeeding ages. Neither was the command to "baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," limited to the Apostles; but constitutes the authoritative precept, under which baptisms have been administered ever since. And neither was the command to “ go and teach all nations" limited to the Apostles; but must continue to bind with undiminished force, till all nations are brought to the knowledge of the truth.
But if Christians are bound by a positive injunction of their Saviour to "go and teach all nations," or (as the command must be understood) to do whatever they consistently can do for the universal diffusion of his religion and kingdom, then the work of Missions, or the work of teaching all nations, must be regarded as a Divine Institution.
By a Divine Institution, I understand some external service or ordinance, enjoined in the Scriptures, in regard to which our duty could not have been so clearly discovered, if indeed it could have been discovered at all, had it not been thus enjoined. In this sense, sacrifices, circumcision, and the Passover, were Divine Institutions, under the former dispensation. In this sense, the Christian Sabbath, the visible Church, baptism, the Lord's Supper, public prayer, and praise, are Divine Institutions under the present dispensation. In the same sense, and on the same account,
I shall endeavour to shew, that the work of Missions is a Divine Institution. And in proof of this, I observe,
1. That if the Pastoral work is of Divine Institution, that of Missions obviously must be.-It is usually, and very justly considered, that the Pastoral office is an institution of Christ. "Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” But the work of Missionaries is evidently prior and preparatory to that of Pastors. Churches must be founded, before they can be fed. Truth must be disseminated, the Holy Spirit must be poured out, souls must be converted, and Churches gathered, before an establishment exists, over which the Pastor can properly preside. When our Saviour ascended, the little company of disciples at Jerusalem constituted the only Christian Church in the world. At that period, therefore, there was no immediate room for Pastors; for there were no Churches. There was little or nothing, out of Jerusalem, which the Pastor, in his own appropriate sphere, could perform. Accordingly our Saviour commissioned his disciples primarily as Missionaries. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations." "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."-If then, as it is usually and justly acknowledged, the Pastoral work is a Divine Institution, and if the labor of Missionaries is primarily necessary, in order to prepare the way for Pastors; shall we not with at least equal reason regard the work of Missionaries as a Divine Institution?
2. That the work of Missions is a Divine Institution, is evident from the appointment of Apostles and Evangelists among the constituted Ministers of Christ. The word Apostle, whether we regard its
etymology or its use, is precisely synonymous with our word Missionary. Either term signifies, and with equal propriety, one who is sent forth to preach and propagate the religion of the Saviour. The word Evangelist is also used in a similar sense. The Evangelists, in the primitive Church, were a class of itinerants, who labored in most cases under the direction of the Apostles, and were engaged with them in disseminating Divine truth, and spreading the gospel. In this sense Philip, and Timothy, and doubtless many others, were called Evangelists. (See Acts xxi. 8. and 2 Tim. iv. 5.) Both these classes of teachers were in fact Missionaries. They were those who ran to and fro that knowledge might be increased-who were sent abroad with the messages of heaven, and were chiefly concerned in the propagation and establishment of the religion of Christ. -But the orders of Apostles and Evangelists are expressly mentioned, among the ascension gifts of the Saviour, and the constituted Ministers of his word. "He gave some Apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." If the fact that pastors and teachers are here mentioned is evidence that the Pastoral work is of Divine Institution; does not the fact that Apostles, and Evangelists are also mentioned furnish equal evidence that the Missionary work is of Divine Institution ?
3. In the wonderful manner in which the way was prepared for the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles or heathen, we have evidence that the wor spreading it among them is of Divine Institution.An angel was sent to direct Cornelius, who was an offi
cer in the Roman army, to the place where he might find
the heathen is an Institution of God?
4. We have farther and it should seem incontestable proof on this subject, in the positive injunctions of our Saviour.—We consider the Sabbath a Divine Institution, because we find its observance enjoined in the Decalogue, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." We consider Baptism and the Lord's Supper Divine Institutions, because they are authorized by the express commands of Christ. "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." "This do, in remembrance of We consider preaching the gospel, in the general, a Divine Institution, because our Lord said to his primitive ministers, and through them to all others, "Go ye, and preach the kingdom of God."" But why should we not, for the same reason, consider the cause of Missions, or the particular work of spreading the gospel among all nations a Divine Institution? We know that this is expressly and repeatedly enjoined by the Saviour. "Go ye, and teach all nations." "Go ye into all the world, and preach