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and assuming all the majesty of the hidden Godhead, smitten with sudden blindness and death that whole throng of brutal soldiery and insulting Jews, and then spurning with indignant foot the polluted earth, ascended through the clouds into heaven, in the sight of all that loved him, and that stood there beholding; had he done this, would there not have been proof enough that Jesus was very God to convince the world? But this, my brethren, would have been as nothing to the proof he furnished when, " hav ing loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be holden by it," he cleaved asunder the tomb, and came forth, and stood again in the midst of his disciples; as nothing to the proof they saw, when he came, the doors being shut where they were assembled, "and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you," and then bade the incredulous Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands: and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing;" to whom Thomas answered and said, "My Lord and my God;" as nothing to the proof they saw when he stood by them, and spoke with them then in that mountain, where, before he suffered, he appeared to show himself unto them; as nothing to the proof which they beheld in Olivet.
YES! JESUS IS GOD. It is God who says, " And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
In this very utterance, my brethren, Jesus proclaims himself to be God, for it is nothing less than a divine grace which he
II. We may consider to whom Jesus speaks; surely not to the eleven as such; not to the eleven as men hasting to die, and to leave no inheritors of the promised grace; but to them as disciples, representing a succession of disciples never to be ended while the world stands. He speaks to his own servants present and future, living and to live in endless generations. The terms of announcement settle this matter for us.
Neither are we to understand the address of our Lord, as directed in such an exclusive sense, to the eleven as apostles, or as distinguished officially in any way from other disciples, as to lay on them the sole responsibility of the service which he had just exacted, or as to limit to them the grace which he now vouchsafes to pledge. Indeed there is much good reason for supposing that the eleven were not alone with Jesus when the words were uttered, but that this manifestation of himself was the identical one mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor. xv. 6, at which it is said, "he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once." Some even have conjectured that there was at this time a general gathering of all those who at this early period had embraced the Christian faith. If this were so, then it was really the church, in the largest and most complete sense of that term, that Jesus had before him when he spoke.
True enough this is all uncertain. It cannot positively be affirmed that there was a soul with him in that mountain save the eleven. Let it be so. Let it be that he spoke to the eleven alone, as apostles and ministers. In part, it is very evident that his address had respect to them only, in their official character; yet it was to them, as ministers of his church, as leaders and guides of the entire body of his people. It was to them as representing the church in whose name they were to act, and with whom they were to be identified in all their labors. They stood before him as the present embodiment of the church in all ages. As such he laid on them his command, and as such he gave to them his promise.
If, in some sense, the promise may be regarded as made especially to Christ's ministers engaged in their peculiar work as such, it is equally to be regarded nevertheless as made to all his disciples living and laboring for him. The promise must be looked upon as coextensive with the command, and it would be quite idle for me to consume your time with showing that the command, in some aspects at least of the duty which it imposes, reaches to every disciple-to every member of that body of Christ, which is the church-not to the head and to the hands only, but also to the feet.
It is to the church that Jesus speaks. But to the church in what aspect? To the church in what attitude and what relation? To the church when, and where, and what doing? To the church always? To the church absolutely and unconditionally. To the church doing what she will, and seeking what ends may please her!
"Jesus came and spake unto them saying: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth: 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."
It is not then to the church absolutely and unconditionally— not to the church doing what she pleases, and seeking what ends she may propose unto herself; not to the church always, in any case-but to the church in an aspect well defined, and in an attitude and a relation clearly specified and described; to the church doing her Lord's will-doing the commandment, that the promise is accorded, "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, and lo, I am with you always.'
Suppose, my brethren, that the church of the Redeemer were utterly to turn away from that distinct and specific work which he has given her to do. Suppose that instead of going and discipling all nations, she should just content herself with occupying and strengthening the position in the world which she has already acquired with adorning and beautifying her present posses
sions, and with making herself more august and dignified in the sight of men in the limited sphere to which her existence is now confined. Suppose she were to conclude that in the way of extension she had done already enough-that the Gospel had been preached far enough, and that as for the nations now sitting in darkness, for her, they might sit there still and forever, for she would do no more-she would cultivate the ground she had, and leave the deserts to their desolation. Suppose this, and where then would be the promise? When there was no longer any church in the world going and discipling all nations, whose would the promise be, and who might take its consolations?
If, when Jesus was ascended into heaven, the church of the first disciples had said: Now" blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ," we will rejoice and be glad in him, for the salvation which he hath brought unto us, and here in Jerusalem, and in all Judea will we proclaim his grace and make disciples in his name, but we will not go discipling all nations-we will not leave our pleasant homes, and the green fields of our native land-we will not venture among the rude and barbarous peoples. Here will we stay, and here shall the church be glorious. Had they said so, and done so, then whose would have been the promise? Not theirs. Who on earth might have claimed it? No man. The promise is to the church discipling all nations--to the church distinctly and specifically so employed, and employed no otherwise. It is to no self-seeking or self-glorifying, or self-saving church, and it is to po home-abiding church, but to a church spreading herself abroad, seeking the glory of Christ and the extension of his kingdom, and the salvation of the world.
The church of Jesus Christ has her own distinct and peculiar mission to perform. He has given her her work to do. He has defined her vocation, and assigned her her proper business. She is to conquer the world for him. She is by the Gospel to subdue all nations to the obedience of the faith. She is to go forth in his name and with his word to make disciples of all men. From this work she is not at liberty to turn aside, or in it ever to rest. She must subordinate it to nothing, but all things else to it. To bring in Christ's universal kingdom, to fill the earth with the knowledge of him as the waters cover the sea, to make His name glorious in every place and a sound of joy to every ear, that is the great and paramount end of her being and continuance here upon the earth. She would be no church of Jesus Christ out of this relation. She would be an army of aliens, and a syn agogue of Satan. A definition of the church, was given by our Lord himself when he said, "Ye are the light of the world, a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth
light unto all that are in the house." And Christ's own sense of what his church would be, departing from his design respecting her, is expressed when having described her as "the salt of the earth," he said: "But if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men."
No, my brethren, our blessed Lord does not say-" And lo, I am with you always," to any church but one going forth to battle for him against the irreligion, and unbelief, and idolatrous superstions of the whole world. He says it to a church in arms for him against all the powers of the kingdom of darkness in the earth. He says it as the great captain of salvation to the host of his elect gathered for the subjugation of all his foes. It is distinctly in view of the universal battle-field-in view of the enemy to be encountered-in view of the tumults and the toils, and the terrors of that strife which has for its object nothing less than the conquest of all nations for him, that he says, Go, and I am with you always. It is not, stay, and I am with you, but go, and I am with you. It is not, Do what you will, and I am with you; but Go, fight for me-Go, plant the standard of my cross on every land and on every island. Go, subdue the whole earth in my name," And lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
In the very aim and essence of her being, the church is a missionary church, a church militant against the whole empire of darkness in the world, designed and fashioned by her Lord for aggressive and onward movement, for conflict and conquest, and that unceasingly till a final and complete victory shall be obtained. For this great and glorious object the church exists, and it is only with reference to it, and to the exigencies of her unavoidable state in connexion with it, that the promise of my text is given to her.
Would, my brethren, that this were better understood. Would to God, that the entire church could be made to realize the fact, that there is no promise of the gracious presence of her Lord in the midst of her, only as she is actually employed in her proper work, moving on to take possession of the carth for him.
III. We are to consider the promise. What does Jesus say? We have seen that the promise is made to the church discipling all nations. It is made to the church engaged in an enterprise which, even to this day she has upon her hands, and which is to occupy her energies in all future time. It is not, therefore, the promise of a grace which was soon and suddenly to terminate, leaving the church in the very midst of her labors and her wants, but of a grace which was to continue as long as the exigency should continue which created the necessity for it, "even unto the end of the world."
Literally, as you are aware, the reading from the Greek is—to the end of the age-or, to the finishing of the dispensation, or of the time; which some, regarding the promise as made especially to our Lord's first disciples, and as relating to those miraculous powers with which they were to be endowed, have understood to refer to their life-time, or to the period about to terminate with the destruction of Jerusalem and the dissolution of the Jewish commonwealth.
Evidently, however, the age intended by our Lord, was that in which his Gospel was to be preached; in which the work was to be done which he had just laid by commandment on his church, and with reference to which the promise of his gracious presence was given to her. It was the age in which all nations were to be discipled, in which the church was to be passing through the conflicts and perils of her militant state. It is, therefore, the end of the world, strictly and properly speaking, that is meant. So far, the promise extends. Jesus declares that he will be with his obedient church through the. entire period of her warfare, until time shall end, and her militant shall be exchanged for her triumphant state.
And, brethren, I am not well satisfied with that word, " always," in the text. It presents its idea too comprehensively and massively. I like far better the literal and exact rendering of the original-All ages. It is not for us, with this promise in our hands, to be looking off to the end of the world, and blessing ourselves with the assurance that the gracious presence of our Lord is to be with us even until then; but we are joyfully to recognize the absolute coincidence of the promised grace with each intervening space. We are not to cast our thoughts onward to the final consummation, and expect that Jesus will be with us until that is reached, but we are to think of each successive day that is to elapse before that final day shall come, and expect that Jesus will be with us each day. We are to look upon the church in her continual march, through all her vicissitudes of conflict and danger, going not alone any day, but all days, accompanied, and guided, and prospered by her Almighty Lord.
"And lo! I am with you." Brethren, what is that? In what sense does Jesus promise to be with his faithful and obedient Church? There is no difficulty in understanding him. As it is said, "And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man," so is the promise of our Lord," Lo, I am with you," and ye shall prosper in the work which I have given you to do. Ye shall have success in it. Ye shall triumph gloriously, and in due time," the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
1. I am with you in sympathy and in desire. My heart is with