EDMUND MORRIS PRINTER,
The following Sermon was preached nearly a year ago. The General Convention had then recently accomplished its great work, in the appointment of four Missionary Bishops. If the Church since then has fallen back, the sin is in her members, and theirs the punishment will be. The good Lord give her grace to "repent, and do the first works!"
This reprint is made for parochial use: it being the author's habit to devote the Offerings of his parishioners, on the Sunday before, or after, the Feast of the Epiphany, to the Foreign Missions (so called) of this Church; the Offerings at another season, being made to what are called its Domestic Missions. He would be glad that the same should be done in every parish in the diocese. We are all debtors, "both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians."
"Hail glorious day, expected long,
"When Jew and Greek one prayer shall pour;
"With eager feet one temple throng,
"With grateful praise one God adore."
G. W. D.
Riverside, Christmas Eve, 1845.
A heathen could attain the magnanimity to say, "I am a man; no human thing to me is foreign!" [* Terence.--"Homo sum: nil humani alienum mihi puto."] And yet Christians, put in trust, in their baptismal covenant, with the gospel of the grace of God, presume to speak, for difference and disparagement, of sendings forth of its inestimable riches, to the souls of distant lands, as "Foreign Missions." I would to God the treacherous term had never been invented! I would to God the low consideration of convenience had never been allowed to tempt the selfish nature that is in us, to a false and dangerous distinction! I would to God that we could banish, from our speech and from our thoughts, the odious, the absurd discrimination: and go out from God, as God Himself has sent us, not to people here or there, but to "all nations," to baptize them in the name of names; not to this country or to that, as men shall map them, or as miles shall estimate their nearness, but into "all the world" of ruined souls--the single thought in that divine geography, which angels know, and Jesus came from heaven to teach--to "preach the [3/4] gospel to every creature!" The Apostle, as you see, knew nothing of it. "I am debtor," he writes to the Roman Christians, "both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians;" the phrase in use, at that time, as all scholars know, to comprehend the race. While, in the new creation wrought in baptism, he teaches his Colossian converts, that distinctions of all kinds are done away in Christ, "where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision, nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all, and in all;" and the Galatians, in like manner, that, in God's eye, even the difference of sexes is abolished, there being "neither Jew nor Greek," "neither bond nor free," "neither male nor female, for ye are all ONE in Christ Jesus."
It is my object in this sermon, if not to do away with the distinction between Foreign and Domestic Missions--which, would to God, I could!--to disabuse your minds and hearts of its unjust and most injurious influence: the partiality, on either side, created or encouraged by it, unknown to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; unrecognized by His apostle; inconsistent with our name and claim as Catholic Christians; and--I bless God for it!--not only unauthorized, but, now, of late, distinctly and most pointedly rebuked, by the deliberate legislation, and most solemn action, of the highest Council of our Church. "Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified, receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before Thee for all estates of men in Thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his [4/5] vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve, Thee, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." "O merciful God, who hast made all men, and hatest nothing that Thou hast made, nor desirest the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live; have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, Infidels and Heretics: and take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of Thy word; and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to Thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites, and be made one fold, under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end."
"I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians." These words can need no explanation. They are as plain, and clear, and strong--as was the Apostle's mode of speech--as any language can supply. Every one knows what a debt is, and what it is to be a debtor. St. Paul, as the Apostle of the Lord, sent out to preach the Gospel, declared that he was that; that he was that to all; that he was that to all alike: bound, by the most solemn obligations, to discharge that sacred trust of his ascended Saviour, "to preach the Gospel to every creature." Now, what the Apostle was, the whole Church is, the Trustee of the Gospel; "allowed of God," as he expresses it, in writing to the Thessalonians, "to be put in trust with the Gospel." It follows, that the obligation which he felt and owned, lies on the Church; lies on the whole Church; lies on every part of the whole Church, as being joined with all the [5/6] other parts in that most solemn trust for Jesus Christ; lies on every part of the whole Church, until the end of the world: for so the great commission runs, under which Paul acted, and out of which his obligation sprung--"all power is given unto me in Heaven and earth: go ye therefore, and make disciples of 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 alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." It follows by inevitable consequence--since we cannot claim the authority of the commission any farther than as we admit the obligation of the trust for which it first was issued, and to the last will be maintained--that this Church is Christ's debtor for the Gospel; is His debtor for all who have it not, or have it partially and inefficiently; is His debtor for all alike.
i. We claim to be an Apostolic Church. Then we must show the signs of an Apostle. We must be followers of Paul, as he was follower of Jesus Christ. We must admit ourselves Christ's debtor for the Gospel. If we are not, who is? Have there been two or more Trustees commissioned by our Lord? Or, if but one, are we not that? To admit the former of these two, is false; to admit the latter, self-destructive. But neither is the truth. Christ said to none but to the eleven, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained:" "As my Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." Christ said to none but the eleven, "Ye [6/7] shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Christ said to none but unto the eleven, "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 not, shall be damned." Christ said to none but unto the eleven, "Go ye, therefore, and make disciples of 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 alway, even unto the end of the world." By all these tokens, so far as they are ours--and we are not Christ's Church if they are not--we are His debtors for the Gospel, as put in trust with it by Him. But to what end? To hoard it up? To hide it in a napkin, in the earth? To put it under a bed, or under a bushel? For no such use, as the whole tenour of the Gospel which we hold in trust, as all that Gospel teaches of the nature of our trust, most plainly chews. We are "the salt of the earth;" and the salt must mingle with the mass, or it cannot be saved. We are "the light of the world;" and the light must not be hidden, but set up on high, that so it may give light to all the house. We have intrusted to us heavenly treasures; and must go and trade with them, that when He come, He may receive His own, "with usury." We are accounted of as Stewards of the mysteries of God; and it is required of Stewards to be faithful. As Stewards, we are dealing with [7/8] our Master's goods, and not our own. As Stewards, we must make a strict account of all that is committed to us, and for all the time we hold it. Wo unto us, if we behave insolently or petulantly in our office! Wo unto us, if we dispense with niggard or unequal hand, the bounties of our Lord! Wo unto us, if, when He shall come, He find us sleeping on our post! How hard a thing it is to feel one's self a debtor! He does not own his property. He owes it. His time is not his own. It is his creditor's, until he pay the debt. Nay, his own self is not his own; but theirs to whom he is indebted. But debts, which men contract with men, they have the hope to pay. What loads have been discharged by honest, persevering, frugal industry! And what priceless freedom been so purchased! Not such the debt which the Apostle owed and owned. It was the purchase of his soul. It was the purchase of the souls of all mankind. It was the purchase which the Son of God had made upon the painful Cross, with His own precious blood. It was that debt, so deep that none could pay, so vast that none could calculate it, so overpowering in its guilt, so overwhelming in its awful ruin, that God only dare encounter, that God only could endure, its load; the struggle of His fearful agony to bear and pay it, blackening the sun, rending the earth, startling the dead up from their graves: it was for such a debt that Paul confessed himself a debtor to the crucified, but ever living and life-giving, Lord, who paid it with His blood; and for that it is, that, while the world shall last, the [8/9] Church, entrusted with the Gospel of salvation, for a world of guilty, ruined sinners, must stand, and own herself, indebted, before God.
ii. Yes, my beloved brethren, for a world of sinners. "I am debtor," says St. Paul, "both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians." For both, the Saviour shed His blood. He gave Himself "a ransom for all." He "tasted death for every man." He is the propitiation for the sins of the world. The ruin of the fall destroyed the race. The rescue of the Cross was as extensive as the ruin of the fall. No foreseen merit in the holiest saint, that glorifies the ransom of its blood. No predetermined curse on the most desperate of the damned, who heaps his hopeless execrations on its spurned and trampled love. All "guilty before God." All pardoned for the merit of His Son. All welcome to the riches of His grace. "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and besides Me there is no Saviour." "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money." "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come; and whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life freely." "Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out."
iii. My brethren, when, the gracious dying Lord, that paid that fearful debt, and paid it with His own heart's blood, thus makes the purchase free alike to all, shall the Trustee of these, His mercies, make distinctions in the offer of them? Was the Apostle debtor to the Greeks more than to the Barbarians, or to the Barbarians more than to the Greeks, [9/10] or to his kindred of the stock of Abraham, more than to either, or to both? No, but alike to all. [* The only limit to this "all" is the limit of opportunity; and of that God is the judge. "As we have therefore opportunity," says the Apostle, "let us do good unto all men; especially, unto them who are of the household of faith."] "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." And then, in the very same Epistle, "I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." No thought in him of Foreign and Domestic Missions. One only Mission from the throne and bliss of heaven, the life-long exile of the suffering, dying Son. One only Mission for the guilty, ruined world, love's message of entreating pardon from the bleeding, agonizing Cross. Different, indeed, in form and manner, as it addressed itself to Gentile or to Jew, to rude Barbarian or to philosophic Greek; but still, one Gospel of the grace of God, one motive in the love of Christ, one ground of hope, the crucified Redeemer of the world; often "to Jews, a stumbling block," often "to Greeks" but "foolishness:" but still, unto believing hearts, of Jews or Greeks, "the power of God unto salvation."
My beloved brethren, that which God has joined together, not the Church herself may separate, if she would. Nor would she, if she could. The sacred [10/11] spouse has but one will with her incarnate Lord. His children, all her own. To bear them to Him in the new and heavenly birth of baptism, her chief joy. To bring them up in the true nurture of His holy will, her most endearing office. To present them to Him perfect at the last, her glory and her crown. How can she make distinctions, where her Lord does not distinguish? How can a mile or more, ten thousand miles or more, make any difference in her equal love? How can she bare to some, whom her dear Saviour died to save, the fulness of her bursting breast, and be to others a dry nurse; to those, the mother of their birth, a step-mother to these? It never has been, and it never can be so. The Church has never authorized this most unnatural distinction. So far as Christian men have owned it, they have set themselves asunder from the Church. They have been tempted by selfishness, or betrayed by plans of worldly policy, or yielded to the unbelieving thought of limited ability and disproportionate requirements. A simple faith in God has met with no such difficulty. A childlike following of the Cross has turned aside for no such obstacle. A self-denying and self-sacrificing service has found grace to overcome. And it will ever be so. The will will ever find, or make, the way. Christ will be with His faithful ones, that make their ventures in His name. The stars out of heaven shall fight in their courses, before the Church shall fail to conquer, that goes forward in His sign.
My brethren, it is in part the punishment of a vain glorious, self-complacent age, to rob itself of all [11/12] these precious heir-looms of the Church, the trophies and the triumphs of the past; to think of this as the first age of Missions, and to boast itself, as if our times had been the earliest to give the Bible to the nations, in the tongues in which they have been born! When, of a truth, our enterprize for Christ, with the abundant means which we enjoy, is but the creeping of a child, that fears the dark, to the advances of a giant, when compared with the result of ages, which we speak of but with scorn; and both St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine tell us, that the word of God had then been read in their own languages, by Syrians, and Egyptians, and Indians, and Persians, and Ethiopians, and by almost every people where the Church was planted. The misery of these later times has been the use of isolated means and unauthenticated instruments. It is the Church to whom the trust for Christ is given. It is the Church to whom the victory in Christ is pledged. Nay, "to the principalities and powers in heavenly places," the cherubim and seraphim, in burning row, shall "be made known," St. Paul assures us, "by the Church, the manifold wisdom of God." Let it be counted, my beloved brethren, as a signal token of God's favour for His own appointed agency, that upon our work of Missions, which, nine years ago, we fearlessly committed to His Church, to do with as He would, He has poured out so large a measure of His choicest blessings! It was said, in 1835, by some who were opposed to the organization then effected, that the General Convention would, in time, become merely a Missionary agent, and meet together but to [12/13] do the work of Missions. The answer was, what better can it do? What higher, grander, nobler, office for the Church of Jesus Christ? As one has said, "mere common souls may keep together a well constituted Church, but to found one anew demands heroic spirits." [* I have lost the reference to this passage.] It was not, then, it could not be, foreseen, whether by those who raised, or those who answered the objection, that in nine years it would all be brought to pass; that what in 1841 was deemed departing from the office of the Church, if not forbidden by its Constitution, should in 1844 be the chief issue and the crowning glory of her highest Council. And in such beautiful consistency with what St. Paul exulted in, as both his glory and his debt: a Missionary Bishop elected for a portion of the Domestic field within our territorial borders, and yet to take under his charge a portion of our Foreign Missions, in the independent state of Texas: [* The Right Rev. Dr. Freeman] a Missionary Bishop elected for the colonial families that have gone out from us, to bear the light of Christianity to Africa, [* The Rev. Dr. Glennie, I regret to say, declined this trust.] and yet to be the herald of the day of grace to her benighted heathen tribes: a Missionary Bishop elected to be our Ambassador, to treat with Bishops of the oldest Churches in the world, [* The Right Rev. Dr. Southgate] fallen from the faith and love of the first days, about "the common salvation," and promote in God's good time the restoration of the ancient bond, which held the world in one communion of the faithful: and a Missionary Bishop elected to plant the Church of Christ [13/14] in heathen China, [* The Rev. Dr. Boone] and be the Apostle to three hundred millions! Can there be thought of a more perfect illustration of the oneness of our work? Could there be wished for an obliteration more entire of the unauthorized distinction between Foreign and Domestic Missions? Have we not put ourselves upon the very track of the Apostle, as debtor to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; and owned ourselves, before the world of men and angels, a Missionary Church for all mankind? "Surely," we may say it--may God forbid that we should say it with the thought of glorying, other than in the Cross of Jesus Christ!--"surely, there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to His time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought?" In 1784, [* The Right Rev. Dr. Seabury] a single Bishop, God's gift to this whole hemisphere, through holy hands, in the obscure and persecuted Church in Scotland; in 1787, two more, [* The Right Rev. Dr. White, and the Right Rev. Dr. Provost] scarcely obtained from the reluctant State authorities in England; in 1845, more than a ninefold increase of these three, and the same number as were then our all, paid back to the old world, in ministries of love, for Asia Minor, Africa and China. Who can withhold the grateful exclamation, "This hath God wrought!"
Our Church is honoured thus to be, with holy Paul, "debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians." And what the Church is, every Churchman [14/15] is as being, in her, a member of Christ's living body. We are all debtors to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, each in his several sphere. Debtors to them, in our fervent daily prayers; debtors to them, in the dedication of our substance, in a full proportion to His blessing; debtors to them, in the exercise, for their conversion or increase of faith, of our best influence, in talents, station, office, time, strength, interest, devotion, zeal; debtors to them, if the Lord shall call us, by His Church, in the surrender of ourselves, our souls and bodies--if need be, our bodies to be burned--in furtherance of their salvation. Brethren, it is a theme of which it were profane to speak without the deepest earnestness, as in the sight of God, who sees the heart. We are not children tracing figures on the sand, for the first tide to sweep away. We are not women come together, to hear something new, to please the fancy, and beguile the time. We are not men engaged in urging on the fortunes of our families; nor statesmen treating of the interests and intercourse of nations; nor men of war, upon the eve of some new Waterloo, which shall decide the destinies of empires, and the balance of the world. These all are of the day. These all are of the earth, and therefore earthly. These all but perish in the using. At best, but children's sand-tracks on the shore. But the great work which made St. Paul a debtor to the Greeks and the Barbarians; the work with which the Church is put in trust of God; the work which our last General Convention but began, and left for us to carry on; the work which has engaged our thoughts, and [15/16] should have filled our hearts this day, is spirit-work; has Christ's best blood upon it, and taken up into it; has consumed the noble hearts of Prophets, Priests, Apostles, Martyrs, Saints, of every age; and bears involved in it, for countless ages of eternity--eternal in their weal, or else eternal in their wo--the souls of nations, kindreds, peoples, tongues, which man or angel could not number; and our own! Merciful God, make us merciful to the souls of others, as we hope for mercy for our own, through Him who bought us all upon the Cross: and unto Thee, through Him, by Thy divine and Holy Spirit, shall be ascribed eternal glory and unmingled praise!