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CHRIST'S COMMISSION TO HIS MINISTERS.
PREACHED BEFORE THE CONFERENCE HELD IN LEEDS,
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. Mark xvi. 15, 16.
1. IN reading the sacred narrative of the evangelists, concerning the life and doctrine of the LORD JESUS, and in comparing their sundry accounts together, it is diligently to be observed, that, in writing their histories, they regarded not the amusement, but only the instruction and edification of their readers. They paid no respect to the gratification of the curiosity of mankind, by a relation of uninteresting and trivial circumstances, but consulted merely the illumination and renovation of their minds, by laying before them important truths. Hence, without detaining us to hear on what occasion, at what time, or in what place, our Lord performed his miracles or delivered his discourses, they frequently carry us forward to observe rather, what is of infinitely greater importance to us, the fact done, or the doctrine taught.
The consequence, however, of this is, that, if we do not make this proper allowance for their passing over unimportant matters, and reflect that some of them omitted what others of them relate, we shall be led into the erroneous idea of their designedly connecting events, which, in reality, were not immediately connected, and even of their contradicting one another, which would impeach their credit as historians, and shake the very foundation of our faith.
2. I am led to make this remark, by considering the passage before us in connexion with the context. These words of Christ, as they stand here, seemingly connected with the preceding verses, may appear at first sight to have been spoken to his disciples on the day on which he rose from the dead. Whereas, upon comparing the contents of this chapter, with the accounts which the other evangelists have given, of the events which took place between the resurrection of Christ and his ascension, it seems evident that they were uttered on the day of his ascension, and probably at the very time, when he was lifting up his hands and blessing them,* and was just about to be parted from them and carried up into heaven. At that solemn and ever-memorable moment, it seems, among other instructions and advices, recorded by St. Luke, in the above-mentioned chapter, and Acts i. Jesus gave them this most important, most benevolent, and yet most awful charge, and said, "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." For as we are assured, verse 19, "After the Lord had spoken unto them," viz. the preceding words, a part of which is my text, "he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”
In discoursing from these words, containing, as we see, the last solemn charge of the Son of God to his disciples, I propose to consider,
I. What is implied in preaching the Gospel?
II. To whom the office of preaching it belongs? In other words, To whom this charge is given?
III. Where they are to preach it, and to whom? And,
IV. Lastly. What is required of those who hear it, with the consequences of their complying, or not complying, with the condition required of them.
I. And first, I am to inquire, What is implied in preaching the gospel? Under this head it will be necessary to consider, first, what the gospel is, that we may understand, secondly, what it is to preach it.
1. Now with regard to the nature of the gospel, I may observe, first, in general, that the very word used here and in other places by the evangelists and apostles, in the original, and translated gospel, gives us some information concerning it. It means, as is well known, not God's-spel, or God's-tidings, which is all that is signified by the Saxon term gospel, but good news, or glad ti
*Luke xxiv. 50.
dings. Such the gospel of Christ is in the very essence of it. It is good news, or glad tidings to the fallen race of Adam, to the sinful, guilty, weak, and wretched children of men, even tidings of a Saviour, and salvation through him. Therefore, when the angel announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds, he expressed himself thus, "Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy," ευαγγελιζομαι υμιν χαραν μεγάλην, literally, I evangelize unto you great joy, or I preach the gospel, containing matter of great joy; "for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is CHRIST the LORD."* So that tidings of a Saviour, at least of such a SAVIOUR as Christ the Lord, are good tidings, and the very essence of the gospel. Hence it is, that when the evangelical prophet, Isaiah, was foretelling gospel days, and describing the message which the ministers of the gospel would, in those days, deliver to mankind, he expressed himself in the following words: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace, that bringeth tidings of good, that publisheth salvation, that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" This, therefore, is the true nature of the gospel. It is good tidings, or good tidings of good and a message of peace and salvation. And accordingly, as we learn from the sacred writers, they that preached the gospel, “preached peace by Jesus Christ," and bore witness, that it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that he came into the world to save sinners."
2. To be a little more particular. The gospel may be defined thus: "It is that revelation which God hath made of himself, and of his mind and will to mankind respecting their salvation." This was made first, obscurely, and in part, to the ancient patriarchs, and by them to the early ages of the world, before and after the flood. As to Adam, when God said, "The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head ;" and to Abraham, when he promised him, that "in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed :" and lastly to Jacob, when he assured him, that" Shiloh should come, and that unto him should the gathering of the people be." But when the law was given to the posterity of Jacob, from mount Sinai, an institution took place, the design of which was to exhibit to mankind, in a variety of typical persons, and actions, and emblematical representations, the whole gospel, with its author, origin, and end, its precepts and promises,
*Luke ii. 10, 11. + Acts xiii. 26.1 Tim. i. 15.