“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
In compliance with the request of Mrs. E. O. Roberson, of Glen Ridge, N. J., the following comments are submitted. Instead of wishing to deprive her of the views of Elder Chick, which she solicits, however, it is my desire to Unite in her wish for his comments on the subject.
Before treating upon the text submitted by the inquirer, it seems advisable to express some thoughts in regard to the case of the friend herself. Doubtless there are many readers of the Signs who are bewildered by the same circumstances which perplex her. To all such it may be appropriate to address some considerations which apply to them with the same force as to this troubled friend.
She says that even from a little child she has loved the Old Baptists. Evidently she does not doubt that they are the church of Christ. Hence that love which she has felt is the very evidence which conclusively identifies her as one who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit as a child of God. There can be no mistake in the inspired test, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Again, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” – 1 John iii. 14; iv. 7. Now, to call this decision in question involves a denial of the truth of the inspired Scriptures. The fact that this love was felt before the natural mind was sufficiently developed to remember anything preceding it, does not affect the truth established by this infallible judgment. Nor is it less absurd to doubt the reality of the new birth because you cannot remember it, than to doubt your natural birth upon the same ground. The natural life does not depend upon the memory of natural birth; neither does spiritual life depend upon the remembrance of the birth of the Spirit. Nowhere in the inspired record is it said that the remembrance of a time when we hated the truth is an evidence that the life of Christ dwells in us. That love which is drawn out to those bearing the image of Jesus, is the fruit of the Spirit of God. That fruit can no more be produced by the natural mind than grapes and figs can be produced by thorns and thistles. Therefore, wherever that love is found in any sinner, there can be no mistake that it identifies its possessor as a vessel of mercy, and an heir of immortal life in Christ. So, our Lord does not say, “If you can tell a satisfactory experience, keep my commandments; but, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Although the request is for writing upon the whole chapter in which the text is recorded, it is apparent from the question which she has so often been asked, that the subject in the text is that upon which she desires more particularly to have an expression of views. Therefore, in the first place, it will be needful that the language of our Lord in the text be considered in connection with the explanation given by the inspired writer, in the immediate context.
It was to the eleven apostles that this direction was given by our risen Redeemer, as declared in the fourteenth verse. Then in the twentieth verse it is written that, “They went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” Thus the command was fulfilled by those to whom it was given. So Paul says that this gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” – Col. i. 23. Since the declaration of the fulfillment of this commandment is written by the same inspiration which records the giving of it, there can be no question that it was obeyed in the sense in which it was designed by our Lord. But, even if there were any authority for extending the injunction to others besides those to whom it was given by our risen Lord, this commandment cannot authorize the popular system of societies to send men into foreign lands to preach. The apostles were not commissioned to send others into all the world; much less can this direction authorize uninspired men to select and send such men as they approve, and to depend upon the power of money for their success in the proclamation of the gospel of salvation. There is not an expression in the Bible which can be distorted into supporting the modern system of humanly organized societies for sending the gospel into heathen lands. Indeed, our Lord taught his disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest. (Matt. ix. 38.) Gospel preachers are sent forth by no other authority but the command of the Lord himself. He has never delegated that work to any created being. In the record of this commandment, as written by Matthew, it is accompanied by the assurance of Jesus, “Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” On this assurance they went forth, requiring no earthly societies to secure them from want. While there is no account that any of them ever had as many pieces of silver as Iscariot received for his betrayal of the Lord, they were in every way provided for, and they still continue to obey the commandment even unto the end of the world. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard! Yes, verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” – Rom. x. 17, 18. If reason objects to this testimony, the only answer needful is furnished by the same word of inspiration. “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid! yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” – Rom. iii. 3, 4.
The ministers of our Lord do not enter the service of human societies as missionaries to foreign countries, because they are not their own, and their services, as well as all their life, are subject to the direction of their Redeemer; and he has given them no commandments to sell their ministry for money. No claim has ever been made that there is any scriptural authority for the organization of missionary societies. They are the invention of men, who devised them little more than one hundred years ago; although they are in all essential principles fashioned upon the pattern of the scribes and pharisees, which was condemned by our Lord, as recorded in Matthew xxiii. 11.
As a necessary consequence of the presumption which would substitute human invention for divine authority in the proclamation of the gospel, that which is preached by those who are sent forth by such societies, is not the doctrine of God our Savior. Instead of ascribing salvation exclusively to the grace of God, those who are sent forth by men must always give the glory to the power of money, by which their system is supported. The very principle upon which the popular missionary plan rests, is the denial that “Salvation is of the Lord.” It claims that without the assistance of men and money, sinners will be lost, for whom Christ died. Certainly those who are saved by the use of means devised by men, should give the glory to the power by which they are saved. But it is not the gospel of Christ which proclaims salvation dependent upon such corruptible things as silver and gold.
If the worship of false gods constitutes heathenism, it is not needful that gospel preachers should leave this country to find heathens to whom they might preach. But the ministers of Christ are not sent to select their own audiences. They are to preach when and where they find an opportunity presented in the providence of God. It may be in the desert, where a lone traveler seeks to understand the revealed word which he reads; or it may be in the midst of assembled multitudes. They do not carry the gospel, but the gospel carries them where God has prepared a people to hear and receive the glad tidings of salvation. In obedience to the direction of the Spirit of Christ, his ministers do go and preach. They are not directed by men in this work; neither do they trust in men for their support.
With the earnest desire that these thoughts may be acceptable to the inquiring friend at whose suggestion they are written, and that she may be led in the way of obedience to the commandment of our dear Redeemer, I must leave the subject to the consideration of those who love the truth as it is revealed in our gracious Redeemer.
In hope of life, as ever, your fellow pilgrim,
WM. L. BEEBE.
Warwick, N. Y., Aug. 8, 1898.
P. S. – I wish to say to those whose requests for my views have not been answered, that it is not for lack of deference to their wishes that I have not responded to their inquiries, but for want of light and opportunity.
W. L. B.
Signs Of The Times
Volume 66., No. 18.
SEPTEMBER 15, 1898.