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now the father of all them who believe, even though they are not circumcised.
The commission is therefore not only the warrant, but the command to engage in the work of missions. It is what Wellington called "the marching orders of the church," and indifference or neglect of missionary labour is disobedience of orders, and violation of the sacramental oath.
II. The Seals authenticating the commission.
These were to be miracles of five kinds, vs. 17, 18. The book of Acts records the occurrence of all these miracles but one, which no doubt was wrought, though not recorded. The first miracleseal was the casting out of demons, which took place at Philippi, when the spirit of divination was cast out of the damsel by Paul; and at Ephesus, when handkerchiefs, blessed by Paul, exorcised those possessed of devils, Acts xvi. 18; xix. 12. The second was speaking with new tongues, which took place at pentecost, at the baptism of Cornelius, and at Corinth, as we learn from 1 Cor. xii. 14. The third was taking up serpents without harm, which was done by Paul in Melita, Acts xxviii. 3-6, and convinced the Maltese that he was more than an ordinary man, and his religion from God. The fourth was drinking any deadly poison with impunity, which no doubt happened, though it is not recorded. The fifth was laying hands on the sick for their recovery, which was done repeatedly by Paul, and by many others as we learn from James v. 14, 15.
These seals were necessary to authenticate the apostolic office, and hence continued as long as the office itself. When neither the office nor the seals were required by the state of the church, they both ceased, and miraculous powers were gradually withdrawn. Christianity is now itself the great standing miracle of the world, and its mighty works are not physical and bodily, but moral and spiritual. It still casts out demons, and has taken a John Newton, a Col. Gardiner, or a savage Africaner, and transformed them into pure, gentle, and loving saints. There are thousands on earth, as well as in heaven, who need nothing more than their own experience to prove that the gospel still retains its ancient power of casting demons out of the soul. It still enables the christian to speak with new tongues, putting a new song into his mouth, and enabling the lips that once were all dumb, to utter the language of Zion. There are still serpents that it enables one to take up harmlessly, the hissing brood of malice, envy, and calumny, which soon drop from the hand of innocence, leaving it unhurt. It still shields from the deadly cup of temptation and neutralizes its poisonous power, so that, if led into temptation, it at least delivers from evil. It still heals sickness, not of the body it is
true, but of the soul, and whispers sweet hopes of the land where no one says, “I am sick.” Hence its triumphs, if not so palpable to the senses as these literal miracles, are still authenticating seals of its divine warrant, for nothing could accomplish such works as these, unless it came from God.
III. The Consequences of accepting or rejecting the proffer contained in this commission.
These consequences are embodied in two of the most momentous words ever uttered by human lips, salvation and damnation. The meaning of these awful words it will require an eternity of experience to unfold. They involve all that is most joyous in heaven, and all that is most fearful in hell, for ever! When the great apostle had caught but a single glimpse of what is included in salvation, he came back saying that it was not only unlawful to utter the things that he saw, but impossible, for they were unutterable. And if the splendors of the heavenly city are thus unutterable, how much more the terrors of the dark region below! The very dimness and vagueness of the terms employed to describe its torments, are more terrible than the minutest description of details, for it tells us that they baffle description, and are unutterable.
That this should be hinged on simple faith or its absence seems strange, until we remember that man is lost already, a doomed rebel, a serpent-bitten wanderer in the desert, a shipwrecked mariner drowning in the sea. Pardon is offered to the rebel, healing to the dying wanderer, an ark of safety to the perishing voyager. To believe and accept is to be saved ; to refuse or neglect is to allow the avenger of blood to come, the poison to to do its fatal work, and the drowning one to perish in the waters, for “how can we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?"
THE TENTH APPEARANCE-APOSTOLIC COMMISSION
Differences between Luke and the other evangelists—The Greek gos
pel. I. The Holy Scripture the only final and unerring rule of faith and practice. Popery and infidelity-Jesus endorsing the scripture. II. The central doctrine of revelation, an atoning and enffering Messiah. The law, prophets, and psalms—The cross of Christ the centre of all human history. III. A divine power needful to enable man to comprehend the gospel of Christ. " Opening the understanding"--The new light. IV. The salvation of the gospel for all, however remote their habitation, or great their guilt. “All nations”-“ Beginning at Jerusalem"-Bunyan's Jerusalem sinner.
“Thy glory o’er creation shines ;
But in thy sacred word,
My bleeding, dying Lord.” “ And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.” Luke xxiv. 44–47.
In discussing the apostolic commission as it is given by the first two evangelists, we have seen