Images de page
PDF
ePub

Temple of Solomon. Here they were brethren, so far as in him lies, earnestly to organize their first church, and con- to strive to bring the gospel into imsolidate their strength, with a view to mediate and saving contact with the the discipling of all nations to their hearts of all to whom Divine ProviMaster. From this local center, they dence gives him access. were to pass to another, as they gath- The imperative obligation resting on ered strength to possess and hold it, the churches to do this work, is strikand then to another, clearing the ingly seen in the light of this considground as they went, at each succes- eration, – that if they neglect it, it will sive point, for a permanent and organ- be left undone. And the inevitable conized settlement, – unless in any case sequence of neglect will be, a dishonordriven away temporarily by persecu- able yielding up of their rightful and tion, — and thus onward toward the precious heritage to moral desolation grand consummation. This order of and the everlasting ruin of the souls procedure was instituted by the whose welfare stands closely connected Saviour himself, in his parting ad- with their watchfulness and fidelity. dress to the disciples: — “Ye shall be Whatever else the professed followers witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, of Christ may do, if they neglect the and in all Judeà, and in Samaria, and spiritual interests of their own houseunto the uttermost parts of the earth.” holds and kindred and neighbors and

These local churches thus planted, or associates, they cannot wash their to be planted as the good cause ad- hands in innocency. “The voice of a vanced, — dotting the world over, like brother's blood crieth unto God” stars set in a dark firmament, are against them. And the sentence proeach to illumine its own peculiar sphere, nounced against such undutiful serand all eventually by their united glow vants can be no other than this: “He to light up with a perfect brilliancy will miserably destroy those wicked the entire firmament itself. Each is men, and will let out his vineyard unto to be held responsible, as its first care, other husbandmen, which shall render to look after the spiritual welfare of its him the fruits in their season.” Matt. own members, and provide and employ xxi. 41. the best means of self-edification. And 2. These views, as sustaining the then it is to do good to all in its own paramount importance of parochial immediate neighborhood who are with- Christianization, we shall see illustrated out the pale of its communion; the in- and confirmed if we follow the track of mates of Christian homes, associates the apostles, and their fellow-laborers, in labor and business, neighbors and in their efforts to execute the friends, fellow-attendants on the sanc- Commission " received from Christ. tuary, and townsmen, — all who are After“ waiting” in Jerusalem till the susceptible to impressions of good from Spirit was poured out from on high, its labors, — all, in short, whom it can and seeing the full organization of the reach; recognizing its oblig under mother church, which indeed is the the gospel rule fully to occupy its pe- mother of us all, “ they were scattered culiar field of labor in the community abroad everywhere, preaching the in which it is established. Each indi- word,”— planting churches, as they vidual, whether minister or lay-mem- went throughout Judea, Samaria, Phoeber, is not to lose himself in the mass, nicia, and Syria, as far as Antioch. but, in the spirit of Christ-like love to From that city, as a radiating point, in his neighbor, is to assume his full share due time, missionary journeys were unof the work; and in concert with his dertaken under the sanction of the

« Great

church there, which resulted in the dom of God.” Acts xiv. 21, 22. Subestablishment of organized Christian sequently, after abiding “ long time" institutions over a large part of Asia at Antioch in “teaching and preaching Minor, and some of the adjacent islands, the word of the Lord,” it is both affectand subsequently in Greece and Italy. ing and instructive to read how,“ Paul In all these movements we see no trace said to Barnabas, “Let us go again and of an ecclesiastical establishment of a visit our brethren in every city where provincial or diocesan character. The we have preached the word of the local church stands forth prominently Lord, and see how they do.'” Acts and singly, as the divine instrumental- xvi. 36. For reasons that need not ity for concentrating and uniting the here be stated, Paul shortly after set Christian elements in each single com- forth on this important mission, not munity, - as the beating heart which is with Barnabas, but with Silas; “ and to send forth through the entire body he went through Syria and Cilicia, conof the population, the vital currents of firming the churches.” Acts xv. 41. spiritual healing.

Specifications of this kind, however, It is worthy of special notice to what need not be multiplied, for a single conextent the missionary labors of the sideration is sufficient to set the whole apostles and their companions were matter at rest, so far as any question expended in the “training," as dis- can be raised upon this subject. The tinguished from the “planting” of the Apostolic Epistles prove conclusively early churches. Their mission had that in the view of the writers, the reference not simply, as some might honor and strength and triumph of hastily suppose, to the conversion of Christianity, as a spiritual system demen and the gathering of them into signed to leaven and transform human the visible fold. A great part of their character and human society, are bound time and energy was devoted to the up inseparably with the soundness and care of the churches they planted. purity of the churches, and their fidelThey aimed to make them self-sustain- ity to the principle of local expansion. ing, not simply as it regards pecuniary As an aid to churches in reaching means and officers, but as it regards this vigorous condition of intrinsic and self-edification and growth, and to ren- aggressive life, on which so much deder them radiant centers for diffusing pends, outside aid may in their infancy throughout their appropriate sphere be requisite. In early times, as we the quickening and purifying influence have seen, the labors of apostles and of the gospel. Hence, we now and their inspired coadjutors, were rendered then read in “The Acts of the Apos- in such a case, - a method of aid partles,” such a record as this: “Then had alleled in more recent years by the the churches rest,

and were services of missionaries, sent out and edified; and, walking in the fear of the sustained by voluntary Christian AsLord and in the comfort of the Holy sociations. As soon, however, as the Spirit, were multiplied.” Acts ix. 31. point of self-support is reached, it

We find that Paul and Barnabas, is evident that a church is to take the after reaching the farthest limit in their full responsibility of its internal and first missionary tour,“ returned again external advancement into its own to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Anti- hands. It is one out of the many oroch, confirming the souls of the dis- ganized bands of missionaries dropped ciples, and exhorting them to continue down here or there upon the earth, at in the faith, and that we must through the appointment of Christ, to care for much tribulation enter into the king- and cultivate, for Him, its particular portion of the broad field. It is one growth evinces unsoundness and disof the many families of true spiritual ease, in all cases where maturity has workmen set on the walls of Zion, not yet been reached, and where the which is required and expected to external conditions required by pecubuild over against its own house. Byliarity of constitution have been comthis division of labor, the entire walls plied with. are to be reared up in beauty and Now does not this law extend into the in strength.

domain of spiritual life? Can any rea3. Growth in a church, as tending son be found why it does not, either toward a complete parochial Christian- in the nature of a spiritual life, or in ization, is of the first importance when the conditions of its development and viewed as an indication of an internal expansion ? Does the Christian conhealthful life. Up to the point of ma- sciousness, or the Bible, furnish any turity, all living things thrive and grow ground of doubt upon this question? whenever placed in circumstances ap- Nay, rather, is not the application of propriate to their natures, unless there this law absolutely required, by all is operating some functional derange- that we know of the characteristics ment, or some internal cause of decay. and workings of scriptural piety ? A fruit-tree, for example, if it has air, Does not the Saviour teach that his and sunshine, and moisture, and a good kingdom, whether set up in the indifertile soil, and a locality adapted to its vidual soul, or in the social heart, is a peculiar requirements, is expected to germ of self-expansive life, whose nagrow, and grow healthily, and bear ture it is to grow, until it subdues and fruit, according to the law of its vege- assimilates to itself all the faculties of table nature. It will not, of course, the individual, and all the relations and grow thus in the winter, nor out of its interests of the social body? It is appropriate soil and climate. But if, “the grain of mustard-seed, which, when all external conditions are right, when it is sown in the earth, is less the spring and the summer pass without than all the seeds that be in the earth; presenting the green foliage, the new but which “groweth up, and becometh spreading shoots, the fragrant blos- greater than all herbs, and shooteth soms, and the rich harvest of fruit; out great branches; so that the fowls or, if the growth, such as it is, is of the air may lodge under the shadow gnarled, and the fruitage imperfect of it.” It “is as if a man should cast and unsavory, we instinctively inquire seed into the ground, and should sleep, for some cause that is threatening the and rise, night and day, and the seed very life of the tree. So, if the physi- should spring and grow up, he knoweth cal frame of a child ceases to expand not how. For the earth bringeth forth or to expand proportionately, when all fruit of herself; first the blade, then the external laws of infantile growth the ear, after that the full corn in the are observed, how naturally the pa- ear.” The parable of the leaven hid rents' apprehensions are excited with in the meal illustrates and confirms reference to the insidious approach of the same principle, as viewed from a some internal disease! Not to multi- somewhat different point. The principly examples, it seems to hold true, ple may be thus stated: Christian piety, in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, whether regarded as personal, or as exthat appropriate and proportionate isting and acting in and through social growth indicates soundness and health, organizations, either on a smaller or a while a suspension or cessation of such larger scale, in its very nature, as being a Divine element, tends by a steady, con- duty. But whatever qualifications may tinuous progress toward a maturity of be demanded, this conclusion can not universal and complete diffusion. be denied without doing violence to the

Why should we not apply this prin- plainest evidence : - that it is the first ciple, directly and without qualifica- great duty of the local church to grow, tion, to the local church in its relations with a view to the thorough Christianto the parish, as its theater of spiritual ization of its parish. Failure here, operation? It would seem, antecedent when no providential and unavoidable to all observation, reasoning from the hindrances exist as a reason, is a clear nature of the case, and the teachings of and alarming indication of unhealthfulScripture, that, in the absence of exter- ness of spiritual life. In such a case, nal causes tending forcibly to break up the salt has in some degree lost its saor to reduce a church, as, for example, vor, and, so far forth, is “good for nothpersecution, or emigration, or the de- ing." So far forth the talent is laid up vastations of war, pestilence, and the in a napkin, the light is put under a like, a church which did not, on the bushel, and the things that remain are whole, grow in the number and spirit- ready to die. ual strength of its membership, — a In drawing this analogy between anichurch that did not, from year to year, mal and vegetable life and spiritual remake advances upon the unbelief and ligion, it is not intended to press points irreligion existing among the intermin- too closely, or, at least, unreasonably. gled or surrounding population, -a A healthful child grows by a steady orchurch that was not gradually enlarg- ganic expansion, till he reaches maning its borders, and drawing to itself hood. A vigorous tropical tree in its the wealth, the intelligence, the moral appropriate climate reaches its perfecinfluence of the community, and con- tion by a similarly continuous process. troling them in the interest of Christ's But in the cold latitudes, vegetable cause, giving bright promise, in its com- growth is suspended during the season pleted maturity, of ultimately absorb- of frost and ice, and, in all climates, it ing, by a thorough transfusion of its may be seriously checked and even deown life, the entire parish into itself,– stroyed by sudden and severe atmosmust be an unsound church, — that pheric changes. there must be something wrong in its It has already been intimated that spiritually sanitary condition. If the the expansion of a local church may

be growth of the mustard plant, set in a checked by violent providential causes, favorable location, should be suspended, or such events as tend to disturb and we should naturally look for some dis- break up the elements of society. And ease or defect in the plant itself as the we may say furthermore, that the most

If the working of the leaven in retired and staid communities may at the three measures of meal should times come unavoidably under the incease when as yet only one measure is fluence of agitating and diverting ocleavened, — all the external conditions currences, that shall affect prejudicially being favorable to the completion of their religious condition. And then, the process, – the housekeeper would again, it can not be expected, that the be led to question, whether the leaven, increase of a church, however true and if originally good, had not lost its es- devoted to its work, shall proceed by a sential properties as leaven.

uniform arithmetical ratio, adding nuThe full application of this principle merically, from one twelve-month to to the local church, may seem to carry another, just so many to its membera too sweeping charge of dereliction or ship. During one year, there may be

cause.

large accessions, as the fruit of a wide- ocean home with a grand and steady spread revival; another year may be movement. So that the facts adduced, marked by a large number of deaths instead of furnishing an argument and dismissions, uncompensated by ad- against the position that the growth of ditions; while yet, again, the increase a church in the irection of parochial may be decided, yet small.

Christianization, is of paramount imFacts like these, though seemingly portance, inasmuch as it is a sure inmilitating against the position we have dex of spiritual health, give to this potaken, only require a more comprehen- sition a decided support. sive generalization to bring them under 4. But we go one step further. the general law, that where providen- Growth in a church is to be viewed not tial circumstances do not hinder, it is simply as symptomatic, but as productive the paramount duty of a church to of results. It is not only an indication grow, and if it is in a healthful state of of health under the conditions specified; spiritual life, it will grow. To illus- it is frequently, if not always, a necestrate: A youth may, during a single sity as the preserver and promoter of year, shoot up toward man's stature health. Drawing our illustrations from with great and marvelous rapidity. the phenomena of life in the physical During the next year, he may remain world, we understand that a plant, at the same point as to hight, and yet whose growth is interrupted or even properly speaking, he is growing still, retarded, is apt to fall at once into a

not upward, but in filling out into diseased state, and to be covered with fair proportions the stature already at- destructive vermin. And we know, tained. This year a tree in your or- also, that no way is so effective to get chard may be loaded down with fruit. rid of the ravagers, as to quicken the The succeeding summer it may appear life and restore the vigor of the plant, to the eye a barren, worthless cumber- by means of better fertilization, irrigaer of the ground; and yet it is only re- tion, and other like resorts, well known cruiting its energies, and gathering new to horticulturists. The same principle vitality and fulness for the production holds good, in many respects, in the of future harvests, -- really advancing treatment of the human body. Oftenin all that constitutes its permanent times the best method of maintaining value as a fruit-bearer. And in these health in childhood and youth, is not a instances the same process will be re- direct medical battling with disease, peated, till life culminates in full ma- but such a hygienic treatment as tends turity.

to replenish the central bodily forces, These analogies show us how a and to keep them in action, and, in this church, although not presenting the way, to secure the regular unobstructsame numerical increase from year to ed development of every organ. Growyear, may yet be really gaining ground ing villages and towns, growing states toward the accomplishment of the spe- and nations, have a certain power of cial mission assigned to it in its inter- resistance to demoralizing influences. nal, and its more immediate external, It is when they cease to make adrelations. Judged not by annual statis- vances, and activity and thrift give tical reports merely, but by measure- place to want of public spirit, to pursements extending over longer periods, proud and labor-despising gentility, or the unfavorable aspects presented are listless poverty, that the social body only eddying currents thrown back over goes most rapidly to decay. the shallows, while the deep waters of And is it not obvious, from experithe channel flow onward toward their ence and observation, that as soon as a

« PrécédentContinuer »