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For, first of all, we believe that these words announce to us the Divine law of the Church's life; and, therefore, what they enjoin every church, and every association of churches, should seek to realise in their actual experience and history. That experience and history should ever be marked by growth, increase, and expansion.
This may be illustrated by the two principal figures employed in the New Testament to describe the Christian Church. They are those of a body and building. Under both these figures St. Paul discourses of the Church in his Epistle to the Ephesians, and the passages are so instructive that we trust our readers will give them an attentive consideration. They may be found in the second and fourth chapters. Perhaps it may be said that these figures teach that maturity and perfection are the laws of the Church's life, as well as growth and increase. The body grows until it has attained its full development, and can expand no more; the building rises until the top-stone is put on, and it reaches its finished state : and so the Church, as the body of Christ, and the house of God, will attain to its perfect, its completed condition. This is true enough ; but that condition, the condition of maturity, pertains to another world—to its heavenly history. In this world the law of its life will ever be growth and enlargement, and only by this growth and enlargement can it attain to its destined maturity and perfection.
But these figures teach us the mode in which this enlargement is attained. A body expands from the force and fulness of its own internal life; a building is enlarged by additions made to it from without: the stones are hewn from the quarry and placed upon its walls. The Church, therefore, must be enlarged both by growth and conquest; by growth, as the tree throws out its branches and boughs, or as the family is enlarged, by having sons and daughters born into it, and yet not in this way exclusively; for the blessing of salvation must be communicated to those that are without-to the aliens and outcasts; we must go into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in ; for yet there is room, and the feast, as well as the house, is large enough for all.
Again, we are hereby taught that the Church's conquests must be by conversion, and not by external adhesion; all who are added to it must be saved-must become new creatures in Christ Jesus ; for the Apostle is very careful to guard us against supposing the Church can be built up of dead masonry. The idea of life and growth is, therefore, connected with the second figure—the figure of a building, although it may almost seem incongruous or unnatural to it. “In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.”
In the illustrative passages adduced, the Church spoken of is the Universal Church—the Church consisting of all believers in every place who call upon the name of Jesus; but the words chosen as our motto are addressed to a particular or local church, thus showing that the law of the Church's life is a law for all portions of the Church, as well as for the Church as a whole. Yea, it is a law for every individual member of the Church, for each believer; as only
through the growth of the branches can the tree grow, as only by the enlargement of the members can the body expand.
“From Christ, the head, the whole body is fitly joined together and compacted by means of every joint of the supply, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself iu love."
But, further, the appeal of St. Paul teaches us that the law of the Church's life requires voluntary obedience, or rather conscious and designed co-operation, on the part of the Church. Growth and expansion are not attained irrespective of the Church's volition and action. It may work together with God, or it may defeat his purpose, and, instead of being enlarged, it may be straitened ; instead of growing into a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, it may continue immature, weak, sickly, ready to die, or it may actually expire. The Church, then, is responsible for its enlargement, and St. Paul's appeal at once announces a glorious privilege and a solemn duty. How shall this privilege be attained, and this duty fulfilled ? It shall be our aim to answer this question, and answer it not only with regard to some particular church, but as it applies to all churches—to the whole community to which we belong.
The argument and appeal with which our motto is connected places before us the true relation of the ministry to the Church, and the Church to the ministry; while the duties arising out of this relationship to both ministers and people are stated at length in an impressive manner. Our readers need not be told that various and conflicting theories on this subject have been held, and are now held, by the followers of Christ. Some are wishful to absorb the Church in the ministry. They teach that the clergy are the Church. They hold that the Church is the fruit of the ministry-flows from it as effect proceeds from its cause—and, therefore, the ministry is all in all in the Church's constitution and existence, as only by men properly set apart and consecrated to the work can the ordinances be administered, the Word be proclaimed, believers be multiplied, and the world be converted.
But while some would absorb the Church in the ministry, others would supersede the ministry by the Church. They admit that, historically, the Church is the creation of the ministry ; but when the Church came into existence, the necessity for the continuance of the ministry as a separate institution passed away, and all its functions were vested in the congregation of believers ; so that now the minister is merely the Church's agent, or instrument. He speaks in its name and by its authority, and it is only in a very subordinate and loose sense that he can call himself an ambassador for God, or the representative of Christ.
We are not going to discuss the respective merit or truthfulness of these theories any further than to say that, as we apprehend the teaching of St. Paul, there are in both points that are true, and points that are false. Taking the apostle for our guide, we shall not so amalgamate the ministry and the Church as to destroy the distinction between the two; nor shall we, either, give such prerogatives to the ministry as to authorize its members to lord it over God's heritage. The Church will not swamp the ministry, nor the ministry ignore the Church ; but both will be traced to their primal source, and thus all shall find that the ministry is of God, and that the Church is of God, and, therefore, that it is the Divine purpose that the two should cordially unite and zealously co-operate in all the works of faith and labours of love required of the body of Christ. In this way only can the appeal, “ Be ye enlarged,” be fully and effectively responded to.
In seeking the enlargement of the Church, the first thing for ministers and people to do is to cherish assiduously its spiritual life. As already remarked, the Church is a living institution. It is formed to be the depository of vital influences, and with them it must be imbued in all its parts. And its strength is according to its life; its spiritual power is the gauge of its real power. A living body which grows beyond the measure of its vital force is only weakened and injured by expansion. This, however, the Church can never do while it maintains its proper union with Christ and is truly his bodythe outward and visible organization wherein resides his Spirit.
This shows us how the spiritual life of the Church is to be cherished. Christ is our life. Abide in me, is his language to his Church, and I in you. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the stalk; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the stem, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for severed from me ye can do nothing."
The personal disciples of our Lord never forgot these words of their Master, and though St. Paul did not hear them fall from his lips, though he received them from the testimony of others, yet none more fully or practically regarded them than he. Hence, he so frequently speaks of the power that worketh in him, “whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power.” Again, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ: whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” And the ministry and the Church are equally privileged to be partakers of this vital energy. Hence the apostle's prayer for the Ephesian Church-a prayer as instructive as it is sublime—and when it is offered and fulfilled in behalf of any Church, then that Church will be truly enlarged.
This enlargement has relation to our spiritual sympathies with the great object for which a Christian ministry and Christian Church exist. If we were to put the inquiry to some, we may say to many, Why is there a Church in existence ? what is the work it has to do in this world ? the answer would be an unintelligent, a hap-hazard one. It would be an answer guessed at, instead of given with intelligent conviction. Indeed, with many, the true idea of the Church is lost, or at least it is greatly cast into the shade, and only obscurely or partially held by those who possess it. The Church, with some, is simply an institution of religious worship, and direct acts of prayer and praise are its chief if not its only work. With others it is only an institution of religious instruction, an academy, a school of opinions; and the ministry is an agency for propounding mere
intellectual truth, dry and technical creeds, which neither awaken nor sustain spiritual life. And what is the zeal which such views evolve ? A zeal about externals and opinions-about, for instance, the mode and subjects of baptism, church order and usages, and the form of church government. And this zeal is satisfied, has gained its object, when the machinery of the Church is adjusted to its wishes; when our places of worship are elegant and beautiful; when the worship itself is performed—yes, that is the very wordwhen the worship is performed with taste, the organ's tones intermingling with the voices of singing men and singing women, and when the pulpit is on an equality with the orchestra in this respect, the preacher being in manner, in conception, in language, all that intelligence and refinement can require. Yes, this is the beau-ideal of a church with many in our enlightened day—a fine building, a fine congregation, a fine organ with fine singing, a fine preacher who offers up fine prayers and preaches fine sermons. Let them have elegance, respectability, and comfort, and they ask for nothing more.
What a difference, what a contrast is here to the true and grand idea of the Church which is given us in the New Testament! We see it presented to us there, in the words of Dr. Arnold, as a society existing for the purpose of making men like Christ, earth like heaven, and the kingdoms of this world the kingdoms of the Son of God. It is an instrumentality for enlightening, converting, regenerating, and Christianizing men. This is Christ's idea of his Church, and for this purpose he calls it his body, and fills it with his life. And the apostles entered into the conception and design of their Master, and this was the character of the Church as it was developed under their guidance and government. The Apostolic Church was essentially a congregation of godly, faithful men; and while it was a missionary church, sounding forth the Word of the Lord to the regions beyond,—while it made aggressions on the territory of the enemy, it did so more for the sake of conversion than conquest-it sought to be practically the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We have a proof of this in the exhortation immediately following the appeal, “ Be ye enlarged”—“Be not yoked unequally with unbelievers : for what fellowship is there between righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial ? or what part hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? for ye are the temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and will walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be to me a people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be separate, saith the Lord, and touch not anything unclean ; and I will receive you, and I will be unto you a Father, and ye shall be unto me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
The enlargement we are urged to exemplify applies to our liberality and real in fulfilling the work, and striving after the object, with which we sympathize. In the Church life is given not for repose, but for action, and we have seen the object to which this action is to be directed. Churches, then, that respond to the appeal of the apostle will be not only steadfast and immovable, they will also abound in the work of the Lord. The work of the Church is one in its object, and yet it is manifold in its operation; and so among the members of the Church these diversities of gifts, from the same Spirit, to qualify all for their particular work. To advert to the figure already adduced, the Church is the body of Christ; “but the body is not one member, but many. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ-or the Church of Christ.” But while all the members are in the body, and are part of the body, all have not the same office in the body. The eye cannot have the place, nor do the work, of the hand, nor the hand of the foot. All members have not the same office, but there are gifts differing according to the grace given to us. We have, then, to ascertain what is our gift, and be enlarged in the use of that gift. Are we endowed with money, or social position and influence, or knowledge, or sympathy, or instructive or persuasive speech? All must be fully consecrated to the service of Him from whom the gift came, and we consecrate to God whatever we employ for the good of man. All, we say, must be fully consecrated, for God demands all, and the interests of humanity require all ; and while we give our all to God we must give it with all our heart; for God looks at the heart, and will only accept and love a cheerful giver.
On this subject, dear reader, is not the appeal, “ Be ye enlarged," appropriate and even necessary ? Do not most Christians need enlargement both as to the amount of what they do for Christ, and the spirit in which they do it? Their offerings of time, of money, of intellect, and whatever else they have to give, are they equal to their means and opportunity, or to the magnitude and importance of the objects they seek to accomplish, or to the law of requirement under which God has placed them? Who does not in this matter rob God ? How few, on the score of giving to God, and working for God, will give up their account with joy, and be recognized in their final reckoning as good and faithful servants ! And of what is avowedly done for God, how much is deteriorated, if not spoiled, by the motive from which it is done! Augustine has called the virtues of the heathen splendid sins in the sight of God, and we fear on the ground of motive or disposition many of the acts of Christians may merit the same designation. In some instances they are done ostentatiously, to be seen of men, win their plaudits, or obtain from them a recompense. In other instances they are done reluctantly and begrudgingly; they are wrung from the performer by compulsion, or shame, or importunity, instead of being done by a willing mind and heartily as to the Lord.
Let the apostolic appeal be responded to, and this state of things will pass away. The Church will be brought to consist of men and women who will believe in and act upon our Lord's maxim, that it is more blessed to give than to receive. They will not say that anything they possess is exclusively their own; the proprietor of all their gifts they will remember is God. They are his stewards with regard to them, and as such they will seek to be faithful. This will teach them to be ready to distribute, to do good and communicate will be