And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
A Christian is one who professes to obey Jesus. Jesus has distinctly told us to go and preach the gospel through. out the world; therefore, whatever objections may be brought against Christian missions, are really brought against the authority of Christ and against Christianity itself. The Christian who opposes Christian missions is an anomaly. Some philosophers may say that Christianity is unsuited to the circumstances of every nation. Some philanthropists may say there is a bettor method of doing good to the world; some patriots may say that all we can do should be done in our own country; some politicians may say that it is unwise to interfere with the established institutions of other countries; some practical men may say the results accomplished are not worth the pains taken. Now, if we have no distinct reply to any of these objections, it is sufficient that we are under the orders of Christ, and those orders we must comply with. Suppose that when the commander-in-chief of an army calls his officers to him and says: "You are to storm every battery, to attack every position, of the enemy," then the subordinate officers were to say: "I can't see the reason of this; there's an insuperable difficulty yonder; we had better delay the execution of the command." It would be monstrous, although it might be that your commander is mistaken, or perhaps the command itself is ambiguous. But in this case the command is not ambiguous; nothing could be more clear — go; go everywhere, go everywhere and preach; preach the gospel to everyone. Nothing could be plainer. And then there is great emphasis given to the command by the circumstances under which it was uttered. A command in battle may be given in the time of conflict, and at the order may be mistaken; but this command was not given under the excitement of conflict; the conflict was over, the battle finished, the victory over death had been won, and calmly, as by a conqueror, this word of command was given. We think much of the last words of anyone who addresses us. These are Christ's last words: there is great emphasis about them. Part of Christ's work was complete, the great work of offering a sacrifice for the world; but part of Christ's work was not complete, the work of publishing the gospel. His own personal ministry was limited — in locality, in time — it only extended over Palestine, and only lasted three years. But the ministry of Christ in the publication of His gospel was to be continued through the agency of His Church.
I. WHAT? what is it we have to do?
1. Preach the gospel. The world had to be possessed for Christ. By the employment of what weapons? Shall swords and spears be collected, soldiers trained, armies organized? "Preach the gospel." Shall the arts of diplomacy be used? Shall statesmen and rulers be upraised so that they may pass laws by which whole communities under their influence shall be gathered, at least outwardly, into the Church? "Preach the gospel." Shall the servants of Christ be engaged to amass wealth, so that by money — which is said to be able to do everything — we may purchase the adhesion of the world? "Preach the gospel." Disdaining these carnal methods referred to, shall we apply ourselves to other methods more spiritual? Shall we apply ourselves to philosophy? Shall we take ourselves to the current theories of the day, and try to overcome the prejudices of the learned, and win the intellect of the wise? "Preach the gospel."
2. What, then, is this gospel? Good news. That, then, is the gospel — the Saviour — Christ. And this gospel is to be preached — not displayed in outward forms and mystic ceremonies, as the ceremonies of the Old Testament indicated typically the glory that was to come. Go and preach it, declare the truth, speak it to men's minds, that it may enter their hearts.
3. But why should it be preached by men? Why should it not have been made known by some supernatural, miraculous manner to everyone? Why the delay connected with preaching? There are mysteries we cannot solve. The arts and sciences have been left for man to work out. God gives us the materials for food — we prepare them; provides the land — we have to cultivate it; gives salvation — we have to accept it; the gospel message — we have to propagate it. Then, again, we might say our own spiritual culture requires this work; it would be an injurious thing for us if we had not this work to do. It is not likely we can understand all the mysteries of the Divine procedure, but there is the distinct precept we have to obey. "Preach the gospel."
II. WHY? Ancient predictions prepared us for this commission. Some say — we all say — charity begins at home, so the commission runs, "beginning at Jerusalem." The apostles unfurled the banner of the cross at Jerusalem, and then went forth displaying it before all the world. Very soon after they began to preach at Jerusalem the gospel was proclaimed at Damascus, Ephesus, Athens, Rome, and afterwards it extended to Macedonia, Spain, and Britain. Does someone say our own country needs all we can do to benefit mankind, all our efforts and all our money, let us wait till all evil is rectified in our own land? Then I would ask who are doing the most for their own land; are they not generally found to be those who are doing most for other lands? But cannot man be saved without hearing the gospel? Why therefore go to them? That might be said with reference to people here in England. Why preach at home? If the objection holds good in one case, it would hold good in the other. "Go into all the world." But don't you increase the responsibility of a nation when you make known to them the gospel, supposing they reject it? Is not the man more guilty the more he knows? Such an objection would apply equally to preaching at home, so we should have no preaching at all. But if one country in the world is well adapted for this particular system of truth, there are other countries that are altogether different from that country, and what is fit for it cannot be good for the other. "Go ye into all the world." We keep to our commission; the command is very clear. Well, but some countries are too cold; their icy mountains frown away the fanatics who would go to those shivering wretches gorging their blubber in their snow huts to try and explain to them the mysteries of Christianity, "Go into all the world." But some countries are too hot; the burning suns, scorching blast, and arid deserts forbid the things that are suited to temperate climes. "Go into all the world." But some nations are highly civilized, and don't need your gospel as savage nations do. "Go into all the world." But some are two barbarous, eating one another, and looking hungrily at you; it's madness to go and teach them the mysteries of Christianity. "Go into all the world." But some parts of the world are the homes of ancient idolatries; their gods are visible, and their worship is fortified by the indulgence of cruelty and lust. It is impossible to win such nations to the pure worship of an invisible Spirit. "Go into all the world." But some nations are the worshippers of one God with a comparatively pure form of faith; why disturb them? "Go into all the world." But your religion of the West cannot be suited to the customs of the East. That which suits Anglo-Saxons cannot suit Orientals. But our religion had its birthplace in the East. Missionaries from Syria first came to Britain; now we take back the gospel that we received from them. The gospel has been preached throughout the world: it has gone back to Palestine, Egypt, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. The Anglo-Saxon race — the depositories of Christianity — have spread through the world; our commerce is in every country, our ships sail over every sea, our language is spoken in every clime; by the aid of printing, Bibles and books are multiplied in almost every language.
III. TO WHOM? "To every creature." Not only to nations, you will observe, as though we could convert a nation at once by gaining over the rulers and their passing laws. No; "go and preach the gospel to every creature." Christianity is a personal thing. Believe thou the gospel. It is for every creature. God would not invite to a banquet those for whom there was no room. Yes, for "every creature." Christ, who constitutes the gospel, is Divine, and therefore infinite; if not Divine, and merely human, there would be a limitation about His power. "To every creature." The most unlikely persons to receive the gospel have often been the first to accept it. Publicans and harlots enter the kingdom of heaven before some of those who seemed to be far advanced on the way; therefore we are to preach, not only to barbarous tribes as such, but to the most degraded specimens of those tribes. What! to this hoary-headed heathen whose heathenism is bound up in his very life? "Every creature." What! to this fierce cannibal gloating over his victories? "Every creature." What! to this wild tenant of the woods whose intellect seems little above the intellect of the brutes; who seems as if he had no wishes but the most debased of his own debased people. "To every creature." What! to this man of cultivation? "Every creature." It is for sinners, and I am a sinner. It is for all, and I am one of the all; and so, having received it, I publish it to others.
(N. Hall, LL. B.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.