And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
I. THE POSITION OF THE CHURCH.
1. Centre of the world's life.
(1) This by virtue of what she is, the principles of righteousness which she inculcates and practises. These "doctrines of the cross" are keys to the chambers of power and authority. They are the true solution of the mysteries of human life. Questions of biography or of history, of individual lives or of eras, can only be understood from their underlying and determining spiritual principles - the relations of man to the Divine. Because of this connection of righteousness with the laws of the universe, Christian faith and virtue are the conditions of true possession and influence, whether in the region of the material or that of the spiritual. The beatitudes illustrate this truth. Only to the central principle does the world yield up its wealth. Herein, too, lies the reason of the Church's responsibility and stewardship. She holds what she has, not for herself alone, but for others. Her power is a moral one, as being guardian of the best interests of man.
(2) This by virtue of her relation to Christ, He is the Centre of humanity, and in him all things are created and sustained. It is, however, only through doctrines and belief that vital connection with him is maintained. Being, so to speak, "in Christ," she is his representative in proportion to her faithfulness and vitality. It is as constituted of individual members, each believing in Christ and living in him, that this character belongs to her, and not from any mystic corporate prerogative. What is true, therefore, of the Church, is so because, in the first instance, it is true of individual believers. Christ himself is the great attractive force of the Church; "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."
(3) This by virtue of her present circumstances. Although not of the world, she is in it, sent into it, and kept there. The great reason of her institution is that she may influence - evangelize - her neighborhood. For a season in the midst of the world, as Christ was in its midst, she is to radiate forth light and life upon mankind. The minister, "of the whole city center," is typical of the spiritual temple in the midst of world-life.
2. A moving center. Wherever our Saviour went he carried on his work in "the region round about," and "they came to him from every quarter" (ver. 45). In the same manner must it be with his followers. Like him, they must go about continually doing good. Christian work is not exclusively associated with a special place or building, a sacred day or an official service; it is inseparable from the individual personality of the believer, and must constantly proceed wherever he is.
3. A multiplying center. The powers of the individual believer increase and multiply. His command of new truths, and attainment of fresh spiritual life, add to his facilities and capacities for usefulness. And every person added to the faith is a new evangelist, with a sphere and fitness of his own. It is the glory of Christianity thus to propagate itself. The "Society of Jesus" was described as "a sword, with the handle at Rome and the point everywhere." The ideal this represents is only realized in the spiritual society of Jesus - the Church saved through his blood, and in all her members, loyal and loving, carrying out the great commission, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation" (Mark 16:15).
II. THE FIELD OF THE CHURCH.
1. Always at hand. The sphere of the Christian is described from himself as a center. He can never escape it or be destitute of it. He ought to be always ready and furnished for his work, however peer or ignorant he may be; for "our sufficiency is of God." "Of whom are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Even the one talent is given for use and service. Men often lose themselves in vague dreams and extensive ideas. For this reason it may be, as Bishop Butler suggests, that we are first told to "love our neighbor" - a duty which develops into many graces. It is a bad sign when the immediate neighborhood, the family, the servants, the friends, etc., of a professing Christian, are neglected.
2. Practically infinite. It is undefined save at its center. Each region is a center to others. The pressure of spiritual responsibility is as constant and necessary to the Christian's soul as that of the atmosphere in relation to his body. The ever-increasing and widening vistas of possible usefulness are occasions of inspiration and ennoblement to the earnest worker.
3. Constantly varied. New subjects of Christian solicitude present themselves, new adaptations of spiritual truth and agency. The adaptability, capacity, and sympathy of the Christian ought to be continually developing. And when "the region round about" has received its due labour and attention and prayer, there is ever some "region beyond" whither the hastening feet of the Saviour have already made a way. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.