And they wrote letters by them after this manner…
Once, in lifting from its shelf a certain folio, there fluttered out from between its leaves a paper dated 1763. It had evidently been mislaid as soon as it was written, and one hundred years after, just where the writer left it, I found it. It ran thus, "We beg to certify that the bearer, Mr. John Wyers, is well known to us, and we do hereby commend him to all Christian Churches where, in Providence, he may come as a godly minister who hath much devoted himself to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ." This was signed "David Fermie, Thomas Blackett." My text is a line out of an old letter of introduction written by the elders of the Church at Jerusalem. Now, this old certificate is not to be torn up for waste paper as a thing that is now dead and done with. It is a live thing, it is wanted now, to show what kind of missionaries are wanted, and how the armies of Christ in the field of foreign service are to win the day. Just take the words as they stand.
I. MEN. An ancient lawgiver said, that what Sparta wanted was not a wall of bricks but a wall of men. "Men," said a certain sarcastic journalist, "are cheap." No. If "men" be what is meant by certain advocates of "muscular Christianity," then men are cheap, but when I look at Paul I remember that it is not muscle that makes a man. If you mean by a "man," an undesigned result of molecular forces, then men are cheap, and they ought to be, but a man is not the consummation of a tadpole. If by "men" you mean an average human being, men ought to be cheap; but many a human being passes for a man who is not so much a person as a thing. What I mean by "man" is a son of Adam, who has been born again, and who is therefore a Son of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and of whom we may say, "Like father, like son." I want to blow into infinite space the mean, false notion that anything will do for a missionary; anything will not do. Before you are a missionary you must be a "man."
II. THAT HAVE HAZARDED THEIR LIVES. This, in itself, is not matter for plaudit. Most extreme must be the case, when the author of life sanctions the hazard of life. But, while grace makes us understand the sanctity of life, grace inspires us with a will to give ourselves to the service of something higher than life. That man is not worth calling a "man" who lives to save himself. The man who answers to the standard we are now looking at, is a man who, being called to the service of Christ, is prepared, if need be, to hazard his life for that service.
III. FOR THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. This means that the men hazarded their lives —
1. Out of love to Christ. The name of a person is the person to whom that name belongs. We all know the rousing, or soothing, or melting magic of a name. But no name has such power to stir the hearts of men as the name of Jesus Christ. When it was first uttered to the Jews, it stirred their hearts to hatred. Among the most inexorable and deep haters was Paul. He breathed out threatenings and slaughters till Jesus stopped him. After that, the love of Christ set his life on fire. What have we hazarded for Christ? Where is your love to Christ? Is that the thing you call love? Then love knows how to take care of itself; looks upon religion as a question of safe investment and social respectability; sometimes joins the Church like a traveller taking his ticket who books himself quite through, wraps his rug around him, and goes to sleep till the train stops; hates originality like the plague. What you call love I call prudence. But love, whether to God or man, tends to scorn of consequence, and to the forgetfulness of self.
2. Out of obedience to Christ. "If ye love Me keep My commandments." The commandment now waiting for our obedience is, "Go, make disciples of all nations." Now it is strange the first thing men in general do is to give their opinion about this. One man is of opinion that it is unnecessary; another, that it is impossible; another, that we should look at home; another, that we should civilise first; another, that every nation has already its own religion fitted to its own nationality. But Christ waits not for our opinion but our obedience. The question is how we can best obey. Some can best obey in this way, some in that. The principle is not that Christians should leave work at home for work abroad, but that all Christians are charged with the evangelisation of the world to do it between them. Though the difficulties may be massive, they are not your concern. "Charge," is the captain's cry. Say, as the man said, "Does Jesus Christ ask me to jump through that stone wall? Here I go at it."
3. In the service of their fellow men. It is a great service to save lives, and a noble thing when men do it at the hazard of their own. Lady Edgeworth, in the days of King Charles II, had suddenly to defend the family castle at Lissom, in the absence Of her husband. In doing so she had to go down and fetch powder from the castle vaults. On her return she said to the woman who had gone with her, "Where did you put the candle?" "I left it stuck in the barrel of black salt." Then did that glorious lady go down to the spot where the candle was burning into the powder, and put her hand round it like a cup, and lift it up and take it out, and so at the hazard of her own life saved the lives of others. Dear, glorious lady, that was well done. The lifeboat with its brave crew shoots out into the night over the swaying hills of water, to snatch twenty men off from a wreck. On their return, when the cry comes on the wind, "All saved," my heart gives a great bound, and I say, "There is a noble service nobly done." "The Son of Man came not t¢ destroy men's lives, but to save them"; and if it be a great thing to save the lives of bodies through the hazard of our own bodily life, it is a small thing to hazard it to save the lives of souls. Conclusion: We learn from these men —
1. How our faithful and mighty Master through all hazards keeps His servants alive until their work is done.
2. Only men like these hazard their lives, and the men who at Christ's call to service most totally give themselves up, most totally let themselves go, are the men whom the "King delighteth to honour."
(C. Stanford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: