ANDREW GRAY (PERTH)
FREE CHURCH PULPIT VOL. ONE
(Preached at the opening of The Free Synod of Perth, 16th April 1655
BY THE REV. ANDREW GRAY, PERTH.
"Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I
tell you, nay; but rather division" - Luke xii. 31.
My Brethren, here is surely a startling declaration. Can there have been any mistake in regarding Christianity as the religion of peace? Division! Is division the proper fruit of our holy faith? What is the meaning of this? The text seems to combat a wrong idea; and the error it assails consists in supposing that Christ came to give peace on earth. "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather divison." And these words are spoken by the Prince of Peace. Yea, Jesus also says, " Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matt. x. 34.) "I am come to send fire on the earth : - from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter- in-law against the mother-in-law." (Luke xii. 49, 52, 53.)
Such was the marvellous language of Him concerning whose advent the seraphie anthem had proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men !" Were the angels deceived ? We must look into this mystery. Our Lord tells us in the text what his mission is to do; and it is clear, from what he says, that the truth upon that point is more complex and extensive than is sometimes imagined. An inquiry into the whole truth regarding it will be a fitting commencement of the discussion of our present subject.
I. Let us inquire, then, into the Scripture doctrine with regard to the effects or consequences of the mission of Christ. Christs mission into our world has two sets of effects. There are its effects upon the Christian believer, and its effects upon human society.
1. There are its effects upon the true believer of the gospel. These are manifold and great. It is impossible here to speak of them at length. But in order to the object we have in view, they may be exhibited in the following four particulars, which perhaps will be found to be more or less comprehensive of them all.
1st, Let us take, in the first place, the effect upon the believer in respect of his relation to God. That effect is peace. Our text was not meant to deny it. "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Saviour came to bear the curse - to take away the wrath - to mediate between God and sinners, so that the child of wrath might become a member of Gods blessed family. He saw men separated by their iniquities from the friendship of God, and lying under just condemnation. He pitied their miserable case. He saw them ready to perish through the anger of the holy Sovereign of all. His errand was to appease that anger, and to save them from it for ever. It was not in vain that he interposed. He satisfied justice - he expiated sin - he redressed the wrongs of the law - and made peace for his people. "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." There is condemnation to others. "The wrath of God abideth" on them that do not hear. But such as are in Him have "peace from God the Father." He offers them that peace. "Peace," he has said "I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
2d, Consider, in the second place, the effect upon the believer as regards his own dispositions and feelings. Here also it is peace. "The fruit of the Spirit is peace." "The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Christ came to take the bitterness and enmity out of our hearts, and to reconcile us to God. He came, not only to pacify justice towards his people, but also to pacify them towards God. There is hostility, there is war, against the all the perfections, the great work of God, in every sinners heart. His carnal mind is enmity against God. But Christ slays that enmity. puts an end to that unnatural and impious war. He makes the weapon of rebellion to drop from the sinners hands. He gives the spirit amity and love to every one that believes. Changing the disposition of his people, he turns them to God. They no longer stand aloof-and no longer oppose. As the hart for the water brooks, they thirst for God. They come to God - they walk with God - they joy in God as their portion. Through the Spirit of adoption, wherewith he fills them, they cry unto God, Abba, Father. Is the conscience of a sinner troubled and clamorous from a sense of guilt - is his soul distracted by the terrors of the Lord? There is peace for his conscience, there is deliverance and rest for his soul, in Jesus. The Saviour speaks peace to his folk. He sprinkles them with his blood, and their fears pass away; the alarms that shook them are felt no more, and quietness and assurance succeed.
3rd, In the third place, attend to the effect upon the believer with reference to his fellow-believers. Again the effect is peace. He is united to them in love. Christ came to gather around him a body of disciples, and to form them into a family, of which he is the elder brother, the Head in whom they all rejoice, and through whom they have pleasant fellowship together. The consequence is, that each of them is allied to all the rest; there is one body, and one Spirit; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all.
4th, Notice, lastly, the effect upon the believer with reference to them that are without. True it is that Christ came to draw a people for himself out of the world. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate," is indeed his call to every sinner to whom the gospel is preached. And the believer is one who has obeyed that call. But the believer is not the enemy of those he has forsaken. On the contrary, he was never truly their friend until he forsook them. While unsaved himself, he cared not for their salvation. But he pities them now. Christ has taught him to pity them. We are told that "The Spirit and the Bride say, come." The Bride, that is, the Church of believers, say "come"! Come, ye perishing, come to Jesus! Come and receive salvation! Come ye rebels, who have provoked the wrath of God; the olive branch of peace is extended to you; come, and be forgiven, and reconciled, and made kings and priests unto God!
Such, then, are the effects of the Redeemers mission, as exemplified in the case of believers. We find not in them anything that corresponds with the declaration in the text. Still that declaration must be true. Let us continue our search. Let us go on to consider its effects upon human society.
2. The effects, or consequences, upon human society, may be divided into ultimate and immediate.
1st, Those that are ultimate. They are of the happiest kind. The description in the passage from which our text is taken does not suit them at all. Scripture pourtrays them in most attractive terms. "The mountains," we are told, "shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness." "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth." "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before them; all nations shall serve him" "His name shall endure for name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in him; all nations shall call him blessed." (Ps. xxxii. 3, 6 - 7,1 "They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more." (Is. ii. 4.) "The wolf, also, shall lie down with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned shall put his hand on the cockatrices dent They shall not hurt nor destry in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." (Is. xi. 6 - 10. illustrious and blessed shall that time be! The prediction of the angels shall be verified, and on earth there shall be peace.
2d, The immediate consequences. When we look into these, far different scenes present themselves. It is here, undoubtedly, we must seek for the fulfilment of our Lords remarkable words. But we must distinguish.
First, An immediate consequence of the mission of Jesus is the very opposite of division. Wicked confederacies are occasioned by it. the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." The potentates of the world lay aside their mutual jealousies, and cease from their wars with each other, in order that they may unite their forces against the Messiah, to thwart him in his great work of mercy, to bring trouble and disaster on his kingdom, and to overset his throne! Rivals bury their enmities, and direct the course of their united rage, against Jesus and his feeble followers. Pharisees and Sadducees cry out "Away with him; crucify him." Herod and Pontius Pilate joy over his grave.
But, secondly, and to come at last to the doctrine of the text, division and strife among men are also immediate results of the mission of our Lord! His solemn language on the subject can have no other meaning. has been said to show that there is no real discrepancy between, the statements which tell of peace, and love, and happiness, as the his work, and the blessings of his glorious reign. And this, beyond dispute, is what he teaches when he says, "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay; but rather division." "1 came not to send peace, but a sword."
II. Having thus arrived at the subject which the text brings before us, and having ascertained what place, among the effects of Christs mission, belongs to that particular effect of it which we have now to consider, we go on to advert to some Scripture examples of the feuds and about which Jesus foretold. The schisms and dinsensions which our Lord sends on the earth may be classified. They are to be found in families, among friends and companions, in the general community, and in the visible Church.
1. In families An example is furnished in the family circle of Jesus himself. His brethren, we are told, did not believe in him. (John vii. 1 - 10.) His own kinsmen took umbrage at his doctrine and claims. At the very time when he was shunning publicity, because the Jews sought his life, they tauntingly urged him to leave his retreat, insinuating that it was inconsistent to put forth the pretensions he made, and not appear at the, head of his followers; and hinting, that, if he was in earnest, and really was what he professed to be, he would not stay in the remote district of Galilee, but would go into Judea, and show himself to the world.
An instance of alienation in its earliest stage occurs in the case of the man who was born blind. The irritated Pharisees had summoned his parents to give testimony regarding the miracle of his cure. His parents knew well that a great miracle had been wrought upon him by Jesus; but, with the fear of expulsion from the synagogue before their eyes, they shrunk from an honest confession of the truth, and left their intrepid son, if he would not play the disingenuous part they had done, to bear all the odium and the penalty alone. "He is of age," said they, ask him; let him speak for himself." He did speak for himself - and honestly and boldly did he speak. The consequence was, that his pa.rents and he were ecclesiastically separated. They remained uncensured and did not forfeit their privileges; while he, for his confession of Jesus, was cast out of the synagogue. (John ix.)
2d, Christ makes strife among friends and companions. An instance occurred in the case of himself and his disciples. There were many who were attracted by the fame of his miracles, and who, on beholding the Wonders of his power, attached themselves to him as adherents of his cause; but of these, a large proportion were offended when. his doctrines began to be unfolded; and, rather than embrace what he delivered, went back, and walked with him no more.' (John vi. 60-66.)
Then, again, what a breach did Christ make between Saul of Tarsus and the allies at Damascus, to whom the former had letters from the authorities in Jerusalem. Instead of acting along with the Jews of Damascus, in order to the suppression of the faith of Jesus, Saul stood forth a bold champion of the doctrine of the cross, and a formidable opponent of the party he had intended to assist and to lead. And the Jews were not slow to resent the conduct of their friend. We are told that they took counsel to kill him, watching the gates day and night. (Acts ix. 19 - 24.)
3d, Christ makes strife in the general community. There are many examples of this. Pauls preaching at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts xiii. 42 - 50.) was followed by great disturbance - one portion of the citizens joyfully receiving the gospel, and another "contradicting and blaspheming." In a similar way a great rupture between the Jews and the Greeks was produced at Corinth. The former, exasperated by the Apostles success, dragged him to Gallios bar; and the latter, excited by the proceedings of the Jews, laid hands on Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment - seat. (Acts. xviii. 12 - 17.) At Ephesus, the spread of the gospel issued in the tumult of Demetrius the silversmith. The whole city was filled with confusion. An immense mob was formed. Some cried one thing, and some another, and the greater part knew not wherefore they were met. When at length a Jew tried to address the heathen multitude, their passion rose to such a height, that for two long hours they shouted together, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." (Acts. xix. 23 - 34.) The appearance of Christs apostle in the Temple threw Jerusalem into an uproar. All the city was moved on the occasion, and the Roman garrison quelled the riot with difficulty. (Acts xxi. 27 - 36.)
We follow Paul into the Court of the Sanhedrim, and what do we find? We find the Pharisees and Saddueéeb - quarrelling about him, and the multitude is divided. "There arose a great cry; and the scribes that were of the Pharisees part arose and strove, saying, we find no evil in this man." And to that pass did the one thing come between these and the Sadducees, that the chief captain, fearful lest Paul should be pulled in pieces among them, sent a party of soldiers to his rescue. (Acts xxiii. 1 - 10.)
4. Christ sends division into the visible Church. Take the following practical illustrations of the fact.
1st, There is the controversy which arose at the time of the feast of tabernacles, as recorded, John vii. 40 - 53. The professors of the Jewish religion were then the visible Church, and the feast of tabernacles wr one of its principal ordinances. It appears that Jesus drew much attention, and powerfully impressed many of the worshippers. A great arguement was raised. Some declared, "Of a truth this is theProphet. - And some said plainly, "This it the Christ." On the other hand, it was maintained that that could not be. "Shall Christ, the objectors said, "come out of Galilee? Hath not the Scripture said, that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem where David was?" - "So there was a division among the people because of him." The division was not restricted to the people. It reached the rulers also. The voice of Nicodemus was heard in the council, protesting that the claim of Jesus should be fairly examined, before they presumed to reject it.
2nd, We have the history of the labours of Paul and Barnabas at Iconium. - (Acts xiv. 1 - 7.) - There, as everywhere else, they first addressed themselves to the Jews. With the Jews was the visible Church, until the gospel came. The Jews, in each place, were the Church of God in that place, until they had the offer of the gospel, and rejected it. Paul and his colleague went therefore, on their arrival, to the synagogue of Iconium, because the meetings of the Church were held in it. They did not preach long before there was a schism. "They so spake," it is said, "that a great multitude, both of the Jews and also of the Greeks, believed." But all did not believe. There were "unbelieving Jews," who "stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren." The servants of Christ were unmoved by the opposition. They persevered more and more. "Long time abode they, speaking boldly in the Lord." What was the consequence? The consequence was, that "the multitude of the city was divided; and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles."
At length the apostles were expelled from the place. The enemies of the truth proceeded to extremities against them. "An assault was made both of the Gentiles and also of the Jews, with the rulers, to use them despitefully and to stone them; they were ware of it," and withdrew to other regions, "and there they preached the gospel."
3d, It is stated (Acts xvii. 1 - 8) that Paul and Silas came to Theasalonica, "where was a synagogue of the Jews" - where, in other words, was a branch of the visible Church. What did they do? "Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath-days reasoned with them Out of the Scriptures." Two things are to be noticed in the subsequent narrative. - First, The fact that there was a great disturbance. "The Jews that believed not," " took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city in an uproar." "And they troubled the people, and the rulers of the city."
Secondly, The time when the disturbance took place. For three Sabbath-days Paul preached in the synagogue without molestation. Thea his doctrine began to tell, and the fruit of the word appeared. Some of the Jews believed, and "consorted with Paul and Silas, and of the devout Greeks, a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few! After this occurred, the enmity was awakened. The synagogue was now split in two.. Now the unbelieving Jews were "moved with envy." - When. converts were made, a fierce faction arose, thirsting for the blood of the preachers. The interference of the civil power was demanded and "Jason. and certain brethren," the more conspicuous of the adherants of Paul, were charged before the magistrates with countenancing men who were sowers of sedition, and traitors to the laws! Paul might have preached long enough had his preaching caused no impression, and gained no proselytes to Christ. For anything he knew to the contrary, he might have continued, from Sabbath to Sabbath indefinitely, to argue about Jesus of Nazareth, while it seemed a mere fancy of his own, and all the notice the Jews would. have taken of him might have been, What does this babbler say? Or perhaps they would have even applauded his eloquence, and. been. interested with his zeal; but when. he began. to do good to his hearers, and the power of the crucified Saviours love, which was his theme, began. to be felt, the serpent took the alarm, and the seed. of the serpent put forth the venom if derived. from its parentage.
There was no more toleration for him then. He was viewed as a dangerous innovator from that instant. He was a troubler of Israel, whose mouth must be shut.
4th, Next, let us attend the great apostle to Corinth, and consider his eventful sojourn. there. The record is in Acta xviii, 1, 4 - 8, "After these things Paul departed from Atbens,.and came to Corinth." "And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And.when Silas and Timothy were come from.Macedonia Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean.: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain mans house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined, hard to the synagogue. And Crispus the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed., and were baptized." .
What was it that fell out at Corinth on this occasion ?- There was a disruption of the Church, Paul, as his manner ever was, began by addressing himself to those to whom belonged "the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants and the giving of the. law, and the service of God, and. the promises." The disruption ensued, as we have said. But, that we may better understatid. and profit by the history, let several particulars be noticed,
First, - See what preceded the disruption. "He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and. the Greeks." There was a period of zealous and faithful ministration. A work of seed-sowing was diligently prosecuted. The professed worshippers of God were closely dealt with, and appeals were made to their understanding, their consciences, and their hearts. All classes who frequented the synagogue, both native Jews and Grecian proselytes, were addressed. And this continued for some length of time.
Secondly, Mark how the crisis was brought on. "When Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ." It is evident there was some change in the Apostles proceedings; and that this change was connected with thu arrival of his companions. We learn from previous chapters that the word had taken strong hold in the chief cities of Macedonia; -and that, on the departure of Paul, Silas and Timothy had remained there to encourage the numerous disciples, and to watch over the progress of the gospel, The arrival at Corinth of these faithful allies, bringing doubtless a cheering report from the field of their labours, stirred the soul of the Apostle, and gave a new impulse to his seal. He felt now that the time was come for more fully declaring the truth than he had hitherto deemed it expedient to do, and for announcing the claims and prerogatives of Marys crucified Son. Now he "testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ." He had not done this before. It is probable that he had contented himself with combating, on the ground of Old Testament Scripture, the prevailing Jewish prejudices and errors respecting the work and reign of the promised Messiah. Discoursing of what the Messiah was to be, and what he was appointed to do, he had reserved the mighty question, who the Messiah was, or whether he had yet appeared. But he entered on that question now.. The Messiah, said he, is come. The promise made unto the fathers has received its fulfilment. Jesus of Nazareth is our long-expected Christ. I must not, I must not, continue to keep back the great tidings. Unto you has been born in the city of David - for you has been crucified on the hill of Calvary - and for you has been raised from the dead, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Believe in Jesus of Nazarath, () ye Jews! He is your Prophet, your Priest, your King - He is the Shepherd of Israel - He is the heir of Davids throne - the government is already at his shoulders. Thus spake the Apostle. He told thorn of Jesus the crucified - the risen - the exalted - the glorified. He claimed their homage for Jesus as the Christ, their anointed king. They could not endure his doctrine. While he reasoned of an abstract Messiah, they had listened. Had he announced a carnal Messiah, an earthly monarch of the Church of God, they would have hailed him as the messenger of joyful news; but - they hated the doctrine of a spiritual prince already enthroned, and reigning over a kingdom not of this world. Every unrenewed feeling recoiled from the thought; many of his auditors "opposed themselves and blasphemed ;" and the crisis was no longer delayed.
Thirdly, Observe, next, the disruption itself. The Apostle found now that he must withdraw from the synagogue. His departure was solemn. "When. they opposed themselves and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, -Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." With these words, Paul took his farewell; and, leaving his adversaries in the undisturbed possession of the synagogue, retired to the house of one Justus hard by, and continued his ministry there. Paul might have urged that, as the synagogue was a place set apart for the service of the Lord God of Israel, and for the teaching of the true doctrine concerning the Messiah, he and his friends had a right to the possession of it; and that to exclude the servants of Jesus of Nazareth was to exclude the very parties to whom the use of it justly belonged. He might have represented that he, a Jew, had done nothing to forfeit the privilege that pertained to him as a Jew - that he was an authorized and orthodox expounder of the religion of the Jews - that he was an apostle of the Messiah of the Jews, and was therefore entitled, in. the name of his Master, to occupy the synagogue of the Jews, and to have the benefit of the temporalitics of the Church of the Jews. The plea would have been good; and Paul suffered wrong when he was obliged to leave the synagogue. The true Church of God at Corinth - that Church for which the synagogue had professedly been built - existed now in the persons of Paul and those who embraced his doctrine, and was virtually expelled from the synagogue along with them.
But it was not for man, under the circumstances of the time, to vindicate the rights of which the Church of God was deprived. The Apostle wisely submitted in quietness, and left the vindication of them to God.
Fourthly, Notice, in. fine, the subsequent success. Having told that Paul withdrew to the house of Justus, the history goes on to say, that "Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed with all his house: and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized." We know not whether Crispus accompanied Paul at the time of his secession.; but, if he did not, he speedily followed him, moved more, it may be, by the firmness and decision which he saw on that occasion, than by anything he had previously heard from Pauls lips. The Corinthians, too, were profoundly impressed; the house of Justus was crowded with listeners; multitudes were awakened, and converted, and added, by baptism, to the Church. - Was the disruption, then, an evil? Yes, an evil, no doubt it was, to the party that rejected the gospel, whatever that party may have thought. It was the end of their merciful visitation. - But it was not an evil, so far as the cause of Christ and the welfare of the Church were concerned. The friends of the Saviour had no reason to deplore it. Great advancement to the truth came in its train ; - and many, who sometime had been far off, were brought nigh, and, from being strangers and foreigners, became fellow-citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God. -
5th, Let us attend the Apostle of the Gentiles once more, and consider what befell during his ministry at Ephesus : - " And it came to pass, that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus." "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in. the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them." "And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed." (Acts xix. 1,8 - 12, 18-20.) Here we have a disruption just as at Corinth.
First, There was a period of faithful preaching. Whether Paul pursued exactly the course he had taken at Corinth, we are not told, but probably his plan of developing the truth was much the same. For the space of three months he continued in. the synagogue. During all that time "he spake boldly." He did not fail to attack prevailing errors, and to declare the whole counsel of God. His theme, it is said, consisted in "the things concerning the kingdom of God ;" that is to say, he shewed that Gods Church wss a kingdom, and that, as such, it had laws and a government of its own. He shewed that it was a spiritual kingdom which ought not to be confounded with the kingdoms of the world. As a kingdom behoved to have a king, he insisted that the Church had a king, and that that king was Jesus, who had been crucified. - And he called upon the worshippers of the synagogue, the: members of Gods Church, both Jews and proselytes, to bow the knee to Jesus, and acknowledge him as their Saviour, their Head, and their Lord.
Secondly, The doctrine of the Apostle at length became intolerable; For three months he was borne with ; - and, at first, perhaps in some degree patiently.- When he began, the novelty of what he taught was in his;favour; and his earnestness and eloquence may, for a time, have given him an ascendancy that repressed opposition. But gradually the bearings of his system were seen, and the nature and tendency his doctrine about the kingdom of God were moreand more understood, discontent arose, murmurs were heard, and blasphemies brokeout. "Divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude" It is plainly meant that the misrepresentation to which the enemies of the truth resorted, were successful in pervert the great body of the peeple; and we may conclude that Paul, who, at the outset, had possibly been popular, and had certainly been listened to with attention and a measure of respect, was now, at the close of three months, assailed by clamour and execrations on every side.
Thirdly, A secession immediately followed When things reached the crisis which has been described, Paul "departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in. the school of one Tyrannus." He found that he could not go on in the synagogue no longer. The possibility of external communion between the two parties, into which the worshippers were divided, was at an end. The anti-evangelical faction had become too violent and hostile to admit of any farther ecclesiastical intercourse with them. The Apostle, therefore, separated the disciples and the friends of the gospel forsook the synagogue, and found an asylum for their assemblies in the school of one Tyrannus. Did Paul commit the sin of schism, when he set up his separate meeting? Certain it is, there was no lack of plausibilities to give colour to such a charge. It might have been said, with some appearance of truth, that the ancient communion was unchanged. The good old standards, Moses and the prophets, had not been meddled with. They were still, as they had ever been, read in the synagogue, and their authority was not called in question. No new formularies had been brought in to supersede them, or to take rank along with them in reguinting the faith or practice of Gods professing people. The only innovator was Paul. The Apostle, moreover, was in a minority. He turned his back upon the bulk of the worshippers, when he left the synagogue. Granting, therefore, that Paul had had the best of the argument, and that the Jews were decidedly wrong in resisting his views, did it follow that he was justified in organising a separate fellowship, and in carrying off those who agreed with him to the school of Tyrannus? Should be not rather have acted on the rule, " When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another:?"- Rather than give external form and perpetuity to division among the worshippers of the Lord God of Israel, ought he not to have transferred his labours to some other field, not doubting but the seed that he had sown in the synagogue of Corinth would by and by bear fruit, and the body, which now rejected him, would, in due time, by the leading of Moses and the Prophets, come round? Who could tell what influence his converts might have had in leavening the mass of the people, if they had not been drawn out as a body by themselves, and no wall of separation had been reared? Rash things might have been said; and on grounds such as these, the cry of schism might have been raised against Paul. But the Apostle was not a schismatic, whatever his opponents might imagin or pretend. The standard of Old Testament Scripture was removed - in a great and vital point by the occupants of the synagogue, although it was nominally retained. - Paul and his adhering minority did not separate from the church; but went forth the faithful, the ancient, and the only true church of God, in. the place. And had it been possible, in the circumstances of the particular case, that any whom they left behind were genuine believers in Jesus of Nazareth, these were not in reality against them, and did not belong to another Church; - but, while outwardly divided and estranged, were actually of the community which was visible in the worshippers of the school of Tyrannus.
Forthly, The new position of the Church was signalised by the remarkable progress of the gospel. For the space of two years Paul pursued his labours, after the event which has been considered occurred. During all that time he was little molested. By the disruption in the synagogue he had got clear of hindrances which must have greatly restricted his usefulness, and the word of the Lord had free course and was glorified. "All they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks." Peculiar tokens of Divine favour attended him. "God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul" He was honoured by his Master, to a degree that he had never been before. And as the word grew mightily, so it prevailed. "Many that believed came, and confessed, and eschewed their deeds. Many of:them also, which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burnt them before all men, and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." Surely in all this there was the sanction of God to the step which had been taken. True it is that God often, we may say always, - brings good out of evil. But is it in such a way as to disguise the chararacter of evil, and to make that which is really evil seem good? No, never. How vast, for instance, the good which He brings out of the unparalleled evil done by those who crucified his Son! But is the manner in which that good is elicited fitted in the least to lessen our abhorrence of the conduct of Pilate, and the chief priests and scribes? Verily no. And had he disapproved of the movement of Paul in departing from the synagogue - had he viewed it as a step that was sinful in itself - we may be confident that he would not have graced it, as he did, with those wonders of his power, nor have crowned the man, on whom the responsibility lay, with that train of spiritual successes and blessings with which the Apostle was immediately rewarded.
III. Thus have we examined the successive schisms and feuds that sacred history shews to have arisen from the mission of our Lord. It is now time that we shortly advert to the proper causes to which these are to be traced. We have just said that Paul was not blameworthy in regard to the divisions with which he had to do. Although, however, Paul did not do wrong, it by no means follows that wrong was not done. Strife and separation, especially in the worship and service of God, are not good, and blame must lie somewhere on account of them. Where, then ought the blame to be laid? On. this point there is a difference of opinion. Men are agreed that divisions, in themselves considered, are bad; but they are not agreed when the question comes to be whose fault it is that divisions exist. The world is accustomed, in a summary way, to cast the odium and the guilt entirely on the Church. Just as Ahab charged Elijah as the troubler of Israel, so the world arraigns the Church as the enemy of the concord of mankind. Even the Head of the Church- has not escaped its accusations. "He stirreth up the people," they said of him; "We found this man perverting the nation." If thus they have spoken of the Master, we cannot wonder that the servants have had no better treatment. Of Paul and Silas it was said at Phillippi "These men do exceedingly trouble our city ;" at Thessalonica the cry rose against them, "Those that have turned the world upside down are come hither also" and, when the great Apostle was brought before Felix, his dittay ran, "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." And from that day to this, it has been. the practice of many to brand the ministers and followers of Jesus as a faction of malecontents, who are habitually plotting against the peace of society, and seeking the subversion of its order and rules. What Haman said of old to Ahasuerus, on. a memorable occasion., has been ever said of them, "There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of the kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the kings laws; therefore it is not for the kings profit to suffer them." But, my brethren, we prefer to take a somewhat different, and what we think a profounder - a more comprehensive and impartial view, in regard to this matter. We shall specify some causes which reason and Scripture point to, as lying at the foundation of all religious strife, and you will then be better able to judge in the distribution of the blame.
1st, There is the existence of sin. "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members ?" The first, the greatest, and the worst division of all, was produced by sin. It was sin that set God and man at variance. Next came division between man and his fellow, and this was the native effect of sin. The fatal schism between Cain and his brother, had sin at the root of it. Often there is sin on both sides. Thus, while the discord between Joseph and his brethren is mainly to be traced to the envy and malice of the latter, it is scarcely to be denied that the somewhat boastful relation of his dreams by the former, contributed to the rupture. In the case of the apostacy of the ten tribes, the unkindness and arrogance of Rehoboam must take its share of the blame along with the ambition and impiety of him who made Israel to sin. And always there is sin, on one side at least. Unbelief lay at the foundation of all the religious outbreaks that signalized the days of our Lord and his Apostles; and when, for the sake of Christ, a mans foes are they of his own household, and the son finds an enemy in his father, the sister in her brother, and the daughter in her mother, it is in consequence of the working of unbelief and hatred to the truth. Sin must create discord. There never will be peace in the world or in the Church, until it is cast out.
2nd, There is Satans rule in the world. Satan, my brethren, has his dark kingdom amongst us. He reigns in all parts of the earth. And is he the friend of peace? Is peace the aim, Or can it be the tendency of his government? More especially, is he favourable to the Church and its peace? Have we reason to expect that he will not take every opportunity, and ply all the means at his command to trouble it, and dissolve the union of its members? What else is the Church but a rival kingdom - a kingdom formed out of the materials of his kingdom, and set up for the very purpose of overthrowing his power? Surely Satan owes it a bitter grudge. Delighting in strife for its own sake, he delights in it also as an instrument of gratifying his malice against Christ; and of injuring the kingdom of Christ. We say, then, that the rule of the crafty god of this world is a cause, and a prime one, of the divisions that take place. No doubt he can insinuate, and propagate the belief, that the rule of Christ is the cause. And, as we know that he can quote Scripture when it seems to suit his ends, he may cite our Lords words in the text to support his calumny. But we can answer him with Scripture, and expose his sophistry. When he urges that it is written "Think ye that I am come to send peace on earth? I tell you, rather division ;" we can answer by stating that it is also written "The fruit of the Spirit is peace," and, "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace." To be the blameless occasion of strife is thing, and to be the guilty cause of it is totally another. An occasion of strife is furnished by Christs mission and rule, as the text indisputably intimates, and experience has abundantly shewn; but if God be not author of confusion, and if Christ be the Prince of Peace, we must look for the responsibility, and lay the odium elsewhere.
3d, There is the enmityof the wicked. Is it not true that the Church of God everywhere is hated by the world? The Church is not the enemy of unrenewed men; their salvation is its prayer, its desire, the aim of its labours; but unrenewed men are, notwithstanding, the keen foes of the Church. "Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." Their hatred is not unfruitful. It has raised persecutions of every form; and its emissaries have gone forth, alas ! too seldom in vain, to creating envyings, strifcs, heresies, schisms in the Church!
IV. It remains to say somewhat on the relation between the division which are found to be immediate consequences of Christs mission on earth, and those ultimate results which have been promised. We have already adverted to the nature of the latter, and given specimens of the glowing language of Scripture concerning them. To the former they bear no resemblance - they are not only different - they are contrary. But God, who makes all things helpful to his designs, and the very mischiefs that flow from sin, the world, and the devil, and are meant to thwart Him, conducive to the execution of his plans, has established an important relation between the two.
1. Present divisions will enhance the enjoyment of the final unity and peace. The sweetness of pleasure is increased by the recollection pain that preceded it. The memory of disease heightens the relish of health. The power of contrast, derived from past experience, adds the distress of the wretched, and to the gladness of the happy torments of the rich man in hell are more acute, because once he clothed in fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day; and the joy of Lazarus, reposing in Abrahams bosom, gets new zest from circumstance that formerly he lay a despised beggar at the rich man's gate, and had none but the dogs to sympathise with him, by licking his sores. And 0, when the time comes, as come it will, that divisions shall cease, and broils and bitterness be no more, and "Ephraim shall no longer envy Judah, and Judah no longer vex Epitraim," how a sense of the greatness of the change, and a remembrance of the distracted state gone by, add to the bliss of the perfected saints, and. sweeten the cup of felicity which Gods people shall drink together for ever!
2. Divisions now prepare the way for the peace and unity that are to come. Divisions testify of the existence of evils of. which they are the natural fruits. By their means, the attention of the Church is turned to these evils, and fixed down upon them. This is no small advantage.. The removal of those evils is necessary to the welfare of the Church;. no sure, or safe or lasting peace can be enjoyed while they remain. It is, therefore, a most important thing that the Church should be led to aim at their removal, and to direct the whole energy of her prayers and exertions against them. And believers will err much if they seek to heal divisions in any other way. Let them beware of patching up a premature peace. The outward form of unity is a mockery, and the maintenance of it a hypocrisy and a sin, when unity of heart and principle does not exist. It is only a pernicious semblance of peace that can be reached, so long as the roots of discord and schism are not pulled up. We must therefore restrain within bounds our thirstings after peace, till the obstacles between us and the only peace that is desirable are taken out of the path. As yet, it is far too soon to call out for peace. We must be patient, and wait a while, if we would not have a peace that brings ruin along with it. No peace worth the having can come, until the interests of truth and purity are secured - until truth obtains its rights, and purity begins its reign. "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable." This is the necessary order; let us not forget it. What we have now to do is, to maintain, exhibit, and spread the truth; to preserve and enlarge the sphere, and to increase the amount, of its influence. Our present duty is to go to the deep sources of the divisious we bewail, and apply a remedy there. That which now we ought to desire and to pray for is a day of the Lords great power, when every valley may be filled, and every mountain and hill brought low, and the highway of peace may be prepared. That which now we should pant for is the grace of the spirit to destroy all sin, and to knit the hearts of all men in the love of the truth. We should now long to see the little stone of Christs kingdom dash in pieces the mighty image of Satans dominion, and become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth. Then there will be peace. The peace of God will reign then. "Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." There will be unity then. "The envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephram "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. And I will make them a nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one King shall be King to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all. And David my servant shall be King over them, and they all shall have one Shepherd. They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe My statutes, and do them."
Home | Literature | Links | Photos | Biography