This particular scripture found me three times this week. Then, I was led to this sermon by Spurgeon, and ultimately it kept haunting me to the point I finally realized the Lord wanted me to share this. It is one of the best explanations of what it actually intails to be a Christian. It is a portion of what I harp on to believers. Due to the length, I have dived it into two parts, but, please be patient and read it all, as it is one of the most vital messages for the Christian.
A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, April 21st, 1861, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
Part I : The Command
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth, go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost’.” (Matthew 28:18-19)
While I was meditating in private upon this text I felt myself carried away by its power. I was quite unable calmly to consider its terms, or to investigate its argument. The command with which the text concludes repeated itself again, and again, and again in my ears, till I found it impossible to study, for my thoughts were running hither and thither, asking a thousand questions, all of them intended to help me in answering for myself the solemn inquiry, How am I to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?”
The practical lesson seemed to me to overwhelm in my mind the argument of which that lesson is but a conclusion, “Go ye and teach all nations.” My ears seemed to hear it as if Christ were then speaking to me. I could realize His presence by my side. I thought I could see Him lift His pierced hand, and hear Him speak, with authority, blended with meekness, “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the All-glorious God.”
Oh! I would that the Church could hear the Savior addressing these words to her now, for the words of Christ are living words, not having power in them yesterday alone, but, today also. The injunctions of the Savior are perpetual in their obligation, not binding upon apostles merely, but upon us also, and upon every Christian does this yoke fall, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
We are not exempt today from the service of the first followers of the Lamb. Our marching orders are the same as theirs, and our Captain requires from us obedience as prompt and perfect as from them. Oh, that His message may not fall upon deaf ears, or be heard by stolid souls!
Brethren, the heathen are perishing; shall we let them perish? His name is blasphemed, shall we be quiet and still? The honor of Christ is cast into the dust, and His foes His person and resist His throne. Shall we, His soldiers, suffer this, and not find our hands feeling for the hilt of our sword, the Word of the Spirit, which is the Word of God? Our Lord delayeth His coming; shall we begin to sleep, or to eat, or to be drunken? Shall we not rather gird up the loins of our mind, and cry unto Him, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly?”
The scoffing skeptics of these last days have said that the anticipated conquest of the world for Christ is but a dream, or an ambitious thought, which crossed our leader’s mind, but which is never to be accomplished. It is asserted by some that the superstitions of the heathen are too strong to be battered down by our teachings, and that the strongholds of Satan are utterly impregnable against our attack. Shall it be so? Shall we be content foolishly to sit still? Nay, let us rather work out the problem, let us prove the promise of God to be true; let us prove the words of Jesus to be words of soberness; let us show the efficacy of His blood and the invincibility of His Spirit, by going in the spirit of faith, teaching all nations, and winning them to the obedience of Christ, our Lord.
I do not know how to begin to preach this morning, but still it seems to me, standing here, as if I heard that voice saying, “Go thou, therefore, and teach all nations;” and my soul sometimes pants and longs for the liberty to preach Christ where He was never preached before; not to build upon another man’s foundation, but to go to some untrodden land, some waste where the foot of Christ’s minister was never seen, that there “the solitary place might be glad for us, and the wilderness rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
I have made it a solemn question whether I might not testify in China or India the Grace of Jesus, and in the sight of God I have answered it. I solemnly feel that my position in England will not permit my leaving the sphere in which I now am, or else tomorrow I would offer myself as a missionary. Oh, do none of you hear the call this morning? You that are free from so great a work as that which is cast upon me - you that have talents as yet undevoted to any special end, and powers of being as yet unconsecrated to any given purpose, and unconfirmed to any one sphere; do you not hear my Master saying in tones of plaintive sorrow, blended with an authority which is not to be denied, “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?”
Oh that there were might in some human lip to move the thousands of our Israel to advance at once, unanimously and irresistibly to the world’s conquest, like one tremendous tide rising from the depths of the ocean, to sweep over the sands, the barren sands which are now given up to desolation and death?
Oh that once again the voice of thunder could be heard, and the lightning spirit could penetrate each heart, that as one man the entire Church might take the marching orders of her Lord, and go to all nations, baptizing them in the name of Israel’s God. O Lord, if we fail to speak, fail not thou to speak; and if we know not how to bear thy burden, or to express thine awful thoughts, yet speak thou with that all-constraining silent voice which well-trained ears can hear, and make thy servants obedient to thee now, for Christ’s sake!
This morning we shall first dwell a little while on the command, and secondly, we shall enlarge upon the argument. There is an argument, as you will perceive, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations.”
First, my brethren, and very briefly indeed, a few things about the COMMAND. And we must remark, first what a singularly loving one it is. Imagine Mahomet (ie: Mohammed) on his dying bed saying to his desciples, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and earth;” what would be his command? “Go ye, therefore, with sharp scimitars, and propound faith in the prophet, or death as the dread alternative; avenge me of the men who threw stones at the prophet, make their houses a dunghill, and cut them in pieces for vengeance is mine, and God’s prophet must be avenged of His enemies.” But Christ, though far more despised and persecuted of men, and having real power which that pretend prophet never had, says to His disciples, as He is about to ascend to Heaven, “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth; go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
It is the voice of love, not of wrath. “Go and teach them the power of my blood to cleanse, the willingness of my arms to embrace, the yearning of my heart to save! Go and teach them. Teach them no more to despise me, no more to think my Father an angry and implacable Deity. Teach them to bow the knee, and kiss the Son, and find peace for all their troubles, and a balm for all their woes in me. Go ye, speak as I have spoken; weep as I have wept; invite as I have invited; exhort, entreat, beseech and pray, as I have done before you. Tell them to come unto me, if they be weary and heavy laden, and I will give them rest; and say unto them, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but rather that he should turn unto me and live.’” What a generous and gracious command is that of the text, “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Note, too, how exceedingly plain is the command, “Go ye, teach all nations.” The Romish Church has misunderstood this. She says, “Go ye, mystify all nations; sound in their ears a language once living, but now dead; take to them the Latin tongue, and let that be sounded with all the harmony of sweet music, and they will be converted. Erect the sumptuous altar; clothe the priest in mystic garments; celebrate mysterious rites; and make the heathen wonder; dazzle them with splendor; amaze them with mystery.” But, “Nay,” says Christ, “nay, go ye and teach.”
Why, it is the mother’s work with her child; it is the tutor’s work with the boy and with the girl - “go ye, and teach.” How simple! Illustrate; explain, expound; tell; inform; narrate. Take from them the darkness of ignorance, reveal to them the light of revelation. Teach! Be content to sit down, and tell them the most plainest and most common things. It is not your eloquence that shall convert them; it is not your gaudy language or your polished periods that shall sway their intellects. Go and teach them. Teach them! Why, my hearer, I say again, this is a word which has to do with the rudiments of knowledge.
We do not preach to children, we teach them, and we are not so much to preach to nations. That word seems to big and great for the uncivilized and childish people; go ye, and teach them first the very simplicities of the cross of Christ.
And note how he puts it next. Who are to be taught? “Go ye, and teach all nations.” The Greek has his philosophers, teach him, he is but a child; he is a fool though he thinketh himself to be wise. There be polite nations which have a literature of their own, far larger and more extensive than the literature of the Christian: teach them nevertheless. They are to be taught and unless they are willing to take the learner’s place, and to become as little children, they can in no wise enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Do not debate and argue with them. Put not your self with them upon their level as a combatant concerning certain dogmas; insist upon it that I have sent you - sent you to teach the most erudite and profoundly learned; and when you shall claim it, I am with you always to back your claim, and men shall be willing to sit at your feet to be taught the name of Jesus.
I do not know whether all your missionaries have caught the idea of Christ - “Go ye and teach all nations” but most of them have, and these have been honored with many conversions. The more fully they have been simple teachers, not Philosophers of the Western Philosophy, not eager disputants concerning some English dogma, I say the more plainly they have gone forth as teachers sent from God to teach the world, the more successful they have been.
“Go ye, therefore, and teach.” Some may think, perhaps, there is less difficulty in teaching the learned than teaching the uncivilized and barbarous. There is the same duty to one as to the other: “Go and teach.” “But they brandish the tomahawk.” Teach them, and lie down and sleep in their hut, and they shall marvel at your fearlessness and shall spare your life. “But they feed on the blood of their fellows, they make a bloody feast about the cauldron in which a man’s body is the horrible viand.” Tech them and they shall empty their war kettle, and they shall bury their swords, and bow before you, and acknowledge King Jesus.
“But they are brutalized, they have scarce a language - a few clicking sounds make up all they can say.” Teach them, and they shall speak the language of Canaan, and sing the songs of Heaven. It has been proven, brethren, that there are no nations incapable of being taught, nay, that there are no nations incapable afterwards of teaching others. The African slave has perished under the lash, rather than dishonor his Master. The Esquimaux has climbed his barren steeps, and borne his toil, while has recollected the burden which Jesus bore. The Hindu has patiently submitted to the loss of all things, because he loved Christ better than all. Feeble Malagasay women have been prepared to suffer and die, and have taken joyfully suffering for Christ’s sake.
There has been heroism in every land for Christ. Men of every color and of every race have died for Him. Upon His altar has been found the blood of all kindred that be upon the face of the earth. Oh! Tell me not, they cannot be taught. Sirs, they can be taught to die for Christ; and this is more than some of you have learned. They can rehearse the very highest lesson of the Christian religion - that self sacrifice which knows not itself but gives up all for Him.
At this day there are Karen Missionaries preaching among the Karens with as fervid an eloquence as was ever known by Whitfield. There are Chinese teaching in Borneo, Sumatra, and Australia, with as much earnestness as Morison or Milne first taught in China. There are Hindu evangelists who are not ashamed to have given up the Brahminical thread, and to eat with the Pariah, and to preach with him the riches of Christ.
There have been men found of every class and kind, not only able to be taught, but able to become teachers themselves. And the most mighty teachers, too, of the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well was that command warranted by the future facts, when Christ said, “Go ye, teach all nations.”
But, brethren, he text says, “Baptizing them.” They are to be taught, and afterwards they are to be baptized. I know not why it is that we yield to the superstitions of our Christian brethren, so much as to use the word baptize at all. It is not an English word, but, a Greek word. It has but one meaning, and cannot bear another. Throughout all the classics, without exception, it is not possible to translate it correctly, except with the idea of immersion. Believing this, and knowing this, if the translation is not complete, we will complete it this morning.
“Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Now I think that our Missionary Society, while it may take precedence in matters of time - for it was the first that was ever commenced with the exception of the Moravians - ought also to take precedence in matters of purity, because we can carry out this text in every country, teaching first, and baptizing afterwards. We do not understand the philosophy of first baptizing, and afterwards teaching. We hold that we must teach first, and then, when men are disciples, we are to baptize them. Not the nations; the Greek does not bear that interpretation, but, those who have been made disciples we are to baptize into the Sacred Name.
We think that the brethren do serious damage to the Gospel by baptizing children. We do not think their error a little one. We know it does not touch a vital point, but we d believe infant baptism is the prop and pillar of Popery, and it being removed, Popery and Puseyism become at once impossible. You have taken away all idea of a nation godliness and a nation religion, when you have cut away all liberty to administer Christian ordinances to unconverted persons. We cannot see any evil which would follow, if our brethren would renounce their mistake; but we can see abundant mischief which their mistake has caused, and in all kindness, but with all fidelity, we again enter our solemn protest against their giving baptism to any other than disciples, to any but those who are followers of the Lamb.
Throw down her hedges? Give her supper and her baptism to those that are not Christ’s people? Break down her walls? Remove her barricades? God forbid! Except a man be renewed in heart, we adre not allow him to participate in the ordinances which belong to Christ’s Church. It is a disastrous thing to call unconverted children Christians, or to do anything which may weaken their apprehension of the great fact, that until they are converted they have no part or lot in this matter.
Brethren, if you differ with me on this point, bear with me, for my conscience will not let me conceal this solemn truth. To you who agree with me I say, while our other can do in some things more than we can, and we rejoice in their efforts, and would heartily bless God that they wold show more activity than ourselves, yet we ought to be ashamed of ourselves if we are a whit behind. We are a body of Christians who can fairly and purely teach and baptize. We can obey this command of Christ abroad as well as at home, without running counter to our practice in one place by our practice in the other. We ought to be first and foremost, and if we be not, shame shall cover us for our unfaithfulness. “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
(Continued in Part II: The Argument)
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