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the needed power, 'Receive ye the Holy Ghost'; and to unfold to them the solemn issues of their work, 'Whose sins ye remit they are remitted; and whose sins ye retain they are retained.' The message of that Easter evening is for us all; and so I ask you to look at these three points.
I. The Christian Mission.
I have already said that the clear understanding of the persons to whom the words were spoken, goes far to interpret the significance of the words. Here we have at the very beginning, the great thought that every Christian man and woman is sent by Jesus. The possession of what preceded this charge is the thing, and the only thing, that fits a man to receive it, and whoever possesses these is thereby despatched into the world as being Christ's envoy and representative. And what are these preceding experiences ? The vision of the risen Christ, the touch of His hands, the peace
that He breathed over believing souls, the gladness that sprang like a sunny fountain in the hearts that had been so dry and dark. Those things constituted the disciples' qualification for being sent, and these things were themselves--even apart from the Master's words -their sending out on their future life's-work. Thus, whoever--and thank God I am addressing many who come under the category !-whoever has seen the Lord, has been in touch with Him, and has felt his heart filled with gladness, is the recipient of this great commission. There is no question here of the prerogative of a class, nor of the functions of an order; it is a question of the universal aspect of the Christian life in its relation to the Master who sends, and the world into which it is sent.
We Nonconformists pride ourselves upon our freedom
from what we call sacerdotalism.' Ay! and we Nonconformists are quite willing to assert our priesthood in opposition to the claims of a class, and are as willing to forget it, should the question of the duties of the priest come into view. You do not believe in priests, but a great many of you believe that it is ministers that are sent,' and that you have no charge. Officialism is the dry-rot of all the Churches, and is found as rampant amongst democratic Nonconformists as amongst the more hierarchical communities. Brethren! you are included in Christ's words of sending on this errand, if you are included in this greeting of Peace be unto you!' 'I send, not the clerical order, not the priest, but 'you,' because you have seen the Lord, and been glad, and heard the low whisper of His benediction creeping into your hearts.
Mark, too, how our Lord reveals much of Himself, as well as of our position, when He thus speaks. For He assumes here the royal tone, and claims to possess as absolute authority over the lives and work of all Christian people as the Father exercised when He sent the Son. But we must further ask ourselves the question, what is the parallel that our Lord here draws, not only between His action in sending us, and the Father's action in sending Him, but also between the attitude of the Son who was sent, and of the disciples whom He sends? And the answer is this the work of Jesus Christ is continued by, prolonged in, and carried on henceforward through, the work that He lays upon His servants. Mark the exact expression that our Lord here uses. "As My Father hath sent,' that is a past action, continuing its consequences in the present. It is not 'as My Father did send once, but as ‘My Father hath sent,' which means is also at present
sending,' and continues to send. Which being translated into less technical phraseology is just this, that we here have our Lord presenting to us the thought that, though in a new form, His work continues during the ages, and is now being wrought through His servants. What He does by another, He does by Himself. We Christian men and women do not understand our function in the world, unless we have realised this: Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ,' and His interests and His work are entrusted to our hands.
How shall the servants continue and carry on the work of the Master? The chief way to do it is by proclaiming everywhere that finished work on which the world's hopes depend. But note,—'as My Father hath sent Me, so send I you,'—then we are not only to carry on His work in the world, but if one might venture to say so, we are to reproduce His attitude towards God and the world. He was sent to be the Light of the world'; and so are we. He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost'; so are we. He was sent not to do His own will, but the will of the Father that sent Him; so are we. He took upon Himself with all cheerfulness the office to which He was appointed, and said, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work'; and that must be our voice too. He was sent to pity, to look upon the multitudes with compassion, to carry to them the healing of His touch, and the sympathy of His heart; so must we. the representatives of Jesus Christ, and if I might dare to use such a phrase, He is to be incarnated again in the hearts, and manifested again in the lives, of His servants. Many weak eyes, that would be dazzled and hurt if they were to gaze on the sun, may look at the clouds cradled by its side, and dyed with its lustre, and
learn something of the radiance and the glory of the illuminating light from the illuminated vapour. And thus, 'as My Father bath sent Me, even so send I
Now let us turn to
*He breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost!' The symbolical action reminds us of the Creation story, when into the nostrils was breathed 'the breath of life, and man became a living soul.' The symbol is but a symbol, but what it teaches us is that every Christian man who has passed through the experiences which make him Christ's envoy, receives the equipment of a new life, and that that life is the gift of the risen Lord. This Prometheus came from the dead with the spark of life guarded in His pierced hands, and He bestowed it upon us; for the Spirit of life, which is the Spirit of Christ, is granted to all Christian men. Dear brethren! we have not lived up to the realities of our Christian confession, unless into our death has come, and there abides, this life derived from Jesus Himself, the communication of which goes along with all faith in Him.
But the gift which Jesus brought to that group of timid disciples in the upper room did not make superfluous the further gift on the day of Pentecost. The communication of the divine Spirit to men runs parallel with, depends on, and follows, the revelation of divine truth, so the ascended Lord gave more of that life to the disciples, who had been made capable of more of it by the fact of beholding His ascension, than the risen Lord could give on that Easter Day. But whilst thus there are measures and degrees, the life is given to every believer in correspondence with the clearness and the contents of his faith.
It is the power that will fit any of us for the work for which we are sent into the world. If we are here to represent Jesus Christ, and if it is true of us that 'as He is, so are we, in this world,' that likeness can only come about by our receiving into our spirits a kindred life which will effloresce and manifest itself to men in kindred beauty of foliage and of fruit. If we are to be the lights of the world,' our lamps must be fed with oil. If we are to be Christ's representatives, we must have Christ's life in us. Here, too, is the only source of strength and life to us Christian people, when we look at the difficulties of our task and measure our own feebleness against the work that lies before us. I suppose no man has ever tried honestly to be what Christ wished him to be amidst his fellows, whether as preacher or teacher or guide in any fashion, who has not hundreds of times clasped his hands in all but despair, and said, · Who is sufficient for these things?' That is the temper into which the power will come. The rivers run in the valleys, and it is the lowly sense of our own unfitness for the task which yet presses upon us, and imperatively demands to be done, that makes us capable of receiving that divine gift.
It is for lack of it that so much of so-called Christian effort' comes to nothing. The priests may pile the wood upon the altar, and compass it all day long with vain cries, and nothing happens. It is not till the fire comes down from heaven that sacrifice and altar and wood and water in the trunch, are licked up and converted into fiery light. So, dear brethren! it is because the Christian Church as a whole, and we as individual members of it, so imperfectly realise the A B C of our faith, our absolute dependence on the inbreathed life of Jesus Christ, to fit us for any of our work, that so