The GOSPEL TRUTH
Sermons on the Resurrection:
THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. " -- Matthew 28: 19, 20
The ascension of our Lord into heaven is not narrated by the Evangelist Matthew. The last view of our Lord which is given us in this Gospel is Christ on earth, surrounded by His disciples: and the last accents of His blessed voice which are recorded contain the assurance of His presence with us unto the end of this dispensation. The truth which is thus impressed on us is that our Lord, although ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father, is still on earth, that in His disciples He continues His work and mission, that His Church is identified with Him, that through His believers, as the members of His body, He exerts His power and manifests His grace among the nations of the world. The Church is the representative and the continuation of Christ. "And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world." Apart from Christ the Church has no light or life; unless His presence go with us, we cannot continue our pilgrimage in the wilderness. Christ is with and in the Church. As He promised, so the Church has experienced it. In coming down from heaven He never left the Father, and in going up to heaven He never left the Church. Wherever two or three are gathered in His name, wherever disciples go forth to preach the glad tidings and to teach the counsel of God, wherever the Church of Christ is, there is Immanuel, the real presence of our Divine Lord.
As Christ was sent by the Father, so is the Church sent by Christ. Jesus was sent to be the Revelation and Representative of the Father, to testify of Him, to declare Him, to do His will, and to finish the work. He was a true and faithful witness; He was the perfect Servant, whose meat it was to do the Father's will; He declared the name of God, and finished the work. Now Christ sends us into the world that we may show forth His life, that we may be His witnesses, that His light and love may shine, attract, and bless men through us, that men may behold in us Christ, as they beheld the Father in Him. As Christ was, so are we in the world. The Church is so identified with Christ, that she is called Christ. "As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ." How dear and wonderful is the position of the Church on earth! She is sent, she is entrusted with a high mission, she has only one aim and object -- to represent, imitate, obey Christ; nay, more than this, one with Christ by the Holy Ghost, Christ dwelling in her by faith, it is Christ whose testimony is to be heard through her, whose energy and love saves, gathers, comforts, and builds up the souls of men unto eternal life.
What is the foundation on which the Church of Christ rests?
What is the basis, peculiar, distinctive, and all-glorious, on which she is built? What is that marvel and joy which prophets and kings desired to see and hear, but which was reserved for the last days? It is nothing less than the incarnation of the Son of God. The Church is the body of Christ, the Son of God in human nature, exalted after His sufferings to be our Head. We are the sons of God in Christ, the only-begotten of the Father. Our sonship is based on the death of the cross; it springs out of the resurrection of Jesus; it is given unto us by the Holy Ghost, whom the Father sends us through His Son. The peculiar glory of the Church is sonship. Her peculiar mission is to show forth the character and life of the sons of God, who, born of the Spirit, are by Him united with the only-begotten of the Father. The Church is in the world, as Jesus was in the world, who in the lowliness of His humanity revealed His divine glory in love and obedience.
The Church is in the world. This position is assigned to her of God, according to the prayer of Christ, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil."
The reason is threefold. The first reason is, as always, the glory of God. As Jesus was sent by the Father, that in the face of Christ the glory of God might be manifested; so the Church is to reflect the image of her unseen but ever-living Lord, and thus show forth the glory of God. We do not think sufficiently of this first fundamental and central object of the Church's existence. To glorify God is not merely the chief end of man, but it is the great end which God has set before Him in all His acts and revelations. Not merely creation, but redemption has this great end -- the manifestation of God. By the Church the manifold wisdom of God is to be made known unto all angelic hosts. Throughout all ages God is glorified in the Church by Christ Jesus.
The second reason why the Church is in the world is, that she may follow Jesus, who through suffering entered into glory. Called unto a heavenly inheritance, chosen to be joint heirs with Christ, and to sit with Him on His throne, the Church is first to learn the wisdom and patience of the saints, to know the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, being made conformable unto His death. In temptation and sorrow, in conflict and trial, in hardship and grief, the disciples of Christ are to grow in grace and knowledge, to become strong in meekness, in love, in faith, and to be conformed to the image of Christ. It is necessary that through much tribulation we should enter into the kingdom of glory.
The third reason why the Church is in the world is, the conversion of sinners. Through her testimony men are to be brought to the knowledge of Christ. God may reveal His grace to the soul directly. Thus Jesus appeared unto Saul of Tarsus: but notice that even Saul, who was converted by the Lord Himself, was, according to Christ's command, linked unto the Church by Ananias, and baptized by him, and thus brought into the congregation of disciples, in which it pleases God to reveal His grace on earth. The Church is to be the witness of God, and mother of the faithful. Herein is the love of God, the Source of all blessedness, who draws into the circle of giving and blessing all His angels and saints As God is Love, and as mercy and blessing are His delight; so it is His love that all should partake, according to their several position and capacity, in this joy of love, this delight of giving. Angels, therefore, minister unto the heirs of salvation; apostles, evangelists, elders, deacons, all disciples, are called to be workers together with God; to go forth sowing, that they may rejoice with Him who giveth seed to the sower, and share His joy of harvest with the labourers, whom His grace permitted and enabled to work for and with Him. And thus all things are of Him and through Him and to Him, and He is Love. Of the Father as the Source, through Christ as the Mediator, and by the energy of the Holy Ghost, the Church is gathered in, angels and saints obeying His command and fulfilling His will; and the blessings which thus descend, ascend again through the Spirit and by the Son to the Father in thanksgiving and adoring joy.
We read that Messiah shall see of the travail of His soul; and yet Paul the Apostle writes, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth, let Christ be formed in you;" and the beloved disciple writes, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth." Blessed union! Christ and the Church are one, the Light of the world, the Sent of the Father. Through the Church Christ seeks and saves that which is lost; through her He speaks peace and comfort to the weary and heavy-laden. The sinners whom His grace has redeemed and His Spirit renewed, He sends forth as His ambassadors, and they beseech men in His stead. He makes them fishers of men; they win souls. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, He crowns the under-shepherds with glory and joy, even with the children who through their testimony were born unto eternal life.
To remember both her duty to, and her danger in, the world is difficult; and experience shows that the Church is apt, either to take a narrow view of her mission, and to fail in aggressive courage and breadth of love and sympathy, or to be dazzled by a superficial success, and, conforming herself with this present world, increase her numbers with those who, being dead and unrenewed, are without the Spirit, and therefore without the love of Christ.
The Church and the world form a contrast, and they are also opposed to each other. In one aspect, the Church and the world are a contrast, but not antagonistic. In another, the Church and the world are opposites. The world hates the Church, and the Church, delivered from this present evil world, constantly overcomes it. The world is made for the Church. The Church is sent to the world. The world is loved of God, and Jesus is the world's Light. But world and Church form a contrast. The one is in the sphere of nature, the other is in the sphere of the Spirit. The world's life is based upon the work of God in creation, the Church is founded by the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. The world is of the first Adam, who (even before the fall) was of the earth earthy; the Church is born of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the spiritual man. Viewed as creation, the world is good, beloved of God, and made for the Church. It is the mission of the Church to enter into every department of human life. We must remember that all the relationships of the family and the State are instituted by God. They are of the Father, and therefore for Christ: and the Church. Jesus changes the water, which is God's creature and good, into wine, which is a better and higher gift. Body, soul, and spirit are to be sanctified to the service of God. Man's intellectual and social life on earth -- all that humanity is and possesses -- is the territory and sphere upon which the Church should exert her power. Here the Church may not be aggressive enough. She may not enter into the wide range of applications which belong to the Word of her Master "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." She may not possess sufficient insight, patience, and courage of love to go into the world and attract those who are drawn by the Father and seeking after Him, though as yet they are in darkness and in sin. She may mistake an outward and mechanical separation for the true holiness which Jesus manifested. He came eating and drinking, and went to the Pharisees who invited Him to be their guest. It is no doubt much easier to follow the method of John the Baptist than to imitate the example of our blessed Lord, who in the fulness of spiritual power and love lived among men. For we must never forget that wherever Jesus went He was about His Father's business, fulfilling the mission for which He was sent, and testifying of the kingdom.
The Christians are thus prepared and gifted to explain and interpret the world. They are taught by Scripture to praise the Lord in all His works, in all places of His dominion. They can recognize and enjoy beauty in art as well as nature. They can trace the hidden longings after God's salvation and light; they love to find in Athens the altar with the inscription, "To the Unknown God;" they love to quote the testimony "of your own poets." They are called to befriend and cherish whatsoever things are true and venerable, just and pure, lovely and of good report. They are commanded to seek out "them that are worthy," and bring to them the gospel salvation of peace.
The Church of Christ, in its best and healthiest days, never despised learning and culture, but received it with thanksgiving and diligent care, judging all things by the Word of God, and measuring all things by the standard of revelation.
But the world must be viewed in another light, sad, but equally true. The world lieth in the wicked one. Humanity has fallen; we live in an evil world. And what the evil of the world is in which we are, we may easily know by the evil of the world which is in us; selfishness, pride, lust, covetousness, trust in that which is outward, and unbelief in that which is spiritual, seeking our own glory, in short, all manifestations of departure from God. Against this world the Church must continually fight. She must assert the opposition between nature and grace, flesh and spirit, anti-Christ and Christ, Satan and God, she must assert the great distinction between the best works, and the most beautiful and noble products of man's spirit, and the new creation of the Holy Ghost. She must declare the judgment by which the Prince and the spirit of the world are already condemned, and the wrath which is to come on the enemies of God, and must exhort men to separate themselves from the world, to save themselves from this untoward generation. She must not allow her testimony to be so indistinct, her life and walk so colourless, her discipline so lax, that unrenewed men can fancy themselves to be members of the mystical body of which Christ is the Head, or that they who are strangers to the grace and power of Christ, can presume to take part in the guidance of the Church, or in the ministrations of Christ's heritage.
Much evil has arisen from the indistinct and erroneous views which have prevailed from an early period of the Church, on the character and position of Christ's flock in the present age, the times of Gentiles. The distinction between the Church and the kingdom was forgotten. The Scripture teaches clearly, that until the return of our blessed Lord Jesus the Church is a little flock without outward strength and glory, hated and persecuted by the world; and her hope is in the Father's counsel and power, her eye is directed to the future, when by divine interference the kingdom will be given to her. Christ has delivered us from this present evil world, of which Satan is the Prince. The wisdom of this world is not able to recognise the truth as it is in Jesus. When we become enamoured of this world, we forsake the apostle and his Master. The world, as our Saviour has foretold, shall hate us. The more we show forth Christ's image, the more closely we follow Him, and testify for Him in word and truth, the more shall the enmity and persecution of the world among all nations rest on us; for the world loveth its own, and hateth what is not of the world, but from above. And as the hatred of the world to Christ on earth increased in bitterness, cruelty, and self-consciousness, till at last they nailed Him to the cross; so the word of prophecy reveals to us that the history of the Church, the Bride, will resemble that of her Divine Lord, that the world in the latter days will hate God and His Anointed, and persecute unto death the saints of the Most High who confess and believe His truth. The last development of the so-called Christianized nations is the manifestation of anti-Christ, the open and sell-conscious rebellion against the Father and the Son. The end of this age is judgment. The monarchies of the world are destroyed, and become like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors. Christ and His saints appear in glory; the Son of man begins His reign; and in His kingdom the nations of the earth honour and obey God, and the Father's will is done here as it is in heaven.
The Church soon forgot the position which God has assigned to her, and the object which she was continually to bear in view. Instead of being a witness continuing the ministry of Christ, endeavouring to save the lost sheep, and to gather those who were of the truth into the fold; instead of relying on her spiritual weapons, the influence of the Word, the converting and renewing power of the Holy Ghost, the attraction of love and holiness, the Church was dazzled by the outward Christianization of kings and princes; and, relying on the influence of worldly power, legislation, and fashion, rejoiced in the strong numerical accessions which soon changed the Church from being a field of wheat in which there were some tares, into a field of tares in which there is some wheat. The papacy is, in its inmost essence, a false anticipation of the kingdom, a confusion of the Church and the Christocracy. As a German writer (Roos) says, "Rome usurped as a harlot the position and rights which the Bride of the Lamb shall possess in love and holiness."
If we hold fast these truths, our position in the world is clear, and our aim distinct. The object of the Church is not to Christianise the world. "Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His name;" "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come." While the tabernacle of David is in ruins, while Jerusalem is trodden down of the Gentiles, while instead of the theocracy there is the witnessing and suffering Church, God is taking out from the nations of the earth a people to know and serve Him. The Church is an election; its character is elective, and not universal; exceptional, and not general; we are the few, and not the majority; strangers and pilgrims, and not established and dominant ; waiting for the absent (yet spiritually present) Lord and Bridegroom, who will return and build again the tabernacle of David, and reign in peace and truth.
Our hope is Christ's return. We are not expecting days of peace and sunshine, but of storm and tempest; we are not looking forward to times of safety, of godliness and of truth, but to perilous times, in which worldliness and error shall become strong, attractive, and violent. We expect the days which preceded the Flood and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We believe God will gather many from among Jews and Gentiles into the Church, and bless His testimony to multitudes, ere the judgment comes. But our hope is nothing less and nothing else than the Lord Himself, who shall return to take to Himself the kingdom, according to the will of the Father. Our only anxiety, therefore, ought to be to remain faithful and loyal to Him; to maintain truth in its fulness and in the spirit of love, to seek not high or worldly things, but, like Jesus Himself, to rejoice and give thanks when the Father reveals His Son to "babes," and when sinners, however few and obscure, draw near to hear the beloved gospel of Divine grace.
How is the Church to fulfill her mission to the world, and to keep herself pure? The purity of the Church is not by isolation, but by aggressiveness; and the victory of the Church is not by world-conformity, but by purity. The more aggressive the Church is, the purer she will remain. The more courageously she attacks the world, the less injury she will receive from the poisonous atmosphere of unbelief and selfishness around her. If the Church wishes to keep herself unspotted from the world, and to grow in grace and heavenly-mindedness, she must enter into the mind of her Lord, who, sent by the Father, came to seek and to save that which is lost, who went about doing good, and declared to all, Pharisee; and publicans, the evangel of divine love. The Church who feels no compassion for perishing souls, who is not constrained by the love of Him who died for the guilty, who does not walk in the footsteps of the great Deacon who came to minister unto others, has already become worldly; the spirit of selfishness and unbelief has already entered into her heart, and is endangering her very life.
The safety of the Church is in warfare. If she does not attack the world with the peaceful yet powerful weapons of the Spirit, she loses the faith which is the victory that overcometh, and the love which constrains the members of Christ to be ambassadors of the divine gospel. If the light does not shine before men, it will soon be extinguished; if the salt does not benefit the mass, the salt itself will soon be worthless and trodden under foot. The man who obeys not the command of his leader, and in cowardice and ignoble sloth stays away from the battle, does not merely deprive himself of a share in the joy and reward of victory, but is in danger of losing the approbation of him who has called him to be a soldier.
The Church resists the world by conquering love. She keeps herself pure by going into the world, preaching glad tidings by word and work. And in this aggressiveness she is strongest when she is most pure. When loyal to her heavenly Bridegroom, she keeps herself unspotted from the world, she is most skilful and most blessed in gaining souls. She loves the world most, and is her true benefactor; when most obedient to the apostolic precept, "Love not the world." She cannot influence unless her standpoint is heavenly. As Archimedes said, "Give me where I can stand, and I will move the earth," the Church can attract and conquer only when she remembers her heavenly position and character. When we seek the praise, and yield to the spirit of the world, our light loses its light, our salt its savour. David cannot fight with Goliath in Saul's armour. Our sufficiency is of God; our weapons are spiritual.
Very comprehensive are the comparisons of Scripture to illustrate the wonderful position of the Church of Christ in the world. It is surely not accidental that these various comparisons comprise the universe, all the various spheres of the creation of God. Beginning with the inanimate, the Church is compared to the heavenly bodies, to the celestial luminaries -- the Church is called the light of the world, and her ministers stars. She is compared unto precious stones, reflecting light in beauty; for by the electing love of God, the redemption of Christ, and the transforming power of the Holy Ghost, the saints, who were once children of wrath and disobedience, living in darkness, and without the hope of glory, are now filled with the Spirit, and beautified with the righteousness of Christ whose image they bear. The Church is compared to a building, believers being living stones, the Saviour Himself the foundation. For in the Church are strength and harmony, and while some are pillars able to sustain heavy weight, and chosen to be prominent and attractive, the exercise of love unites all, and renders the whole strong and fortified against the assaults of enemies, and the untoward and inclement influences of a hostile atmosphere ....
The primitive Church dwelt much on the Gospels and the Apocalypse. The Church of the Reformation gave prominence to the Epistles. Let us return to the Gospels, and read them in the Pentecostal light of apostolic teaching. He only who has died with Christ, and is risen with Him, can follow the Saviour in His life and walk. The natural, unrenewed man cannot follow Jesus; but when we know the grace of the Saviour, and the power of His resurrection, we understand the lessons of His life, and having received the Spirit of Christ, we can live and walk as the sons of God.
"From the life of Jesus," said the old Germans, "we can learn all things." We can learn Christ; and to know Him is to know all things that pertain unto life and godliness. Let us then continually study Him as the Model; we must represent Christ in our lives.
I. And first let us remember the object of Christ's life. He was sent. He never forgot that He came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father that sent Him. He teaches most emphatically and impressively that He had only one aim, one absorbing and dominant idea, one all-pervading law and rule. It was simply to do His Father's will. Motives which in themselves are pure and legitimate, and by which our minds may be naturally and sinlessly actuated, such as benevolence and piety, and interest in the progress of God's kingdom, disappear before the all-important and central desire to honour the Father by obeying His command. Jesus spake the words which He heard of the Father; He did the works which the Father showed Him; He spake and acted whenever He knew that "the hour was come," the hour which the Father had appointed. Thus was He constantly the Servant of God, the Representative of the Father. Now we are sent by Jesus; and all that we are and have, all our words and works, are to be viewed in the light of mission and service.
In this unity and concentration of purpose was the strength of Jesus. His heart was united, as the Psalmist says, to praise God. "One thing I do," was in the fullest sense of the word true of the Saviour. And it was this exclusive reference to the Father, this living before Him and unto Him, which rendered the character and acts of Jesus enigmatic and obnoxious to the world, and sometimes unintelligible to His own disciples. How difficult is it for us to understand Him, who even in the good which He did sought not His own delight, and followed not His own thought, but simply the Father's glory and honour, the accomplishment of His will and purpose; who went into sufferings and death simply that the Scripture should be fulfilled, that the Father's commandment should be obeyed!
2. Jesus came in lowliness. His birth, infancy, childhood, and youth are characterized by the emblems of poverty and obscure humility. What a contrast between the power and splendour of Caesar Augustus and the glory of the Roman Empire, and Bethlehem, the small town of Judea, and the Infant who was born there of the poor and humble daughter of David. Jesus was called Nazarene, brought up in the despised Nazareth, that thus the whole tenor of prophecy might be fulfilled, which described Him as a root out of a dry ground, as coming in lowliness, without earthly pomp and power. Between the manger of Bethlehem and the humble home of Nazareth and His death on the cross, when He was numbered with the transgressors, we find nothing else but humility, poverty, and lowliness. "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head."
What are we to learn from this? Are we not to follow the Master? We may not be poor, but we are to love poverty. We ought not to trust in earthly riches and honour, in the things which the world esteems and pursues; we ought to remember that our influence and our power are spiritual, and that the garment of the true Church is that of a servant, of a stranger and pilgrim. When the Church becomes rich and strong, esteemed by the world, and dominant, the salt is in danger of losing its savour; spiritual objects are sought in a worldly spirit, and the mystery of the cross is obscured and forgotten.
For to the end of this dispensation the Church is as a widow, desolate and despised. She is hated of the world. But it is poor and persecuted Smyrna which, by her Christ-like poverty, maketh many rich. The glory of the Church is inward; the King's daughter, the bride of Christ, is all-glorious within.
3. Jesus was the Son of God. He came from above. He was poor, and yet all things were His; He was lowly, and yet all power was given to Him in heaven and earth, for He was the only-begotten of the Father. The Father was always with Him, and heard Him always. Thus the Church is born of God, of incorruptible seed. Her life is none other but the life of Christ, the risen Head, the life of the Spirit who dwelleth in us. We exert influence and power in the world simply by our being blameless and harmless, the sons of God, living Christ's life (which comes only out of the death and the crucifixion of the old man), manifesting the divine nature of which we are partakers who have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. The Church declares every Lord's day that the resurrection of Christ is her birthday, the source of her life and hope, and thus preaches to the world both the condemnation of the flesh, the utter helplessness of the first Adam and his seed, and the new and heavenly life, which in the Only-begotten of the Father, and the First-begotten of the dead, has come to all believers.
4. In this lowliness and in this power, the Church is able to go to the whole world, with love and sympathy announcing substance in the midst of emptiness and vain shadows, eternal life and consolation in the midst of death and sorrow, peace to the heavy-laden conscience, love to the aching and thirsting heart, forgiveness and renewal, health and joy to the wounded and contrite. And while she loves all and intercedes for all, she is filled, like her Master, with a special love, intense and tender, for the brethren, towards His own who are in the world, and who are gathered to the Bishop and Shepherd of souls. Thanking God, as Jesus did, for the disciples whom the Father gives, she watches over the young and inexperienced, the weak and tempted, the lonely and afflicted. She seeks to build up, to cherish and to gladden the heritage of God, the fellow-heirs of life eternal.
The Church is Christ-like -- sent from above, having one aim and motive, in lowliness, in divine power, in love and ministry. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Likewise ought we to be able to say, He that hath seen the Church hath seen Christ.
Christ is all in all, yet every member of the body, every Christian, has an individual life, work, calling, a name of his own, a position and a talent assigned to him, for which he is responsible to the Master. "Let your light so shine," saith He who is The Light. He means the light which God has given to each of us individually, according to our natural disposition and experience; the special charisma which we have received, be it knowledge or patience, or strength or skill, be it intellectual; or moral, or social. We possess each some features of His character, some gift of His Spirit, some power and influence out of His fulness. Each of us is placed in a position, surrounded by opportunities and endowed with gifts. Each one is individual, peculiar; no one else can do what the Master, the great Householder, has appointed and given him to be and to do. Let us remember that we are to let our light shine. Let us resemble the blessed Master in His loving wisdom, which directed men to what is easy and simple. Only the eye of faith can see that which is secret, spiritual, and rooted in the heart; but all can see the manifestations of love. It is perfectly true that until the Spirit of God opens their eyes men do not see Jesus; but in one sense they are able to see, to judge, to appreciate; the world is able to see and to understand our good works; they can recognise the influence of God on our lives and conduct; accordingly we find that the Lord Jesus commands us so to let our light shine before men, that they may behold our good works, and glorify My Father which is in heaven.
When meditating on the Church, we are always in danger of forgetting our own duty, and of falling into feverish impatience or indolent waiting for a sign from heaven. Let us rather believe that the Lord is doing His work, and carrying out His purposes of wisdom and love. Our own duty is clear before us.
ADOLPH SAPHIR (I831-189l)Adolph Saphir is the only preacher whose sermons have been used in the first two volumes of this series who, if my memory does not fail me, was born in Europe, and even more, was of the Jewish race. His father was recognized as "perhaps the most learned Jew in Hungary and held in universal respect for probity and uprightness of character. He was in truth a sort of Gamaliel in the nation." The father's brother was Gottlieb Saphir, one of the great literary men of that period. There is no opportunity here to give the story with any detail, but the entire Saphir family, including Adolph, were brought to recognize Jesus Christ as their Saviour while they were living in Budapest, Hungary, by the visit of John Duncan, known as Rabbi Duncan, a Scotch Presbyterian Professor and master of Hebrew literature. He was returning from Palestine, a member of that famous Committee sent by the Scottish Church to look into the condition of the Jews in Palestine. Along with Adolph Saphir, Alfred Edersheim was also brought to Christ. Both of these young men moved to England, the latter ultimately writing the most important Life of Christ of the nineteenth century.
Saphir began to preach at the Laygate Presbyterian Church, South Shields, during which ministry he published his first book, Conversion, which immediately brought him to the attention of Evangelicals throughout England. He was asked to become Minister of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Greenwich, following the notable ministry of the Reverend George Duncan. Later on, many being convinced that he ought to be ministering to West London, he was invited to become the Minister at Kensington Park Road, an aristocratic area of that great city. It was here that he gave his famous Thursday morning lectures on the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the winters of 1873 to 1875, which, his biographer says, was "the greatest triumph of his career."
Book after book came from his pen, books that are still read with profit, especially The Unity of The Scriptures, and also Christ in The Scriptures. While his fame as a preacher and an expositor never waned, he became depressed in his latter days, while ministering at the Belgrave Presbyterian Church, and as his biographer admits, he was "often cast down and anxious."
It is very difficult to attempt to discover the secret of the ministry of a man like this, but one who heard him often in his Greenwich ministry, later wrote his own convictions as to the secret of Saphir's power, in words that I think should he quoted here for the encouragement and even rebuke of most of us. "What was the secret of it? a fine intellect? a splendid command of language? a wide and comprehensive knowledge of Scripture? All these he had, and they were blessed gifts of God; hut the secret was, that Jesus was to him first and foremost. He saw Jesus from Genesis to Revelation, and this Jesus became transfigured (at least to one of the hearers), no longer the abstract mighty Being far away somewhere in heaven; but the living, loving, exalted, coming Son of man, yet to be glorified and owned in this world, where He is still despised, when all things, natural as well as spiritual, shall own His sway, and praise His Name. Ah! it was wonderful what a new light dawned through those burning words of his, and how God owned him to be His servant, by the way in which so frequently he answered the unspoken questions of the heart, clearly and concisely, as though they had been laid out in order before him, whereas he knew nothing, but his Master knew, and gave His servant the needed portion to distribute; or sometimes it was some trouble ahead, and even before it reached us, the needed words of comfort and strength had already been spoken, in readiness by God's faithful messenger.
"The short opening prayers, specially on Sunday mornings, have left a marked impression on my mind. They only lasted two or three minutes, and yet often I have felt, 'That is enough; I can go home now if need be' -- it was so truly entering into the presence-chamber of the King. He loved to repeat that we had come to meet with Jesus, and claim the promise made to those gathered in His Name; we had come not because it was eleven o'clock on Sunday morning or because it was the Presbyterian Church, but to see Jesus."
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