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which every joint supplieth,' of the sanctified character and influence of each individual believer, the Apostle-as it were, parenthetically-recognizes this truth in the course and within the sweep of his grand paragraph; and thus, intensely practical as he ever was, fails not, even in so lofty a flight, to point the practical moral which needed to be taught. “So that ye,' he proceeds, 'ye individually, are to be no longer infants, carried to and fro and tossed about with every wind of doctrine, but living the truth in love, are to grow up into Christ in all things; that thus the whole body may be brought to perfection by that which every member contributes of living and loving influence and fellowship.' This explicit reference to individual character and experience is, however, parenthetical. The main course of thought is as I have stated it ; it relates to the perfected humanity of the Church regarded as an extension and fulfilment of Christ's incarnation, Christ is the Incarnate Son of God; the Church is, in a certain sense, an incarnation of Christ.
There is in this thought, however, a point necessarily involved, which has been already stated, but which requires to be brought forth into full relief. It is that the consummation held in view, the perfection of the Church in CHRIST as the Healer and Saviour of Humanity, is only to be brought about in conformity with certain laws and processes of growth, only by means of mutual action and influence on the part of the several members of the Church. This perfecting of the Church cannot be accomplished by decree or by any mere force or forces, by any means or influences wholly external. to the Church and to humanity, but only by forces and influences working within, and indeed belonging to the living whole and unity of the Church itself. Christ's body is to build itself up in love by that which every joint supplieth.' Only in this way can it attain ‘unto the measure of the stature of the fulnes of Christ, unto a perfect man in Christ Jesus.'
The meaning of the passage will be brought out more distinctly and fully by means of a strictly literal rendering of the Apostle's words. Let us then render the thirteenth verse as follows : ! Until we (combine or) coalesce, the whole of us, into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a perfect man, into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. So much as to the end and consummation set before our view
the unity of living faith and experimental knowledge for the Church, & perfected humanity, dowered and filled with the mind and life of Christ. And then as to the living process by which this consummation is to be reached, the Apostle teaches (verses 15 and 16) that it is to be approached more and more closely, and finally to be attained by the mutual agency and influence of all the members of the body, who are to contribute their share respectively to the grand result, by acting out the truth in love towards each other and to all men.
You will have observed that there is one notable difference in the rendering which I have now given as compared with the Authorized Version. That version speaks of coming in the unity of the faith and knowledge of Christ unto a perfect man. The true rendering, however, makes the faith and knowledge of Christ to be not the means, but the end; not on the way
to a perfected humanity, 'to a perfect man,' 'to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,' but coincident with such perfection. The Apostle does not speak of Christians as coming, or attaining, or combining, or coalescing in, but into the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God,' as * into a perfect man,' and into the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.' It is the selfsame word, the selfsame preposition eis--into or unto-in all the three cases. They are parallel thoughts. The Church will attainor will approach unto—the perfect unity of living faith and experimental knowledge in the Son of God, when and as it attains or approaches "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'
Then as to the steps by which the Church is to advance towards the final attainment and consummation, these, as bas been observed, are indicated by the Apostle in the fifteenth and sixteenth verses. It is by the union of all the members of the Church in mutual Christian fidelity and truth and love; or, to use the Apostle's own language, it is 'by that which every joint supplieth,' it is by each member "living and acting out the truth in love.' Practical fidelity, daily service, living fellowship conduce directly to genuine orthodoxy and to true Christian unity. The secluded cloister is not the fountain from which the unity of the faith and knowledge of the Son of God' is to proceed. There must be the student; but mere students alone will rather breed heresy than orthodoxy, and schism than unity. There must be working Christian life as well as recluse learning, or the balance will not be held true. Nay, the student must himself be also a worker, or he will not attain to the true faith and knowledge of the Son of God. And here let it also be observed, that as the faith here spoken of means not mere belief, but that surrender to God in Christ of the whole soul, which is the true' faith of the operation of the Holy Ghost, so the knowledge here spoken of is heart-knowledge, the knowledge which belongs to the innermost living consciousness of the Christian believer: not gnosis, but epignosis--experimental knowledge. It is the knowledge which accompanies, the knowledge which follows and grows out of faith. Hence the order of the words, the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.' The knowledge which is merely intellectual precedes faith as a necessary condition. Without some of this knowledge there can be no faith; for · how,' says the Apostle, can men 'believe... without a preacher ?' that is, a teacher. Doctrine and knowledge are parallel terms ; and are needful in order to an apprehension of the Gospel, and therefore in order to faith. But if knowledge in this lower sense is necessary in order to faith-though it be not itself of the nature of faith, and may be entirely separate from any spiritual life or feeling whatever--to knowledge in the higher sense of this passage, to the spiritual and experimental knowledge of the Son of God -faith itself is necessary. Faith opens the way to spiritual knowledgethe knowledge of spiritual fellowship, of Divine sympathy, the higher consciousness which belongs to that "life which is hid with Christ in God.' Thus regarded, it will be seen that the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God'spoken of in the context, is a unity which transcends all that is merely intellectual, all that belongs to creeds, or formulas, or confessions of faith, or definitions of doctrine. It is that higher and ultimate unity of Christian experience and life, of Christian faith and holiness, in which good men of various creeds—in which the evangelical Arminian and the godly Calvinist, in which the spiritually-minded Protestant and even the Roman Catholic of the quality of Pascal and Fenelon—are at one with each other as they are with Christ the Son of God, as they are with God in Christ. And now we see how absolutely true is the Apostle's identification of this highest unity of true believing souls in Christ with the perfection of the Church in Christ, with a perfected Christian humanity, with the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'
From this exposition of the terms of the text and immediate context, two things come out in fullest emphasis which I have already indicated, but which will now be more distinctly apprehended. One is, that when the Church is perfect, and in proportion as it approaches to perfection, its beauty and glory will appear as manifested in the perfection of all the qualities that belong to sanctified humanity. “As Christ was,' so will His Church be in this world': teaching and living the truth as it is in Jesus, reproving sin, healing sorrow and sickness, gathering children into its embrace, spreading consolation, peace and purity amongst men, instructing and training chosen vessels' to be witnesses for Christ, preaching His saving doctrine, calling disciples to His fold, diffusing among men His sanctifying knowledge and His heavenly love and life. The other truth beaming forth from the text is, that the Church can only attain to such results, can only accomplish what Christ has given it to do, and exhibit such a pattern and picture of organized goodness, truth and holiness, by means of a diffused, a penetrating, a universal fellowship-a fellowship in which 'every joint' bears its share. This fellowship must be one which not only includes the highest, but the humblest member of the Church; which embraces the whole community, which touches and quickens with its vital current the springs of every heart and soul, which amounts to a universal reciprocity of sympathy and influence bringing into unity and cooperation all the members of the Church. Such a fellowship as this, all vitalized by the indwelling Spirit of Christ, feeds and sustains from its unfailing springs a well and current of life which, circulating through the whole body, maintains it in health and vigour and unity, and assures its unfailing growth and its perfect development. The final blessed result for the Church, the result of perfect assimilation in character and aim to the human perfection of Christ
, is dependent upon the living stream of energy and influence and mutual fellowship which is fed by that which every joint supplieth.'
These are the two points, broadly stated, and overlooking many profitable suggestions enfolded in the immediate context, on which to-day I have wished to fix special attention. These points are exemplified, in a remarkable degree, in the history and development of our own Methodist Church. It began in such fellowship as I have described. It is visibly approaching such a consummation, notwithstanding many defects and draw backs, as that which is set forth in the Apostle's words. It began in lowliest and most elementary forms of Christian fellowship; it has become a world-wide organization, embracing all forms of Gospel preaching, of evangelical cooperation and ecclesiastical administration and of Christian beneficence. It began in Class-meetings in Bristol and in London; it developed into helps' and governments,' to use St. Paul's words, elsewhere; and now its organization includes, if not apostles,' yet, in the language of the context, and in a just and true sense, 'some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers'; and embraces almost every variety of means and agency for enlightening the ignorance, for converting the souls, for remedying the miseries of mankind. Full as it is of imperfections, far as it is from the fulfilment of the Divine ideal set forth in the textmas what Church is not far off from such fulfilment ? it has nevertheless been quickened and animated by the grand evangelical inspiration of which these words are the expression ; and, as a Church, has been making some distinct, though often halting, and always more or less devious, approach towards the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.' In some degree it is doing for the world what would be done by the Spirit of a perfected Christian humanity. In these islands Methodism has been to the Churches—has been largely to the people of every class-as life from the dead.' By its almost unrivalled foreign Missionary work the 'mystery of godliness' is 'preached unto the Gentiles'; its · line is gone out through all the earth,' and its' words to the end of the world.' By its “Society' and 'Circuit’tests and opportunities, by its strict examinations and extended probations, and by its Theological Colleges, it has made provision, beyond the possibilities of most other Christian organizations, that those who are to be Gospel Ministers shouldó make full proof of their ministry,' and that the trust and responsibility received and exercised by one generation of 'pastors and teachers' should be committed to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also.'
Methodism has its ‘Deacons,' its Leaders and Stewards, who are 'grave, not double-tongued, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of the faith in a good conscience'; and its Deaconesses,' who are discreet, faithful in all things,' who are in behaviour as becometh holiness,' and are teachers of good things'; and in these later years especially, our Church has begun to bring forth in richer abundance that which is the finest and sweetest fruit, the fruit that tells most of ripeness and perfection in the growth of any Church of Christ, namely, the fruit of a searching, practical, manifold and most loving Christian philanthropy—a Christian philanthropy which, beyond all else, breathes the very mind of Christ,' and follows the example of His life among men. Our founder, Wesley, who was in many respects in advance age
and of most of his followers, who was beyond most other Christian men imbued with the spirit of evangelical nobleness and tenderness, and full of the ideal of the perfect humanity in Christ, the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ'—Wesley, I say, anticipated our latest developments of organized Home-Missionary enterprise and beneficence by his unresting army
of Lay Preachers, by his Christian Day-schools, by his Orphanages and his Dispensaries. And now the meaning and the beauty, the necessity and the glory of true Christian philanthropy as the consummate practical form and embodiment of Gospel teaching and influence, have come home to the deepest spiritual sympathies of our people. It is by organized ministrations of Christian love and truth and care, in respect of the bodies and souls of hapless, ignorant, neglected men and women and children, that the Churches of Christ best represent before the world the character and mission of their Divine Master. Our Church now, in some finer and more comprehensive sense than heretofore, may, like St. Paul's female elder or deaconess, be well reported of for good works,' seeing that it begins to be true of Methodism that she hath' brought up children, hath lodged strangers, hath washed the saints' feet, hath relieved the afflicted, hath diligently followed every good work.'
If through such efforts on her part as these; if, moreover, as the result of rapid progress, of unprecedented growth and inevitable extension; if, as an honourable burden arising from enlarged Mission-work at home and abroad ; if, above all, in order to our retaining our place in the van of evangelical enterprise, and entering into the yet larger fields and opportunities of work for Christ in this country and to the ends of the earth that offer themselves on every side, a grand united effort is now needed in Methodism, an effort equal in proportion to that which was made in our Centenary year, it is not to be doubted that the effort will be made, and the needful work accomplished. Despite painful commercial embarrassment in some of the manufacturing districts of this country, Methodism is, beyond question, far better able to make such an effort now than she was forty years ago; and before the effort is completed, better days, we cannot doubt, will have more than dawned on the industrial populations which at present are suffering so severely. The Lord's work must be done when the Lord's work needs to be done. For the doing of this work the whole Church is responsible, HE Who orders the times and the seasons' has so ordered in the present case that a pressing exigency of the Church, an exigency which is manifold and related to every branch of our work, an exigency and a necessity the pressure of which has been accumulating for years past, has come to its crisis at the same moment in which commercial embarrassment in some of the greatest industries of this country has also reached its height. What then? Is the Lord's work to wait, and its condition to become worse and worse? Are incumbrances to grow on all sides into accumulations ; are opportunities at home and abroad, absolutely unparalleled, to be neglected, because a part of our Connexion cannot do now as it might have done in more prosperous times ? Nay, rather, let the rest of us do the more. Let us believe in the Providence of the Head of the Church, Who, if He has suffered this season of temporal trial to come upon us, has also sent at the selfsame moment this message of need and opportunity, this call to faith and exertion and enterprise. Let us remember what belongs to faith, whilst we do not fail also to respect the province of prudence. Let us not forget that there are times when Faith