John 20:21
A mission involves a sender, the party to whom he sends, the sent one, and a commission to be fulfilled by the sent on behalf of the sender and for the benefit of those whom he visits. A religious mission originates in God, is designed for the welfare of men, and is accomplished in the first instance by the Son of God, and then by his ministers.

I. THE MISSION ON WHICH CHRIST WAS SENT BY THE FATHER.

1. The origin of thin mission must be sought in the love and pity of the Father towards sinful men, and in the condition of humanity which rendered a Divine interposition desirable.

2. The condition of this mission was the incarnation and advent of the Son of God.

3. The evidence and authentication of this mission are found in Christ's mighty works and benevolent ministry on earth.

4. The completion of this mission was effected when the Lord Jesus laid down his life for the sheep.

II. THE MISSION ON WHICH CHRISTIAN APOSTLES AND EVANGELISTS WERE SENT BY THEIR LORD. The twelve were, because thus sent, designated "apostles." There is no reason to limit the mission to these; it was shared by the evangelists who were associated with them, and indeed by the whole Church of the Redeemer.

1. Apostolic conditions. These are

(1) sympathy with the mind of Christ;

(2) compassion for the world;

(3) renunciation of selfish ends in life.

2. The apostolic spirit. This is preeminently a spirit of dependence upon the gospel and upon the Spirit of Christ.

3. Apostolic methods.

(1) The proclamation of distinctively Christian truth;

(2) the institution of Christian societies;

(3) the continuous employment of the Christian example, and the witness of the Christian life.

III. THE RELATION BETWEEN THE MISSION OF CHRIST AND THAT OF HIS CHURCH.

1. A relation of dependence. The mission of apostles and preachers would be impossible, had it not been preceded by that of the Divine Lord himself. The mission of the Son made possible that of the servants.

2. A relation of similarity. Notwithstanding the difference between Divinity and humanity, between the work of mediation and that of publication, the mission of the followers is as that of the Leader. In both cases the work is God's, the authority is God's, the favor and assistance is God's, and the end sought is God's. The recompense and the joy ensuing in both cases upon success is one and the same. How honorable is the Christian calling! how noble the Christian aim! how sacred the Christian fellowship! how bright the Christian hope! - T.







Then saith Jesus unto them... as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.
Christ is the Arch-Missionary and the Arch-Apostle (Hebrews 3:1), at once both the Author and the first Bearer of the office; and the apostles are His successors. Christ came in His Father's name (John 5:43), and they came in Christ's name. Christ was sent that He might speak, not of Himself, but what fie had heard of the Father (John 8:27; John 14:10; John 15:15); and His servants are sent, not to preach dreams of human wisdom, but the Word of God (Jeremiah 23:16; 1 Peter 4:11). Christ was sent not to destroy but to save souls (Luke 9:56; John 3:17); and His ministers are sent with power to build up, and not to destroy (2 Corinthians 13:10). The Father worked with Christ, and left not the Son alone (John 5:17, 19; John 16:32); and Christ works with us so that our labour is not in vain. Finally, as Christ was sent, that through suffering He might enter into His glory; so also has He bequeathed His shame (Matthew 10:22), and His cross (John 21:18), but after that His glory also (Luke 22:29; comp. 1 Peter 5:1). Now, if we should all "honour the Son even as we honour the Father," so to the servants of Christ also the honour is due, that in them we honour the Lord who has sent them; as He Himself says, "He that heareth you heareth Me," &c.

(R. Besser, D. D.)

His mission and their mission were one. The purpose that fired His heart as He came from the glory to the Cross, and was returning from the grave to the throne, was to be their purpose. There was to be the same aim and the same grand consummation in view. The subaltern, the common soldier, the drummer in the campaign, may feel that they are taking part in the same cause that is keeping the anxious general awake at night, and taxing all his ingenuity and energy. And so the humblest servant in His house who can do nothing more than talk to a few children, or carry a cup of cold water to a fainting one, or place a few flowers on the table in the sick room, or read a few verses from a psalm or sing a few stanzas of a hymn to an aged Christian, may rejoice in the consciousness that his little work is finding a place in the grand plan that has its sweep through the centuries; that the little ripple of his love is helping the flow of the tide that is to cover the world with glory; that his feeble heart-beats are in unison with the pulses of the eternal God. "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." It is the voice of authority; it is the voice "that rolls the stars along"; but it speaks to a human will, a human heart; and He has confidence that His word will be obeyed.

(James Owen.)

I. THE RISEN LORD MANIFESTING HIMSELF TO THE CHURCH.

1. He did not manifest Himself first of all to the collective disciples, but to Mary Magdalene, &c. This is God's way. His blessings are not for the Church apart from its individual members. No Church will have collective manifestations whose members do not find Him in the garden, in the closet, in the way, sitting at meat, &c.

2. He manifested Himself while they were talking about Him. Mary declaring that she had seen Him, others that He had opened the scriptures, others were doubting; then someone said, "There He is in the midst of us."

3. He bestowed His benediction. With a reminiscence of "Let not your hearts be troubled," i.e., agitated, He said, "Peace," &c.

4. He demonstrated the reality of His resurrection, and made the disciples glad. What makes the heart of God's people glad is the revelation of Christ, not as here, but as on the way to Damascus to Paul, "God revealed His Son in me, that I might preach Him." He to whom Christ has never manifested Himself is in no condition to preach Him.

5. Now, how did He come? There were there, as there are here, persons wondering how Christ could manifest Himself. Are there not closed doors, impenetrable walls, and one difficulty after another in this nineteenth century to prevent this? No, the only barrier which can keep Christ out is unbelief. "Oh," you say, "there is unworthiness." No! look at the people in that room! We know little, even in natural things, of what is likely and unlikely, except by experience. For instance, if we knew that there was outside these walls trying to get in some sunlight, sound or electricity, and we were asked how it was to get in, and we knew nothing about iron, and glass, and stone, and air, we should say that sound, e.g., would get in much easier through air than through iron — and yet we know it will go much faster through iron. And when God makes a thing to pass through, it will pass through, and when He is in the question, no barriers can keep Him out. "Where two or three are gathered in My name," &c.

II. COMMUNICATING HIS SPIRIT TO THE CHURCH. This is more than the manifestation of Himself. We are particular to think of our seeking Christ and the Spirit; bat here are both waiting to communicate themselves. Here is Christ not waiting for them to breathe out a prayer for the Spirit, but breathing the Spirit upon them. There is one word with reference to the Spirit which is very expressive — influence. This means nothing more than a flowing in just as water will flow in upon a meadow until the meadow is completely under it. And we talk of being under the influence if any man with that idea in our mind. But the Bible never represents the Spirit as inert water coming in by gravitation, but as being "poured" in with a will and hand that has power to send it. And so when we come to the word "inspiration," it is not a mere gliding in of a gale of air, but the "breathing" in from a living being warm with feeling and earnest with will. So here. And thus Christ calls to mind some Old Testament records. The disciples would feel that the world in a moral sense was "without form and void," &c., and that the Spirit was coming forth to make the chaos and the darkness feel His power, and each of them might have said, "We are all dead men"; but there was the Second Adam, the quickening Spirit, to breathe into their nostrils the breath of life to make His dead disciples living souls. They would think, too, of the valley of dry bones, and the command, "Breathe upon them." He had told them that it was expedient for them that He should go away so that He might send the Spirit; and now, on the very first day of His reappearing, the first thing He does is to show them He that is just as near as the breath that is breathing upon them. "Go," He says in effect; "but before you go, take the breath to travel with. Go; but before you spread the sails of your ship, the Lord of the winds shall make the winds blow for you. Go to convert the world; but before you try to raise the dead, let it be seen that the Lord has raised you." Christ is breathing now, and saying, "Receive ye," &c.

III. LAYING HER COMMISSION TO WORK UPON THE CHURCH.

1. "As the Father," &c. This has been interpreted to mean, "With the authority which the Father sent Me, I send you." Now, the authority with which Christ came was to restore all things to make atonement, &c. So it cannot mean that. No; the disciples were under, not in, authority. He sent them forth to preach, love, labour, pray, as He preached, &c. Never a man of them could play the king as He did. They were to go representing Him; they were to go in love and self-sacrifice as He had gone.

2. Then He says, "Whosoever sins ye remit," &c. Who are the "ye"? Those present — not Peter or John, or the ten collectively. We are expressly told that other disciples were there — Mary, &c. — and not the slightest difference was made. What the Lord meant He meant for all. There are two ways of interpreting what He did mean — the one the way in which the Church of Rome interprets it, and the other the way in which the Church of St. Peter interprets it,. Rome tells a man He must go and confess to and get absolution from a priest. But take the first case in which a man cries out in the presence of Peter for remission (Acts 2.). Does Peter ever say, "come aside and confess?" or John, or Paul? Is there a hint of any such transaction? No, you will find that every one demands repentance and faith in Christ, and promises forgiveness upon that. That was the use which Peter understood was to be made of this. And the remission was not a transaction somewhere above the clouds, but actually carried into the man's soul so as to transform him. The remission was conscious, real and immediate. Now in the Church of Rome there are five ways of remission.

(1)By baptism.

(2)By confirmation.

(3)By penance.

(4)By indulgence.

(5)By extreme unction.Of course, after all that they ought to be remitted. But supposing a man has received all these remissions from the pope himself; why, you will find masses offered for his sins in purgatory! Such is not the remission of Christ. When Christ remits all sin is at once cast away, gone for ever into the depths of God's forgiving love. And the Church's mission is to testify to every man that there is remission without price, priest, sacrifice. Show His hands and His side and there is the proclamation of remission of sins.

(W. Arthur, M. A.)

Receive ye the Holy Ghost. —
Lay Preacher.
The Christian dispensation is remarkable for two unspeakable gifts — God's gift of His Son and God's gift of His Spirit. And it were hard to say which gift is of the greater practical value; for without the gift of the Spirit we perish under the very shadow of the cross, while with it we possess all that the Cross promises. Consider —

I. IN WHAT THIS GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST CONSISTS.

1. Not in an empty sound, but in a veritable and substantial gift. When God says "I will pour out My Spirit upon you," He does not mock us with a sound of words; for the gift is larger than the word that speaks it.

2. Not in the gift of a number of good things figuratively represented as a gift of the Holy Ghost. If there is a literal expression anywhere in God's Word, then the gift of the Holy Ghost is the gift of the Holy Ghost; and to suppose it to be anything else is to reduce the Scriptures to a shadowy phantasm of figures with no fixed meaning.

3. Not in the gift of the Spirit on our behalf, merely to prepare the economy of saving grace. The Spirit was given not only to inspire the Word, to anoint Christ, to qualify the apostles, and to fill all the organisation of Christianity with light and life; but is also given as a direct and immediate gift to the believer, blot only as a gift of germinating and fructifying efficiency to the soil and atmosphere in which the seed-corn is placed, but also as a gift of life and growth-power to the seed-corn itself. "The Spirit of God dwelleth in you."

4. It consists in the grant of His abiding presence. There is a necessary presence of the Spirit, by reason of His nature — "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?" But this is a presence in which He is caringly, lovingly, helpingly, savingly with us. God was always in the world; but when He came m Christ, He was "God with us" in a very special manner. So with His Spirit in this gift.

5. It consists in a gracious affluence and influence of the Spirit upon our spirits. A patriot orator addresses his countrymen. Like a subtle, invisible fire, the fervour of his spirit flows out in his words, gestures, and looks, and flows in upon the spirits of the crowd, till all are moved and roused to action. And shall not the spirit of God — by the words of God, the wounds of Christ — move us to grief or joy, to hope or zeal? Believe in the life and energy of the Spirit.

6. It consists in the production of "fruits of the Spirit." The Spirit's movings would be a small gift without their effects; as the warmth and refreshing of sun and rain would be without the following harvest, or as the sound of David's harp on Saul's troubled spirit without the ejection of the evil spirit. And we are liable to be deceived by false, or human and merely natural emotions. Trust no emotion that does not hallow the heart; but do not distrust the Spirit's influence because "many false spirits are gone out."

II. THIS GIFT IS A GIFT FOR ALL BELIEVERS IN COMMON. For the ordinary work of a common salvation. Not only to enable men to speak with tongues, but to enable men of blasphemous tongues to speak the praises of God; not for "gifts of healing" only, but to heal the sin-sick souls of penitents to all time; not for "prophecies" merely, but to enable glad-hearted believers to foretell and foretaste the joys of heaven. Is a man to be born again — to belong to Christ, to be assured of adoption, to be sanctified? For all these, and all the gracious round of gospel purposes the Spirit worketh. And the promise is to "as many as the Lord our God shall call."

III. THE STANDING NECESSITY FOR THIS GIFT. "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." Men can read the Bible, but cannot make it as a hammer, or as a fire; can build sanctuaries, but cannot make them temples of God; can organize churches, but cannot make them "habitations of God" except "through the Spirit;" can make sermons, but cannot convert souls; can arrange and marshall attacks upon vice and sin, but cannot make them "mighty to the pulling down of strongholds." Even the Lord Jesus Himself was "anointed with the Holy Ghost, to go about doing good;" while not a captain was ever sent against the Philistines, or an Aholiah or a Bezaleel employed upon the tabernacle without a measure of God's Spirit. "Receive ye the Holy Ghost."

IV. HOW IS THE GIFT TO BE OBTAINED?

1. Believe in the Holy Ghost. All baptized into His name; part of the Christian benediction from above is His communion. Believe in His power and gift.

2. Confess your dependence on this gift. This blessed shower will slide away from the mountain side of self-sufficiency, to rest richly in the valleys beneath. The Spirit is promised when "the city shall be low in a low place."

3. Be ready to receive the gift. The Spirit comes to work a holy work. If you reject His work you reject Him. Submit to all His working, and He will come.

4. Ask the gift of the Father in Christ's name. While Christ prayed the heavens were opened, and the Spirit descended upon Him. While the apostles prayed the place was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.

5. Rely upon the gift, and venture on God's work in expectation of it. Stretch forth the withered hand. Like the priest who bore the ark, put your foot into the waters of your swelling Jordan; sound your trumpet against your frowning Jericho, and expect the help you need.

(Lay Preacher.)

I. THIS BREATHING WAS MORE THAN A SYMBOLIC ACT, CONFIRMING THE PREVIOUS PROMISE; it was more than an assurance — "Ye shall receive." It was an actual, though partial, impartation of the Holy Spirit.

1. In this connection, in Luke, we read that "their understandings were opened, that they might understand the Scriptures." They receive now from Him a pledge and an earnest of the greater fulness that would come on the Day of Pentecost. This was a breath, heralding the "rushing mighty wind;" a little cloud, the size of a man's hand, the precursor of the clouds that would soon pour out a flood upon the parched ground. God often gives earnests of His blessings. A John the Baptist comes to prepare the way for Christ. The morning star heralds the sun.

2. This was the pledge of the Pentecost, when they were filled with the Spirit. And after that we read that in a prayer meeting they were again filled with the Spirit. There was a greater fulness, because there was greater room, because their natures were enlarged. Sometimes a father has to say to his spendthrift son: "My boy, when I have given you this, I shall have no more that I can throw away." God will never say that to as; every gift is a seed from which a larger gift will grow. All natures are not the same, and there comes a larger measure of spiritual influence to some than others. The large tree, with its spreading branches and broad leaves, is drinking in from the air and sun and rain that which would suffice for three or four smaller trees.

II. THE NATURE OF THIS SPIRITUAL POWER AS BESTOWED BY CHRIST.

1. The words "breath" and "life" and "spirit" are used synonymously. "The Lord God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of lives." "Come from the four winds, O breath!" and the breath came into the dry bones and they lived. But the physical is a symbol of a higher life, and the Spirit of God is the life of this higher nature. The question asked by scientific men is, How came life at first? From God. In regard to spiritual life, it is the testimony of all, from those early disciples downwards, "Not I, O Lord, but Thy Spirit in me."

2. This is a real thing. Just as the breath of Jesus, falling warm on the disciples' faces, and the word of hope or courage whispered to a brother in darkness, and lifting him up to the light, and the battle-cry of freedom, arousing a nation from dogged despair, are real things; so this breath from heaven is real, a new, vital force coming into the man. He is a new man. "The old things are passed away; behold they are become new."

3. The question of inspiration has been much discussed of late. The word is literally "inbreathing." And I believe that the writers of this book were divinely inspired, that the prophets and apostles, with their varied powers and attainments, were harps along which the breath of God swept, and discoursed sweet and immortal strains to the world. But I believe that every Christian is divinely inspired for the work God means him to do, that the Spirit which came upon Bezaleel, the builder of the tabernacle, comes to the Christian in his humblest service to guide and teach him. He is not required to write a Bible, to be an apostle to the Africans or Chinese, to lead a crusade against slavery, or to usher in a great reformation; and, therefore, he has no inspiration for all this. But for the service required of him there is adequate power, and the five barley loaves in a lad's basket may be multiplied into a feast for five thousand men.

III. THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS THE DISCIPLES' EQUIPMENT FOR THEIR GREAT MISSION — a mission that has to do with sin. "Whose soever sins," &c. There were many evils afflicting the world at that time, as there are to-day; they were the sores on the surface, but Christ went to the root of the disease. It is possible to change the circumstances and yet not change the man. Laws may be improved, social and national customs may be reformed, wrongs may be redressed, abuses may be corrected; but, after all, this is only like giving a new coat to the leper or putting a new tombstone on the grave. But Christ came to deal with the evil thing itself, to work at the centre, and from that to the circumference, to put the leaven in the midst of the meal, to take away sin, and destroy the work of the devil. "But do these words appear," you may say, "to delegate the power which the priests assume?" In reply, consider that these words were not addressed to all the apostles. Thomas was absent. And the words were not addressed to the ten apostles alone.

1. "Whose soever sins ye remit," or forgive. What does this mean? That a man is to take the place of the Saviour, and undertake to forgive sins? No; but he bears a gospel from Christ which is a message of forgiveness; and when that gospel is received, forgiveness is received, and we are warranted in saying, "You are forgiven;" and what we say on earth, the angels, in their songs over the returning prodigal, say in heaven. Sin begets despondency, and a man says, "I shall never get rid of it; the load is tied on too fast; like the Nessus shirt, it clings to me — it will be with me for ever." You, as a Christian, have to reply: "No; the load may be removed, the devil driven out, the sins washed away." It is a great thing to help a man to realize this. Think of how Paul dealt with a man who had fallen in Corinth. Did he ask the man to confess to him and receive absolution? No; but he requested the Church to forgive him, and by their forgiveness to help him to believe in the forgiveness which abounds beyond the abounding sin.

2. "And whose soever sins ye retain," &c. That is, the message of forgiveness may be rejected. If not only the load of guilt remains, but, by reason of that rejection, is made heavier. The preaching of Christ cannot leave men as it finds them. The gospel of life may become a savour of death unto death. Where there is a rejection of Christ, we are authorized to say, "Your sins remain. There is no other way." And as the decisions of our colonies, are generally confirmed by the government at home; so the decisions of a divinely-directed society, whether in Church discipline or teaching, are ratified in heaven. Conclusion: For good service to the Church and the world, what do you need? Mental powers? knowledge? training? books? Yes. But, above all, you need the Spirit of God. Sunday-school teachers, if you would do your work well, you must have the Spirit. Witnesses for Christ in daily life, if you have the Spirit, there will be a right emphasis, a consistency, and courage in your testimony.

(James Owen.)

Whose soever sins ye remit.
I believe that nothing more than the authority to declare can be got out of these words, and I entirely reject the strange notion that our Lord meant to depute to the apostles the power of absolutely absolving or not absolving any one's soul. My reasons for maintaining this view of the text are as follows:

1. The power of forgiving sins, in Scripture, is always spoken of as the special prerogative of God. The Jews themselves admitted this (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21). It is monstrous to suppose that our Lord meant to overthrow this great principle.

2. The language of the old Testament Scripture shows conclusively that the prophets were said to "do" things, when they "declared them about to be done." Thus Jeremiah's commission (Jeremiah 1:10) can only mean to declare the rooting out and pulling down, &c. So also Ezekiel says, "I came to destroy the city" (Ezekiel 43:3); where the marginal reading is, "I came to prophecy the city should be destroyed." The apostles were doubtless well acquainted with prophetical language, and I believe they interpreted our Lord's words in this place accordingly.

3. There is not a single instance in the Acts or Epistles of an apostle taking on himself to absolve any one. The preachers of the New Testament declare in the plainest language whose sin is pardoned, but they never take on themselves to pardon. When Peter said to Cornelius and his friends, "Whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43); when Paul said at Antioch, in Pisidia, "We declare unto you glad tidings;" "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:32, 38); and when Paul said to the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 15:31); in each case they fulfilled the commission of the text before us. They "declared whose sins were remitted, and whose were retained."

4. There is not a single word in the three pastoral Epistles to show that the Apostle regarded absolution as part of the ministerial office. If it was he would surely have mentioned it, and urged the practice of it on young ministers, for the relief of burdened souls.

5. The weakness of human nature is so great, that it is grossly improbable that such a tremendous power would ever be committed to any mortal man. It would be highly injurious to any man, and a continued temptation to him to usurp the office of a Mediator between God and man.

6. The experience of the Romish Church affords the strongest indirect evidence that our Lord's words can only have been meant to bear a "declarative" sense. Anything worse or more mischievous, both to minister and people, than the results of the Romish system of penance and absolution it is impossible to conceive. It is a system which has practically degraded the laity, damaged the clergy, and turned people away from Christ.

(Bp. Ryle.)

(Text, and Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18): — Let us inquire —

I. WHAT IS ABSOLUTION? "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." If we refer to another occasion upon which Christ used this metaphor of the keys, we shall find that Christ was accustomed to associate with the expression knowledge and the specific power that comes from knowledge (Luke 11:52). The reference here can only be to the knowledge that unlocks the gates leading into the kingdom of heaven. That was Christ's future gift to Peter. Putting this side by side with the fact that Christ had just been speaking of a knowledge of His own Person and character that had been given to Peter, what can the knowledge that Christ would by and by give be but the knowledge of the Father, of which He was the only one spring and channel amongst men? It was through that knowledge that Peter was to open the way for men into the kingdom of heaven. "To bind" and "to loose" was to teach and to rule in the kingdom of heaven, in harmony with the knowledge received from the Father. You will observe that the promise deals more immediately with things, not persons, with truths and duties, and not with human souls. And then we turn over two chapters in Matthew's Gospel that are separated from each other by a few months of time, and we find practically the same language, with the metaphor of the keys dropped from it, addressed to a much wider circle of disciples. In the later version of the same words, you will find that the binding and loosing refers to that which is impersonal. "What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven." No unconditional infallibility is ascribed in the passage either to the Church or its ministers. It declares its infallibility with special safeguards. Go into an observatory, and watch some astronomer as he is following the transit of a star. His telescope is so adjusted, that an ingenious arrangement of clockwork is made to shift it with the transit of the star. His instrument is moving in obedience to the movement of the star in the heavens. But the clock-work does not move the star. The astronomer has made his faultless calculations; the mechanic has adjusted his cranks and pendulums and wheels and springs with unerring nicety, and every movement in the telescope answers to the movement of the star in the far-off heavens. The correspondence rests on knowledge. And so when the things that are bound on earth are bound in heaven. Every legislative counsel and decree and movement in a truly apostolic and inspired Church answers to some counsel and decree and movement in the heavens. But then the power of discerning and forecasting the movements of the Divine will and government rests upon the power of interpreting the Divine character and applying its principles of action, as that character is communicated to us by Jesus Christ. You are giving a boy his first lesson in astronomy. You show him an orrery. You tell him that the central disc represents the sun, and the third from the centre the earth, and so on. And then you ask him to turn the handle which puts all these metallic balls representing things in the heavens in motion. You say that every movement here is a counterpart of every movement in the skies. But unless the boy is very dull indeed he does not suppose he is actually turning the planetary system with this little handle. And yet if the machine be faultless in construction, whatever is done on earth is done in heaven. Whatever is bound here is bound yonder likewise. The words addressed to the apostles by Jesus Christ on the evening of His resurrection from the dead approach more nearly to what has been understood by the term "absolution" than the earlier utterances. Here the apostles are spoken of as dealing with the souls of men in direct judgment. In the preceding instances they have been viewed as dealing with souls through the instrumentality of the truth. Here the instrumentality falls more or less into the background, and the witnesses to Jesus Christ are viewed as justifying or condemning, saving or destroying men by the power of their word. "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." And yet, after all, this is but a more solemn and impressive form of the earlier statement. As the doctor takes the key of his drug-store and selects from the specifics that are arranged around him, he kills or makes alive. His key means a power of absolution. When it is first put into his hand he is entrusted with as solemn a responsibility as the judge who pronounces death-sentences or the Home Secretary who presents a death-warrant to the sovereign for signature or recommends a reprieve. When he selects this drug, or looks upon that as hopeless to apply under the conditions into which the patient has fallen, he is dealing with questions of life and death. And so Christ in His closing admonitions to the disciples teaches that they are not dealing with speculative truth only. They are commissioned to deal with grave, spiritual destinies. "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained." The words imply that the truth the apostles shall preach to men in the crowd, as well as present to the individual in the course of their more private ministrations, is the truth by which men shall be judged in the day of Jesus Christ, and that the impression produced here and now under their preaching shall be confirmed then. The sphere of the apostles' ministry and the sphere of the final judgment shall be penetrated by the same moral laws and principles. We sometimes find that things that apply under the conditions of one age do not apply under the conditions of another. Acts done in one country may have no worth or validity if the doer of them goes to another. The principles to be set forth by the apostles in their relation to the collective or individual souls of men alike are universal, not local, of Divine and not human authority only, eternal and not temporary and terminable in their sanctions. "Whose soever sins ye shall remit shall be remitted unto them." It will help us in our endeavour to reach just conclusions on this question, if we remember that the power possessed by the first messengers of the gospel was greater than the power possessed by its messengers now, and approximated more closely to the exclusive type of prerogative claimed by the modern sacerdotalist. The first possessors of a truth wield a more terrible power than their successors can expect to wield, when that truth has become widely known. The curative properties of certain drugs now used in medicine were once known only in certain families. The knowledge was kept a secret within these families for generations. The knowledge was a monopoly. Through that monopoly they had in many cases power of life and death. That knowledge diffuses itself through a hundred text-books over half the globe, and becomes accessible to any one who can read. The special power accruing to the first possessors of the secret through their monopoly has passed away. And so with the knowledge by which entrance into the kingdom of heaven was to be gained. That knowledge at first was the monopoly of the few who followed Christ. But that condition of things exists no longer. If Peter himself could come into our midst, he would find his distinctive prerogative gone. That special knowledge which made him an absolver of souls gifted with a prerogative of life and death, he would find the possession of little children in Sunday schools. It is said that when the Earl of Essex was in high favour with Queen Elizabeth, she one day gave him a ring, accompanied by the request that if he should ever find himself in circumstances of trouble in which her help could avail, he would at once send that ring as the sign of his appeal to her good offices. She would then do everything in her power to aid him. Some time after he was arrested for rebellion, and condemned to die. Elizabeth signed his death-warrant, but waited with tears and solicitude for the return of the ring, that was to be the sign of his appeal to her clemency. The ring had been entrusted by the condemned earl to the Countess of Nottingham for delivery into the hands of the queen. The Countess kept back the ring, and suffered the sentence to be carried into effect. The ring gave her the power of remitting or retaining sin. To make the illustration serve the purpose for which we want to use it just now, we must suppose the Countess was the go between for the transmission of the ring not from the condemned man to the queen, but from the queen to the condemned man, and for the ring we must substitute a password. The power of absolution in the evangelical sense is very much like that. The ring, or the password, is the truth through which the forgiveness of God must be carried home to anxious, sin-burdened multitudes. And this leads us to ask the question, Upon what conditions does this power of opening and closing the kingdom of heaven, and of retaining and remitting the sin of men, rest? You will observe, in the first case, nothing whatever was promised to Peter, except so far as he was already the subject of a teaching inspiration, and was to become so in a yet richer degree in future days. He held the keys, and could bind and loose in so far as the Son was revealed to him by the Father and the Father by the Son, and not one iota beyond. He could not open the gates of the kingdom by any private authority and apart from the possession of these truths. And then we come to the promise of this same power to the whole congregation of the disciples. There is no power of binding and loosing, you will observe, apart from Christ's indwelling presence within the Church. And then we come to the last case. Christ connected the power of absolution with a symbolic act, in which He made the disciples recipients of His own life, and partakers and instruments of the Holy Ghost by that fellowship. But it will be observed that there is no valid retention or remission of sin that can be pronounced to men, except by the lips of which the Holy Ghost is the unceasing breath. Given that condition in the case of either priest or layman, and I am free to extend the province of absolution just as far as the most extreme sacerdotalist has ever sought to extend it. The ideal Church and the ideal minister may have all the power the sacerdotalists claim, but to assume that the Church and minister of to-day and every day is ideal in actual life and attainment is to make a very strong demand upon our credulity indeed. I go and look for the minister who is so filled with the Holy Ghost that he becomes infallible in moral judgment, and always speaks the exact thought of God in acquitting or condemning men And I scarcely know where to find the man who has been lifted by the inspiration of the Spirit above error. I come therefore to the conclusion that these are delineations of ideal Christianity; not ideal in the sense that they are beyond the line of practical possibility, but ideal in the sense that they are realized only by an uncommon exaltation of soul.

II. The question arises, WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO PRONOUNCE AN ABSOLUTION OF THIS SORT? The sacerdotalist replies, The man who has received an ordination that is unbroken in the line of its succession from the apostles, with Peter at their head. But the power committed to Peter is entrusted some few months later, not only to the apostles, but to each and every disciple who might chance to be offended by the wrong or transgression of another and who would be loyal to certain specified directions, as well as to the whole congregation of believers in their corporate capacity. The thorough-paced sacerdotallst demands confession as a preliminary basis for the absolution he utters. That demand is a tacit admission of the frivolity of his claim. It is just as though some thought-reader should boast that he would read the number of a bank-note placed in a sealed safe, and ask first to be allowed to look at the cash-book of the firm through whose hands the note last passed, and in which a record was made of the number. If the priest cannot read the heart of the penitent without the help of his confession, he is still less able to read that Divine heart, from whose secret judgment the absolution of the individual must spring. A genuine absolution must rest as much upon a correct interpretation of the mind of God to the individual, as upon the interpretation of the state of the individual mind itself. Indeed, no confession can supply an accurate basis for the utterance of an edict of absolution. The same acts may represent very diverse religious conditions in people of diverse knowledge, training, and experience. The God, who is a God of knowledge, and by whom actions are weighed, and He only, can read unerringly all the delicate factors in our spiritual state and condition, and pronounce the absolution that is unimpeachably and eternally judicial. So far, however, as absolution deals with the proclamation of God's good will to the penitent, whoever is filled with the mind and spirit of Christ is free to proclaim it. The proclamation, resting as it ultimately does, upon Christ's authority and that of His disciples, is just as good from one man's lips as another's, if he be spiritually qualified to reflect the mind of God. It is not the man who clothes the truth with the authority of his office. It is the truth that clothes the man with his authority as he utters it. News may not always come from the Government gazette, or be proclaimed by the town crier who fills an office that may have existed from the first incorporation of the town; and yet it may be good and trustworthy news notwithstanding. It has been calculated that the amount of heat received from the sun in the course of a year is so great that if the earth were covered, from pole to pole, with an ice cap a hundred feet thick, the heat would suffice to melt away every atom of that ice heap. And the amount of heat our earth receives is but a trifle in comparison with the total volume given off by the sun. It is scarcely so much as a drop in the rainfall of a year. Our earth receives only one twenty-five-thousand-millionth of the heat the sun gives off year by year. God's forgiveness is as bountiful as that. From the burning depths of His great, unfathomed heart He is ever pouring boundless grace and incomprehensible compassion. His love is sufficient, not only to melt the sin from every human heart, but to melt the sin from as many worlds, if they needed it, as there are human souls in this ant-heap world of ours. Do not suppose that the warmth of God's forgiveness, before it can melt or transform our natures, must needs be gathered up into the burning-glass of some petty priest's insignificant absolution. God's warm love is pouring down upon you Sunday and week-day alike, without stint or condition other than that you will meekly and penitently receive it. You are not dependent upon the absolution of either the confessional or the inquiry room.

(T. G. Selby.)

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