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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)


ORDER--as respects Messengers.

      The church of Jesus Christ, it has been often observed, stands in certain relations to those without. She is in the world, though not of the world. To her is committed the oracles of God. The means of conversion are deposited in her hands. She is under obligation to her Lord for the use of those means, as much as every individual man is for the portion and talents allotted him. She must yet give an account of her stewardship.

      When every individual member has preached Christ as far as his abilities allow in his daily conversation and behaviour; when he has given good reasons for the hope which he entertains, both by word and behaviour, to those within his reach; and when the whole congregation, of which he is a component part, has done all it can to illuminate the region round about, both in its public meetings on the Lord's day, and all its members in their private and individual intercourse with society; still theme are regions more remote to which this influence can not immediately extend.

      Not as a substitute for this sort of preaching and influence, but as an appendage to it, there is a wise provision in the Christian constitution, which, indeed, is indispensable to the genius of a proselyting [141] institution. The Jew's religion was not a proselyting institution. It contemplated one family alone as the covenanted people for the time being and conversion to that religion, on a large scale, would have been to nullify its design. But Christ's religion is for all nations--for the world; and, therefore, a proselyting spirit and a proselyting system are essential to its object and design. Hence in Christ's commission to his Apostles, the whole world was their diocese. These Apostles, guided by the spirit of the gospel, and not by the spirit of Judaism--the spirit of the New Constitution, and not the spirit of the Old Testament, interwove into their order of operations the evangelizing scheme.

      Their plan was first to set the church in order for its own sake, to place over it bishops, and under it deacons. Then if these bishops could labor in the gospel as well as in teaching the church, they might labor in the word all around their charge, as well as feed the flock of God. This was the system for all the fixed golden lamps. But there were planets, messengers, sometimes called evangelists, separated to the work of proclaiming the word and planting churches. These were ordained by the church and commended to the grace of God for the work appointed them, and amenable to the church who sent them out. Then was the whole system complete: the fixed stars and the planets co-operating in one grand moral system, for illuminating and saving the world.

      A community with its bishops and deacons at home, and its evangelists abroad, every one faithfully at his post, performing his duties to the Lord and to the people, fully displayed the active and salutary spirit of the Christian institution. Take for example the church in Antioch, in Syria, as a model, because we have its operations in detail. A variety of incidents connected with its history admit us into a more intimate acquaintance with its policy and movements than is always to be expected in the slight sketches of the churches planted in the apostolic ages, spread over the pages of the Acts of the Apostles.

      The history of the church in Antioch, as gleaned from the Acts of the Apostles, is as follows:--Some of the dispersed members of the church in Jerusalem went to Antioch and very successfully proclaimed the gospel in that city. "A great number believed and turned to the Lord."1 Tidings came to Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem sent as their evangelist and messenger, Barnabas, with discretionary powers, to assist them in the proclamation of the word, and in setting the church in order. He arrived at the city. "He exhorted them all to adhere to the Lord with full determination of heart;" and "a considerable number were [by his means] added to the Lord." He found the work too heavy for him, and set out to Tarsus for help. [142] Having found Paul, he brought him to Antioch. He and Paul continued "there one whole year, and taught considerable numbers." The church became so conspicuous that the disciples first received the name of Christians in that city.

      During the famine that occurred in the reign of Claudius, the church in Antioch, being richer than the church in Jerusalem, contributed liberally in aid of the Jerusalem brethren, and appointed as their messengers to carry their contribution. Paul and Barnabas, who probably wished at this time to visit Jerusalem on their own account. They faithfully fulfilled "their ministry," and expeditiously returned to Antioch, taking with them from Jerusalem, John Mark. After their return they became resident members of the church in Antioch, and so continued for some time.

      Finally, as they were one day ministering to the Lord and fasting, at the suggestion of some of the teachers in that church, the Holy Spirit signifying it, Paul and Barnabas were ordained by the imposition of the hands of the seniors of that church, to the work of the Lord, in preaching the gospel, and in planting churches. They were thus set apart and "commended to the grace of God," for the work to which they had been called, and immediately departed. On this first tour of Paul and Barnabas, in company, they first stopped at Seleucia, a seaport of Syria, twelve miles west of Antioch. Thence they sailed to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean sea, and landed at its principal port, Salamis. They traversed the island from east to west, and made some stay in Paphos, a city on its western side. There they converted Sergius Paulus, the governor of the island.

      From Paphos they sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, a country in Asia Minor, bordering on the Mediterranean. From Perga they proceeded to Antioch in Pisidia, a town 180 miles west by north from Tarsus, the native city of Paul. There they planted a church in the middle of much persecution, and published the word of the Lord in all the region round about. Being finally expelled the territory of Pisidia, they proceeded to Iconium, the capital of Lycaonia, 150 miles W. N. W. of Tarsus, in which city they were very successful and made many disciples. They continued there for "a considerable time," until the jealousy and persecuting rage of the Jews compelled them to fly to Lystra, a city of Lycaonia, forty miles distant from Iconium. There they proclaimed the gospel with great power. But from Antioch and Iconium the Jews, hearing of their progress, flocked to Lystra and succeeded in instigating the citizens to stone them. From Lystra they fled to Derbe, some twenty miles distant, and there planted a church. Thence they visited Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia, greatly confirming the souls of the disciples. And having constituted them elders in every city in which they had founded a church, [143] they returned to Perga; and thence went down to Attalia, a city of Pamphylia, situated on, a bay of the Mediterranean, whence they sailed to Antioch, on the Orontes in Syria. When returned to the church which sent them out, by command of the Holy Spirit, they called for a meeting of the brethren, and reported progress. So ended their first tour, in which they visited ten cities, and traversed by sea and land about 800 miles. In their ordination to the work, in their being commended to the grace of God, in their courage, diligence, indefatigable labors, and in their reporting progress to the church that sent them out, they are a model to all missionaries and evangelists in all ages of the world.

      They spent a considerable time in Antioch with the disciples. They were again chosen by the church, and sent as messengers, together with some others, to Jerusalem, to consult with the other Apostles and the church, on a question which the Pharisees who believed had agitated. On their way they proclaimed the word in Phenicia and Samaria, and attended upon the business committed to their care at Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem elected and appointed two messengers to accompany them back to Antioch, by whom they sent a letter in answer to the question propounded. They arrived at Antioch, delivered the epistle, and, after spending a few days with the disciples, the Jerusalem messengers were dismissed to the Apostles at Jerusalem.

      Paul and Barnabas continued for some time at Antioch; and after some days the brethren commended Paul and Silas to the grace of God, when they departed on another tour. After a more extensive journey than that in which Barnabas accompanied him, he again returned to Antioch, reported progress, and spent some time there.

      He, again, in company with others, made another still more extensive tour; returned to Jerusalem, but was there prevented from returning to Antioch: for he was seized by the Jews and sent a prisoner to Rome.

      Now although the Apostle had from the Lord Jesus a commission to the Gentile world, and a liberty of action above all ordinary men; yet, we find him acting for a great part of his life under the direction of the Antiochan church, in the capacity of one of her messengers. True, indeed, in all this he was filling up the duties of his mission from the great head of the church. But may we not from these premises learn the ordinary practice of the primitive church--when we find the extraordinary ministers of Christ themselves setting us an example of all subordination to the authority and wishes of the Christian communities, and of placing themselves under the supervision and protection of the church?

      Is not, let me ask, (and it is all that our present subject demands,) the following inference clearly deduced from our premises:--That the [144] primitive church did send out and patronize messengers on all errands connected with the peace and prosperity of all the churches, and with the conversion of the world? If this be answered in the affirmative, are we not under obligation to go and do likewise, as exigencies and occasions require?

      Many of the evangelists possessed extraordinary gifts, and in general were men of great prudence, courage, zeal, and diligence. The letters to Timothy and Titus, and the frequent allusions in the other epistles to such men as Epaphras, Tychicus, Sylvanus, Aristarchus, Mark, Aquila, Stephanus, Fortunatus, Secundas, and Achaicus, abundantly show what sort of persons ought to be selected to perform the work of an evangelist. The eloquence of an Apollos, without prudence, humility, and patience, would be unavailing. The Apostles themselves, who acted sometimes as deacons, sometimes as bishops, but oftener as evangelists, furnish us the best and fullest models for those who should be chosen by the congregation to repromulge the gospel in our own times and country.

      When fit persons for the work are found, if a single church is not able to support them in the work, one or more churches may co-operate with them, not only in the choice, but also in the support of such as may be profitably employed. The first evangelists were sometimes chosen by a plurality of churches, and sustained by them. If not chosen by the churches at one and the same time, they were sent out by one, approved by another, and another, and sustained by all; as a certain brother to whom Paul alludes in his second letter to the Corinthians, who he says was "chosen by the churches," and sent by them on a special errand. Silas was sent by the Jerusalem church to Antioch; and by the Antiochan church he was, in company with Paul, "commended to the grace of God" as a fellow-laborer in the gospel.

      But we are now speaking of that order which should characterize all the messengers of the congregations in all their movements, in whatever ministry they may have been received. In the first place it would be out of order should they not faithfully attend to the work assigned them; which may happen, when, like John Mark, on one occasion, they deserted the field of their labors--when, like some others, they dispute and debate about matters not within their commission, or when they cease to make reports to the churches that patronize them, or refuse to be under the direction of any.

      Paul exhorts that every man should "wait on his ministry," whatever it may be. He is neither to assume what has not been committed to him, nor to "neglect the gift" conferred upon him. He should "make full proof of his ministry;" and as a steward, be found faithful to the trust committed to him. [145]

[A. C.]      

      1 Acts xi. 21. [142]

      Alexander Campbell. "Order--As Respects Messengers." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 6 (October 1835):


[MHA2 141-145]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)