The Gospel is the disclosure of God's love, and of God's work on behalf of a ruined world. The fine old Saxon word, Gospel, meaning glad tidings, is used in various connections in the Scriptures (see Heb. 4. 2; Mark 1. 14; Gal. 3. 8; 1 Cor. 15. 1; I Tim. 1. II; Rev. 14. 6). In the Irish language "Gospel" signifies "The Story of Peace." It would prove an interesting and profitable study to examine the use of the word Gospel throughout the Scriptures; but in our present remarks we refer to the evangelical sense of the word, which is one, thank God, which every saved person knows the truth of in his own soul.
God's love to the world was not made known to patriarchs of old. Israel was made acquainted with Jehovah's tenderness and care, but not with His heart's deep love, measured by the gift of His Son. The prophets grandly told of the future, of the Messiah's power and glory, but "God so loved the world" never trembled on their lips. The eye of the seer might rest on coming glories, and his heart be entranced, as piercing through the gloom of ages scenes of surpassing delight met his enraptured gaze. But glory is not love, and God's love was hidden from his sight. Christ alone could bear witness, to what was ever in the heart of God. In the Divine bosom was heaped up a love which none could disclose, save He Who ever is in the bosom of the Father (John 1. 18). He alone knew it, and so none but He could unfold it. God's love was a deep and hidden secret, too grand for human mind to fathom or human lips to express. God's Son, come down from Heaven, alone knew and alone could interpret the great heart of God. The theme "God so loved the world" (John. 3. 16) is one so vast, so bold, so mighty, full, and overwhelming in its conception, that to the Son only could the glory be reserved of publishing it in word Himself the expression of it in His life and on the Cross.
God's love conquers, and has conquered. John 3. 16 numbers its trophies and victories by millions, "numberless as the sands on the sea shore;" nor will the tide of conquest he checked till the weary world is wrapped round in the folds and plies of God's mighty love, and each inhabitant of the redeemed and eternal earth echo from the depths of his ransomed soul the glad refrain, "God is love."
Oh, that the mantle of the Master might fall on all evangelists! That they might preach God's love as did the Lord, a love which embraced the sinner while it rebuked sin, a full, free, yet holy and righteous love! It is not true love which compounds with the guilty, which abates an iota of the throne's most righteous claim. God's love has become our soul's refuge; for, while it exposes sin, it has won the poor heart and made it a right willing captive for ever. Preach this love. Yes, preach it fully and preach it boldly, and without the slightest reservation in the soul.
God has not only loved the world, but He has wrought for it, The Gospel is termed the Gospel of God (Rom. 1. 1) because He is its blessed source; it is also spoken of as the Gospel of His Son (Rom. 1. 9), as the Peerless One of God is the all-glorious object which it unfolds. God is its source Christ is its object, and every creature on earth its subject (Mark 16. 15).
Righteousness is the sure basis on which God's mighty work of sovereign grace reposes. This must be so. Grace at the expense of righteousness would be a dire calamity. Grace reigns through righteousness. Law reigned in the past. Righteousness will sway the sceptre in the coming age. The salvation of all who believe on Christ is a righteous salvation. It cannot be called in question, for God is "just and the Justifier of him which believeth on Jesus" (Rom. 3.26). Satan's accusations none need fear, for he is a beaten (Heb. 2. 15), rebuked, and silenced foe (Zech. 3. 2). and will be trodden under our feet shortly (Rom. 16. 20). There is none other, then, but God Himself Who may question our salvation, and this He cannot do. "He cannot deny Himself." He has saved us and justified us. Believers are eternally saved. "I know," said the preacher, "that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever" (Eccles. 3. 14).
Ours is a present salvation, fixed and final as the throne of the Eternal. God's nature and our salvation are bound together, so inseparably linked that they stand or fall as one. God's righteousness is at stake, we may say, in the present and ultimate salvation of every soul who has clung to His Word. In this, therefore, consists its strength and glory. It is God's salvation, and in it we triumph, as did the redeemed host of Israel on the eastern banks of the Red Sea. "He hath triumphed gloriously.... The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation" (Exod. 15. 1,2). Singing of or about ourselves, or of our joys, will never minister strength to the heart; nor are our experiences, however rich, full, and varied, worth singing about. "Sing unto Him, sing psalms unto Him talk ye of all His wondrous works" 1 Chron. 16. 9). Rehearse in story and song God's mighty work of delivering grace, what He is, and what He has done, how He has loved and saved, and at once you are taken out of your littleness and made strong in the greatness of God and happy in the joy of God. How full, then, will be the experience of that soul who thus loses himself in God!
Christ in death "for our sins," and raised "according to the Scriptures," constitute, in brief, God's work in love and righteousness for sinners (1 Cor. 15. 3,4; Rom. 4. 25). God was at the Cross and Tomb, not as a spectator, but as an actor. Christ judged sin, and in that very judgment triumphed over it. God, to whom the sacrifice was offered, showed His acceptance of it by rending the veil from the top to the bottom (Matt. 27. 51), and in that significant act opened the door for the vilest wretch on earth - purged, cleansed, and saved - into His own immediate presence. The veil is rent, and through it by faith we enter into the Holy presence of God; rent sufficiently to let out the rays of the Divine glory, and to let in any sinner who will but come (Mark 15. 38; Heb. 10, 19).
We would earnestly press upon every evangelist to urge upon his hearers the facts of the Gospel, and never to dissociate these facts - death and resurrection - from the causeless love of which they are the fruit. It is a light and frivolous age, and sensationalism is characteristic of the day. The Christian taste is vitiated. The triumphs of the Cross in apostolic times were won by the preaching of the Gospel in words clothed in the power of the Holy Ghost, and in a preaching of which facts were the prominent feature; the resurrection of the Lord being the pivot on which all was made to turn (see Acts 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 17). In the desire to produce "startling results" modes and methods of work are resorted to which were utterly unknown to the early heralds of salvation, and which in their nature practically ignore the necessity of the new birth and the utter ruin of man. The Gospel of Paul, of John, of Peter "is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1. 16). Evangelists, aim high and labour to produce in the power of the Holy Ghost solid and enduring results. What is the value of gathering a quantity of chaff? You are thereby collecting fuel for the coming fire. Let quality rather than quantity be the object of your high ambition,
We desire to tender a few words of loving advice and earnest remonstrance. Many a promising work has been spoiled, the growth of converts checked, and servants morally ruined through the neglect of strict self-judgment. "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord" (Isa. 52. 11). God will not tolerate unholiness in any of His people, much less in those who ostensibly occupy a place in the forefront of the battle. Paul's doctrine must not be separated from his manner of life (2 Tim. 3. 10). A certain amount of intellectual ability (Matt. 25. 15) is required in every public servant the vessel is naturally fitted for the gift bestowed - but besides natural capacity, moral fitness for the position assumed is equally needful.
We do not consider it according to the genius of Christianity to have young people of either sex in the front - "not a novice," says Scripture. Young men even of recognized zeal and gift, but brought up amidst circumstances of impurity and lax principles, are not, in our judgment, as a rule fitted to occupy places of public service for the Lord. It is, of course, one of the possibilities of faith so to walk in the power of the Spirit that early habits, thoughts, and actions of an unholy character may not appear in the life; but the fact is that deeply-rooted habits, and a morally low home-training, do reassert their power at times; we need not deny it, however unpleasant the admission. A narrow sphere would best suit such persons.
An evangelist is a man for the world. To be a leader, either as teacher, pastor, or evangelist demands a character and moral fitness in keeping with the ministry. To mix publicly amongst all classes, and minister Christ in the truth and courteousness of Christianity, necessitates a certain amount of culture and education. The manner of life before conversion is an important factor in this connection. A very illiterate person, and one whose early home surroundings have been anything but holy may be used in public service, but it is attended with danger. Here, however, we tread on delicate ground.
To teach or preach for money is an awful snare. To take it up as a profession is to repeat the sin of Balaam (Jude 11). Every public servant of the Lord, whether possessed of private means, or moneyless, should drink into the spirit of the apostle who preached the Gospel as a necessity laid upon him. Means withheld, and hunger and need, for a time was the sad lot of the brave apostle to the Gentiles, but preach the Gospel he would. "Yea, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel" (1 Cor. 9. 16). The apostle pleads earnestly for the temporal support of the divinely-called labourer; and it is the responsibility, nay, it ought to be the happy privilege of the saints of God to lovingly care for the dependent servant, whether evangelist. (1 Cor. 9), teacher (Gal. 6. 6), or elder (1 Tim. 5. 17, 18). On the other hand, let every servant remember that his dependence for temporal supplies must be exclusively on the Lord. Here many break down. They look to the rich and wealthy, and are, of course, disappointed. The eye of the servant must be directed to the Master alone, and thus responsibility to minister in temporal things and independence in serving in spiritual things are fully secured. In all cases, and under all circumstances of need, no servant of God should ever appeal to man. God is his portion, and He will see to the wants of His poor servant. The servants of the Lord should live in a sphere where mercenary motives are unknown, else they are sure to be entangled, and a complete breakdown ensue.
To all, we would say, serve Christ in quietness, yet in fervour of spirit, and let every servant of Christ so walk with an exercised conscience that the ministry be not blamed. The moral qualifications of servants of God are set forth in 2 Corinthians 6, a chapter replete with interest to every true-hearted labourer.