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individual members, and so all the ministers of this body, and all the divinely-appointed ordinances and institutions of the Church, for carrying forward the glorious purposes of God, hold a place among men and before heaven infinitely above all other interests in which any part of his universe is concerned.
Under inspirations so lofty and soul-stirring, let us devote the passing hour to some reflections upon the true mission of the Church.
There is a wide field for discussion still open upon many topics which come appropriately within this department of seminary instruction, and which underlie all that belongs to it. Concerning some of the most vital of these, the faith of the Church is not yet settled. Even within our own denomination, not only among her people and her ministers, but among those whom the supreme judicatory of the common body has selected to teach in her seminaries, these differences are found to exist, and they involve matters of great moment. Among them are questions which relate to the nature and attributes of the Church; to its powers within and for itself; to its relations to the state and to the world at large; to some of its officers, with the nature and extent of their functions; and even the naked question, What is the Church? would be answered very differently by eminent men in our own communion, who have made the subjects appertaining to its solution a life-long study. These, and others of a kindred character, have entered into the elaborate discussions many years past; and, from present indications, these discussions will continue for an indefinite time to come. On this occasion, however, we choose to pass all these topics by, as better suited to the lecture-room, or to a more thorough handling than our time will admit; and we wish at present to look directly at the theme we have named, as one of interest, importance and great practical concern. It is, indeed, quite palpable to every one, that we can not justly entertain or exhibit what belongs to the true mission of the Church, without understanding its true nature, attributes, powers, offices, relations, prerogatives, and whatever else may enter into the simple question, What is the Church? But there is, for our present purpose, a sufficiently definite apprehension in the popular mind as to the
real character of that body among men, distinct from all other organizations—which we call the Church of Christ—to warrant our coming directly to the question of its true mission in the world. To this simple topic let us then give our present attention.
We shall not be deemed guilty of transcending the limits of truth, nor of irreverence toward God, in declaring that, so far as known to men, redemption is the grandest conception of the Deity. The establishment of such a proposition would show at once the exalted character of the mission of the Church. It calls, however, for no elaborate and formal proof, though we may barely notice some of the points involved. We assume as a postulate in revealed theology, that the glory of God is the end of all things: “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen." While this is undeniable, it is nowhere asserted in the Scriptures that it is the design of the present scheme of things to secure the highest absolute glory of God. What may compass that grand problem we do not know, for God has not told us. It may be true that the highest absolute glory of God is designed, and if so, it will infallibly be reached throngh what is now transpiring; or this consummation may be reserved for something yet to come, not opened to our knowledge. We certainly may not conclude, without definite authority, that the resources of the Deity, in the line of the divine glory, are exhausted in what the present system of things contemplates, and therefore that this is the system above all other possible modes for reaching the highest point in the proposed end. If God is infinite in his nature, and is from eternity to eternity, our lips must be dumb as to what he can and may do, touching all things which lie beyond the line of his own specific revelations. Of this, however, we are certain, that all things belonging to the present system of the universe do actually promote the glory of God. It was from the beginning, and is now, his purpose that they should, and this purpose is infallibly secured. This is true of unconscious matter and of conscious mind; of all the physical worlds, and of all their tribes from the insect to the archangel; of holy and obedient subjects on earth and in heaven, and of the wicked among men and devils; of sin and of righteous
ness, as attributes of character, and all the influences and fruits which result from them. In the very widest sense, all things are for the glory of God. It by no means follows that all things promote God's glory in the same way, nor in an equal degree, much less that God approves with complacency all that occurs. This would be to annihilate distinctions which are clearly announced in the Scriptures, and which also are as palpable to the human mind as anything within its knowledge. But it is, nevertheless, the prerogative of God to cause all things to promote his glory. This prerogative he does actually exercise, and the result is, therefore, infallibly secured through the present system of things, whatever may indeed be the measure of the glory which, in this manner, he has proposed to himself.
While the Scriptures thus plainly declare God's glory to be the end of all things, it must be equally clear, even to the human reason, that nothing can so highly conduce to this end as the display of his own perfections. This must be the case whatever the circumstances of the exhibition may be. contemplate God as existing from eternity, before the exercise of creative power, he can present to himself alone no higher glory than himself. If we behold bim bringing into existence successive orders of rational creatures with the purpose of showing unto them his glory, endowed with powers adequate to appreciating it, still he can display it in no higher manner than by the unfolding before them of his own perfections. It is no doubt true, that with the same end in view he may choose another mode, and show his glory in a subordinate degree; but the highest attainable display must be in the exhibition of the characteristics of his infinite nature. And even here, the degree in which his glory will be actually displayed, will be measured by the extent of the unfoldings of his varied perfections which he may choose to make; and the degree in which this exhibition will be appreciated by his rational creatures, will depend upon their capacities and opportunities, and their proper improvement of them.
It seems, furthermore, to be perfectly clear, from the whole scope of the Scriptures, that redemption more gloriously unfolds the divine perfections than anything else known to men. And that it is the measure for the highest manifestation of the divine perfections known even to the angels, there is much ground for believing. We are warranted, therefore, in declaring, not only so far as known to men, but probably to the highest order of created beings also, that redemption, to accomplish which on earth the church has been organized, is the grandest conception of the Deity. And, indeed, it may be—there are at least shadowings of the truth in this direction -that redemption, in its eternal purpose, subsequent development, ceaseless progress, and final consummation, is now, and is designed to be through all the cycles of a coming eternity, the scheme with which nothing shall compare, to set forth before all creatures, in the display of his boundless perfections, the very highest absolute glory of God. The place which the Seriptures give it, among all the purposes and counsels of the Godhead, appears, with much good reason, to warrant this conclusion. Hence, we are assured that, as a manifestation of God, of his attributes, character, works, and government, redemption embraces in its plan, in its objects, and in its agents, all worlds and all beings. The entire universe, with all it contains, was created and is ruled only to subserve its ends. Angels and demons are its agents. Wicked men and good men promote it. It includes the whole of providence, universal and particular. This extends to all worlds and all creatures; to all thoughts, purposes, and actions of rational beings, and to all events of the physical creation. All these God controls and directs with absolute certainty, and they are all made to contribute to the grand purpose. In the prosecution of redemption, there are exhibited characteristics of the Deity not in any other manner displayed to human, and probably not to angelic, knowledge, while those otherwise known are here made to shine forth more brightly. Mercy, grace, compassion, long-suffering, have no such display anywhere else. Though such perfections belong to God's nature as truly as any others, yet, so far as we know, they have no scope for a full and actual exhibition, except in redemption; and undoubtedly they make a far deeper impression on the higher orders of rational beings from the circumstances under which they are illustrated, and from the results which follow, than could be secured in any other way. This is evident from their irrepressible desire to look further into these deep mysteries. So, on the other hand, those perfections which stand opposite to these, as justice and wrath, are more strikingly seen in the events which occur in the prosecution of this plan than they otherwise could be, and their true nature and real necessity as elements of government are far better understood. And what is most wonderful of all is the fact that, in the manifold wisdom of God, redemption is the only measure known wherein we see these apparently conflicting attributes working together in perfect harmony, showing God to be at the same moment infinitely merciful and infinitely just; thus baffling forever the boastings of human reason, vindicating God's ways to men, shutting the lips of gainsayers, and setting upon the Scriptures, in which these amazing unfoldings are found, the true signet of the King of kings. And we see, also, that all the fundamental elements of the divine government, running through its entire administration over any beings, are more boldly brought out in redemption than anywhere else. Law, as an element of government, stands out here in greater prominence by reason of its connection with grace. It is maintained, magnified, and made honorable by Christ, as it could not be by men or angels. Its righteousness is seen in the Redeemer's obedience more brightly, and its penalty in his death more fearfully, than the one could be seen in the fidelity, or the other in the eternal perdition, of all God's creatures. So, also, sin appears more malignant and hell-deserving in the light of the Redeemer's cross, than in all other punishments actual and possible. And there are peculiar beauties in holi- . ness, under the Gospel economy of grace, which we may look for in vain under any mere dispensation of law.
And now, if we rise from a contemplation of these features of the divine character and administration to the actual concern in redemption, taken by the great administrator, we find that it engages the supreme interest and energies of the God. head. It is the sum of the divine counsels from eternity, and the end of all dispensations. The Father has committed its execution to his only-begotten and well-loved Son. To accomplish it, God become incarnate—the great “mystery of Godli
The Father has given to the Son “all power in heaven and in earth,” and for the time has put the government of the whole universe into his hands. The Son is God