Israel and the Nations

It would greatly tend to give clearness and definiteness to missionary effort to keep fully before our minds God's original purpose in sending the gospel to the Gentiles, or nations. This we have stated in the most distinct manner in Acts 15 " Simeon hath declared," says James, "how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name."
Now nothing can be simpler than this. It affords no warrant whatsoever for the idea so persistently held by the professing church, namely, that the whole world is to be converted by the preaching of the gospel. Simeon knew quite well that such was not God's object in visiting the Gentiles; but simply to take out of them a people for His name. The two things are as distinct as any two things can be—indeed they stand in direct opposition. To convert all the nations is one thing; to take out of the nations a people is quite another.
The latter, and not the former, is God's present object. It is what He has been doing since the day that Simon Peter opened the kingdom of heaven to the Gentile in Acts 10; and it is what He will continue to do until the moment so rapidly approaching, in which the last elect one is gathered out, and our Lord shall come to receive His people unto Himself.
Let all missionaries remember this. They may rest assured it will not clip their wings, or cripple their energies; it will only guide their movements, by giving them a divine aim and object. Of what possible use can it be for a man to propose as the end of his labors something wholly different from that which is before the mind of God? Ought not a servant seek to do his master's will? Can he expect to please his master by running directly counter to his clearly expressed object?
Now, clearly, it is not God's purpose to convert the world by the preaching of the gospel. He only means " to take out a people." True it is, blessedly true, that all the earth shall yet be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. There is no question as to this. All scripture bears witness to it. To quote the passages would literally fill a volume. All Christians are agreed on this point, and hence there is no need to adduce evidence.
But the question is, how is this grand and glorious result to be brought about? Is it the purpose of God to use the professing church as His agent, or a preached gospel as His instrument, in the conversion of the world? Scripture says No; and says it with an emphasis and a clearness which ought to sweep away every doubt and difficulty.
And here let it be distinctly understood that we delight in all true missionary effort. We heartily wish God's speed to every true missionary—to everyone who has left home, and kindred, and friends, and all the comforts and privileges of civilized life, in order to carry the glad tidings of salvation into the dark places of the earth. And, further, we desire to render hearty thanks to God for all that has been accomplished in the fields of foreign mission; though we cannot by any means approve the mode by which the work is carried on, or the great root principle of missionary societies. We consider there is a lack of simple faith in God, and of subjection to the authority of Christ, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost. There is too much of mere human machinery, and looking to the world for aid.
But all this is beside our present mark. We are not now discussing the principle of missionary organization, or the various appliances adopted for the carrying on of missionary operation. The point with which we are occupied in this brief paper is this—will God make use of the professing church to convert the nations? We ask not, has He done so? for, were we to put the question thus, we should receive an unqualified negative from all the ends of the earth. What! Christendom convert the world! Alas! alas! she is herself the darkest moral blot in the universe of God, and a grievous stumbling-block in the pathway of both Jew and Gentile. The professing church has been at work for eighteen long centuries; and what is the result? Let the reader take a glance at a missionary map, and he will see in a moment. Look at those large patches of black, designed to set forth the dismal regions over which heathenism bears sway. Look at the red, the green, the yellow, setting forth popery, the Greek church, Mahometanism. And where is—we say not true Christianity, but even mere nominal Protestantism? That is indicated by those tiny spots of blue which, if all put together, would make but a very small fraction indeed. And as to what this Protestantism is in its best estate we need not now stop to inquire.
But, we ask, is it the revealed purpose of God to make use of the professing church in any way to convert the nations? If it be so, we admit at once that, spite of the most discouraging appearances, we must believe and hope. We freely grant that the true way in which to test any principle is not by results, but simply by the word of God.
What, then, say the scriptures on the great question of the conversion of the nations? Take, for example, the lovely psalm that stands at the head of this paper. It is but one proof among a thousand, but it is a most striking and beautiful one, and we need hardly say it perfectly harmonizes with the testimony of all scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. We cannot refrain from giving it at full length to the reader.
" God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, Ο God; let all the people praise thee. Ο let the nations be glad, and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Let the people praise thee, Ο God, let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us. God shall bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear him."
Here, then, the simple truth shines before us with remarkable force and beauty. It is when God shall have mercy upon Israel—when He shall cause His light to shine upon Zion—then, and not until then, will His way be known upon earth, His saving health among all nations. It is through Israel, and not through the professing church, that God will yet bless the nations.
That the "us" of the foregoing psalm refers to Israel, no intelligent reader of scripture needs to be told. Indeed, as we all know, the great burden of the psalms, the prophets, and the entire of the Old Testament, is Israel. There is not a syllable about the church from cover to cover of the Old Testament. Types and shadows there are in which—now that we have the light of the New Testament—we can see the truth of the church prefigured. But without that light no one could, by any possibility, find the truth of the church in Old Testament scripture. That great mystery was, as the inspired apostle tells us, "hid"—not in the scriptures, for whatever is contained in the scriptures is no longer hid, but revealed—but it was " hid in God and was not, and could not, be revealed until Christ, being rejected by Israel, was crucified, and raised from the dead. So long as the testimony to Israel was pending, the doctrine of the church could not be unfolded. Hence, although at the day of Pentecost we have the fact of the church, yet it was not until Israel had rejected the testimony of the Holy Ghost in Stephen that a special witness was called out in the person of Saul, to whom the doctrine of the church was committed. We must distinguish between the fact and the doctrine; indeed it is not until we reach the last chapter of the Acts that the curtain finally drops upon Israel; and Paul, the prisoner at Borne, fully unfolds the grand mystery of the church which from ages and generations had been hid in God, but was now made manifest. Let the reader ponder Romans 16:25, 2625Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, 26But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (Romans 16:25‑26); Ephesians 3:1-111For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: (Ephesians 3:1‑11); Colossians 1:24-2724Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: 25Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:24‑27).
We cannot attempt to go fully into this glorious subject here; indeed, to refer to it at all is a digression from our present line. But we deem it needful just to say thus much, in order that the reader may fully see that Psalm 67 refers to Israel; and, seeing this, the whole truth will flow into his soul that the conversion of the nations stands connected with Israel, and not with the church. It is through Israel, and not through the church, that God will yet bless the nations. It is His eternal purpose that the seed of Abraham, His friend, shall yet be pre-eminent in the earth, and that all nations shall be blessed in and through them. " Thus saith the Lord of hosts, In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you." Zech. 8:2323Thus saith the Lord of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. (Zechariah 8:23).
There is no need to multiply proofs. All scripture bears witness to the truth that God's present object is not to convert the nations, but to take out of them a people for His name; and, further, that when these nations shall be brought in—as they most assuredly shall—it will not be by the instrumentality of the church at all, but by that of the restored nation of Israel.
It would be an easy and a delightful task to prove from the New Testament, that, previous to the restoration and blessing of Israel, and therefore, a priori, previous to the conversion of the nations, the true church of God, the body of Christ, shall have been taken up to be forever with the Lord, in the full and ineffable communion of the Father's house; so that the church will not be God's agency in the conversion of the Jews as a nation, any more than in that of the Gentiles. But we do not desire at this time to do more than establish the two points above stated, which we deem of much interest and importance in reference to the grand object of missionary operations. When missionary societies propose for their object the conversion of the world, they propose a palpable mistake. And when Christendom imagines that she is to be God's instrument in converting the nations, it is simply a delusion and an empty conceit. Hence, therefore, let all who go forth as missionaries see that they are ruled in their blessed work by a divine object, and, further, that they are pursuing that object in a divinely-appointed way.