May 6: Rev. Cyrus Dickson on Missions

Let the Missions Conference Continue!

dickson_cyrus_1816-1881Yesterday’s post concerned a sermon by the Rev. Dr. William Henry Green which was delivered in the University Place Church, New York, on Sabbath evening, May 5, 1861 and on behalf of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. The University Place Church must have been holding a missions conference that year, because we’ve located another sermon on mission, delivered the next day, May 6th, 1861, and at the same location.

This next sermon is by the Rev. Cyrus Dickson, whom I’m unfamiliar with, though there is an extensive biography of him that you can read online. [That’s Rev. Dickson’s photo on the right.]. Having the text of these two sermons, the one by Dr. Green and now this one by Rev. Dickson, it is interesting to compare them and to wonder what each thought of the other’s message as they sat in that conference.

The full title of Rev. Dickson’s sermon is :

The Duty of the Church to Evangelize the World, with the means and motives for the work. A sermon preached for the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, May 6, 1866, in the Presbyterian Church, University Place, New York.

And so without further introduction, let’s hear from Rev. Dickson. He takes as his text Paul’s words in Romans 10:13-15:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? . . .”

The text is part of Paul’s defense of the cause of Missions. The Jews objected to the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles. Regarding themselves as the peculiar people of God, they imagined that the Gentile must, in some way, become a Jew in order to salvation. They exhibited dissatisfaction at any efforts to evangelize them, and sometimes, indeed, were willing to resist it even unto blood.

In this Epistle the Apostle, having shown the lost estate by nature and practice of the Gentile, and the equally hopeless condition of the Jew, and his deeper and more deserved condemnation, for resisting the light and refusing the mercy and grace of God, declares that both Jew and Gentile—that is, the whole race, are guilty before God, and stand in unanswering silence convicted and condemned at His judgment seat.

He then opens up the glorious way of salvation through the incarnation, substitution, sufferings, sacrificial death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten and well-beloved Son—how God can now be just and yet justify the ungodly; how, having borne our sins in His own body on the tree, suffering the just in the place of the unjust, He can bring us nigh to God; that God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish but have eternal life; that Christ of God is made wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption to every one that believeth; that whosoever believeth or calleth on the name of the Lord shall be saved, for with God, as between Jew and Gentile, there is no difference, for He is rich in mercy to all that call upon Him; that this Gospel of the grace of God was intended, not for the Jew alone, but for the racethat it is a universal religion, unrestricted by nation, or language, or condition, or color, or country.

He assigns the Fatherhood of God, the common origin and guilt and ruin of the race, the complete adaptation of the Gospel to all, as some of the reasons why, regardless of Jewish passion and prejudice, these glad tidings should be preached to every creature and to every age. Nay, he denounces the expulsion, for long generations, of the Jews from the pale of the Church because of their rejection of this Gospel, and refusal to communicate it freely to the nations, and predicts that, after the “fullness of the Gentiles shall be brought in,” the conversion of both Jew and Gentile shall vindicate its universal fitness.

The same great truths demonstrate our duty and enforce our obligation to evangelize the world. The demonstration needs perpetual repetition, for the Church seems to have fallen into the same mistaken sentiment as the Jew, for although eighteen centuries have passed away, yet there still remain more heathen today than there were inhabitants in the world at the time of the Incarnation. Blessed with the light of the Gospel, she often acts as i it were exclusively her own, and sitting at her ease and satisfied with her blessings, leaves countless millions to perish in darkness. She needs to be reminded perpetually that her God is the God and Father of all; that her Saviour is the Saviour of all; that His invitation—the invitation which she is commissioned and commanded to repeat—is, “Whosoever,” regardless of condition or color or country, whosoever calls upon the Lord shall be saved! That having provided a universal religion, He demands its universal extension, and being rich in mercy to all that call upon Him, He requires the Church to communicate to all the nations the knowledge of His being and the freeness and fullness of His grace. [emphasis added.]

For how can they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? How can they, in their sins and sorrows and ignorance, call upon Him for help, of whose love and grace, of whose willingness and power to save the guilty and the lost they know nothing? And without this knowledge they must perish! How shall they know of His mercy and grace unless the Church preaches to them these glad tidings of the blessed God? This is the ordained way, “by the foolishness of preaching,” to enlighten, evangelize and save the race. Hence the ascending command of her King and Saviour, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” And in view of the greatness of the work, and the weariness and worldliness and weakness of His people, adds: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

How can these preachers go, unless sent and supported by God, and sent and supported by His people? In this great work God is the worker, and His people are honored to co-work with Him. Exalted privilege, divine communion between the Church and her glorious Head!

The part of the Lord Jesus is to supply the gifts, the means, the instrumentalities. The part of the Church is to employ them. These are amongst His great ascension gifts, for “he gave to some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, that is, missionaries, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. In all ages of the Church He has supplied her with ample means for her appointed work. He never reaps where He has not sown, and when He appoints the work He supplies the workers.

To read the whole of Rev. Dickson’s sermon on missions, click here, continuing at the bottom of page 5. 



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