The Program of Jesus

Missionary Day Sermon by Harry D. Smith 

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations. 

—Matt. 28: 19. 



The Divine Radical

NOTHING so utterly, perfectly, daringly radical
as this program was ever thought of by any
other leader of men. This is no plan embracing such
superficialities as boundaries of states, laws on statute-
books, national constitutions, sacrifices offered on ma-
terial altars, or orders or times and places of worship.
Here is a divine authority which intends by teaching
to go down into the nethermost springs of being and
purify and regulate their flow. Jesus proposes to be
Master, not of the bodies and outward acts of men,
but of their thoughts and purposes. That is. He pro-
poses to govern them according to His will with their
joyful consent. In comparison with this plan of Jesus
the Bolshevisms, socialisms, anarchisms, and whatever
other radicalisms there may be in our modern world,
are only halting, stammering suggestions of revolution.
This program is not of merely academic interest
to us. We who constitute the church of Christ in
this generation of the twentieth century are the only
living successors of the apostles. And we have suc-
ceeded to their task of restoring a wounded and broken
race to wholeness and power. They did much. The
church has done much. But not all is done. All is

never done. No generation can be so Christianized
that its successor will not require to be Christianized.
The task of the reconstruction of the world appears
afresh, to one who has eyes to see, in every birth of a
human babe.

The old task, then, grown greatly new in the light
of our time, belongs to us. How shall we regard it?
As a heavy burden? Yes. It is the heaviest ever laid
upon human shoulders. As involving drudgery?
Yes. It calls for endless toil, often where no human
eye beholds. As costing sacrifice? Yes. It is stained
with blood of heroes and can only be greatly for-
warded by such as know how to die for it. The cross
is its symbol still.

‘ ‘ By the light of burning heretics
Christ’s bleeding feet I track,
Toiling up new Calvaries ever

With the cross that turns not back.”

But can no word of cheer be said of this program?

I. The Law of Greatness for the Church

Perhaps nothing, which can at all be said of the
task set the church in the great commission, is
worthier to be said than this: It is the law of church-
ly life and vigor, the indispensable pre-condition of
churchly power. The burden, the drudgery, the sacri-
fice of it are an altar stair ‘What slopes through dark-
ness up to God.” Blessed are they that have the
will to mount these rugged steps! Very miserable are
they who turn from them! For the great commission
is the charter of the church. All duty and privilege
belonging to the church are explicitly or implicitly in-
cluded in it. Whatever right the church has to be is

connected with the enterprise it proposes and enjoins.
That is, the church as conceived of by her founder
has a single function, which function is to make the
race of men Christian. So long, then, as the church
is busy with this matter, she lives up to her Master’s
thought of her. Whenever she forsakes or forgets this,
she renounces or neglects that which alone can make
and keep her the church. Her cordial adhesion to this
means that Christ is with her, that she lives, thrives
and conquers. On the other hand, her lax hold upon
this means that she is loosely bound to Christ, that
she languishes, perhaps dies, and certainly is tri-
umphed over.

The spirit of evangelism is a magnet which attracts
every kind of resource. It attracts wealth. The very
magnitude of its ideals and proposals entices sane
possessors of property, while the deep tenderness of
its compassion compels with the noblest force to sub-
stantial generosity, all persons of wealth whom it
touches. That such generosity is not more common
among persons of property is not wholly their fault.
“When, in her history, has the church as a whole been
asked with passion and skill for the means to evangelize
the world? Never. And yet, she has given now and
again vast sums for those objects which have enam-
ored her leaders. Would she, properly informed, give
less to the supreme object — the all-inclusive purpose —
which Jesus put before her? It is a chief infidelity
of her ministers that they so generally believe that
she would. They trust more in secondary and selfish
motives than in the primary and unselfish one. They
lack the daring of faith which risks all on an appeal
to the noblest motive. Is our worldly wisdom better

than Jesus’ divine wisdom? Who will say so? The
church waits for another great restorer — for him who
shall bring her leaders to give to the Christian con-
quest of the world the central place which Jesus Him-
self gave to it.

The spirit of evangelism woos and fructifies intel-
lect not less powerfully than it does property. It is,
in fact, the very genius of teaching and schools.
”Make disciples” — that is its first word. It counsels
conquest by means of ideas. ”Teaching them” — that
is its crowning conception of human duty. It proposes
to hold and develop what it conquers, also, by means
of ideas. It abandons the clumsy weapons and instru-
ments of the barbarous conquerors and rulers with
whom the world is long and sadly familiar. It pro-
poses to pluck down and blast out the evil that is
among men with the nobler, yet more terrible, power
of thought. It is at one with the finest philosophies
of all times in reposing all its hopes upon spiritual
foundations.

It challenges the imagination with notable success.
The universality of its proposed empire is a feature
of the great commission about which great souls must
forever linger fascinated. And through its appeal to
the will, the spirit of evangelism has made the choic-
est heroes of the best ages of the world.

It is not strange that this spirit has quickened
and still quickens mightily the minds of those into
whom it enters. It entered into Simon the fisherman,
and he became, in one respect at least, the chief min-
ister of the foremost religion of mankind. It entered
into Saul the Pharisee, and he became the mightiest
thinker of the church. It entered into Francis, the
noble of Assisi, and he became one of the revered

teachers of our whole race. It entered into Carey the
cobbler, and he became schoolmaster to the peoples
of India. It entered into Livingstone, the weaver’s
son, and he became one of the most variously learned
and deeply thoughtful men of his age. It entered into
Dwight L. Moody, an illiterate and rather slow-
minded man, and he became a world-famous speaker,
an organizer of schools and a stimulating friend of
Christian teaching in many lands.

But why continue to speak of the spell which the
missionary spirit casts upon men and women one by
one? It does the same with churches that open their
doors to it. It is not a century ago that the Baptist
people in the United States were a poor, ill-educated
and subordinate group. They divided on the subject
of missions. And this resulted. After less than twen-
ty years from that division the unmissionary portion
of them had not grown in any way. During another
forty years they not only did not grow, but they shrank
in numbers, material wealth, intellectual influence,
spiritual force. They continue to shrink until now.
But a feeble trace of the Primitive Baptist Church
can be found on our soil. But the missionary group
within twenty years had increased by some 900 per
cent. In the next forty years they increased by some
300 per cent. They continue to grow. But not in
numbers only. They are a people of schools, an edu-
cated ministry and great general intelligence. Most
of all, they have a spiritual vigor that thrills to the
ends of the earth. Men wait with eagerness to know
what the Missionary Baptist Church does and intends
in many and widely distant places throughout the
world. Obeying Christ about missions has made her

great, and the same thing is making other bodies of
Christians great.

This, then, is the law of churchly power. Obey
the great commission and become mighty. Neglect the
great commission and die.

II. The Law of Help for Mankind

This task laid upon the church is Christ’s answer
to the need of mankind. Our burdening is the race’s
blessing. As such it ought to be beautiful and win-
some to us. Hardship that will heal the world we
ought to be happy to bear, for its wounds are deep
and gaping, and its tears terrible. The tragedy of
human life no man, were he a thousand Shakespeares,
could tell in a thousand years. “And there is none
other name given under heaven or among men whereby
we must be saved” but that of Jesus. He is our one
hope for humanity. We have no other.

And this program of His in the Great Commission
is His way of giving Himself to mankind. As far
as we know. He has no other way. He seems to rest
all upon His church. “When it fails so does He. It
is His body. He has no feet but ours with which to
go, no hands but ours with which to heal, no tongue
but ours with which to teach. How awful is the
weight we bear! We are the true Atlas. The church
bears up the world on her shoulders toward the face
of God. Where she is strong and straight and tall,
the world will be lifted into light and its peoples will
laugh and sing.

What the world needs we know. It is no new need
that makes its tragedy. The analysis of its need which
we make now would have been valid twenty centuries
ago. What is this need?

 

It is in part physical. Millions are homeless, hun-
gry and sick. Millions have always been so. Why?
Is there not room enough on the earth? Is there not
wood and stone enough, and clay for making bricks
enough, to house human beings? Oh, yes. Then, why
are millions homeless? There is just one reason.
There never has been any other. It is because other
millions are selfish and take for themselves the wood,
the stone and the land. And this also is why mil-
lions are always hungry. The earth yields enough
and to spare, or would do so but for the barbarous and
bestial selfishness of men. And this, also, is why many
millions are, and always have been, sick. Because they
are homeless or ill fed or overworked, or all of these,
they have fallen ill and died in their childhood, in their
youth, in their maturity; died faster than the great
war slew them. India has lost more people by famine
and resultant disease within a single recent year than
the total toll of life taken by the battlefields of the
world from August 1, 1914, to November 11, 1918.
Selfishness makes of a lovely world a physical hell for
half the race.

The need of the world is in part intellectual, the
need to know. Ignorance is a colossal and ruthless
slayer. It slays bodies. It slays hope. It slays peace.
It leaves a swamp at a city’s edge, and the people die
of malaria. It neglects the water supply, and the
people die of typhoid fever. It neglects the milk
supply, and babies die by thousands. It neglects food
inspection, ventilation, isolation of those with conta-
gious diseases, surgery and nursing, and so puts to
death yearly an uncounted multitude. It leaves folk
with ancient and horrifying superstitions, and so slays
their peace. It acquiesces in outworn and oppressive

social systems, and so puts hope to death in tens of
millions of human breasts. It educates no children in
useful things, and so prepares no to-morrow, but only
a continuance of a hateful to-day.

Is there no knowledge? Oh, yes, libraries of mil-
lions of volumes contain treasures beyond all compu-
tation of all kinds of knowledge. Why, then, is igno-
rance left to slaughter in this frightful way? It is
because men are selfish with knowledge as they are
with wood and stone and land. They do not always,
nor often indeed, deliberately lock it away from others.
They merely do not send it to them and teach them.

What does Mexico need ? Among other things, teach-
ing in science and the industrials. And Africa and
practically all the East? The same thing. How to
build a house and how to keep it; how to make a
garden; how to build roads; how to farm; how to
market; something of how to govern themselves; these
things and the like they need to be taught.

Does some one raise a question of men and women
to teach? We enrolled an army of five millions to fight
against Germany. A half-million competent teachers
scattered among belated peoples would in great part
heal the hurt of gross ignorance throughout the world
in a single generation. It was Victor Hugo who de-
clared that “the only army a truly civilized world
would contain is an army of schoolmasters. ‘ ‘ Great
Britain, Canada and the United States alone should
count it a great joy and a high- honor to raise and
equip such an army to march against gross ignorance
in every land, and fight with it until it lies dead at
the feet of knowledge.

But the supreme need of the world is a moral one.
The most appalling homelessness is to be away from

the right; that is, from God. The most gnawing
hunger is the hunger for God. The most terrible sick-
ness is sin; that is, rebellion against God. The most
abysmal ignorance is not to know God. And all men
have been or are thus homeless, hungry, sick and igno-
rant. ”All men have sinned and come short of the
glory of God.” ” There is none good, no, not one.”
”All we like sheep have gone astray.” And this
moral need underlies and nourishes all other forms of
human need. This we have already seen. Selfishness,
which is only sin with another name, makes homeless-
ness, unsatisfied hunger, needless sickness, and most all
havoc, immediately due to ignorance. What then?

“We must attack selfishness. We must make man-
kind kind. We must throttle the beast and free the
angel in us. How? Through Christ. He mastered
selfishness in His own soul. He has empowered others
to fight a winning war with it in their souls. His
power is not spent. He offers it to yet others. He
offers it to all. He offers it upon the simplest terms.
He offers it upon the sole condition that one put him-
self in position to receive it by trusting Him. To love,
honor and worship Him is to love, honor and worship
the embodiment of unselfishness. Thus to win men and
women everywhere to Him is to bring them to ”the
hate of hate, the scorn of scorn and the love of love.”

”Behold, to Obey Is Better than Sacrifice”

The church must take the program of Jesus afresh
into her heart. It is a stupendous program. When it
is accepted it will make her mighty, and a needy world
will be enriched.

Abu Taher, so runs an ancient tale, marched at the
head of five hundred followers against Bagdad,

strongly walled and garrisoned with thirty thousand
men. When he was within a few miles of the city he
was met by a messenger from the prince reigning there.
The messenger, in the name of his master, bade him lay
down his arms where he was, and promised him, on
condition of his obedience, full pardon for himself and
all his band. If he should advance farther, the mes-
senger said, his master would crush his force as though
it were a fly beneath his hand. And when Abu did not
instantly answer the message the man who brought it
asked: ”What answer shall I give my master?” Then
Abu said to one of his men, ”Thrust a dagger into
your heart;” to another, “Dash yourself down from
the precipice there;” and to a third, “Drown yourself
in the river.” What he commanded was done without
question or delay. “Now,” said Abu to the messenger,
“go tell your master what you have seen, and that
before night I will chain his generals with my dogs.”
And he did, for he had followers who knew how to
obey. No matter whether the story be in all respects
true or not, its lesson is true. The army that obeys its
general is thereby more apt to conquer its enemies. A
missionary once inquired of the Duke of Wellington
whether he thought we should be able to take India for
Christ. That iron soldier answered, “Show me your
marching orders.” Brethren, here are our marching
orders, here in the Great Commission. Shall we obey?