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Rom. xiv. 17.
of righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.'
Now it is to this aspect of the kingdom, as one of spiritual influence, operating on the hearts of men, that several of our Lord's parables refer, all of them being illustrative of some feature or other of it. The kingdom of heaven, He says, is like unto leaven Matt. xiii. 33. hidden in the meal ; it is the seed growing secretly. Mark iv. 26, 27. Being, too, of this character, we understand why it Matt. v. 3 is said that blessed are the poor in spirit because Matt. cviii, 3. theirs is the kingdom of heaven; that except a man becomes as a little child, he cannot enter into the kingdom ; that a certain scribe was not far from the Mark xii. 34. kingdom of heaven, because he discerned that to love God with all the heart and mind and strength was the essence of religion. Thus, too, we are led to see what St. Paul means when he gives thanks to the Father who had delivered the Colossians from the power of darkness, and had translated them into the Col. i. 13. kingdom of his dear Son. This translation is that act of divine grace whereby souls are detached from the service of sin to become the subjects of Christ. It is an aet of power, yet not one of forcible abduction, transferring a man whether he will or no, but power enabling and disposing ; a power not operating on passive material but on a free agent, working in him to will and to do. The empire of Christ is one of reason and of love. He wins his subjects by the constraining influence of his Spirit, convincing and persuading He puts forth, indeed, his power upon them, but it is the power of conversion, . He makes them willing in the day of his power. Convinced of Ps. cx. 3. sin and its misery, they turn to Him as their Saviour.
Finding in Him pardon and cleansing and peace, they love Him who so loved them as to give Himself for them. Bought with his blood, they acknowledge that they are not their own but his. In a word, believing on Him as their Priest, they embrace Him as their King; and He, having by his cross so won their hearts, occupies them as the seat of his dominion, and thus sits a Priest upon his throne.'
The kingdom of Christ, then, in its present aspect, is a rule of moral force and spiritual influence. It is an empire of reason and of affection, of conviction and loving constraint, of a principle reigning in the heart. In other words, it is not a kingdom of outward demonstration, or of external compulsion and constraint, in relation to its subjects. Nevertheless, it is a kingdom of providential government and control on behalf of his subjects. All power has been given to Him in heaven and earth. This power He wields according to his wisdom on behalf of his Church. It is given to Him for this end. God 'gave Him to be head over all things to the Church.' Therefore, though manifold dangers encompass and threaten it with destruction, though satanic might and skill be arrayed against it, the Church abides. Seated at the right hand of power, He ordereth all things after the counsel of his own will, and maketh the very wrath of man to praise Him. Therefore, in times of deep distress or impending danger his subjects are to remember the right hand of the Most High, and to trust in his wisdom and power to make all things work together for their good. Again and again hath He so wrought for the deliverance of his Church, in a way of providential control and govern
Eph. i. 22.
Ps. lxxvi. 10.
Rom viii. 28
CH AP. VI.
ment, as to constrain even its enemies to acknowledge his hand, and, like Balaam looking down upon
the tents of Israel, to exclaim, 'The Lord their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them.' Num. xxiii. 21.
I might further point out, as descriptive of the present character of Christ's kingdom, how eminently it is one of holiness, how all its laws and ordinances are framed and designed for this end, to check sin and to promote righteousness; how it is a rule, therefore, of wise discipline and loving correction, how its subjects are graciously visited with chastisement for their profit, to make them partakers of his holiness; how its rule is one of sympathy and Heb. iv. 15. tenderness, the Ruler being of one nature with the ruled, and having in all points been tempted like as they are. Upon these points, however, I forbear to dilate, as not immediately bearing upon the point at issue. I pass on, therefore, to notice a startling peculiarity of the kingdom of Christ, as it now is and ever has been since the Day of Pentecost, viz., its singular partiality, its extraordinary contraction, both in the sphere of its operation and in the number of its subjects, as compared with the universality predicted of it and promised to it. Wise, holy, beneficent as is the character and tendency of Christ's rule on those brought under its influence, how very few are they upon whom it has been brought to bear, how limited is the portion of earth's surface and population that falls within its range. Looking at the simple history of the matter, nothing can be more evident than that one leading principle, one distinguishing feature of the kingdom of Christ, in its present era, is that of selection, that it is the
CH AP. VI.
Luke xii. 32
era of the election of grace. Ponder the facts of the case for a moment. As compared with those who are either ignorant of Him or who reject Him, how infinitesimally small is the number of those who profess to acknowledge Christ as their King, and of these again not very many are real, earnest, loving, and obedient subjects. So it is at this time, and if we go back century by century the disproportion becomes greater still. The flock of Christ has ever been, what He Himself calls it, a little one. 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. And the principle of selection, which has so marked the Christian era from the Day of Pentecost, was even more conspicuous still under the Old Testament, when the Church of God was comprised within a single nation (and even then they were not all Israel who were of Israel), and, further back, within a single family. Now, how shall we account for this limitation in the area, so to speak, of the economy of grace? It cannot be from lack of power on the part of God; our first and simplest ideas of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will' forbid the notion of want of
power. How then can we account for it but by saying that so it hath pleased Him ; that He whose purpose is the purpose of the ages, the purpose, i.e., which is to range over and be fully accomplished in a succession of epochs, that He hath so willed that the present era should be the age of the election of grace, of the 'taking out of a people for his name. But then, think what this involves. Let us without flinching take in all the momentous and tremendous significance of this fact and its expla
Rom, ix. 6.
Bph. i. 11.
Acts xv. 14.
nation. It means that by the will of God myriads upon myriads of human souls, souls which God made and for which Christ died, have passed away from this life into the state beyond death in utter ignorance of Christ, having never had any offer of salvation ; to say nothing of those who have refused or neglected his great salvation. What, then, has become of those countless souls? Have they passed away into a hopeless eternity, to become, as a rigid orthodoxy teaches, the subjects of everlasting suffering? I cannot, I dare not, I will not believe it. Apart from any intimations to the contrary, I refuse to
ccept a dogma which seems to me to be a libel on the love, the wisdom, and the power of that God by whom these souls were brought into existence, and which virtually impugns the redeeming efficacy of the atoning work of Christ. But I think there are intimations in Holy Scripture which warrant the hope that there is a provision of recovering mercy in reserve for such souls, that while the present age is one of selection it is but preliminary to other eras in which all souls shall at the last be won by Christ, that the elect of this age are but the first-fruits of the great harvest ultimately to be gathered in by the heavenly Husbandman, that the saved ones of this era shall become gracious instruments, in future eras, in the recovery of others; that themselves made kings and priests unto God, they shall share with Him, who sits a Priest upon his throne,' in the great and glorious work of bringing about the restitution of all things.