Newman Hall, 1889
The Second Petition
"Your Kingdom Come"
"Three weighty, instructive, monitory words. The first, 'Your,' lifts the thoughts upward—bids us think of God, and lose ourselves in Him. The second, 'Kingdom,' reminds us of a great system in which to have a place is glory, for which to be allowed to pray is the highest honor and the highest dignity of the creature. The third, 'Come,' bids us exercise this honor at once. As we utter the petition, we are putting the hand to a work which is all God's, we are claiming a franchise and a citizenship and a priesthood, not of earth but of heaven" (Vaughan).
I—THE KINGDOM OF GOD SPIRITUAL
The "kingdom of God" refers, not to the whole universe nor to the final perfection of Heaven—but to His authority in this world—and its meaning is further unfolded in the next petition, "Your will be done on earth." The coming of the kingdom is the progressive recognition of this rule until all mankind shall either willingly accept it or unwillingly submit to it. In material nature the kingdom has already come, has never ceased to be. It is the 'moral government' of God for the triumph of which we pray—His rule in the region of mind, heart, and will—the establishment of His authority where it has been ignored and resisted—the final victory of God's righteousness and love over every form of wrong and hate—His reign on earth.
Once this reign was undisputed. But there were angels who "kept not their first estate." Yielding to their malign influence, man also revolted. But still the kingdom was not subverted. Satan disturbed—but never supplanted it. He is not lord of men or the world—and is king only by usurpation. God has never ceased to be the rightful and actual Ruler, though His authority has been defied. In the rewards and penalties of physical and social laws He has given indications of His moral rule and foreshadowings of His future judgment. In every land He has had His witnesses—in every conscience His vicegerent. From eternity it was in the Divine purpose to cure man's revolt and overrule its evil for still greater good. Man had now to be dealt with no longer as a loyal subject, but as a guilty rebel. Pardon was to be offered consistently with righteousness, and moral means instituted to bring man's moral nature into harmony with the Divine kingdom. Thus the kingdom was no longer one of mere rule and obedience, but of mercy to the disobedient.
In relation to fallen man it is a kingdom of grace. A kingdom still; asserting the supremacy of God and the sanctity of law; but providing pardon for the transgressor, and help for his recovery. The foundations of it were laid from the beginning. It was proclaimed when man sinned. As years rolled on, its principles and claims were more fully developed. By Enoch, Noah, Abraham; by Moses on Sinai, by the ceremonial law, by the trumpet-notes of prophets, by the harp-songs of psalmists—its majesty was asserted and its triumph foretold. Solomon prayed for it—"Give the king Your judgments, O God—and let the whole earth be filled with His glory." Isaiah exulted in beholding afar off the day when "the government shall be upon His shoulder," when men shall no longer "hurt nor destroy, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
As among heathen nations there was an expectation of the coming of some great benefactor and ruler of men, it is no wonder that with such Divine promises the Jews were expecting their long-predicted Messiah, and listened eagerly to the clarion blast of the Baptist, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Thus heralded, Jesus began His ministry as its special Ambassador, saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand—repent, and believe in the gospel." The kingdom long expected, portrayed on the glowing canvas of prophets, extolled by the inspired rapture of poets, prepared for by a long series of providential arrangements, was now proclaimed, and all men were summoned to submit to Jehovah and His Christ.
But the Jews mistook its nature. They expected a warlike monarch who would deliver them from the Romans, and establish a worldly kingdom which should more than reproduce all the glories of David and Solomon. There was nothing in our Lord's teaching to encourage such an idea. The blessedness He announced was not that of successful ambition, of splendid kingly courts—but of "the poor in spirit." Not of those who can compel compliance with human laws, but of those who are "persecuted for righteousness' sake—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." When the disciples disputed which of them would be greatest, their Lord taught that unless such notions were laid aside, they could have no part in it. "Truly I say to you, except you turn and become as little children, you shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven." Not outward grandeur, but inward renovation was the qualification—"Except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Instead of wealth being essential for securing it, He taught "how hard shall those who have riches enter into the kingdom of God." No self-indulgence was to be expected, but only self-sacrifice—"It is good for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye—rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell."
The often-repeated preface to parables explaining its nature, "The kingdom of heaven is like unto," was followed by no description of worldly thrones, with armies, pageantry, and pomp. It was a kingdom of quiet growth from the smallest to the greatest—like a grain of mustard seed; of silent influence—like leaven in meal; of unseen yet priceless treasure—which to purchase, men might well renounce all worldly wealth. "The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" were illustrated by the various kinds of soil on which the good seed fell—its highest rewards are not for successful fighters, but for those who "hear the word and understand it, and bear fruit."
Thus when the Pharisees asked "when the kingdom of God should come," He replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with observation." It is not to be known by the outward signs of this world's kingdoms. "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you," or in the midst of you. It had already appeared, but was not perceived by their worldly minds. When accused by them of doing the very thing they wanted Him to do, His refusal to do which so exasperated them, He replied to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world—if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews—but now is my kingdom not from hence." Developing such instruction, the apostles proclaimed the kingdom as one of spiritual virtues, not of outward forms—"the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit"—a kingdom to be entered not by a career of worldly triumph, but of patient suffering—"Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God."
We are thus taught that the kingdom of God signifies His rule in the hearts of men—a rule based on eternal righteousness, not destroyed though assailed by man's sin—asserted in man's moral nature—vindicated and its final triumph predicted by inspired prophets, proclaimed by Christ, sealed by His blood, attested by the Resurrection, ratified by the Ascension, confirmed at Pentecost, published to the world by the apostles, illustrated in the character and conduct of every believer born again as a subject of it. The Church is its embodied witness; the Word its authorized code; Christian fellowship and the sacraments its outward and visible signs; holiness its test of loyalty. This kingdom is to grow until Christ Himself shall return with power and great glory—to vindicate His authority—to give victory to His faithful ones—to overwhelm incorrigible rebels—to perfect His Church. Then the gospel of love shall universally prevail over every form of ignorance, wrong, and misery—and the glad chorus break forth, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ—and He shall reign forever and ever!"
II—ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND KINGDOMS OF THE WORLD
The rule of God essentially differs from worldly monarchies. Disregard of this has hindered the progress of the kingdom—real strength having been exchanged for external show—inward purity for outward pomp—spiritual freedom for worldly bondage—and self-denying zeal for false security and dignified repose. Let us consider some of these differences.
1. The Ruler—In an earthly kingdom the ruler may be selfish, proud, tyrannical, contemptible. But the Head of this kingdom is the Infinitely Holy and Good. Man's autocracy, owing to faults from which even the very best are not free—is generally to be dreaded. It is the glory of this kingdom that the will of the Sovereign is supreme. Every invasion of His authority, every attempt to share it, is injurious to the subjects. Earthly kings reign through delegated officers; here, God rules personally in every soul. Earthly rulers have power only where they are present; but this King is in every place and searches every heart. Earthly rulers can only control the conduct, but this King reigns over the thoughts, affections, and will.
2. The laws—Earthly laws insist on obedience and inflict penalties; but God's kingdom is a rule of grace. What kingdom of this world could proclaim pardon to all transgressors? What judge could commence an assize with offering to acquit all criminals pleading guilty? But this kingdom restores rebels to allegiance by first forgiving them, even the ringleaders. The rulers of this world must be content with the observance of the letter of the law; but this kingdom secures a homage which scorns such limitation, arouses a loyalty which cannot be restrained in its expression, creates an enthusiasm which no mere code can satisfy. And the wonder is that by this very proclamation of pardon, it secures this fervor of obedience; by this Grace it vindicates Law.
3. The subjects—Earthly kingdoms claim all who dwell within territorial limits. A river, a chain of hills, an imaginary line, may determine the question who are the subjects of its rule. But in this kingdom all are enrolled who voluntarily submit to it, and none else. Within the same township, the same household, may dwell those who, while members of the same nationality, are on opposite sides in relation to the kingdom of heaven. Relation to earthly rule is not altered by surrender to Christ. No prince nor republic need be jealous of this kingdom nor alarmed at its progress. Monarchs lose no subjects by enrollment here. There cannot be such a thing as a Christian country or a Christian nation, except so far as the individuals who compose it are members of Christ. The locality of birth constitutes no one a citizen of the heavenly kingdom. The rule of God extends wherever a heart yields its homage, and includes no heart not thus surrendered.
4. The objects—Earthly kingdoms levy taxes to maintain their regal state, to defend or extend their territory, and to protect their subjects. The object of the kingdom of God is to win hearts to their Father in heaven, to instill a love for righteousness, to cultivate spiritual worship, to promote the Divine glory and prepare for the perfected kingdom on earth and in heaven. Who ever heard of an earthly kingdom making its object the prosperity of other nations? But the kingdom of God seeks the happiness of all mankind, irrespective of territory or race, by reconciling all to God, and so to each other.
5. The methods—Earthly kingdoms are based on force. The revenue is not dependent on the choice of individuals. The soldier is in the rear of the tax-collector. Opposition is punished by confiscation, imprisonment, or death. Attacks from without are met by armies prepared to slaughter tens of thousands rather than surrender one acre of land. Extension of domain is often sought by violence—under pretext of civilization, commerce, and even religion.
How different are the methods of God's kingdom! It is upheld by spiritual agencies alone—truth enlightening the conscience, love constraining the heart. To resort to bribery, whether the vulgar bait of money, or the more refined allurements of fashion, status, and worldly dignities, may multiply professed adherents, but cannot extend a kingdom which scorns all allegiance but the spontaneous homage of the heart. Torturing the body to secure the affections is a contradiction. Our Lord said that if His kingdom were of this world, His servants would do what every earthly government must be prepared to do for its preservation. But "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds," and "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Such a kingdom—wages no warfare but of truth—wields no sword but that of the Spirit—scorns all homage but that of love.
Can it stoop to imitate the ambitions of earthly courts, the rivalries of worldly kings? Can it condescend to ask alms from governments, to invoke the patronage of parliaments, by surrendering any of its heavenly prerogatives? Can it fetter its freedom by chains which crafty politicians have forged for their own purposes, and hug them because those chains are gold? Can it limit its own internal freedom by imposing a yoke on itself which its Lord never sanctioned, crippling its activities under the plea of order, and restricting the limits of that which is for all classes and climates? Shall it become an institution only for this or that class, instead of realizing its Divine ideal, a kingdom for rich and poor, learned and unlearned, princes and peasants, Englishman and Hottentot, bond and free?
It is a question of great importance as regards loyalty to its Divine Head and its spiritual, which are its true interests, how far help can be accepted from political governments consistently with the scriptural idea of the kingdom. May pecuniary aid be furnished from funds which rely on compulsion—to support a religion based on willingness? How far, in return for the supposed stability and dignity of the Church, is it right to surrender the Church's liberty under its heavenly Lord, so as to permit the State to authorize its creed, regulate its worship, and appoint its ministers? On this question many sincere subjects of the kingdom hold varying views. Each may give honor to others' conscientiousness, while lamenting the supposed ignorance or prejudice which causes difference of opinion. But on the great fundamental truth of the spiritual nature of the kingdom there should be no difference.
6. The extent—Other monarchies perish—Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage—where are they? But this kingdom shall widen and strengthen until the twilight of its dawn shall have developed into the glory of the perfect day, and God shall be all and in all. We have received "a kingdom which cannot be moved." His people shall fear Him "as long as the sun and the moon endure, throughout all generations His Name shall endure forever, and men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed." In contemplation of the rule of this King, shall not prayer be made for Him continually? Shall not the Church without intermission send up this heaven-taught petition—"Your kingdom come!"
III—THE COMING OF THIS KINGDOM
Truly to offer this prayer is evidence that the kingdom has already come in the heart of him who utters it. It increasingly comes as the moral nature yields to its sway. It comes—to the intellect as we better understand its laws—to the conscience as we more readily approve them—to the will as we more resolutely respond to them—to the heart as we more ardently love them—to the lifeas we more loyally conform to them. The King has been proclaimed in the citadel of man's soul—but in many byways, courts, and alleys His authority is not yet supreme. "You who have received this kingdom need to wish the coming of it in further degrees. Find you not many rebels yet unsubdued? Those who search their own hearts often complain of them to their King. O such swarms of lusts, and unruly, irregular desires! When shall they all be brought into subjection?" (Leighton).
The prayer naturally expands from the individual to all who truly "profess and call themselves Christians"—all "congregations of faithful men"—all who "love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." In this Church, as a whole and in each portion of it, we pray that God, in Christ, may rule. It is reasonable that every Christian should be chiefly concerned for the prosperity of the particular society which is the sphere of his own personal activity. He who is not in earnest for the prosperity of his own church is not likely to be earnest for the Church universal. And this prosperity consists not in circumstances which to the worldly view are most impressive, such as royal patronage, legal status, numbers, wealth, influence; good music, an ornate ritual, eloquent preaching. There may be all of these, without the kingdom.
The kingdom comes to a church when there is fidelity in the pulpit; when the preacher shows forth not himself but Christ, teaches not human theories but revealed truth, turns men "from darkness to light;" and "feeds the flock of God." It comes—when there is spirituality of worship—when hearts go up to God in earnest desire and grateful praise—when "those who name the Name of Christ depart from iniquity"—when sinners ask, "What must I do to be saved?" and, having believed in the heart, "confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus Christ"—when the real Presence of the King is revealed at sermon and sacrament, at prayer-meeting and mission-service—when spiritual life produces zeal in teaching the ignorant, tending the sick, helping the needy, reclaiming the lost, "doing good unto all men."
Such coming of the kingdom will necessarily promote its coming to the universal Church. When we find ourselves praying and laboring for "Our Church" rather than for "Your kingdom," we are not praying "after this manner." It is so much easier to pray for ourselves than for Him, that when seeming to plead for His kingdom, we may be chiefly seeking our own exaltation—my system,my methods, my church. If in battle one regiment were to seek exclusively its own renown, breaking its line of connection, and indifferent to the progress of the fight elsewhere—such valor might prove a hindrance rather than a help to the whole army. Rivalries of churches, frivolous controversies, sectarian jealousies, must be reproved by earnest prayer for the kingdom of God. This is a prayer for all Christian missions.
We pray that the kingdom may come to God's ancient people—to Romanists, who have disguised and distorted it—to nominal Christians, as well as to gross idolaters—and to all, of whatever religion or of none, who know not God as "our Father." Under the influence of this kingdom, laws will become more humane, rulers more righteous, the customs of society more pure, nations more peaceful. Wealth will be less unequally distributed; the rich will care more for the poor, the poor will envy less the rich, and every subject of the kingdom will gladly admit that he is his brother's keeper. As Christ healed as well as taught, so, with the growth of His spiritual reign, the hungry will be better fed, disease more skillfully treated, the laws of Nature better known and obeyed, education more widely spread, and all evil more controlled by Him who "came to destroy the works of the devil." We need not dissociate ourselves from the interests of earth while praying for the kingdom of heaven. "The lofty expressions of contempt for the littleness of mere earthly transactions which some divines affect, are not learned in His school, or in the schools of His prophets. The kingdom of God begins within, but is to make itself manifest without. At last it is to penetrate our whole social existence, to mold all things according to its laws. For this we, pray when we say, 'Your kingdom come.' We pray for the extinction of all tyranny, whether in particular men or in multitudes; for the exposure and destruction of corruptions inward and outward; for truth in all departments of government, art, science; for the true dignity of professions; for right dealings in the commonest transactions of trade; for blessings that shall be felt in every hovel. If God had not heard this prayer going up from tens of thousands in all ages, the earth would have been a den of robbers" (Maurice).
IV—THE MILLENNIAL REIGN
By what means will this be accomplished? Many consider those in operation will suffice, with a fuller outpouring of the Spirit. Let the Church pray more earnestly for a blessing on existing methods, and the kingdom will extend until all shall know the Lord, "from the least to the greatest." Then, after a millennium of such reign, Christ will come for the final judgment, and take His saints to His kingdom in the heavens. Why should we doubt the efficiency of God's Word and Spirit to convert and sanctify the soul? Have they not triumphed over the worst forms of sin? Have not the most degraded been raised to sit in heavenly places; persecutors become apostles; revolting sensualists and criminals made new creatures in Christ Jesus? Agencies thus effectual in a thousand instances, might be equally so in a thousand millions. Such a coming of the kingdom would involve no change of dispensation, and would not seem to disparage agencies divinely appointed. It would be in harmony with the spiritual nature of the kingdom, involve no interference with political governments, and not look like a return to the Church's childhood.
There is surely much to encourage our hopes. Within the last fifty years, into how many languages has the Bible been translated—how many missionaries have been sent forth—in how many lands already have the idols been utterly abolished—how many tens of thousands—sunk in lowest barbarism, reveling in vice and bloodshed—are now sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in their right mind! In our own land there were never so many faithful preachers, so many devout worshipers, so much evangelistic zeal. Christianity by its indirect influence has humanized our laws, liberated the slave, and mitigated the horrors of war. If such advance during the last fifty years, what may it not be during the next five hundred? Suppose the existing Church were to become fully alive to its responsibilities; every individual claiming his share in the crusade against sin; every believer acting as a member of its "Royal Priesthood"—would the conversion of the whole world seem hopeless?
Limiting the present number of real Christians to half a million, and supposing that each led one other soul to Christ every year, in eleven years there would be one thousand and twenty-four million subjects of this kingdom, exclusive of infants, and the kingdom would have come to the whole human race. This cannot be without the special help of the Holy Spirit; but if the Church prayed more earnestly, would not the Spirit work more effectually? If, as some think, the actual appearing of Christ in person is needed to win the human family to God, may it not be urged that a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit would produce the same results? May not Christ be expected to come in the power of His Spirit, no less than in the manifestation of His Person?
But many are discouraged. After nearly nineteen centuries of witness-bearing, the Church has secured only a small part of the earth, even nominally, for Christ. How few the converts in proportion to the hundreds of millions unreached! Look at Christendom. Can we think the kingdom of God has come in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Russia, except in exceptional cases? Are not superstition on the one hand, and atheism on the other, in the ascendant? Have we not within our own time witnessed a series of wars between "Christian" nations, rivaling in slaughter those of Paganism? Are not millions of men under so-called Christian governments daily being trained for mutual slaughter, and the people oppressed to provide the cost of enormous armaments, even in times of peace? Do not frivolity and licentiousness run riot; and are not the stage and the press largely prostituted to the demoralization of the people?
In our own land a vast portion of the population never enter a place of worship; and of those who do, the number is very small who profess personal subjection to Christ. Is not the increase of conversions less than that of the population, so that relatively the kingdom is receding? Even from such professors a large deduction must be made. Within the Church, how much looseness of doctrine, fickleness of faith, conformity to the world, inconsistency of conduct! how much covetousness and self-indulgence! how much ambition, pride, contention, jealousy! How often, in various ways, is God's house of prayer made a house of merchandise! How much flattery or fear of some, how much despising or patronizing of others; how much mere outward show or undisguised indifference, how much formal ceremonial or dead informalism! How much sectarian exclusiveness, ecclesiastical usurpation, bitter controversy, intolerant judgment, and lack of charity!
Can we be surprised at the slight influence of the Church on the world outside? Alas for much of the current literature!—science perverted to disprove the existence of the Creator whose works she explores; fiction degraded to stimulate the passions by portraitures of vice; daily journals crowding their columns with theatrical and sporting news, while almost ignoring the work of the Christian and the philanthropist; and even periodicals designated religious, and provided ostensibly for Sunday reading, needing to increase their attractiveness and sale by trashy and sensational tales, far less wholesome for the young than many standard books which would be condemned as too secular for the Lord's day.
Few popular amusements are profitable, except those which attract by indecency of dress, immodesty of demeanor, and the representation of what is either frivolous or immoral. Parents take their children to see and hear what must corrupt their hearts. Licentiousness unblushingly parades our streets. Intemperance has its temples at every corner, numbers its votaries by hundreds of thousands, boasts a revenue of a hundred millions of pounds, and has an annual death-roll of myriads of souls. In the region of trade, of politics, of fashion, in the manners of all classes, how much there is totally opposed to the kingdom of God! Who can examine into the condition of the multitude of the poorer classes without sadness!—the pig-sties in which many of our agricultural laborers exist, filth and crowding illustrating an evolution downward into the brute; the dull routine toil of the factory, amid dust and heat and foul air; the dismal perilous labor of the mine; the protracted health-sapping hours in shops and warehouses; the starving wages of the needle-woman; the teeming lodging-houses of the city, whole families crowded into a single narrow room; the gin-pub producing poverty, and poverty seeking to relieve its wretchedness in the gin-pub and the base dance-hall; and then, the multitude of the sick and poor who are shivering and starving and dying; while wealth and pomp in ever-increasing ratio are stimulating luxury and licentiousness not only in the palaces of the great, but in the dwellings of the middle classes, who imitate and emulate the self-indulgence of many in higher grades.
Can we see all this without lamenting how far, how very far we are from that condition of our world we are all hoping for, and how little progress we seem to be making towards it with the means now possessed? For this is in a land where, above all others, Christian agencies are in full operation. Suppose India were equally evangelized, Christian congregations being gathered in every city and every village; could we hope that the people at large would be more in subjection to the kingdom than in our own land? And if not, the Church would be there a little sanctuary for the few rather than the kingdom for all; a witness-bearer rather than instrumentally a savior to the many.
With such thoughts it is not surprising that many are expecting a different and more powerful agency than any now in operation, even the "glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ." Their hopes are inspired by the prophecies of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar's image was cast down by the stone cut out without hands which "became a great mountain and filled the whole earth." We are still expecting the triumph of the stone which is to "break to pieces" the remains of the last monarchy, when the kingdom of God will appear, not as now, only here and there as green hillocks in the desert, but as a "great mountain" filling "the whole earth." This kingdom "shall stand forever" (Dan. 2). In another vision "One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and there was given Him a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him." The coming of the Son of man here predicted is the cause of the triumph of the kingdom, and introduces the era of its universal sway (Dan. 7). From the prophecy of Zechariah, it is inferred that a great reaction against Christianity will be overcome by the personal Advent of Christ, whose punishment of the ungodly will be a preliminary judgment, to be followed by a long period of loyal obedience to the King, when all nations shall drink of the living waters of salvation, and shall come to Jerusalem, if not to the earthly, to the spiritual city, the Church; and when all earthly relationships and avocations shall be sanctified by the fear of God, "Holiness" being inscribed upon them all.
The last and greatest of the prophets presents to us a vision of similar import. A warrior appeared riding on a white horse; His eyes were as a flame of fire, and "on His head were many crowns, and His name was called the Word of God; and He had on His vesture and on his thigh a Name written, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!" A mighty army of foes "made war against Him," and were overcome; and "the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet," and were "cast alive into a lake of fire." Then an angel "laid hold on that old serpent, the Devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection." At the close of this millennium Satan will be loosed, and will make a final effort to deceive the nations and gather them together against the kingdom. Then fire from heaven will consume them, and the Judge will be seen on "the great white throne;" and "the dead, small and great, will stand before God, and be judged according to their works."
After this description of the triumph of the kingdom on earth, follows that of the glories of the kingdom in heaven (Rev. 19-22). From this vision of John it is inferred that after an anti-Christian reaction overcome by Christ in person, the powers of darkness will be held in restraint, and the saints then living, with the souls of many of the dead, shall reign with Christ a thousand years prior to the final judgment and to the perfected bliss of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is during this intervening period that the kingdom so graphically predicted in the 72nd Psalm will have its peaceful sway; when Christ "shall have dominion from sea to sea," and "all nations shall call Him blessed."
Our Lord frequently spoke of His coming again in connection with the final judgment. "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations—and He shall separate them one from another," etc. (Matt. 25:31-46, 16:27, 26:64; Mark 8:38; Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10, 11; 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; 2 Thess. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; 1 Pet. 4:5). Such passages seem to many readers to indicate that the judgment will be immediately consequent on the second Advent; and if so, that the millennial age must precede the Advent. To this inference it is objected that our Lord and the apostles spoke of His coming as immediately near, as the first great event to be expected, which would not be the case to our apprehension, if the Millennial Reign were known to precede it. How could the Church be "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God;" how could it be said, "The coming of the Lord draws near;" how could He bid us to "watch, lest coming suddenly He should find us sleeping," if He were not to come until a long period of millennial glory had transpired? It is therefore inferred that our Lord spoke of the event which was the nearer, and not of the one more remote; that which the Church was first to expect. And as His coming would be at once attended with judgments on the rebellious then living, and would be followed by a continued rule of righteousness, to close with the general judgment, He to whom a thousand years are as one day might appropriately speak of coming to judgment, though that judgment would only be completed at the termination of that thousand years. Thus the apostles habitually urged the churches to be living in joyful hope of and diligent preparation for the "glorious appearing" of Christ, as the proximate great event in the history of the Church.
From such statements of Scripture it has been inferred that, while existing agencies are to be diligently employed to spread the truth, we are not to be discouraged if the result should illustrate the Lord's words, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations, and then shall the end come;" testimony to all rather than conversion of all. If such universal conversion is the hope that chiefly animates missionary enterprise, a hope so long deferred may make the heart sick and discourage exertion.
But does any passage of Scripture represent that by the preaching of the gospel, prior to the Advent, all mankind will be converted? The promise of the "heathen for His inheritance" is immediately followed by the threatening, "You shall break them with a rod of iron;" intimating that such possession of "the uttermost parts of the earth" will be with triumphant judgment on His foes (Ps. 2:8, 9). Jehovah will make the enemies of Christ "His footstool," not necessarily by their willing submission, but by their final punishment; for "He shall strike through kings in the day of His wrath" (Ps. 110:1, 5). Isaiah intimates that when the Lord comes to establish the kingdom, the land will be "full of idols;" multitudes who "worship the work of their own hands," will "hide in the dust for fear of the Lord and for the glory of His majesty." Then "the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day; and the idols He shall utterly abolish." We are not therefore to anticipate the abolition of idolatry prior to the Advent—but as its result (Isa. 2). The deliverance of the Church is to follow the destruction of its foes. "For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon His head; and He put on garments of vengeance. He will repayfury to His adversaries." As the result of such judgments the kingdom will come, rather than of the universal reception of the gospel. The following chapter is generally regarded as a glowing description of the millennial reign—"Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." The Church shall then be made "an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations." "Violence shall no more be heard in the land." "The Lord shall be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended."
This graphic picture of the millennial kingdom does not precede but follow judgments on men then living; "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve You shall perish; yes, those nations shall be utterly wasted." In the new Jerusalem the voice of weeping will not be heard; "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together;" and none "shall hurt nor destroy." But this condition of things follows the threatening against the enemies of the King—"For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, to render His anger with fury; for by fire and by His sword will the Lord plead with all flesh." It is after this that in the new heavens and the new earth, "all flesh shall come to worship before me, says the Lord" (Isa. 66:15-24).
Zechariah says, "The Lord shall go forth and fight against those nations;" after which "everyone that is left of all nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty." This idea would seem to be expressed by Paul when he cheered the persecuted believers in Thessalonica by the hope of rest after trouble, "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who know not God, and who obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Christ compared His kingdom to a man who sowed good seed, but the enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat. Both grew together until the harvest. However widely the gospel may spread, its success for a season will only be partial. There will be the wicked intermingled with the righteous. But at "the end of the world, the Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who do iniquity. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." Our Lord predicted that "all the tribes of the earth shall mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." This does not indicate a state of universal submission. "Behold, He comes with clouds; and all the tribes of the earth shall mourn over Him." These are not friends who "love His appearing," but foes dreading it.
The Transfiguration has been regarded as symbolical of the second Advent. Christ appeared in glory, attended by Moses and Elijah, representing the glorified saints who will accompany their Lord in the clouds of heaven. The three disciples represented the Church on earth meeting the Lord in the air, and sharing His triumph. They were those of whom the Lord had said—"There are some standing here who shall not taste of death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom." They did see it in vision. Peter refers to this—"We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye-witnesses of His majesty." This vision pointed forward to the day for the coming of which believers should be "looking for and hasting," in hope of "the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." But this is connected with great judgments—"the heavens that now are and the earth have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." (2 Pet. 1:16-21, 3:7-14.)
Although it is not essential to this theory that there should be any vision of the Lord at one time by all mankind, yet many people do thus interpret the prediction, "Every eye shall see Him." All will know, friends and foes, that the King has come to perfect His kingdom, gladden His loyal subjects, and execute judgment on hardened rebels. This has been objected to on the ground of physical impossibility. But as the sun is seen every twenty-four hours by nearly all inhabitants of earth, the vision of Christ as He approaches to establish His kingdom might be obvious to all. "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" His Advent having been witnessed, His subsequent appearances in all parts of the world might be "at sundry times and in diverse manners;" analogous to the appearances of His risen body to the disciples prior to His Ascension. "The Son of man will come in His glory with all the holy angels." The souls of the martyrs and of those who "had not worshiped the beast, shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years. This is the first resurrection." Angels of light will drive away the spirits of darkness; that old Serpent will be bound a thousand years and hardened rebels, still refusing to repent, will be judged and sent to their own place (Rev. 20). Then will commence that glorious era of which Peter spoke, when, filled with the Holy Spirit, he looked forward to "the times of restoration of all things, whereof God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets which have been since the world began." Then shall the saints share in the government of the kingdom, according to the words of Paul, "Do you not know that the saints shall judge the earth?" and of John, "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years;" and of the King Himself, "He who keeps my works to the end, to him will I give authority over the nations."
As, during the Theocracy, Jehovah was visibly present in the temple by cloud and Shekinah, so Christ will be present in Jerusalem; not necessarily in the Syrian city, but in His Church; not subject to material laws, but as His resurrection-body appeared to the disciples unexpectedly in various places, so His whole Church shall know that He dwells among them. Theoretic infidelity will be no longer possible. The question will be, not "Is Christ the King?" but, "Shall I submit to His rule?" The Jews will recognize their long-rejected Messiah, who will now "reign on the throne of His father David." Their conversion will bring in the fullness of the Gentiles. Antichrist will be dethroned, and the spell of the false prophet broken. All the people who sit in darkness will see the great light. The Church, animated by the presence of the King, and filled with the Spirit, will then literally "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature," and "all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest."
To this theory it is objected that conversion by external vision is inferior to that produced by internal perception of the truth, even as Christ said, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." But Saul of Tarsus was converted by the vision of Christ, and his subsequent career did not suggest inferiority in the method of his spiritual birth. Surely the expectation of a personal reign of Christ on the earth will not necessarily tend to render those who share it less spiritual, inasmuch as all Christians are looking for the personal reign of Christ in heaven, and to the beholding Him "face to face" as the consummation of their purity and bliss. In support of the objection that conversion by a personal revelation would be a retrogression instead of an advance in method, it has been urged that "we are not to expect a future dispensation in which the Savior will subdue unbelievers by that visible sign from heaven which He always refused because it was contrary to His method of dealing with souls" (Monsell). But our Lord refused the sign from heaven to Pharisees who were "tempting Him." Yet even to these He predicted "the sign of the prophet Jonah;" and fulfilled it when He rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven in the sight of His disciples. This manifestation gave new vigor to their faith; it caused a resurrection of their own spiritual life; it was the mighty truth with which they went forth on their gospel mission to the world. The sign which the Pharisees were denied, was distinctly promised to be given at the coming of the Son of man—"Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven." Inasmuch as the sign from heaven heralded the Mosaic dispensation, and the sign from heaven in the Resurrection and Ascension prefaced the publication of the gospel to the world, the sign of the visible Advent of Christ to introduce the millennial reign would not be a "retrogression," but an advance; not a new method, but a further development of the old.
The Spirit and the Word, the only present agencies, existed in the Old Testament dispensation, yet the fuller manifestation of both was accompanied by the outward signs of the first Advent, and may also be by those of the second. And the Apostles, when they sought help to speak the word, asked for outward signs, saying, "Grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching forth Your hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the Name of Your holy Servant Jesus." There is no evidence that such signs will never be renewed. If "majestic steps in Providence, startling men from their stupid slumbers, awing their spirits and constraining their attention," if such aid may supplement the Word and the Spirit, why not the aid of "supernatural signs"?
Although some millenarians carry too far the system of literal interpretation, we are reminded that the prophecies respecting the first Advent were fulfilled literally, although such fulfillment had seemed impossible. The Jewish scribes could not comprehend how the glorious Messiah could come to Jerusalem riding on a donkey, how His garments should be divided by lot, how He should "make His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death;" yet these and other predictions were literally accomplished. Why, then, should all predictions respecting the second Advent be interpreted spiritually, because their literal fulfillment is attended with difficulties which we cannot as yet explain? It has been objected that "millenarianism is inconsistent with the scriptural doctrine of the nature and growth of Christ's kingdom;" that "it implies failure in the Divine methods of working hitherto;" and that "its practical influence is evil, by discouraging present efforts to bring it about" (Harris).
All are agreed that the kingdom now grows from heart to heart by purely spiritual means; but it is nowhere in the Bible declared that by these means alone the kingdom is to become universal. For nearly nineteen hundred years the gospel has been preached, yet the vast majority of those who have known something of it have rejected it, but this failure has resulted not from imperfection in the methods, but from the wickedness of men. This general rejection of the message until the coming of our Lord verifies the predictions of God's own Word. It is discouraging; but greater discouragement would arise from the expectation of the kingdom by present agencies alone; whereas the expectation of the personal Advent animates us with the certainty of a triumph which may speedily be accomplished; and prompts to diligence, "lest coming suddenly He find us sleeping." Present methods will only be supplemented. The Word of God will still be circulated, the gospel will be preached, the Church still bear witness; but this will be accompanied with visible tokens of the presence of the King and more abundant outpourings of the Holy Spirit.
It is to the possible nearness of this personal coming of Christ that many are looking. They do not consider that the golden age, so slowly advancing, must first intervene. They hope that very soon the King will appear who shall "judge the people with righteousness, and break in pieces the oppressor, and save the souls of the needy; whose Name shall endure forever, and all nations shall call Him blessed." Before the enjoyment of the kingdom in heaven, the kingdom of God on earth will come. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them; and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God."
Each theory has its difficulties. There are texts which are not easily explained in harmony with either view. But all believe that some day, remote or near, the kingdom of God will come. Milton shared this hope when, impatient of the level plains of prose, he soared aloft in such rhapsodies as when he pictured his country casting away from her the rags of vice, and pressing on in happy emulation "to be found the soberest, wisest, and most Christian people at that day, when You, the shortly-expected King, shall open the clouds to judge the several kingdoms of the world, and distributing national honors and rewards to religious and just commonwealths, shall put an end to all earthly tyrannies, proclaiming Your universal and mild monarchy through heaven and earth; where they, undoubtedly, that by their labors, counsels, and prayers, have been earnest for the common good of religion and their country, shall receive, above the inferior orders of the blessed, the regal addition of principalities and thrones into their glorious titles, and in supereminence of beatific vision, progressing the dateless and irrevoluble circle of eternity, shall clasp inseparable hands with joy and bliss, in overmeasure forever." Poetry, when not apprehending the higher and spiritual blessings which the coming of the kingdom will bring, has delighted to extol that Golden Age when—
"All crimes shall cease, and ancient Fraud shall fail;
Returning Justice lift aloft her scale;
Peace o'er the world her olive wand extend,
And white-robed Innocence from heaven descend."—Pope
But that of which philosophers and poets have dreamed and sung, is to be realized only by the coming of Christ. It is the acceptance of His salvation, the recognition of His authority, the prevalence of His kingdom—it is this which will secure all other blessings to mankind. The believer, praying, working, waiting—rejoices in hope of the day when—
"One song employs all nations; and all cry,
'Worthy the Lamb, for He was slain for us!'
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other, and the mountain-tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy;
Until, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous Hosanna round.
Bright as a sun the sacred city shines;
All kingdoms and all princes of the earth
Flock to that light. From every climate they come
To see Your beauty and to share Your joy,
O Zion! an assembly such as earth
Saw never, such as Heaven stoops down to see.
Come then, and, added to your many crowns,
Receive yet one, the crown of all the earth;
Your word fulfilled, the conquest of a world!" —Cowper
What Christian does not long for such a millennium of blessedness to dawn? O for the time when the Right shall reign, and not mere Might; when distinctions of station, endowment, nationality, shall not be the destruction of brotherhood; when men shall everywhere show that they are children of one Father; trusting, not fearing one another, and each seeking his own good only in alliance with that of his neighbor; when fortresses shall no longer frown defiance; when boundaries of mountains, rivers, and oceans shall no longer separate the human family into antagonistic rivalries; when swords shall indeed "be turned into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks;" when thrones shall never be symbols of pride, objects of fear, and prizes of ambition; when laws and rulers shall no more be needed to resist violence or punish wrong, but only to guide and assist in common action for the common weal!
O for the time when holy love shall no longer be debased to brutish lust, nor strength of body or brain be used to injure or distress; when Science shall pour fresh light on Religion, and every new discovery evoke new hallelujahs to the Creator; when the pen and the press shall never be employed to assail the truth of God or corrupt the minds of men; when speech shall never utter what is false, impure, or unkind; when music shall never lend its charms to licentiousness or stir the passions of war, and painting and sculpture shall portray only what is beautiful and pure; when commerce in all its transactions shall be honest and beneficent; when labor shall never be oppressive and irksome, but give joy to the producer as well as to the purchaser; when amusement shall be only an exchange of pleasure, recreating for fresh toil, and never stooping to give delight by stimulants that enervate the body or corrupt the mind!
O for the time when in the Church there shall be no more sectarian rivalries, bitter controversies, worldly expedients, mammon-worship, ambitious intrigues, popularity-courting, secret envyings, personal jealousies; when, though all may never think and worship exactly alike, varieties of method shall only the more illustrate unity and stimulate love—when all will rejoice in each other's fellowship, promote one another's usefulness, and fulfill the Savior's prayer "that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them and You in me, that they may be perfected in one"!
How blessed the day, Lord hasten it! when there shall no longer be the Church and the world, but when the Church will have absorbed the world, and God be all and in all. Then at length shall the glowing prophecy of Isaiah become an accomplished fact—"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the lamb; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain—for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." "Now, O earth! You may resume the place you had lost. You have borne our revolts and our sorrows through the depths of measureless space; you may now advance all adorned through the still heavens, bearing the pennon of a Redeemer" (Monsell)
V—PRAYER FOR THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM
1. Necessary—All acceptable prayer must be for what is the Will of God. Such prayer benefits ourselves by blending our will with His; and thus promotes obedience, because, as He rules in a universe of mind, the fulfillment of His purposes involves our accord, which prayer promotes and so helps on the accomplishment of His Will. We are thus "fellow-workers with God."
2. What the prayer includes—We ask the King to control the powers of Nature and events in Providence to promote His kingdom. He rules supreme, and everything may become a minister in His service. He who bade the waters of the Red Sea overthrow Pharaoh, and gave Israel streams from the rock, can interpose to preserve His Church in the wilderness which still separates us from the land of promise. If Satan may corrupt the Church within, or stir up enemies from without, much more may the Divine Head of the Church maintain its internal purity and strength. We pray that whatever is intended by the foe for harm may be overruled for good; and that even ambition and war may be overruled to hasten the final victory of Christ. We pray especially that "the Spirit may be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest." The disciples were commanded not only to proclaim the kingdom, but to expect the promise of the Spirit, and we know that while they prayed the Holy Spirit was given, and they saw "the kingdom of God come with power." We hear Him say, "I come quickly;" and we respond, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
3. A test of character—If we are truly regenerate, we do not simply submit to the kingdom of God because we cannot help it, but we welcome it because we love it. If we truly say "Our Father," we, as His children, naturally desire the coming of His kingdom, because, being "heirs of God, joint-heirs with Christ," it is our own. Subjects may submit, but the children of the king are identified with Himself, and share His honor. Some people yield to His will as inevitable; others accept it merely as just and beneficent; those who share the adoption of sons long for His kingdom, and rejoice in it as their Father's.
4. Personal concurrence—All prayer is practical, for, if sincere, it is accompanied by corresponding efforts. There are