The Ancient Faith
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
And why, an American would say, is it not called the Republic of Heaven, and the Chief called the President of a Celestial Republic? Certainly there were the Republics of Greece and Rome before the doctrine of this Kingdom was first promulged, and the Gentiles as well as the Jews could have understood the figure of a Republic as well as that of a Kingdom.
We must understand the type, or we cannot understand the antitype. We must understand that which is natural before we can understand that which is spiritual. What, then are the essential elements of a kingdom as existing among men? They are five, viz: King, Constitution, Subjects, Laws, and Territory. Such are the essential parts of every political kingdom, perfect in its kind, now existing on earth.
In forming a state, the essential elements are people and country. The people make a constitution, and this makes a President or King, citizens or subjects, and everything else belonging to a state. It is, then, the relation into which the people resolve themselves, which make it a republic, an aristocracy, a monarchy. Do they choose a monarchy? They first make a constitution, and this places one upon the throne–makes them subjects, and then gives them laws. Although the constitution is first, in the order of nature, of all the elements of a kingdom, for it makes one man a king and the rest subjects; yet we cannot imagine a constitution in reference to a kingdom, without king and subjects. In speaking of them in detail, we cannot then speak of any one of them as existing without the others–we must regard them as correlates, and as coming into existence contemporaneously. There is no husband nor wife before marriage, neither can there be a husband without a wife; yet one of the parties must be made before the other. Marriage makes a husband out of a bridegroom, and a wife out of the bride. So the constitution makes the king or the governor; the citizens or subjects, out of the people, as the case may be; for there never can be a king or subject without a constitution, or, what is the same thing, an agreement, verbal or written, for certain privileges stipulated and conditioned. In every well regulated political kingdom, in the order of nature, the elements stand thus. 1. Constitution; 2. King; 3. Subjects; 4. Laws; 5. Territory.
In the kingdom which God set up by Moses, the elements stood in this order. The constitution was first proposed under which God condescended to be their King, and they were to be regarded as his people or subjects; he then gave them laws and established them in the territory before promised.
But in the kingdom of nature, or in the original kingdom of God, the elements are only four, and the order in which they stand are: 1. King; 2. Subjects; 3. Laws; 4. Territory. As Father and Creator of the kingdom, God himself was absolute Sovereign, whose will is the supreme law of the whole realm of nature.
Having ascertained the essential elements of a kingdom, and marked the order in which they stand, before we particularly attend to those elements in order, we shall ask, Why this kingdom is called the kingdom of Heaven?
Heaven, and the Kingdom of Heaven are not one and the same thing. God is not the Kingdom of God. But as the kingdom of God is something pertaining to God, so the Kingdom of Heaven is something pertaining to heaven, and consequently to God. Whether always the phrases “the Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of heaven” exactly represent the same thing, certain it is that both phrases are often applied to the same institution. [If the following passages are carefully examined and compared, it will appear that both these phrases often represent the same thing: Matt. iii. 2. Mark i. 14. Luke iv. 43.– Matt. xiii. 11. Mark iv. 11. Luke viii. 10,– Matt. xi. 11. Luke vii. 28. To these three distinct evidence many more might be added. What Matthew calls “the Kingdom of Heaven,” Mark and Luke call “the Kingdom of God.”]
This is true of them, whether translated reign or kingdom; and it is very evident that frequently the original world basileia ought in preference to be rendered reign, inasmuch as this term better suits all those passages where coming or approaching is spoken of: for while reigns or administrations approach and recede, kingdoms have attributes and boundaries which are stationary. Reign and Kingdom of God, though sometimes applicable to the same subject, never contemplate it in the same light. They are, indeed, as intimately connected as the reign of king William and the kingdom of Great Britain. The former represents the administration of the kingdom, and the latter the state over which this administration extends.
Two good reasons may be offered why Matthew, the oldest Christian writer, generally prefers Kingdom or Reign of Heaven, to the phrase Kingdom or Reign of God: I say generally, for he occasionally uses both designations (Matthew vi. 33. xii. 28. xix. 24. xxi. 31, 43). He wrote to Jews in Judea who expected a Messiah, a King, and a Kingdom of God on earth, a mere improvement of the Jewish system; and therefore to raise their conception he delights to call it the Reign or Kingdom of Heaven, in contrast with that earthly Kingdom of God, of which they were so long in possession.
He also found a good reason in the idiom of the Jewish prophets for using the word Heaven (both in the singular and plural form) for God. Daniel told the Assyrian monarch that his kingdom would be sure to him when he would have learned that “the Heavens do rule;” yet in the preceding verse he says, “Till thou knowest that the Most High rules in the kingdom of man,”–thus using Heavens and the Most High as synonymous. The Psalmist says, “The wicked set their mouths against the Heavens.” The Prodigal confesses that he had “sinned against Heaven,” and Jesus himself asked whether the baptism of John was “from Heaven or from men.” Thus he was authorized from the Jewish use of the word to regard it as equivalent to God. If, then, Matthew had meant no more by the phrase “Kingdom of Heaven” and the “Kingdom of God,” he was justified by the Jewish use of the word heaven, to apply it in that sense. Some may object to all these remarks upon Matthew’s manner, that it was Jesus Christ and the preachers he commissioned who called it the Kingdom of Heaven, and not Matthew Levi. To such we reply that the other sacred writers uniformly, in reciting all the same parables and incidents, use the phrase “Kingdom of God,” and never the phrase “the Kingdom of Heaven.”
From the use of the phrase “Kingdom of God,” we must, I think, regard him as having special reference to the reason first assigned. He does not say the Kingdom of Heaven shall be taken from the Jews; but “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits of it:” for although it might with propriety, in his acceptation, he said that the Jews already had the kingdom of God, it could not be said that they had the kingdom of Heaven as proclaimed by Matthew (Matt. xxi. 43).
When compared with the earthly Kingdom of God among the Jews, it is certainly the Kingdom of Heaven; for Jesus alleges that his kingdom is not of this world; and Daniel affirmed that in the days of the last worldly empire the God of heaven would set up a kingdom unlike all others then on earth; in which, as Paul teaches, men are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) for he has raised us Jews and Gentiles, and “has set us down together in the heavenly places by Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6).
There is, in the superior and heavenly privileges and honors bestowed upon the citizens of this kingdom, the best reason why it should have first been presented to the world under this title, rather than any other; and for the same reasons which influenced Matthew to usher it into notice in Judea, under this designation, we ought now to prefer it, because many of our contemporaries, like the ancient Jews, see as much of heaven and glory in the veiled grace of the Mosaic institution, as in the unveiled grace of the Christian kingdom. The pertinency of this title will appear still more evident as we develop the constitutional privileges of this kingdom.
But most evidently the kingdom of heaven is “the Kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Eph. v. 5). It is the kingdom of God, because he set it up (Daniel ii. 44) gave the constitution and King, and all the materials out of which it is erected (Jer. xxxi. 31, 34). It is the kingdom of Christ, because God the Father gave it to him as his Son, and as the heir of all things, and therefore, “all that is the Father’s is mine,” says Jesus, “and I am his” (John xvii. 18). God created all things BY Jesus Christ and FOR him.
Having, then, noticed the reasons for the characteristic titles of this kingdom, and having already ascertained what are the elements absolutely essential to a kingdom, distinguished from those merely circumstantial or accidental, we shall now proceed to consider in the order suggested, the Constitution, King, Subjects, Laws, and Territory of the Kingdom of Heaven.
God himself, after the gracious counsels of his own will, proposed and tendered the constitution of this kingdom to his own Son. This “glory he had with the father before the world was.” He that was “in the beginning with God”–“the wisdom and power of God“–was set up [constituted] from everlasting, or ever the earth was. “Then was I with God, as one brought up with him; I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him–rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” (Prov. viii. 23-31).Therefore, he who was to be “ruler in Israel” was with God in counsel “in the beginning of all his ways;” for “his goings forth were from of old, even from the day of eternity” (Micah v. 2).
It was TO DO THE WILL, or fulfil the items of this constitution, that “the WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us.” I came to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish “the work given me to do.” “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to resume it; this commandment I received from my Father.” The Father “commissioned and sent him forth into the world.” He “came down from heaven.” “Thou hast given me power over all flesh, that I might give eternal life to all that thou hast given me.”
These, and many other passages, which the reader will easily remember, unequivocally evince that an understanding and agreement existed ere time began between God and the WORD of God–or, as now revealed, between the FATHER and the SON, respecting the kingdom. In consequence of which, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”–in consequence of which “he divested himself” of his antecedent glory–“took upon him the form of a bond-servant”–“was made in the likeness of sinful flesh”–“took part with us in flesh and blood.” In consequence of which agreement, and the promised glory, for “the joy set before him in the promise,” of “seeing his seed the travail of his soul, and being satisfied,” he “endured the cross, despising the shame,” and was “made perfect through sufferings to lead many sons to glory.”
To the stipulations concerning eternal life, propounded in the constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven, frequent allusions are made in the Apostle’s writings. Thus the believers were “elected in him before the foundation of the world,” and “eternal life was promised before the times of the ages,” “according to the benevolent purposes which he purposed in himself for the administration of the fullness of the appointed times, to gather together all under Christ–all in the heavens and all on the earth, under him. He formerly marked us out for an adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to his purpose, who effectually works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. i. 3-12).
From all these sayings and allusions, we must trace the constitution of this kingdom into eternity–before time began. We must date it from everlasting, and resolve it into the absolute gracious will of the eternal God. In reference to all the prospective developments of time, “known to God from the beginning,” it proposed to make the WORD flesh, and then to make the Incarnate Word, called Emmanuel, of Jesus Christ, the King, to give him all who should be reconciled to God by him for subjects, to put under him all the angelic hosts, and constitute him monarch of earth, lawgiver to the universe; and thus make him heir and Lord of all things.
As a constitution brings all the elements of a kingdom into a new relation to one another, so it is the measure and guarantee of all the privileges, immunities, and obligations accruing to all the parties in that relation. It prescribes, arranges, and secures all the privileges, duties, obligations, honors, and emoluments of the King and the subjects. Neither of them can claim more than it stipulates and guarantees, and neither of them can rightfully be deprived of any of them.
From the premises now before us, and the light given to us in these scriptures and those in the margin, we learn–
First. That God is the author of the constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven; that he propounded it to the WORD that was made flesh, before the world was, in prospect of all the developments of creation.
Second. That the WORD accepted it, because the will of God was always his delight; therefore he said, “I come to do thy will, O God!” Hence “God has so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him may not perish, but obtain eternal life.”
Third. That in consequence “all authority in heaven and earth” was given to Jesus Christ, and all orders of intelligence subjected to him, that he might be King over all, and have the power of giving eternal life to his people (Matt. xxviii. 18. Luke xxiv. 47. Mt. xi. 27).
Fourth. That the earth is now the Lord’s, the present temporal territory of his kingdom; that the heathen people are given to him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession; that all ends of the earth are his, and all dominions, kindreds, tribes, tongues, and people shall yet serve him on earth and glorify him in heaven (Psalms ii. 6-8. lxxii. 2-18).
Fifth. That all that he redeems are his seed–his subjects: that he will have their faith, confidence, esteem, admiration, and gratitude forever; that he will be worshipped, honored, and revered by them in a world without end: that God, angels, and saints will delight in him for ever and ever (Rev. v. 9-14. xiv. 1-5. xvi. 3, 4. xxi. 9-27. Eph. i. 20, 21). He has, therefore, to raise the dead, judge the world, and to present the redeemed pure, holy, happy, and triumphant before his Father, and then to give up his kingdom to God.
To comprehend in any adequate idea, the constitution of this kingdom, we must learn more than its history, or the way in which it was introduced and propounded. We must regard all the elements of the kingdom as constitutional elements–the King as constitutional King; the subjects, laws, and territory, including the ultimate inheritance, as constitutional subjects, laws, territory, inheritance; and, therefore, we shall speak of them in detail.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the constitutional monarch of the Kingdom of Heaven. The privileges guaranteed to him in reference to the kingdom are as follows:
As King, he is to be the oracle of God–to have the disposal of the Holy Spirit–to be Prophet and High Priest of the Temple of God–to have the throne of his Father–to be governor of all nations on earth, and head of all hierarchs and powers in heaven–the supreme Lawgiver, the only Saviour–the resurrection and the life, the ultimate and final Judge of all, and the Heir of all things.
These honors, privileges, and powers, are secured to him by the irrevocable grant of the God and Father of all; therefore, as said Isaiah, “The Lord cometh with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. Behold his reward is with him, and his work before him.” “I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” “I have made him a leader and commander of the people”–“a light to the Gentiles”–“salvation to the ends of the earth”–“a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedeck,” “Sit thou at my right hand till I make thy foes thy footstool.” “The government shall be upon his shoulders.” “All things are delivered to me by my Father.” “He is Lord of the dead and living.” “Angels, authorities, and powers are subjected to him.” “The Father gave the Spirit without measure to him.” “He received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit.” “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is the governor among the nations.” “He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates to the ends of the earth.” “They shall fear thee as long as sun and moon endure to all generations.” “The Father has committed all judgments to the Son.”
But, not to weary the reader with quotations and proofs, we shall give but another:–“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights. I have put my Spirit upon him. He shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the earth; and the Isles shall wait for his law.”–“I, the Lord, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand and keep thee, and give thee for a covenant [a CONSTITUTION] of the people, for a light to the Gentiles–to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house” (Isa. xlii: 1-7).
THE SUBJECTS OF THE KINGDOM
They are all born again. Their privileges and honors are the following:–
First. Their constitutional King is the only begotten Son of God; whose titles and honors are–Image of the invisible God–Effulgence of the Father’s glory–Emmanuel–Upholder of the universe–Prophet of the Prophets–High Priest of the temple of God–King of kings–Lord of lords–the only Potentate–Commander and Covenant of the people–Captain of Salvation–Counsellor, Lawgiver, Redeemer, Deliverer, Mediator, Saviour, Advocate, Judge. He is the Sun of Righteousness, Prince of Peace, Lamb of God, Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star, Light of the World, the Faithful and True Witness, Bishop of Souls, Great Shepherd of the Sheep, Head of the Church, Lord of all, Heir of the Universe, the Resurrection and the Life, the Son of Man, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the end, the Amen, &c., &c. Such is the Christian’s King, whose assistance in all these characters, offices, and relations, as exhibited, under all these figures, is guaranteed to him in the Constitution. Indeed it is all expressed in one promise–“I will be your God, and you shall be my people.“
Second. It is guaranteed that “their sins and iniquities are to be remembered no more.” “There is no condemnation to them who are under Christ.” “Sin shall have no dominion, nor lord it over them.” The Lord imputeth to them no sin. They are all pardoned, justified, and saved from sin.
Third. They are adopted into the family of God; made sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, children of God, and heirs–joint heirs with Christ. They have an Advocate in the heavens, through whom their persons and prayers are accepted.
Fourth. They all know the Lord. “All thy children shall be taught of God.” The Holy Spirit of God writes the law of God upon their hearts, and inscribes it upon their understanding: so that they need not teach everyone his fellow citizen to know the Lord, “for they all know him from the least to the greatest.” They are sanctified through the truth–separated and consecrated to God.
Fifth. They have the promise of a resurrection from the dead, and eternal life; an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading–new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness alone shall dwell forever.
Such are the constitutional rights and privileges of the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. All these have obtained for them the following titles and honors:–Kingdom of Heaven; Israel of God; chosen generation; body of Christ; children of God; habitation of God; family of God; Jerusalem from above; Mount Zion; peculiar people; the elect of God; holy nation; temple of the Holy Spirit; house of God; city of the living God; pillar and ground of the truth; living stones; seed of Abraham; citizens of heaven; lights of the world; salt of the earth; heirs of God; joint heirs with Christ, &c.
The privileges, honors, and emoluments belong to every citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven. Indeed, they are all comprehended in the summary which Paul (from Jeremiah) lays before the believing Hebrews:–“This is the constitution which I will make with the house of Israel for those days: I will put my laws into their mind, and inscribe them upon their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. And they shall not teach every man his fellow citizen, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them; because I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Hebrews viii. 10-13). To this summary the reader may add those scriptures in the margin, as confirmatory of the above (Rom. vi. 5, 6, 14. viii. 1, 33-39. 1 Cor. vi. 11. Eph 1:7; 2:6, 19, 21, 22. Col. 1:13, 14. 1 Peter ii. 5, 7. 2 Peter i. 10, 11. 1 John ii. 2).
THE LAWS OF THE KINGDOM
The supreme law of the kingdom is love–love to the King and love to each other. From this law all its religious homage and morality flow. Precepts and examples innumerable present this to the mind of all the citizens. The Kingdom of Heaven is divided into small societies, called churches, or congregations of the Lord. Each of these communities in the reception of members, in the education and discipline of them, or in excluding them when necessary, is to be governed by the apostolic instructions: for to the Apostles the Saviour committed the management of his kingdom. After they had made citizens by preaching the gospel and baptizing, they were commanded to teach them to observe whatsoever the Saviour had commanded them.
These laws and usages of the Apostles must be learned from what the Apostles published to the world, after the ascension and coronation of the King, as they are recorded in the Acts of the Apostles and Epistles: for we shall see in the sequel that the gospel was fully developed, and the whole doctrine of the Reign of Christ began to be proclaimed in Jerusalem, on the first Pentecost after the ascension.
The old or Jewish constitution was promulged first on Sinai on the first Pentecost after the redemption of Israel from Egyptian bondage; and from that day, and what is written after it in Exodus and Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, all the laws, manners, and customs authorized by the national constitution are to be found. They are not to be sought after in Genesis, nor in the antecedent economy. Neither are the statutes and laws of the Christian kingdom to be sought for in the Jewish scriptures, nor antecedent to the day of Pentecost; except so far as our Lord himself, during his life time, propounded the doctrine of his reign. But of this when we ascertain the commencement of this kingdom.
There is one universal law of naturalization, or for making citizens out of all nations, enjoined upon those citizens of the kingdom who are engaged in the work of proselytism; but the laws of this kingdom, like the laws of every other kingdom, are obligatory only on the citizens.
The weekly celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the weekly meeting of the disciples of Christ for this purpose, and for the edification of one another in their most holy faith, are the only positive statutes of the kingdom; and, therefore, there is no law, statute, or observance in this kingdom, that in the least retards its extension from East to West, from North to South, or that can prevent its progress in all nations of the world.
It is, however, worthy of observation, that every part of the Christian worship, in the small communities spread over the territory of the Kingdom of Heaven, like so many candlesticks in a large edifice, are designed to enlighten and convert the world; and, therefore, in all the meetings of the family of God, they are to keep this supremely in view; and to regard themselves as the “pillar and ground of the truth.”
Concerning the details of the laws of the kingdom, we cannot now speak particularly. “The favor of God which brings salvation, teaches all the citizens of heaven, that, denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, expecting the blessed hope–namely, the appearing of the glory of the great God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” These things the Bishops of every community should teach and enforce; for such is the spirit, and such is the object of all the laws and statutes of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In all other kingdoms, except the Kingdom of Heaven, the territory is the national domain and inheritance. It was so in the first Kingdom of God under the constitution from Sinai. But in the typical kingdom they lived at a distance from their inheritance for one generation. During these forty years, in which they pitched their tents in the wilderness, God was their inheritance. He rained bread from heaven upon them, and sent them flesh upon the east wind. He made the flinty rock Horeb a living spring, whose stream followed them all the way to Jordan. He renewed their garments every day, so that for forty years they grew not old, not needed a single patch. A pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day guided them towards Canaan, the land of their inheritance.
The whole earth is the present territory of the Kingdom of Heaven, but the new heavens and earth are to be its inheritance. The earth, indeed, is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; but the children of God and the children of the wicked one–the wheat and the darnel, are both planted in it, and must grow till the harvest. The righteous have their bread and water guaranteed to them while they live; for “godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.” But the joint heirs of Christ are never taught to regard the earth as their inheritance. They may indeed, say, though poor and penniless, “All things are ours; whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come–all are ours, and we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” But, like the Jews on their journey to Canaan, “they seek a better country”–“they seek a city yet to come.” “My kingdom,” says Jesus, “is not of this world.” And, therefore, in the world, Christians are strangers and pilgrims, and may expect tribulation.
There earth is the present theatre of war; therefore all Christians in the territory are soldiers. Their expenses, their rations are allowed, the arms and munitions of war are supplied them from the magazines in Mount Zion, the strong hold and fortress of the kingdom; where the King, the heads of departments, and all the legions of angels are resident. So that on entering the Army of the Faith every soldier is panoplied with the armor of God; and when inducted into the heavenly tactics under the Captain of Salvation, he is expected to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and to fight the good fight of faith courageously and victoriously.
The Kingdom of Heaven on this territory is greatly opposed by the kingdom of Satan, which ever seeks to make an inheritance out of the territory of the militant kingdom of righteousness; and therefore, the citizens have not to wrestle with flesh and blood, but with the rulers of the darkness of this world–with spiritual wickedness in high places.
Ever since the commencement of this kingdom, the governments of this world have either been directly opposed to it, or at best, pretended friends; and therefore their influence has always been opposed to the true Spirit and genius of the Christian institution. Christians have nothing to expect from them except liberty of conscience and protection from violence, while leading peaceable and quiet lives, in all godliness and honesty, till Jesus take to himself his great power, and hurl all these potentates from their thrones and make his cause triumphant–a consummation devoutly to be wished, and which cannot now be regarded as far distant.
INDUCTION INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Into every kingdom, human or divine, there is a legal door of admission. That is, in the statute book of Heaven, called a birth. Into the kingdom of nature we are born. Into the future and ultimate kingdom of glory we enter, soul and body, by being born from the grave. As Christ, the first born from the dead, entered the heavenly kingdom, so must all his brethren. And as to this kingdom of which we speak, as now existing in this world, Jesus himself taught that into it no person can legally enter who is not born again, or “born of water and the Spirit.” (John iii. 5. Titus iii. 5). The analogy is complete between the kingdoms of nature–of grace–and of glory. Hence we have natural birth, metaphorical or spiritual birth, and supernatural birth. There is a being born of the flesh–born of the Spirit–born of the grave; and there is a kingdom for the flesh–a kingdom for the Spirit–and a kingdom for the glorified man.
This second, or new birth, which inducts into the Kingdom of God, is always subsequent to a death and burial, as it will be into the everlasting kingdom of glory. It is indeed, a literal death and burial before a literal resurrection, into the heavenly and eternal kingdom. It is also a metaphorical or figurative death and burial, before the figurative resurrection or new birth into the Kingdom of Heaven. Water is the element in which this burial and resurrection are performed, according to the constitutional laws of the Kingdom of Heaven. Hence Jesus connects the water and the Spirit when speaking of entering the Kingdom of God.
In naturalizing aliens, the commandment of the King is first–submit to them the Constitution, or preach to them the gospel of the kingdom, Soon as they understand and believe this, and are desirous of being translated into the Kingdom of Christ and of God, that “they many receive the remission of sins and inheritance among all that are sanctified,” they are to be buried in water into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and raised out of it confessing their death to sin, their faith in Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection: and thus they are born of water and the Spirit, and constituted citizens of the kingdom of heaven. To as many as thus receive him he gives privilege to become the children of God; for they are “born of God“–born of God, when born of water and the Spirit, because this is the institution of God.
In these days of apostasy men have sought out many inventions. Some have attempted to get into the Kingdom of Heaven without being born at all. Others imagine that they can be born of the Spirit, without water, and that the king is well pleased with them who have been born without a mother, as those who are lawfully born of father and mother. Others think that neither Spirit nor water is necessary; but if they are politically born of the flesh, they can enter the kingdom as rightfully as the Jewish circumcised infants enter the earthly kingdom of Israel. But as we have no faith in any modern improvements of the gospel, change or amendment of the constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven, we must leave them to account to the King himself, who “have transgressed the law, changed the ordinance, and broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah xxiv. 5). and proceed to the [following] question.
THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM
When did the Kingdom of Heaven commence? “With the ministry of John,” says one: “With the ministry of Jesus,” says another: “With the first sending out of the Twelve Apostles,” says a third: “At the resurrection of Jesus,” says a fourth: “At none of them; but by degrees from the baptism of John till the fall of Jerusalem,” says a fifth.
The reader will please remember that there are at least five elements essential to a perfectly organized kingdom, and that it may be contemplated in reference to one or more of these component parts. Hence the numerous and various parables of the Savior. Sometimes he speaks of the administration of its affairs–of its principles in the heart–of its subjects–of its King–of its territory–of its progress–of various incidents in its history. Hence the parable of the sower–of wheat and darnel–of the leaven–of the merchant seeking goodly pearls–of the grain of mustard seed–of the sweep net–of the marriage of a king’s son–of a nobleman going into a far country–of the ten virgins–of the talents–of the sheep and goats, present to our view the Kingdom of Heaven in different attitudes, either in its elements or in its history–its commencement or its close.
The approaching or the coming of the Reign of Heaven, can properly have respect only to one or two of the elements of a kingdom; or to the formal exhibition of that whole organization of society which we call a kingdom. It can have no proper allusion to its territory; for that was created and located before man was created. It cannot allude either to the persons who were constituted subjects, for they too were in existence before the kingdom commenced. It cannot allude to the birth or baptism of the King, for it was not till after these that Jesus began to proclaim its coming or approach. It cannot have reference to the ministry of John or of Jesus, any more than to the patriarchal or Jewish dispensations; because Jesus did not begin to proclaim the coming of this reign till after John was cast into prison. This is a fact of so much importance, that Matthew, Mark, and Luke distinctly and substantially declare, that, in conformity to ancient predictions, Jesus was to begin to proclaim in Galilee, and that he did not commence to proclaim the doctrine or the gospel of the coming of the Reign, till after John’s ministry ceased and he was cast into prison. In this assertion the Evangelists agree: “Now Jesus [after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness] hearing that John was imprisoned, retired into Galilee; and having left Nazareth, resided at Capernaum. For thus saith the Prophet,” &c. From that time Jesus began to proclaim, saying, “Reform for the Reign of Heaven approaches;” or, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” as says the common version (Matt. iv. 12. Mark i. 14. Luke iii. 30. iv. 14).
Some Baptists, for the sake of immersion, and some of our brethren in the Reformation, for the sake of immersion for the remission of sins, seem desirous to have John in the Kingdom of Heaven, and to date the commencement of the Christian dispensation with the first appearance of John the Immerser. They allege in support of this hypothesis that Jesus said, “The Law and the Prophets continued till John,” (the only instructors of men;) “since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every man presses into it.” “Publicans and harlots show you the way into the Kingdom of Heaven,” said Jesus to the Pharisees. Again, “Alas! for you Scribes and Pharisees! for you shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men, and will neither enter yourselves, nor permit others that would to enter.” “The Kingdom of God is within you.” “The Kingdom of Heaven has overtaken you.” From these premises they infer that the Kingdom of Heaven was actually set up by John the Baptist: “For,” say they, “how could men and women enter into a kingdom which was not set up? And did not John immerse for the remission of sins, and call upon men to repent and reform in order to baptism?”
The Paidobaptists, too, will have Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, David, and all the circumcised Jews in the Kingdom of Heaven, because Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am;” “Abraham saw my day and was glad;” and Paul says Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt, and forsook Egypt in faith of the Christian recompense of reward. Yes, and Paul affirms that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their families, who dwelt in tents in the promised land, looked not only to the rest in Canaan, but they sought a heavenly country, and expected the city of foundations, whose builder and maker is God. Thus the Jews had Christ in the manna and in the rock, and baptism in the cloud and in the sea.
The mistake is specifically the same. Christ was promised and prefigured before he came, and the Kingdom of Heaven was promised and preached by John, by Jesus, the Twelve, and the Seventy, (who went about proclaiming the glad tidings of the Reign), before the Reign of Christ, or Kingdom of Heaven commenced. Because Christ was promised and prefigured in the patriarchal and Jewish ages, the Paidobaptists will have the Kingdom of Heaven on earth since the days of Abel; and because the glad tidings of the Reign and Kingdom of Heaven and the principles of the new and heavenly order of society were promulged by John, the Baptists will have John the Baptist in the Kingdom of Heaven, and the very person who set it up.
Let us, then, examine this matter with all candor: and first, we shall place the passages above quoted out of the testimonies of the Evangelists on one side, and the following passages on the other side; and then see if we can reconcile them. John says, “Reform, for the Reign of God approaches.” Jesus began to proclaim, saying “Reform, for the Reign or Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He also commanded the Twelve and the Seventy to peregrinate all Judea, making the same proclamation (Matt. x. 7. Luke x. 1-11). Of John the Baptist he said, though greater than all the Prophets, “The least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.”
Thus, after John was beheaded, we have some eighty-four preachers daily proclaiming the nigh approach of the Reign of God; and Jesus often assuring his disciples that the Kingdom of God was soon to appear, and that some of his companions would see him enter upon his Reign before they died–and yet the Kingdom was set up by John! Scribes and Pharisees were shutting the kingdom against men, when Jesus had only given the keys to Peter! John the Baptist was in the kingdom, and the least in the kingdom is greater than he! More than eighty preachers say, “Reform, for the Reign of Heaven is at hand;” and John the Baptist before he died, introduced all Judea and Jerusalem into it! How, then, shall we reconcile these apparent contradictions? Make both sides figurative, and it may be done. Regard both sides literally, and it cannot be done! To say that the kingdom came in one point of view at one time, and in another point of view at another time, is only to say that it came in different senses–literally and figuratively. For our part, we must believe that the Kingdom of Heaven began, or the Reign of Heaven literally and truly commenced in one day.
Many of its principles were developed by the ancient Prophets; David, Isaiah, and others wrote much concerning it; John the Baptist proclaimed its immediate and near approach, and more fully developed its spiritual design; therefore he was superior to them. Jesus often unfolded its character and design in various similitudes; and everyone who understood and received these principles was said to “press into the kingdom,” or to have “the kingdom within them;” and wherever these principles were promulged, “the Kingdom of Heaven” was said to “come nigh” to the people, or to have “overtaken them;” and those who opposed these principles and interposed their authority, to prevent others from receiving them, were said to “shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men;” and thus all these scriptures must of necessity be understood from the contexts in which they stand: for it is impossible that the Reign of Heaven could literally commence “till Jesus was glorified,” “received the promise of the Holy Spirit,” was “made Lord and Christ,” and “sat down with his Father upon the throne”–for he left the earth to receive a kingdom (Luke xix. 11-15)
To make this, if possible, still more evident, we ask When did the Kingdom of God, established by Moses amongst the seed of Abraham, cease? This question penetrates the whole nature and necessity of the case: for will any one suppose that there were two Kingdoms of God on earth at one and the same time? Certainly the one ceased before the other began.
Now, that the kingdom of God, ministered by Moses, had not ceased during the personal ministry of the Messiah on earth, is, we think, abundantly evident from the following facts and documents:
First. Jesus was to have appeared, and did appear, “in the end of the world,” or last days of the first Kingdom of God. “In the conclusion of the age has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The “world to come” was one the names of the gospel age. He has not subjected “the world to come” to angels, as he did the world past, says Paul to the Hebrews. He appeared, then, not in the beginning of the gospel age, but in the end of the Jewish age.
Second. The Temple was the house of God to the very close of the life of Jesus. For it was not till the Jewish ministry conspired to kill him that he deserted it. At the last festival of his life, and immediately before he fell into their hands, on walking out of the Temple, he said, “Behold your house is deserted, for you shall not see me henceforth till you shall say, Blessed be he that comes in the name of the Lord!” It was his Father’s house, the house of God, till that moment. Then, indeed, the glory departed.
Third. The Jewish offerings and service, as a divine institution, continued till the condemnation of Jesus. He sent the cleansed leper to the priest to make the offering commanded in the law. He commanded the people to hear the doctors of the law who sat in Moses’ chair. He paid the didrachma. He was a minister of the circumcision. He lived under, not after the law. He kept all its ordinances, and caused all his disciples to regard it in its primitive import and authority to the last passover. Indeed, it could not be disannulled, for it was not consummated till on the cross he said, “IT IS FINISHED.”
Fourth. When he visited Jerusalem the last time, and in the last parable pronounced to them, he told them plainly that “the Kingdom of God should be taken from them” and given to a nation who should make a better use of the honors of the kingdom; consequently at the time the Jews had the Kingdom of God.
Fifth. It was not until his death that the veil of the Temple was rent; that the things “which could be shaken were shaken.” It was then, and not till then, that he nailed the legal institution to the cross. Then, and not till then, was the middle wall of partition broken down. The last Sabbath he slept in the grave. From the moment of his death there was no life in the old Kingdom of God. The Temple was deserted, its veil rent, its foundation shaken, the city devoted, the ritual abolished, and as after death the judgment–the Temple, city, and nation waited for the day of his vengeance.
The Kingdom of God was evidently in the Jewish institution till Jesus died. Hence the Kingdom of Heaven came not while Jesus lived. In anticipation, they who believed the gospel of the kingdom received the Kingdom of God, just as in anticipation he said, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” before he began to suffer; and as he said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, shed for the remission of the sins of many,” before it was shed. So while the doctrines of this reign–faith, repentance, baptism, and a new principle of sonship to Abraham were promulging by John, the Twelve, the Seventy, and by Himself, the Kingdom of Heaven was approaching; and those who received these principles by anticipation were said to enter into the kingdom, or to have the kingdom within them.
The principles of any reign or revolution are always promulged, debated, and canvassed before a new order of things is set up. A party is formed upon these principles before strength is acquired, or a leader obtained competent to the commencement of a new order of things. In society, as in nature, we have first the blade, next the stem, and then the ripe corn in the ear. We call it wheat, or we call it corn, when we have only the promise in the blade. By such a figure of speech, the Kingdom of God was spoken of, while as yet only its principles were promulging.
When these American states were colonial subjects of the king of England, and long before the setting up of a republic, republican doctrines were promulged and debated. The believers and advocates of these doctrines were called republicans, while as yet there was not a republic on this continent. He who dates the commencement of the Kingdom of Heaven from the ministry of John the Baptist sympathizes with him who dates the American republics from the first promulgation of the republican principles, or from the formation of a republican party in the British colonies. But as a faithful and intelligent historian, in writing the history of the American republics, commences with the history of the first promulgation of these principles, and records the sayings and deeds of the first promulgers of the new doctrines; so the sacred historians began their history of the Kingdom of Heaven with the appearance of John in the wilderness of Judea, preaching the Messiah, faith, repentance, a holy life, and raising up a new race of Israelites on the principle of faith rather than of flesh; for this in truth was the “blade” of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Having from all these considerations seen that until the death of the Messiah his kingdom could not commence; and having seen from the record itself that it did not commence before his resurrection, we proceed to the development of things after his resurrection, to ascertain the day on which this kingdom was set up, or the Reign of Heaven began.
The writer to whom we are most indebted for an orderly and continued narrative of the affairs of the Kingdom of Heaven is the Evangelist Luke. His history begins with the angelic annunciations of the nativity of John and Jesus, and ends with the appearance of the great standard-bearer of the Cross in Imperial Rome, A. D. 64. That part of the history to which we now look as a guide, to the affairs of the commencement of the Reign, is the notices which he makes of the forty days which the Lord spent in his crucified body, previous to his ascension. The reader ought not to be told (for he ought to know) that Jesus rose in the same body in which he was crucified, and in the reanimated fleshly body did eat, drink, and converse with his Apostles and friends for forty days. That body was not changed till, like the living saints who shall be on the earth at his second personal coming, it was made spiritual, incorruptible and glorious at the instant of his ascension. So that the man Christ Jesus was make like to all his brethren in his death, burial, resurrection, transfiguration, ascension, and glorification; or, rather, they shall be made to resemble him in all these respects.
The Apostles testify that they saw him ascend–that a cloud received him out of their sight–that angels descended to inform them that he was taken up into heaven, not to return for a long time–that he ascended far above the visible heavens, and now fills all things. Stephen, when dying, saw him standing on the right hand of God.
Much attention is due to all the incidents of these forty days–as much at least, as to the forty days spent by Moses in the Mount with God in the affairs of the preceding Kingdom of God. For the risen Messiah makes the affairs of his approaching kingdom the principal topic of these forty days (Acts 1:3). Towards the close of these days, and immediately before his ascension, he gave the commission to his Apostles concerning the setting up of this kingdom. “All authority in heaven and in earth is given to me: go, therefore,” said he, “convert the nations,” [announce the gospel to every creature] “immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the things which I have commanded you; and, behold! I am with you always, even to the conclusion of this state” (Matt. xxviii. 17-20. Mark xvi. 15. Luke xxiv. 47, 48). “But continue in the city of Jerusalem until you be invested with power from on high.” Thus according to his promise and the ancient prophecy, it was to “begin at Jerusalem.” (Isaiah ii. 3. Micah iv. 2).
The risen Saviour thus directs our attention to Jerusalem as the place, and to a period distant “not many days” as the time, of the beginning of his reign. The great facts of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, not being yet fully developed to his Apostles, they were not qualified to take any steps to the setting up of a kingdom which was to be founded upon Christ crucified. They needed an interpreter of these facts, and a supernatural advocate of the pretensions of the King, before they could lay the foundation of his kingdom.
Again, the King himself must be glorified before his authority could be established on earth; for till he received the promise of the Spirit from his Father, and was placed on his throne, the Apostles could not receive it; so that Christ’s ascension to heaven, and coronation were indispensable to the commencement of this Reign of Heaven.
Here let us pause for a moment–leave the earth, and on the wings of faith in the testimony of Prophets and Apostles, the two witnesses for Jesus, let us follow him to heaven and ascertain his reception into the heaven of heavens, and exaltation to the right hand of God.
THE ASCENSION OF THE MESSIAH
Prophets and Apostles must now be heard. David, by the Spirit, says, “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them as in Sinai in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive; thou has received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious, that the Lord God might dwell among them” (Psalm lxviii. 17, 18). The same Prophet in speaking of the solemn and joyful procession at the carrying up of the ark of the ancient constitution to Mount Zion, turns his eye from the type to the antitype, and thus describes the entrance of the Messiah into Heaven:–“Who shall ascend into the hill of God?” The attendant angels in the train of the Messiah, approaching the heaven of heavens, shout, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! be lift up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.” Those within, filled with astonishment that any one should so confidently demand admission into those gates so long barred against the sons of men, responsive shout, “Who is the King of glory?” The angels in attendance upon the Messiah reply in strains as triumphant, “The Lord, strong and mighty! the Lord, mighty in battle!” and still more exultingly triumphant, shout, “Lift up your heads, O you gates! even lift them up, you everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in. Who is the King of glory? He is the Lord of hosts! he is the King of glory!” (Psalm xxiv).
CORONATION OF THE MESSIAH
Everything in its proper place. He that ascended first descended. Jesus died, was buried, raised from the dead, ascended, and was crowned Lord of all. In the presence of all the heavenly hierarchs, the four living creatures, the twenty-four seniors, and ten thousands times ten thousand angels, he presents himself before the throne. So soon as the First Born from the dead appears in the palace royal of the universe, his Father and his God, in his inaugural address, when anointing him Lord of all, says, “Let all the angels of God worship him”–“Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thy enemies thy footstool.” “Jehovah shall send out of Zion [Jerusalem] the rod of thy strength: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies, [the city of thy strongest foes.”] “Thy people, willing in the day of thy power, shall come to thee. In the beauty of holiness, more than the womb of the morning, shalt thou have the dew of thy progeny. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent. Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedeck. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings [that oppose thee] in the day of his wrath.” “Thy throne, O God, endures forever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a sceptre of rectitude. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of joy above thy fellows. Thou Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hand: they shall perish, but thou remainest; and they shall all grow old as does a garment, and as a vesture, shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (Psalm cx. xlv. Hebrews i.)
Thus God highly exalted him, and did set him over all the works of his hands, and gave him a name and an honor above every name in heaven and on earth, that at the name of Jesus glorified every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess, to the glory of God.
“Now we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, that he might taste death for all, on account of the sufferings of death, crowned with glory and honor”–Now “angels, authorities, principalities, and powers are subjected to him.” “His enemies will I clothe with shame, but upon himself shall his crown flourish.”
The Holy Spirit sent down by Jesus from heaven, on the Pentecost after his resurrection, to the disciples in attendance in Jerusalem, informs the Apostles of all that had been transacted in heaven during the week after his ascension, and till that day. Peter now filled with that promised Spirit, informs the immense concourse assembled on the great day of Pentecost, that God had made that Jesus whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ–exalted him a PRINCE and a Saviour to grant repentance to Israel and remission of sins.
The first act of his reign was the bestowment of the Holy Spirit, according to the Prophecy of Joel and his own promise. So soon as he received the kingdom from God his Father, he poured out the blessings of his favor upon his friends; he fulfilled all his promises to the Apostles, and forgave three thousand of his fiercest enemies. He received pardons and gifts for them that did rebel, and shed forth abundantly all spiritual gifts on the little flock to whom it pleased the Father to give the kingdom. Thus commenced the Reign of Heaven, on the day of Pentecost, in the person of the Messiah, the Son of God, and the anointed Monarch of the universe. Under him his people, saved from their sins, have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken nor removed.
But as the erection of the Jewish tabernacle, after the commencement of the first Kingdom of God, was the work of some time, and of united and combined effort, on the part of those raised up and qualified for the work; so was the complete erection of the new temple of God. The Apostles, as wise master builders, laid the foundation–promulged the constitution, laws, and institutions of the King, and raised the standard of the kingdom in many towns, cities, and countries, for the space of forty years. Some of them not only saw “the Son of Man enter upon his reign,” and the Kingdom of God commence on Pentecost, and carry his conquests over Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth; but they saw the Lord “come with power” and awful glory, and accomplish all his predictions on the deserted and devoted temple, city and people. Thus they saw a bright display of the golden sceptre of his grace in forgiving those who bowed to his authority, and an appalling exhibition of the iron rod of his wrath in taking vengeance on his enemies who would not have him to reign over them.
PRESENT ADMINISTRATION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
During the personal absence of the King, he has committed the management of this kingdom to stewards. These were first Apostles; next to them, Prophets; next, teachers; then, assistants, or helpers; then directors or presidents, all furnished with gifts, knowledge, and character, suited to their respective functions. Besides these, many persons possessed of miraculous powers–gifts of healing and speaking foreign languages, were employed in setting up and putting in order the communities composing the Kingdom of Heaven. Angels also were employed, and are still employed, under the great King in administering to them who are heirs of salvation. For Jesus now, as Lord of all, has the Holy Spirit at his disposal, and all the angels of God; and these are employed by him in the affairs of the kingdom (1 Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11. Heb. i. 14).
The Apostles were plenipotentiaries and ambassadors for Jesus, and had all authority delegated to them from the King. Hence everything was first taught and enjoined by them. They were the first preachers, teachers, pastors, overseers, and ministers in the kingdom, and had the direction and management of all its affairs (2 Cor. iii. 6; v. 18-20).
The communities collected and set in order by the Apostles were called the congregation of Christ, and all these taken together are sometimes called the Kingdom of God. But the phrases “church of God,” or “congregation of Christ,” and the phrases “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Kingdom of God,” do not always nor exactly represent the same thing. The elements of the Kingdom of Heaven, it will be remembered, are not simply its subjects, and therefore not simply the congregations of disciples of Christ. But as these communities possess the oracles of God, are under the laws and institutions of the King, and therefore enjoy the blessings of the present salvation, they are in the records of the Kingdom, regarded as the only constitutional citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; and to them exclusively belongs all the present salvation. Their King is now in heaven, but present with them by his Spirit in their hearts and in all the institutions of his kingdom.
Every immersed believer, of good behaviour, is, by the constitution, a free and full citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, and entitled to all the social privileges and honors of that kingdom. Such of these as meet together statedly in one place in obedience to the King, or his ambassadors the Apostles, for the observance of all the institutions of the King, compose a family, or house, or congregation of Christ; and all these families or congregations, thus organized, constitute the present Kingdom of God in this world. So far the phrases Kingdom of Heaven and the congregation or body of Christ are equivalent in signification (Rom. xii. 4-8. 1 Cor. xii. 27. Heb iii. 6).
Now in gathering these communities, and in setting them in order, the Apostles had, when alive, and when dead, by their writings still have, the sole right of legislating, ordering, and disposing of all things. But it is not the will of Jesus Christ, because it is not adapted to human nature, nor to the present state of his kingdom as administered in his absence, that the church should be governed by a written document alone. Hence in every city, town, and country where the Apostles gathered a community by their own personal labors, or by their assistants, in setting them in order, for their edification, and for their usefulness and influence in this world, they uniformly appointed elders, or overseers to labor in the word and teaching, and to preside over the whole affairs of the community. To these also were added deacons, or public ministers of the congregation, who, under the direction of the overseers, were to manage all the affairs of these individual families of God. This the very names Bishop and Deacon, and all qualifications enjoyed, fairly and fully import.
But as all the citizens of the kingdom are free men under Christ they all have a voice in the selection of the persons whom the Apostles appoint to the offices. The Apostles still appoint all persons so elected, possessing the qualifications which they by the Holy Spirit prescribed. And if a congregation will not elect to these offices the persons possessing these qualifications; or if by a waywardness and selfishness of their own, they should elect those unqualified, and thus disparage those marked out by the possession of those gifts; in either case, they despise the authority of the Ambassadors of Christ and must suffer for it. It is, indeed, the Holy Spirit, and not the congregations, which creates Bishops and Deacons. The Spirit gives the qualifications, both natural and acquired; and, speaking to the congregations in the written oracles, commands their ordination or appointment to the work (Acts vi. 2-7. xiv. 23. xx. 17-36. Philip. i. 1. 1 Tim. iii. 1-16. Titus i. 5-10. Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 24).
In the present administration of the Kingdom of God, faith is the PRINCIPLE, and ordinances the MEANS of all spiritual enjoyment. Without faith in the testimony of God, a person is without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. A Christless universe, as respects spiritual life and joy, is the most perfect blank which fancy can create. Without faith, nothing in the Bible can be enjoyed; and without it, there is to man no Kingdom of Heaven in all the dominions of God.
In the kingdom of nature sense is the principle, and ordinances the means, of enjoyment. Without sense, or sensation, nothing in nature can be known or enjoyed. All the creative, recuperative, and renovating power, wisdom, and goodness of God, exhibited in nature, are contained in ordinances. The sun, moon, and stars–the clouds, the air, the water, the seasons, day and night, are therefore denominated the ordinances of heaven, because God’s power, wisdom, and goodness are in them, and felt by us only through them (Jeremiah xxxi. 35, 36. Job xxxviii. 31-33. Jeremiah xxxiii. 33:25). Now sense, without the ordinances of nature, like faith without the ordinances of religion, would be no principle of enjoyment; and the ordinances of nature, without sense, would be no means of enjoyment. These are the unalterable decrees of God. There is no exception to them; and there is no reversion of them. To illustrate and enforce the doctrine of this single paragraph is worthy of a volume. The essence, the whole essence of that reformation for which we contend, is wrapped up in this decree as above expressed. If it be true, the ground on which we stand is firm and unchangeable as the Rock of Ages; if it be false, we build upon the sand. Reader, examine it well!
In the Kingdom of Heaven, faith is, then, the principle, and ordinances the means of enjoyment; because all the wisdom; power, love, mercy, compassion, or grace of God, is in the ordinances of the Kingdom of Heaven; and if all grace be in them, it can only be enjoined through them. What, then, under the present administration of the Kingdom of Heaven, are the ordinances which contain the grace of God? They are preaching the gospel–immersion in the name of Jesus, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit–the reading and teaching the Living Oracles–the Lord’s day–the Lord’s supper–fasting–prayer–confession of sins–and praise. To these may be added other appointments of God, such as exhortation, admonition, discipline, &c.: for these also are ordinances of God; and indeed all statutes and commandments are ordinances (James i. 25): but we speak not at present of those ordinances which concern the good order of the Kingdom, but of those which are primary means of enjoyment. These primary and sacred ordinances of the Kingdom of Heaven are the means of our individual enjoyment of the present salvation of God.
Without the sun, there is no solar influence; without the moon, there is no lunar influence; without the stars, there is no sidereal influence; without the clouds, there can be no rain; and without the ordinances of the Kingdom of Heaven, there can be no heavenly influence exhibited or felt. There is a peculiar and distinctive influence exerted by the sun, moon, and stars; yet they all give light. So in the ordinances of the Kingdom of Heaven–although they all agree in producing certain similar effects on the subjects of the kingdom, there is something distinctive and peculiar in each of them, so that no one of them can be substituted for another. Not one of them can be dispensed with; they are all necessary to the full enjoyment of the Reign of Heaven.
In nature and in religion, all the blessings of God bestowed on man are properly classed under two heads. These may be called, for illustration, antecedent and consequent. The antecedent include all those blessings bestowed on man to prepare him for action and to induce him to action. The consequent are those which God bestows on man through a course of action correspondent to these antecedent blessings. For example, all that God did for Adam in creating for him the earth and all that it contains, animal, vegetable, mineral; in forming him in his own image; giving him for all his physical, intellectual, and moral powers, and investing him with all the personal and real estate which elevated him above all sublunary beings, were antecedent to any act of Adam; and these furnished him with inducements to love, honor, and obey his Creator and benefactor. All that God did for Abraham in promises and precepts before his obedience–all that he did for the Israelites in bringing them up out of Egypt, and redeeming them from the tyranny of Pharaoh, was antecedent to the duties and observances which he enjoined upon them. And all the blessings which Adam, Abraham, the Israelites enjoyed through conformity to the institutions under which they were placed, were consequent upon that state of mind and course of action which the antecedent favors demanded and occasioned. God never commanded any being to do anything, but the power and motives were derived from something God had done for him.
In the Kingdom of Heaven the antecedent blessings are the constitution of grace, the King, and all that he did, suffered, and sustained for our redemption. These were finished before we came upon the stage of action. This is all favor, pure favor, sovereign favor: for there can be no favor that is not free and sovereign. But the remission of our sins, our adoption into the family of God, our being made heirs and inheritors of the kingdom of glory, are consequent upon faith and the obedience of faith.
Organization and life of any sort are of necessity the gifts of God; but health and continued enjoyment of life, and all its various and numerous blessings are consequent upon the proper exercise of these. He that will not breathe, eat, drink, sleep, exercise, cannot enjoy animal life. God has bestowed animal organization and life antecedent to any action of the living creature; but the creature may throw away his life by refusing to sustain it by the means essential to its preservation and comfort.
God made but one man out of the earth, and one earthly nature of every sort, by a positive, direct, and immediate agency, of wisdom, power, and goodness. He gave these the power according to his own constitution or system of nature, of reproducing and multiplying to an indefinite extent. But still this life is transmitted, diffused, and sustained by God operating through the system of nature. So Jesus in the new creation, by his Spirit sent down from heaven after his glorification, did by a positive, direct, and immediate agency, create one congregation, one mystical, or spiritual body; and, according to the constitution or system of the Kingdom of Heaven, did give to that mystical body, created in Jerusalem, out of the more ancient earthly Kingdom of God, the power of reproducing and multiplying to an indefinite extent. But still this new and spiritual life is transmitted, diffused and sustained by the Spirit of God, operating through the constitution, or system of grace, ordained in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Hence, in setting up the Kingdom of Heaven, as in setting up the kingdom of nature, there was a display of divinity, compared with everything subsequent, properly supernatural. Hence the array of Apostles, prophets, extraordinary teachers, gifts, powers, miracles, &c., &c. But after this new mystical body of Christ was created and made, it had, and yet has, according to the system of grace under the present administration of the Kingdom of Heaven, the power of multiplying and replenishing the whole earth, and will do it; for as God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the spirit of life, after he had raised him out of the dust; and as he bestowed on his beloved Son Jesus, after he rose out of the water, the Holy Spirit without measure; so on the formation of the first congregation, figuratively called the body of Christ, Jesus did breathe into it the Holy Spirit to animate and inhabit it till he come again. The only temple and habitation on earth, since Jesus pronounced desolation on that in Jerusalem, is the body of Christ.
Now, the first congregation of Christ, thus filled with the Spirit of God, had the power of raising other congregations of Christ; or, what is the same thing, of causing the body of Christ to grow and increase. Thus we see that other congregations were soon raised up in Judea and Samaria by the members of the Jerusalem body. Many were begotten to God by the Spirit of God, through the members of the first congregation. And since the Spirit himself ceased to operate in all those splendid displays of supernatural grandeur, by still keeping the disciples of Christ always in remembrance of the things spoken by the holy Apostles, and by all the arguments derived from the antecedent blessings bestowed, working in them both to will and do according to the benevolence of God, he is still causing the body of Christ to grow and increase in stature, as well as in knowledge and favor of God. Thus the church of Christ, inspired with his Spirit, and having the oracles and ordinances of the Reign of Heaven, is fully adequate to the conversion of the whole world, if she prove not recreant to her Lord.
In the work of conversion, her Evangelists, or those whom she sends beyond the precincts of her weekly meetings, have, under the influence of the Spirit of God, simply to propose the constitution, or the glad tidings of the Reign, to those without; and by all the arguments which the oracles of God, and the times and occasions suggest, to beseech and persuade men to be reconciled to God, to kiss the Son, to accept the constitution, to bow to him who is ordained a Prince and a Saviour to grant repentance and remission of sins to all who submit to his government. Thus they, and the congregation who sends them forth and sustains them in the work, beget children to God by the gospel, and enlarge the body of Christ.
With all these documents before us, may we not say, that, as Eve was the mother of all living, so “Jerusalem is the mother of us all?” And thus, to use the language of Paul, “Men are begotten to God by the gospel” through the instrumentality of the congregations of Christ.
Under the present administration of the Kingdom of Heaven, a great apostasy has occurred, as foretold by the Apostles. As the church, compared to a city, is called “Mount Zion,” the apostate church is called “Babylon the Great.” Like Babylon the type, “Mystery Babylon” the antitype, is to be destroyed by a Cyrus that knows not God. She is to fall by the sword of infidels, supported by the fierce judgments of God. “The Holy City” is still trodden under foot, and the sanctuary is filled with corruptions. It is, indeed, a den of thieves; but strong is the Lord that judges the apostate city. Till that great and notable day of the Lord come, we cannot, from the prophetic word, anticipate a universal return to the original gospel, nor a general restoration of all the institutions of the Kingdom of Heaven in their primitive character; and, consequently, we cannot promise to ourselves the universal subjugation of the nations to the scepter of Jesus.
But were we to enter upon the consideration of the administration of the affairs of the kingdom after the fall and overthrow of the apostate city and the conversion of the Jews, we should have to launch upon a wide and tempestuous ocean, for which our slender bark is not at this time sufficiently equipped. This may yet deserve the construction of a large vessel in a more propitious season.Meanwhile the original gospel is extensively proclaimed, and many thousands are preparing for the day of the Lord; and these are taught by the “Faithful and True Witness” that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, and that their happiness and safety alike consist in being prepared for his second advent.