Alexander Campbell Christianity Restored Kingdom Heaven
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
Covenant of Circumcision
The Blessing of Abraham
The Jewish Institution
The Elements of a Kingdom
The Subjects of the Kingdom
The Laws of the Kingdom
Manner and Customs
Induction into the Kingdom of Heaven
The Coming of the Kingdom
The Ascension of the Messiah
Coronation of the Messiah
PATRIARCHAL AGE OF THE WORLD
The world has its infancy as well as man. Families preceded nations. Family worship was, therefore, the first religious institution.
At the head of this institution naturally stood the father of every family. From necessity and from choice, he was the prophet, the priest, and the king of his household. As a prophet, he instructed his household in the knowledge of God, and in the history of man. As a priest, he officiated at his family altar, interceded for those under his care, and pronounced benedictions upon his children. As a lawgiver and king, he commanded his children and servants, and rewarded them according to merit. By a divine ordinance, the first fathers of mankind were thus constituted prophets, priests, and kings. Hence, the first religious and political institution is properly called "the Patriarchal."
Family worship was, then, the first social worship; and during the first ages of the world (for at least 2500 years) it was the only social worship, of divine authority. Though other institutions have since been added, this has never been superseded. Having its foundation in the matrimonial compact, the most ancient of all religious and political institutions, and this being founded on nature itself, it never can be superseded. While the forms of this worship have always been adapted to the genius of the various revelations of God vouchsafed to mankind, it has continued through all the changes of six thousand years, and will continue till the day when men, like angels of God, shall neither marry nor give in marriage.
Family worship, so long as it continued the only social worship, underwent no material change; and this is the period which is properly called the Patriarchal age of the world. So long as the descendants of one man and one woman continued under the paternal roof, or until they became heads of families themselves, they continued under this religious and political administration. And if, after marriage, they did not migrate to a great distance from the patrimonial inheritance, the paternal authority was still acknowledged and acquiesced in. Thus, in process of time, he who at first was only the head of a single family, if his days were prolonged and his progeny multiplied, became the paternal prince, or chief patriarch of a tribe.
In the youth of time and freshness of human nature, families soon became large; and as the father and head could not always be present while he lived, and as he might die before all his children could have become heads of families, it became necessary that a substitute in his absence, and a successor in case of his premature death, should be appointed to fill his place and administer the affairs of the family. Nature and reason alike pointed to the first born son, and religion consecrated him his vicegerent. Hence, the privileges and honours of the first born son were both religious and political; and thus the duties devolving upon him gave him a right to a double portion of the inheritance. Esau was, therefore, both prodigal and profane in selling his birthright for a meal of pottage.
The antiquity of this arrangement appeared from the envy and jealousy of Cain, roused at the rejection of his offering and the acceptance of that of Abel. That jealousy seems to have been kindled into rage because of his birthright. This is fairly implied in God's address to Cain, when that address is fairly translated and understood. "If ye do well, shall you not have the excellency; and if you do not well, sin precludes you (from the excellency.) And (Abel shall be subject to you) to you shall be his desire, and you shall rule over him."2
The moral and religious institutions of the patriarchal or family worship, which continued from the fall of Adam to the covenant of circumcision, were the Sabbath, the service of the altar, oral instruction, prayer, praise, and benediction. With the addition of circumcision in the family of one patriarch, for special purposes these were the parts of that system which continued for two thousand five hundred years.
The religious observance of weeks or Sabbaths in commemoration of Creation, and prospective of an eternal rest, to arise out of the sacrificial and typical institution, was religiously observed to the giving of the law, or the erection of the Jewish institution. Thus the law of the Sabbath commences with the words, "Remember the Sabbath." The righteous always remembered the weeks, and regarded the conclusion of the week as holy to the Lord. Hence, even after the apostasy, which issued in the neglect of family worship, in consequence of the sons of God intermarrying with the daughters of men, and which brought a flood of water upon the world of the ungodly - we find Noah religiously counting his weeks even while incarcerated in the ark. In the wilderness of Sin, before the giving of the law, we also find the Jews observing the Sabbath. And to facilitate the observance of it, God wrought three special miracles during the peregrinations of Israel. He gave two days' portion of manna on the sixth day - none on the seventh - and preserved from putrefaction that portion laid up for the Sabbath.3
Sin offerings and thank offerings, on altars both of stone and earth, were presented to the Lord - the former in faith of the promise concerning the bruising the serpent's head by the offspring of the woman - the latter in grateful acknowledgment of the goodness of God in creation and providence. Cain, without faith in the promised redemption, like many deists and natural religionists in our time, did acknowledge the goodness and care of God by a thank-offering; but Abel, by faith in that promise, not only offered his thank offering, but a lamb as a sin offering: therefore, while God respected not Cain's oblation without faith in that promise, he testified in favour of the gifts of Abel - he accepted his sin offering and his thank offering.
In the very brief and general outlines of almost two thousand five hundred years given us in the book of Genesis, we find sundry allusions to this part of the patriarchal institution. Immediately after his egress from the ark, we find Noah rearing his altar upon the baptized earth, and of every clean bird and beast offering to the Lord whole burnt offerings. Thus began Noah, after the deluge, to worship the Lord according to the patriarchal institution. And thus we find Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and other patriarchs presenting their sacrifices to the Lord, while the family worship was the only religious institution to the world.
Even libations, drink offerings, and anointing as token of gratitude and consecration, are found in this most ancient and venerable, institution. "Jacob rose up early in the morning, took the stone which he had put for his pillow, set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it."4 "And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where God talked with him, even a pillar of stone, and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon."5
A beautiful and instructive instance of ancient family worship, and of the sacerdotal functions, as exercised by the patriarchs in reference to the altar, we have in that most ancient of books, supposed by many to have been written by Moses while in the land of Midian; but according to others, by Job himself, who was certainly contemporary with Eliphaz the Temanite. Eliphaz was the son of Teman, who was the son of Eliphaz, who was the first son of Esau, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. He therefore lived before Moses. Thus we find him also officiating at the altar. We are told that "his sons went and feasted in each other's houses, every one his day, and sent and called for their sisters to eat and drink with them. And it was so, that when the days of their feasting had gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Thus acted Job continually."6
The same Job, by divine appointment, acted as priest or intercessor in behalf of his three friends, princes of Edom: for having spoken amiss, they were commanded to take seven bullocks and seven rams, and go to Job, the servant of God, and to offer them up for themselves; and "Job my servant shall pray for you." "Job prayed for them, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and forgave Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar." "The Lord also accepted and blessed Job after he had prayed for these his friends, and the Lord turned again the captivity of Job."7
During this period of the world, there was but one high or general priest, specially called and sent by God. "He was King of Salem and Priest of the Most High God." To him the patriarch Abraham paid tithes or gave the tenth of the spoils taken in war, and Melchizedek blessed him. He was of an order of his own sort. He had no predecessor, successor, nor equal in the age of family worship.
From all these facts and documents we learn that the service of the altar belonged first to the father of the family - next, to his eldest son - that it consisted in presenting sin offerings and thank offerings of various sorts in behalf of himself or family - that all pious sons and individuals might for themselves erect altars, offer sacrifices, and pour out libations and thank offerings to the Lord; - that these sacrificial observances were generally, if not always, accompanied with prayer, intercession, and thanksgivings; - and that intercession in behalf of those under the care of any father or patriarch was a part of the first institution.
Benediction also was one of the first duties of this office. Fathers pronounced blessings on their children. Superiors in age and standing blessed their inferiors. Melchizedek blessed Abraham, Isaac blessed Jacob, and Jacob blessed the twelve patriarchs. The invocations of blessings and the imposition of hands upon the head, were parts of the family worship institution.
Concerning prayer and praise, as we cannot imagine a religion without them, it is unnecessary to speak particularly of them as parts of the patriarchal institution. Jubal soon taught men to handle the harp and organ, and piety soon consecrated them to the praise of God. The melodies of nature soon taught men to tune his voice to God. Isaac went into the fields at eventide for secret prayer. Abraham interceded for Sodom until he was ashamed to push his importunities farther; and for Abimelech, king of Egypt, and his family, he made his requests to God. Of him and his patriarchal character God said, "I know Abraham that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the ways of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him."8
Prophets of a public character were occasionally raised up to bring men back to the primitive simplicity of the patriarchal institution, as well as to lead them forward to the future developments of God's purposes in reference to this work of redemption. Amongst these the most conspicuous were Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. To all these were given new visions of the future, and thus they were all preachers of righteousness and reformers in their respective generations.
From these gleanings from the book of Genesis, one may learn that the family worship institution, which was divinely instituted in the first age of the world, embraced the observance of the Sabbath, the service of the altar, oral instruction, prayer, intercession, thanksgiving, and benediction. It contemplated no other bond of union than the marriage covenant, and the relations springing out of it. Doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God, were enforced in all its maxims, and in the examples of those whom God honoured and approved.
There was, during the long period of this family institution, no community separated from the world larger than a single household - no public altars - no temples - no established order of public teachers; therefore, there were no initiating or separating institutions. There was no circumcision for the infant, nor washing of regeneration for the instructed. These institutions of latter times had respect to public professing communities; and therefore, for two thousand years there was no initiating rite or ordinance amongst men.
Wherever the family curtains were spread and a tent erected, the devout father built his own altar to the Lord, gathered his own children and domestics around him, instructed them in the knowledge of God the creator and preserver of all; and in the history of man, his origin and destiny, as far as revealed to them. They offered their thank offerings, acknowledgments of favours received; and when conscious of sin, they presented their sin offering, with confessions, and in faith of God's promise, supplicated pardon. Such are the essential attributes of the patriarchal institution, and of the family worship, as learned from the writings of Moses.
But as the root of all subsequent dispensations of God's mercy and favour to man was planted in the patriarchal institution, it is necessary to our plan, before we advance farther, to pay some attention to one of the patriarchs, whose fame is eternal, on whom God bestowed an honour above all earthly honour, and who stands enrolled in the annals of time as THE FRIEND OF GOD. The intelligent reader needs not to be informed that we now call his attention specially to
Reader, attend! "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob: this is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations." And shall not the name, the calling, the blessing, and the history of Abraham always occupy large space in the records of God's government of man, and in all the details of his redemption!
Because of his unprecedented faith in God's promises and exalted piety, he was constituted the father of all believers; and his whole life is made a model for all the children of God, as far as walking by faith in God's promises is an ornament to human character.
Sufficient, then, to our present purpose, we observe, that during the family worship institution, a little after the commencement of the third Millennium, about the seventy-fifth year of his life, God appeared to Abraham while he yet lived in Ur of Chaldea, and commanded him to depart out of that country, and that he would do for him certain things. Abraham obeyed. God gratuitously tendered him two promises, not only interesting and valuable to Abraham himself, but to all the human race.
These two promises were intended to be the basis of a two-fold relation to God, and the foundation of two distinct religious institutions, called "the Old Testament and the New," "the Old Covenant and the New," "the Two Covenants," and "the Covenants of Promise." These are contemplated in them the constitution for a temporal and spiritual kingdom of God - a kingdom of God of this world, and a kingdom of God not of this world. Be it, therefore, always remembered, when we attempt to form correct views of the whole economy of God's redemption, that these two promises were made while the patriarchal institution was yet standing and several centuries before its close. What, then, it will be asked, are these
We find them in their most simple form in the beginning of the twelth chapter of Genesis. The first -
"I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing. I will bless them that bless thee, curse them that curse thee."
The second - "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
These promises, when fully developed, contained numerous blessings. They are, however, in all their details separate and distinct from each other. Abraham's family alone are personally concerned in the first - all families of the earth in the second. Temporal and earthly are the blessings of the former - spiritual and eternal are the blessings of the latter. Paul calls the second, "The gospel preached to Abraham," and "The covenant confirmed by God in reference to the Messiah, four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law." The Jewish kingdom in all its glory was but the development of the first - the Christian kingdom in its present and future blessings is the consummation of the second.
COVENANT OF CIRCUMCISION.
In pursuance of the first promise, and in order to its exact and literal accomplishment, about twenty-four years after its promulgation of "Covenant of Circumcision" was established. This "covenant in the flesh," marked out and defined the natural descendants of Abraham, and gave to the world a full proof of the faithfulness of God, putting it in the power of every one to ascertain how God keeps his covenant of promise with his people. This gave to the descendants of Abraham the title of "The Circumcision," and beautifully represented the separation of God's people from the children of this world.
The land of Canaan, as the inheritance of this nation, is repeatedly promised to Abraham; and as soon as Isaac, the child of promise, is born and circumcised, the promise of the "SEED" in which all nations were to be blessed, is confined to him. Not in Ishmael, but "in Isaac, shall thy seed be called."9
After the death of Abraham and towards the close of the life of Isaac, his father's God gave him a second edition of these two promises. The first is considerably amplified in its details, while the second is repeated almost in the same words. That which was first to be accomplished is first developed, and its provisions pointed out. "I will be with thee and will bless thee; for unto thee and to thy seed I will give all these countries, and I will perform all the oath which I sware to Abraham thy father; and will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: because Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws."10
The same two promises are repeated in almost the same words to Jacob, the son of Isaac at the time he had the vision of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven, while, in obedience to a command given him by his parents, he was on his way to Padan-aram in quest of a wife. On these three great occasions - to Abraham - to Isaac - to Jacob - these two promises are solemnly pronounced; always standing in the same order - never confounded; but as distinct as earth and heaven - as time and eternity.
Four hundred and thirty years after the first solemn declaration of these promises, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in virtue of the promise, were redeemed out of bondage, in Egypt, and saved from the tyranny and cruelty of Pharaoh. Then, in order to the full completion of its stipulations, God, by the hand of Moses, proposed a covenant with all Israel at Sinai; in which he guarantees to do all for them contemplated in the promise, confirmed by an oath to Abraham, in being a God to his seed after him. This
constituted them a kingdom of God, a holy nation, a peculiar people. All the blessings comprehended in the first promise to Abraham, or that could grow out of the relation to God, which it contemplated, were in full detail carried out into this transaction, and secured to the whole nation. The relation was, however, temporal, and its blessings temporal and earthly. The second promise made no part of the Jewish institution or covenant at Sinai, more than it did of the patriarchal or antecedent institution. The typical or figurative part of the family worship, enlarged and improved, was translated into the national institution and made a part of it; and whatever spiritual privilege was enjoyed by the Jew, was enjoyed upon the same principle with the patriarch - by faith in the second promise, and by an intelligent and believing attendance upon all the appointed means which either prefigured the coming redemption, or realised the blessings which were to be derived through the promised seed.
The SEED in which all the families of the earth were to be blessed, was in the nation, but in no other sense than as it was in the people while in Egypt, or in the patriarchs before they went down into Egypt. It was in the nation, but no element of the national institution. They had the second promise made to their fathers, and all the faithful and approved among them believed that promise, and acted conformably to it. Thus amongst the Jews, even before the coming of the Messiah, they were
the natural and the spiritual children of Abraham. The whole nation were his literal and natural children; and such of them as believed the second promise and understood it were not only his natural children, but his children in the same sense in which all believing Gentiles are by virtue of the second promise constituted the children of Abraham. The first, like Ishmael, were born according to the flesh - the fleshy seed of Abraham; the second, like Isaac, were the children of faith in the promise: and thus Abraham is the constituted father of all who believe in that promise, whether of his flesh or not.
But the second promise was not fulfilled for nearly one thousand five hundred years after the first, or after the national institution was confirmed at Sinai; and therefore
THE BLESSING OF ABRAHAM,
which as to come on the nations through his seed, through faith in the accomplished promises, was to be the basis and the substance of a new institution. This "blessing of Abraham" includes all the spiritual and eternal blessings which are laid up in his seed, who is the ark of this new constitution, in whom all the promises of God are verified, and in whom they are deposited for the comfort and salvation of all the faithful children of God. Whatever concerned the family of Abraham, coming through the first promise, descended upon the family principle which is only flesh; but whatever concerns all saints of all nations descends upon the new principle of faith. "They who are of faith," says Paul, "are blessed with believing Abraham." And "If you be Christ's, then" and only then, "are you Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise."
The blessing of Abraham was then promised in the patriarchal age antecedent to the Jewish national institution, and independent of it; therefore that institution cannot affect, much less disannul, the blessings promised in the covenant, confirmed before by God, respecting the Messiah, in the time of family worship, and four hundred and thirty years before the Jewish institution began.
In calling Abraham, and in making him the father of many nations, and the depository of still more precious promises and revelations, God did not supersede the family worship. He only added to the stock of religious knowledge, strengthened the faith, and enlarged the hopes of that single family. The family institution continued without the slightest change, except in one particular specified in the covenant of circumcision, as respected the single family of Abraham, for four hundred and thirty years after the charter concerning his seed and that concerning the Messiah were secured to this renowned patriarch. Thus we have traced the continuance of the family religion, or patriarchal economy, for two thousand five hundred years, and are now prepared to make a few remarks on the Jewish national institution, though we have already anticipated almost all that is necessary to our present object. Still, however, we shall make it the object of a distinct notice.
THE JEWISH INSTITUTION.
In this age of improvement of divine institutions, we read and hear much of "two dispensations of the covenant of grace;" thus making the Jewish and the Christian institutions dispensations of one "covenant of grace." Why not make the patriarchal, (still more venerable for its antiquity, and which continued a thousand years longer than the Jewish,) also a dispensation of the covenant of grace, and then we should have had three dispensations of one covenant? This is but a "show of wisdom." The Holy Spirit calls them "two covenants," or "two institutions," and not two modifications of one covenant; and it speaks of each as established upon promises. The Jewish was established upon temporal and earthly promises, contained in the first promise made to Abraham; but the new, says Paul, "is established upon better promises," growing out of that concerning the blessing of the nations in the promised seed.11
The Jewish institution commenced and continued about 1500 years before the Reign of Heaven began. It was not substituted for the family worship, but added to it; affecting, however, the patriarchal institution in some respects, as far as concerned the single family of Abraham. The individual families of the nation of the Jews, as such, had still their family worship - still the worship of God was heard in the dwellings of the righteous; and, like Joshua, every good Israelite said, "As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord."
In four hundred years the family of Abraham had, in the line of Isaac and Jacob, in fulfilment of the first promise, grown up into millions. Not less than two millions12 came up out of Egypt under the conduct of Moses. The heavenly Father, in progressive development of his plan of blessing all nations, leaves all the world under the family worship institution, and erects the whole progeny of Abraham that came up out of Egypt into one great national institution. He condescends to appear in the character of King of the Jews, and to make them a kingdom of God, as preparatory to the appearance of his Son, who is predestined to be the King of the whole earth, and to have a kingdom which shall ultimately embrace all the nations of the world.
The twelve tribes were brought into the form of one great worshipping family, presenting through the common High Priest their united worship to God. This gave rise to the erection of one public house consecrated to the Lord, as the place of meeting in their social and national character. A constitution, political, moral, and religious, was submitted to the people; and on their adoption of it, they became the covenanted people of God. This constitutional kingdom was built upon precepts and promises; and its worship when fully developed was little more than the extension of the family worship to one great national family. They had one king, one high priest, one national altar, one national house of God, one morning and evening service, one great national sacrifice, and one great annual atonement. The nation was a family of families, and whatever pertained to a single family in its family worship was extended and accommodated to this great confederate family.
Various mystic and significant institutions distinguished this nation from all others; for it was one principal object of its institution to keep its subjects separate and distinct from all other people till Messiah (the promised seed) should come. Another object was, to picture out in appropriate types the spiritual worship of the kingdom of heaven, and to exhibit the great doctrines of faith, repentance, remission, adoption, and inheritance, by picturesque images, ingeniously devised to adumbrate the whole doctrine of reconciliation and sanctification to God.
The Jewish institution is not to be regarded only in its political, moral, and religious aspects, but especially in its figurative and prospective character. God so wisely and benevolently contrived it from its origin to its close, that its whole history - the fates and fortunes of its subjects from their descent into Egypt, their travels thence to Canaan and settlement in the land of promise - their fortunes in that land to their final catastrophe, should exactly and impressively shadow forth the new institution with the fates and fortunes of the subjects of this new and more glorious order of things. "All these things happened to them for types," (examples,) says Paul, "and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come." The same great commentator on this institution not only presents the history of its subjects as instructive to the citizens of the new institution, but of the tabernacle he says, "It was a figurative representation for the time then present," and the furniture thereof "the patterns of things in the heavens." "The law," he adds, "contained only a shadow of the good things to come." A shadow, indeed, proceeding from a man, a house, a tree, is not, and cannot be, an exact image or representation of them; yet, when explained by a verbal description, it greatly facilitates an easy and correct conception of them.
So full of the doctrine of the new institution was the old, that we find all the Apostles and Christian writers unceremoniously applying every thing they quote from the law, the prophets, and the psalms, to the Messiah, his kingdom, and the fortunes of his people; as if the Jewish writings had no other object than to unfold the kingdom of heaven. Jesus begins with Abraham seeing his day on Mount Moriah in the typical resurrection of Isaac. Paul regards Hagar, Ishmael, Sarah, Isaac, as the best illustration of the two institutions; and John ends with the description of the descent of Jerusalem from heaven.
Every one, then, who would accurately understand the Christian institution must approach it through the Mosaic; and he that would be a proficient in the Jewish, must make Paul his commentator. While the mere politician, moralist, or religionist, contemplate the one without the other, though he may find much to admire in both, he will never understand either. A veil, thick as that which concealed the glory of the face of Moses from the Israelites, will hide the glory of the Jewish and Christian institutions from his view.
Not only did the tabernacle, the temple, their furniture, the service of both, the priests, the sacrifices, the festivals, the convocations, and all the ordinances of that Ritual, together with the history of that people, assume the picturesque and figurative character, but almost all the illustrious and highly distinguished personages of that institution were made prophetic or typical of the Messiah or of the great incidents of his life, sufferings, and triumphs, and the leading affairs of his government. Amongst persons in the patriarchal and Jewish ages who, in one or more prominent characters or incidents, or in their general history adumbrated the Messiah and his reign, the following group occupy a lofty eminence: - Adam, Abel, Noah, Melchisedek, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Samson, David, Jonah. Of things of this class, as well as persons highly figurative and instructive, are the visions of Jacob's ladder - the burning bush - the pillar of cloud and fire - the manna - the rock Horeb, a fountain of living water in the wilderness - the veil of Moses - the brazen serpent - the victory over the nations of Canaan, and the land of Canaan itself. And of ordinances, the passover, the scape-goat, the red heifer, the year of jubilee, the law of the leper, the kinsman redeemer, the cities of refuge; together with all the sacrifices, washings, anointings, and consecrations of the holy nation.
But a third object of the Jewish institution, of paramount importance to the world, was the furnishing of a new alphabet and language (the elements of heavenly science,) without which it would appear to have been almost, if not altogether, impossible to learn the spiritual things, or to make any proficiency in the knowledge of those relations which Christianity unfolds. The language of the new institution is therefore explained by that of the old. No one can understand the dialect of the kingdom of heaven who has not studied the dialect of the antecedent administrations of heaven over the patriarchs and Jews. The most striking and characteristic attribute of the sacred dialect is, that the elements of it are composed of the incidents of history, or what we call remarkable providences.
I cannot explain myself better, not render my readers a more essential service, than by illustrating by an actual detail of sacred history, the following proposition, viz.: - That sacred history or the remarkable instances of God's providence to the Jews and Patriarchs, are the foundation of the sacred dialect of the new institution. Or, if the reader will understand it better, it may be expressed - All the leading words and phrases of the New Testament are to be explained and understood by the history of the Jewish nation and God's government of them. Take the following as a mere specimen:- -
God called Abram out of Ur, and changed his name into Abraham; and the name of his wife Sarai into Sarah. He promised Isaac as the person in whom his seed should be called. God did tempt Abraham, commanding him to offer Isaac for a burnt offering - Isaac had two sons - Esau the elder, and Jacob the younger. Esau despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob. Jacob wrestled with God, and prevailed; he obtained a blessing, and was therefore called Israel. He had twelve sons: of these Joseph was his favourite. His brethren envied him, and sold him for twenty pieces of silver. Joseph found grace in the sight of his master. The Lord was with Joseph. He was cast into prison, and from thence was elevated to the governor of Egypt under Pharaoh. A famine in Canaan compelled Jacob and his sons into Egypt for bread, and Joseph was made known to his brethren. Joseph died in Egypt and left his father's house in the land. They multiplied exceedingly, and the Egyptians greatly afflicted and oppressed the Israelites. Moses was born and exposed: Pharaoh's daughter found him and adopted him for a son. Moses fled into Midian, and married the daughter of the priest or prince of Midian, and kept his father-in-law's flock in the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire in a bush. The bush burned and was not consumed. Moses drew near, and then first stood on holy ground. God sent him to Egypt to lead his people out of bondage.
God made him say to the children of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you. Gather the elders of Israel and say to them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham," etc., "has sent me to you. I will smite Egypt with my wonders, and bring you up out of the afflictions of Egypt. Tell Pharaoh, Israel is my son - my first born. Take Aaron with thee, and thou shalt put words into his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth and with his mouth: he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God. Take thy rod in thy hand. The Lord sent Aaron to Moses: he met him in the mount and kissed him. And the Lord visited his people. And the people believed when they heard that the Lord had looked upon their affliction. Pharaoh oppressed them still more. The Lord said, with a strong hand shall he let them go. I will redeem them with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments. I will give you Canaan for a heritage; I will take you to me for a people. I will be your God."
Moses said, I am a man of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh hearken to me? I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy prophet. I will multiply my signs, and bring out my people, and harden Pharaoh's heart. When he says, "Show me a miracle," cast your rod before him, and it shall become a serpent. Still Pharaoh refused, and hardened his heart. The magicians overcome with the signs, said, This is the finger of God. The God of the Hebrews said, Let my people go. I have roused thee up (as a lion) to show in you my power, and to make my name known through all the earth. The Lord slew all the first born of Egypt after he had plagued them exceedingly. Pharaoh commanded them to depart; but he pursued them to the Red Sea. Israel fainted at the sight before and behind them. Moses said, Stand still and see the salvation of God. The sea was divided. Covered with a cloud, Israel marched through as on dry ground. The waters stood on either side as a wall. Pharaoh pursued with his chariots and horsemen, but the waters returned, and they were drowned. Thus the Lord redeemed, saved, delivered, and brought Israel out of bondage.
After this deliverance, Moses and the children of Israel sang, "The Lord is become my salvation; he is my God. Thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee. Thou hast led forth thy people whom thou hast redeemed. Thou hast guided them in thy strength to thy holy habitation. The inhabitants of Canaan shall be still as a stone till thy people pass over, O Lord, the people thou hast purchased. Thou shalt plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance; in the sanctuary which thy hands have established."
They came into the wilderness of Sin. They cried for bread, and God rained bread from heaven upon them, that he might prove them whether or not they would walk in his law, and they did eat manna forty years till they came to the borders of Canaan.
They complained for water, and tempted God. And Moses smote the rock in Horeb, and water gushed out. But Moses was wroth, and smote the rock twice, and he and Aaron thus rebelled against God, and fell in the wilderness. The Lord made a covenant with the whole nation at Sinai, and made them a peculiar treasure above all people - a kingdom of priests, a holy nation; and God spake all the words of the law, written on two tables of stone; and spake to Israel from heaven.
The Lord, by Moses, gave them directions for rearing a tabernacle, and a pattern for all its furniture. And as a ransom for his soul, every man, rich and poor, was to pay half a shekel as an offering to the Lord to make an atonement for his soul; and it was given for the service of the tabernacle. When the tabernacle was reared and finished, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle and the cloud covered it. And when the cloud was taken up, they journeyed; but until it was taken up, they journeyed not. The cloud was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night, in the sight of all Israel throughout all their journeys.
And before Moses died he laid his hands upon Joshua, and gave him a charge as the Lord commanded; and thus put honour upon him, that the children of Israel might be obedient to him as their saviour. "As I was with Moses, so will I be with thee," saith God: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."
Could we thus proceed with the history of this people, and add to their history the observance of their religious institutions, we should find out the true meaning of the sacred style of the New Testament with more accuracy and certainty, than from all the commentators of ancient and modern times. This, as a sample, must suffice for our present purpose.
From the premises now before us, the specifications of the outlines of the Sinaitic and national institution, and the terms and phrases found in the history of this people, we may discover in what relation they stood to God, and what favours he bestowed upon them in that relation.
They were called and chosen, or the elect of God as a nation. As such, they were delivered, saved, bought, or purchased, and redeemed. God is said to have created, made, formed, and begotten them. As such he is called their Father, their God, their Redeemer, their King, their Saviour, their Salvation; and they are called his children, sons and daughters; born to him, his house, people, inheritance, family, servants.
As a chartered and congregated people, they are called the city, the holy city, the city of the Lord, Jerusalem, Zion, Mount Zion, the city of David. Other nations in contrast with them, are called not a people, aliens, strangers, enemies, far off, unclean.
Various similitudes expressive of the kind relation in which they stood to God are also found in the pages of the ancient institutions - such as husband and wife, shepherd and flock, vine and vineyard, mother and children. They are said to be written or enrolled in the book of God; to be planted, washed, sanctified, clean, separated to God; they are called the house, building, sanctuary, dwelling place of God; a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a peculiar people, saints, etc.
Those who are curious to trace these phrases descriptive of the relation and privileges of this ancient kingdom of God, had better (in addition to the passages quoted in their history from Egypt to the Jordan,) examine the following passages: - Exodus xiv. 30. xv. 16. xix. 6. Deuteronomy iv. 37. vii. 6. x. 15. xiv. 1. i. 31. vii. 5. xxxii. 6, 18, 19. xviii. 7. iii. 18, 20. xii. 9. 1 Kings iii. 8. Psalms cv. 6. xxxiii. 13. cv. 43. cvi. 5, 21. l lxxiv. 2. cxlix. 2. Isaiah lxi. 8, 9. xliii. 1, 3, 5, 7. li. 2, 4. xli. 1, 6, 7 Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalms of David throughout, etc.
Unless we should write a full treatise on these antecedent institutions, we cannot with propriety descend farther into details. The outlines, as far as subordinate to the theme of this essay, are now before the reader; and with this preparation we shall now invite his attention to 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 promulgated, and the Gentiles as well as the Jews could have understood the figure of a Republic as well as that of a Kingdom. It was not, then, because there was not in society a model or type of this sort; but because such a type would have been inapposite to the nature of this institution.
History testifies that Republics are better adapted to peace than war, and that they are forced and unnatural organizations of society. Aristocracies and Republics owe all their attractions to the excessive corruptions of the governments under which they have originated. They are the reaction of force and fraud, of cruelty and oppression, and are sustained by the remembrance and apprehension of the evils which occasioned them. They have always been extolled or admired either in contrast with vices and enormities of degenerate and profligate monarchies, or in the freshness of the recollections of the wrongs and outrages which have occasioned them; and men have generally tired of them when they became corrupt and forgetful of the oppressions and crimes which forced them into being. So that the corruptions of monarchies have given birth to Republics, and the corruptions of these have originated monarchies again.
In these last days of degeneracy, Republics are great blessings to mankind, as good physicians are blessings in times of pestilence; but yet it must be confessed that it would be a greater blessing to be without plagues and doctors. While men are, however, so degenerate, and while selfishness and injustice are so rampant in society, republican officers are better than kings - because we can get rid of them sooner. They are indeed, kings under another name, with a short-leased authority; and our experience fully demonstrates that in these degenerate days the reigns of our republican kings are nearly long enough. Till the King of kings comes, we Christians ought to be good republicans, under the conviction that human governments seldom grow better, and that the popular doctrine of our country is true - that political authority generally makes a man worse, and public favours almost invariably corrupt the heart. Rapid rotation in office is the practical influence of the republican theory; and the experiment proves that, brief as republican authority is, it is sometimes too long for republican virtue to sustain without deterioration. Now if this be true of republican virtue, the brightest and the best, what earthly virtue can long resist the contamination of long protracted authority!
Monarchy is the only form of government, however, which nature recognises. It was the first, and it will be the last. A government with three or thirty heads is a monster; and therefore the beast that represents it comes out of the sea with a plurality of horns as well as heads.
The most approved theory of human nature and of human government now current wherever the English language is spoken, either in the Old World or in the New, is that a monarchy would be always the best government, because the cheapest, the most efficient, and the most dignified; provided only, that the crown was placed on the wisest head and the sceptre wielded by the purest hands. Could we always secure this we would be monarchists: because we cannot, we are all republicans.
But, after this apology for the phrase Kingdom of Heaven, we would recall the attention of the reader to the concession, made by republicans themselves, that a kingdom is better adapted to a state of war, than a republic; and that this beautiful, though most appropriate figure, which occurs in the New Testament more than one hundred and fifty times, and very often in the Old, presupposes a state of war as existing in the universe. But for the reasons assigned in preference of a monarchy, the natural government of the universe always was, is, and evermore shall be monarchy. God himself is of necessity absolute monarch of the universe. Had he not essentially sustained that relation to all his creatures, there never could have been rebellion nor sin in his dominions. The systems of nature are all after this model. Every sun is a king over the system which it controls; and in every sphere there is one controlling and supreme principles. It will be the last government; for when the episode in the great drama of rational existence which sin occasioned, shall have been completed, the government of the universe will assume its ancient order, and God be supreme monarch again. But this will not be till Jesus gives up the kingdom to God which a preternatural state of things put into his hands. This cannot be till he has subdued man to his rightful allegiance, or destroyed forever every opponent to the absolute monarchy of the Eternal Supreme: "for Jesus must reign till all his enemies be put under his feet."
The kingdom which Jesus has received from his Father, however heavenly, sublime, and glorious it may be regarded, is only temporal. It had a beginning, and it will have an end; for he must reign only till all enemies are put under his feet. But the transition of the sceptre into the hands of Emmanuel has not changed the government. He is now the hereditary Monarch of the universe, as well as the proper King of his own kingdom. He now reigns as absolutely over all principalities, hierarchies, and powers, celestial and terrestrial, as did the great God and Father of the universe, before he was invested with the regal authority.
We have said it was a preternatural state of things which originated the kingdom of Jesus: therefore the object of this remedial reign is to destroy that preternatural state of things - to put down sin. Now as all human governments presuppose disorder, and as the kingdoms of this world generally have risen out of confusion and war, the kingdom of heaven of which we are to speak owes its origin to the celestial and terrestrial apostasies - the revolt of Satan and of Adam. Were there no justice within, or violence without, civil government would be wholly unnecessary, and its appendages an excresence upon society. Had there not been such a revolt and rebellion as sacred history records, there would have been no such kingdom of heaven as that over which Jesus the Messiah now presides. Now as both this King and kingdom, and all that appertains to them, were occasioned by such a preternatural state of things, we must view them in all their attributes and details, with reference to those circumstances which called them into being.
THE ELEMENTS 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 every thing 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.13
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.14 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 should 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 men," - thus using Heavens and the Most High as synonymous. The Psalmist says, "The wicked set their mouths against the Heavens," The Prodigal confessed that he had "sinned against Heaven," and Jesus himself asked whether the baptism of John was "from Heaven or from men." Thus he was authorised 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" than the "Kingdom of God", he was justified, by Jewish use of the word heaven, to apply it in that sense. Some may object to all these remarks on 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 "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, be 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.15
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;"16 for he has raised us Jews and Gentiles, and "has set us down together in the heavenly places by Christ Jesus."17
There is, in the superior and heavenly privileges and honours 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."18 It is the kingdom of God, because he set it up,19 gave the constitution and King, and all the materials out of which it is erected.20 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."21 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."22 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."23
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 Apostolic 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 fulness 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.24
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, honours, 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.25
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.26
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, honoured, and revered by them in a world without end: that God, angels, and saints will delight in him for ever and ever.27 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 honours, 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 Melchizedek," "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."
THE SUBJECTS OF THE KINGDOM.
They are all born again. Their privileges and honours are the following:-
First. Their constitutional King is the only begotten Son of God; whose titles and honours 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, etc., etc. 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 every one 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 honours: - 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, etc.
The privileges, honours, 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."28 To this summary the reader may add those scriptures in the margin, as confirmatory of the above.29
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 promulgated 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 favour 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 armour 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.
MANNER AND CUSTOMS.
Touching the manners and customs of the Kingdom of Heaven, they are such as generally obtained in the land of Judea and in the East at the time of its erection: or, rather, they are the simple manners and customs of the family worship age of the world. These are consecrated by simply performing them with a regard to Jesus Christ, or from the motives prompted by the doctrine of the Reign of Heaven. As we treat our natural brothers and sisters in public and in private - as we address, salute, and converse with them - as we transact all family business, and conduct the affairs of the household - so are Christians to treat one another. There is no other virtue or utility in these, than as they cherish brotherly kindness and love, and are regarded to the Lord.
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."30 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;"31 and proceed to the 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 Saviour. 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," etc. 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.32
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 Pedobaprists, 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 Pedobaprists 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 promulgated 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 candour: 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.33 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 every one 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 promulgated, "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.34
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 honours 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 promulgating 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 promulgated, 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 promulgating.
When these American states were colonial subjects of the king of England, and long before the setting up of a republic, republican doctrines were promulgated 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 sympathises 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.35 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."36 "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."37
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."38 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!"39
CORONATION OF THE MESSIAH.
Every thing 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 Melchizedek. 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."40
Thus God highly exalted him, and did set him over all the works of his hands, and gave him a name and an honour 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 honour" - 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 favour 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.41
The Apostles were plenipotentiaries and ambassadors for Jesus, and had all authority delegated to them from the King. Hence every thing 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.42
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 honours 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.43
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 labours, 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 labour 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.44
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.45 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, etc.: for these also are ordinances of God; and indeed all statutes and commandments are ordinances:46 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, honour, 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 favours demanded and occasioned. God never commanded any being to do any thing, 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 favour, pure favour, sovereign favour: for there can be no favour 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 every thing subsequent, properly supernatural. Hence the array of Apostles, prophets, extraordinary teachers, gifts, powers, miracles, etc., etc. 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 favour 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 sceptre 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.
1 These essays do not appear in the order in which they were written and published. We place the last-written first; because, in the natural order of things, general views of the nature of the Christian kingdom ought to precede the special development of its peculiar institutions. They appeared first in the form of extras to the regular series of the Millennial Harbinger; and as we thought it expedient to preserve them, as much as possible, in their original form, this will apologise for several repetitions which may appear in them.
All the leading and characteristic principles of that reformation for which we plead, as far as the gospel institution is concerned, may be learned from them. Much, indeed, of the proof of some of the propositions found in these essays, lies scattered over the face of several volumes; but such a miniature view of the evidence by which they are sustained, as, in most cases, is sufficient to the conviction of the reader, will be found embodied in them. Those, however, who may not be perfectly satisfied with the arguments offered, must be referred to the various discussions of these principles found in the Christian Baptist and Millennial Harbinger.
2 Genesis iv. 7
3 Exodus xvi. 15-27
4 Genesis xxviii. 18
5 Genesis xxxv. 14
6 Job i. 4, 5
7 Job xlii. 8-10
8 Genesis xviii. 19
9 Genesis xxi. 12
10 Genesis xxvi. 3-5
11 Jeremiah xxxi. 31
12 Men fit for war are never more than the third or fourth part of any population. There were six hundred thousand men of this class when they came to Mount Sinai.
13 If the following passages are carefully examined and compared, it will appear that both these phrases often represent the same thing:- Matt. iii. 17. Mark i. 15. 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."
14 See chapters vi. 33. xii. 28. xix. 24. xxi. 31, 43.
15 Matt. xxi. 43
16 Eph. i. 3
17 Eph. ii. 6
18 Eph. v. 5
19 Daniel ii. 44
20 Jer. xxxi. 31-34
21 John xvi. 15
22 Prov. viii. 23-31
23 Micah v. 2
24 Eph. i. 3-12
25 Matt. xxviii. 18; Daniel ii. 44; vii. 27.
26 Psalms ii. 6-8; lxxii. 2-18
27 Rev. v. 9-14; xiv. 1-5; xv. 3, 4; xxi. 9-27; Eph. i. 20, 21
28 Hebrews viii. 10-13
29 Rom. vi. 5, 6, 14; viii. 1, 33-39. 1.Cor. vi. 11. Eph i. 7; ii. 6, 19, 21, 22. Col. i. 13, 14. 1.Peter ii. 5, 7. 2.Peter i. 10, 11. 1.John iii. 2.
30 John iii. 5. Titus iii. 5
31 Isaiah xxiv. 5
32 Matt. iv. 12; Mark i. 14; iv. 14
33 Matt. x. 8; Luke x. 1-11. When eating the last supper he distinctly said that the Reign of God was then future. Luke xxii. 18
34 Luke xix. 11-15
35 Acts i. 3
36 Matt. xxviii. 18-20. Mark xvi. 15, 16. Luke xxiv. 47, 48
37 Isaiah ii. 3. Mic. iv. 2
38 Psalm lxviii. 18
39 Psalm xxiv.
40 Psalm xlv. Hebrews i.
41 1.Cor. xii. 28. Eph. iv. 11. Heb. i. 14
42 2.Cor. iii. 6. v. 18-20
43 Rom. xii. 4-8. 1.Cor. xii. 27. Heb iii. 6
44 Acts vi. 2-7; xiv. 23; xx. 17; 1.Tim. iii. 1-13; Titus i. 5-10; Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 24.
45 Jeremiah xxxi. 35, 36 Job xxxviii. 31, 33. Jeremiah xxxiii. 33:25
46 James i. 25