The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.
This text is generally quoted in a missionary connection, and associated with the conversion of the heathen. But it is of much wider scope than that. There are plenty of Christians that want converting, plenty of Churches that want Christianising. The progress of all life in our planet has been a progress from the animal upward to the intellectual, the moral, the spiritual; from mere brute force to the dominion of thought and reason. Ages back mere bigness of mass seemed to count for everything. The so-called "antediluvian" monsters were rampant. As life developed mere bigness became of less and less account, and brain became of more account. Those who can influence mind are the true monarchs of creation. This is the realm in which Christ's supreme triumphs are to take place. Christ will fascinate and possess the mind of the world, and the mind will rule all the rest. "Strong beliefs win strong men, and then make them stronger." The masculine but humane morality of Jesus Christ must more and more commend itself to the thinking and influential portion of society. Ideas and institutions which have been long prevalent go down before a superior idea. So shall it be with many world-ideas in presence of the truth of Christ. Many institutions have lived and done their work. They have served their day and generation, but now they have waxed old, and are ready to decay and vanish away in the presence of a nobler ideal. Still, we are not to disparage the old because the new has come. The present forms of animal life are far superior in development and attainment to those whose remains are found in the tertiary rocks. But the forms of to-day could not have existed without the forms that went before. Those very things which Christ's law and spirit will supplant have been important factors in human progress. When the Apocalyptic dream of the New Jerusalem, the Christian state, the city of God, finally and triumphantly established upon earth, shall find complete fulfilment, it will be characterised by a fuller embodiment of the law of Christ in every sphere of human relationship and conduct. For instance, the kingdom of Art shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. It has become so to a great extent. All the noblest paintings, all the grandest buildings in the world during the Christian era, have been the product of the Christian imagination. Certainly the sublimest music owns this inspiration. We need not fear the complete annexation of this kingdom, because the genius of the true Christianity is hopeful and happy. The kingdom of Literature would, in like manner, come under the dominance of Christian ideas. It is hard to say at present whether this tremendous engine for good or evil works most good or evil. What a blessed thing it will be when the domain of literature becomes the domain of Christ; when nothing will be written or read the tendency of which is not to the true elevation and edification of the human mind; when editors shall all be men of conscience, and the venal pen shall be as much an archaeological curiosity as the stone hatchet; when we shall be able to take up any book and feel that it will be safe for our children to read; when we can open even the latest novel from Paris with the confidence that none of our finer sensibilities will be shocked, and that an atmosphere will not be introduced into the home whose poisonous vapours we should shudder to think that our young people will breathe. The kingdom of Commerce, too, shall one day fall under the rule of Christ. That will be indeed a blessed day when men can trust one another, and when all shall be worthy of that trust; when another man's property shall be as sacred in our eyes as our own; when public funds shall be administered with the same scrupulous integrity with which our own are dispensed. The realm of Amusements, too, shall come under the same rule. The prophecy will find its fulfilment not in the expression of any particular forms of recreation, but in the Christianising of them all. And will it not be a grand day when the kingdom of Politics shall be sanctified by the Spirit of Christ? When debates shall be purged from the pettiness of personality and the rancour of recrimination; when offices shall be filled with the sole aim that the commonwealth shall receive the services of its most capable citizens; and when the statesman's ruling principle shall be not to catch votes, but to redress wrongs and establish righteousness. And then may we not hope that even the Church itself in that happy day shall come under the dominion of the law of Christ? No longer to be the collection of ecclesiastical antiquities, the museum of theological curiosities, the arena of strife and debate that it is to-day, but the abode of ideal men and women, the home of all the sweet and pure Christian virtues. Then Christians shall no longer "bite and devour one another"; "giving the enemy occasion to blaspheme." Their energies shall be converted into light, and not into heat, and men will be willing to rejoice in that light. But how shall those great results, of which we have spoken in other spheres, be achieved unless the Church be first true to herself? It is through her that these beneficent impulses upon society must come. We must begin by being ideal Christians if the world is to become an ideal world.
THE PROBABLE CONDITION OF THE WORLD IN THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THIS PREDICTION. It will be characterised by —
1. The universal dissemination of Christian knowledge.
2. The general prevalence of religious life.
3. The increase and glory of the Christian Church.
4. The diffusion of happiness throughout the world. Christianity is the parent of morality, industry, patriotism, public spirit.
II. THE PROBABLE MEANS BY WHICH THIS GREAT EVENT WILL BE PRODUCED.
1. The preaching of the gospel.
2. The active zeal of Christians.
3. The operations of Divine providence.
4. The effusion of the Holy Spirit.
III. THE DUTIES WHICH ARISE IN ANTICIPATING THIS GREAT CONSUMMATION.
1. To seek the possession of personal religion.
2. To render all assistance to accelerate the advent of this glorious period.
3. To unite in prayer for the accomplishment of this prediction.
We can imagine, I suppose, that when the Revelation of St. John the Divine was taken to the different Christian Churches, in the upper chambers where they were accustomed to meet together, or in the secret places where they gathered for fear of persecution, after they had read these glowing pages, they must have parted with new feelings of hope in their hearts. They would expect that a time would come speedily when the persecutions would be memories of the past, and the kingdom would be set up, of which they had been reading in such vivid colours. Yet the day passed by, and the Roman power remained, and the Temple, sacred to Diana at Ephesus, was as stable as ever. It happened then as it has happened to many a one since. So it must have been with many of those of the ancient Church, when, all eager and expectant, they found the vision was sealed for the time; they must go their way and tarry until the time should come when the promise would be fulfilled. We can scarcely be surprised at finding that they looked for a very literal fulfilment in the shape of a kingdom which should, by the exercise of power, bear down all opposition. They were told of a great king who went forth "conquering and to conquer." The tradition of the old Jewish Church was of a people going forth as the Lord's messengers to crush down all the Lord's enemies. Again, the majority of Christian people, when they found that the promise could not be realised in that way, looked for something totally different. The promise seemed impossible of literal fulfilment. The kingdom of God became totally distinct from the kingdom of the world. It was something which could only be reached when this world was over. When persecution broke out, when the people were dragged to prison, men felt that the kingdom of God was not of this world, but of that which is to come. And so, little by little, people had that expectation for the realisation of this promise. Does the Christian Church of to-day have the same expectation? Is there any possibility of the realisation of this promise? I would suggest that the realisation is to come through our changed ideas about the kingdom of God; that the kingdom of God does not mean power victorious, but that it means love victorious; that the kingdom of God means what St. Paul does when he writes, "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." What I want to leave in your minds is the conviction that the crown of thorns is the crown of glory; that the Cross is the throne on which Christ is exalted. What do these two things mean — the crown of thorns and the cross of shame? They mean the extremest manifestation of infinite love. Christ has said that love is greater than hate; love is greater than infamy. And that is the only principle on which "the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever." The Christian Church is slowly abandoning the idea of conquering by mere power. The Christian Church is slowly losing the idea of the kingdom of this world becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ in the persons of those who pass away beyond this world, and become the subjects of a kingdom which has nothing to do with this world. His kingdom shall come on this earth by the individual members copying the example of Jesus Christ, and believing in the revelation of that love which overcame sin; so that the people who live upon this earth shall be willing subjects of Divine love, and living in perfect love to their fellow-men.
It is related of Hannibal that, when he had led his men to one of the higher ridges of the Alps, they began to murmur, and requested that they should be reconducted to their native country. Standing on an eminence and waving his hand, the intrepid Carthaginian General directed their attention to the plains of Piedmont below. "Behold," said he, "these fruitful vineyards and luxuriant fields. A few more struggles, and they are all your own." These were inspiring words, and they had the desired effect. May we not apply them to the subject of missions, and say, Behold, from the mount of promise, the nations of the earth at the feet of the Church's exalted Head! A few more struggles on the part of His followers, and voices shall be heard, not in heaven only, but from the innumerable and widely scattered tongues of earth, giving utterance to the joyous announcement, "The kingdoms of this world are become," etc.
You might as well stand on the banks of the Mississippi and be afraid it was going to run up stream as to suppose that the current of Christendom can run more than one way. What would you think of a man who should stand moonstruck over an eddy, and because that didn't go right forward, declare that the whole flood had got out of its course? So in the stream of time. The things that appear in our day all have bearing on the coming triumph of the gospel and the reign of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Yonder in the cathedral at Vienna the Emperor Frederick is represented, standing with arm uplifted, and at the tip of his extended fingers are the five vowels, A, E, I, O, U, which, being interpreted, means, "Austria est imperare obi universo" — "Austria will conquer the world." Another and a gander figure meets the gaze of every Christian of to-day, no matter where his standpoint, and the inscription thereon is in letters of fire: "Jesus est imperare obi universo" — "Jesus will conquer the world."
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