Last Updated on : Saturday, October 11, 2014


Christendom Astray Contents

Christendom Astray
From The Bible
  Christendom Astray 10-1


Page 1 of 2

IN ALL God's doings, there is purpose. Everything is planned; everything adapted with the utmost exactness of wisdom to the accomplishment of a pre-determined end. All His plans are characterised by illimitable comprehensiveness of bearing, like His own mind, which takes into account the infinitude of minute circumstance and remote contingency that surround us, "knowing all things from the end to the beginning." He is wise--He makes no mistakes; and He is economical--He wastes no effort, He accomplishes as much as possible with as little as possible. The result always transcends the means: the good always overtops and outnumbers the evil.

When, therefore, we are called upon to contemplate any declared purpose of God, we are presented with a subject of study which is sure to have in it a depth and fertility delightful to the mind to explore. This is true of God's natural wonders in creation, where we see all these principles abundantly exemplified; how much more is it true of His schemes in relation to the intelligent creatures whom He has formed in His own image?

Now the testimony advanced in previous lectures clearly demonstrates the purpose of God to interfere in human affairs, to destroy every form of human government at present existing on earth, and to establish a visible kingdom of His own. It shows that when the time arrives, He will take the power out of the hands of the erring mortals who now possess it, and transfer it to Jesus Christ and his "called, chosen, and faithful" ones, who will administer the affairs of the world in wisdom and righteousness. This being the purpose, it now remains for us to enquire what is the object of the purpose, and what its consummation. To some, the idea of a literal governing of mankind upon earth will seem out of joint with the scheme which proposes the restoration of the human family to friendship with their Creator, and their exaltation to angelic existence. The question will be asked, Is the Almighty's purpose with mankind to rise no higher than perfection in the government of mortal generations? Is this the glorious salvation which dwelt from everlasting in the bosom of the Eternal, which the prophets sung, and which the Son of God confirmed in tears and blood? The answers to these questions, derivable from the Scriptures, will allay the incredulity indicated by them, if the questioner be conscientious and devout.

The kingdom of God is itself but an instrumentality--another step in the march of God's beneficent scheme--another stage in the accomplishment of His purpose to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Eph. i, 10). It only lasts for a thousand years (Rev. xx, 6). What is to be accomplished during this period ? Paul says, "He (Jesus) must reign, till he hath put ALL ENEMIES under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. xv, 25-26). Hence the millennial mission of Christ is to subdue "all enemies," which he will accomplish within the period of a thousand years. The "enemies" spoken of are not necessarily personal enemies, for death is mentioned as the last of them, which we know to be an event, and not a personal adversary. Hence, we may understand Paul's statement to mean that "he must reign till he hath subdued every evil." This being so, we have a starting point supplied to us in our endeavour to understand the mission of the kingdom of God. It is to subdue "all enemies," or every evil.

Now the "all enemies" are of various kinds. The first class that will be subjected to the subduing power of the kingdom are the governments of the earth. "It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms" (Dan. ii, 44). This is the first operation --to break up the existing arrangement of things political--to take the government of mankind out of the hands of mortals, and place it in the hands of the King whom God has prepared as the all-wise, and all-just, and all-humane "governor among the nations." Now it must be admitted that this will be a great thing accomplished, a great enemy subdued; for some of the greatest evils that affect the present state of man originate in bad government. This is true in a more extensive sense than is commonly apprehended, though the connection is beginning to be suspected, and in some countries loudly proclaimed. The crudest illustration of the subject is visible in what are called "savage" countries. There, for want of government, there is no civilisation. Violence rules the day, and prevents the development of excellence of any kind; caprice and passion reign; might is right; brute force, under the guidance of selfish instinct, is in the ascendant; and mankind, instead of dwelling together in social unity and concord, herd in warring factions, and disgrace the name of man by their ways. Human life and the possession of property are the uncertainties of the hour. "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty" (Psa. lxxiv, 20).

Are semi-barbarous nations much better? In some respects they are worse. Ignorance and class interests provide and enforce laws which outrage justice, and multiply the evils of oppression. The uncertain barbarities of African life are, in some respects, to be preferred to the consolidated tyrannies of Asiatic rule; for, in the former case, encroachment may be resented with success --man against man--tribe against tribe; but there is no chance for the individual against organised oppression.

In Europe, things are a little more decent; but not much the better for their decency. There is "order" of a certain sort, but not the order of well being for the populations. It is the "order" Of iron-handed repression--the military enforcement of despotism in all that relates to private life; and the consequent dwarfing of intellect, stunting of moral life. and withering of the enterprise of the population.

And do we find no bad government in our own favoured country? Some would answer, No. Enlightenment will give a different answer. Is there no class usurpation? No monopoly of the soil? No surfeiting of a pampered few at the expense of starving and groaning millions? No brutalising of the mass by perpetual toil and pinching? Ay, there are more evils than the neck accustomed to the halter is sensible of. There is more ill-being and misery and crime in this country than decent, well-to-do people, absorbed in their own little Concerns, can realise. In great part, as many are beginning to see, the evil comes from a system which keeps the wealth of the country in a few hands, and deprives the majority of the opportunity of realising the true objects and enjoyments of life. The law also is administered with a circumlocution and expense which defeat the true objects of justice. These are evils that cannot be remedied in the present age. They are the inevitable results of government by human fallibility and impotence. They will disappear only when the adequate means provided by the kingdom of God are applied.

Surveying the world of human government as a whole then, we see the greatness of the first enemy which the kingdom of God will subdue. The subjugation of the powers that be will be its first achievement, resulting in the "kingdoms of this world" becoming, "the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev. xi. 15). For one government will take the place of many: God in Christ will reign, instead of mortal man. "The Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one" (Zech. xiv, 9). The result of this will be the cure of all the evils enumerated. Savage countries, Asiatic countries, European countries, will all come under the sway of His "rod of iron," which will "break in pieces the oppressor." All inimical institutions and practices will fall before the vigour which destroys kingdoms; individual misdemeanours will be restrained, and individual ways regulated, by the indomitable power that breaks dynasties. A universal absolutism, wielded with wisdom and humanity, will rule in general and detail--nothing too vast for its scope, nothing too small for its notice: and thus will the world know the blessedness of true government for the first time:--

"He shall judge the poor of the people, He shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him. For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in His sight. His name shall endure for ever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed" (Psa. lxxii, 4-14,17).

But another enemy may survive when those of a political character are destroyed. The caste, ignorance, and depravity of the people would continue to be a great curse under the best political arrangements. Men are now trying to cure this by various agencies: educational works, Blue Ribbon movements, Mechanics' Institutions, Temperance Societies, Missionary Societies, "Salvation" Armies, Home Missions, etc., are among the instrumentalities by which reformers hope to improve the world, and bring about the "millennium." The idea is vain. The regeneration of the world is beyond human accomplishment. A partial benefit no doubt results from the educational and reformatory activities of the present century. Knowledge is extended; but that does not necessarily mean improvement. Morality and religion are not progressing with education. It is now admitted by the thoughtful among public reformers, who once thought more sanguinely, that the world, if getting more clever, is not growing better; and facts justify the belief. Robust and manly principle grows more stunted as knowledge increases. Flippancy is the order of the day; skepticism is leavening society with alarming progress; and instead of an approaching millennium, we are, to all human appearance, drifting upon an age when the exigencies of self-interest and commercial competition will have eaten out the moral sense, and blunted all generous feeling in the people; when morals will be practised merely for the purpose of keeping on the right side of the law, and religion professed with a view to customers.

But another and a different prospect appears when we turn to the Scriptures; when we contemplate the coming of the kingdom of God:--

"The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. ii, 14).

When the earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, it follows that the ignorance and barbarism of the present time will have vanished. But how is this result to be practically attained? The machinery of the kingdom of God is the answer. When the governments of the earth have been overthrown, and divine authority established with firm hand in every part of the globe, it will be an easy matter to enlighten and emancipate the "people, nations, and languages" that will render allegiance to the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. This is done by a process which will afford pleasure and honour to the rulers of the age, while conferring benefit on the subject people. The centre of activity is Jerusalem, as in the case of the gospel in the first century. "At that time," says Jeremiah, chapter iii, 17, "they shall call Jerusalem THE THRONE OF THE LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart." Here is a turning from evil on the part of the nations as the result of their subjection to Jerusalem, when occupied as the throne of the Lord. What is the connection between the two things? How does the one result from the other? The answer is, because from Jerusalem emanates a teaching and a law which, divinely administered, works an intellectual, moral, and social reformation. This is evident from the following testimony :--

"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of HIS WAYS, and we will walk in HIS PATHS for OUT OF ZION SHALL GO FORTH THE LAW, AND THE WORD OF THE LORD FROM JERUSALEM. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. ii, 3, 4).

Jerusalem, once more the centre from which divine illumination will irradiate, will be so this second time, on a larger and grander scale, and with more glorious results:--

"And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. AND HE WILL DESTROY IN THIS MOUNTAIN THE FACE OF THE COVERING CAST OVER ALL PEOPLE, AND THE VAIL THAT IS SPREAD OVER ALL NATIONS. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall He take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God: we have waited for Him, and He will save us; this is the Lord, we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation" (Isa. xxv, 6-9).

The feast is to be provided in Mount Zion; this is the reason why the nations gather there to partake of it. Their gathering, however, will not be simultaneous. "God is not the author of confusion," says Paul: the aggregation of the world's populations in such a comparatively small neighbourhood would certainly involve confusion. The prophetic testimony shows that there will be a pilgrimage from all parts of the earth from one year's end to the other in which all nations will take their turn. It will be periodical, and take place in every case once a year, as is evident, from Zech. xiv, 16, 17:--

"And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up FROM YEAR TO YEAR to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that who will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, even upon them shall be no rain."

This annual pilgrimage will be fraught with many blessings. To individuals it will be annual relief from the routine of common life (which routine, at the same time, will be vastly less laborious, both as to the duration and manner of occupation, than the present modes of life), and an annual refreshing physically by travel, and spiritually by contemplation of the objects of the journey, and by the actual instruction received at "the city of the great king." Nationally, it will be a yearly riveting of the bonds of happy and contented allegiance that will bind all people to the throne of David, occupied by his illustrious son--Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, and King of the Jews. This glorious epoch in the world's history finds the following fore-shadowing from Psalm cii, 13-22:--

"Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof. So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glow. When the Lord shall build up Zion, HE shall appear IN HIS GLORY. He will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. For He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary: from heaven did the Lord behold the earth: to hear the groaning of the prisoner: to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem, when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord."

Thus will the earth become filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea, and thus will be realised the petition, "Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Then for the first time will be fulfilled the prophetic song of the angels, chanted at the birth of him who is to be its accomplisher, "GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST, AND ON EARTH PEACE, GOODWILL TOWARD MEN."

"And the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Death will continue during the thousand years preliminary phase of the kingdom--not among the rulers, Jesus and the saints, who are immortal, but among the subject nations who continue as they are now, the death-stricken descendants of the first Adam. "The child SHALL DIE an hundred years old" (Isa. lxv, 20). Death may happen at a hundred years, but, even then, a man will be considered a child. As for an "old man," the term will never be applied to any one that has not run his centuries, as of old. By reason of the certainty of life, and the stability of the new order of things in the hands of Christ and his brethren, the houses they (Israel) shall build, they shall inhabit; the vineyards they shall plant, they shall eat the fruit of (Isa. lxv, 20, 22). It will not happen as it frequently has happened in past times, that the work of their hands has been enjoyed by others, even as Moses foretold to them, saying, "Thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein; thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof" (Deut. xxviii, 30). As the days of a tree (which flourishes for centuries) shall be the days of Jehovah's people; they shall wear out the works of their hands.

Continued Next Page


Lecture 10

The Kingdom of God The Final Instrumentality
In The Great Scheme of Human Redemption


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