"My kingdom is not of this world."--JOHN XVIII. 26.
MANY of our Lord's sayings were dark to those to whom they were directly addressed--purposely dark to them. They were not intended to be understood by those to whom they were immediately addressed, but to be clearly understood at later periods, not only by those to whom they were first addressed, but by all intelligent people who would study the Scriptures in the ages to come. The negative statement, "My kingdom is not of this world," was not only dark to Pilate, to whom it was directly addressed, but equally so to all our Lord's disciples at the time he uttered it. They had no idea of a kingdom not of this world, and understood not the meaning of any such language. John the Immerser had been preaching that the kingdom was at hand. The twelve had been preaching the same, and seventy others whom Jesus sent under the first commission. The Lord had taught them to pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." No doubt they prayed thus numerous times; but when they preached that the kingdom was at hand, and prayed, "Thy kingdom come," they had a king and a kingdom of this world in their minds. They were looking and praying for a temporal king and kingdom. This was the universal idea with all who believed on him during the lifetime of our Lord.
The apostles themselves retained this idea till the Lord died. His death disheartened and discouraged them, and they gave up all as lost. Their idea of a temporal king was exploded; their leader was dead; their prospects and hopes were completely swept away. But when he arose, and they saw him, their old hope revived, and they said: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" They still had the idea of a temporal kingdom, as in the days of David or Solomon. It is easy to see that the answer of the Lord was purposely obscure. The time had not quite come for him to explain the matter.
Previous to the Lord's execution he endured two trials: the one before the Sanhedrim, the other before the Roman court. This was severely trying on their belief of an earthly and temporal king, to see their king submitting to these trials without making any resistance or even defense. It shook them exceedingly. They could not see why he did not use his power in some kind of resistance or defense. The Sanhedrim was the highest and most august religious court in the world. In his trial he was charged with blasphemy. There was but a single specification made in the court. It was in the words, "He said he was the Son of God; thus making himself equal with God." Not regarding him as the Son of God, nor believing him to be the Son of God, but only a man, their conclusion was easily made out, that his claim was blasphemous. They had the matter all their own way, made their decision, declared him guilty of blasphemy, and that he ought to die.
But here they encountered a difficulty. The Jews were ceded to the Roman government, and existed as a Roman State, or province, and were almost in a state of bondage, or at least they so regarded it. While the Roman government was tolerant toward them; permitted them to have their laws, temple, synagogues, altars, priests, victims, ritual, etc., it deprived them of the power to inflict capital punishment. The Sanhedrim could make its decisions, but was not allowed to inflict the death sentence. This feature in their civil arrangement and situation came in the way of accomplishing their purpose. They could not put the Lord to death without a decision from the Roman court. To accomplish their purpose they brought the Lord before Pilate's bar. Here they encountered another difficulty. The charge, as it is styled in church courts, or the indictment, as it is styled in the civil courts, they preferred in the Sanhedrim was not actionable in the Roman court. The Jews knew this, and when they came into the Roman court they said nothing about their charge of blasphemy, knowing that it was not actionable. Here they appeared with a new indictment, and one that they had said nothing about before this. It was in these words: "This man says he is a king." They appeared to have forgotten that it had not been long since their people had determined to take Jesus by force and make him a king; that he had refused and would not be a king, in their sense of it.
Pilate appears to have acted the part of a judge pretty well. He was cool, deliberate and considerate; heard all that could be produced and said against Jesus. After hearing the case patiently, and the testimony that could be produced, he came forth and rendered his decision in the words: "I find in him no fault at all," or, as they express it in the courts now, "I find him not guilty." This aggravated and enraged the Jews, as it frustrated and defeated their chief aim, and they turned on Pilate and pressed him with the charge, "Thou art not Caesar's friend," and shouted, "We are Caesar's friends!" It was certainly a very late thing with them, if they were Caesar's friends. Surely a more treacherous and false pretense than this was never made by any set of men. They despised Caesar as their oppressor, and hated him from the depths of their hearts; but they saw how they could pull a political wire, and cause it to rest heavily on Pilate, by endangering his judgeship.
During the trial Pilate put the question to Jesus: "Art thou a king?" He answered affirmatively, but followed the answer with what had been evident from his course and teaching all the time, but what his friends up to this time, and even later, never understood: "My kingdom is not of this world." This had in it an explanation, but one not then understood, and not intended to be then understood, but intended to be understood afterward, and to show to the ages to come that he saw what was coming, and that everything was working out according to the eternal purpose of the one divine mind seen running through the Bible from side to side. In all the vacillating of the disciples in the lifetime of our Lord, their wavering, errors, mistakes and blunders, misunderstandings and disappointments, it is clear that there was one mind there that never erred, wavered, or was disappointed. Any one who will observe all he taught and did can see that he moved right on according to the eternal purpose, carrying out the designs of the Almighty Father, without wavering, changing or disappointment. He was never taken on surprise. He knew what was in men, what they would do, and in instances of a most astonishing nature he told them what they would do; yet they understood not, but wells on blindly, and did the very things he told them they would do, not seeing, either, that they were fulfilling his words or the predictions of their own prophets.
The explanation in the Lord's words, "My kingdom is not of this world," is of immense value to us now; showing that he intended no civil government, and no kingdom that would meddle with the civil affairs of any country; that he would be no earthly or temporal king; no civil ruler; that he would be no rival of Caesar in any sense. There is no better evidence that any religion is not from heaven than to see it striving to grasp civil power; tampering with civil officers, and trying to control State affairs; trying to grasp and control the schools and the like. Our Lord sweeps all this away with one grand sentence: "My kingdom is not of this world." As it he had said, "I am no rival of Caesar; my kingdom is spiritual and heavenly; my government is not of this world. A man may be a loyal and an obedient servant of Caesar in every particular, and, at the same time, be a true subject of my kingdom." This is an end to all union of Church and State matters, and shows that they must remain distinct. True, becoming a citizen of the kingdom of Messiah does not destroy a man's relation to the State. He is a citizen of this world, and of the State, after he is in Christ as much as he was before, and required to pay tax and obey the laws of the State by the law of God. But he is, at the same time, a citizen of another kingdom, a kingdom not of this world. This is the matter now to be considered.
The way is now open for the main proposition of this discourse. That proposition is, that the divine procedure in establishing the kingdom of God was just about the opposite of that which human wisdom would have dictated. This may appear, at first sight, a little paradoxical, but there is not a doubt but it is strictly true. Let the matter now be considered.
When our most gracious and merciful Lord was introduced into the world, what were the surroundings and associations, chosen by the Almighty Father himself, in the midst of which he should make his advent? Such as the wisdom of this world would have dictated? By no means. The wisdom of this world would have selected surroundings and associations different in every particular. It would have had him appear at the start in the mansions of the great, surrounded by the nobility, the lords, the men of wealth, of official power, popularity and distinction; kings, emperors, all potentates of the earth; surrounded by military display, martial music, grand processions, festivities, and the like. How different all this from the quiet advent of our Lord, and the lowly surroundings when first he appeared on earth! The great masses of humanity knew nothing of his expected advent, save the general expectation vaguely prevailing widely that about that time some wonderful personage was expected to make his appearance; but they knew not who nor what he was to be, nor was there anything very definite about it.
But where did he make his appearance? Not in some great metropolis; not in any city, but in the little and inconsiderable village of Bethlehem. And where in that village? Not in a mansion; no, not in a house at all, but he was born in a stable, clad, as some suppose, with the coarse and uncomely cloths they had to rub down the beasts, and laid in a manger. There lay the holy child Jesus, and nothing of greatness appeared to the eye of man, nor any earthly attraction. There sat the humble Mary, the mother of Jesus, a woman probably scarcely known ten miles away. Nearby sat the humble carpenter, Joseph. The great ones of the earth knew nothing of what had occurred. Some were enlisted in schemes of speculation, pushing for money; others were laying the political wires, and planning to get into office, obtain popularity, power and money; some were seeking opportunities to avenge themselves on their enemies and punish them; there, too, were the lovers and seekers of pleasure and amusement, who thought but little of anything, and, of course, knew nothing of Jesus. The whole world was pushing on in its wonderful career of sin and ignorance, and knew not that a Savior was born. How wonderfully obscure, lowly and humble the advent of the Son of Mary--the Son of God!
While this wonderful state of supineness, apathy and stupor pervaded this world so largely, the upper world was in motion. The heavenly hosts were visitants and witnesses of the scenes that were transpiring among men, and not appreciated by any human being. The swift messengers of Jehovah appear to the shepherds and announce "good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people," exclaiming: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Here was the announcement of intelligence that one would have thought should have gone like the wings of the wind, till it would have reached the remotest ends of the earth. But, no; the human mind was locked up by Jewish priests and doctors of the law, on the one hand, and pagan philosophers, on the other, till there was no inlet to the souls of men, through which the heavenly intelligence could be speedily conveyed through the world. The intelligence brought by angels of God, that a Savior was born, was but slowly conveyed from man to man, till it extended to every creature under heaven.
But now, viewing a helpless child in this humble and lowly condition, turn your attention and consider the adverse surroundings in the midst of which he was to rise, and inquire about the prospect of his ever rising into power and commanding the attention of the nations of the earth. On the one hand, here were his own people, the seed of Abraham, his kindred according to the flesh, to whom he had come and who received him not, with the law of Moses--the law of God--their temple, built by divine direction, the temple of God, their synagogues, their altars, victims, and priests arrayed against Jesus, as they construed and applied the whole. A National Church, that they regarded as the Israel of God, confederated and organized throughout, and set in opposition, with wealth, learning and popularity, against the Lord's Anointed! On the other hand, the nations of the earth, with the popularity, the money, philosophy, civil governments and combined powers of the world against the holy child Jesus!
What think you of the prospect of his ever rising into power gaining the attention of the people, and revolutionizing the world? Had he been nothing more than a human being, his name never would have come down through the ages to our time; we never would have heard of the name of Jesus. God purposely placed him thus lowly, in humility, and without a single worldly circumstance in his favor; placed him under every possible disadvantage, so fat as the influence of the world was concerned; without the influence of money, rich friends, popularity, what the world calls respectability; the aid of philosophers, civil rulers, or any worldly distinction, and at a time when the glory of his nation and people were departed, that the excellency of the power might be seen to be of God and not of man.
A few wonderful events stood connected with his birth, and with him up to the time when he was two years old; but, aside from these, nothing of importance or of any considerable notoriety transpired in his life till he was about thirty years old. His own sacred historians give but little information about his life from two years old till thirty. A single incident is mentioned of some note, when he was at the age of twelve years, aside from which there is but little till he was thirty. The reason probably is, that this was private life, and of no importance to the world. There may be about two important lessons gleaned from this part of the Savior's life. First, his respect to parental authority. He was submissive to parental authority, and treated it with the highest regard, and in this gave all example to all young people, of more value than much gold. Great as he was, he respected the authority of his parents! Second, he labored with his hands, and thus sanctified labor, and made it right for men and women to labor, and made it also honorable. No customs or aristocratic notions can ever make it otherwise than right and honorable for men and women to follow habits of industry.
Now, that he has reached the age of about thirty years, he leaves the parental roof, the carpenter's shop, and comes before the world, as Nicodemus expressed it, as "a teacher from God." He has grown up in obscurity, in private life, to the age of thirty years, without "ever having learned letters," or without education, and comes before the world as "the way, the truth, and the life," and openly declares that "no man comes to the Father but by me." Keep it in view as you see him, in your mind, enter on his public mission, that, on the one hand, all Judaism is against him, and, on the other hand, all Paganism is against him. He is to rise against the combined will of all these, or not rise at all. What think you of the divine procedure in all this? Is it not the opposite of what human wisdom would have dictated?
But what is the next step in the divine procedure? It is to add weakness to weakness. Where does he find his preachers that he intends to set before all nations, and kindreds, and tongues, and peoples? Does he find them among the statesmen, the philosophers, the rabbis of Israel, or the rich men? No; he passed by all these and "chose the weak things of this world to confound the mighty." He called twelve illiterate fishermen of Galilee, saying to them: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Strange and unaccountable though it be, they threw down their nets and followed him! How did he induce them to do this? We have no explanation how. He did it is all that can be said about it, but we know not how. Had the work been simply of man, the calling of these poor, weak men would have been a most fatal step; would have defeated and brought it to shame and contempt. The wisdom of man would have said, Select three of the greatest of pagan philosophers, three of the most powerful statesmen, three of the most learned and powerful of the rabbis of Israel, and three of the great men of wealth, and thus combine the influence of philosophy, civil government, money and religion, and success will be certain. But if this course had been pursued and succeeded, and any one had attempted to make an argument in favor of the divinity of Christianity from its rapid rise and spread in the world, some skeptic would reply: "That is no evidence; that there was no divinity in it that caused it to rise and spread as it did; but the cunning human device of combining the influence of money, State, philosophy and Judaism; that this was what raised it up and grave it momentum in the world"--and no man could have set it aside.
But the wisdom of God headed off all this in the divine procedure. Take the case as we have it, with an illiterate Nazarene at the head of a dozen poor, humble and uneducated Galileans, fishermen, with a new religion, hated by all the world; a religion that condemns all vice, pride and folly; most stringent in its requirements, and most exclusive in its very nature; sweeping away all Judaism, on the one hand, and Paganism, on the other; a religion offering eternal life to those who receive it, but pronouncing eternal condemnation on those who reject it. With the whole world against it, what think you of the prospect of its rising and spreading through the world? The moneyed influence of the world is against it; the civil governments of the world are against it; the philosophy of the world is against it; all the religions of the world are against it; the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life and the follies of the world are all against it; the learning of the world is against it. What is there favorable to it? What is there to commend it, or encourage its circulation among men? Not a single worldly or popular attraction to favor, or in any way aid, but every worldly consideration against it.
Stop and consider the situation The number of the disciples together, on the day the Spirit descended from heaven to inspire the apostles, and guide them into all truth, was about one hundred and twenty. Viewing them from the worldly side, and thinking of them simply as men and women, with a human system, what prospect was there of their success? True, they had a commission from the Nazarene, to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." But then, if we deny his divinity, and regard him simply as a man, an illiterate Nazarene, a carpenter, and the son of a carpenter, a commission from him amounted to nothing. In that view of it, there was nothing in a commission from him to give them any power or influence. It would have been wiser, on their part, never to have mentioned his name. They had no talent of any note themselves, no popularity among the people, no influence, learning or money; they had not a meeting-house in the world; not a college, a school; not a worldly prestige of any sort. What think you of the prospect of their rising?
Their leader, only a few days before, had offended the most popular and influential Jews, in condemning their procedure in the temple, overthrowing the tables of the money-changers, and driving them out; as also in predicting the destruction of the devoted city, their fall by the sword and captivity among all nations, and that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. They had turned away from him in disgust, with such deep, malignant and settled hatred that they never ceased to pursue his destruction till they saw him suspended on the cross, suffering and dying; till he gave the last struggle and breathed the last breath; till the heavens were clad in darkness, the earth trembled, the vail split in two from the top to the bottom, and the rocks were rent. They cried: "Away with him, away with him, crucify him." Their leader had been condemned by man, and thus put to the shameful death of the cross, and all the disgrace heaped on him possible, only some fifty days before, only a short distance without the gate of the very city where the new religion is to be preached in his name. On this person, who had been thus despised and rejected of men, the new religion is to be established. In his name, or by his authority, it is to be "preached in all the world"--"to every creature."
Men sometimes reject things on the ground that they are too marvelous, and then receive something even more marvelous. They reject the idea that Jesus of Nazareth is divine; that he is the Son of God; that the apostles were inspired; that they had the Spirit of God to guide them into all truth. What then follows? That in about fifty days after Jesus was crucified, his apostles, twelve illiterate fishermen of Galilee, stand up in the city of Jerusalem, in open daylight, and affirm that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that he had gone into heaven, and shed forth what they saw and heard, and induced about three thousand people to believe it, and, in view of that belief, to be immersed into his name, abandon the Jewish Church, and the associations of all their former lives, and take their stand on the new ground! If they were not inspired; simply the weak and uninfluential fishermen, in their own strength, how did they achieve all this?
But this is only the beginning of wonders. This roused up everything. The leaders of the people, always behind in any great movement like this, were roused, and put forth their influence in opposition. But did they stop it? We read of their preaching again, and the number of five thousand is mentioned. They appear to have no control over it. They forbid the apostles to speak any more in this name, but appear to have no authority to stop them. They go ahead. When they were threatened, and forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus, "they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."--Acts iv. 24-31.
The work did not stop here. It was not a mere human impulse, sensation, or emotion, creating an excitement that soon passed by; but steadily it moved on from city to city, and, after a time, we read that a great number of the priests became obedient to the faith. When vast numbers of the people were turning, and when it was becoming popular, even the priests could see it! In some eight or ten years the way is opened to the Gentiles; the partition wall is broken down between them and the Jews, and the two are made one in Christ. The way being then opened, it is no longer looked on as a Jewish affair, but in its mighty course it sweeps away Jewish altars, victims and priests; disarms the rabbis of their power over the people, and turns them to Christ; topples down pagan temples, pagan altars and pagan gods; disarms their philosophers, doctors and priests of their prestige and power over the people; brings them to God and makes them one. At the close of the first century, as Gibbon gives it, there were six millions of Christians in the Roman Empire! Did a dozen poor, weak, illiterate fishermen, in their own strength, do all this? If they did, it is as wonderful as any miracle recorded in the Bible, and stands out by itself as the only instance in the history of the world in which such humble, feeble and imperfect instrumentalities, in their own strength, without any money, popularity or influential friends, and against the combined powers of the world, ever produced such a revolution among men! That they did this; did it in their own strength, or without any supernatural power, is the most unlikely thing to have occurred ever reported, and the account of it the most unreasonable and incredible story ever told, and the man who can believe it ought never to complain of Christians as credulous in believing on Christ.
The report circulated by the apostles, and the one at the bottom of the whole system, on which everything depended, viz: That Christ rose from the dead, if not true, was the most incredible story ever told, and one the most unlikely to be believed, specially immediately there where the people had the fullest opportunity of determining whether it was so. For the apostles to have stood up there, in open day, in the presence of vast multitudes, in the city where the thing should have occurred, and stated that a noted character, whom many present had seen, and of whom they had heard the most wonderful things ever reported, and whom they knew had been crucified openly only some fifty days before, had risen from the dead; that they had repeatedly seen him, talked with him, ate and drank with him, and even handled him; and induce three thousand of them to believe their report; to receive it as a settled conviction, and that, too, in opposition to every worldly interest, influence and prejudice; to turn square about, change the whole course of their lives in view of it, and stand firmly to it, as many of them did, to their last breath, and even laid down their lives before they would give it up; for the apostles to have declared these things, convinced such vast multitudes that they. were so, and revolutionized their lives by such preaching, when there was no truth in their preaching, is the most incredible view of things ever heard. Such ideas are the most absurd and impossible ever entertained. How did they convince three thousand people there, where Jesus had been crucified about fifty days before, that he had been raised from the dead? It is easy to imagine that a few credulous people might have been induced to believe such a report, though not true; but that three thousand should have believed it in one day, when there was no truth in it; changed their whole lives in view of it, and from that time forward lived a new life; maintained a new conviction as their chief idea, as a settled matter, till they died, in defiance of all opposition, is the most incredible thing possible to conceive.
Then, it was not a matter of impulse, sensation, or emotion, that had no reason in it and could not be accounted for; that produced an ephemeral excitement and then passed by. But in the midst of the very people where they had all the means of information in reference to the matter, where the reputed facts transpired, and after there was due time for reconsideration, examination and investigation, the conviction spread among the people more and more widely! How did those weak and illiterate men maintain their chief proposition, and that on which everything depended, defend it and continue to induce the people to believe it, when there was no truth in it, in the face of all the learned and talented rabbis of Israel, on the one hand, and all the mighty philosophers and statesmen of Greece and Rome, on the other? Why did not their great men show that their preaching was false; that their foundation proposition--that Christ rose from the dead--was false? Why did they not expose the delusion? There is a good reason for their not showing that it was false. It was true, and shown to be true by so many testimonies, of such immense variety, and of such an overwhelming character, that there was no meeting it; no such thing possible as refuting or setting it aside. The convictions of its truth were spreading among the people, deepening and strengthening all the time. In every contest it evinced this more and more. A wise doctor said: "If this thing is of God, you can not overthrow it." If it had been of man, it would have soon come to nothing; but, as it was of God, man could not overthrow it.
It is well enough to take men on their own ground, occasionally, and push them to the wall. Infidels claim that they are in the right and the believers in the gospel are in the wrong. They claim that the gospel is a falsehood, and that they have the truth. According to this, the apostles started out with a falsehood at Pentecost. Their opposers were in the right, and they were in the wrong. Twelve penniless, illiterate and weak fishermen start out with their wrong--their falsehood. The learning, talent, money, civil governments, philosophy and religion of the world are against them; they are in an open field--the world. We are ready for the contest to begin; the apostles with their wrong, their falsehood, or their lie, as the infidel phrases it, on the one hand, and the combined lined powers of earth, on other. other. The first battle is fought, and the apostles conquer three thousand their falsehood, and the enemy is repulsed. In a few days another battle is fought, and five thousand yield to the falsehood, and the enemy is repulsed. The infidels, in the right, are driven back! This speaks badly for them. In a short space of time a man, whose name was Philip, went down to Samaria and preached their falsehood, and the people, with one accord, gave heed to the things that were spoken, and many believed.The falsehood gained ground, and the enemy was pushed back; the unbelievers, with their truth, were defeated. Is it not marvelous that their falsehood, in the hands of such feeble instrumentalities pushed its way through the world, and against such mighty odds as it did?
But the falsehood stops not here. The enemies to it, speaking of some of its advocates, accuse them of "turning the world upside down," and filling the country with their doctrine. Where were the friends of truth that they did not stop the falsehood? They had the learning, the talent, the money, civil rulers, philosophy, popularity and religion of the world on their side, and, as the infidel claims, were in the right. Every prejudice of the people was in their favor, and yet they did not, and could not, stop the apostles with their falsehood; but onward they pushed it in defiance of all opposition! The apostles' falsehood, as they call it, was stronger than the unbelievers' truth, and pushed its way through it till it becomes a matter of wonder to the whole world.
Pursuing the history, we come in a few years to the introduction of it to the Gentiles, and they find no means of refuting or resisting the falsehood, but by thousands they yield to it, till it spreads throughout the skeptics have ever developed. It is certainly the most wonderful falsehood ever heard of. It is certainly not of this world nor like it.
There is still more yet about this falsehood that is wonderful. It condemned all vice, all sin, all evil of every grade, and commended all virtue, all good, all righteousness. The characters of the men who first preached it, the apostles, were pure. There was nothing false in their practice, or in their lives. This was certainly strange, if their leading or foundation idea was false! But they reformed those who believed their falsehood! Whoever heard of falsehood reforming men before? It turned men from their idolatry, from blasphemy, licentiousness, drunkenness, from all corruption, and taught them the most strict purity. The falsehood that did all this was not of this world! The falsehoods of this world never reform men. Skepticism never reformed men. There are skeptics who are moral men; who have good characters; but skepticism never made a man more moral, or gave him a good character. Whatever he had, or was, has, or is, that is good, in morals or anything, is independent of skepticism. It can not be traced to skepticism as its cause. If anything occurs that a number of men in a community become skeptics about the same time, we hear of no general reformation among them, no perceptible change in their lives, to say the least of it, for the better.
Skepticism has not a bright page in history, in any sense. Not a living man can point to an instance in the history of the human race where skepticism has been the cause of lifting up mankind, of educating, enlightening, civilizing, reforming, purifying and ennobling any people on the face of the earth. It is not the source of learning, arts, sciences, inventions, improvements, or anything that tends to the happiness of our race; it is not the source of anything that is lovely, peaceful, pure and comforting; it is not the foundation of law and order in the family, the school, or State; it is not the source of works of benevolence, mercy and humanity. The asylums for the unfortunate did not originate with unbelief; the peace of God, passing understanding, never grew in the soil of unbelief; the calm, and firm, and settled hope on which millions have reclined when this world was receding from them did not originate in unbelief. It is anchored in something higher.
The heavenly principle that leads men to love their enemies, to pray for those who despitefully treat them, and do good to those who hate them, is not of unbelief nor of this world, but is of faith. The purity that teaches that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart," is not of unbelief, nor of this world, but is of faith; of a King and a kingdom not of this world.
A kingdom that makes a square issue with all the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life; with all the sins of the world; the crimes and corruptions of men, and that declares that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God; that "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone," "prepared for the devil and his angels," and pronounces, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God; blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God"--is not of unbelief, nor of this world, but it is of faith--it is of God.
A singular falsehood, supposing it to be one; a wonderful falsehood was that preached by the apostles; the most wonderful ever told was that one that Jesus rose from the dead, in that it condemned all vice and commended all good; that it reformed men, made them the most pure, moral and civil the world ever saw. It was equally wonderful that the apostles should have conceived the idea of telling such a falsehood; that the idea ever should have entered into their minds of standing up in the very city, and among the very people where Jesus had been crucified only some fifty days before, and in open day, and in the gaze of thousands of the people having the fullest opportunity to know all about it of any people in the world, and telling them that he rose from the dead; and, more wonderful still, that vast multitudes believed it, not as a mere idle and curious tale, or a mere speculative story; but as a profound and awful reality, and in view of it changed the whole course of their lives, and entered into a new order of living; and, still more wonderful, that the learned, talented and influential rabbis of Israel, on the one hand, and the philosophers and civil rulers, on the other hand, could not stop it; and, most wonderful of all, that the powers of earth and the unseen world could not stop its onward march, till it had traveled the length of the Mediterranean Sea, filled all Asia with the apostles' teaching, and revolutionized the great Roman Empire from its center to its circumference!
It was manifestly no falsehood, but the truth of God; the very truth intended to bless and save the world. It had the wisdom and the power of God in it. It lived and spread there, and has continued to live and press its way down through the ages, in many instances having the fiercest and hottest contests; having been deserted by professed friends; traduced by wicked and designing men; corrupted and perverted by false teachers; but still it lives and comforts the hearts of millions of the purest and best of our sinful race, not simply in prosperity, in the full vigor of life, but in decline and death, when this world is receding and disappearing. Surely it is not of this world. It is of God, and in it is the only light for man that can penetrate beyond the grave; the only light that shines into "an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;" the only light that can bring to our view "a kingdom that can not be moved;" the holy city, the New Jerusalem; the new heavens and the new earth wherein righteousness dwells. How dark and dreary is this world without this light, and what a poor citizenship is that which is only of this world and bounded by time, compared with a citizenship in a kingdom that can not be moved, not of this world, not bounded by time, nor by mortality, but extends beyond the river of death. May our hope ever be anchored there, and may our citizenship ever be in heaven, whence we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus the Christ, who shall change our vile bodies, and fashion them like to his glorious body. Blessed be his name forever and ever.