|From Heaven He came and sought her
To be His Holy Bride,
With His own Blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.|
|The Kingdom of Heaven,| what is it?
It is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. It is that Kingdom which was prophetically set forth by our Lord in His parables; that Kingdom, the subjects of which were described in His teaching, and redeemed by His Blood to be His own |purchased possession| (Eph. i.14); that Kingdom which was founded through the coming of the Holy Ghost -- being a spiritual Kingdom not of the world, though at present in the world -- and which was preached from land to land as an Universal Kingdom, intended to embrace the whole race of man.
The purpose for which our Blessed Lord came down from Heaven, and |humbled Himself even to the death upon the cross| (Phil. ii.8), was that He might found this Kingdom. |He purchased| it at no less a cost than |with His own blood| (Acts xx.28). For He |loved the Church and gave Himself for it| (Ephes. v.25).
In other words, the salvation which is proclaimed in Holy Scripture, as the great gift of God's love, is offered unto man through the means of a Kingdom of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the King, and all the men and women and little children in the world are intended to be the subjects. The Son of God became the Son of Man, that in Him the words of the Psalmist might be fulfilled, |I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession| (Ps. ii.8); and those other words (which are quoted by S. Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews), |Thou hast put all things under His feet| (Ps. viii.6).
|But we see not yet all things put under Him| (Heb. ii.8). Although He |gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works| (Tit. ii.14), the perversity of man has spoilt the perfection of His work, and hindered the results of His self-sacrifice. Eighteen hundred years have passed, and still His rule is imperfect; and not one third of the human race, whom He redeemed unto Himself with His own blood, accept Him as their King. But in His perfect foreknowledge, this hindering of His work of love for the salvation of man was present from the first; and was foretold by Him in part in His parables. And it pleased Him to entrust to His faithful people the task of removing and overcoming by their prayers and exertions the obstacles which opposed His rule.
When the Pharisees once asked |When the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, Lo there! for behold the Kingdom of God is among you| (S. Luke xvii.20, 21). His Kingdom was already being set up amongst them, though they knew it not; and ever since those days it has been spreading amongst men. But He knew how strongly the great enemy of God and man would oppose the extension of His Kingdom; and how powerful the perversity of man would be to hinder it; and when His disciples asked to be taught to pray, these were the words He bade them pray, |Thy Kingdom come| (S. Matt. vi.10).
It follows, therefore, that it is a matter of great importance that we understand clearly the meaning of these words. We cannot suppose for a moment that our Lord meant that the Kingdom of God is not come at all in this present time. Because many passages, which have been already quoted, have assured us that His Kingdom was founded long ago amongst men. Moreover, He expressly directed His disciples to assure those to whom they preached, whether they hearkened or not -- |The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you| (S. Luke x.9, 11).
What then is the meaning of the prayer, |Thy Kingdom come|?
The Kingdom of God is come already, and men are everywhere |pressing into it| (S. Luke xvi.16). But His rule over the hearts of men is imperfect, and will be so as long as it can be said |We see not yet all things put under Him| (Heb. ii.8). Therefore He has taught His faithful people of every age to lift up this prayer -- |Thy Kingdom come| -- that it may be brought to pass that He may rule in all hearts supreme; that the lands which are still heathen may be brought into His Kingdom; and that those who now profess to bear His Name may be |Saints| indeed. And inasmuch as He |loved the Church and gave Himself for it,| not that it might consist of so-called Christians -- who in heart are worshippers of Mammon, and not subjects of the Crucified -- but |that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water and the word, that it should be holy and without blemish,| this prayer -- |Thy Kingdom come| -- must continue to ascend until He can |present it to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing| (Eph. v.25-27). And then at last the cry will be raised, |The Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever| (Rev. xi.15).
We are taught in Holy Scripture that faith can move mountains of difficulty (S. Matt. xvii.20), and that the prayer of faith has a power to which God has set no bounds (S. Matt. xxi.22). And the surest way to pray in faith is to be ourselves striving for the fulfilment of our prayers.
Now the King Himself declared the source from which the weakness of His Kingdom would arise. When He prayed for His little band of disciples, He added, |Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me| (S. John xvii.20, 21). Consequently if we would gain an answer to our prayer, |Thy Kingdom come,| we want to lead Christian men to think that the saying is true, |A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand| (S. Mark iii.24); and that it is impossible for |The Kingdom of Heaven| to be strong to win souls for Christ, whilst its subjects are forming factions and so-called denominations, and are opposing one another. |Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! For there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore| (Ps. cxxxiii.1, 3).
To re-unite the divided branches of Christ's Holy Church, or even to heal the divisions amongst God's people in our own land, is a work which is beyond the power of man to accomplish. But if Christians would but be persuaded to see the advantages of unity, and to desire to live up to their high calling as God's children -- as the one family of God -- the first step would have been taken which would lead, in God's own time, to the end in view.
For if the subjects of |The Kingdom of Heaven| only realised their position, how great would be the answer to this universal prayer, |Thy Kingdom come!| How would Christ's Kingdom be then advancing in the world! For His Church would be moving, as one mighty army, against His foes, and Christ in His members would be indeed going forth, |conquering and to conquer| (Rev. vi.2).
May He pardon all that is defective in these pages, and bless them to the promotion of His glory. May He grant that those who read them may be strengthened in their own faith, and be themselves prepared for the great day, when |The Kingdom of Heaven,| as we know it, will have become the Kingdom of Glory; |when there shall be one flock and one Shepherd| (S. John x.16); and the daily repeated prayer will have been fulfilled,
THY KINGDOM COME.
When it is said that Christ died for the Church, it is necessary to remember that in His intention the Church included the whole world (see S. Matt. xxviii.19). The wilfulness of man in refusing to believe cannot alter that intention though it spoils the completion of it. |God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son| -- thus the wideness of His loving intention was set forth -- |that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish| (S. John iii.16) -- thus the necessity of man's belief, in order that the intention might be carried out, was announced beforehand.
See marginal note in a reference Bible.