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The Third Kingdom
[The introductory page of the MS., which is lost, doubtless contained a reference to a division into Inorganic or First Kingdom, Organic or Second, and Spiritual or Third.]
I MAY be permitted to summarize briefly the teaching of the Sacred Books on the central subject of the Kingdom of God, and to point it, as occasion may offer, with reference to the present inquiry.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD THE CENTRAL IDEA OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS
That God was preparing out of the Second Kingdom a people for Himself is the most prominent fact of ancient history. For centuries the children of Israel were so impressed with this belief that they dared not, like other nations, permit themselves even to own an earthly king. With Jehovah to defend their case, with the King of kings to define and carry out their cause, generation after generation held out against the temptation to create a human monarchy, and handed down unsoiled to the late age of the Captivity their theocratic faith. “The dominating thought of the Old Testament,” to quote the words of Keim, “is that of the Kingdom of God upon earth. God is the God, the Lord, the King of the whole earth; but from among all the nations He has chosen Israel to be His peculiar possession, His servants, His people, His firstborn, His priestly kingdom. God is Israel’s King, and rules as King. God fulfils His regal office by spiritually and physically bringing the nation into existence; by protecting, regulating, and guiding it with His blessings and His chastisements. He does all this, sometimes by His immediate presence, and sometimes through the agency of His inspired organs—lawgivers and generals, priests and prophets, and finally kings, who, in fact, are only viceroys. This kingdom has, however, its limits; the nations without do not obey, they make attacks upon the people of God, and the people of God sin against themselves and against their King.” 77Keim’s “Jesus of Nazara,” vol. iii. p. 43.
How a thousand years before the birth of Christ the longing rose for the Kingdom of God in a more perfect form, for a Kingdom that should conquer and rule the nations and establish righteousness and peace on earth; how, fostered by the startling assurances of Daniel, the desire was kept alive through ages of oppression, and burned only the more clearly after prolonged disappointment; how centuries after the voice of prophecy was silent in their land, when the Forerunner raised his standard in the wilderness, the old hope, deeper still in their hearts than any thought of God or man, uttered itself again in an almost national response to the Baptist’s message—these points have but to be named to convince us of the thrilling reality of the Kingdom of God to the ancient Jewish Church.
To point out the development of the conception as we come down to New Testament times is all but superfluous. At the double risk of appearing to the world as an imitator of John, and to the Roman as sharing with the Baptist the responsibilities of political revolution, Jesus accepted the watchword of the hour and deliberately announced Himself as the King of the promised Kingdom. How He gathered about Him the first few subjects, and in the face of laughter and blasphemy assumed the Sovereignty of the miniature State, framing a Constitution for it as far-reaching and profound as if it were already a great nation, is a plain fact of history. And as one follows His life throughout, it is patent to the most casual reader of the Gospel narratives that His one idea was to found on earth the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew alone the expressions “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Kingdom of God” occur forty-five times; and generally the theme seems never to have been absent for a single hour from the thoughts of Jesus during His earthly ministry. “In the contemplation of the doctrine of the Lord,” says Van Oosterzee, “according to the Synoptics, we must proceed from the foundation-thought by which, above all others, it is ruled. It is that of the Kingdom of God.” So Reuss, “L’idee fondamentale, qui se reproduit a chaque instant dans l’enseignement de Jesus, est celle du royaume de Dieu.” 88See further Hausrath, “New Testament Times,” vol. ii.; Keim, “Jesus of Nazara,” vol. iii.; also Neander, Hess, and especially the earlier chapters of “Ecce Homo.”
Were an evolutionist asked to formulate the fundamental idea of nature, he would reply, in the light of all modern philosophy and science, The idea of the Kingdom. All nature, he would say, is gravitating towards a nobler order of things. The vision of the past presents man with a grand and harmonious picture of the Ascent of Life. Kingdom is seen to be rising above kingdom. And yet withal the apex of the pyramid is still concealed. The perfect is not yet come. The whole creation groaneth and travaileth, waiting for the redemption of the creature. Scarce less audible is the prophecy of nature than the voice of Old Testament Scripture as to the coming of the world’s Redeemer. And Science, like the Forerunner of the Messiah, has prepared the way of the Lord.
THE OBJECT OF THE THIRD KINGDOM
What is the ultimate purpose of God in the further evolution of man can only be dimly discerned. With words, it is true, we can fill in logically the framework; of the future; but to the imagination, beyond a certain point, these words become colourless symbols of a reality which man in this life can never grasp. Still it is not denied us to see a little way into the Third Kingdom, and we may attempt at least a provisional answer to this question, What does the Kingdom of God propose to do for mankind?
The form of the question which chiefly interests us in the present inquiry is, Does the Kingdom of God propose to do anything abnormal, extravagant, or unintelligible? Is it a new and unrelated effect that is to be wrought on the subjects of this Kingdom, or is it something still consistently in line with continuity? Certainly if it could be shown that the aim of the Third Kingdom was in harmony with all that has gone before, it would go a long way to remove any prejudice that may exist against it on the ground of what men call its unnaturalness and “other-worldliness.”
The simplest method of testing the naturalness of the object of the Third Kingdom is to refer to the aim of the Second. What is it that serious men propose to themselves as the object of life? Is there not something that all have willed to achieve—a summum bonum—a chief end of man? These, for ages, have been the questions of philosophy. The greatest and wisest among mankind have studied this problem. And it would be idle to deny that their labours have achieved at least a general result. Without referring to any of the specific plans of life proposed by different schools, it will sufficiently summarize the conclusion of all to say that the highest aims of mankind are connected with the moral development of the race. Whatever methods various philosophies have pointed out in order to attain this end, and whatever shades of difference exist as to the end itself, there is no debate as to this general result. There is no question likewise, and this is an important consideration, that the ideal of philosophy has never yet been reached. With greater or less hope some philosophic schools still expect a future success to justify the principles they teach; others found wanting after fair trial have already withdrawn from the field. Still a unanimous consensus among men that the highest development of the race is the summum bonum is a fact too significant to be ignored. And any new applicant for favour might be expected beforehand to enter the field with this same general aim in spite of the warnings of those who have failed. Any other aim would be unnatural.
Now as a matter of fact the aim of Christianity, in its general direction, is the aim of all philosophy. Christianity fell naturally into the stream of evolution which was carrying the world through kingdom after kingdom to a high and perfect development. Its idea of development was immeasurably loftier than that of philosophy, and the means for carrying out the process were altogether different; but the goal in either case, though not the same, lay in the same general line. I have defined the aim of philosophy to be the moral development of the race. When it is said, however, that this is also the aim of Christianity we must attach a higher significance to the term moral. Morality is a word of the Second Kingdom. In the Third we look for its evolution. We shall still recognise the old quality, but it will really exist in a form so greatly developed that we may be justified in substituting for morality the word spirituality. At the same time it must again be repeated that the development of the spiritual from the natural man is not a case of simple evolution. The natural character does not simply grow better and better until a pitch of excellence is reached such as finally deserves the distinguishing name of spirituality. Spirituality and morality differ qualitatively as well as quantitatively. The natural development can never pass the barrier separating the Second from the Third Kingdom. The transition is secured, just as in the case of atoms passing from the First to the Second Kingdom, by means of something not inherent in the lower Kingdom but communicated ab extra.
But while giving the fullest prominence to this cardinal fact that the spiritual is not a mere natural development of the natural, it is no less necessary to point out, although at first sight it seems a paradox, that the spiritual character is still a development of the natural. The first object of the Third Kingdom cannot, without misconception, be said to be the creating merely of a spiritual character. Its first work is to make what would be called a perfect natural character. It does not leave the Second Kingdom in a raw, unfinished state, and, regardless of the natural man, proceed to start afresh with a new set of organisms developing under a new regime. Its first business is to complete the old. It takes up a human life at the point where the natural world has left it and carries it on to perfection. There is, it is true, a new creature born within the natural man. And in this sense there is a new creation and a new departure. But the first work of the new nature is to operate on the old and do for it what it failed to do for itself. Thus the aim of the spiritual Kingdom in the first instance is to perfect the natural. The first object of Christianity is to make men. So far from being a dehumanizing process, it alone creates the true humanity. For the Third Kingdom alone possesses the true ideal, and alone contains the energies effectually to overpower those forces of sin which prevent men from ever becoming men.
I purposely refrain from making more than the most meagre allusion to the aims of the spiritual world, for the subject does not come directly within the biological province. Words at all times fail, however, to express the magnificence of the scheme of Christianity. For the past its provision is so complete, for the present so wonderful, for the future so glorious that the more one exercises his mind upon the religion of Jesus Christ the more is he impressed with its wisdom, magnificence, and thorough practical adaptation to every need and wish of man. The whole conception of the Redemption of the world. the amazing series of events projected in order to it, the possibility opened to man of a pure life and a disinterested deed, the promise of having all the haunting problems of life and time, all the soul’s deep difficulties concerning the universe and the eternal finally solved—these alone mark out the Third Kingdom as a creation of the Most High. Nothing could be more exquisite than the programme of Christianity penned by Isaiah centuries before the Founder of the Kingdom was born in Bethlehem. One would come
“To preach good tidings to the meek;
To bind up the broken-hearted;
To proclaim liberty to the captives;
To comfort all that mourn;
To give unto them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord,
Side by side with these words let him who would rate the claims of the Third Kingdom on his acceptance—unobtrusive claims which have always depended most on a mute appeal to their inherent dignity and grace—read the Sermon on the Mount. And if he would understand the aspirations of the Kingdom he will find the seven deepest thoughts of his own heart at its purest moments reflected in the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
If that programme is not a satire on the gospels of humanity, if these Beatitudes are not a fiction, if the Lord’s Prayer is not the expression of a need that is rarely felt and never gratified, they have a claim upon mankind more vitally real than anything else in the world. If there be a Kingdom of God, that programme, that Sermon and that Prayer are worthy of it. And if they be but a dream, I know not how we shall account for such a dream.
While the design of the Third Kingdom coincides somewhat with the purpose of Moral Philosophy, its apparatus and methods are widely different. And they are different mainly in respect of two things already mentioned. Christianity provides an ideal which is the highest possible, and equips the subjects of the Kingdom with powers in every way adequate to realize that ideal. The problems connected with the ideal will be referred to again, but the question of the powers of the spiritual Kingdom may now be dealt with under a separate head.
THE POWERS OF THE THIRD KINGDOM
The fundamental difference between the Second and Third Kingdoms consists in what, for want of a better name, may be called their Energies. The difference of phenomena entirely depends on this—the difference, for example, between morality and spirituality. Philosophy may easily borrow the ideal from Christianity; to some extent it may attempt to introduce its motive, but it utterly breaks down in the practical application. And it fails for want of the one thing which finally differentiates the Third Kingdom from the Second—Life. Discussing Christianity on the philosophical plane in a chapter of singular insight and beauty, “Ecce Homo,” while insisting upon the difference between Christianity and Moral Philosophy, fails withal, as it seems to me, to recognise the infinite and radical distinction between them, owing to a disregard of this unique quality of Life. “Philosophers had drawn their pupils from the elite of humanity; but Christ finds His material among the worst and meanest, for He does not propose merely to make the good better, but the bad good. And what is His machinery? He says the first step towards good dispositions is for a man to form a strong personal attachment. Let him first be drawn out of himself. Next, let the object of that attachment be a person of striking and conspicuous goodness. To worship such a person will be the best exercise in virtue that he can have. Let him vow obedience in life and death to such a person; let him mix and live with others who have made the same vow. He will have ever before his eyes an ideal of what he may himself become. His heart will be stirred by new feelings, a new world will be gradually revealed to him, and, more than this, a new self within his old self will make its presence felt, and a change will pass over him which he will feel it most appropriate to call a new birth.” 1010“Ecce Homo,” fourteenth edition, p. 92. The fatal objection to this scheme is that it begins at the wrong end. Certain changes pass over a man’s character; he forms a personal attachment, worships his ideal, learns obedience, and all this he will “feel it most appropriate” to call a new birth. Why not begin with the new birth? Why be guilty, even in appearance, of the scientific heresy of making Life the result of organization instead of the cause of it? The language used certainly lends itself at least to the supposition that the expression “new birth” is merely a metaphor—an “appropriate” term for the act after the result has appeared. And the criticism of “Ecce Homo” on Christianity in this respect is not exceptional, but representative. The Kingdom of Heaven is simply the “Society of Jesus,” or “a religious-moral institution” (Van Oosterzee), or “a filial relation to God” (Hausrath).
Now, the Kingdom of God is all this, but it is also a great deal more. From the philosophical standpoint no definitions, probably, could be more exact; none other even are possible. But there has been a universal failure to regard the whole subject, in the first instance, as a question of Biology. Even those theologies which have recognised most clearly the special factor of Life in Christianity have still felt themselves insensibly drawn to discuss the question ultimately in terms of philosophy. That it is susceptible of philosophic treatment is abundantly plain; but it cannot with too much emphasis be pointed out that, alike from the analogies of nature and from the explicit declarations of its Founder, the Third Kingdom must be treated primarily as a biological question. Christ affirmed that His first object in coming to men was to give them Life—more abundant Life. And that He meant literal Life, literal spiritual Life, is clear from the whole course of His teaching and acting. To impose a metaphorical meaning on the commonest word of the New Testament is to violate every canon of interpretation, and at the same time to charge the greatest of Teachers with persistently mystifying His hearers by an unusual use of so exact a vehicle for expressing definite thought as the Greek language, on the most momentous subject of which He ever spoke—a subject, indeed, of life or death to all whom He addressed. It is a canon of interpretation, says Alford, that “a figurative sense of words is never admissible except when required by the context.” The context in most cases is not only directly unfavourable to the figurative meaning, but in innumerable cases Life is broadly contrasted with Death. In others, as in the discourse with Nicodemus, the language used makes it inconceivable that there, at least, the symbolical meaning is implied. “Ye must be born again,” said Jesus to the Rabbi. And that the words were taken literally is apparent from the answer: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” While undeceiving His pupil as to the acceptance of the term Life in its natural organic sense, Christ continues to insist withal that it is nevertheless Life—a deeper and spiritual Life, a Life mysteriously entering into the soul as by a breath from God. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. . . . That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” 1111John iii.
To pass from Christ’s words to the teaching of the Apostles, we find that without exception they have accepted the term in its simple, literal sense. Reuss defines the Apostolic belief, as is his wont, with rigid impartiality when he discovers in the Apostles’ conception of Life, first, “the idea of a real existence, an existence such as is proper to God and to the word; an imperishable existence—that is to say, not subject to the vicissitudes and imperfections of the finite world. This primary idea is repeatedly expressed, at least in a negative form; it leads to a doctrine of immortality, or, to speak more correctly, of life, far surpassing any that had been expressed in the formulas of the current philosophy or theology, and resting upon premises and conceptions altogether different. In fact, it can dispense both with the philosophical thesis of the immateriality or indestructibility of the human soul, and with the theological thesis of a miraculous corporeal reconstruction of our person: theses, the first of which is altogether foreign to the religion of the Bible, and the second absolutely opposed to reason” Second, “the idea of life, as it is conceived in this system, implies the idea of a power, an operation, a communication, since this life no longer remains, so to speak, latent or passive in God and in the Word, but through them reaches the believer. It is not a neutral, somnolent thing; it is not a plant without fruit; it is a germ which is to find fullest development.” 1212Reuss, “History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age,” vol. ii. p. 496.
The sum of New Testament doctrine is that there is an immediate action of the Spirit of God on the souls of men. In the New Testament alone the Spirit is referred to nearly three hundred times. And the one word with which He is constantly associated is Power. If we are asked to define more clearly what is meant by this Power we hand over the difficulty to science. When science can define Life and Force we may hope for further clearness on the nature and action of the Spiritual Powers. At the same time we are forewarned that with our present faculties we can never pass far beyond the threshold of these hidden things. Their very power of evading the senses is the mysterious token of their spirituality. It is the test of the Spirit that thou canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. If we could tell, if we could trace it naturally to its source, if we could account for its operations on ordinary principles, if we could define regeneration as the effect of moral persuasion, we should be dealing not with the Unknown but with the Known. It is from the analysis of natural religion, where the elements can all be rationally accounted for, that men derive their chief argument against the supernatural. But in analyzing spirituality the effort to detect the Living Spirit is as idle as to subject protoplasm to microscopic examination in the hope of discovering Life. When the Spiritual Life is discovered in the laboratory it will be time to give it up altogether. It may then say, as Socrates of his soul, “You can bury me—if you can catch me.”
While the Powers of the Third Kingdom evade analysis their Energy is not less real. The activities of the Third Person of the Trinity have always been described as dynamical. The Spirit is the executive of the Godhead, carrying out the sovereign Will by operations as irresistible as they are subtle. To this omnipotent agency are to be referred ultimately all changes which take place within the Kingdom of God on earth. This is the Source of Energy for the Third Kingdom. And long before the days of Dynamics, when the energies of the Second Kingdom were less understood than now are those of the Third, the schoolmen were wont to express their conception of the Divine Activity in Nature and in Grace by the actual use of the word physical.1313Thus Turrettin, speaking of the gratiae efficacis motio: “Non est simpliciter physica, quia agitur de facultate morali, quae congruenter naturae suae moveri debet; nec simpliciter ethica, quasi Deus objective solum ageret, et leni suasione uteretur, quod pertendebant Pelagiani. Sed supernaturalis est et divina, quae transcendit omnia haec genera. Interim aliquid de ethico et physica participat, quia et potenter et suaviter, grate et invicte, operatur spiritus ad nostri conversionem. Ad modum physicum pertinet, quod Deus spiritu suo nos creat, regenerat, cor carneum dat, et efficienter habitus supernaturales fidei et charitatis nobis infundit. Ad moralem quod verbo docet, inclinat, suadet et rationibus variis tanquam vinculis amoris ad se trahit.” Owen also in his classical work on the Holy Spirit repeatedly affirms the physical nature of the Spirit’s operations, especially in the process of regeneration: “There is a real physical work, whereby He infuseth a gracious principle of spiritual life into all that are effectually converted and really regenerated, and without which there is no deliverance from the state of sin and death.”
Without agitating the time-honoured questions as to whether this Spiritual Power is mediate or immediate, whether it is resistible or irresistible, whether Spiritual Life is to be considered as part of it, or as the whole, or as none of it; without raising problems suggested by current scientific thought—as to whether there are any analogies between these and the ordinary energies of nature; whether, for instance, they are capable of Transformation, Conservation, or Dissipation—we may rather go on to inquire for the evidence of the spiritual operations themselves and for the results which ought to have followed. It will assist us, however, in understanding the evidence, as well as in defining the kind of result to be looked for, if we take one more backward glance at the two earlier Kingdoms. Suppose we take our stand for a moment on the confines of the Inorganic Kingdom. What order of phenomena will strike us first? Shall we see the Second Kingdom act on the First, and if so, in what particular way?
As we take our first survey of the Inorganic Kingdom we seem to be surrounded by the dead. Every Atom obeys the law of inertia, or yields to simple changes induced by polar, molecular, or other forces. But presently, into this dead world, an unknown Power descends, feels about, seizes certain Atoms, and manipulates them in unprecedented ways. This mysterious Power is the Power of the Kingdom next in order above. To that Kingdom, indeed, the operations of Life, as facts of everyday occurrence, are not mysterious. But to the Atoms they are unintelligible and very wonderful. Here is one Atom raised from the dead. Here is another refusing to bend its will to the attraction of gravity A third, subject to crystalline forces from the beginning, suddenly defies them and takes its place as a part of the higher symmetry of a living organism. As their Fellow-Atoms observe these extraordinary changes, from time to time occurring around them, they have only one word which adequately describes them—they are Miracles.
Taking our stand now on the confines of the Organic, shall we not be presented with the same strange spectacle? Once more we are surrounded by the dead. Once more a Power descends out of another Kingdom—a Kingdom just in order above—and manipulates Organisms in unprecedented ways. Here is one Organism raised from the dead. Here is another refusing to bend its will to the attraction of sin. A third, subject to deforming forces from the beginning, suddenly defies them, and assumes a high and noble spiritual symmetry. And as their Fellow-Organisms observe these changes, their word again is Miracle.
This, then, is what meets us first at the portals of the Third Kingdom—Miracle. We find an order of phenomena strange and inexplicable to the lower Kingdom, but as normal within its own sphere as are the operations of Life in the Organic. As the powers of the Second Kingdom master the First, so the powers of the Third master the Second. But this is not what is usually called Miracle. Miracle is a much narrower thing—so very narrow a thing that up to this point we have scarcely even come in sight of it. To single out a few specific wonders authenticated by ancient documents, and to attach to them the epithet Miracle, is a limitation so monstrous and unwarranted that the protest against it cannot come too soon.
The question of the miraculous is simply the general question of the Third Kingdom. To apply the word to certain acts of healing, to beneficent deeds of an abnormal character, or to deliverance from physical danger, want, or death, is to contemplate the reactions of the Spiritual Kingdom only on the lowest plane of the Organic and Inorganic Worlds. The outstanding miracles, on the contrary, are those effected on the moral and intellectual portions of the highest department of the Organic Kingdom—namely, on the life and character of the Natural Man. The attestation of Christianity is the Christian. Without taking this into account the supernatural changes wrought on the lower department are mere wizard-work. Miracle, from the standpoint of the Second Kingdom, is not alone objectionable as pure prodigy, but it amounts to an absolute breach of Continuity. The sceptical definitions of miracle from this standpoint are perfectly legitimate. Hume is loyal to nature when he affirms that “A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and, as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience that can possibly be imagined.” Deliberately choosing the standpoint of the Second Kingdom, and absolutely rejecting the Third, Hume had no alternative. In his experience of the laws of nature, no variation ever occurred in the usual course of antecedent and consequent. Thus the question of miracle comes to this—there is either delusion, fraud, or a Third Kingdom; and if one rejects the last, his choice between the two former is immaterial.
If, on the other hand, one accepts the Third Kingdom, the miraculous becomes not only credible but necessary The Third Kingdom would not be the Third Kingdom if it could not operate on the Kingdom beneath it in a way which to the Kingdoms below would seem miraculous. The Second Kingdom is the Second Kingdom because it can operate on the First in a way which to the First must seem miraculous. It is superior to the First in virtue of the superiority of its powers and the corresponding complexity of its organisms. In precisely the same way the Third rises superior to the Second.
It is of much consequence to notice that it is not alone the forms of organisms which are found evolving in nature, but the powers or energies. There is a dynamical as well as a statical evolution. The First Kingdom is equipped with a certain set of powers, or possibly with one central energy capable of assuming varied forms. The Second, while inheriting all this plenishing of the Inorganic Earth, brings upon the scene the new and commanding powers of Life. But the powers of Life, however derived, however directed, are still feeble. The Organic is not always master. And it is not until the Higher Evolution is attained that the complement appears. Then the dominion is complete; that which is perfect is come; and both the First and Second Kingdoms are reigned over by the Third. Were there no domination of the Second by the Third, there had been no Third. And hence the naturalness of our Lord’s appeal to miracle as the sign to the Second of the existence of the Third. If a plant wished to convince a mineral of the reality of the powers of the vegetable Kingdom—acting in the direction, let us say, of causing matter to rise in the air during the plant’s growth in defiance of gravity—it would naturally point to specific cases where these powers had been exercised. The effect in the first instance upon the mineral would be to tempt it to reject the fact as contrary to experience, but as the evidence accumulated both in quantity and quality the doubt must gradually dissolve. A mineral, subject no longer to the inorganic forces which otherwise reign supreme throughout the Kingdom, bearing practical testimony to the reality and superiority of extra-inorganic powers, would certainly be a phenomenon of transcendent scientific significance. Attention would be gradually drawn to the possibility of the existence of a higher world, and as the facts were seen to be repeated, and as from different quarters evidence accumulated, all doubt upon the subject must gradually dissolve. But if, instead of fixing attention upon an isolated case here and there, one runs his eye over the boundary line dividing the Inorganic from the Organic, and finds the whole frontier abounding in similar activities, like the seaward margin of a coral reef fringed with the living polypes, he receives a new impression of their character and relations. He sees that these marvellous reactions are at that point no longer the exception but the rule. Miracle, in short, is the normal frontier phenomenon. Along the line of junction, again, between the Natural and the Spiritual a similar set of activities are carrying on their ceaseless work. Contemplated from the bottom of the Second Kingdom, where on an isolated group here and there these activities are operating on grosser material, the phenomena are exceptional, unintelligible, and miraculous. But on the frontier they are the normal actions of the Third Kingdom on the Second, demanded by Continuity, justified in the magnitude and gathering potency of their operations by Evolution and susceptible of the same kind of proof.
That they are so little observed in the higher reaches is due to a peculiar law of their being. The Kingdom cometh without observation. But this is not true alone for the Kingdom of God. With infinite gentleness the Second Kingdom throws over the First its mysterious spell. With infinite delicacy its tentacles feel among the all but invisible atoms and build them up into higher forms, by unperceived and silent processes carrying on their growth. All the forces of the Inorganic world even are secret, silent forces. Gravity, the most ponderous of all, came down the ages with a step so noiseless that the world was old before an ear was quick enough to detect its footfall. And the Spiritual forces which carry on the processes to the further stage, re-creating the visible, acting through more and more attenuated forms of matter, become themselves more ethereal, the law in fact being that the various forces decrease in grossness as they increase in power.
But in the first days of Christianity the invisibility of its forces formed a drawback to its development. If not essential, it was at least advisable that the outside world should become at once aware of its pretensions. And if the secret operations of the Spirit in regenerating men were then insufficient to attract attention, it became necessary for the manifestation to descend to what some might call a lower plane. The Spiritual, having power over the whole range of the Organic and Inorganic, might fitly exert an influence in a region where the miracle might be palpable, startling and unmistakable. It might be urged indeed that Virtue could not but go out of Jesus at whatever point He touched life; but at the same time this lower miracle was not due to the inadvertent overflow of a full vessel, but designed to strike men who could not rise to the perception of loftier manifestations. The number of occasions on which He made this concession, always of course with the higher purpose directly in view and apparent in the immediate result, was probably very much larger than the limited information we possess might lead us to suspect. The Evangelists hint that these interpolations of the Higher Powers, these suspensions of the ordinary course of nature in obedience to a higher law, occurred with great frequency. And although it is proper to notice the striking and suggestive fact of the extreme conservation of this power in the life-work of Jesus, it is equally necessary to bear in mind that He continually did works which no other man did, and periodically appealed to these as a ground why the members of the Natural Kingdom should accept the Spiritual.
But there could be no greater mistake than to perpetuate the appeal to this rudimentary form of miracle as the continued attestation of Christianity. If miracle ceased with the first century, our faith, to a large extent, ceases with it, or at least most seriously suffers. What we have to point to now for the credentials of Christianity is not a first series of miracles but the series itself—the series which extends down to the present hour. To ignore this is to put ourselves in a position where belief has everything against it, human testimony notwithstanding. But if we begin with the phenomena which we see around us, or can see if we will, and argue backwards, step by step, coming slowly down to the time when the Miracle Himself was upon the stage, we reach a point where signs and wonders really appear to us as the inevitable. The denial of miracles accordingly, in the ordinary sense, is not the evidence of superior wisdom, but mainly of defective observation. Unless gravity had continued to act during the last two centuries we should, perhaps, have been justified in saying that Newton was mistaken when he saw the apple fall to the ground. How could such a thing happen? Is Newton to contradict “the universal experience of mankind"? Is his testimony to be accepted rather than that of Herschel or Faraday, who never saw such a thing happen? Is not such a violation of the laws of nature altogether incredible and inconceivable, even although the whole of Woolsthorpe were looking over the orchard wall when the apple fell?
Now, if Christianity ceased to act with the first century, I do not see that we can argue for the miraculous. Unless we include the Third Kingdom in our conception a miracle is certainly a violation of the laws of nature. And if the Third Kingdom has passed away miracles may be interesting, but their occupation is gone—there is nothing for them to attest to me. On the other hand, if the Powers of the Third Kingdom are working around me now I am independent of them. I have the superior credential of the “greater works” which Christ’s disciples were to do in His name.
But I have said the denial of miracles is due mainly to defective observation—mainly, however, not wholly. The members of the Third Kingdom have something to answer for themselves here. They have failed to provide due materials for observation. Energy may be potential as well as kinetic. Were a visitant from a distant planet who had read “The Correlation of the Physical Forces” or Ganot’s “Physics” to land on the coast of Labrador and demand of the Esquimaux to be shown the energies of electricity or the powers of steam, his credulity in his authorities would certainly be shaken. And even if he were informed by a passing Nordenskiold that many of the physical forces were available at Labrador, only the people had never utilized them, his bewilderment would not be lessened. Those who read the Christian’s Book hear in like manner of faith to remove mountains, of love stronger than death, of limitless powers to be had for the asking of all the fulness of the Godhead placed at man’s disposal. And when they turn to those who know this Book, who profess to believe it, who contribute themselves to the literature of the Third Kingdom, expanding and enforcing its ideas, and almost forcing them on men’s attention, what do they see? Is it any satisfaction that a courteous Nordenskiold assures them that these forces are there withal, only the members of this frigid province at the moment do not happen to employ them? For does not the critic see multitudes of individuals met every week for the ostensible purpose of receiving these powers, down on their knees by the thousand crying for them to come? What is he to make of it? Is he dreaming or they? Or does the Kingdom come—but without observation? No; the Kingdom does not come. On the large scale it does not come. The splendid machinery of Christianity is standing still. The Church is paralyzed. When the Second Kingdom asks the Third for its credentials it remains silent. It has something to show in the past; it points sadly to the early centuries. But for the present nothing stirs; it is all as frozen as Labrador.
So men tell us the spiritual energies are a myth—which is as inconclusive as the statement that the physical forces are myths where they are not utilized. The scepticism of the age nevertheless lies at the door of the Church. That there are individuals, and here and there churches, witnessing to the powers of the Third Kingdom is not to be gainsaid. No man who really desires to satisfy himself of the reality of the Spiritual World will seek in vain for a demonstration of the Spirit and of Power. But the appeal is not going forth to all the earth and arresting men by a testimony triumphant and irresistible. The Power that operated at Pentecost is no longer a mighty and awakening force. And even the ethical light which the subjects of the Third Kingdom were admonished to “let shine among men” is all but too dim to see.
Now, whatever may be the state of matters at present within the Visible Church of the Third Kingdom, let us not blind ourselves to the unspeakably important fact that the Spiritual World contains forms of energy infinitely more powerful than those of the First and Second. It has never been sufficiently realized how much greater they are—how much greater they must be, even from analogy. One might almost speak of an Evolution of Energy going on as we rise from higher to higher Kingdoms. By this, of course, is not meant that the higher energy is in any sense evolved from the lower, but that the potency—whatever may be the source of the increment—is found gradually becoming stronger and stronger. As a matter of fact, while the energy within each Kingdom is constant, the organic powers are greater than the inorganic, the Spiritual than either. And the one thing requisite at once for the attestation of the Third Kingdom and the further evolution of the Second is that the subjects of the former should give heed once more to the offer of its King and Founder, “If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask it.”
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