KINGS AND THEIR KINGDOMS; OR, HOW TO REIGN IN THE INTERIOR LIFE
"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees 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 within you."
The expressions "kingdom of God" and "kingdom
of Heaven" are used in Scripture concerning the divine life in the soul. They
mean simply the place or condition where God rules, and where His will is done.
It is an interior kingdom, not an exterior one. Its thrones are not outward
thrones of human pomp and glory, but inward thrones of dominion and supremacy
over the things of time and sense. Its kings are not clothed in royal robes of
purple and fine linen, but with the interior garments of purity and truth. And
its reign is not in outward show, but in inward power. Neither is it in one
place rather than another, nor in one form of things above another. It is not,
lo here, nor lo there, not in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem, that we are
to find Christ, and enter into His kingdom. It is not a matter of place at all,
but one of condition. And in every place and under every name, and through
every form, all who seek God and work righteousness shall find His kingdom
But this is very little understood. In our
childish fashion of literalism we have too much imbibed the idea that a kingdom
must necessarily be in a particular place and with outward observation; and
have therefore expected that the kingdom of heaven would mean for us an outward
victory of heaven over earth in some particular place, or under some especial
form; and that to sit on a throne with Christ, would be to have an outward
uplifting in power and glory before the face of all around us.
But as the inner sense of Scripture unfolds to
us, we see that this would be but a poor and superficial fulfilling of the real
meaning of these wonderful symbols. And the vision of their true significance
grows and strengthens before the "eyes that see," until at last we know that
our Lord's words were truer than ever we had dreamed before, that the "kingdom
of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, lo here! or, lo
there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."
In Daniel 2:44, we have the announcement of the
kingdom, and in Isaiah 9:6, 7, the announcement of the King: --
"The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which
shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people,
but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is
given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be
called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the
Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no
end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to
establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The
zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this."
This kingdom is to break in pieces and consume
all other kingdoms by right of the law by which the inward always rules the
outward. If there is peace within, no outward turmoil can affect the soul; but
outward peace can never quiet an inward tempest. A happy heart can walk in
triumphant indifference through a sea of external trouble; while internal
anguish cannot find happiness in the most favorable surroundings. What a man is
within himself, makes or unmakes his joy, and not what he possesses outside of
Someone said to Diogenes, "The king has degraded
you." "Yes" replied Diogenes, triumphantly, "but I am not degraded!" No act of
kings or emperors can degrade a soul that retains its own dignity; no tyrant
can enslave a man who is inwardly free.
Therefore to have this divine kingdom set up
within, means that all other powers to conquer or enslave are broken, and the
soul reigns triumphant over them all. Men and devils may try to hold such a one
in bondage, but they are powerless before the might of this interior kingdom.
No longer will fashion, or conventionality, or the fear of man, or the love of
ease, or any other of the many tyrants to which Christians cringe and bow, rule
a soul that has been raised to a throne in this inward kingdom. No sin or
temptation can overcome, no sorrow can crush, no discouragement can hinder. Let
a man or woman have been bound in ever so tyrannical chains of sinful habits,
this kingdom will set them free. Circumstances make men kings in the outward
life, but in this hidden life men become kings over circumstances. And the soul
that has aforetime been the slave of a thousand outward things, finds itself
here utterly independent of them, every one.
For the King in this kingdom is One whom no
circumstances can affect or baffle. He it is indeed who makes circumstances.
And since the government is upon His shoulders, we cannot doubt that He will
order the kingdom with a judgment and justice that will leave nothing for any
subject in His kingdom to desire.
In the expression "the government shall be upon
His shoulder," we have the whole secret of this wonderful kingdom. Upon His
shoulder, not upon ours. The care is His, the burdens are His, the
responsibility belongs to Him, the protection rests upon Him, the planning, and
providing, and controlling, and guiding, all are in His hands. No one can
question as to His perfect fulfilment of every requirement of His kingship.
Therefore those who are in His kingdom, are utterly delivered from any need to
be anxious, or burdened, or perplexed, or troubled. And by this deliverance
they become kings. The government is not upon their shoulders, and they have no
business to interfere with it. Their King has assumed the whole responsibility,
and if He can but see His subjects happy and prosperous, He is content Himself
to bear all the weight and care of kingship. How often we speak of the
responsibilities of earthly kings, and pity them for the burdens that kingship
imposes. We recognize, even on an earthly plane, that to be a king means, or
ought to mean, the bearing of the burdens of even the meanest of his subject.
And even now, as I write, many hearts are aching with sympathy for the new
Czar, who has assumed the grievous burden of the mighty Russian Empire.
From this instinctive sense of every human heart
as to the rightful duties and responsibilities of kingship, we may learn what
it means to be in a kingdom over which God is King, and where He has himself
declared all things shall be ordered with judgment and justice from henceforth
and even forever. Surely no care or anxiety can ever enter here, if the heart
but knows its kingdom and its King!
In John 18:36, our King tells us the tactics of
His kingdom: "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom
were of this world then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered
to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence."
Earthly kings and earthly kingdoms gain and keep
their supremacy by outward conflict; God's kingdom conquers by inward power.
Earthly kings subdue enemies; God subdues enmity. His victories must be
interior before they can be exterior. He does not subjugate, but he conquers.
Even we, on our earthly plane, know something of this principle, and do not
value any victory over another which only reaches the body and has not subdued
the heart. No true mother cares for an outward obedience merely; nothing will
satisfy her but the inward surrender. Unless the citadel of the heart is
conquered, the conquest seem worthless. And with God how much more will this be
the case, since we are told that "He seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on
the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." We speak of
"subduing hearts," and we mean, not that they are overpowered or forced into an
unwilling and compulsory surrender, but that they are conquered by being won,
and are willingly yielded up to another's control. And it is after this fashion
and no other that God subdues. So that to read that "His kingdom ruleth over
all," means that all hearts are won to His service in a glad and willing
For again I repeat, His reign must be inward
before it can be outward. And in truth it is no reign at all, unless it is
within. If we think of it a moment we shall see that this must be so in the
very nature of things, and that it is impossible to conceive of God reigning in
a kingdom where the subduing reaches no further than the outside actions of His
subjects. His kingdom is not of this world, but is in a spiritual sphere, where
its power is over the souls and not the bodies of men; and therefore only when
the soul is conquered, can it be set up.
Understood in this light, how full of love and
blessing do all those declarations and prophecies become, which tell us that
God is to subdue His enemies under His feet, and is to rule them in
righteousness and power! And how glorious with hope does the voice of that
great multitude heard by John sound out, saying, "Alleluia! for the Lord God
In confirmation of all this we have two passages
descriptive of this kingdom, in Rom. 14:17, and 1 Cor. 4:20: "For the kingdom
of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy
Ghost." "For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power."
Not outward things, but inward. Not what a man
eats and drinks, not where he lives, nor what is his nationality, nor the
customs of his race, not even what he thinks nor what he says; but what are the
inward characteristics of his nature, and the inward power of his spiritual
life. For these alone constitute this kingdom of God. Not what I do, but what I
am, is to decide whether I belong to it or not. And only as inward
righteousness, and inward peace, and inward joy, and inward power are bestowed
and experienced, can this kingdom be set up. Therefore no outward subjugation
can accomplish results like these, but only the interior work of the
all-subduing spirit of God.
I have been greatly instructed by the story of
Ulysses, when he was sailing past the islands of the sirens. These sirens had
the power of charming by their songs all who listened to them, and of inducing
them to leap into the sea. To avert this danger, Ulysses filled the ears of his
crew with wax, that they might not hear the fatal music, and bound himself to
the mast with knotted cords; and thus they passed the isle in safety. But when
Orpheus was obliged to sail by the same island, he gained a better victory, for
he himself made sweeter music than that of the sirens, and enchanted his crew
with more alluring songs; so that they passed the dangerous charmers not only
with safety, but with disdain. Wax and knotted cords kept Ulysses and his crew
from making the fatal leap; but inward delights enabled Orpheus and his crew to
reign triumphant over the very source of temptation itself. And just so is it
with the kingdom of which we speak. It needs no outward law to bind it, but
reigns by right of its inward life. So that it is said of those who have
entered it, "Against such there is no law."
For it is a kingdom of kings. The song we shall
one day sing, nay, that we ought to be singing even now and here in this life,
declare this: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own
blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be
glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." (Rev. 1:5, 6.)
We who have entered this kingdom, or, rather, in
whom this kingdom is set up, sit upon the throne with our King and share His
dominion. The world was His footstool, and it becomes our footstool also. Over
the things of time and sense He reigned triumphant by the power of a life lived
in a plane above them and superior to them, and so may we. We are all of us
familiar with the expression that such or such a person "rises superior to his
surroundings," and we mean that there is in that soul a hidden power that
controls its surroundings, instead of being controlled by them. Our King
essentially rose superior to His surroundings; and it is given to us who are
reigning with Him to do the same.
But, just as He was not a king in outward
appearance, but only in inward power, so shall we be. He reigned, not in this,
that He had all the treasures and riches of the world at His command, but that
He had none of them, and could do without them. And so shall our reigning be.
We shall not have all men bowing down to us, and all things bending to our
will; but with all men opposing and all things adverse, we shall walk in a
royal triumph of soul through the midst of them. We shall suffer the loss of
all things, and by that loss be set forever free from their power to bind. We
shall hide ourselves in the impregnable fortress of the will of our King, and
shall reign there in a perpetual kingdom.
All this is contrary to man's thought of
kingship. The only idea the human heart can compass, is, that outward
circumstances must bend and bow to the soul that is seated on a throne with
Christ. Friends must approve, enemies must be silenced, obstacles must be
overcome, affairs must prosper, or there can be no reigning. If man had had the
ordering of Daniel's business, or of that matter of the three Hebrew children
in the burning fiery furnace, he would have said the only way of victory would
be for the minds of the kings to have been so changed that Daniel should not
have been cast into the den of lions, and the Hebrew children should have been
kept out of the furnace. But God's way was infinitely grander. He suffered
Daniel to be cast among the lions, in order that he might reign triumphant over
them when in their very midst, and He allowed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
to be cast into the burning, fiery furnace, in order that they might walk
through it without so much as the smell of fire upon them. He tells us, not
that we shall walk in paths where there are no dragons and adders, but that we
shall walk through the midst of dragons and adders, and shall "tread them under
And how much more glorious a kingdom is this than
any outward rule or control could be! To be inwardly a king, while outwardly a
slave, is one of the grandest heights of triumph of which our hearts can
conceive. To be destitute, afflicted, tormented, to be stoned and torn asunder,
and slain with the sword; to wander in sheepskins and goatskins, and in deserts
and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, and yet to be through it
all, kings in interior kingdoms of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy
Ghost, is surely a kingdom that none but God could give, and none but God-like
A few such kings we have at some time or other
seen or heard of in this world of ours, and all hearts have acknowledged their
unconscious sway. One I read of among the brethren of the monastery of St. Cyr.
Because of their piety, these brethren incurred the hatred of the monasteries
around them, and the anger of their superiors, and were cast out as evil from
their community. One of them was sent as prisoner to a monastery where his
chief enemies dwelt, and was there subjected to the most cruel and degrading
treatment. Although he was of gentle birth, and had been an abbot in the
community he had left, he was compelled to do the most menial work, was forced
to carry a noisome burden on his back, and was driven out to beg with a placard
on his bosom declaring him to be the vilest of the vile. But through it all the
spirit of the saint reigned triumphant, and nothing disturbed his calm, or
soured for a moment his Christ-like sweetness. For his persecutors he never had
anything but words of kindness and smiles of love. And at last by the mighty
power of the divine kingdom in which he lived, he subdued all hearts around him
to himself, and became the trusted friend and adviser, and the beloved ruler
over the very enemies who had once so delighted to persecute and revile him.
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." By his meekness he
conquered and became king.
At one time a dangerous criminal was sent to the
monastery for imprisonment. He was so violent that no bonds sufficed to bind
him, and no strength could control him. At last he was taken to the cell of
this brother from St. Cyr, and they were shut up together; even the stolid
monks themselves recognizing in that divine meekness a power to conquer that
surpassed all the powers with which they were acquainted. The saint received
the violent man as a beloved brother, and smiled upon him with heavenly
kindness. But the criminal returned it with abuse and violence. He broke the
monk's furniture and destroyed his bed, he kicked him, and beat him, and tore
his hair, and spat upon him. He exhausted himself in his violence against him.
Through it all the monk made no resistance, and said no word but words of love;
and when at length the criminal, worn out with his fury, paused to take breath,
the beaten and outraged man looked upon his persecutor with a smile of
ineffable love and tender compassion, as though he would gather him to his
bosom and comfort him for his misery. It was more than the criminal could bear.
Hatred, and revenge, and anger he could repay in kind, but against love and
meekness like this he had no weapons, and his heart was conquered. He fell at
the feet of the saint and washed them with his tears, as he entreated
forgiveness for his cruelty, and vowed a lifelong loyalty to his service. And
from that moment all trouble with that criminal was over. He followed the saint
about like a loving and faithful dog, eager to do or to be anything the other
might desire. And when the time of his imprisonment was over, and the gates of
his prison were opened for his release, he could not be induced to go, because
he could not bear to leave the man who had saved him by love.
Of such a nature is kingship in this kingdom of
Each soul can make the application for itself,
without need of comment from me.
In Matt. 5, 6, and 7, we have the King of this
kingdom describing the characteristics of His kingdom and giving the laws for
His subjects. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," He says, "for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven." Not the rich, or great, or wise, or learned, but the poor
in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, those who mourn, and
those who hunger and thirst, those who are persecuted, and reviled, and spoken
evil against, all such belong to this kingdom. Gentleness, yieldingness,
meekness, charity, are the characteristics of these kings, and they reign in
the power of them.
One Christian asked another, "How can I make
people respect me?" "I would command their respect," was the reply. And this
meant, not that he should stand up and say in tones of authority, "Now I
command you all to respect me," but that he should so act, and live, and be,
that no one could help respecting him. Men sometimes win an outward show of
respect and submission by an over-bearing tyranny, but he who would rule the
heart of his subjects must try other methods.
Our Lord developed this thought to some who
wished to share His throne. He called them to Him, and said, "Ye know that they
which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and
their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among
you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and
whosoever of you will be the chiefest shall be servant of all. For even the Son
of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a
ransom for many."
From the human standpoint, that man alone reigns
who is able to exercise lordship over those around him. From the divine
standpoint the soul that serves is the soul that reigns. Not he who demands
most, receives this inward crowning, but he who gives up most.
What grander kingship can be conceived of than
that which Christ sets forth in the sermon on the mount, "But I say unto you,
that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek,
turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law and take
away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to
go a mile, go with him twain"?
Surely only a soul that is in harmony with God
can mount such a throne of dominion as this!
But this is our destiny. We are made for this
purpose. We are born of a kingly race, and are heirs to this ineffable kingdom;
"heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ."
Would that we could realize this; and could see
in every act of service or surrender to which we might find ourselves called,
an upward step in the pathway that leads us to our kingdom and our throne!
I mean this in a very practical sense. I mean
that the homely services of our daily lives, and the little sacrifices which
each day demands, will be, if faithfully fulfilled, actual rounds in the ladder
by which we are mounting to our thrones. I mean that if we are faithful over
the "few things" of our earthly kingdom, we shall be made ruler over the "many
things" of the heavenly kingdom.
He that follows Christ in this ministry of
service and of suffering, will reign with Him in the glory of supreme
self-sacrifice, and will be the "chiefest" in His divine kingdom of love.
Knowing this, who would hesitate to "turn the other cheek," since by the
turning a kingdom is to be won and a throne is to be gained?
Joseph was a type of all this. In slavery and in
prison he reigned a king, as truly as when seated on Pharaoh's throne or riding
in Pharaoh's chariot. (See Gen. 39:6, 22, 23.) He became the greatest by being
the least, the chiefest by being servant of all.
Dear reader, art thou reigning after this
fashion, and in this sort of a kingdom? Art thou the greatest in thy little
world of home, or church, or social circle by being the least, and chiefest by
being the servant of all? If not, thy kingdom is not Christ's kingdom, and thy
throne is not one shared by Him.
To enter into the secrets of this interior
kingdom and to partake of its heavenly power, is no notional victory, no
fancied supremacy. It is a real and actual reigning, which will cause thee as a
matter of fact to "rise superior" to the world and the things of it, and to
walk through it independent of its smiles or frowns, dwelling in a region of
heavenly peace and heavenly triumph which earth can neither give nor take away.
"For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power." It is not a talk but a
fact; and those who are in it recognize their kingship and prove it by
But perhaps thou wilt say, "How can I enter into
this kingdom, if I am not already in?" Let our Lord himself answer thee: "At
the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the
kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the
midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is
greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
It is a kingdom of childlike hearts, and only
such can enter it.
To be a "little child" means simply to be one. I
cannot describe it better than this. We all have known little children in our
lives, and have delighted ourselves in their simplicity and their trustfulness,
their light-hearted carelessness, and their unquestioning obedience to those in
authority over them. And to be the greatest in this divine kingdom means to
have the most of this guileless, tender, trustful, self-forgetting, obedient
heart of the child.
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father
which is in heaven."
It is not saying, but doing, that will avail us
here. We must be a child, or we cannot sit on the child's throne. And to be a
child means to do the Father's will, since the very essence of true childhood
is the spirit of obedience united to the spirit of trust.
Become a little child, then, by laying aside all
thy greatness, all thy self-assertion, all thy self-dependence, all thy wisdom,
and all thy strength, and consenting to die to thy own self-life, be born again
into the kingdom of God. The only way out of one life into another is by a
death to one and a new birth into the other. It is the old story, therefore,
reiterated so often and in so many different ways, of through death to life.
Die, then, that you my live. Lose your own life that you may find Christ's
life. The caterpillar can only enter into the butterfly's kingdom by dying to
its caterpillar life, and emerging into the resurrection life of the butterfly;
and just so can we also only enter into the kingdom of God by the way of a
death out of the kingdom of self, and an emergence into the resurrection life
of Christ. Let everything go, then, that belongs to the natural; all your own
notions, and plans, and ways, and thoughts; and accept in their stead God's
plans, and ways, and thoughts. Do this faithfully and do it persistently, and
you shall come at last to sit on His throne, and to reign with Him in an
interior kingdom which shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms,
and shall stand for ever and ever.
There is no other way. This kingdom cannot be
entered by pomp, and show, and greatness, and strength; but by littleness, and
helplessness, and childlikeness, and babyhood, and death. He that humbleth
himself, and he only, shall be exalted here; and to mount the throne with
Christ requires that we shall first have followed Him in the suffering, and
loss, and crucifixion. If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with Him. Not
as an arbitrary reward for our suffering, but as the result that will follow in
the very nature of things. Christ's loss must necessarily bring Christ's gain,
Christ's death must bring Christ's resurrection, and to follow Him in the
regeneration, will surely and inevitably bring the soul that follows to His
crown and His throne.
In a volume of sermons for children I have found
a vivid illustration of this royal kingdom: --
"A little fellow from one of the Refuges in
England had risked his life to save one of his comrades, and England's Queen
had sent him a medal by the hand of one of England's earls. The little fellow
was held forward by his comrades to receive it, for he was shy and nervous and
tried to sidle away.
"Look at the noble chairman; he had driven down
from his proper place in the House of Lords, where were gathered earls and
dukes, and the men who had done well as lawyers, and judges, and statesmen, and
warriors, and the Princes of the royal blood. Yet, all peer though he was, he
was moved to the sincerest depths of his being as he murmured, `I have the
honor,' and pinned the life-saving medal on the child's jacket. His heart was
full. He paused to swallow down something that would rise in his throat before
he could go on.
"There is the `glory and honor' of successful
statesmen, and warriors, and lawyers, but the glory of self-forgetful saving of
life is a glory that excelleth, and that was the wondrous glory won by this
boy. He had plunged into the stream and shared a drowning boy's risk, and that
little hand, look at it there, steadying him by holding the table, had come out
holding the saved.
"Why has self-forgetfulness such mighty power?
How was it that a twelve-year-old boy could bow down an audience of grown men
before him? What gave to that brow, that its stubby crown of carroty hair, a
glory and honor more than the lustre of gold and jewels? Why was it that that
small body in its little breeches and jacket, wiping its tears on the rough
little sleeve, could grip thousands of hearts and hold them all, and make them
for the time loyal members of his kingdom?
"Why was all this so?
"It was so because that little boy in his measure
had been like Christ, in the self-forgetful spirit of sacrifice for others. He
had a bit of the same beauty we are all made on purpose to worship; the glory
before which angels give a great shout, and all the company of heaven fall down
and adore, saying with a loud voice, `Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!'"
The "Lamb that was slain" is the mightiest King
the world has ever known, and all who partake of His spirit share in His
And since this kingdom is not a place, but is
character, those who have not the character cannot by any possibility be in
We pray daily, "Thy kingdom come." Do we know
what we are praying for? Do we comprehend the change it will make in us if it
comes in us? Are we willing to be so changed?
What is the kingdom of God but the rule of God?
And what is the rule of God but the will of God? Therefore when we pray, "Thy
will be done on earth as it is in heaven," we have touched the secret of it
A horde of savages might conquer a civilized
kingdom by sheer brute force; but if they would conquer the civilization of
that kingdom, they could only do so by submitting to its control. And just so
is it with the kingdom of heaven. It yields its sceptre to none but those who
render obedience to its laws.
"To him that overcometh will I give to sit with
me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his
"He always reigns who sides with God," says an
old writer. And again, "He who perfectly accepts the will of God, dwells in a
Art thou reigning after this fashion and in this
sort of a kingdom?
Art thou the "chiefest" by being the "servant of
Art thou a king over thy circumstances, or do thy
circumstances reign over thee?
Dost thou triumph over thy temptations, or do
they triumph over thee?
Canst thou sit on an inward throne in the midst
of outward defeat and loss?
Canst thou conquer by yielding, and become the
greatest by being the least?
If thou canst answer Yes to all these questions,
then thou art come into thy kingdom; and whatever thy outward lot may be, or
the estimation in which men may hold thee, thou art in very truth among the
number of those concerning whom our Lord declares "the same shall be called
greatest in the kingdom of heaven."