Having spoken of the nature of the falling away, and of its origin in the loss of the first love, let us consider its bearings: 1. On the relation of the Church to her Head as affecting the exercise of His headship; 2. On her relation to the Holy Ghost as affecting the fulfilment of His office in her; 3. On her relation to the world as set to prepare the way for the return of its King, and the establishment of His Kingdom.
I. The headship of Christ as affected in its exercise by the loss of the first love.
When we recall the nature of the Lord's headship as already set forth, we cannot well doubt that it was in the purpose of God in constituting this vital relation that He, exalted into the heaven, and set as Head of the Church, should continue to bear witness to Himself before the world by His acting in it and through it. Thus acting, and putting into full exercise His prerogatives as the Head, it would be impossible for the world to ignore or deny Him, and His headship would be manifested more and more plainly as the Church grew in grace and strength. As the living Lord, He must be the central figure in its history; but if hindered in the exercise of His headship, and hidden from view, men first ignore, and then deny His official place and supremacy; and finally question His personal existence.
We have, then, to ask, How the ascended Lord could prove to the world through the Church, not only His continued personal existence in heaven as the risen One, but also His official power and authority? Of both these the world may rightly demand proof.
The death of Jesus being universally known and unquestioned, the fact to be proved, first of all, was His resurrection. Must this proof be limited to the testimony of those disciples who saw Him after He was raised from the dead?
It need not be said that this proof, however convincing at the first, becomes weaker with the lapse of years, and demands corroboration. This corroboration has been found by many, and rightly found, in the existence and history of the Church. Its existence proves both His existence, and, in a measure, also, His authority. The Church is a living witness to a living Head. Neither her continued existence nor her history can be explained if we deny His headship. Still, we know that the fact of His resurrection, and, therefore, of His headship, is doubted by many who profess and call themselves Christians. The history of the Church, they say, may prove continual Divine help and guidance, but so does Jewish history. And religious systems may be vigorous long after their founders are dead, as we see in Mohammedanism. Because Christianity exists, we may not say that Jesus personally lives and has any present functions; it holds its place upon its ethical merits. He lives in His principles and example.
But such an explanation of the continued existence and progress of Christianity is satisfactory to no thoughtful mind. If Jesus had not risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, and does not still live, Christianity as a religion would long since have lost its distinctive character.
Whilst thus the Church, as a visible body, and in every right form of its activity, bears continued witness to its Head as living in heaven, we still ask, How can His headship be so manifested that the world everywhere shall know it? The answer is, in the unity of the rule and administration of the Church as one whole, thus manifesting a personal will controlling all. Beholding the Church, composed of men of all races, of the most diverse classes gathered from discordant religious faiths; its members scattered over all the earth yet all united under one authority, not a multitude of little independent communities, but one great community, with common ordinances and rites of worship; and all acting in harmony to one common end, the world must ask, How is this unity of administration and action obtained? We see every proof of the control of one personal will, yet there is no one visible personal ruler. There must be somewhere a centre of authority, or such widely dispersed and discordant elements could not act in unity. We see divers kinds of ministries, some of universal and some of local jurisdiction; who is it that sets these various ministers in their places, and defines their official relations, and makes them to work together in harmony? To these questions the Church can answer: We are under the control of one personal will. We have a Head, but He is in heaven. We do not see Him, but He has those among us who are chosen by Him, and who act for Him, both in the Church universal and in the local churches. To these as His ministers, clothed with His authority, we render obedience. We are one because we have one Head and Lord, and act in unison because His will is one.
This is the visible proof which the Church, fully united to her Head and obedient to Him, should always have given to the world of His existence and authority. Of the Spirit of truth dwelling in the Church — the internal bond of unity — the Lord said: "The world seeth Him not, nor knoweth Him." It is not His holiness and truth revealed through the Church, but the unity of administration through the Head, which the world can see and know. (John xvii, 21.) On His part such proof is simply the exercise of His headship. The prerogative of the appointment of His ministers lies in the nature of His office as the Head, and cannot be separated from it. It had been exercised by Him in the choice of the twelve Apostles, and later of St. Paul. Whether He called them personally, or by the Holy Ghost, there was the definite expression of His will as to those who should serve Him, both in the higher and the lower ministries; the voice of the Holy Ghost through prophets designating them, as in the case of Timothy. (1 Tim. i, 18; iv, 14.) As He Himself was called of God to His ministry as High Priest, so no man could hold priestly office in His Church who was not called by Him (Heb. v, 4); and only through those thus called could He put forth the fulness of His power.
Such was the order of God in the Church at the first in establishing the headship of Christ. The Head, personally or through the Holy Ghost, made known who should officially serve under Him, and teach and rule His people; and thus unity of doctrine and of administration was preserved, and to the world a visible witness was borne both of His existence and authority. Whatever the moral attitude of the world toward the Church, it could not deny the fact of His headship and rule in it.
But a few years later we see all changed. A new method of appointment of all ministers has come in, that of popular election. Each congregation or diocese chooses for itself who shall rule and teach it. The ministers of universal jurisdiction have disappeared; only local ministers remain, and thus all unity of administration is lost. Why this change? Was it in the Divine purpose that the Head should voluntarily give up His prerogative of appointment to the Church? The answer usually made, and almost universally accepted, is, that such appointment on His part was extraordinary; it was not an essential element of His headship, and was necessary only at the beginning. Being once organized, and the several orders of ministers set in their places, the Church, like other religious communities, should perpetuate its own existence by the election of its rulers and teachers. And it was affirmed that such election was, in fact, the Lord's election, since the electors in their choice were guided by the Holy Ghost.
We have thus, after the death of St. John, the last of the Apostles, the spectacle of the Church in its several divisions choosing all its ministers, even the highest. But it scarcely need be said that these highest ministers were local, not universal. They were heads of single churches, or of several united. In the nature of the case no minister of universal jurisdiction could have been chosen by popular election. The election was, indeed, made in the Lord's name, and to a certain extent with the help and counsel of those already in office; and thus a witness, though imperfect, was borne to Him as ruler over the Church through the local ministries. But the change was a most momentous one, and has powerfully affected its whole subsequent history, both as to polity and doctrine.
Assuming that the choice of the people is the choice of the Lord, popular election of all teachers and rulers is affirmed to be the normal and permanent mode. It is taken for granted that there can be no such separation between the Head and the body that the popular will can be other than the expression of His will. Therefore, it is said, if the Lord cease to use His prerogative of appointment, He can as fully act and bear witness to Himself through those whom His people choose, as through those chosen by Him; and there has been, in fact, no such contrariety of purpose and action between Him and those popularly elected, that the history of the Church has been in any respect abnormal.
But this optimistic view of the past and of the present of the Church has no historical basis if judged by its own records. Very few outside of the Roman Catholic pale will say that its history has been such as it would have been had the Lord's will been carried out in it by the ministers of His own appointment. The evils, past and present, of popular appointment are too manifest. Yet very few will trace them to their true source — the loss of the first love — and consequent loss of the spirit of obedience, without which His holy rule, in general, and especially His prerogative of appointment, cannot be exercised. We can explain the history of the Church, its divisions and ceaseless strifes, only by the fact that He could not by His own appointed ministries preserve unity, and lead His people on to the full knowledge of His ways. This could be done only when there was the full ob&> dience springing from love. Through its loss the Church, very early even in the Apostolic age, came into such a spiritual condition of estrangement from the Head that He could no longer exercise His prerogative of appointment.
We have already spoken, in examining the teachings of St. Paul, of the beginning of disobedience and lawlessness as seen in the resistance made to Apostolic authority, and therefore to the Lord's authority, for it was of His Apostles He said: "As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them." "He that receiveth you receiveth Me." The refusal to be ruled and guided by them, of which their Epistles give such ample evidence, was the practical rejection of His authority.
But to say that the Lord no longer, through the Holy Ghost, declared His will respecting those who should serve Him in the various ministries, is not to say that the Holy Ghost did not so guide the electors that faithful and good men were in general chosen. This all Church history attests. Beyond question, many, perhaps most, of the ordained servants of God of every grade, in every generation, and in every part of the Church, have sought to do His will so far as it was known to them; and those under them were blessed through their labours. Yet Church history shows, also, that not a few in the highest places in all the centuries greatly dishonoured His name in their lives, and were fomenters of division and abettors of heresy.
How marked the difference as to the rule and guidance of the Church by those appointed by the Head and by those appointed by the Church after the death of the Apostles, both as to statements of doctrine, practical wisdom, catholicity of spirit, and unity of action, was clearly manifested in the second century, and has often been commented upon by Church historians.
It is here in the loss of the first love and in the consequent disobedience to His Apostles, His immediate representatives, that we find the ground of the Lord's inability to appoint the ministers of His Church after those He had appointed had passed away. His prerogative of appointment remained, but He could not then exercise it. If the spiritual condition of the disciples was such that those whom He first appointed could not fulfil their ministry, to appoint others could serve only for judgment. They could not give what His children would not receive. Why send a second Paul, when the first could not do his work? The Lord, therefore, did as God had done to the Jews under like conditions (Ps. lxxx, 8—); He permitted the Church to walk in the path of discipline and trial, and thus prove by a bitter experience that only by giving to the Head the full exercise of His headship, and walking in obedience to His ministers, could the full grace of God be ministered unto it, and the purpose of its calling be realized.
Let us note some of the consequences of this election by the Church of its ministers.
First, the loss of unity of administration through the loss of ministers of universal jurisdiction. It is obviously impossible that many and widely-scattered congregations could choose by popular vote any but their own deacons, priests, and bishops. How could these bishops be brought into unity? Two ways were attempted, first, by giving the Emperor the right to call a general Council, and the power to execute its decrees. This made him the virtual head of the Church, and led to its division into the four great Patriarchates after the model of the praetorian Prefectures. But this established no unity. Between the Patriarchates, and especially those of Rome and Constantinople, there was continued strife for pre-eminence.
The second attempt, the result of the failure of the first, was the claim by the Bishop of Rome to be universal bishop, and this claim found large recognition. But the division of the Empire, and its two rival emperors, each supporting its own patriarch, made it impossible that the claims of Rome should be recognized by the Oriental Churches. After the death of St. John there was no ministry of universal jurisdiction, and popular election, in the sense of general suffrage, could not in the nature of the case furnish such a ministry; nor the appointment of bishops by civil rulers ; nor the election of a single bishop by an oligarchy of cardinals. If the Head did not send those clothed with His authority, all other attempts to preserve unity must fail; and we know that, in fact, ecclesiastical Christendom has been a counterpart to the political — a number of independent and warring communities, each seeking to promote its own interests, with little regard to the common welfare, and unable to establish any permanent bonds of union and concord.
Secondly, the growing feeling of independence of the Head on the part of the Church. Appointing its own ministers and teachers, and thus able, like a close corporation, to perpetuate its own existence, it soon learned to look upon the Lord's prerogative of appointment as no more to be used by Him. Why indeed, should He use it, since the choice of the people is His choice? If, as said by Rome, her bishop, elected by cardinal electors appointed by himself, is His vicar set to execute His will, and preserved from all error, why look beyond him to the Heavenly Head? Having given it a perfect constitution under the earthly head, whom he Himself appoints through the mediation of the cardinals, why should the Lord in heaven interfere at all in the internal administration of the Church? And the same feeling of independence pervaded, also, the smaller divisions, even the smallest. Each affirmed that in the election of its ministers and teachers it was guided by the Holy Ghost, and that they, therefore, were truly chosen by the Lord; and that it was not to be supposed that He would by any immediate act of authority appoint others. Such an exercise of His prerogative, as unnecessary, would be incredible, and no intimation of it is given in the Scripture.*
Thus the Head is practically shut out from the government of His Church, at least so far as regards any external and visible exercise of His authority. There is, indeed, no absolute denial of His right to appoint immediately His ministers as at the first; but a feeling amounting to a certainty that He will neve exercise it. Thus of Him it may be said, as of a constitutional monarch whose ministers are chosen by the people, " He reigns,but does not govern."r
*To this there is one remarkable exception. It is the sending of Elijah the prophet before the great day of the Lord. (Mai. lv, 5-6.) This prophecy commentators, Roman, Greek, and Protestant, have recognized as pointing to a work of reformation to be done by a special messenger from God before the coming of the Lord to judge the world. As in the Jewish Church John the Baptist was sent to prepare the Lord's way at His first advent, and thus do what the then existing ministers were not able to do; so would it be again in the Christian Church before His second coming. Again must God send a special messenger and prepare the people for His Son. Also Matt. xxi, 34; xxii, 4.
Thirdly, the effect of popular election on the religious life of the Church, and on its righteous administration. The experience of all republics has shown that rulers and legislators, chosen by general suffrage, represent the average mental and moral status of the electors. And it cannot well be otherwise. Nor can we expect it to be far otherwise in the Church. As with the Jews; "like people, like priest." Our observation to-day shows that spiritual rulers and teachers will, in general, represent the beliefs and opinions of those who elect them. Whatever religious ideas may become popular, they speedily find clerical representatives. However powerful the Spirit of truth has been in guiding into truth, and in dictating Creeds and Confessions of Faith, yet Church history shows us that almost every possible form of error has had its advocates amongst those set in the Church to guard against it. What a long array from the second century onward of conflicting schools and sects, almost always under clerical leadership, and how greatly multiplied within the present century! The words of the Apostle have been fulfiled (2 Tim. iv, 3—): Many, having itching ears, and not enduring sound doctrine, have heaped to themselves teachers, and turned to fables. Assuredly, if the Lord had chosen His teachers, the history of the Church, as regarding doctrines, would be greatly unlike what it has been, and what her present condition is.
The same may be said as to its righteous administration. How little of brotherly love, of forbearance, of impartiality, of compassion, has marked the proceedings of ecclesiastical tribunals. What persecutions, what cruelties stain the annals of all the centuries. How intense the spirit of hate among conflicting sects, carried out by their leaders when able to use the sword of the State, in bloody acts, the earth defiled with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus, shed by those professing to be His servants, and to be carrying out His will. The bishop added to his pastoral staff the sword; under his palace he built the dungeon. Unity must be maintained, if necessary, by force; and the truth, by the death of heretics. There is no more painful reading than large portions of Church history. But prophecy teaches us that the full fruits of popular election are yet to be seen, when the falling away shall come to the full measure of its extent and intensity, and find expression in the acts of the Christian nations when they shall be called upon to choose who shall reign over them.
II. The bearing of the loss of the first love on the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church.
We are here to keep clearly in mind the distinction of the offices of the Head and of the Holy Ghost, and yet the unity of their work in the Church. It belongs to the Head to appoint His ministers, either personally or through the Holy Ghost; and to the Holy Ghost to endow those thus appointed with His grace and gifts, and thus prepare them for their several ministries. But He assumes no headship; He appoints no ministers. As the Spirit of Christ, His work is to do His will. . . "He shall glorify me, for He shall take of mine, and declare it unto you."
It need not be said that if the loss of love works an estrangement between the Church and the Head, the Holy Ghost is hindered in the exercise of His office. As we are taught by the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. xii and xiii), spiritual gifts can be given to those only who love the Lord, and who through this love will use their gifts to His honour, and to the good of the Church. If given to the unloving, they will be misused, and serve to spiritual pride and selfishness. We can thus understand why love is the indispensable condition of spiritual gifts; and that also without these no full witness can be borne by the Holy Ghost to the Head.
But we are here especially to do with that form of witness which is termed prophecy, since of spiritual gifts in general the world can know nothing. It was said by the Lord: "He shall testify of Me." And how is this testimony to be borne? Not by a secret influence upon the spirits of individual disciples influencing their lives, but by His speaking through their lips, by vocal utterance of which the whole Church could have knowledge. (Acts x, 44 —; xix, 6.) As the Apostles were to bear their audible witness, so should the Holy Ghost, and this was "the double witness" by which the truth was to be established. "He will show — declare — you things to come. . . He shall receive of mine and shall declare it unto you." Though spoken to the Apostles, these words were not meant for them alone, and assuredly were not to have their complete fulfilment in the apostolic age. Sent to dwell in the Church unto the end, the Lord's ever present witness, the work of the Holy Ghost in guiding into truth, and of testifying to the absent Head, and of making known things to come, must continue to the Lord's return. If His voice was silenced, there was no more the double witness — the witness of God and of men — the full witness to His Son and to His work.
We are not concerned here to speak of all the workings of the Holy Spirit in the Church, in its sacraments, ordinances, and in the preaching of the Gospel; but only of the ends to be effected by His utterances through the mouths of His children for their common instruction. And of these ends we may mention:
First, His designation of those whom the Head would have to serve Him in the ministries of His Church. This point has already been incidentally considered. The Holy Ghost Himself appoints none. He makes known through His organs, the prophets, the will of the Head, and endows with His gifts and powers the chosen ones.
Secondly, His work in making known to the Church her own spiritual condition as seen by the Head, especially as to life and practical godliness.
That the estimate which the Church has of herself at any period of her history, like the estimate which the Jews had of themselves, may be very unlike that of her Lord, is shown in the seven Epistles to the seven Churches. And this inability to know herself becomes greatest at the time of the end, as shown by the Epistle to Laodicea. This Church, full of pride and self-exaltation, says: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," and knew not that in the eye of the Lord she was " wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Such ignorance of her real spiritual condition is possible to the Church only when the Holy Ghost has been grieved, and His voice silenced. When the Lord can speak to His people by those whom He inspires, as Jehovah spake to the Jews of old, He can make known to them how they appear in His eyes, and dispel the delusions begotten of ignorance and self-sufficiency. If He cannot so speak, they cherish their delusions, and become more and more the children of pride, and are most boastful when the judgments of God are about to break upon them.
Thirdly, His work in warning the Church against approaching dangers, and treacherous enemies. It is His office to declare things to come, and the silencing of His voice deprives the Church of her chief safeguard and defence. So long as He lifts it up in warning she cannot be taken unawares. His words give discernment so that she can detect the wiles of her great enemy, his falsehoods, his murderous purpose, even though he come in the guise of an angel of light. Having ears to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches, His children may know what the Lord is about to do, and be ready to take part with Him. But if they have no ears to hear, the Holy Ghost must cease to speak, and thus the Church knows not the place to which she has come in the progress of the Divine purpose; knows neither her present duties nor her dangers. Evil is called good, and good evil. Twilight rests upon the present, and deep darkness upon the future. The Divine voice no longer heard, the voices of false prophets are heard on every side, crying in the deepening gloom as if it were the dawn of day, "Peace and safety"; and crying loudest when the Antichrist is at the gates.
It is this silencing of the voice of the Holy Ghost in the Church which removes a chief hindrance in the way of Antichrist's appearing. We may safely say that the Church, in all the centuries since His voice ceased to be heard in supernatural utterance, has never seen herself as she has been seen by the Lord. The Christians of the last days especially, when the spirit of pride and self-sufficiency is most prevalent, and deeply infected by the evil influences around them, least of all can know their own spiritual condition. It is the Head only who, through the Spirit of truth, can teach them to discern and to reject the Antichristian falsehoods so subtly mingled with His truth. He only can reveal to them their departure from His right ways, their blindness, their poverty, and their nakedness. The Church, left to herself, and confident in her own wisdom and strength, cannot protect her children from the plausible errors and delusions of the great teacher of lies.
Under the guidance of her self-elected leaders, and without the warning and guiding voice of the Holy Ghost, the Church early entered on her perilous way. The Lord, indeed, has most graciously fulfilled His promise: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world "; and has made her in a measure "the light of the world, and the salt of the earth." But as said by one, "His work has been rather to over-rule than to rule." He has brought good out of evil. He has made the Church to be the channel of inestimable blessings to men; but He has never been able through her to attest Himself before the world in the fulness of His grace and power, either in her order, obedience, peace, truth, or holiness, or in the greater works done by Him through her before the nations.
III. The bearing of the loss of the first love on the relation of the Church to the world, and especially as to her place and work preparatory to the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
The wide and deep distinction which the Lord made between His Church and the world, we have seen in His own teachings. This distinction would continue till His return, when the prince of this world would be cast out, and all nations be subject to the King from heaven. Till this time the Church would be in the world, as He was, a pilgrim and stranger, looking upon her mission of preaching the Gospel and educating her members, as only preparatory to His return. But with the loss of the first love which subordinated all things to His honour and prayed for His return, doubting thoughts arose in her heart; she ceased to feel herself an espoused virgin waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom and the marriage, which alone could give her the right to sit with Him on His throne. She would take the kingdom in her own name, and before the time.
That we may understand the full significance of this changed attitude of the Church, let us consider the conception of the kingdom of God or of heaven, and the modifications through which it has passed.
The main element in the conception of the kingdom of God on the earth, is that of a perfectly righteous rule, embracing all the nations; under which rule all injustice, oppression, and strife will cease, the evils of poverty be known no more, and all men dwell in peace together as brethren. We have no reason to believe that the Oriental peoples, or, later, the Greeks and Romans, looked forward to any such universal kingdom of righteousness, either in the earlier or remoter future. They knew nothing of the social perfectibility of man, or of human brotherhood, and saw no goal Divinely appointed toward which the race is tending. Perhaps there was in Stoic philosophy, with its cycles of change and periodic conflagrations, some conception of the unity of the race; but scarcely of any continuous progress. The golden age was at the beginning of a cycle, not at the end. It was said by Lucretius, the philosophic Roman poet:
"All things by degrees must fail,
Worn out by age, and doomed to certain death!"
It is among the Hebrews, a monotheistic people, and through revelation, that we find the origin of the conception of a kingdom of God. Let us note the elements that entered into it, and its subsequent modifications.
Hebrew Conception. This conception had as its basis a belief in one God, supreme, righteous, and directing all movements in nature and humanity towards a definite end, and that end, the establishment of His visible authority over all nations. Under His rule, all discord and strife would cease, and peace and prosperity everywhere prevail. All peoples would honour and worship Him, and the world come to its golden age. Thus the Hebrews were made to look forward rather than backward. In the past, indeed, as declared in their sacred books, was Eden and innocence, but very early came the serpent, and sin, and death; and not till these were overcome could the kingdom of God come. Then there would be more than restitution of the old Edenic order; all would be made new. (Is. lxv, 17.)
Two things are to be noted in this Hebrew conception: that the kingdom was not to be established by a gradual, moral progress of the nations, but by God's supernatural actings; and that, while it is His kingdom, and He is the supreme ruler, it is to be administered by one of the lineage of David, whom He would send. It would be universal. All nations would obey His king, and without end. This blessed Messianic period was the great theme of Old Testament prophecy, and the Messiah its central figure. The distinction taken, as we shall later see, by the Apostles between the Messianic kingdom as redemptive, and the eternal rule of the Messiah after redemption is completed, is not brought out in the old prophets. They speak of His dominion as " an everlasting dominion," not discriminating its two successive phases, redemptive and post-redemptive, as is done by St. Paul * (1 Cor. xv, 24).
Apostolic Conception. This, though in its main elements the same as the Hebrew, was far higher, since the Apostles saw in the supernatural Person of the King a foreshadowing of the greatness and glory of His kingdom. (2 Peter i, 16.) As the Incarnate Son of God, and having all power in heaven and earth, His kingdom, though on earth, could not be classed with earthly kingdoms. Its symbol was the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. And, as the King was a man raised from the dead and made immortal, and so could be God's perfect Ruler through all ages, so must all those be who would be His helpers in the administration of His rule. His kings and priests must be made like unto Him; and under such a heavenly government a perfect social order could be established, and all nations dwell in peace under His sway.
* The apostle does not deny the eternal duration of the Son's rule, when he speaks of His giving up the Kingdom to the Father, but affirms that the mediatorial or redemptive form of it will come to an end, because its purpose will have been accomplished; all things having been brought into subjection under Him.
The Apostles always distinguished clearly between the Lord's present priestly work in heaven, beginning at His ascension, and His future kingly work on earth. He had gone to the Father to be made the great High Priest, ever interceding in the Most Holy place. When this work of intercession should be finished, and the Church, His body, gathered and perfected, then would He come forth to seat Himself upon the throne of His glory, and begin His work as Judge and King. (Matt. xxv, 31.) He was, indeed, at His ascension invested with all authority, but His present exercise of it is providential and unseen. The world has not yet known or recognized Him as the King. The sphere of His visible rule is now in the Church itself, where His will is made known in the choice of its ministers, and in its whole administration, and is supreme. Not till He returns and takes the kingdom, is His rule over the nations made manifest, and all human rulers recognize Him as the source of all their authority. Then He "takes to Himself His great power, and reigns." Till that time the Church must be in the world as He was in it, its Divine claims not recognized, and exposed to enmity and reproach. Not till He enters upon His kingly office can the Church reign with Him.*
*The distinction taken by theologians between "the kingdom of grace " and "the kingdom of glory," is a just one, rightly understood; the first, regnum gratia quod ad eccUtiamin.hu terris
militantem spectat, and the second, regnum gUrrim quod ad eccleriam in eoelis trivmphantem spectat. These refer to the two differing spheres and times of His rule — that in the Church through His Spirit during His absence, and that over the nations when He returns in glory, and the Church is glorified with Him.
The error of not a few is in identifying the two, and thus making the kingdom of glory to be either the blessedness of the disembodied saints, or that later condition of things when He has given up the kingdom to the Father.
Post-Apostolic Conception. This differs from that of the Apostles in the fundamental point of affirming that the Lord, at His ascension, took upon Himself His kingly as well as His priestly functions. Abiding Himself in heaven as High Priest, it is said that He commissioned the Church to administer the kingdom during His absence, and to bring all nations under obedience. When He should return, it would be to a world in which all enemies had already been put under His feet, and be for final judgment, and to deliver up the kingdom to the Father. (1 Cor. xv, 24 —.) Thus there are not two periods chronologically successive, and each with its special work, a Church period and a kingdom period; the one beginning at His Ascension, and embracing the time of His priesthood in Heaven; and the other beginning at His return, when He enters upon His work as Judge and King, and continuing to the time when all enemies have been put under His feet. There is but one period, it is said, beginning at the Ascension and ending at His return. During all this period He abides in heaven, acting as the High Priest, and the Church, ruling for Him on earth, fulfils all the promises made to men of the blessedness and glory of the heavenly kingdom. Before He returns all the predictions of the prophets are to be accomplished, all nations will believe on Him, and righteousness and peace fill the earth. To accomplish this many centuries may be needed.
This conception of the reign of Christ through the Church during His own absence in Heaven, so radically unlike the teachings of the Apostles, was of slow growth. It was not till after some centuries that it was fully developed. Passing through several modifications, its essential principle, as formulated by Augustine in his "City of God," found its final embodiment in the Church of Rome with its infallible head. Great stress was early laid by Rome upon the kingly character of the Church as representing the King; and its claims to rule for Him in the earth became more and more positive and definite as His return was delayed. The Eastern Church also affirmed that the Church is the Kingdom; and almost all Protestant bodies affirm the same; but Rome only has carried the principle to its logical conclusions by affirming the absolute supremacy of its bishop, as Christ's vicar, over all secular rulers; and teaching that all princes should kiss his feet, that he may dethrone Emperors, that he is able to release subjects from their allegiance to evil men, and the like prerogatives.*
We have now to enquire how this conception of the kingdom of God as to be realized through the rule of the Church, grew up, and to note some of the consequences following its acceptance; its relations to the principles of Evolution, and to Socialism, and consequent modifications, will be later spoken of.
In the apostolic days the distinction between the Church and the world was continually emphasized as fundamental and permanent.
*See these stated Diet. Papa, Greg. vii.
It was in the world, but not of it. We have seen in our examination of the Lord's words spoken to the disciples respecting the future of the Church, how often He declared that it would meet the same reception in the world He Himself had met, and for the same cause. He had been rejected by it because He came to convict it of sin: "Me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil." And of the Holy Ghost whom He would send He said: "When He is come He will convince (" convict" R. V.) the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment." What He had done when on earth, His disciples must continue to do in the power of the Holy Ghost,— preach the Gospel. But the Gospel is always a calling to repentance, and therefore always offensive to human pride. It had stirred up among the Jews the deepest hostility, and it would do so in the world at large. That this hostility would be gradually overcome, and the Gospel everywhere be welcome, He never said; but on the contrary, expressly affirmed that His disciples would be called to suffer as He had suffered. "I have given them Thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." "Ye shall be hated of all men for My name's sake," and this down to the time of His return. During the whole period of His absence they would be "as sheep among wolves," exposed to reproaches, persecution, and even death.
The truth of the Lord's words the Apostles proved in their own experience. What St. Paul said of himself, was true in its measure of them all: "I think that God hath set forth us the Apostles last, as it were appointed to death: . . We are made as the filth of the world, and are as the offscouring of all things unto this day." (1 Cor. iv, 9-13.) It is believed that most of the Apostles died as martyrs. It was the law of the dispensation that "through much tribulation must men enter into the kingdom of God." The cross, not ornamented and gilded — a symbol of honour,—but with its bloody cords and nails, must be borne by all.
It was very natural, as the first love grew cold, and the return of the Lord seemed indefinitely delayed, that the disciples should become weary of cross-bearing, and begin to ask: "Are not these disheartening words of the Lord and of the Apostles to be limited to their own day? Is this hostility of the world to the Church to continue to the end? How is this consistent with its heavenly mission, and its gospel of love? Has He not said that the gospel should be as leaven leavening the meal, and as a mustard seed growing up into a tree? Did He not say that "All power is now His "? Does He not call Himself " the Prince of the kings of the earth?" Must not the strong man, Satan, be bound before we can spoil his goods? And when in the fourth century the Roman emperor became a believer, and Christianity had the imperial power behind it, it became almost the universal belief that the day of suffering and persecution was past. From all Christian quarters the jubilant cry went up, " Satan is bound, the day of triumph is come, Christ is reigning through His Church." Now the prophesies can have their fulfilment: "All nations will come to her light, and kings to the brightness of her rising."
This change as to the time of the establishment of the kingdom, and the belief in its administration by the Church during the Lord's absence, was most momentous, and brought with it many other changes both as to belief and action. Some of these may be mentioned.
First, The gradual forgetfulness of the promises of the Lord as to His speedy return; and the loss of faith in their fulfilment. In all His words to the disciples respecting His departure He had encouraged them by this promise; and warned them not to be ensnared with worldliness, and forget to watch and pray for Him. But all His commands, and His admonitions to stand "with loins girded, and lamps burning, as servants waiting for their master," and the like admonitions of the Apostles, were forgotten in their newly awakened expectation of the speedy triumph of the Church. Gradually His return, instead of being an object of desire, and thought of as near at hand, began to be regarded as far distant. If the Church was commissioned by Him to convert all nations, and everywhere establish Christianity, a long period must necessarily elapse; and He would not come to cut short her work. As it was her commission, not simply to preach the gospel of the kingdom, but to administer it, and to extend her authority over all nations, she must, therefore, address herself with all her powers to this work; and not until the world had been brought by her unto obedience to Christ could He return to final judgment. Thus, instead of being kept always before the eye of the Church as her Head and Lord, guiding and directing all her activities, and whose return might be at any moment expected, He was withdrawn in good measure from her attention as Himself personally inactive. Having transferred authority to the Church to set up the kingdom, it was inevitable that not what He was doing, but what the Church was doing, should become the matter of chief interest to her members.
Secondly, Another consequence of this change of belief was, that the Church, in her effort to subdue the world, neglected her own spiritual culture and growth. The preparation of her children for her Lord's return, that they might " be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless," and enter with Him into His glory, practically became of little moment, since that return was in the remote future. The great present interest, the paramount duty, was external, not internal—to gather new members, and make the nations Christian. As regarded individuals, the important thing was preparation for death, which must come soon and to all. Readiness for the change that would take place suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, from mortality to immortality — a change that concerned the whole Church — was no more thought of; the great point was not through fulness of spirit ual life to hasten the coming of the Lord, and thus to escape death by translation, but to die individually in peace. Thus eschatology was narrowed to the act of death, and the state of the disembodied.
Thirdly, Another consequence of the change of belief was the need early felt by the Church of a human head. As has been said, the belief that the Lord had set one man as His vicar to rule for Him, was of slow growth, but naturally followed the loss of the expectation of His speedy return. In order that there might be unity of action in the great work of converting the nations, there must be unity of will in the Church; and this could be best attained, not under
many bishops, but under one made ruler over all. The Church, to administer the kingdom of the Lord effectually, must have an earthly head as His representative, one clothed with His authority. This idea, gradually taking possession of the mind of the Church, found its realization in the bishop of Rome. As Christ's vicar, the sphere of his rule must be as large as that of Christ, embracing not only those within the Church, but all without it. His authority must also be higher than that of any earthly ruler, for as Christ is "the King of Kings and Lord of Lords," so must be His vicar. This claim of the Roman bishop was, indeed, in some parts of the Church, long and strenuously resisted, and especially by kings and princes; but, nevertheless, a large part of Christendom early saw in him the earthly head of the Church, holding his place by Divine appointment.
Fourthly, Still another consequence of this change of belief was the practical denial of the power of Satan as "the prince of this world." The Church could not deny his existence, for it had been most clearly testified to by the Lord, and afterward by the Apostles. Nor could it be said that his power had been overthrown, and that he was no longer to be feared. St. Paul had called him "the god of this world" (2 Cor. iv, 4), and St. John had said: "The world lieth in the wicked one." (1 John v, 19, R. V.) In the Revelation (xii, 3 —) he appears under the symbol of the dragon as the active enemy of God and of His Christ, and this down to the overthrow of the Antichrist, and till he himself is bound. (Rev. xix, 20—.) But notwithstanding these explicit declarations, and the continued recognition of various forms of Satanic activity as regards individuals, the Church early began to say: "Satan no longer reigns, he is bound, he can offer no effectual opposition to our missionary activity, and to our administration of the kingdom." There was little agreement, indeed, as to the time when he was bound, whether at the Ascension of the Lord, or after the Empire became Christian; but the fact itself was accepted, for how could the kingdom of God be said to come, and Christ to reign, so long as Satan and his angels continued to have their former power in the earth?
As no longer exposed to the attacks of this subtle and powerful adversary, no need was felt of special watchfulness. The strong man being bound, the Church could securely spoil his goods; being cast out of the earth, the Church could take possession of it.
Fifthly, Another consequence of this change of belief was that, as the earthly head of the Church was exalted above all secular rulers, her bishops could take their places among the princes of the earth. The Church had ceased to be a pilgrim and stranger, she was the bride of the Ruler in heaven; exalted to sit with Him in His throne, the world was to be subject to her, and, therefore, all distinctions and honours belonged to her leaders as the nobles of the King.
Looking backward, we see how powerfully this conception of the present Church-period as the kingdomperiod,— the time of Christ's rule administered by the Church — has affected her whole internal history, and her relations to the world. The Lord has passed gradually out of sight, hidden behind her ministers and leaders elected by her, and practically deprived of His rule within her; and of His honour among the nations through the elevation of her Roman head. It may be said that no statesman of to-day thinks of taking the Lord personally into account in his plans for the future. Rulers ask in regard to their political movements, what will the bishop of Rome or the clergy do, but who asks, what will Jesus Christ do? It is everywhere taken for granted among the nations that, if indeed He exists and has all power, He has practically withdrawn from any active part in the government of the world. It need fear no interference on His part. He may come again in some remote future to be our Judge, but now men are dealing with Christianity as an ethical system only. As to all practical matters of government, He is as if He personally did not exist. We may put into the mouths of most rulers of our day the words of the Israelites respecting Moses absent in the mount: "As for this man, we wot not what is become of Him."