The doctrine of the kingdom can become better understood and appreciated.
PROPOSITION 15. The doctrine of the kingdom can become better understood and appreciated.
This follows from the previous Propositions. For, while it is a doctrine exclusively found in Scripture, and which cannot be modified or changed to suit the theories of men without doing violence to the Word, yet, as has been shown, it is not so clearly apprehended in all its details, in all its depth and vastness, but that additional light may be thrown upon it—a light, too, borrowed from the same Word.
Obs. 1. Some think that religious truth is stationary, and this is a favorite charge of the enemies of Christianity, upon which is founded the expressions “antiquated,” “stale,” “worn out,” etc. Admitting that any doctrinal matter contained in Holy Writ is final in authority, and that the things of the Spirit are only to be found in their purity in the Revelation given by that Spirit, yet these same truths may become more and more clear and distinctive by careful study, comparison, analogy, induction, deduction, by considering their relationship to history, the constant development of God’s purposes, the continued fulfilment of prophecy, the experience of mankind, and the gathering of the elect. It is the universal testimony of believers that a searching of the Scriptures has always added to our religious knowledge, and every Christian student must gratefully acknowledge his indebtedness to this feature. The Bible is a wonderful book in this respect.[*]
Note. The most reliable writers on the side of Religion declare (e.g., Bh. Butler, Analogy, 2, c. 3) that “truths yet undiscerned” are contained in the Scriptures; that (Rogers’ Essays, vol. 2, p. 335) “fragments of new truth, or more exact adjustments of old truths may be perpetually expected;” that (Eaton, Perm. of Ch., p. 219) “the scheme of Revelation admits of endless advance and indefinite augmentation.” Comp. Dorner’s His. Prot. Theol., vol. 2, p. 4, Bh. Law’s Theory of Relig., p. 145, Dean Stanley’s Sermons on the Bible, p. 112, Dunn’s Study of the Bible, and the writings of Birks, Bickersteth, Bh. Newton, Schaff, etc. Works specially designed for the Christian ministry, such as Bridge’s On the Ch. Ministry, Herbert’s Parson, Mather’s Student and Parson, etc., and the Memoirs and Lives of eminent Christians unmistakably indicate how advance in knowledge is increased by renewed and unremitting study of God’s Word; which many truthfully compare to a precious mine revealing its treasures by “digging” for them, or to a constant flowing stream whose placid depths and extent can only be appreciated by passing over its course and sounding its clear waters.
Obs. 2. If it is true, in the general, that knowledge can be increased, it certainly must apply to the doctrine of the Kingdom, so largely the subject of prediction and promise; so extensive in its aims, preparations, and end; so complicated in its numerous details, hints, and obscure allusions; so described under literal, figurative, and symbolical language; and so varied in its relationship to God and man, to the Divine Will and human imperfection. A doctrine which embraces the King, the inheritors, and the subjects, the provisionary dispensations and the final consummation, the loftiest topics and the most precious promises that can enter the mind or encourage the hope of man, is, in the nature of the case, susceptible of being better apprehended in proportion as attention and meditation is given to it. Here, if anywhere, there is plenty of room for the deepest study, the most guarded discrimination, the keenest perception, the most patient comparison, and the most childlike faith. Then an increase of knowledge—as the rich experience of many testifies—will also come.[*]
Note. It is a matter of regret, that good men, who insist in their writings upon our deriving doctrine from the study of the Bible, who lament that others give a greater prominency to man’s writings and systems than to the Word, while theoretically right, in practice largely ignore this very feature. A doctrine that does not suit the religious system already adopted, no matter how strongly presented, is at once ignored or rejected. This, too, is evidence of human infirmity—a weakness predicted in God’s Word.
Obs. 3. Divine Truth, surely, cannot be circumscribed, when even, as Chalmers (Bridg. Treatise, p. 1) has said in relation to natural science: “Each science, though definite in its commencement, has its outgoings in the Infinite and the Eternal.” We will allow, although subject to perversion, the claims of scientists in reference to the extension of truth in all departments of science, but they must also grant to us that theological truth, having a higher, nobler origin and design, is not to be restrained in its advancement. Nature, and not mere speculation or fancy, is the abundant source from whence true and increased knowledge is drawn for the natural sciences, so also the Bible forms “the inexhaustible storehouse” from whence biblical theology derives its solid foundation and growing superstructure—the latter strengthened by the results manifested in historical connection, etc.
Obs. 4. In the Proposition it is purposely said, “can become better understood,” for several reasons: (1) There is no subject like this so covered with human additions, speculations, and prejudice. Hence it is so difficult to approach, divested of all bias and preconceived opinions. The greatest care is necessary, owing to the extent and influence of prevailing views, and no step should be taken without substantial scriptural proof to sustain it. (2) Conclusions respecting the Kingdom should only be drawn after having traced the subject from the earliest point of its introduction down, through the prophets, to the final testimony of Jesus given by John the Revelator. Multitudes, including most eminent men (as will be shown hereafter), take an isolated passage and, without caring for its connection, build an exclusive theory upon it. (3) Covenants, in view of their special importance and fundamental bearing, should have the preference in determining the nature of the Kingdom. This, however, is too much overlooked. (4) Some things are underrated, owing to their simplicity (i.e. “too Jewish”): others are rejected because utterly opposed to human expectations (i.e. “How can these things be?”); and others again are declined as utterly unreasonable, not realizing that faith should apprehend them simply because they are recorded in the truthful Word of God (i.e. with all the laudation of faith, there is very little Abrahamic faith in the world). (5) The difficulties already enumerated in previous Propositions are not sufficiently considered; difficulties, not relating to the nature of the Kingdom, but to the provisions made for it, the time of its manifestation, the events connected with its exhibition, the symbolical portraiture of its realization, the manner of its divine administration (the divine and human being united), and the remarkable and astounding interpositions of the Supernatural introducing and carrying it forward into the eternal ages—all of which ought to be duly considered in order that increased light may be thrown upon the subject. With such a spirit, and such a posture of recognition and appreciation of the matter before us, there is a prospect before the student of a better understanding of the doctrine.