There must be some substantial reason why the phrases "Kingdom of God," etc., were thus adopted.
PROPOSITION 23. There must be some substantial reason why the phrases “Kingdom of God,” etc., were thus adopted.
Amid the diverse and antagonistic theories, the only one that rescues the Word from unjust suspicions, that preserves the integrity of the New Testament from entangling concessions and alliances, that honors the faith and intelligent piety of ancient believers, is that which affirms that the truth itself was contained in the derivation of this phraseology, in the hopes excited by it, and in the subsequent adoption of it.[*]
Note. One party (e.g. Apostolic Fathers, with whom we agree) holds, that the adoption of the Jewish phraseology precisely covered the truth, and that, although not realized at the time for certain good reasons, it will yet be verified. Another party (e.g. Rationalists, Freethinkers, etc.) asserts that no reasonable excuse can be given for the use of such language, and that all the parties employing it were under a delusion. Some (e.g. Semler, etc.) explain it by the accommodation theory: that John, Jesus, and the apostles accommodated themselves to the prejudices and ignorance of the Jews. Others again (e.g. Neander, etc.) find reason for its use in the development theory, that an outward envelopment of “husk” was well adapted for future growth, the requisite preliminary. Some (e.g. Thompson, etc.) suppose that a very spiritual conception was really taught while the old form was only held in phrase. Others (e.g. Barnes, etc.) admit the difficulty, but without attempting an explanation or removal of it, confine themselves to the new enlightenment given at the day of Pentecost, which they declare transmuted the meaning. Still others (e.g. Renan, etc.) declare that the language was used at first in good faith as the Jews themselves understood it, but that Jesus, finding His own hopes and expectations unrealized by the unbelief of the Jews, changed His plan and a new meaning was introduced. To indicate the extremity to which men are often pushed in the attempt to assign a reason, an extreme and far-fetched one—proven mistaken by the facts—is that of Fleck (De Regno Div., noticed by Lange, Com. Matt. 3:1–12), who says that Matthew chose this phrase “in order to distinguish the Christian Kingdom of God more fully from the Jewish theocracy.” Acts 1:6 is a sufficient answer.
Obs. 1. The attacks of Rationalistic criticism has induced the advocacy, by many, of the accommodation theory. This, however, is a virtual concession to the force of destructive criticism, and, as such, is hailed as a decided indication of weakness. It is reluctantly wrung from the advocates of Christianity, because, with their theories of the Kingdom of God, with their rejection of the Primitive view, they could not invent a better refuge from their assailants. It is but a sorry refuge in the end, seeing that it teaches, when stripped of its circumlocutory and apologetic dress, that the Jews held one notion of the Kingdom and Christ entertained another; and that for fear of the Jews, who were unprepared through prejudice to appreciate the Kingdom, Jesus adopted their language, saying one thing, but all the time meaning something else. Or, in other words, He taught, under a borrowed garb, what the language did not and could not indicate to the Jew, as evidenced in the history of His own disciples, Acts 1:6. But is such a hypothesis, for a moment, tenable? Can we entertain the idea that teachers of the character and profession like John, Jesus, and the disciples, would directly or indirectly connive at that which is false? The moral and divine position of the persons makes the supposition inadmissible. If it were allowable to do so in reference to so vital a subject as the Kingdom, how can we be sure that other declarations are not also an accommodation? What criteria could be given to distinguish between the false and the true? No: such a theory, however well intentioned, is a virtual lowering of the divine teaching of Jesus, a rendering of the utterances of the first preachers an uncertainty, and a yielding of Revelation to the sneers of unbelief at its lack of coherence.[*]
Note. It is the fashion of a large class of modern critics and historians (in otherwise estimable writings), unable to reconcile the preaching of John, etc., with their own notions of what the Kingdom should be, to inform us that the first preachers of the Gospel of the Kingdom accommodated themselves in the doctrinal exposition of the Kingdom to the prevailing opinions and prejudices of the Jews, waiting for time and cautiously given lessons to enlighten them by degrees, etc. Many who censure Semler for pressing his theory beyond the bounds of propriety, and have even written against his more gross departures and denials of truth, do not mend the matter when they themselves, on the leading subject of the Kingdom, fully admit such an accommodation, on the ground that the Jews were not prepared for the real truth. For, receive this, and then it logically follows: (1) John, Jesus, and the disciples must have taught error, so far, at least, as the outward form and the Jews were concerned; how else, unless in their usual acceptation, could the Jews understand their words? (2) If the Jews misunderstood them, how could they be held accountable for it, when thus tempted to a misapprehension by the ambiguous use of current language? (3) The pure character of Jesus is presented to us in an invidious and disreputable light. So long as the theory is advanced, so long a dark flaw appears, and all the apologies annexed to it cannot sustain His spotless reputation. The only accommodation in Jesus, and from whence this theory is inferred, consisted in His concealing, or not avowing, certain truths pertaining to His Person and the Kingdom until His disciples were better prepared for them, but never did He speak without uttering the truth itself, both as to His Person and the Kingdom, sometimes plainly, sometimes in figure; never did He use language which was specially adapted to lead into and confirm error on account of the prejudices of others. It cannot be proven that He in any way sought refuge in words, that were outwardly compliant with “Jewish error.” If this were so, then Revelation itself would become involved in uncertainty, no one being able to discriminate between mere accommodation and its opposite. (Comp. Knapp, Horne, Schmucker, Storr, Titman, Heringa, and others, who expose this fallacy.)
Obs. 2. In immediate connection with the accommodation theory, not pressed however to the same extreme, is that of the development theory. While noticed under Prop. 4, yet its important bearing to our subject and its extended use, will allow additional remarks. To avoid misapprehension, let it be premised that we also believe in development, in the progress of Christianity, in the continuous gathering of the elect, of “them that believe.” We also hold to doctrinal progress in a certain sense, distinguishing between the primary and inferred truths; the former being solely contained in the Scriptures and obtained by comparison of them; the latter being the result of reasoning induced by such comparison, by observing the statements, history, analogy, etc., of doctrine. The former belongs more to the vision of faith, the latter to that of reason; for the one contains things beyond human knowledge, and the other is the outgrowth of the activity of man’s mind, arising from induction, deduction, inference, etc. Having already defined our position under Props. 9, 10, 15, it is sufficient to add, that we cordially accept of the truthful utterance of Dr. Schaff (quoted Hurst’s His. Rational.): “Christianity itself, the saving truth of God, is always the same and needs no change, yet this can by no means be affirmed of the apprehension of this truth by the human mind in the different ages of the church.” Two cautions are only to be observed: (1) never to elevate this apprehension of the truth by the human mind and expressed in books, writings, etc., to the same standard of excellency as that of the Scriptures themselves; and (2) never to allow such an apprehension to be rated as a legitimate progression of divine inspiration. On these two points, the development theory pushed to an extreme, offends. This will be presented, to save space, in the following note.[*]
Note. It may be well, first of all, to notice that this notion of doctrinal growth, under the development theory, from the imperfect conception of the apostles to the full revealed truth in “church consciousness” (whatever this glittering generality may mean), is sought to be based on two passages of Scripture, viz.: Mark 4:26–29; Matt. 13:31–33. The Parables will be examined in detail hereafter; it is sufficient to remark on the first one, which is regarded (Neander, Introd. to Ch. His.) as the keystone of the arch, that the seed sown, the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear, have no reference whatever to doctrinal progress or development, for if it had, then, logically, the harvest at the end would be a harvest of doctrines fully grown, an evident absurdity. What is here meant is clearly seen by the parallel passage in Matt. 13:24–30, when the tares and wheat are separated, etc. Truth, doctrinal truth, the same that Jesus and apostles taught, is the seed deposited in the heart, and its moral influence is delineated. The parable clearly, in its connection and design, shows that the seed has its effect on the man, its germ being holiness, producing piety in the individual, which enlarges and develops. The seed of truth is always the same—it changes not—being the same to-day that John, Jesus, and the apostles sowed; otherwise, taking the development for granted we would sow, not seed, but the blade or the ear, or even the full corn, which is an absurdity. The analogy that they seek to draw out of it, does not hold good; the growth is represented as continuous, but such a doctrinal growth is not to be found in the church, for as the history of the church attests, faith in some very important points was frequently shifted and became antagonistic.
The development theory, virtually taking a low estimate of the contents of Scripture, and yet anxious in some way to honor them, has recourse to a divine outgrowth from them in man in order to obtain decisive truth; and this alleged result of outgrowth it elevates to an equality with, and even, in many instances, above the Scriptures. Take the most guarded and able expositor of this theory, as Dr. Neander, and the student becomes painfully conscious that something sadly defective must exist in a system which causes so good a man to teach that the mental and moral condition of the Jews, the disciples, and the apostles was such that Jesus had to give them the truth in a very diluted form—so fine indeed that it was only “the germ,” and this surrounded by “a materialistic husk.” Gravely, honestly, naively we are told, that this “husk” was the only thing that was perceived and appreciated until a process of growth removed it. Conceding that some things were not revealed until a later period, that other things were purposely given with obscurity (comp. Props. 11–15), it is an unfounded and damaging opinion that a leading doctrine, the prominent subject of preaching, the opening doctrine of the New Test., was thus confined in “a husk,” and finally correctly apprehended. The tendency of such a theory is to disparage the early ministry to the Jews and to lower the apostolic times, showing that by growth the church has undergone material modifications in doctrine, and then defending such radical changes on the ground of progress, and appealing for proof, to sustain all this load, to the authority of “church consciousness.” While admitting the idea of progress and growth, but in a different way, it does not follow that such modifications, because they took place in the church, are indicative of true progress. Indeed in the Word itself we are warned against doctrinal and other changes as productive in error, fruitful of unbelief, and prolific of evil. Under the plastic hand of this theory, some venture even to take the relapses, divisions, weakness, etc., of the church, and turn them into signs of life and vigor, telling us that these things were necessary for the age as educators, forerunners, etc., in order that greater good might result therefrom. In a specious philosophical manner attempts are made, in violation of all order, to weave into the web of Christianity, as essential to progress, conflicting theologies, rival sects, the corruptions of man, etc., until finally, as Eaton (Perm. of Chris., p. 45) says: “It is like a tree drawing its growth from its own dead leaves.” Men of ability will, in this direction, sagely declare that what was once truth in one age must, in the march of progress, give place to other truth better adapted to the knowledge and wants of man—the successive shells give place to new-fledged outcomers. This nonsense—for it is nothing less—passes for wisdom with many who profess intelligence, not seeing that it strikes a vital blow at all established truth, and leaves us no firm scriptural foundation for our feet. Let us not credit such palpable absurdities, which, intended by amiable men as a defence of Christianity, strike deadly blows at the very heart of all scriptural truth, and ultimately find their resting place in a disguised formula that evil in growth is a necessary adjunct to produce the good, obtain the proper symmetry, etc.
The last expressed thought is abundantly justified by the use to which this theory has been applied. Under the friendly manipulations of men like Dr. Neander, under the amiable, kindly handling of Dr. Nevin, under the pious touch of Rev. Miller, it might not result in great injury, however it prevented a reception of apostolic truth because of its supposed incipient state. But this fascinating favorite of so many of the Orthodox happens to be a double edged sword, that cuts both ways. The Hegelian view that every development of life starts from its lowest, poorest form to rise to a higher and richer one by slow degrees, and which was deemed so appropriate to cover up supposed (not existing) deficiencies in doctrine, has been seized by the Tübingen Baur and others, and has been applied with tremendous force to the apostolic times, so that the multitude, misled by the caricature given of its beginning (the lowest form), and trammelled by its apparent contradictions, violently oppose the Bible itself. Christianity, too, is put down as a development in the history of universal religion, which in this onward growth, constant advancement, irresistible progress, must give place to “the full ear in the corn.” Leckey (His. Rational.) informs us that in the progress of the race, Christianity was indeed a necessary but still imperfect development, and that the highest will be found in reason accepting from all the past forms of belief that which best corresponds with the freedom of progressive reason. This is a favorite theory with Freethinkers (e.g. Essays and Reviews) of every class (as e.g. Büchner, etc.), and under its ample folds they find congenial shelter and warmth for their various systems. With united voice, aided and strengthened by honest and unsuspecting believers, they tell us that the early church did not clearly apprehend the truths of Christianity, especially not that pertaining to the Kingdom; that it was enveloped in Jewish forms and Jewish thought; and that it required centuries of natural progress from the lower to the higher before the truth could be fully presented; and which truth, finally in the shape of well grown “wheat,” is harvested by themselves. How large a number of books are issued to-day full of this plausible theory, in which unbelief characterizes doctrinal Christianity as “a stage of progression in the human mind,” and portrays “all religious truth as necessarily progressive,” so that we, by development, can improve upon the “germs” given by God and His Son. It acts out this spirit by changing, adding, striking away, and substituting, until it glories in producing a new religion, the much boasted one of humanity. Its humanity can be safely admitted.
Let no firm believer of the Supremacy of the Word, even if in a Christianized form addicted to this theorizing, censure us for writing so plainly our convictions. It is a subject upon which we deeply feel, knowing full well that it is the great obstacle in the way of intelligent men to a return to the Primitive doctrine of the Kingdom, and that it is the grand source from whence issue the shafts poured against the teaching of the apostolic church. Its ramifications are found everywhere and its adherents form the immense majority. Leckey (His. Rational., p. 183) thus eulogizes its extent: “This idea of continued and uninterrupted development is one that seems absolutely to override the age. It is scarcely possible to open any really able book on any subject without encountering it in some form. It is stirring all science to its depths; it is revolutionizing all historical literature. Its prominence in theology is so great that there is scarcely any school that is altogether exempt from its influence. We have seen in our own day the Church of Rome itself defended in ‘An Essay on Development,’ and by a strange application of the laws of progress.” Every student knows the tremendous influence that this theory is now exerting in its modified or extreme, Christianized or rationalistic, forms. Rioting in its assumed intelligence, it starts out with the principle, often glossed over and refined with velvety language, that the writers of the New Test. were not infallible, for in some things (e.g. the preaching of the Kingdom) they were in error, encompassed by “Jewish forms;” then it advances the self-satisfying notion that in and through the church there is a progressive revelation of the truth, so that as the Gröningen school (re-endorsed by the Parker school, etc.) boldly proclaims, Augustine stands higher and knew more of the truth than John or Paul, Luther had far more than Augustine, more recent divines of eminence have more than Luther, and, to keep up the intended comparison, these Gröningens (Parkerites, etc.) have more truth than all the rest that preceded. Here, at least, is modesty in a modified, developed form! How prevalent to-day, under its influence, in organized bodies, sects, conventions, etc., is the spirit of the Leyden school (Hurst’s His. Rat.) that, owing to these “husks” found in the early mistaken preaching, we must distinguish between the Scriptures and the Word of God; that the former are human compositions, containing some truth, it is true, but that the latter, which God reveals in the human spirit and in the progress of man, is to be vastly preferred; thus opening the cry from ten thousand thousand throats, “We have the revealed Word of God in its advanced and latest form.” From whence mainly come those questionings of the Primitive view of the Kingdom of God; those assertions that the Jews, disciples, and early Christians grossly misapprehended the Kingdom; those affirmations that the Reformation showed its weakness and inconsistency by substituting the authority of the letter for that of the Spirit; those claims of the exclusive possession of the truth to the disparagement of “holy men of old;” those epithets of scorn and derision so liberally applied to the grammatical sense of the Scriptures? They spring chiefly from this development theory, forming “the Modern Theology,” “the Liberal Theology,” “the Free Religion,” “the New Church,” etc. The theory itself is abundantly developing fruit in the hands of infidelity, making men wiser than the Scriptures, far better preachers of the Kingdom of God than John the Baptist, disciples and apostles; and this is either elegantly or offensively maintained according to the culture of the adherent, thus calling upon us to put our trust in men as they successively arise. We desire, however, a more solid foundation than the shifting utterances of men, one superseding another in endless succession, and this we find only in the plain teaching of Revelation, embraced even in the first preaching of the first great teachers commissioned by heaven. For us, the development theory, as currently expounded and incorporated in theologies, is too latitudinarian either for doctrine, well-grounded conscious belief, logical connection of Scripture and history, and honorable, consistent defence of the truth. Pushed to its extreme, it constantly shifts its position, claims new and antagonistic doctrine (or none at all), casts aside faith and exalts reason, glories not in prophets and apostles, but in modern scientists, buries itself in hypotheses, mere speculations, and calls such divine revelations. In all its varied forms, one distinguishing feature appears, viz.: that it is destructive to the authority of the Scriptures by raising above it the utterances of fallible men. This is clearly seen in the history of the leading doctrine of the Kingdom.
The development theory is also becoming patronized by Roman Catholic theologians (e.g. Dr. Newman), for it becomes the best medium through which to apologize for doctrines unknown to the first teachers of Christianity, and for the non-reception of doctrines (e.g. Millenarianism) once generally held in the church. It is admirably adapted to excuse and gloss over the recent authoritative doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility. J. H. Newman (Essays, etc.) tells us that Christianity required time for its comprehension and perfection, and hence, to understand it, a growth is necessary, so that we in this age, availing ourselves of the teachings (growth) of the church, understand divine truth better than apostolic fathers, etc., because time enables it to free itself from all foreign elements, etc. This then is applied to the doctrinal statements of the Bible—e.g. the early preaching of this Kingdom—and we are justified in receiving “the traditions of men” in their place. “Liberal Christianity” desires no better basis than this to rest itself upon; and numerous recent works abundantly avail themselves of it. Even if the mildest form of its advocacy by Neander and others is carefully examined, it leads us precisely to this Roman exaltation of church authority. It too, begins with a lower form and rises during the centuries to a higher; it also tells us that the noticeable deficiency of true knowledge of the Kingdom in John, the disciples, and apostles—this presentation of “the husk” containing the still unappreciated “germ”—is to be fully made up in the aftergrowth of the church, i.e. in its teaching and consciousness. If we ask, whose teaching or consciousness is to be followed as a guide, the Romanist’s response comes back to us: that of the church in the decisions of Popes or General Councils; the Protestant, wedded to this conceit, answers: that of the church as contained in Councils, Synods, Creeds, etc.; and both in the reception of a doctrine (e.g. of the Kingdom) afterward fastened upon the church, elevate this to an inspired position, making it of equal weight with the Scriptures, and if it happens to be opposed to Holy Writ, even placing it above the Word. Practically there is no difference between the two; both profess that their church decisions emanate from the Holy Spirit; both claim that the truth developed by growth is superior to the germinal doctrine of the Kingdom; both decide that the utterances of the prophets (i.e. the interpretation), the expectations of the Jews, the first preaching of the Kingdom, the faith of the disciples, must be tested, as to the amount of truthfulness, by what the church said and decreed long after; both attempt to correct the grammatical sense by an added one to make it a little more accordant to present views; and both, by such a judgment of doctrine under the plea of growth, degrade God’s own revelation to a secondary place. This may answer to prop up a tottering system, but we earnestly protest against this leavening process being introduced into—with the purest of motives—Protestantism—a process by which, under the plea of progress and development, the authority of Bible truth is certainly undermined. Let us be sure of this: that any professed increase of knowledge which conflicts with the plain meaning of the Bible is not in the direction of true development.
Even men who are strongly inclined to our views, and in many places admirably sustain them, fall into this development theory. Thus e.g., to indicate how it influences even the minds of earnest thinkers, let the reader calmly consider Lange (Com., vol. 1, p. 236–7) where the parables, under this notion, are treated as representing a historical succession of periods or stages in the church. This can only be done by an arbitrary use of the parables, forcing them from their legitimate design, and making them inconsistent one with the other. They indeed represent or illustrate things pertaining to the church, individual and world, in relation to the Kingdom, but no such succession can be possibly obtained from them without violence. Many examples, where this theory is pressed into the aid of interpretation or application of Scripture, will suggest themselves to the reader. We may conclude, then, by saying, that a theory which can take a once universally entertained faith of the church (as in this doctrine of the Kingdom) and substitute another for it without the express warrant of God’s own Word, is certainly unreliable and defective. And any theory which, under the specious plea of progression and perfection, promises constantly increasing and advancing knowledge until the development brings forth the blaze of the noonday Sun, runs directly against the plainest teachings of the Holy Scriptures that inform us of the contrary. If there is a truth clearly taught it is this: instead of looking for such pleasing growth, we are exhorted to look for continued apostasy, rejection of the truth, etc., until it culminates in the oppression of the church, the martyrdom of saints, and such fearful woe that the Lord Christ Himself shall come in vengeance as the Deliverer. Alas! why will men allow some favorite theory to obscure the clearest announcements of heaven?
Obs. 3. Others arise who totally ignore any reason whatever for such phraseology. Advocates of progress, they do not even seek to employ the phrases as expressive of a higher or deeper meaning, gradually evolved in the advancement toward perfection of knowledge. Like the Parker school, they tell us that God is constantly issuing New Testaments, inspired by the same common, universal inspiration, and the later supersede the earlier. The Kingdom once preached is an idle dream, fit for ignorant Jews and disciples; for inspiration in others (as e.g. Renan) has announced it to be “a chimera.” Many, too, that would recoil, justly, from being classed with such men, adopt theories respecting the Kingdom and the early belief, which logically and consistently places them on a leading doctrine of the Bible in the same category. Allusion has been made to such under Prop. 5, and it is found that they all claim, under special enlightenment, the liberty of rejecting the meaning attached to the Kingdom before, and at, the First Advent, and for several centuries following. They assume the additional liberty of substituting a meaning, which to them seems correspondent with their ideas of things now existing.[*]
Note. It is a sad fact, that it has become fashionable to place the fulfilling of the law and the prophets in a purely moral light, and the more spiritual it can be made to appear, the more satisfactory the explanation. The literal aspect of the subject is overlooked, passed by in silence, or obtains a subordinate toleration, both as it refers to the First and the Sec. Advent. The great boast of the age, coming from the most adverse directions, is the wonderful increase of spiritual knowledge—a spiritual illumination that smiles at and ridicules the simplicity and credulity that can believe what the plain grammatical language of the opening New Test. teaches. Men arise, and, under the seductive influences of mystical conceptions, gravely claim that they, like—yea, some even more than—the apostles, are led into all truth by the Spirit. For all such there is an unerring test: if any teaching is directly opposed to that which is recorded in Holy Writ, it is to be rejected at once, because the Spirit will not be in conflict with truth previously given. Truth is harmonious and not discordant; the Spirit is not antagonistic to itself. Admitting progressive knowledge in some things, it is derogatory to true knowledge to say, as do others (Ecce Deus., p. 39), that the men of to-day know everything concerning the Kingdom better than the original disciples and apostles; which, echoed from many a platform, is levelled at the foundation of scriptural authority in order to secure its overthrow. For, if we are better witnesses, more competent to state the truth than those specially selected for this purpose by Jesus, what force can their words possess? To avoid this destructive rock of unbelief, it is necessary to hold that true progressive knowledge must be in strict accordance and sympathy with the first preachers of the Kingdom of God. Cast down the position that the Holy Scriptures contain the doctrinal truth, and the wide door is opened either to boasting unbelief, or to the traditionalism of Roman Catholicism, or to the vagaries of mysticism, Swedenborgianism, Fox, Ann Lee, Joseph Smith, and a thousand others (including the latest, J. T. Curry of Georgia, the so-called “prophet and apostle of a new dispensation”), together with the speculations of Spiritualists, Liberals, Freethinkers, Friends of Light, etc. If we once cast loose from the anchor provided by heaven, there is no end to the claims made upon our belief—every one, too, assuring us that he has the truth. The simple fact is this: it requires as immense amount of assurance and pride (without questioning the honesty and motives of the parties) to think that we know far more than Peter, John, Paul, etc., when all our knowledge of divine things is based on that given by them, and when we really have but a small portion of that which they possessed under the special guidance of the Spirit. Hence, we repeat, that increase, growth in our knowledge must, so long as we receive the Scriptures as divine and authoritative, be in unison with them. Every enlargement of doctrinal apprehension, every conception of doctrinal truth, must find its affinity, its foundation in the Word of God. In the development of view, that which occurs outside and as a consequence of the Divine Record, the expression of human opinion, must be carefully distinguished from a doctrinal growth legitimately (i.e. by comparison, analogy, etc.) derived from Holy Writ (comp. Prop. 9, Obs. 3, on Doctrine). Any growth unnatural to the Word itself (i.e. not plainly contained in it) may be set down as a foreign growth, produced by grafting on the stock a branch taken from an outside source. Men in search of truth must return to the old-fashioned notion that God’s words are “pure words,” and that His doctrine does not require the devices of human wisdom either to be remodelled, or changed, or burnished. They speak for themselves.
Obs. 4. Others, again, under the plea of non-essential, pass by this early use of phraseology and its resultant effect on the church. In the reaction against formalism, infidelity, etc., they go to the extreme of asserting that a few elementary truths, sufficient to reach the masses, such as repentance and faith, are all that are requisite. Their theological sphere is the most narrow and contracted, and the great fundamental theological questions relating to the Divine Purpose in Redemption are totally ignored. This class finds no difficulty whatever in the early preaching; for whatever does not directly teach their view of the Kingdom is easily made to do so by spiritualizing the grammatical sense.
Obs. 5. One of the most skilful, but abortive, efforts to reconcile the utterances and expectations of the disciples and apostles with the notion of a present spiritual Kingdom, is given by Reuss (His. Ch. Theol. of Apos. Age). He frankly acknowledges, what he calls their Judaistic views, etc., but in the attempt to explain the matter, most amazingly sacrifices the character of the apostles. Their reputation and scriptural standing as inspired teachers, suffers in many a sentence, and a devout believer of the Word arises from the perusal of the work with a deep feeling, that if Christianity needs a defense so depressingly apologetic, and so shockingly degrading to the first teachers of it, then something is radically wrong in its fundamental source. It will not answer to find, with a Hegelian microscopic vision, a germ here and a germ there enveloped in a rude “husk.” Truth, when thus handled, must, and does, suffer in the house of its friends.[*]
Note. Many writers of eminence fully admit what they call “Christianity circumscribed at first within the narrow limits of a people’s hopes,” but assert as Reuss, “The more conversion and faith were recognized as the essential elements of the Gospel, the more did mere hope become subsidiary.” Right here is one of the difficulties: hope, which is also one of the essentials (“we are saved by hope,” etc.) of the Gospel, is placed in the background because deemed “circumscribed,” and individual religious experience, mystical conceptions, etc., take its place. Illustrations drawn from various authors will follow in succeeding Props.
Obs. 6. We are indebted to Jerome, and others like him, for the peculiar style—now so familiar—in which the old views respecting the Kingdom of heaven are sought to be eradicated, as based on no solid reason, by using the epithet “Judaizers.” Thus e.g. in his note on Isa. 11:10–16, he lays down the broad, erroneous canon (which Fairbairn, On Proph., p. 254, seems approvingly to quote): “Let the wise and Christian reader take this rule for prophetical promises, that those things which the Jews and ours, not ours (but) Judaizers, hold to be going to take place carnally, we should teach to have already taken place spiritually, lest by occasion of fables and inexplicable questions of that sort (as the apostle calls them), we should be compelled to Judaize.” What an admirable guide! Under the plea of carnality, which is made to cover the grammatical sense and literal fulfilment, the prophecies are to be spiritualized, no matter how, only so that they teach nothing which may be accounted “Jewish.” Need we wonder that the truth was overpowed by such tactics of interpretation.
Obs. 7. All these methods assume as fundamental, that the Jews and early believers were certainly mistaken and deluded. Not one attempts to give a valid reason for the belief entertained. Now the impression made to cover up a supposed deficiency in the Jews and first preachers, and also produced by the rejection of the doctrine of the Kingdom (held for several centuries), on the specious but treacherous ground of superior knowledge—no matter how obtained, by growth, spirit, reason, spiritualizing, etc.—is this: that if the Word of God is really founded on what it professes, viz.: the inspiration of holy men, it must not contain so glaring an inconsistency. We shall now proceed step by step, continually fortified by Scripture, to show that the inconsistency only exists in the imagination of men; that the grammatical and historical sense is fully sustained by a continuous Divine Purpose; that the first preachers of the Kingdom, although not acquainted with all the designs of God in relation to the Kingdom, were not in error on the nature of the Kingdom itself; and that neither they, nor Jesus, by the use of the literal sense, accommodated themselves to the prejudices, etc., of the Jews, depending on a future development or revelation for a purer doctrine. To do this, constant appeal shall be made “to the law and the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20); but while thus employed, it is hoped that the reader will not fail to imitate the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11), who, instead of looking outside of the Scriptures for growth, etc., “received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Such a position is the more necessary, since many professing to make this appeal darken the simple testimony of Holy Writ to sustain an honestly entertained theory—a failing to which, through infirmity, we are all liable. Hence the greater need of caution, and of a personal reference to the Word.