The preaching of the Kingdom, being in accordance with that of the predicted Kingdom, raised no controversy between the Jews and Jesus, or between the Jews and His disciples and apostles.
PROPOSITION 44. The preaching of the Kingdom, being in accordance with that of the predicted Kingdom, raised no controversy between the Jews and Jesus, or between the Jews and His disciples and apostles.
We find no hint, not the slightest, that there was the least disagreement between the preachers of the kingdom and their hearers on the subject of the kingdom itself. We know what the views of the Jews were, and if there had been any essential difference in the presentation of a subject so dear and vital to Jewish faith—fundamental to Messianic faith—most certainly there would be proof to show it. The absence of it, in the nature of the case, substantiates our position.
Obs. 1. Let the reader place himself in that period of early preaching. The converts were nearly all Jews, embracing hundreds, and finally thousands, including even a large number of priests, Acts 6:7. Consider how tenaciously all these held to the predicted restoration of the Davidic Kingdom, and that during the entire period of preaching, from John down to apostolic days, no question, no difficulty arose concerning the great subject of the Kingdom, i.e. concerning its nature, its lack of identity with the anticipated one. Why this? Simply because both parties understood the Kingdom as covenanted and prophesied; because the Kingdom preached corresponded with the views entertained by these Jews; otherwise it would have awakened discussion, led to explanations and opposition. There being agreement, discussion and controversy could not follow, and hence we do not find them.
Obs. 2. A mutual understanding existed between the parties, and this was not interrupted so long as these preachers lived, for after the ascension of Jesus, instead of a retractation of previous preaching and opinions, instead of telling the Jews that they had misapprehended the nature of the Kingdom, and that only a spiritual one was the one intended by the Messiah (which, if our opponents are correct, honesty ought to have done), there continued a perfect agreement between preachers and converts, the basis of which was, looking for this same Kingdom to be revealed at the Sec. Advent of the Messiah (comp. Props. 70–76).
Obs. 3. Therefore, it is an unjust reflection upon these Jews and Jewish preachers to accuse them of ignorance, carnality, etc. To assert asStorrs’ (Diss. on the Kingd. of Heaven), that these Jews “were shamefully ignorant” of the Messiah’s reign, recoils upon the preachers who made and left them thus “ignorant.” Yet this is the belief of many eminent men, forgetting that perhaps the “ignorance” may be in the gradually substituted change introduced after the death of these preachers. Even as late as Tertullian, when the proposed change had not as yet overwhelmed the Apostolic Theology, he pointedly says in his Apology (Sec. 21), in reference to this point: “Even now His Advent is expected by them (the Jews generally); nor is there any other contention between them and us, than that they believe the Advent has not yet occurred.” The Kingdom was not disputed, but the manner and time of occurrence under Jesus as the Messiah.
Obs. 4. The Jews did not find fault with the Kingdom, but in the King as believed in by believing Jews and Gentiles. In their blindness, they refused to acknowledge the purity and holiness essential to entrance into the Kingdom; they rejected the repentance requisite for its establishment; they were angered at the well-merited rebukes aimed at their hypocrisy and sinfulness; they were fearful of losing their own authority and power, and therefore they rejected the King, and urged his crucifixion. After His death, it was too humbling to their pride to confess a crucified Jesus as their Messiah; it was too mortifying and condemnatory to their past action to acknowledge a once dead and buried Jesus to be their King; the difficulty was not in the Kingdom, but in the King, and in the confession and obedience that was required. This influenced the nation, the great mass of the people, but nevertheless many Jews, seeing the Scriptures fulfilled in this Messiah, and the Messianic evidences in His birth, life, miracles, words, death, etc., still clung to Him as the promised Messiah, the Restorer of the Davidic Kingdom as predicted; and this was done under the assurance (as we shall show in its place) that He would come the Second Time for this very purpose. Such is the plain teaching of the Record, and its testimony on this point is decided and overwhelming, as the reader will see for himself as we proceed.[*]
Note. It will not answer to cover this over under the plea of accommodation; for it only amounts to making numbers of persons preaching, in the most serious manner, to induce others to repentance and faith, a Kingdom of God in accordance with their own prejudices and that of their hearers, because Jesus saw that they were not prepared for the truth. And this farce (for it can be called nothing less) was designed and fostered by the pure Son of God! The statement needs no refutation; it contradicts itself. Therefore to plead that such an accommodation prevented a controversy arising, is simply to say that Christ sacrificed truth and kept men in error for the sake of a slight temporary gain, or that He sacrificed His own honor and dignity for the sake of conciliating erring men. No wonder that the Baur school and others are jubilant over the fatal concessions contained in the works of pious men, hailing and parading them as the self-evident indications of a shaky foundation. But, viewing the matter in its totality, the relation of this preaching to covenant, prophecy, the Jewish nation, God’s Purpose of Salvation, etc., we cordially accept of this preaching and agreement—these alleged evidences of weakness—as necessary and indispensable features in the structure. The reasons will appear more fully.
Obs. 5. It may be well to say here, that as long as this happy correspondence continued numerous Jews were converted to Christianity (as history attests), but just so soon as this disagreement arose respecting the Kingdom, and the Jewish faith in their Kingdom was derided and scorned, conversions became less and less until they almost ceased.[*]
Note. And as a return was made to the Primitive Church doctrine, conversions increased until they form now again a very fair number.
Obs. 6. This agreement indicates, what has already been intimated, that no necessity existed to hold up the hope of a restored Davidic throne and Kingdom more prominently, because, as it all depended upon the coming again of Jesus the Christ, it was sufficient to direct attention to that Advent, linking the fulfilment of the prophecies with them, thus avoiding the jealousy, etc., of the Roman Power.
Obs. 7. This agreement has been noticed by numerous writers, and has called forth corresponding remarks, nearly always in disparaging expressions, so intended, but more or less connected with the truth. This will be seen by taking at random two writers. Thus e.g. Reuss (His. Ch. Theol., p. 246) tells us that the early churches formed under this preaching “might be regarded as, and virtually were, a Jewish party.” Morgan (in Moral Philosophy) charges early Christianity with a leaning toward Judaism, that the disciples corrupted the New Test. to effect this, that we have a Jewish Gospel, and the first Christians were “nothing else but a political faction among the Jews, some of them receiving Jesus as the Messiah or the Restorer of the Kingdom, and others rejecting him under that character.” Now, aside from the effort made to use this connection with Jewish views against Christianity, to make out a case of corruption, ignorance, etc., it is true that, while the ceremonial law of Judaism was rejected by many as non-essential, etc., there was a strong point of contact and continued agreement between Judaism and Christians in Messianic expectations respecting the Kingdom—the difference being that the former located the fulfilment of their hopes at the First Advent of the Messiah (thus rejecting Jesus as the Messiah), and the latter, theirs at the Second Advent of this Jesus who had been crucified. To deny this, or to conceal it, is simply exhibiting gross ignorance of facts, or dishonesty in suppressing truth (comp. Prop. 69).