« PreviousContinue »
his banner they persevere unto the end. They bear the same mind with the Martyrs of the primitive Church ; and if they were called to the fame trials, they would be ready to meet them with the same fortitude. They may therefore be understood to be comprehended in the spirit of this description with those that are persecuted for righteousness” fake ; and in common with the Martyrs of more arduous times they shall be admitted to the same transcendent reward; For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven, as I have had repeated occasion to observe, is the spiritual reign of the Messiah, or Anointed of the Lord; in which are comprehended the two different states of present Grace and of future Glory. Thus containing whatever is essential to the spiritual man both in holiness and in happiness, it is presented to all, who acknowledge Christ for their spiritual King, as the great motive to a faithful allegiance, both at the beginning and at the close of the Chriftian life. And accordingly we find it equally advanced as the appropriate blessedness of the first and of the last in the series of Christian virtues, of the Poor in spirit, and of them that are persecuted for righteousness' fake.
To both these characters it unquestionably applies in both its parts: For every one of these Beatitudes comprehends in a greater or a less degree both a present and a future good. But if there be any shade of diffe: rence in the application of the fame Beatitude to different characters, it may be assumed with some colour of reason, that as offered to them, who commence the Christian character in being poor in spirit, it has a more immediate reference to the State of Grace : as offered to those, who complete the Chriftian character in submitting to perfecution for the sake of righteousness, it more expressly points at the State of Glory.
This Kingdom was very different from what was the great object of ambition among the Heathens; who thought a temporal crown the confummation of human enterprize, and the accomplishment of all that was desirable for man. Too little did they know or even conceive of things beyond the grave, to make them objects of their attention and pursuit; and less did they fix their thoughts on the attainment of a seat or crown in heaven.
It was also very different from what engaged the expectations of the Jews. They had been styled in the Law a Royal Priest
hood, or a Kingdom of Priests". But this character of royalty they understood to be fulfilled in the independent possession of the land of Canaan, as augmented by the sword of David, and as established under the more peaceful, yet splendid reign of Solomon. Their ambition was further elevated by that animating picture which the Prophets had given of the Messiah and his Kingdom. But not comprehending the spiritual character of either, they exalted their ideas to the highest pitch of worldly greatness; and they became ambitious to enroll themselves under the banners of this promised King, and to partake in the triumphs of his glorious Kingdom..
The appearance of the meek and lowly Jesus did not correspond with these ambitious hopes. In the poor and humble Peasant of Galilee they could trace no vestige of the glorious and triumphant King of Israel. Hence he was disapproved, despised, and rejected at once by the superior orders of the Jews. And though the energy and benevolence of his words and works engaged the regard and gratitude of the common people, yet they also were disappointed at the humility of the form in which he came among them, and could no otherwise reconcile what they saw with what they hoped, than by supposing that he was now under a temporary fhade, from which he would suddenly break forth to public view in all the power and fplendour of a mighty King. The same prejudice was entertained by the Apostles themfelves, who had fuller advantages of contemplating his character and mission. On this idea the Mother of James and John requested for her Sons, that the one might fit on his right hand, and the other on his left in his Kingdom ; in other words, that they might have the two first offices of temporal eminence and honour. But what was the answer of our Lord to this? To sit on his right hand and on his left, he assured them, were not his to give, being reserved for the disposal of those, who were appointed to the kingly station by the ordinary providence of God. What they had to expect from following him in this life would not be honours, but indignities, not preferment, but sufferings. They would have to drink with him of the cup of forrow, to be baptized with him in the baptism of calamity. But in compensation for all those indignities and sufferings, which they might endure for his
a Exod. xix. 6.
. 381 sake, he had finally a reward far transcending any temporal crown: He had a Kingdom to bestow in the realms of heavenly bliss. Thus he assured his Apostles, who had forfaken all and followed him, that in the regenerated world, when he should be established on his Throne of glory, they also should fit on twelve Thrones, judging the twelve Tribes of Israel
For a time they were suffered to misconceive the nature of this promise ; and worldly prejudice still maintained possession of their understandings. But as soon as the great mystery of godliness was accomplished in the passion, the resurrection, and ascension of their Lord, the light of celestial truth broke forth at once upon their minds. And they intuitively understood the purpose of his sufferings and the nature of his Kingdom. They fought no more for temporal honours and distinctions: They strove no longer who should be the greatest upon earth. Animated by the promise now sufficiently understood of being finally advanced to that high and holy place, where their Lord was gone before, they refolyed to take up his cross, and to follow him
• Mat, xx, 20-28. Luke xxii. 24.-30.