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CURRENT FRENCH THOUGHT.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT. J. VAN GOENS (Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie).—For a long time past, the attention of those who have applied themselves to a study of the primitive documents contained in the New Testament, in order to discover from them the true thoughts of Jesus, has been directed to the idea of the Kingdom of God, to which Jesus, in the synoptic Gospels, constantly recurs. In it the essence of the Gospel of Jesus seems to be concentrated. It cannot be said that the investigation into this doctrine has been carried to completion, or that there is a general agreement as to the idea, the nature, and the conditions of the Kingdom of God. We may, however, with the aid of the latest treatises on the subject, give our readers an outline of the teaching of the New Testament on the doctrine in question.

Jesus did not invent the terms “ Kingdom of God” and “ Kingdom of Heaven ": He found them already existing, and adapted them to His purpose.

It is evident that the idea of God as a King dates from the time when the royal office was established in Israel, and more especially from the time of David, who gave his people peace and prosperity. The prophets idealise the office, while the scribes, after the exile, seek to give reality to it by the introduction of the so-called Mosaic law. The Jews are called a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, in the midst of which Jehovah dwells by His law (Exod. xix. 6, xx. 1-17). This is what Josephus calls the theocracy. Before the exile, the enemies of the kingdom of holiness and peace, over which Jehovah reigns, are earthly powers. But, after that period, the notion of supernatural powers, acting through visible enemies, becomes general. In later Jewish literature, especially in that of an apocalyptic character, this conception is elaborated. The assurance of the superiority of the Jehovistic religion over all others inspired the Jewish people with the anticipation of its final triumph. Add to this the conviction of a relationship established between God and His people by a covenant which should secure property for them. The defeat of these anticipations led the people to look for the coming of the Messiah, which should compensate for the past, and close the history of the world. After the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Messianic hope passed from the prophetic into the apocalyptic form. The book of Daniel (B.c. 167-165) indicates this. “At that time the God of heaven will set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed ” (ii. 44); this is the kingdom of the saints (vii. 18, 27), at the head of which is Jehovah Himself, or His Anointed, the Messiah. The Apocrypha of the Old Testament contains but few traces of this Messianic hope ; but, in the Sibylline Oracles (B.c. 170 or 140), the book of Enoch, and, above all, in the Psalter of Solomon (B.C. 63), the idea of the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth by the Messiah is expressed with great force and distinctness.

We may now begin with the synoptic Gospels, and see what they contain relative to the doctrine. The characteristics of the Kingdom of God, according to John the Baptist, are that it is connected with the powerful movement begun by him, that it is distinguished by a severe morality, and will be inaugurated by judgment; the penitent will receive the Holy Spirit, while the impenitent will be subjected to the fire of condemnation (Matt. iii. 11). This will be the signal of the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

NO. 111.-VOL. II.-THE THINKER.

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Jesus appears in Galilee after John is imprisoned, and applies Himself in His turn to preach the Kingdom of God. Like His forerunner, He announces that it is near at hand, and renews the great condition—“ Repent,” but adds, “ Believe in the Gospel,” that is, trust in the good news of the accomplishment of the promise (Mark i. 14, 15). The time is fulfilled ; the decisive moment has come. We see in this the personal assurance of the prophet, of the herald of the Kingdom of God.

We shall now set forth in turn the antagonists of that kingdom, its nature, its founder, its first manifestations, and its glorious end.

1. Antagonists. We recall the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees, who accused Him of casting out devils by the help of the prince of the devils: “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you” (Matt. xii. 28). We cannot deny that Jesus shared the belief of His contemporaries in there being impure spirits in the service of Satan. This explains the importance He attached to the healing of the possessed in the interests of the foundation of the Kingdom of God; preaching and the works of healing go together (Luke ix. 11). In short, that which prompted Jesus to accomplish these cures was the consciousness of His calling, together with His personal nature ; He brought the demoniacs into the Kingdom by inspiring in them trust in God and moral independence. For the rest, He does not explain the origin of him whom He calls Satan, the devil, the wicked one; but it is a fact that when He convinces of sin He does not lay the blame on Satan, but addresses Himself to man–He reproaches him with being an occasion of sin (Matt. xviii. 6, 7), and speaks of the weakness of the flesh (Mark xiv. 38). In the same way He exhorts to repentance and faith, as if there were no opposing diabolical influence; and He sets out from the principle that the heart of man is fitted by nature to receive good impressions.

2. In treating of the nature of the Kingdom, we have to notice two great characteristics: (a) The supreme blessedness it bestows; and (6) The important task which it imposes.

(a) Nothing better expresses the worth of the Kingdom of God than the parables of the hid treasure and of the pearl (Matt. xii. 44, 45). But this blessedness does not show itself on the surface; a man may pass over the ground without suspecting what is hidden beneath it, and even he who seeks for it is not sure of finding it. This blessedness is described at length in the beatitudes (Matt. v. 3-12; Luke vi. 20-26). For understanding the nature of the Kingdom of God, an appropriate spirit is needed —that of humility; a sense of weakness and of inward unrest, which leads one to sigh after communion with God. Jesus constantly insists on this. “ Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt. v. “ whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. xxiii. 12); the publicans and harlots go into the Kingdom of God before the Pharisees (Matt. xxi. 31); the spirit of a little child, conscious of its weakness, is presented to us for imitation (Mark x. 14, 15).

This disposition corresponds to the revelation of God which Jesus has given : God for Him the Father which is in heaven. This title of Father is constantly on the lips of Jesus, and denotes the very essence of God. Nothing is too small to escape His notice, as the parable of the lost sheep and that of the lost piece of silver show. He showers His benefits upon His enemies (Matt. v. 45). The grass of the field (Matt. vi. 30), and the love of parents for their children (Matt. vii. 7-11), are testimonies to the fatherly love of God towards men. To this love corresponds the title of men, who are “ children of the Father” (Matt. v. 45), “children of the Highest” (Luke vi. 35) ; not collectively and nationally, as in the case of Israel

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(Hos. xi. 1), but individually. Their relations with each other are those of brethren (Matt. xxiii. 8).

(b) The Kingdom of God imposes a great task. This is summed up in the exhortation, “Seek the Kingdom of God” (Matt. vi. 33), or in the more energetic phrase of St. Luke, “Strive to enter” (xiii. 24). A vigorous effort is needed to overcome the difficulties, both inward and outward, which oppose themselves to our obtaining “that good part " which it is so essential for us to choose. The first and great obstacle is the love of Mammon, of riches (Matt. xix. 23); another is attachment to earthly ties (Luke ix. 59-62), and to the comforts of life (vers. 57, 58). While maintaining the dignity of marriage (Mark x. 2-12), Jesus does not reprove those who, like John the Baptist, renounce it in order to devote themselves the more completely to the interests of the Kingdom of God (Matt. xix. 12). He must be willing to cut off a hand or foot, or to pluck out an eye (Mark ix. 43-47). “ The loss of the body cannot be compared with the loss or gain of eternal life.” “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? ” (Mark viii. 36).

Another point on which Jesus has insisted much is righteousness. In the Old Testament, righteousness means obedience to the Divine law in its whole extent. “ If we do all the commandments of Jehovah," says Moses, “ it shall be our righteousness' (Deut. vi. 25). The Pharisees also aimed at righteousness, but in a way diametrically opposed to that of Jesus; they claimed to be holy before God because of the scrupulous. ness of their religious life, their strict observance of the casuistry of the Scribes, their horror of all external defilement, and their ardent devotion to prayer, sacrifices, the Sabbath, and almsgiving. Jesus, on the contrary, laid stress upon the worth of motives (Mark xii. 43); to the ostentatious and mercenary spirit He opposed that of pure piety (Matt. v. 22); over against the innumerable precepts into which the law had been broken up He set the unity of all the commandments in the great obligation of love to God and to one's neighbour (Matt. xxii. 35-40).

3. The Founder of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus as the Prophet, who knows the thought of God and the work which God has entrusted to Him. As loved of God and charged with the work of the Messiah, He compares Himself to the only and well-beloved son of the owner of the vineyard (Mark xii. 6). He calls Himself a prophet (Mark vi. 4); and the same idea is implied in the title Sent of God (Matt. x. 40, xv. 24), and in the authoritative character of His teaching (Mark i. 22). But He feels Himself greater than the prophets (Luke x. 24), and even than Moses (Matt. v. 21, 27, 33, xix. 8, 9).

Jesus as the Son of Man. This is the title which He habitually assumes; what is meant by it? We notice that it is in this capacity that He pardons sins (Mark ii. 10), and is Lord of the Sabbath (ii. 28). The name cannot, therefore, as some have thought, describe Him as the representative of humanity, the ideal man. Suffering, for example, is considered as a stain upon the dignity of the Son of Man (Mark viii. 31), while it is the common lot of humanity. As Son of Man He comes in glory with the holy angels to judge the world (viii. 38). The title, therefore, denotes a dignity conferred upon them by God, and consists in His being called to reign over men on His offering Himself in love as a ransom for many. From this point of view it is natural that surprise should have been excited by His living in society (Matt. xi. 16-19), instead of leading a retired life, like John the Baptist. If the sin against the Son of Man (Matt xii. 31, 32) is contrasted with that against the Holy Spirit, the reason is that the lowly guise under which He acts as the organ of the Holy Spirit may conceal His true nature from superficial observers. But if, after the Holy Spirit has been recognized in Him, He is spoken against, hostility towards God reaches its

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height (Matt. xii. 32). The title is borrowed, not from Psalm viü., or from the Book of Ezekiel, but from that of Daniel (vii. 13), and is, as we see from the solemn declaration of Jesus to the high priest, a designation of the Messiah (Mark xiv. 62).

Jesus as the Son of God. Once only, according to the Synoptic Gospels, did He accept this title. The high priest asked Him, “ Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed ? ” and He replied, “I am," the title being one of those belonging to the Messiah as the theocratic king (Ps. ii. 7). His Messianic vocation was revealed to Him on the occasion of His baptism (Mark i. 11). But though from the beginning of His ministry He had the conviction that He was the Messiah, He acted wisely, no doubt, in manifesting the fact before He claimed the title. This last He did on His final journey to Jerusalem. The day came when He attempted to take possession of His kingdom. He made the triumphal entrance into Jerusalem of which Zechariah had spoken. He attempted to move public opinion, and to provoke a crisis. He encouraged the acclamations in which He was hailed as the Son of David. Nor were the effects long in coming; to the demand of Pilate, if He were the King of the Jews, He replied, “Thou sayest it” (Mark xv. 2), and this title was inscribed on His cross.

Jesus as Son of David. During His last sojourn at Jerusalem, Jesus had a discussion with the Pharisees on the descent of the Messiah from David (Mark xii. 35-37). “ David calls Him his Lord, how can He be his son ?" It must be that the Messiah borrows His dignity from one greater than David, i.e., from God. Jesus does not draw this conclusion, but limits Himself to pointing out the self-contra. dictory opinions of the scribes. He asks the question in order to shake the con. nection between the Messiah and David, and to free the idea of the Kingdom of God from political entanglements. By His use of Psalm cx. He rendered His Messiahship independent of His descent from David.

Jesus as King.Did He ever speak of His Kingdom ? The answer to this depends upon criticism. Those who ignore criticism quote texts in which it is sometimes a question of the Kingdom of Christ, and sometimes of the Kingdom of God, and see no difficulty in setting them side by side, or in combining them. We say that the synoptic Gospels speak sometimes of the one, and sometimes of the other, but that we cannot ascribe equal value to both classes of passages. On the one hand, Jesus refers to the Father as alone having the right to assign places of honour in the Kingdom (Matt. xx. 23), and of God as the great King (Matt. v. 35). On the other hand, in the explanation of the parable of the tares the phrase occurs, " the Kingdom of the Son of Man" (Matt. xiii. 41), and the royal title is given Him in the description of the last judgment (Matt. xxv. 34). On the whole we are inclined to think that He never spoke of His Kingdom, and that the latter passages and those similar to them in St. Luke's Gospel, are reflections from a later time, when, after His departure, and after the Church was established, terms like these came into use.

DEATH AND SIN. E. DUCASSE (Revue de Théologie).-—"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. vi. 23). To understand by the word “death" in this passage, merely physical death, is to limit the theology of St. Paul, to weaken the force of his argument, and to destroy the parallel which he is striving to establish between the economy of sin and that of grace.

“ The idea of spiritual death, that is of condemnation,” says Reuss, in his commentary, "is easily connected with that of physical death, and it would be a mistake to seek to keep them apart."

The assertion that the mortality of man was the consequence of Adam's transgression was drawn from Jewish theology (Wisd. i. 13; Ecclesiasticus xxv. 24, &c.), which had borrowed it from the narrative in Genesis. We can understand how for a writer of the Old Testament, ignorant as yet of the conditions of the soul's future life, the deprivation of earthly life would seem a sufficient punishment for sin. But in proportion as the belief in a future life penetrated Jewish thought, physical mortality came to be ranked as a secondary and derivative penalty. The important thing for man came to be, not so much to be preserved from death, as from the punishment which would follow the resurrection of the wicked. To escape that punishment, to redeem the soul from perdition, became above all else the benefits of salvation. Physical death remains as the sign of condemnation, no doubt; it is connected with a state of unworthiness and sin ; but is it in itself the wages of sin ?

There is no need for any lengthened examination of texts. We are quite willing to allow that St. Paul always regards physical death as a consequence and penalty of sin. But in proportion as Christian teaching asserts itself and is disengaged from Jewish ideas, the explanation which St. Paul and his contemporaries gave of the origin of physical death, loses something of its significance. We distinguish between his doctrine and the corollary he drew from it, and understand the essential import of his statement to be, “the wages of sin is condemnation—the loss of the soul: the gift of God is salvation—that is eternal life through Jesus Christ."

It is easily seen that this leaves us in a certain liberty with regard to Apostolic teaching upon a point concerning which we have no direct statement by Jesus Christ. As for the text in Genesis, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die,” we have already indicated the literal sense in which it must be understood. As might be expected from the still elementary point of view occupied by the sacred writer, the destruction of the body is threatened as the chastisement for sin. Far from implying that death was unknown on earth before the Fall, it takes for granted that Adam knew what death was; for unless he did, the threat of such a punishment would have had no meaning to him.

We cannot now accept the naïve statements of the older theology as to the appearance of suffering and death upon earth. The representation of unfallen man with the animals, tame and harmless, about him; of wolves eating grass, like lambs ; of immunity from death and decay, is a romance which researches in the book of nature—that other Bible, which records the works of God-forbid us to hold. Long before the appearance of man on the earth, death reigned ; death was the law, indeed, of the organic world. Forests rose upon the decay of forests; various orders of animal life arose and passed away. The study of geology brings clearly into view the fact that the law of life has, as its necessary corollary, that of the destruction and death of organisms. What is the meaning of the seeds spoken of in Genesis (i. 12) before the Fall ? What is the purpose of reproduction among living beings, but that new organisms may succeed those which have spent their strength ? Death was foreseen; it formed part of the system of the world before the creation of man; it entered into the plan of God. There is no indication in the study of geology of any appreciable change in the destiny of living beings, and in the productive forces of the soil, on the appearance of man. Laws remain the same; the moral fall of man, if fall there were, seems to have had no counter-blow in the world of nature.

What is to be done in the face of these facts? It would be disastrous to faith to attempt to defend untenable positions.

A solution of the difficulty seems to us to be found on the following lines. Man is part of nature; the roots of his organism are buried in the past of other beings and of the material world; he is in relation with the rest of the creatures, not as a king of

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