Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Chapter V - The Kingdom of God

Christianity in the last three chapters has been considered on its negative side as involving a conflict against temptation. But the Christian ideal is positive rather than negative. We have only to think for a moment of the character and life of Christ in order to realize how ludicrously impoverished a conception of the Gospel righteousness is that which regards it as exhausted by the meticulous avoidance of sin. “Christian purity,” it has been said, “is not a snowy abstinence but a white-hot passion of life towards GOD.” The same might be said of other Christian virtues. Positively regarded, the Christian ideal of life means sonship towards GOD and citizenship in His Kingdom.

The precise signification of the phrase, “Kingdom of GOD,” or “Kingdom of Heaven,” in the language of the New Testament has been the theme of controversy and discussion among scholars. It is impossible to enter here into the technicalities of the dispute. Broadly speaking, it may be laid down without much fear of contradiction that the Kingdom of GOD means the effectual realization, in every department of human life and upon a universal scale, of the sovereignty of GOD as Christ reveals Him. It is the vision of the goal of human history. It is meant to be a leading motive and inspiration of Christian life.

    “I will not cease from mental strife,
     Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
     Till we have built Jerusalem
     In England’s green and pleasant land.”

It is quite true that, according to the thought of the New Testament writers, the mystic Jerusalem is not a city built by mortal men upon this earth, but something which is wholly the gift of GOD, a city not made with hands, descending from GOD out of heaven. The Kingdom of GOD in its fulness is no product of human striving. It is the achievement of a Divine purpose, the manifestation in the end of the days of the completed mystery of the Divine Will.

Nevertheless it is the mission of the Church to prepare the way of the Kingdom, and it is for Christian men to live as sons of the Divine Kingdom even now, that is, as men in whose hearts and lives GOD and none other is enthroned as King and Lord. This means that everything that is good in human life is to be redeemed by being offered to GOD, and that everything that is vile and evil is to be eliminated and cast out. “The Son of Man shall send forth His messengers, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend.” “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie.” “The Kingdom of GOD is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

The ideal of the Christian life, therefore, is something infinitely richer and more positive than the merely negative morality of the Ten Commandments. It is the ideal of the Divine Kingdom. It is a positive devotion to the will of GOD. It means co-operation with the Divine will and purpose, a will and a purpose which, by the patient operation of the Divine Spirit, is in the course of world-history slowly but surely being worked out, amid all the immediate chaos and welter of events, to its goal in the revelation of the Jerusalem which is from above. That is why the Christian is bidden to pray continually, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.”

If a man does not want the Divine Kingdom, or does not believe in it, he ought not to pray for it. If he does want it and pray for it, he ought also to work for it. And though no man may fully understand it, yet if a man is to pray for it and work for it at all, he needs to have at least some partial understanding of what it means. It is worth while, therefore, instead of dismissing the idea as a vague dream or an empty phrase, to try and fill it with some measure of positive meaning for us men here and now. What is the will of GOD for humanity? And what is meant by preparing the way of the Lord? Some things at least we may say are certainly included in the will of GOD, and some things are as certainly excluded.

“It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” A Christian Church which took seriously its vocation to go before the Lord and to prepare His ways would be effectively and vigorously concerned with problems so prosaic as the rate of infantile mortality and the allied questions of housing and sanitation, with the insistence that the conditions of life among the poorer classes of the community shall be such as make decent living possible, and with the provision of a minimum of leisure and of genuine opportunities of liberal education for all who have the will and the capacity to profit by them. The combined ignorance and apathy of the people of England with regard to questions of education, which has made possible the shelving of Mr. Fisher’s Education Bill in deference to the opposition of vested interests, is little to the credit of the Christian Church in these islands, and grievously disappointing to those who had hoped at last for a real instalment of constructive reform. [Footnote: It is now stated that the Bill is to be reintroduced and passed, with certain modifications. It is to be hoped that the modifications will not be such as to destroy its effectiveness as an instrument of real reform. It remains true that the Bill was imperilled by the apathy and ignorance of the rank and file of Churchmen and Christians generally, though it is fair to say that the Bishops demonstrated unanimously in its favour.]

A system of education, moreover, which was truly Christian, would provide not merely for the training of mind and body, and for instruction–on the basis of some inter-denominational modus vivendi yet to be achieved–in morality and religion. It would secure equally for the children of all classes opportunities for the training of the aesthetic faculties, for the cultivation of art and imagination, for the filling of life with colour and variety and movement. The intolerable ugliness of the domestic architecture of our cities and towns is a totally unnecessary offence to GOD and man; and the drabness and monotony of the life of huge masses of the population, who find in the rival attractions of the gin-palace and the cinema the only means of distraction at present open to them–this also is something which cannot possibly be regarded as being in accordance with the will of GOD. The redemption of society from all that at present makes human life sordid or hideous is a real part of what the ideal of the Kingdom means. It is a part of the task laid upon the Christian Church in preparing the way of the Lord and making straight His paths.

Included also in the will of GOD for humanity is the evangelization of the world, the perfecting of the Church, the bringing of all nations and races into a spiritual unity in Christ Jesus. Christianity claims by its very nature to be the absolute religion: the climax and fulfilment of the whole process of man’s religious quest: the synthetic and unifying truth, in which whatever is true and positive and permanently valuable in the religious systems of the non-Christian world is gathered up and made complete. Of Christ it has been written that “How many soever be the promises of GOD, in Him is the yea.” In Christ is the fulfilment of the unconscious prophecies of the religions of the heathen world, nor is there any true solution of the problems of comparative religion except this. The Christian Church is in principle and of necessity missionary, and apart from the vitalizing breath of the missionary spirit the life of the Church languishes and dies.

But the true spirit and method of Christian missions is not a narrow proselytism. There are indeed things in many of the lower religions of the world which are dark and evil. There are regions of the earth which are full of base and cruel and degrading superstitions, immoral rites and practices against which the Church of Christ can only set its face, and with which it can make no terms. These are works of the devil which the Son of GOD was manifested to destroy. But there is much in the higher religious thought of paganism which Christ comes not to destroy but to fulfil, and Christianity can fulfil and interpret to the higher religions of paganism just that which is truest and most positive in their own spiritual message. Conversely, it is probable that there are in Christianity itself elements which will only be fully interpreted and understood when the spiritual genius of nations at present pagan has made its proper contribution to Christian thought. For our own sake as well as for theirs it is important that the nations should be evangelized and brought to a knowledge of the truth. When we say the Lord’s Prayer we are praying, among other things, for the success of Christian Missions.

And if Christianity contains within itself the true solution of the problem of comparative religion, it contains also, in germ and potentiality, the solution of the problems of race and caste, and of the international problem also. Not until men have learnt the secret of brotherhood in Christ will the white and the coloured races treat one another as brothers. Not until the nations, as nations, are genuinely Christian and have learnt, in their dealings one with another, to manifest the spirit of unselfishness and love, will the day be in sight when they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and be content to learn war no more. This too, if the Gospel means anything at all, is part of the will of GOD for the human race. It is part of what is involved in the prayer, “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” It is an integral and vitally important element in the Christian hope of the Kingdom.

The redemption of society, the evangelization of the world, the bringing together into the corporate wholeness of a world-wide Catholic Church of the fragmentary Christianity of the existing multitude of sects, the elimination of war from the earth, and the breaking down, as the result of a conscious realization of human unity in Christ, of the dividing barriers of colour and race and caste-all these are essential elements in the Christian vision. The man of the world may, and probably will, pronounce each and all of them to be chimerical, the baseless fabric of a dream. He will find no thoughtful man who is genuinely Christian to agree with him.

For these things are, quite certainly, part of the will of GOD for humanity. They are involved of necessity in any effectual realization in human life of the sovereignty of the Father who is revealed in Christ. And because GOD is GOD, the goal, for the Christian man, is within the horizon-"The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In any case, be the goal near or be it far off, it is as a citizen of that Kingdom, and of none other, that the Christian man will set himself to live. He will enthrone GOD in his own heart as King and Lord, and will hold fast the heavenly vision which it has been given to him to see.

“As we look out into the future,” says a modern writer,[Footnote: The Rev. W. Temple, in an address delivered at Liverpool on “Problems of Society” in 1912, and published by the Student Christian Movement in Christ and, Human Need.] “we seem to see a great army drawn from every nation under heaven, from every social class, from every section of Christ’s Church, pledged to one thing and to one thing only-the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom upon earth by His method of sacrifice and the application of His principle of brotherhood to every phase of human life. And as they labour there takes shape a world much like our own, and yet how different! Still individuals and communities, but the individual always serving the community and the community protecting the individual: still city and country life, with all their manifold pursuits, but no leading into captivity and no complaining in our streets: still Eastern and Western, but no grasping worldliness in the West, no deadening pessimism in the East: still richer and poorer, but no thoughtless luxury, no grinding destitution: still sorrow, but no bitterness: still failure, but no oppression: still priest and people, yet both alike unitedly presenting before the Eternal Father the one unceasing sacrifice for human life in body broken and blood shed: still Church and World, yet both together celebrating unintermittently the one Divine Service, which is the service of mankind. And in that climax of a vision, which, if we are faithful, shall be prophecy, what is it that has happened?

“’The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our GOD and of His Christ.’”


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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