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Chapter 22


SERMON XXIII.--THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST

LUKE xix. 41.

And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.



Let us think awhile what was meant by our Lord's weeping over
Jerusalem. We ought to learn thereby somewhat more of our Lord's
character, and of our Lord's government.

Why did he weep over that city whose people would, in a few days,
mock him, scourge him, crucify him, and so fill up the measure of
their own iniquity? Had Jesus been like too many, who since his time
have fancied themselves saints and prophets, would he not have rather
cursed the city than wept over it with tenderness, regret, sorrow,
most human and most divine, for that horrible destruction which
before forty years were past would sweep it off the face of the
earth, and leave not one stone of those glorious buildings on
another?

The only answer is--that, in spite of all its sins, he loved
Jerusalem. For more than a thousand years, he had put his name
there. It was to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world,
the city set on a hill, which could not be hid. From Jerusalem was
to go forth to all nations the knowledge of the one true God, as a
light to lighten the Gentiles, as well as a glory to his people
Israel.

This was our Lord's purpose; this had been his purpose for one
thousand years and more: and behold, man's sin and folly had
frustrated for a time the gracious will of God. That glorious city,
with its temple, its worship, its religion, true as far as it went,
and, in spite of all the traditions with which the Scribes and
Pharisees had overlaid it, infinitely better than the creed or
religion of any other people in the old world--all this, instead of
being a blessing to the world, had become a curse. The Jews, who had
the key of the knowledge of God, neither entered in themselves, nor
let the Gentiles enter in. They who were to have taught all the
world were hating and cursing all the world, and being hated and
cursed by them in return. Jerusalem, the Holy City set on a hill,
instead of being a light to the world, was become a nuisance to the
world. Jerusalem was the salt of the world, meant to help it all
from decay; but the salt had lost its savour, and in another
generation it would be cast out and trodden under foot, and become a
byword among the Gentiles.

Our Lord, The Lord, the hereditary King of the Jews according to the
flesh, as well as the God of the Jews according to the Spirit,
foresaw the destruction of the work of his own hands, of the spot on
earth which was most precious to him. The ruin would be awful, the
suffering horrible. The daughters of Jerusalem were to weep, not for
him, but for themselves. Blessed would be the barren, and those that
never nursed a child. They would call on the mountains to cover
them, and on the hills to hide them, and call in vain. Such
tribulation would fall on them as never had been since the making of
the world. Mothers would eat their own children for famine. Three
thousand crosses would stand at one time in the valley below with a
living man writhing on each. Eleven hundred thousand souls would
perish, or be sold as slaves. It must be. The eternal laws of
retribution, according to which God governs the world, must have
their way now. It was too late. It must happen now. But it need
not have happened: and at that thought our Lord's infinite heart
burst forth in human tenderness, human pity, human love, as he looked
on that magnificent city, those gorgeous temples, castles, palaces,
that mighty multitude which dreamt so little of the awful doom which
they were bringing on themselves.

And now, where is he that wept over Jerusalem? Has he left this
world to itself? Does he care no longer for the rise and fall of
nations, the struggles and hopes, the successes and the failures of
mankind?

Not so, my friends. He has ascended up on high, and sat down at the
right hand of God: but he has done so, that he might fill all
things. To him all power is given in heaven and earth. He reigneth
over the nations. He sitteth on that throne whereof the eternal
Father hath said to him, 'Sit thou on my right hand until I make thy
foes thy footstool;' and again, 'Desire of me, and I shall give thee
the heathen for thine inheritance, and the utmost ends of the earth
for thy possession.' He is set upon his throne (as St. John saw him
in his Revelation) judging right, and ministering true judgment unto
the people. The nations may furiously rage together, and the people
may imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth may stand up, and
the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his
anointed, saying, 'Let us break their bonds'--that is their laws,--
'asunder, and cast away their cords'--that is, their Gospel--'from
us.' They may say, 'Tush, God doth not see, neither doth God regard
it. We are they that ought to speak. Who is Lord over us?'
Nevertheless Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords; he reigns,
and will reign. And kings must be wise, and the judges of the earth
must be learned; they must serve the Lord in fear, and rejoice before
him with reverence. They must worship the Son, lest he be angry, and
so they perish from the right way. All the nations of the world,
with their kings and their people, their war, their trade, their
politics, and their arts and sciences, are in his hands as clay in
the hands of the potter, fulfilling his will and not their own, going
his way and not their own. It is he who speaks concerning a nation
or a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it. And
it is he again who speaks concerning a nation or kingdom, to build
and to plant it. For the Lord is king, be the world never so much
moved. He sitteth between the cherubim, though the earth be never so
unquiet.

But while we recollect this--which in these days almost all forget--
that Christ the Lord is the ruler, and he alone; we must recollect
likewise that he is not only a divine, but a human ruler. We must
recollect--oh, blessed thought!--that there is a Man in the midst of
the throne of heaven; that Christ has taken for ever the manhood into
God; and that all judgment is committed to him because he is the Son
of man, who can feel for men, and with men.

Yes, Christ's humanity is no less now than when he wept over
Jerusalem; and therefore we may believe, we must believe, that while
Jesus is very God of very God, yet his sacred heart is touched with a
divine compassion for the follies of men, a divine regret for their
failures, a divine pity for the ruin which they bring so often on
themselves. We must believe that even when he destroys, he does so
with regret; that when he cuts down the tree which cumbers the
ground, he grieves over it; as he grieved over his chosen vine, the
nation of the Jews.

It is a comfort to remember this as we watch the world change, and
the fashions of it vanish away. Great kingdoms, venerable
institutions, gallant parties, which have done good work in their
time upon God's earth, grow old, wear out, lose their first love of
what was just and true; and know not the things which belong to their
peace, but grow, as the Jews grew in their latter years, more and
more fanatical, quarrelsome, peevish, uncharitable; trying to make up
by violence for the loss of strength and sincerity: till they come
to an end, and die, often by unjust and unfair means, and by men
worse than they. Shall we not believe that Christ has pity on them;
that he who wept over Jerusalem going to destruction by its own
blindness, sorrows over the sins and follies which bring shame on
countries once prosperous, authorities once venerable, causes once
noble?

They, too, were thoughts of Christ. Whatsoever good was in them, he
inspired; whatsoever strength was in them, he gave; whatsoever truth
was in them, he taught; whatsoever good work they did, he did through
them. Perhaps he looks on them, not with wrath and indignation, but
with pity and sorrow, when he sees man's weakness, folly, and sin,
bringing to naught his gracious purposes, and falling short of his
glorious will.

It is a comfort, I say, to believe this, in these times of change.
Places, manners, opinions, institutions, change around us more and
more; and we are often sad, when we see good old fashions, in which
we were brought up, which we have loved, revered, looked on as sacred
things, dying out fast, and new fashions taking their places, which
we cannot love because we do not trust them, or even understand. The
old ways were good enough for us: why should they not be good enough
for our children after us? Therefore, we are sad at times, and the
young and the ambitious are apt to sneer at us, because we delight in
what is old rather than what is new.

Let us remember, then, that whatsoever changes, still there is one
who cannot change, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for
ever. Surely he can feel for us, when he sees us regret old fashions
and old times; surely he does not look on our sadness as foolish,
weak, or sinful. It is pardonable, for it is human; and he has
condescended to feel it himself, when he wept over Jerusalem.

Only, he bids us not despair; not doubt his wisdom, his love, the
justice and beneficence of his rule. He ordereth all things in
heaven and earth; and, therefore, all things must, at last, go well.

'The old order changes, giving place to the new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.'

We must believe that, and trust in Christ. We must trust in him,
that he will not cut down any tree in his garden until it actually
cumbers the ground, altogether unfruitful, and taking up room which
might be better used. We must trust him, that he will cast nothing
out of his kingdom till it actually offends, makes men stumble and
fall to their destruction. We must trust him, that he will do away
with nothing that is old, without putting something better in its
place. Thus we shall keep up our hearts, though things do change
round us, sometimes mournfully enough. For Christ destroyed
Jerusalem. But, again, its destruction was, as St. Paul said, life
to all nations. He destroyed Moses' law. But he, by so doing, put
in its place his own Gospel. He scattered abroad the nations of the
Jews, but he thereby called into his Church all nations of the earth.
He destroyed, with a fearful destruction, the Holy City and temple,
over which he wept. But he did so in order that the Holy City, the
New Jerusalem, even his Church, should come down from heaven; needing
no temple, for he himself is the temple thereof; that the nations of
those which were saved should walk in the light of it; and that the
river of the water of life should flow from the throne of God; and
that the leaves of the trees which grew thereby should be for the
healing of the nations. In that magnificent imagery, St. John shows
us how the most terrible destruction which the Lord ever brought upon
a holy place and holy institutions was really a blessing to all the
world. Let us believe that it has been so often since; that it will
be so often again. Let us look forward to the future with hope and
faith, even while we look back on the past with love and regret. Let
us leave unmanly and unchristian fears to those who fancy that Christ
has deserted his kingdom, and has left them to govern it in his
stead; and who naturally break out into peevishness and terrified
lamentations, when they discover that the world will not go their
way, or any man's way, because it is going the way of God, whose ways
are not as man's ways nor his thoughts as man's thoughts. Let us
have faith in God and in Christ, amid all the chances and changes of
this mortal life; and believe that he is leading the world and
mankind to

'One far-off divine event
Toward which the whole creation moves;'

and possess our souls in patience, and in faith, and in hope for
ourselves and for our children after; while we say, with the Psalmist
of old: 'Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of
the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall
perish, but thou shalt endure. They all shall wax old as doth a
garment; and as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be
cleansed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. The
children of thy servants shall continue; and their seed shall stand
fast in thy sight.' Amen.


Charles Kingsley

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