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not to waste his favours on a bad man, who would only turn them to fresh bad account, but to keep them for those who had justice and honour enough in their hearts to forgive others, when their Lord had forgiven them.
We must bear in mind, that the king must have been right, and acting (whether he knew it or not) by the Spirit of God; else his conduct would never have been likened to the kingdom of heaven: that is, to the laws by which God governs both this world and the world to come.
The kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of God. Would that men would believe in them a little more! It seems, at times, as if all belief in them was dying out; as if men, throughout all civilized and Christian countries, had made up their minds to say—There is no kingdom of God or of heaven. There will be one hereafter, in the next world. This world is the kingdom of men, and of what they can do for themselves without God's help, and without God's laws.
My friends, the Jewish rulers of old said so, and cried, “We have no king but Cæsar. And they remain an example to all time, of what happens to those who deny the kingdom of God. Christ came to tell them that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and the kingdom of God was among them. But they would have none of it. And what said our Lord of them and their notion? The prince of this world,' said he, cometh, and hath nothing in me. This is your hour and the power of darkness.' Yes; the hour in which men had determined to manage the world in their way, and not in Christ's, was also the hour of the power of darkness. That was what they had gained by having their own way; by saying—The kingdom is ours, and not God's. They had fallen under the power of darkness, not of light. The very light within them was darkness. They utterly mistook their road on earth. At the very moment that they were trying to make peace with the Roman governor, by denying that Christ was their king, and demanding that he should be crucified,-at that very moment the things which belonged to their peace were hid from their eyes. Never men made so fatal a mistake, when they thought themselves most politic and prudent. They said among themselves—Unless we put down 'this man, the Romans will come and take away our place,' i.e. our privileges, and power, and our nation. And what followed ? That the Romans did come and take away their place and nation, with horrible massacre and ruin: and so they lost both the kingdom of this world, and the kingdom of God likewise. Never, I say, did men make a more fatal mistake in the things of this world than those Jews to whom the kingdom of God came, and they rejected it. · And so shall we, my friends, if we forget that, whether we like it or not, the kingdom of God is within us, and we within it likewise.
1. The kingdom of God is within us. Every gracious motive, every noble, just, and merciful instinct within us, is a sign to us that the kingdom of God is come to us; that we are not as the brutes which perish; not as the heathen who are too often past feeling, being alienated from the life of God by reason of the ignorance which is in them: but that we are God's children, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; and that God's Spirit is teaching us the laws of that kingdom; so that in every child who is baptized, educated, and civilized, is fulfilled the promise, ‘I will write my laws upon their hearts, and I will be to them a Father.'
God's Spirit is teaching our hearts as he taught the heart of that old Eastern king. It may be, it ought to be, that he is teaching us far deeper lessons than he ever taught that king.
2. We are in the kingdom of God. It is worth our while to remember that stedfastly just now. Many people are ready to agree that the kingdom of God is within them. They will readily confess that religion is a spiritual matter, and a matter of the heart : but their fancy is that therefore religion, and all just and noble and beautiful instincts and aspirations, are very good things for those who have them : but that, if any one has them not, it does not much matter.
They do not see that there are not only such things as feelings about God: but that there are also such things as laws of God; and that God can enforce those laws, and does enforce them, sometimes in a very terrible manner They do not believe enough in a living God, an acting God, a God who will not merely write his laws in our hearts, if we will let him, but may also destroy us off the face of the earth, if we would not let him. They fancy that God either cannot, or will not, enforce his own laws, but leaves a man free to accept them, or reject as he will. There is no greater mistake. Be not deceived ; God is not mocked. As a man sows so shall he reap. God says to us, to all menCopy me. Do as I do, and be my children, and be blest. But if we will not; if after all God's care and love, the tree brings forth no fruit, then, soon or late, the sentence goes forth against it in God's kingdom, Cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground ?'