Thoughts on the history of professing Christianity, Part 2

We continue with extracts from Benjamin Wills Newton’s book, Prospects of the Ten Kingdoms, the chapter 6 — THOUGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANITY, AS GIVEN IN THE PARABLES OF MATTHEW XIII.

Here is Part 2, which covers pages 151 to 156.

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They are as a house swept and garnished, but empty. The truth and Spirit of Christ are not there. It is a mansion unoccupied; open therefore to be entered, as it soon will be entered, by that unclean spirit, which, after long wandering up and down, and finding no other people so suited for his designs, will, with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, again make that people his peculiar habitation. Then will be developed the full iniquity of the closing hours of our dispensation. These words have almost entirely failed to arrest the attention of real Christians. Many appear not to know that the Lord has spoken them. Else they could not as they do, “cleave to Israel with flatteries,” and tell them that they are advancing into their millennial rest, when in truth, they are fast approaching the great hour of their anti-Christian evil and final visitation from the hand of God. The chapter, however, which thus records the doom of unbelieving Israel, does not conclude without referring to another family which the Lord Jesus could, and did own as His, at the very moment when He was thus rejecting Israel. “He stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said: Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister, and mother.” All, therefore, in whom the spiritual characteristics of Abraham shall be found-all who shall believe and obey, shall be owned as the family of God, whilst Israel nationally are rejected.

It were happy, indeed, if the Church had remained what it once was, the obedient family of faith. In that case, the parables of the thirteenth of Matthew would never have been spoken. But seeing that it was to be otherwise ; that the family of faith on which, at first, grace rested so abundantly, was to be invaded by false profession, and to become the seat of worldliness and evil, instruction respecting these things was needed ; and this instruction the parables of the thirteenth of Matthew supply.

The object of our Lord in this chapter is, as He Himself says, to teach us respecting the “mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven,” that we might be as scribes well instructed, able to bring out of our treasures things “new and old.” The Old Testament had revealed much respecting the establishment of Christianity in the earth when the hour of Christ’s and of Israel’s millennial glory shall have come; but it had revealed nothing plainly respecting the introduction of Christianity by the foolishness of preaching, or respecting its subsequent corruptions. These were the “new things,” “the mysteries of the kingdom;” the knowledge of which is here added by the Lord to the “old things” which the Prophets had already declared.*

* “The kingdom of heaven” is to exist in the earth at two very different periods. First, while the world remains under the power of Satan, as it now is; secondly, when it shall be sustained by the manifested and glorious power of Christ, after Satan has been bound.

These are conditions circumstantially very different; but the essential points of similarity are paramount to any of the circumstantial differences ; and therefore those who profess the name of Christ now, and those who will bear that name in the millennium, are alike regarded as subjects of the same kingdom. They have the same king; the same legislator; the same spirit; the same priest ; the same redemption. They differ only circumstantially. The spiritual blessings of those who belong to the family of faith now, and of those who will belong to it in the millennial dispensation, are essentially the same. They differ only in the mode and degree of their development.

The kingdom of heaven is also called the kingdom of Christ, because He is its Head. Thus Christendom — i.e., Christ’s kingdom  —  is an equivalent expression to “kingdom of heaven” as used in this chapter of Matthew. The season of His return, therefore, will neither be the period of its introduction (for it has been already introduced), neither will it be that of its destruction. So far from destroying it, He says that He “will gather out of it all things that offend;” that is, He will purify it ; and taking His saints who are in it into the heavenly branch of the kingdom, He will at the same time bring Israel and others converted in the earth, into its earthly branch. Instead, therefore, of being destroyed, it will be enlarged, part of its subjects glorified, and itself established in undisputed supremacy of glorious power.

The heaven of heavens, and all that existed previously to the Adamic creation, is not included in that which is distinctively the kingdom of the Son; and seeing that the saints when changed are not to be restricted even to the heavenly city, but are to be admitted also into the highest heavens, it is said, “that they shall shine forth as the sun,” not merely in that which is distinctively the kingdom of the Son, but also in the kingdom of His and “their Father.”

The first in this series of parables (seven in number) refers to the mode in which our dispensation was introduced. “Behold a sower went forth to sow.” The humble place of one going forth to sow, was that which the Lord, in introducing it, consented to fill. Nor was this all. The sowing for the most part failed. There were four kinds of ground on which the seed was scattered, but only one in which it prospered. The agency by which the disciples expected the “kingdom of Heaven,” to be introduced was glorious power, but instead of this it was lowly testimony. The result was, not universality of success; it was almost universal failure. This first parable, therefore, fixes a character upon the whole period of which it commences the history; for surely, no dispensation, thus introduced, could be intended to be otherwise than lowly, nor could it, universally prosper. It could not be that dispensation in which the Messiah of Israel, no longer seen as an humble and despised sower, “shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.” It could not be the same with that period of which it is written,· “that all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him . . . . and men shall be blessed in him, all nations shall call him blessed.”

Strange that the saints of God should ever have confounded between periods so dissimilar. It could only have been because our eye had ceased to be single; because we had sought to reign as kings when we should rather have desired to be “as the offscouring of all things.”

The first parable, then, teaches us, that even when the Lord was Himself the minister, effectual hindrance to the progress of the Gospel was permitted. But Satan was allowed to do more than this. Secretly, he gained access to the good ground where the sowing had prospered, and sprinkled evil seed over it. He could not change the nature of the wheat. Wheat must ever remain wheat: nor was he allowed to root it up. But he could spoil the general aspect of the field, and hinder the healthful, happy growth of each individual blade, by planting strange plants among them. And this he did. “Certain men crept in unawares;” and these were found, after a little, “to be ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

This is the instruction of the second parable. It is the record of the second great event that occurred in the dispensational history of Christianity.