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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      During the personal absence of the King, he has committed the management of this kingdom to stewards. These were, first, Apostles; next in rank to them, Prophets; next, teachers; then, assistants, or helpers; then directors or presidents, all furnished with gifts, knowledge, and character, suited to their respective functions. Besides these, many persons possessed of miraculous powers--gifts of healing and speaking foreign languages, were employed in setting up and putting in order the communities composing the kingdom of heaven. Angels also were employed, and are still employed, under the great King in ministering to them who are heirs of salvation. For Jesus now, as Lord of all, has the Holy Spirit at his disposal, and all the angels of God; and these are employed by him in the affairs of his kingdom.1

      The Apostles were plenipotentiaries and ambassadors for Jesus, and had all authority delegated to them from the King. Hence everything was first taught and enjoined by them. They were the first preachers, teachers, pastors, overseers, and ministers in the kingdom, and had the direction and management of all its affairs.2 [259]

      The communities collected and set in order by the Apostles were called the congregations of Christ, and all these taken together are sometimes called the kingdom of God. But the phrases "church of God," or "congregation of Christ," and the phrases "kingdom of heaven," or "kingdom of God," do not always nor exactly represent the same thing. The elements of the kingdom of heaven, it will be remembered, are not simply its subjects, and therefore not simply the congregations of disciples of Christ. But as these communities possess the oracles of God, are under the laws and institutions of the King, and therefore enjoy the blessings of the present salvation, they are, in the records of the kingdom, regarded as the only constitutional citizens of the kingdom of heaven; and to them exclusively belongs all the present salvation. Their King is now in heaven, but present with them by his Spirit in their hearts and in all the institutions of his kingdom.

      Every immersed believer, of good behavior, is, by the constitution, a free and full citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and entitled to all the social privileges and honors of that kingdom. Such of these as meet together statedly in one place in obedience to the King, or his ambassadors the Apostles, for the observance of all the institutions of the King, compose a family, or house, or congregation of Christ; and all these families or congregations, thus organized, constitute the present kingdom of God in this world. So far the phrases kingdom of heaven and the congregation or body of Christ are equivalent in signification.3

      Now in gathering these communities, and in setting them in order, the Apostles had, when alive, and when dead, by their writings still have, the sole right of legislating, ordering, and disposing of all things. But it is not the will of Jesus Christ, because it is not adapted to human nature, nor to the present state of his kingdom as administered in his absence, that the church should be governed by a written document alone. Hence in every city, town, and country where the Apostles gathered a community by their own personal labors, or by their assistants, in setting them in order, for their edification, and for their usefulness and influence in this world, they uniformly appointed Elders, or overseers, to labor in the word and teaching, and to preside over the whole affairs of the community. To these also were added Deacons, or public ministers of the congregation, who, under the direction of the overseers, were to manage all the affairs of these individual families of God. This the very names Bishop and Deacon, and all the qualifications enjoined, fairly and fully import. [260]

      But as all the citizens of the kingdom are free men under Christ, they all have a voice in the selection of the persons whom the Apostles appoint to these offices. The Apostles still appoint all persons so elected, possessing the qualifications which they, by the Holy Spirit, prescribed. And if a congregation will not elect to these offices the persons possessing these qualifications; or if by a waywardness and self-willedness of their own, they should elect those unqualified, and thus disparage those marked out by the possession of those gifts; in either case, they despise the authority of the Ambassadors of Christ, and must suffer for it. It is, indeed, the Holy Spirit, and not the congregations, which creates Bishops and Deacons. The Spirit gives the qualifications, both natural and acquired, and, speaking to the congregations in the written oracles, commands their ordination or appointment to the work.4

      In the present administration of the kingdom of God, faith is the PRINCIPLE, and ordinances the MEANS of all spiritual enjoyment. Without faith in the testimony of God, a person is without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. A Christless universe, as respects spiritual life and joy, is the most perfect blank which fancy can create. Without faith nothing in the Bible can be enjoyed; and without it, there is to man no kingdom of heaven in all the dominions of God.

      In the kingdom of nature sense is the principle, and ordinances the means of enjoyment. Without sense, or sensation, nothing in nature can be known or enjoyed. All the creative, recuperative, and renovating power, wisdom, and goodness of God, exhibited in nature, are contained in ordinances. The sun, moon, and stars--the clouds, the air, the earth, the water, the seasons, day and night, are therefore denominated the ordinances of Heaven, because God's power, wisdom, and goodness are in them, and felt by us only through them.5 Now sense, without the ordinances of nature, like faith, without the ordinances of religion, would be no principle of enjoyment; and the ordinances of nature, without sense, like the ordinances of religion, without faith, would be no means of enjoyment. These are the unalterable decrees of God. There is no exception to them; and there is no reversion of them. To illustrate and enforce the doctrine of this single paragraph is worthy of a volume. The essence, the whole essence of that reformation for which we contend, is wrapped up in this decree as above expressed. If it be true, the ground on which we stand is firm and unchangeable as the Rock of Ages; if it be false, we build upon the sand. Reader, examine it well! [261]

      In the kingdom of heaven faith is, then, the principle, and ordinances the means of enjoyment; because all the wisdom, power, love, mercy, compassion, or grace of God, is in the ordinances of the kingdom of heaven; and if all grace be in them, it can only be enjoyed through them. What, then, under the present administration of the kingdom of heaven, are the ordinances which contain the grace of God? They are, preaching the gospel--immersion in the name of Jesus, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit--the reading and teaching the Living Oracles--the Lord's Day--the Lord's Supper--fasting--prayer--confession of sins--and praise. To these may be added other appointments of God, such as exhortation, admonition, discipline, etc.: for these also are ordinances of God; and, indeed, all statutes and commandments are ordinances:6 but we speak not at present of those ordinances which concern the good order of the kingdom, but of those which are primary means of enjoyment. These primary and sacred ordinances of the kingdom of heaven are the means of our individual enjoyment of the present salvation of God.

      Without the sun, there is no solar influence; without the moon, there is no lunar influence; without the stars, there is no sidereal influence; without clouds, there can be no rain; and without the ordinances of the kingdom of heaven, there can be no heavenly influence exhibited or felt. There is a peculiar and distinctive influence exerted by the sun, moon, and stars; yet they all give light. So in the ordinances of the kingdom of heaven--although they all agree in producing certain similar effects on the subjects of the kingdom, there is something distinctive and peculiar in each of them, so that no one of them can be substituted for another. Not one of them can be dispensed with--they are all necessary to the full enjoyment of the reign of heaven.

      In nature and in religion all the blessings of God bestowed on man are properly classed under two heads. These may be called, for illustration, antecedent and consequent. The antecedent includes all those blessings bestowed on man to prepare him for action and to induce him to action. The consequent are those which God bestows on man through a course of action correspondent to these antecedent blessings. For example, all that God did for Adam in creating for him the earth and all that it contains, animal, vegetable, mineral; in forming him in his own image; giving him all his physical, intellectual, and moral powers, and in investing him with all the personal and real estate which elevated him above all sublunary beings, were antecedent to any act of Adam; and these furnished him with inducements to love, honor, and obey his creator and benefactor. All [262] that God did for Abraham in promises and precepts before his obedience--all that he did for the Israelites in bringing them up out of Egypt, and redeeming them from the tyranny of Pharaoh, were antecedent to the duties and observances which he enjoined upon them, and to the privileges which he promised them. And all the blessings which Adam, Abraham, the Israelites enjoyed through conformity to the institutions under which they were placed, were consequent upon that state of mind and course of action which the antecedent favors demanded and occasioned. God never commanded any being to do anything but the power and motive were derived from something God had done for him.

      In the kingdom of heaven the antecedent blessings are the constitution of grace, the King, and all that he did, suffered, and sustained for our redemption. These were finished before we came upon the stage of action. This is all favor, pure favor, sovereign favor: for there can be no favor that is not free and sovereign. But the remission of our sins, our adoption into the family of God, our being made heirs and inheritors of the kingdom of glory, are consequent upon faith and the obedience of faith.

      Organization and life of any sort are of necessity the gifts of God; but health and the continued enjoyment of life, and all its various and numerous blessings, are consequent upon the proper exercise of these. He that will not breathe, eat, drink, sleep, exercise, can not enjoy animal life. God has bestowed animal organization, and life antecedent to any action of the living creature; but the creature may throw away that life by refusing to sustain it by the means essential to its preservation and comfort.

      God made but one man out of the earth, and one earthly nature of every sort, by a positive, direct, and immediate agency, of wisdom, power, and goodness. He gave these the power, according to his own constitution or system of nature, of reproducing and multiplying to an indefinite extent. But still this life is transmitted, diffused, and sustained by God operating through the system of nature. So Jesus, in the new creation, by his Spirit sent down from heaven after; his glorification, did, by a positive, direct, and immediate agency, create one congregation, one mystical, or spiritual body; and, according to the constitution or system of the kingdom of heaven, did give to that mystical body created in Jerusalem, out of the more ancient earthly kingdom of God, the power of reproducing and multiplying to an indefinite extant. But still this new and spiritual life is transmitted, diffused, and sustained by the Spirit of God, operating through the constitution, or system of grace, ordained in the kingdom of heaven.

      Hence in setting up the kingdom of heaven, as in setting up the kingdom of nature, there was a display of divinity, compared with [263] everything subsequent, properly supernatural. Hence the array of apostles, prophets, extraordinary teachers, gifts, powers, miracles, etc., etc. But after this new mystical body of Christ was created and made, it had, and yet has, according to the system of grace under the present administration of the kingdom of heaven, the power of multiplying and replenishing the whole earth, and will do it; for as God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the spirit of life after he had raised him out of the dust; and as he bestowed on his beloved Son Jesus, after he rose out of the water, his Holy Spirit, without measure; so on the formation of the first congregation, figuratively called the body of Christ, Jesus did breathe into it the Holy Spirit to animate and inhabit it till he come again. The only temple and habitation of God on earth, since Jesus pronounced desolation on that in Jerusalem, is this body of Christ.

      Now this first congregation of Christ, thus filled with the Spirit of God, had the power of raising other congregations of Christ; or, what is the same thing, of causing the body of Christ to grow and increase. Thus we see that other congregations were soon raised up in Judea and Samaria by the members of the Jerusalem body. Many were begotten to God by the Spirit of God, through the members of the first congregation. And since the Spirit himself ceased to operate in all those splendid displays of supernatural grandeur, by still keeping the disciples of Christ always in remembrance of the things spoken by the holy Apostles, and by all the arguments derived from the antecedent blessings bestowed, working in them both to will and do according to the benevolence of God, he is still causing the body of Christ to grow and increase in stature, as well as in knowledge and the favor of God. Thus the church of Christ, inspired with his Spirit, and having the oracles and ordinances of the reign of heaven, is fully adequate to the conversion of the whole world if she prove not recreant to her Lord.

      In the work of conversion, her Evangelists, or those whom she sends beyond the precincts of her weekly meetings, have, under the influence of the Spirit of God, simply to propose the constitution, or the glad tidings of the reign, to those without; and by all the arguments which the oracles of God and the times and occasions suggest, to beseech and persuade men to be reconciled to God, to kiss the Son, to accept the constitution, to bow to him who is ordained a Prince and a Saviour to grant repentance and remission of sins to all who submit to his government. Thus they, and the congregation who sends them forth and sustains them in the work, beget children of God by the gospel, and enlarge the body of Christ.

      With all these documents before us, may we not say, that, as Eve was the mother of all living, so "Jerusalem is the mother of us all"? [264] And thus, to use the language of Paul, "Men are begotten to God by the gospel" through the instrumentality of the congregations of Christ.

      Under the present administration of the kingdom of heaven a great apostacy has occurred, as foretold by the Apostles. As the church, compared to a city, is called "Mount Zion," the apostate church is called "Babylon the Great." Like Babylon the type, "Mystery Babylon" the antitype is to be destroyed by a Cyrus that knows not God. She is to fall by the sword of infidels, supported by the fierce judgments of God. "The Holy City" is still trodden under foot, and the sanctuary is filled with corruptions. It is, indeed, a den of thieves; but strong is the Lord that judges the apostate city. Till that great and notable day of the Lord come, we can not, from the prophetic word, anticipate a universal return to the original gospel, nor a general restoration of all the institutions of the kingdom of heaven in their primitive character; and, consequently, we can not promise to ourselves the universal subjugation of the nations to the sceptre of Jesus.

      But were we to enter upon the consideration of the administration of the affairs of the kingdom after the fall and overthrow of the apostate city and the conversion of the Jews, we should have to launch upon a wide and tempestuous ocean, for which our slender bark is not at this time sufficiently equipped. This may yet deserve the construction of a large vessel in a more propitious season. Meanwhile, the original gospel is extensively proclaimed, and many thousands are preparing for the day of the Lord; and these are taught by the "Faithful and True Witness" that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, and that their happiness and safety alike consist in being prepared for his second advent.

[A. C.]      

      1 I. Cor. xii. 28; Eph. iv. 11; Heb. i. 14. [259]
      2 II. Cor. iii. 6; v. 18-20. [259]
      3 Rom. xii. 4-8; I. Cor. xii. 27; Heb. iii. 6. [260]
      4 Acts vi. 2-7; xiv. 23; xx. 17-36; Phil. i. 1; I. Tim. iii. 1-16; Tit. i. 5-10; Heb. xiii. 7, 17, 25. [261]
      5 Jer. xxxi. 35, 36; Job xxxviii. 31-33; Jer. xxxiii. 25. [261]
      6 Jas. i. 25. [262]

      Alexander Campbell. "Present Administration of the Kingdom of Heaven." The Millennial Harbinger Extra
5 (August 1834): 421-427.


[MHA1 259-265]

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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)