THE kingdom of grace within is the kingdom of heaven objectively, and may be compared to a kingdom for the same reasons already given. As, 1st, in the gracious heart Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, rules, reigns, and governs, and is always present; here he dwells by his Blessed Spirit, and never quits his castle till he brings the child of God to glory. 2nd. The child of God is made known and manifest to all. When the Holy Spirit brings out a poor sinner from the prison of darkness, he tells him to show himself, not to lie hid and buried in the world, but to come out from among them and be separated; and when this takes place, the children of God become gazing-stocks and spectacles to the world. Hence the Apostle speaks, "But call to remembrance the former days in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions of them who were so used, for we are made a spectacle unto the world and unto angels, and to men." (Heb. 10:32; 1 Cor. 4:9) Here, my dear reader, you must mark that it is after they are illuminated by the Spirit that the children become gazing-stocks, and are made manifest to the world, to angels, and to men. They are not to be hid in a corner, nor are they to keep their religion to themselves, nor bury their talents in the ground. The patriarchs, the prophets, the Apostles and the disciples of Christ, were pointed at by men, angels, and devils; and this will be the case with all the dear children of God. Angels rejoice at their conversion, the Father rejoices seeing the fruits of his love, Christ rejoices seeing the travail of his soul, the Spirit rejoices in his triumph in them and over them, the devil gnashes with his teeth at being cast out, in spite of his will and inclination, and dares not enter there again; he foams, rages, and blasphemes, he tempts and persecutes, he plagues and distresses, he begs and entreats to be admitted again, but all in vain, being cast out for ever, never to return. Christ and his people are men wondered at; they are for signs and wonders to Israel. Christ was a wonder to men, angels, and devils. Angels wondered at his incarnation, that the son of God should stoop so low as to assume the nature of man. In his sufferings they wondered that they, his creatures, should have to minister to their Creator--they wondered at his ignominious death, that the Maker of heaven and earth should die the accursed death of the cross; they wondered that the eternal God should lay down his life for rebellious men, for traitors who trampled his holy laws beneath their feet, despised his authority, rejected his person, and even aimed at his eternal throne. The angels wondered at having to watch his tomb, and remove the stone, to carry the tidings that their Lord and Master, and the Saviour of man, was risen again. They wondered at his glorious ascension when they escorted him through the air to his eternal mansions of bliss, to take possession of his eternal throne and exercise his kingly authority according to covenant engagement between the Father and himself.
Inanimate creation stood amazed, and was thrown into convulsions at the sufferings of the Creator! Profane men wondered at his miracles and his preachings, and his children wondered, loved, and praised as they thought upon his condescension. Devils trembled before him, and hell shook to the very center when he rose triumphantly from the tomb. As Christ was wondered at by men, angels, and devils, so are his dear children. David said, "I am a wonder unto many: "he was a wonder to himself that he was not swallowed up by his foes, having to maintain such an unequal combat; he wondered at the extraordinary interposition of his covenant God, which, after many conflicts, sorrows, and toils, brought him to a throne. He was a wonder to others, that he was not consumed by his foes and that he was delivered from so many dangers. This is the case with all the people of God; they often wonder that they are not consumed, and that they are able to maintain such an unequal war, they themselves being few, their foes many, they weak and their enemies mighty. They wonder at the love, mercy, and grace of their covenant God, at his patience and forbearance with them, and they wonder at their own base ingratitude. They wonder at the interposition of God on their behalf in providence and grace, and after many years of sorrow, toil, and conflict, to be brought to their heavenly kingdom, and enjoy an eternal crown. The children of God are also a wonder to others. Satan wonders that he cannot overcome them, and that sin cannot have dominion over them; the world wonders that they cannot allure them back; death wonders that it cannot hold its prey, and the grave will wonder that it will not be able to retain its captives. And at the great day of judgment the people of God will be the wonder of men, angels, and devils, when the great Judge will accord to them eternal glory and bliss.
The children of God are an independent people. Their regeneration is independent of the creature; their spiritual life, light, faith, hope, love, and every other grace in the soul come from God alone; the creature has no hand in planting them in the sinner's heart; their whole and only dependency rests upon God; he is their hope, confidence, and trust; they are by him strengthened, upheld, delivered, and supplied. As they are externally kept and maintained by God, so internally. Every grace in the soul depends upon God for strength and help to be maintained and supported against the foes within. The people of God enjoy freedom. By virtue of Christ's merits they are delivered from the hands of Divine justice--from the law and its curses--from sin, Satan, the world, death, hell, and the grave. They have freedom to a throne of grace--to the fountain of living waters--to the wells of salvation--and to the crimson fountain which is open for sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1) They are free citizens--made so by Christ; "Whom the Son of Man makes free, they are free indeed." (John 8:36) They are freeborn citizens, not by their first-birth, for by that they are born slaves, but by their second or spiritual birth; "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." (2 Cor. 3:17)
The children of God are a complete people. They are perfect in Christ, and comely with his comeliness; they have a complete righteousness and pardon, a complete salvation and redemption, and the grace of God in their hearts is complete in itself, though not in degree. They have a complete law written in their hearts by the Spirit of God; "I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." (Heb. 8:10,11) The apostle calls the people of God, "the epistles of Christ; not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart." (2 Cor. 3:3)
The spiritual subjects of Christ are not a lawless people, they are under Christ's laws; they cannot, nor do they dare, violate them, for Christ demands obedience to his law. He imposes upon them a new law: when he takes up his dwelling in their hearts he tells them that they must take his yoke and learn of him. This takes place when he triumphs by his Spirit in them. This law of the Spirit of Life, which is in Christ Jesus, makes them free from the law of sin and death. This law is not a law of bondage but of liberty, which makes obedience a pleasure, and self-denial easy; Christ's commandments are not grievous; his yoke is lined with love; therefore, it becomes a pleasure to wear it. Every soul that comes under Christ's government must receive his law, and be subject to his regal power. He rebukes and chastens for the transgressions of his law. (Heb. 12;6,7) He restrains and keeps all his subjects from iniquity, and withholds them from those things which their own hearts would incline and lead them to; for there is that within them which is bent to backsliding. He preserves them from final apostasy, and keeps them by his Almighty power through faith unto salvation. He rewards all his subjects for their services to encourage them, and this reward is of grace. He also blesses them with peace of conscience, for he will speak peace unto his people and unto his saints. He preserves and protects them from all their troubles, carries their burdens, and bears with their infirmities, and sometimes fills their souls with joy; for the kingdom within consists of peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. And, lastly, he brings all his subjects to eternal glory.
The kingdom within has a fullness of grace and strength, grace sufficient for the day, and strength made perfect in weakness. It is a rich, excellent, and glorious kingdom: the faith of the people of God is more precious than gold, and cannot be purchased at any price, and their spiritual joys are more in value than the whole world. Their faith is excellent, it overcomes the world; their love cannot be quenched by the floods of persecution, or waters of adversity; and their hope preserves them from fainting and despair. This kingdom is also glorious, it being an earnest of future glory. This kingdom may, further, be said to suffer violence, and the violent may be said to take it by force; for--
1ST. This kingdom within was planted by violence; the Holy Spirit had to dethrone the old king, Satan, and his kingdom had to be demolished, and the new kingdom had to be erected in troublesome times. The Sanballets and Tobiahs were very fierce in their opposition.
2ND. This kingdom, when erected must be kept by violence. This little kingdom is envied by men and devils, and is often besieged by a great king, who builds great bulwarks against it; and, were it not for King Jesus who reigns within, the enemy would subdue and take it.
3RD. The subjects of this kingdom have met with many oppositions on their journey, and have had to pass through fire and water. Notwithstanding they take it, they must and shall succeed, because they have the promise of success; "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you; seek, and ye shall find; ask, and it shall be given;"--"To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life;"--"The righteous shall hold on their way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger;"--"They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.
As the children of God have the promises to encourage them, so they have the Spirit of God to strengthen them, to overcome all that lies before them, and break through all oppositions and difficulties. They being led by the Spirit of God, no earthly thing can effectually oppose that Spirit; he brings under and subdues all. It is true that the children of God have to sit days and nights through summer and winter before the wall of this kingdom, but they succeed in taking the city at last; they take it by prayer and supplications, and by groans and sighs: thus it may be said that the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence.