<< THE KINGDOM OF GOD WITHIN YOU. >>
Behold! the kingdom of God is within you. —Luke xvii. 21.
IT is one of the sad consequences of man’s fallen, degenerate state that he looks without for happiness rather than within. He looks down to the world rather than up to the Lord ; to things rather than states. He takes the lowest form of good as his standard, and measures all things by it. The material world, natural life, earthly possessions, honors, joys are the balances in which he weighs all that he calls good. Wealth, wisdom, honor, beauty, power, glory, all are estimated by the standards of earth and sense. And man himself, the crowning work of the Lord, with faculties of measureless capacity, is valued for what he has of earthly things rather than for what he is.
A little reflection must show us that it is an entirely false estimate which is formed in this way. The lower can never be a measure for the higher. Light, heat, magnetism cannot be measured by the cubic foot or valued in dollars and cents. The body is no measure for the soul. A heavenly, eternal good cannot be estimated or expressed in the terms of any earthly good. ”What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?” The most of the stars are so remote from the earth that their distance cannot be measured. The diameter of the earth’s orbit is not great enough to produce any apparent change in their position. So no earthly good, no wealth, no wisdom, no honor or power embraces within its orbit any dimensions or anything so precious that its value has any ratio to a heavenly good. The least spiritual good divided by the earth itself and all that encircles it would, in its final analysis, be reduced to the mathematical formula of one divided by zero.
Not that the things of this world are valueless. This world is the kingdom of the body and the senses, and a beautiful and glorious kingdom it is. When subordinate to the kingdom of God and an instrument of its service, it is of inestimable value. It becomes of no value, or worse than valueless, when it is placed in competition with heavenly good and is destructive of it. All material things, all worldly possessions and natural delights, are given for the soul, and not to take its place, and their value is always measured by the use they serve for man’s spiritual needs. The body was made for the soul and the earth for the body, and, through that, for the soul also. Thus the world is only a remote province of the soul. Every lower degree of life was formed to serve a higher, and all degrees of life were made to be the recipients of life from the Lord and to act in harmony with Him. The higher the degree, the nobler the faculty and the more blessed its activities. The higher the degree, the nearer we approach the Divine. The Lord seeks to communicate all of His own to man, and man’s true glory and happiness consists in his reception of the Lord’s gifts. The kingdom of God is within us, and if we would enter into that kingdom and take possession of its immeasurable good, we must permit the Lord to form it within us, and co-operate with Him in doing so. I propose, then, to consider specifically what constitutes the kingdom of God, and to show how it is within us. And, first, that part of the kingdom of God which is in man’s physical body.
The eye is the kingdom of light. For there is a subtile ether pervading the material universe, and the eye is a form organized to receive it and act in harmony with it. All the motions and qualities of the ether, all colors and shadows, in their infinite variety, and all forms dwell in the eye. The kingdom of color, of light, of form dwells in it.
The kingdom of sound, of harmony, is in the ear. It is a kingdom small in size, but wonderful in capacity. What harmonies dwell in it ! It takes up and repeats the modulations made by all instruments, by all human voices and all material things, from the faintest whisper to the loudest thunder, through every shade of modulation and combination. Each of the other senses is a kingdom within itself, embracing everything relating to it. I have alluded to this relation of the senses to the material world as illustrating how the kingdom of God is within us, for the analogy between the soul and body is perfect. The spirit is the kingdom of all afi’ection and thought, with their delights, in the same way that the eye is the kingdom of light and the ear of sound. But spiritual forms are more exalted and excellent in all their qualities than material forms. They are susceptible of an indefinitely greater variety of changes, and of a continually increasing development. They are formed to receive life from the Lord in higher and more perfect degrees, and hence to be the subject of more exalted delights,—to be indeed the kingdom of God, which He rules, which He beautifies with all heavenly loveliness, which He fills with all heavenly delights, and in which He sets up His throne, the theatre on which He displays His glory, and the home in which He dwells.
To a partial view the human soul may seem to be too contracted a kingdom for the display of omnipotent power and the diversified operations of infinite wisdom, and too small in capacity to satisfy the desires of infinite love. It has indeed no size that can be measured by natural standards, and yet the material universe is not large enough to contain it or satisfy it. When measured by the highest standard, the human soul is the largest and the most capacious and varied receptacle of the Divine life of any created form. We shall find it so even if we limit its development to this life. To gain some idea of its capacity we have only to consider for a moment how vast and varied are the contents of any well-filled and highly-cultivated mind. In some minds the whole history of humanity, so far as it has been recorded and can be known, is written in clear and living characters ; the lives of individual men, the rise and fall of nations, the battles, the heroism, the civilization, the struggles of truth with error, the hopes, the successes, and the despair. The vast evolutions of humanity gradually unfolding from age to age, and the little incidents, the trifles light as air, of the passing hour, all, in every variety of form and relation, can be embraced within the compass of human thought. If life were long enough, and the conditions of space would permit, every fact, every motion, every deed that has occurred upon this globe might be treasured up in the human mind.
If it were possible to construct a panorama of every physical change that has taken place on our earth from its first emergence from chaos until the present, or any future time ; the slow formation of its rocky crust through ages of ages, its upheaval into mountains and subsidence into valleys, the everlasting battle between the ocean and the rock, the formation of strata by millions of years of unending strife, the silent, slow but sure growth of continents from the life and death of coral and microscopic insects, the sprouting of the first blade of grass, the blossoming of every flower through all the floral and arborescent generations until the present time, the creation of the first insect and animal and all the swarms of ephemera and all the birds that have ever carolled and spread their wings in the air, and all the beasts that have lived and died upon the earth,—if the whole history of the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, in every isolated fact, in every particular form, and in all their relations and combinations, could be made to pass before the mind, they could all be retained and comprised in one memory. And when this picture, with its almost infinite details, had been transferred to the canvas of the memory, you might begin again, and on the same canvas photograph the history of humanity in all its movements, embracing the lives of every man, woman, and child that has ever lived, in all their actions and relations to one another, the life of nations and the gradual changes of centuries, and not a line or shadow in this picture would interfere with the other, but all would become more distinct from the presence of each. When you stand upon an eminence and cast your eye over a wide expanse of earth, everything within the circuit of your vision is clearly pictured upon it, every mountain and hill, valley and stream, city and dwelling ; all things even to the down upon the blossom and the mote in the sunbeam, with their shadows, colors, and forms, are distinctly delineated. Could you see a thousand landscapes, one after the other, and then look up and sweep the circuit of the heavens, one picture would not interfere with another ; one would not obliterate the other. You might shut your eyes and see them all. Hour after hour, during our whole life, myriads of forms are drawn upon the retina of the eye, and yet no one interferes with another. Such is the perfection of a material form ! What, then, must be the capacity and perfection of a spiritual form to receive and to retain ? No impression ever made upon the memory is lost. We never forget. We may not be able to recall, but what we know once we know forever.
But the mind is not only capacious to receive and tenacious to retain ; it is not merely a kingdom of dead facts and forms ; it has also the marvelous power of rearranging and combining them, and of creating out of them an ideal world, and peopling it with ideal forms of surpassing loveliness and beauty. The facts of history and science are to the mind what air and water and earth are to that invisible and plastic power that decomposes and reconstructs them into the various beautiful forms of vegetable and animal life. It is perpetually rearranging and recreating objects and living forms, with which it enlarges and adorns its kingdom. From facts it eliminates knowledge and thoughts of a higher form, and from these again it deduces principles of more general application.
And these principles and lofty ideals the mind can reembody in material forms. The artist first stores his mind with a multitude of beautiful forms, and from these extracts their essential beauties and recombines them in a perfect whole, or rather in a multitude of ideals, which have no bodily realization upon earth. All that poets and artists have expressed existed first in their own minds. The noble form was in the mind of the sculptor before he could see it in the marble. The marble was only the mirror in which he saw the child of his own fancy reflected. The imagination first paints the picture upon its own canvas, and that which lives and glows upon the material canvas is only an imperfect copy of the mental original. The vast cathedrals were first erected in the architect’s brain, from foundation to pinnacle, and the beautiful creations which poets have embodied in numbers through all time were still more beautiful as they lay in fair ideal worlds in their own fancies. All that they have expressed, much and wonderful as it is, is only the rude sketch of what dwelt within them . What beautiful worlds compose the poet’s kingdom, and what fair women and noble men dwell in them ! But who ever saw^ on canvas or in marble, in poem or in song, the full embodiment or realization of his ideal ? No, the kingdom within is larger than the kingdom without ; profounder oceans roll, grander mountains rise to loftier heights, and lovelier valleys lie between. Groves and gardens and gently swelling hills and shining rivers, and paradises of fruits and flowers that have no antitype and can have no embodiment on earth ; cities of wide streets and marble palaces sparkling with diamonds and shining with gold ; and all the fair world peopled with beings of corresponding excellence, innocent and lovely women, pure and noble men,—all these dwell in clusters and constellations in the kingdom within. And there, too, exist Utopian governments whose rulers are wise men, consulting the public rather than their private good, and whose people are obedient, intelligent, and happy. In the wide and populous realms and starry heavens of the mind innumerable sciences and systems come and take up their permanent abode ; arts flourish, kingdoms rise, people are born that never die. And yet there is room. Every thought enlarges the boundary of this kingdom ; every new science or art is a new province. The more you put into the human mind the more it is able to receive. Is it not a kingdom worthy of a heavenly King ? But I have yet spoken of only one grand division of this kingdom, the intellectual and rational. There is another realm, twin to this, as large in extent, as various and beautiful in the forms that compose it, and that is the kingdom of the will, whose provinces are affections, and whose immeasurable riches are joys. There is an affection for every thought, and there is a delight for every affection.
These kingdoms run parallel with each other, and everything within them joins hands. They are halves of one whole. The heart is as capacious of joy as the head of truths. Every relation which the soul sustains to the outward world, to thoughts and deeds, was intended to be a highway for the entrance of joys into the heart. The will is an organ of countless pipes and stops, and every act was intended to excite some affection and produce some delight. We know that this instrument is now sadly out of tune, and it often produces terrible discords ; but we know enough of its nature to conclude that, if it were in perfect harmony, there could be no limit to the variety and blessedness of the delights it is capable of receiving. How many quiet and peaceful delights flow into the heart through the senses, through our daily labors and casual contacts with our fellows ! Who can enumerate the delights of social life ? delights that spring up as flowers by the dusty way-side of traffic and business ; the familiar greeting, the pleasant smile, the cheerful look. The cheering word dropped into the soul awakens harmonies that linger and play around it through the day of toil and in pleasant memories forever. How manifold the joys that are awakened while we contemplate the beauty with which the Lord has invested the whole earth !
But what are all these compared with the deeper and purer joys which are awakened by the relations of home ! Home ! There is no other sound in human language that awakens so many chords as that. Brother, sister, parent, child, husband, wife, all cluster around it, and the human heart has chords that vibrate in wonderful harmony with every one. Who can enumerate and estimate the joys that are created by these relations ? And yet the human soul can contain them all. If every thought and every act were an instrument of myriad strings, and every vibration a distinct joy, the soul could receive them all. And yet there would be room. Every delight that has blessed a human heart from the creation of man could be compressed into one heart, and yet there would be room. One of the fine globules of water that float about as mist contains all the circles, arcs, and dimensions that can be found in all spheres. It has its centre and circumference, its diameter and poles, its radii and. zones, its arcs and curves, as complete as the earth or the sun itself So each human heart has in it the capacity for the joys of all human hearts. Oh, the inestimable worth, the inconceivable grandeur of the human soul ! Though enclosed in the compass of a few feet of flesh, it is a kingdom that stretches away beyond any assignable limit, whose depths are fathomless to any human power, and whose heights rise above the conceptions of any finite intellect. He who rules this kingdom alone knows how vast it is in its extent, how boundless in its capacities for joy.
But I have not yet spoken of the higher degrees of this kingdom. I have referred only to the natural degree of the mind, the most remote and barren province of this kingdom, the frigid zone of the soul. The kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, and all its forms and delights are so far exalted above natural delights that human language is totally inadequate to describe them. They are therefore called ineffable and inconceivable. If the human soul is capable of so many thoughts and affections, with their attendant delights, in the natural plane of life, how immeasurable must be its capacities in the spiritual.
The human soul is made to receive life in three degrees, each one rising so far above the other in the extent of its capacities and in the variety and perfection of its attributes that the activities and delights of the higher can be expressed only in general terms, and by remote analogies in the lower. And yet there is not a joy that thrills the inmost life of an angel that may not thrill yours. We have sometimes a foretaste of these joys here that comes to us as a prophecy and hope of what we may be. A peace glides over the soul and fills it with a sweet calm and quiet joy ; and again it may be exalted and thrilled with a heavenly delight. But it is a delight muffled and deadened by the weight of flesh. It is rather a dream of heaven than heaven itself, a strain of harmony floating down to us from its remote glories rather than the full chord of its harmonies. What, then, must those joys be in their fulness and perfection ! And the kingdom of all these joys is within you. And however large and varied, however exalted and incomprehensible, it is capable of indefinite extension. This is the kingdom in which the Lord dwells, and which He fills to its fullest capacities with His Divine love and wisdom. This kingdom, I repeat, is within you. Every one of you is heir to all its riches, glory, and blessedness. All thought, all affection, all delight is within us, and we have and possess only what we can receive. However destitute you may be in worldly riches and honors, the kingdom of God is within you. The Lord has made every human being in His own image and likeness, and consequently capable of receiving life from Him in every possible variety and form. What, then, can compare in worth, in greatness, in capacities for blessedness with the human soul ?
The kingdom of heaven is within you. Not actually in all, nor in any in full development and power ; but it is within all in possibility, as the harvest is in the grain of wheat, as natural affections and physical powers and natural science are in the infant. The germs of all heavenly joys are within us ; the possibilities of the three heavens lie wrapped up, fold within fold, in our spiritual forms, and only await development. And as the seed in good ground is surrounded on all sides by substances specially adapted to its growth, through which forces are continually flowing into it and moulding its possibilities into actual forms, so the Lord has placed the soul in the midst of spheres, relations, and forces that are in the continual effort to call all its forms into actual existence, to create the heavens and the earth within it. All the relations of the soul to the body, and through that to the material world ; all the relations of human beings to one another, which grow out of their wants and pleasures, their labors and rest ; all social, civil, domestic, and spiritual relations were specially instituted by the Lord to be instruments in forming this kingdom within us, and mediums of filling it with life from Him ; and its fitness to accomplish this end is the true measure of value for every earthly and every heavenly thing. Let us not, then, count ourselves rich and happy, so much for what we have of worldly good as for what we are and may obtain of heavenly good. Let us look to the kingdom within us as our real and only invaluable and imperishable possession.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895