« PreviousContinue »
also the kingdom of Christ and of His saints fol. lows after the destruction of the four kingdoms, and in the same way fills up as it were their place with a far greater and more transcendent glory.
Another thing well deserving of our attention is, that, according to the words of the prophecy, a time must come when the Son of Man, Christ Jesus, to whom the Father has given “power and glory and the kingdom,” must actually rule and reign over all the peoples and nations of the earth; for it is expressly said, that “all peoples, tribes, and tongues shall serve Him." And what is still more remarkable, this must happen after He shall have triumphed over all human greatness; after He shall have subdued and broken down all the principalities and powers of this world; after He shall have overthrown Antichrist and his followers. For it is written that all worldly power shall be done away and broken in pieces. And the kingdom and power and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven – in other words, the actual dominion over the whole earth-will be given to Christ and to His saints. And since all this has not as yet been fully accomplished, nor will be until the overthrow of Antichrist, we may look for its perfect accomplishment on that great day when the Lord Jesus, the King of immortal glory, shall come to judge the living and the dead.
The holy prophet David, who saw in spirit this great triumph, rejoiced and exclaimed: “O clap your hands, all ye nations : shout unto God with the voice of joy. For the Lord is high, terrible, a great King over all the earth. He hath subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet. He hath chosen for us His inheritance, the beauty of Jacob which He hath loved. God is ascended with jubilee, and the Lord with the sound of trumpet. Sing praises to our God, sing ye: sing praises to our King, sing ye. For God is the King of all the earth : sing ye wisely. God shall reign over the nations : God sitteth on His holy throne. The princes of the people are gathered with the God of Abraham." O Lord Jesus, () that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, and wouldst come down. The mountains would melt away at Thy presence. O that Thy name might be made known to all men, that the nations might tremble at Thy presence. Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, 0 Thou most mighty. With Thy comeliness and Thy beauty set out, proceed prosperously, and reign. Because of truth, and meekness, and justice, and Thy right hand shall conduct Thee wonderfully. Thy arrows are sharp: under Thee shall people fall. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. The sceptre of Thy kingdom is a sceptre of righteousness. Behold, we are become as an unclean thing, we are all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away. But Thou, O Lord, art our Father, and we are clay; Thou art our Master, and we are the works of Thy hands. Be not very angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquities: behold, see, we are all Thy people, and the sheep of Thy pasture.
A short sketch of the action of the secular powers towards the
Church, since the establishment of Christianity until now.
There is no power upon earth which does not emanate from God, and is not subject to His Incarnate Son, to whom the Father has given the fulness of all power in heaven and on earth. “ There is no power," writes St. Paul, “ but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.” 1 And the Incarnate Wisdom says: “By Me kings reign, and lawgivers decree just things. By Me princes rule, and the mighty decree justice." ? And again : “ All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.” 3
The authority which Christ has received from His Divine Father, He has communicated to His Church, whom He has espoused to Himself with an everlasting love. As the Father sent me,” said he to His apostles, “ so I also send you." 4 “ Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose upon earth shall be loosed also in heaven." 5 “He who hears you hears me, and he who despises you despises me.” 6 Whoever, therefore, is invested with any power, be he a president, prince, or king, he must know that it was granted to him from above that he may pursue justice, and use it in obedience to Jesus Christ and His Church, which He bids to hear and obey even as Himself.
This duty is especially binding upon Christian princes, who, by the laver of regeneration, have been incorporated with Christ and become children of God and of His Church : whatever may be their station, however high their position, they are children of the Church; and as such, they must bow down in submission to her pastors, they must be subject to them. “For these watch, as having to render an account of their souls.” í No doubt but the secular powers can do what is right and just to attain their end, to promote the public and temporal welfare of their subjects. But they must do it within their own sphere; they must do it without intruding into the province assigned to the Church; they must do it without obstructing the free action of their spiritual mother, and in subordination to her authority. For the Church has received a full and unlimited
i Rom. xiii. 1.
2 Wis. viii. 15, 16.
from her Divine Spouse, of promoting the moral good of mankind amongst all nations; and no man can bind what God has made free. By virtue of the power which she has received from Christ, she has an absolute right to preach His doctrine when, where, and as she pleases, to spread the Gospel through the whole world, to feed her children with the food of eternal life, to rule them in the way of salvation, to worship God, and to do all things He commands, without leave or hindrance from kings, princes, or nobles, sects or parties, nations or individuals.
Such being the nature of the Church and her divine institution, and such being the duty of secular powers towards her, let us examine what has hitherto been their conduct in this respect since the commencement of Christianity until now. God, who is most wonderful in His designs, was pleased to set up the kingdom of His Church upon earth when the Roman empire, that great beast described by Daniel as “ exceeding terrible, with teeth and claws of iron," was plunged in the deepest idolatry.
1 Heb. xiii. 13.
From a kingdom of this description, so deeply rooted in error and vice, the religion of Christessentially the religion of truth and justice-could expect nothing else but contradiction and war. And such proved to be the case. For no sooner did the Christian Church begin to spread, than “ the kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together, against the Lord and against His Christ." 1 Animated by a diabolical spirit, the secular powers ranged themselves with unheard-of fury against the rising Church, and made every effort to destroy it in its birth.
The meek and humble disciples of the crucified Jesus were cruelly tortured and cut into pieces, century after century, without respect to innocence or humanity. But at last the rage of tyrants ceased, and in the fourth century the Church had the consolation of seeing prostrate at her feet a crowned head, the great Constantine, the chief of the Roman empire. This extraordinary event delivered her from the torture and the sword, but did not secure her freedom from future oppression on the part of worldly powers. The peace which the Church enjoyed under Constantine was soon destroyed by Julian the Apostate, who did all he could to undermine her very foundation, and to establish idolatry again throughout the length and breadth of the Roman empire. After the death of Julian the Pagan fury subsided, but it was followed by Arian rage, which found
| Psalm ii. 2.