Chapter Fifteen: How Salutary It Is For All Men To Have The Kingdom of Christ Firmly Restored Among Them And How Necessary It Is For Salvation That Every Christian, According To His Place In The Body Of Christ And The Gifts He Has Received From Him, Aim And Work Towards This With His Deepest Concern
I may seem here to be embarking on a pointless task in proposing to show how salutary it is for the Kingdom of Christ fully to be embraced among us, and how necessary it is for the salvation of each individual that he should contribute toward this, with deepest concern and burning zeal, whatever through God he is still able to contribute. For no one of those who have been touched but a little by the gospel wishes to appear to be unacquainted with this or to have any doubt about it. For the Lord said: “By their fruits you shall know them” (Matt. 7:16). Therefore, since thus far not only has there been a delay in the firm reestablishment of the Kingdom of Christ but very many even of the learned and prominent professors of the gospel have been remiss in total zeal for its restoration, and because not a few in their carnal wisdom judge that it would be harmful for the state to do this, the reality itself certainly proves and cries out that there are still very few who realize that a solid restitution and reception of the Kingdom of Christ is truly salutary and necessary for all happiness.
Therefore, it is by no means an accomplished fact when we admonish each other that we plainly learn from the eternal and immutable Word of God how salutary it is to receive the full Kingdom of Christ, and how necessary it is for each individual firmly to exert for its restoration whatever strength he has received from the Lord.
For how many do we see even among those who wish to be considered especially learned and enthusiastic about the Kingdom of God who are either ashamed or irked to preach the gospel of this Kingdom to every creature and especially to those who are yet quite uninstructed, even though they are singularly committed to the trust of those very ones whose temporal things they gather; indeed, how many do you find who, however open and horrible a sacrilege it is, take the income of a number of parishes and yet do not render the ministry even to a single person either through helpers or by themselves. If in these splendid and well-attended places they have one or two, or a few more, sermons in a year, they think that they have discharged their duty admirably; they spend all the rest of their time in leisure, luxury, and worldly pomp.
What, then, shall we say of the understanding of Christ’s Kingdom on the part of bishops and nobles who still confer a plurality of priestly benefices on these despoilers of churches, and sometimes give parishes to secular persons in order to receive a profit from them and put men in charge of parishes who are most inept for this role and so let themselves be hired for it at a lesser salary?
What do those who are worldly-wise think now about the Kingdom of Christ, those who want the holy preaching of the gospel restricted to fewer evangelists, indeed want it entirely omitted, because by this preaching, as they falsely say, controversies and disturbances are stirred up among the people? For they prefer that the prince of this world who is strong and armed hold men bound to his pleasure in quiet and calm rather than that he should be troubled and confounded by any external disturbance, or even the danger of a disturbance through a sermon of Christ’s Kingdom which would snatch away from him the spoils he has taken from the elect of God whom he holds bound in the chains of perdition.
We know that the first work of our salvation is the announcement of the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Toward this, Christ the Lord himself, his apostles, and all true Christians have always dedicated themselves with greatest zeal. But those wise fellows judge not only that this is not salutary, but that it is even harmful to society. Do they not thus bear clear witness concerning themselves, that they are of the opinion that Christ is not a saving king and that his Kingdom is not useful to society?
But the Lord has sanctioned his discipline, both of all life and of doing penance, and also of sacred ceremonies with plain and very serious words! But how few do you find, even among those who are held to be most notable among Christians, who, I do not say desire it from their hearts, but at least think it useful to attempt this uniquely saving discipline! Our times are different, they say, from those when this discipline flourished in the early churches. Men are different now, and it must be feared that by the restitution of this discipline the churches will be more disturbed than edified, and more men will be frightened away from the gospel than will be attracted. Finally, it must be feared that this attempt may culminate in a new tyranny of the false clergy over the people of Christ, they say.
But do not these also by their words and counsel clearly prove their terrible ignorance of the usefulness of the Kingdom of Christ and its benefits? For they are unaware that the Kingdom of Christ is a kingdom of all times and of all men who have been elected for salvation. They are unaware that Jesus the King, i.e., the Savior of mankind and the most excellent Shepherd of his sheep, has instituted and commanded nothing at all which is not salutary to his own at every time and in every place if it is used as he instituted and commanded it.
When, therefore, we still see everywhere, even among those who apparently want to love and seek the Kingdom of Christ, a great ignorance of how salutary it is to accept Christ’s Kingdom completely and also how necessary it is for all to work with all their strength that it should be fully restored among us, surely for us to warn about this matter is not vain, but it is rather a duty required of all who truly belong to Christ.
And so I pray the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that he may grant to his elect an understanding of the truth that “the carnal man is not able to perceive those things” which are of the Kingdom of Christ (I Cor. 2:14) and that “these things are hidden from the wise” of the world (Matt. 11:25), but that they can be learned and certainly known only from the Holy Scriptures, through a sure faith in Christ (II Tim. 3:15). May the Lord deign so to increase this faith in his own that they may firmly believe that he has come into this world as the Savior of all the sons of God, at whatever periods of time they live and by whatever infirmities of the flesh they are oppressed, or by whatever wickedness of the world they are vexed, so that he has taught nothing at all, instituted and commanded nothing, which is not uniquely salutary for all those who in true faith receive and undertake what he has instituted and commanded; and so this must necessarily be required and renewed by all, so that those who neglect to do so clearly reject Christ himself and his Kingdom. Therefore, in accordance with the obligation laid upon us, let us consider and ponder what the eternal Father has testified about his Son and what the Son has testified concerning himself. Let us adhere to these testimonies with our total being, driving far from our hearts whatever the wisdom of the flesh suggests to the contrary, or depraved custom puts in the way, or our corrupt desires entice us to.
The Father, therefore, testifies concerning the Son that “he has anointed him King over Zion” (Ps. 2:6), i.e., the people of his elect, a true king who would teach, institute, and command nothing which did not contribute toward the eternal salvation of his own. For this reason he has commanded that we hear him in all things (Matt. 17:5) . Thus through his whole Scripture he testifies that through this his Christ alone, our King, the doctrine and foundation of present and future bliss are offered to us and that those who have not heard him in all things will perish entirely and for eternity, which is clearly evident from those few texts which we have cited earlier concerning the Kingdom of Christ.
What Saint John the Baptist said must also be soberly observed by us: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but whoever does not listen to the Son will not see life, and the wrath of God remains upon him” (John 3:36). But no one truly believes and listens to Christ unless he is convinced it is true that all things he taught and commanded are the precepts of eternal life. Likewise, he accepts what the Lord testifies concerning himself, that “he was not sent by the Father to condemn the world but to save it” and “that whosoever believes in him is not to be condemned; but whoever does not believe, he is already condemned, because he does not believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18) . It is certain, however, that he does not believe in Christ, as we have already said, who does not acknowledge that an institution or precept of his is altogether necessary, in belief and practice, for salvation and eternal life. If there are those who either themselves neglect the precepts of Christ or do not strive with all their might that these should all be received and observed among all, they can hardly be said to acknowledge that the precepts of Christ (which they ignore or pretend to ignore) are necessary to salvation and to a blessed life. Therefore, they do not believe in the Son of God, and “the wrath of God remains upon them,” and “they are already condemned” to Gehenna (John 3:36 and 18).
Let us also ponder that saying of the Lord: “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Thus whoever is not eager to follow him in all things and observe all his precepts certainly cleaves to the darkness of eternal death.
Let us also consider this reverently: “The thief does not come except to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that my sheep may have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Likewise this: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they will not perish forever, nor will anyone snatch them from my hand” (John 10:27-28). What else follows from these things but that those who do not hear the voice of Christ in all things and follow this Good Shepherd in all their lives repudiate eternal life, and, beyond that, plunge into everlasting oblivion, and offer themselves as plunder to evil demons?
The following words of the Lord, furthermore, ring continually in our hearts: “He who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him, and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me will not keep my words” (John 14:23-24) . But “whoever does not love the Lord God, let him be anathema,” says the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 16:22). And it must be observed here that the Lord asks that we should keep all his precepts, not whatever seems good to do according to the wisdom of our flesh. For he commanded his apostles to teach the baptized to observe all that he had commanded (Matt. 28:19-20) . Thus those who do not consecrate themselves with all their hearts to observing all the precepts of Christ show that they do not love Christ the Lord, and that they despise the love of the Father as well as the Son, and their making of a home with them.
For our King is that Prophet given to us after Moses, as Saint Peter testifies (Acts 3:22-23), “whom it is necessary to hear in all things” which he said to us. For the soul which detracts anything from this is to be exterminated from the people of God. And since it was against the will of God to add or detract anything of the precepts of the Lord given through Moses, or to worship God in any manner which seemed good to men but had not been prescribed by him (Deut. 4:2 and 12:32), what an evil, wicked thing it is for those who boast that they belong to Christ to permit themselves to add to or subtract from the words and precepts of his Son as they please, and fabricate a ministry of his religion other than what he delivered to us. Let us, therefore, think this over: if God pronounced a curse on him who did not remain faithful even to the words of the law given by Moses (Deut. 27:26), how much more ought they to be open to a curse who do not adhere to all the words of the Son of God? And if he who despised Moses or another prophet speaking on earth did not escape punishment, but “one convicted by two witnesses wras killed without mercy, how much more will they receive unbearable punishments who” knowingly and willingly “oppose” him “w7ho speaks to us from heaven and whose voice shakes the earth.” These persons who have such con tempt for the Son of God are rightly said “to trample him underfoot, and defile the blood of him through whom they have been sanctified, and inflict outrage on the spirit of grace” (Heb. 10:28- 29, and 12:25).
Whatever, therefore, human wisdom suggests to us to the contrary, whatever our depraved desires persuade us to, whatever the tyranny of evil custom demands, let us always respond: “To whom shall we go,” to whom shall we turn? This our Savior and King “has the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). He cannot deceive us nor impose anything on us by his laws, unless its observance is necessary for our salvation. He has commanded us “to seek first his Kingdom” (Matt. 6:33), i.e., that he should rule us in all things by his word and Spirit, also adding to us whatever we can desire for our own welfare. Unless, therefore, we put his Kingdom before all things else and act with utmost zeal that it should be fully restored among us, each according to his vocation and the gifts he has received from the Lord, we shall be deprived of both present and future goods, and furthermore, plunged into Gehenna.
For who would acknowledge Your Royal Majesty to be King of England, if any city or town on this island embraced only those of Your Majesty’s laws which seemed good to it (something which not a few today do concerning the laws of the eternal Son of God), and did not strive to obey all his laws and edicts? Is the obedience that the Church today gives to Christ the King so complete an obedience? Who might fittingly rule over us more fully than the Son of God, who created and recreated us, and who confers both present and eternal salvation on his own by his rule?
Plato, in his first book of Laws and in his Politics, does not want younger men, indeed, not any of the people, to be allowed to dispute about human laws when they have once been accepted by the republic,71 even though he acknowledges that legislation cannot be so wisely devised that the laws will always be of profit to all men in all things, and therefore that there is very much need of some epieikeia 72 (he wishes that only the wisest princes and magistrates be conceded the right to interpret and apply laws for the well-being of the citizens) 73; and so is it right for us wretched little men, on our own part completely ignorant of what is good, to modify the laws of the Son of God and to get around them according to our own impulses when they command nothing that is not always and in every way wholesome?
Indeed, we must seek to understand soberly and with certainty what the laws, edicts, and institutions of Christ our King are. Then we must unhesitatingly acknowledge that he shows himself in all these things as our Jesus, i.e., eternal Savior. Finally, we must spend ourselves and all we have in observing these things and actively fulfilling them with all that is in us whatever the whole world with its prince and its God thinks or does to the contrary, and however burdensome this seems to our flesh. For what eternal truth said cannot but be true: “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me”; hear me, the master of all life, “for I am meek and humble of heart; thus you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is good and useful, and my burden light” (Matt. 11:29-30).
Whoever has faith in the word of God will easily understand from these and all the other testimonies of Holy Scripture about the Kingdom of Christ that anything at all which Christ the Lord commanded and established for us is certainly a matter of great importance for our salvation if it is observed as he commanded and established it, however, men and times vary; and we cannot knowingly and prudently neglect or omit any of these things for any reason without despising and repudiating Christ himself and all his sovereignty.
Nor can this be unclear to anyone who has read the Holy Scriptures and believes them to be divine, that there is no greater duty assigned to all men, and so necessary to salvation, as that each (according to his place in the Church of God and whatever gifts and powers he has received from the Lord) even in external things, watch, work, struggle, and labor that all the precepts and teachings of our King and Savior Christ are conveyed to all men, so that they may be received eagerly and observed with utmost reverence.
Now we must pass over to the third part of this writing in order that, as the Lord grants, I may indicate how I believe Your Majesty can establish the Kingdom of Christ in his realm most conveniently, build it up, and bring it, if not to its hoped-for goal (for today an all too horrible if not universal aversion and hatred of the Kingdom of Christ prevails among men, just as does ignorance of it) at least to an acceptable one.
End of the first book concerning the Kingdom of Christ.