Thy kingdom come
have just joined in the most solemn, the most sacred, the most catholic of
all prayers: “Our Father which art in Heaven!” To all of us who have learned
it in our infancy, it oft calls up the sweetest and most tender emotions.
Sometimes with feeling, sometimes as a matter of course, how often have
we repeated it? For centuries, daily, hourly, has that prayer gone up.
“Thy kingdom come!” Has it come? Let this Christian
city of Glasgow answer — Glasgow, that was to “Flourish by the preaching
of the word”.
“Thy kingdom come!” Day after day, Sunday after
Sunday, week after week, century after century, has that prayer gone up;
and today, in this so-called Christian city of Glasgow, 125,000 human beings
— so your medical officer says — 125,000 children of God are living whole
families in a single room.
“Thy kingdom come!” We have been praying for
it and praying for it, yet it has not come. So long has it tarried that
many think it will never come. Here is the vital point in which what we
are accustomed to call the Christianity of the present day differs so much
from that Christianity which overran the ancient world — that Christianity
which, beneath a rotten old civilisation, planted the seeds of a newer and
We have become accustomed to think that God’s
kingdom, is not intended for this world; that, virtually, this is the devil’s
world, and that God’s kingdom is in some other sphere, to which He is to
take good people when they die — as good Americans are said when they die
to go to Paris. If that be so, what is the use of praying for the coming of
the kingdom? Is God the loving Father of whom Christ told — is He a God of
that kind; a God who looks on this world, sees its sufferings and its miseries,
sees high faculties aborted, lives stunted, innocence turned to vice and
crime, and heartstrings strained and broken, yet, having it in His power,
will not bring that kingdom of peace, and love, and plenty and happiness?
Is God indeed a self-willed despot, whom we must coax to do the good He might?
Think of it. The Almighty — and I say it with
reverence — the Almighty could not bring that kingdom of Himself. For, what
is the kingdom of God; the kingdom that Christ taught us to pray for? Is it
not in the doing of God’s will, not by automata, not by animals who are compelled,
but by intelligent beings clothed with free will, intelligent beings knowing
good from evil?
Swedenborg never said a deeper nor a truer thing,
nor a thing more compatible with the philosophy of Christianity, than when
he said God had never put anyone into hell; that the devils went to hell
because they would rather go to hell than go to heaven. The spirits of evil
would be unhappy in a place where the spirit of good reigned; wedded to injustice,
and loving injustice, they would be miserable where justice was the law.
And, correlatively, God could not put intelligent beings having free will
into conditions where they must do right without destroying that free well.
“Thy kingdom come!” When Christ taught that prayer
He did not mean that humans should idly phrase these words, but that for
the coming of that kingdom humanity must work as well as pray!
Prayer! Consider what prayer is. How true is
the old fable! The waggoner whose waggon was stuck in the rut knelt down
and prayed to Jove to get it out. He might have prayed till the crack of
doom, and the wagon would have stood there. This world — God’s world — is
not a world in which the repeating of words will get wagons out of mire or
poverty out of slums. We who would pray with effect must work!
Divine and human intelligence
“Our Father which art in Heaven.” Not a despot,
ruling by His arbitrary fiats, but a Father, a loving Father, Our Father;
a Father for us all —that was Christ’s message. He is Our Father, and we
are His children.
But there are people, who, looking around on
the suffering and injustice with which, even in so-called Christian countries,
human life is full, say there is no Father in Heaven, there can be no God,
or He would not permit this. How superficial is that thought!
What would we as fathers do for our children?
Is there any man who, having a knowledge of the world and the laws of human
life, would so surround his boy with safeguards that he could do no evil
and could suffer no pain? What would he make by that course of education?
A pampered animal, not a self-reliant man!
We are, indeed, His children. Yet, let one of
us fall into the water, and if we have not learned to swim we will drown.
And if we are a good distance from land and near no boat or anything on which
we may get, we will drown anyhow, whether we can swim or not.
God the Creator might have made us so that we
could swim like the fishes, but how could He have made us so that we could
swim like the fishes and yet have adapted this wonderful frame of ours to
all the purposes for which the intelligence that is lodged within it requires
it to be used? God can make a fish; He can make a bird; but does He, His laws
being what they are, make an animal that might at once swim as well as a
fish and fly as well as a bird?
That the intelligence which we must recognise
behind nature is almighty does not mean that it can contradict itself and
stultify its own laws. No; we are the children of God. But what God is, who
shall say? But everyone is conscious of this, that behind what one sees there
must have been a power to bring that forth; that behind what one knows there
is an intelligence far greater than that which is lodged in the human mind,
but which human intelligence does in some infinitely less degree resemble.
Yes; we are His children. We in some sort have
that power of adapting things which we know must have been exerted to bring
this universe into being. Consider those great ships for which this port
of Glasgow is famous all over the world. Consider one of those great ocean
steamers, such as the Umbria, or the Etruria, or the City of New York, or
the City of Paris. There, in the ocean which such ships cleave, are the porpoises,
there are the whales, there are the dolphins, there are all manner of fish.
They are today just as they were when Caesar crossed to this island, just
as they were before the first ancient Briton launched his leather-covered
Humanity today can swim no better than humanity
could swim then, but consider how, by our intelligence, we have advanced
higher and higher, how our power of making things has developed, until now
we cross the great ocean quicker than any fish. Consider one of these great
steamers forcing her way across the Atlantic Ocean, 400 miles a day, against
a living gale. Is she not in some sort a product of a God-like power — a
machine of some sort like the very fishes that swim underneath.
Here is the distinguishing thing between humankind
and the animals; here is the broad and impassable gulf. We among all the
animals are the only maker; we among all the animals are the only ones that
possess that God-like power of adapting means to ends. And is it possible
that we who possess the power of so adapting means to ends that we can cross
the Atlantic in six days do not possess the power of abolishing the conditions
that crowd thousands of families into houses of one room?
When we consider the achievements of humanity
and then look upon the misery that exists today in the very centres of wealth;
upon the ignorance, the weakness, the injustice, that characterise our highest
civilisation, we may know of a surety that it is not the fault of God; it
is the fault of humanity. May we not know that in that very power that God
has given to His children here, in that power of rising higher, there is
involved — and necessarily involved — the power of falling lower.
“Our Father!” “Our Father!” Whose? Not my Father
— that is not the prayer. “Our Father” — not the father of any sect, or any
class, but the Father of all humanity. The All- Father, the equal Father,
the loving Father. He it is we ask to bring the kingdom. Aye, we ask it with
our lips! We call Him “Our Father”, the All, the Universal Father, when
we kneel down to pray to Him.
But that He is the All-Father — that He is all
people’s Father — we deny by our institutions. The All-Father who made the
world, the All-Father who created us in His image, and put us upon the earth
to draw subsistence from its bosom; to find in the earth all the materials
that satisfy our wants, waiting only to be worked up by our labour! If He
is the All-Father, then are not all human beings, all children of the Creator,
equally entitled to the use of His bounty? And, yet, our laws say that this
God’s earth is not here for the use of all His children, but only for the
use of a privileged few!
There was a little dialogue published in the
United States, in the west, some time ago. Possibly you may have seen it.
It is between a boy and his father when visiting a brickyard. The boy looks
at the men making bricks, and he asks who those dirty men are, why they are
making up the clay, and what they are doing it for. He learns, and then he
asks about the owner of the brickyard. “He does not make any bricks; he gets
his income from letting the other men make bricks.”
Then the boy wants to know how the man who owns
the brickyard gets his title to the brickyard — whether he made it. “No,
he did not make it,” the father replies: “God made it.” The boy asks, “Did
God make it for him?” Whereat his father tells him that he must not ask questions
such as that, but that anyhow it is all right, and it is all in accordance
with God’s law. The boy, who of course was a Sunday school boy, and had been
to church, goes off mumbling to himself “that God so loved the world that
He gave His only begotten Son to die for all men”; but that He so loved the
owner of this brickyard that He gave him the brickyard too.
This has a blasphemous sound. But I do not refer
to it lightly. I do not like to speak lightly of sacred subjects. Yet it
is well sometimes that we should be fairly shocked into thinking.
Think of what Christianity teaches us; think
of the life and death of Him who came to die for us! Think of His teachings,
that we are all the equal children of an Almighty Father, who is no respecter
of persons, and then think of this legalised injustice — this denial of
the most important, most fundamental rights of the children of God, which
so many of the very men who teach Christianity uphold; nay, which they blasphemously
assert is the design and the intent of the Creator Himself.
Better to me, higher to me, is the atheist, who
says there is no God, than the professed Christian who, prating of the goodness
and the Fatherhood of God, tells us in words as some do, or tells us indirectly
as others do, that millions and millions of human creatures — [at this point
a child was heard crying] — don’t take the little thing out — that millions
and millions of human beings, like that little baby, are being brought into
the world daily by the creative fiat, and no place in this world provided
Aye! Tells us that, by the laws of God, the poor
are created in order that the rich may have the unctuous satisfaction of
dealing out charity to them, and attributes to the laws of God the state of
things which exists in this city of Glasgow, as in other great cities on
both sides of the Atlantic, where little children are dying every day, dying
by hundreds of thousands, because having come into this world — those children
of God, with His fiat, by His decree — they find that there is not space
on the earth sufficient for them to live; and are driven out of God’s world
because they cannot get room enough, cannot get air enough, cannot get sustenance
I believe in no such god. III did, though I might
bend before him in fear, I would hate him in my heart. Not room for the little
children here! Look around any country in the civilised world; is there
not room enough and to spare? Not food enough? Look at the unemployed labour,
look at the idle acres, look through every country and see natural opportunities
going to waste. Aye! That Christianity puts on the Creator the evil, the
injustice, the degradation that are due to humanity’s injustice is worse,
far worse, than atheism. That is the blasphemy, and if there be a sin against
the Holy Ghost, that is the unpardonable sin!
Why, consider: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
I stopped in a hotel last week — a hydropathic establishment. A hundred or
more guests sat down to table together. Before they ate anything, a man stood
up, and, thanking God, asked Him to make us all grateful for His bounty.
And it is so at every mealtime — such an acknowledgement is made over well-filled
boards. What do we mean by it?
If Adam, when he got out of Eden, had sat down
and commenced to pray, he might have prayed till this time without getting
anything to eat unless he went to work for it. Yet food is God’s bounty.
He does not bring meat and vegetables all prepared. What He gives are the
opportunities of producing these things — of bringing them forth by labour.
His mandate is — it is written in the Holy Word, it is graven on every fact
in nature — that by labour we shall bring forth these things. Nature gives
to labour and to nothing else.
What God gives are the natural elements that
are indispensable to labour. He gives them, not to one, not to some, not
to one generation, but to all. They are His gifts, His bounty to the whole
human race. And yet in all our civilised countries what do we see? That a
few people have appropriated these bounties, claiming them as theirs alone,
while the great majority have no legal right to apply their labour to the
reservoirs of Nature and draw from the Creator’s bounty.
Thus it happens that all over the civilised world
that class that is called peculiarly ‘the labouring class’ is the poor class,
and that people who do no labour, who pride themselves on never having done
honest labour, and on being descended from fathers and grandfathers who never
did a stroke of honest labour in their lives, revel in a superabundance of
the things that labour brings forth.
Mr Abner Thomas, of New York, a strict orthodox
Presbyterian — and the son of Rev Dr Thomas, author of a commentary on the
bible —wrote a little while ago an allegory. Dozing off in his chair, he
dreamt that he was ferried over the River of Death, and, taking the straight
and narrow way, came at last within sight of the Golden City. A fine-looking
old gentleman angel opened the wicket, inquired his name, and let him in;
warning him, at the same time, that it would be better if he chose his company
in heaven, and did not associate with disreputable angels.
“What!” said the newcomer, in astonishment: “Is
not this heaven?”
“Yes,” said the warden: “But there are a lot
of tramp angels here now."
“How can that be?” asked Mr Thomas. “I thought
everybody had plenty in heaven.”
“It used to be that way some time ago,” said
the warden: “And if you wanted to get your harp polished or your wings combed,
you had to do it yourself. But matters have changed since we adopted the
same kind of property regulations in heaven as you have in civilised countries
on earth, and we find it a great improvement, at least for the better class.”
Then the warden told the newcomer that he had
better decide where he was going to board.
“I don’t want to board anywhere,” said Thomas:
“I would much rather go over to that beautiful green knoll and lie down.”
“I would not advise you to do so,” said the warden:
“The angel who owns that knoll does not like to encourage trespassing. Some
centuries ago, as I told you, we introduced the system of private property
into the soil of heaven. So we divided the land up. It is all private property
“I hope I was considered in that division?” said
“No,” said the warden: “You were not; but if
you go to work, and are saving, you can easily earn enough in a couple of
centuries to buy yourself a nice piece. You get a pair of wings free as
you come in, and you will have no difficulty in hypothecating them for a
few days board until you find work. But I should advise you to be quick
about it, as our population is constantly increasing, and there is a great
surplus of labour. Tramp angels are, in fact, becoming quite a nuisance.”
“What shall I go to work at?” asked Thomas.
“Our principal industries are the making of harps
and crowns and the growing of flowers,” responded the warden: “But there
any many opportunities for employment in personal service.”
“I love flowers,” said Thomas. “I will go to
work growing them, There is a beautiful piece of land over there that nobody
seems to be using. I will go to work on that.”
“You can’t do that,” said the warden. “That property
belongs to one of our most far-sighted angels who has got very rich by the
advance of land values, and who is holding that piece for a rise. You will
have to buy it or rent it before you can work on it, and you can’t do that
The story goes on to describe how the roads of
heaven, the streets of the New Jerusalem, were filled with disconsolate
tramp angels, who had pawned their wings, and were outcasts in Heaven itself.
You laugh, and it is ridiculous. But there is
a moral in it that is worth serious thought. Is it not ridiculous to imagine
the application to God’s heaven of the same rules of division that we apply
to God’s earth, even while we pray that His will may be done on earth as
it is done in Heaven?
Really, if we could imagine it, it is impossible
to think of heaven treated as we treat this earth, without seeing that,
no matter how salubrious were its air, no matter how bright the light that
filled it, no matter how magnificent its vegetable growth, there would be
poverty, and suffering, and a division of classes in heaven itself, if heaven
were parcelled out as we have parceled out the earth. And, conversely, if
people were to act towards each other as we must suppose the inhabitants
of heaven to do, would not this earth be a very heaven?
“Thy kingdom come.” No one can think of the kingdom
for which the prayer asks without feeling that it must be a kingdom of justice
and equality — not necessarily of equality in condition, but of equality
in opportunity. And no one can think of it without seeing that a very kingdom
of God might be brought on this earth if people would but seek to do justice
— if people would but acknowledge the essential principle of Christianity,
that of doing to others as we would have others do to us, and of recognising
that we are all here equally the children of the one Father, equally entitled
to share His bounty, equally entitled to live our lives and develop our faculties,
and to apply our labour to the raw material that He has provided.
Aye! When a person sees that, then there arises
that hope of the coming of the kingdom that carried the gospel through the
streets of Rome, that carried it into pagan lands, that made it, against
the most ferocious persecution, the dominant religion of the world.
Early Christianity did not mean, in its prayer
for the coming of Christ’s kingdom, a kingdom in heaven, but a kingdom on
earth. If Christ had simply preached of the other world, the high priests
and the Pharisees would not have persecuted Him, the Roman soldiery would
not have nailed His hands to the cross. Why was Christianity persecuted?
Why were its first professors thrown to wild beasts, burned to light a tyrant’s
gardens, hounded, tortured, put to death by all the cruel devices that a
devilish ingenuity could suggest? Not that it was a new religion, referring
only to the future. Rome was tolerant of all religions. It was the boast
of Rome that all gods were sheltered in her Pantheon; it was the boast of
Rome that she made no interference with the religions of peoples she conquered.
What was persecuted was a great movement for
social reform — the gospel of justice — heard by common fishermen with gladness,
carried by labourers and slaves into the imperial city of Rome. The Christian
revelation was the doctrine of human equality, of the fatherhood of God,
of the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity. It struck at the very basis
of that monstrous tyranny that then oppressed the civilised world; it struck
at the fetters of the captive, and at the bonds of the slave, at that monstrous
injustice which allowed a class to revel on the proceeds of labour, while
those who did the labour fared scantily.
That is the reason why early Christianity was
persecuted. And when they could no longer hold it down, then the privileged
classes adopted and perverted the new faith, and it became, in its very triumph,
not the pure Christianity of the early days, but a Christianity that, to
a very great extent, was the servitor of the privileged classes.
And, instead of preaching the essential Fatherhood
of God, the essential brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind, its high
priests grafted onto the pure truths of the gospel the blasphemous doctrin
that the All-Father is a respecter of persons, and that by His will and on
His mandate is founded that monstrous injustice which condemns the great
mass of humanity to unrequited hard toil. There has been no failure of Christianity.
The failure has been in the sort of Christianity that has been preached.
Nothing is clearer than that if we are all children
of the universal Father, we are all entitled to the use of His bounty. No
one dare deny that proposition. But the people who set their faces against
its carrying out say, virtually: “Oh, yes! that is true; but it is impracticable
to carry it into effect!” Just think of what this means. This is God’s world,
and yet such people say that it is a world in which God’s justice, God’s
will, cannot be carried into effect. What a monstrous absurdity, what a monstrous
If the loving God does reign, if His laws are
the laws not merely of the physical, but of the moral universe, there must
be a way of carrying His will into effect, there must be a way of doing equal
justice to all of His creatures.
There is. The people who deny that there is any
practical way of carrying into effect the perception that all human beings
are equally children of the Creator shut their eyes to the plain and obvious
way. It is, of course, impossible in a civilisation like this of ours to
divide land up into equal pieces. Such a system might have done in a primitive
state of society. We have progressed in civilisation beyond such rude devices,
but we have not, nor can we, progress beyond God’s providence.
There is a way of securing the equal rights of
all, not by dividing land up into equal pieces, but by taking for the use
of all that value which attaches to land, not as the result of individual
labour upon it, but as the result of the increase in population, and the
improvement of society. In that way everyone would be equally interested
in the land of one’s native country. Here is the simple way. It is a way
that impresses the person who really sees its beauty with a more vivid idea
of the beneficence of the providence of the All-Father than, it seems to
me, does anything else.
One cannot look, it seems to me, through nature
— whether one looks at the stars through a telescope, or have the microscope
reveal to one those worlds that we find in drops of water. Whether one
considers the human frame, the adjustments of the animal kingdom, or any
department of physical nature, one must see that there has been a contriver
and adjuster, that there has been an intent. So strong is that feeling,
so natural is it to our minds, that even people who deny the Creative Intelligence
are forced, in spite of themselves, to talk of intent; the claws on one
animal were intended, we say, to climb with, the fins of another to propel
it through the water.
Yet, while in looking through the laws of physical
nature, we find intelligence we do not so clearly find beneficence. But in
the great social fact that as population increases, and improvements are
made, and men progress in civilisation, the one thing that rises everywhere
in value is land, and in this we may see a proof of the beneficence of the
Why, consider what it means! It means that the
social laws are adapted to progressive humanity! In a rude state of society
where there is no need for common expenditure, there is no value attaching
to land. The only value which attaches there is to things produced by labour.
But as civilisation goes on, as a division of labour takes place, as people
come into centres, so do the common wants increase, and so does the necessity
for public revenue arise. And so in that value which attaches to land, not
by reason of anything the individual does, but by reason of the growth of
the community, is a provision intended — we may safely say intended — to
meet that social want.
Just as society grows, so do the common needs
grow, and so grows this value attaching to land — the provided fund from
which they can be supplied. Here is a value that may be taken, without impairing
the right of property, without taking anything from the producer, without
lessening the natural rewards of industry and thrift. Nay, here is a value
that must be taken if we would prevent the most monstrous of all monopolies.
What does all this mean? It means that in the creative plan, the natural advance
in civilisation is an advance to a greater and greater equality instead of
to a more and more monstrous inequality.
“Thy kingdom come!” It may be that we shall never
see it. But to those people who realise that it may come, to those who realise
that it is given to them to work for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth,
there is for them, though they never see that kingdom here, an exceedingly
great reward — the reward of feeling that they, little and insignificant
though they may be, are doing something to help the coming of that kingdom,
doing something on the side of that Good Power that shows all through the
universe, doing something to tear this world from the devil’s grasp and make
it the kingdom of righteousness.
Aye, and though it should never come, yet those
who struggle for it know in the depths of their hearts that it must exist
somewhere — they know that, somewhere, sometime, those who strive their best
for the coming of the kingdom will be welcomed into the kingdom, and that
to them, even to them, sometime, somewhere, the King shall say: “Well done,
thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”