Then said he, To what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?…
It is ever important to remember that Christianity, at first like a small grain of seed, spread throughout the world, until the nations of the earth came to flock like birds to its protecting shelter, by no aid except its own inherent spiritual power. There was nothing to help it in the character of its early teachers. There was nothing to make its progress easy in the conditions of the Jewish and Gentile worlds. It came to the Jewish world, and found it saturated with thoughts of Jewish exclusiveness, and full of hopes of an earthly Deliverer. There was nothing in the teaching of this Messiah to appeal to the one, or to pander to the other. It told the Jew that his dreams of a temporal Messiah were futile, that it was a kingdom of spiritual power — not supported by external force or conquering by arms — which it had come to establish amongst men. Thus, though it appealed to no religious or national instinct in the Jew, though it was hostile to both, Christianity triumphed. Nor, again, in the Gentile world, represented by the two great nations of Greece or Rome, was there any congenial soil for the little seed of early Christendom to take root in, and find its sustenance. The Greek world was full of the pride of intellect, and the worship of sensuous beauty, and to it Christianity came with no scheme of a newfangled philosophy, with no subtleties of scholastic ethics. The preaching of the Cross of Christ, the teaching of a religion of self-sacrifice and love, so simple that the child could understand it, was its message. It presented as the object of their adoration and worship no incarnation of physical beauty, no image of physical strength, but a Nazarene upon a cross — His features so marred with sorrow that there was no beauty in Him that they should desire Him. And yet this Christianity had an inherent force of its own, before which the intellectual pride and the philosophic genius of Greece had to bow at last in submission. St. Paul preached at Athens, and not a few but felt as they listened, within sight of their own Academy, and beneath the shadow of honeyed Hymettus where the sages had trod, that this new preacher taught, with a power not of this world, a grander faith, which must outlast even the city of the Violet Crown. The wave spread still westward to Rome — proud mistress of the world. It fared as ill with her material and political strength as it had done with the intellectual force of Athens. To those who worshipped force and were glutted with military conquests, this new faith came preaching tenderness, forgiveness, charity. To Rome, who saw her eagles swoop in the farthest east and west, it proclaimed the supremacy of spiritual triumphs-it preached the deliverance of the captive — the brotherhood of nations. .At first only whispered in prison cells, or flung to the beasts of the arena, or its holy symbol grasped in feeble hands, and pressed to dying breasts of martyrs, the religion of Christ soon won its way over every obstacle, and at last Christianity entered the imperial palace, and wore the diadem of the Caesars: Now, when we turn from these triumphs of Christianity to examine what means she employed for her propagation, we can find nothing, humanly speaking, to account for it. Twelve men — Jews, without hereditary distinction; without political influence; without (except in one or two cases) intellectual acquirements — these were the men who — without any aid on earth; with a gospel that was opposed to every national, and philosophic, and religious prejudice of Jew, and Greek, and Roman; which was hostile to every feeling of pride and selfishness in the human heart — accomplished the grandest and most stupendous revolution the world had ever seen. People say sometimes that they find it hard to believe the miracles on which Christianity is based — surely the grandest, greatest miracle is the existence of Christianity itself. If, then, there were nothing in the outside world to which it appealed; nothing in the natural hearts of men which it came to satisfy: if we cannot discover in the characters of those who preached it any human reason to explain its progress — how are we to account for the spread of Christ's kingdom, except by attributing it to some spiritual power of its own?
(T. T. Shore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it?