"The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you." Luke xvii. 20, 21.
WHAT our Lord announces in these words, came to pass ... The kingdom of God was inaugurated by the Apostles, and spread rapidly. It filled the world: it took possession of the high places of the earth; but it came and progressed without "observation." All other kingdoms that ever were, have sounded a trumpet before them, and have challenged attention. They have come out "with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield." They have been the ravenous beast from the north, the swift eagle, or the swarming locusts. In the words of the Prophet, "Before them a devouring fire, and behind them a burning flame. The appearance of them has been as the appearance of horses, and they ran like horsemen ... And the noise of their wings was as the noise of chariots and many horses running to battle." Such has ever been the coming of earthly power; and a Day will be, when that also will have a fulfilment and find its antitype in the history of heaven; for, when our Lord comes again, He too will come "with the word of command, and with the voice of an Archangel, and with the trumpet of God." This will be with observation; so will He end; so did He not begin His Church upon earth; for it had been foretold of Him, "He shall not contend nor cry out; neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. The bruised reed He shall not break, and smoking flax He shall not extinguish, till He send forth judgment unto victory."
And that noiseless, unostentatious conquest of the earth, made by the Holy Apostles of Christ, became, as regards the Jews, still more secret, from the circumstance that they believed it would be with outward show, though He assured them of the contrary. The Pharisees looked out for some sign from heaven. They would not believe that His kingdom could come, unless they saw it come; they looked out for a prince with troops in battle array; and since He came with twelve poor men and no visible pomp, He was to them as a "thief in the night," because of their incredulity, and He was come and in possession before they would allow that He was coming.
But the coming of His kingdom would anyhow have been secret, even though they had not been resolved that it should not be so. And He tells us in the text the reason why. "Neither shall they say, Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you." You see, He tells us why He came so covertly. It could not be otherwise, because it was a conquest, not of the body, but of the heart. It was not an assault from without, but it was an inward influence not subduing the outward man through the senses, but, in the words of the Apostle, "bringing into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ." Kingdoms of this world spread in space and time; they begin from a point, and they travel onwards, and range round. Their course may be traced: first they secure this territory, then they compass that. They make their ground good, as they go, and consolidate their power. Of course, the kingdom of Christ also, as being in this world, has an outward shape, and fortunes, and a history, like institutions of this world, though it be not of this world. It began from Jerusalem, and went forward to Scythia and to Africa, to India and to Britain; and it has ranks and officers and laws; it observes a strict discipline, and exacts an implicit obedience: but still this is not the full account, or the true process, of its rise and establishment. "The weapons of its warfare were not carnal;" it came by an inward and intimate visitation; by outward instruments, indeed, but with effects far higher than those instruments; with preaching and argument and discussion, but really by God's own agency. He who is Omnipotent and Omniscient, touched many hearts at once and in many places. They forthwith, one and all, spoke one language, not learning it one from the other so much as taught by Himself the canticle of the Lamb: or, if by men's teaching too, yet catching and mastering it spontaneously, almost before the words were spoken. For time and space, cause and effect, are the servants of His will.