Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth

Letter to the Teacher

V ERY little preface is here required. Read over carefully Lesson II. on "THE KINGDOM OF GOD" before you begin your teaching. Try to work out for yourself the thoughts just sketched there in bare outline. All through the Gospel of St. Mark keep before you this thought of the "Kingdom of God as the ideal ever present to the mind of our Blessed Lord—a colony of Heaven to be founded on earth, like the colonies of Rome founded throughout the ancient world—a colony whose laws should be the laws of Heaven; whose work and amusements should be according to the will of "The King;" whose subjects should be those who "suffer long, and are kind, who envy not, who vaunt not, who seek not their own; and whose future should be in the perfect Kingdom of God" above. Think of the Roman colony at Philippi, whose citizens so identified themselves with the far-off imperial city, rejecting customs not lawful for us to receive or to observe, being Romans? (Acts xvi. 21). Think of St. Paul's teaching about the colony of Heaven to these same Philippians, so proud of being citizens of Imperial Rome. Our citizenship is in Heaven." (Philippians. iii. 20). Try to press on the children this thought of the Kingdom of God on earth as a colony of Heaven. There are "customs not lawful for us to receive or observe, being members of the Kingdom of God." Try to teach them the real, practical religion implied in being members of that Kingdom. Teach them that Bible-reading, and Prayer, and Sacraments are not in themselves religion—the work of the Kingdom—but rather the indispensable  source of strengthening and stimulating power for performing that religion, that work of "The Kingdom." Show that the Incarnation, the Atonement, the coming of the Holy Ghost were all necessary parts of this ideal of Christ.

The story of the founding of the Church in the early chapters of the Acts is included as part of this book. We cannot say that the Church is the perfect embodiment of Christ's ideal; but it is the best approach to it that humanity has attained. Like a sculptor trying to embody a very noble conception in very rough, intractable material, so is the Lord trying to embody His ideal in imperfect humanity. It is very rough, very imperfect; but it is in some degree embodying the conception, and growing more desirous of embodying it, we trust, as the ages go on. Try to make the children feel sympathy with this longing of their Master, to recognise all that they owe to Him, and to see their duty towards that Kingdom of His into which they came at Baptism. Let them think of Him as looking lovingly down upon their individual lives, watching eagerly to help them towards beautiful deeds, rejoicing in their every struggle toward the right, and thinking wistfully of the day when His desire shall be accomplished; when, in the blessed streets of the Kingdom above, He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."

Thus may you help to teach your children real religion; not the religion of mere fruitless church-going; not the religion of mere emotions and excitements, which we hear so much of to-day, but the sound, manly, common-sense religion taught them in the Church Catechism,  "to do my duty in that state of life unto which it hath pleased God to call me."

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