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NATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION, A DIVINE INSTITUTION.

James Dodson

1860-William Sloane (1787-1863).-This is the text of a sermon commemorating the Scottish Reformation, in 1560, designed to assert and prove that National Establishments are Scriptural and the historical doctrine of the Reformers. He spends his time expounding the theory without worrying too much about certain points of application.

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OCCASIONAL HEARING.

James Dodson

1860-William Sloane (1787-1863).-This article constitutes a continuation of Mr. Sloane's excellent exposition of the doctrine of occasional hearing. In it, he addresses a common quibble of the proponents of intercommunion, that preaching for those we cannot hear is equal to occasional hearing.

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INTERCOMMUNION IN HEARING THE WORD.

James Dodson

1860-William Sloane (1787-1863).-Old Light minister Sloane expands the answer of true Reformed Presbyterians on the matter of pulpit interchange and occasional hearing. This is both an answer to a previous unsigned article and a robust defense of the Covenanter position.

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INTERCHANGE OF PULPITS.

James Dodson

1860-Anonymous.-This short piece raises the question of pulpit exchange and occasional hearing by way of giving a brief response to question raised on the subject.

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HEAD. VI. - The Sufferings of Some, upon the account of Extraordinary executing of Judgment upon Notorious Incendiaries

James Dodson

1687-Alexander Shields.-This is a chapter in a book already quite controversial addressing a topic extremely controversial-the right of executing private judgment, in certain cases, when there is a failure of public authorities. Mr. Shields brings history, Scripture and the statements of a number of reputable orthodox Reformed divines to bear on this question.

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HEAD I.-Where The Sufferings of many for Refusing to acknowledge a Corrupt Ministry are Vindicated: and the Question of Hearing Curates is cleared.

James Dodson

1687-Alexander Shields.-In this chapter, Shields takes up the doctrine of occasional hearing and explains why we should not hear sectarian, erroneous and unsent ministers and teachers. This section is also notable for its careful delineation of the degrees and boundaries of Christian communion in a divided state.

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CHAPTER I

James Dodson

NECESSITY OF CHRIST’S MEDIATORIAL DOMINION


THE question of Paul, Is Christ divided? is one to which professing Christians have not given sufficient heed, and the evil consequences are abundantly apparent.

It was deemed essential to the salvation of men that their Redeemer should possess the powers at once of a prophet, a priest, and a king. These offices, while essentially distinct, are necessarily and inseparably connected with one another. Such a union has been by some utterly denied; and its denial has laid foundation for some capital errors, which have exerted a pernicious influence on the Christian church. By others it has been criminally overlooked; and the neglect with which it has been treated has occasioned vague and conflicting conceptions regarding the great work of man’s deliverance from sin and wrath by the mediation of the Son of God.

If, as we presume will be readily admitted, the whole of Christ’s offices are necessary to the salvation of fallen man, it follows that they are all essential to the character of the Saviour, and that, of course, we cannot suppose him to have existed for a moment without any one of them, as this would suppose him to have been, for the time at least, no Saviour. This fearful result might itself be deemed sufficient to put Christians on their guard against fancying either that Christ was invested with his different offices at different times, or that he acts at one time according to one and at another time according to another. From the very first he must have possessed the powers of all his offices; and in every part of his work all must have come into operation. For example, when he taught his disciples, he acted not only as a prophet, but also as a priest and a king; inasmuch as the doctrine which he taught brought fully to view his sacerdotal character, and the authority with which his instructions were enforced distinctly recognised his regal power. Again, when as a priest he offered himself a spotless sacrifice to God, he gave to the world as a prophet a new revelation of the character of God, and of the principles of the divine moral government; at the same time that as a king he triumphed gloriously over his enemies. In like manner, his royal achievements not only manifest his majesty and his power, but serve to publish the clemency of his grace, and to recognise the merit of his atoning sacrifice as the ground on which they proceed.

This doctrine of inseparable union does not by any means confound the distinction subsisting between the various offices of our Mediator, any more than the union of persons in the Godhead amounts to a denial of the essential distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; or than the union of natures in the person of the Son of God is at variance with the ascription, by the inspired writers, of some things to the one nature, and of other things to the other nature. Without confounding the distinction between them, we may, therefore, safely maintain the inseparable union of Christ’s mediatorial offices—a union which obtained in every pain he endured, and in every act he performed or will ever perform in behalf of the elect; and which it becomes the believer joyfully and gratefully to recognise and acknowledge, as the absence of any one of them would disqualify him for performing the work of our redemption.

In proceeding to consider the kingly office of Christ, it is to be borne in mind that it stands in inseparable connexion with his sacerdotal office. He sits a Priest upon his throne. Nor will any enlightened subject of Sion’s King feel that there is any incongruity, in his case at least, between the mitre and the crown, the altar and the throne, the censer and the sceptre, the smoking incense and the shout of victory. ‘We have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens. This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.’[1]

The kingly office of Christ forms an interesting part of the Christian system, and as such both merits and requires extensive illustration. We may judge of its importance from the frequency with which Christ is spoken of in the sacred writings under the character of a King. Is the advent of Messiah announced to the ancient church? It is in these words: ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee.’[2] Are the members of the church invited to behold his excellences? Such is the character in which he is discovered: ‘Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.’[3] Is a gracious discovery of the Saviour promised? It is thus conveyed: ‘Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty.’[4] Are the saints required to exult in the Redeemer? It is in these terms: ‘Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.’[5] Does the believer record the effect produced by some singular manifestation of the divine presence to his soul? This is his language: ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’[6] Or is the church required to celebrate the ascension of her Lord? In strains borrowed from the triumphant entrance of an earthly monarch into the capital of his kingdom, she exclaims: ‘Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.’[7] Such being the frequent allusion made in the Scriptures to this particular feature of the Saviour’s character, an examination into the mediatorial government of Christ presents peculiar attractions to every true disciple of Jesus; and as the theme is ample, as well as inviting, it requires the patient, candid, and believing attention of all who would be wise unto salvation.

The sovereign authority of Christ may be viewed either as necessary, or as official. Viewing him as God, it is necessary, inherent, and underived: viewing him as Mediator, it is official and delegated. It is the latter of these we are now to contemplate. The subject of our present inquiry is, the Mediatorial Dominion of the Son; not that which essentially belongs to him as God, but that with which, by the authoritative act of the Father, he has been officially invested as the Messiah. It is that government, in short, which was laid upon his shoulders—that power which was given unto him in heaven and in earth.

In proceeding to the consideration of this interesting and momentous subject, the first thing which claims attention is the necessity of Christ’s kingly office. This takes precedence of all other points, inasmuch as its establishment will tend to prepare for the more careful investigation of the other parts of the subject, by impressing the mind with a higher sense of its importance. ‘For he must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet’ (1 Cor. 15:25).

1. The kingly office of Christ is necessary to the fulfilment of God’s gracious purposes respecting the elect. The right of dominion over all things necessarily belongs to him as God. Had his kingdom embraced nothing but the material and the moral worlds, generally considered, there should have been no room, because no need, for the mediatorial rule, all the purposes of his government being perfectly subserved by his essential control as God. But there is something else than the material and moral world, generally considered, under the government of the Almighty. Man, having broken the original moral constitution under which he was placed, and become liable, in consequence, to judicial displeasure and punishment, and God having determined to rescue a number of the human family from the fearful consequences of such a state, that this might be done honourably and successfully, it became necessary that the government of these, and of others on their account, should be committed to him who was chosen to be their Saviour. God, from the very perfection of his nature, could not, in his absolute character, deal with rebel sinners in any way with a view to their salvation. In this character he must seek their punishment, for he is just: and not only could he not procure or offer pardon and deliverance from the curse of the broken covenant, but he could not even bestow it, nor could he actually deliver them, or conduct them to any of the blessings of salvation. Hence the necessity of another being appointed, not only to purchase and to offer redemption through his blood, but to apply it, to give it effect, to bestow the benefits of grace on the destined subjects of salvation.

2. Indeed, to complete the mediatory character itself, such an office was requisite. Jesus, the chosen of God, is of course a perfect Saviour. But this he could not be without being invested with regal dignity and power. The work given him to do, supposes him to be so invested. It is salvation; and what is that? It is not merely, as we are apt to suppose, paying a ransom, by which the claims of the divine moral government shall be satisfied; it is not merely making announcement that such satisfaction has been given and accepted, and offering redemption to the guilty on this ground. These are certainly important and essential parts of salvation; nor would we be understood as wishing to disparage either the one or the other. No; we can never enough appreciate or extol them. Still they do not, in themselves, constitute salvation; if there were nothing more, not a single sinner could ever be saved. The ransom must be applied as well as paid; the offer must be not only made, but accepted; and to secure this the Mediator must be invested with regal power.

Each office of Christ has its own peculiar province, in which it is essential and indispensable. Generally speaking, it may be said that his province as a priest is to purchase; as a prophet, to publish; as a king, to apply. In the first, he procures; in the second, he makes known; in the third, he gives effect. They are all alike essential: not one of them can be dispensed with. The regal office can as easily be supposed to supersede the sacerdotal or the prophetical, as the sacerdotal or the prophetical can be supposed to supersede the regal. It were absurd to talk of applying what had not been procured; but not less so to talk of procuring what could not be applied.

Let us, for the sake of illustrating and confirming the point under consideration, try what consequences would follow from supposing government or dominion to be expunged from the mediatorial functions of Christ. As priest, he makes atonement for the sins of the chosen of God, procures pardon, purchases deliverance from condemnation, pays the ransom due for their sins, and completely removes all legal obstructions to their salvation. As priest, also, he represents their case to the Father, pleads the merits of his sacrifice, and expresses his will that they may be put in possession of the purchased benefits of redemption; and the Father is pleased to hear and sustain the validity of his claims. As prophet, he makes known to men that all this has been done, informs them plainly that the curse of the law has been removed, God reconciled, and heaven opened for their reception. Yet will these avail for their salvation? All this may be conceived to be done, and yet not one sinner rescued from the pit, not one rebel restored to the favour of the Almighty, not one child of Adam exalted to glory. Without something more, the benefit arising from these interpositions is lost; without another office, the functions of these two are neutralised. Without regal authority, the sacrifice, however meritorious, has no power; the intercession, however powerful, has no efficacy; the doctrine, however clear, has no saving influence; and the Son of God must be content to see the whole human race perish for ever in their sins, as if his blood had never been either shed on Calvary, or carried within the veil. Such being the case, we can appreciate the import of the answer returned by the Saviour to the question of Pilate—‘Art thou a king then? Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.’[8]

This view of the necessity of the kingly office in particular to the perfection of the others, agrees well with the account given in Scripture of the work of the Messiah. The purchase of redemption having been effected, the ransom for sin paid, the decease at Jerusalem accomplished, what step does he take next? Does he surrender all further concern in the salvation of men? Does he abandon all mediatorial actings, and retire into the bosom of the Father? No. Follow him in his ascension to heaven; see him pressing forward into the presence of God and presenting his petition, ‘Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.’ Ere it is asked it is granted. This is the address with which the Father salutes him as he enters the heavenly places not made with hands: ‘Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.’ As if he had said to him—Thou hast established thy right to that rebel world: I surrender the government of it into thy hands: go through it and find out thy redeemed: gather them from the four winds of heaven: for this purpose institute ordinances, promulgate laws, issue commands, appoint servants, subordinate whatever exists to the gracious and magnificent ends of thine appointment. And what is the result? Why, the mitre becomes a crown; the censer a sceptre; the Mediator passes from the altar to the throne; heaven becomes at once a temple and a palace, while its walls echo with the loud acclaim of welcome bursting spontaneously from the whole celestial host to the newly inaugurated monarch.

3. The kingly dignity of the Mediator is necessary, as a reward of his obedience unto the death. Never was service so meritorious, whether we consider the sacrifice made or the end contemplated. In estimating the sacrifice made in performing this service, we must remember that the Son of God left the bosom of his heavenly Father, the region of uncreated light, and all the attractions of celestial society; that he put the essential splendour of his perfections in eclipse, and assumed the likeness of sinful flesh; that he tabernacled with men on the earth, and there submitted to poverty, reproach, and pain; that he endured the persecution of men and devils, and suffered the most awful and mysterious agony, springing from the hiding of his Father’s countenance. Then, the end contemplated was nothing less than this: that men might be saved from everlasting destruction, made fit for heaven, reinstated in the society of angels and of one another, and restored to the favour of God. When or where was there ever service to compare with that of Christ? Who ever delivered from misery so profound? Who ever exalted to bliss so dignified? Who ever made sacrifices so self-denied, in order to accomplish a benevolent undertaking? Here is merit transcendent, overwhelming, which beggars description and sets comparison at defiance.

Should not such service be rewarded? Every principle of moral rectitude says that it should. ‘Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?’ (Luke 24:26). This is not more a maxim of inspiration than a dictate of right moral feeling; and with this the stipulations of the eternal covenant, inspired predictions, the testimony of the Mediator himself, and the assertions of his apostles, all cordially harmonise.

But in what shall this merited reward consist? Not merely in the satisfaction of his own bosom, and the approbation of his heavenly Father. These are great, indeed, but they are not enough. They are inward, and, however fit to be appreciated by the Saviour himself, inadequate for giving expression to others of a sense of the value of his work. There must be something substantial, visible, outwardly glorifying, in the mediatorial reward; something to attract the notice, and call forth the applause of men and angels. Regal exaltation, absolute and unlimited, meets exactly the requirements of the case. If men, who have been faithful over a few things, are to be rewarded by being made ‘rulers over many things,’ surely it is due to him who, ‘as a Son, has been faithful, like Moses, over all his house,’ that he be made ‘ruler over all.’ Having, as a part of his humiliation, suffered himself to be made subject to rulers, to be placed at their bar, to be judged by their laws, to be counted worthy of death by their unrighteous decree, it is fitting that, in reward of what he has effected, he should be invested with sovereign rule over the princes of this world, and, in his turn, demand of them obedience to his authority, punish them for their proud and obstinate rebellion, and subordinate all their measures and movements to the gracious purposes of his reign.

4. Nor is this dominion less requisite to counteract the opposition made to the work of man’s salvation by its enemies. ‘For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.’ That a work of such grace and benevolence as that of man’s salvation should provoke hostility, seems strange; but it is not more strange than true. It has many enemies—enemies to its internal operations in the heart; and enemies to its outward administration in the world. Against those internal operations in the heart which salvation supposes, there rise up a host of adversaries. The law, as a covenant of works, by demanding the punishment of the guilty violator, slays the peace of the soul. Indwelling corruptions wage incessant warfare against the quickening, sanctifying, and comforting work of the Spirit. ‘I find then a law that when I would do good, evil is present with me.’ Satan and his emissaries, numerous, subtle, and powerful, assail by their temptations, accusations, and persecutions. ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ The world, with its allurements and terrors, its smiles and frowns, tries to undermine the principles of stability. ‘Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ Death, by threatening to execute the curse of the broken covenant, awakens slavish fears; deprives of tranquility; maintains in ignoble and distracting bondage. He must be a king in order to threaten to hold the body in corruption, and then to engulf in final ruin both soul and body for ever: ‘to deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’[9] In opposition to the outward administration of the work of Christ in the world, also, a whole host of enemies stand forth. Wilful ignorance, unblushing infidelity, hardened profanity, open idolatry, Mohammedan delusion, Jewish obstinacy, antichristian domination, and civil misrule, form a combined phalanx of portentous breadth and depth; an unholy alliance of discordant materials, yet breathing only one spirit of determined enmity to the reign of Christ in the world, and resolved to prevent the progress, and, if possible, to effect the extermination of his kingdom, by every means in their power.

Are these enemies to meet with no resistance? Is the kingdom of the Messiah to fall a prey to their rapacious hatred, and that of his great arch-enemy to be erected on its ruins? Certainly not. It is the prayer of every saint that they may meet with a signal defeat. The honour of the Saviour himself demands their final overthrow; and the word of God assures us that such shall be the ultimate issue of the contest. By whom is this end to be brought about, but by the Messiah himself? ‘My sword,’ says he, ‘shall be bathed in heaven: behold it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the Lord is filled with blood; it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.’ Isa. 63:1–4: ‘Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat? I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.’[10]

To the accomplishment of this work, investment with regal power and authority is indispensable. In this capacity it is that Jesus encounters his enemies. It is not on the white horse merely, but on the red, the black, and the pale, that he goes forth conquering and to conquer, and bearing back with him from the field of battle the palm of victory. Nor is there anything in this at variance with his general character as Mediator. The saviour of his people, and the conqueror of their foes, are not incompatible features. The prosperity of the people of God is intimately connected with the destruction of their enemies. These things go necessarily hand in hand. At the deluge, the preservation of the true seed and the destruction of those who had corrupted their ways, were inseparably conjoined. The rescue of the Israelites from Egypt stood connected with the overthrow of the Egyptians; and when the Jews were restored from Babylon their Chaldean oppressors were spoiled.

5. The kingly office is not less necessary to meet the needy circumstances of Christ’s own people. They are all of them, by nature, rebels, enemies to Christ, both in their minds and by wicked works; their bosoms rankle with every hostile feeling; the carnal mind is enmity against God, and by nature all are carnal, sold under sin. It is not possible, such being the case, that they should embrace of themselves the overtures of reconciliation, accept without hesitation the offers of mercy, and acquiesce with cordiality and esteem in the terms of salvation. No; they treat them with despite, they spurn them from them with scorn. They must be reconciled—they must be made willing—their imaginations must be brought down. And how but by the Saviour’s rod of omnipotent strength sent forth out of Zion; by the irresistible sceptre of his grace, swayed with authority for this very end; by the sharp arrows of conviction which penetrate the heart of the King’s enemies only when propelled by him whose right hand teaches terrible things, and who, in regal majesty, rides prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness! They are all by nature guilty, and stand in need of pardon; but to dispense forgiveness is a royal prerogative, and Christ could never have exercised it had he not been a king. They are naturally unruly, and need to be governed; nor can they frame or execute laws for themselves:—the Lord is their lawgiver; and to promulgate laws, to enact statutes, belongs to one invested with regal dignity. They are, moreover, weak and defenceless; exposed to the combined opposition of the enemies formerly specified, they have, in themselves, no ability to withstand either their artifices or their strength:—that he may not only restrain and conquer all their enemies, but rule and defend themselves, Christ must hold the office of a king.

Such is the varied necessity that exists for the regal office of the Mediator. A review of the several points by which it is established, may serve to strengthen our conviction of the importance attaching to this feature of the character of our Redeemer. Without Christ’s kingly work, the gracious purposes of God could not be executed; the mediatorial character itself would not be complete; the work of salvation must continue unrewarded; the enemies of truth and holiness should finally triumph, and the necessities of the children of God remain for ever unsupplied. Such things cannot—shall not be. ‘The Lord is our king, and he will save us’ (Isa. 33:22). The exalted Redeemer is at once ‘a Prince and a Saviour’ (Acts 5:31).

[CHAPTER II]


FOOTNOTES:


[1] Heb. 4:14; 10:12, 13.

[2] Zech. 9:9.

[3] Song 3:11.

[4] Isa. 33:17.

[5] Ps. 149:2.

[6] Isa. 6:5.

[7] Ps. 24:7.

[8] John 18:37.

[9] Rom. 7:21; Eph. 6:12; John 15:19; Heb. 2:15.

[10] Isa. 34:5, 6; 63:1–4.

CHAPTER II

James Dodson

REALITY OF CHRIST’S MEDIATORIAL DOMINION


THAT Christ, besides the dominion which belongs to him originally and essentially as God, is invested with a delegated and official dominion as Mediator, is capable of being established by a variety of cogent proof. The necessity of such dominion to the work of salvation, established in the preceding chapter, itself constitutes an argument of some weight on this point. But other evidence is at hand.

1. Long before his advent in the flesh, there were prefigurations of this feature of the Saviour’s character. Whether all the kings of Israel and Judah are to be regarded as express types of Messiah the Prince or not, it cannot be questioned that some are to be looked upon in this light. This was certainly the case with Melchizedek. That he was a type of Christ, is affirmed:—‘Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’[1] The points of accordance are manifold and striking. The very name signifies ‘king of righteousness,’ and points directly to him who, righteous in himself, wrought out for his people a justifying righteousness, works a sanctifying righteousness within them by his Spirit, and sways them with a sceptre of righteousness. His designation ‘king of Salem,’ that is ‘king of peace,’ fitly enough points out one who, whether as regards the disposition for which he was distinguished, the blessing he died to procure, or the effects of his administration, is well entitled to be called ‘the Prince of peace.’ What he did, in bringing forth bread and wine to Abraham and his army returning from the slaughter of the kings, is no unapt emblem of the spiritual nourishment and refreshment which the Messiah affords to his soldiers engaged in warfare with the enemies of their salvation. But the point which, most of all, marks him out as typical of our mediatorial king, is his combining in his own person the regal and sacerdotal offices. Besides being ‘king of Salem,’ he was ‘priest of the Most High God.’[2] He was a royal priest—a sacerdotal king—and thus an eminent type of him who, exerting his power on the footing of his purchase, sits ‘a priest upon his throne.’ Moses resembled Christ, not only in the facts of his personal history and in his official acts as a mediator in general or prophet in particular, but as ‘king in Jeshurun.’[3] Jeshurun signifies upright, and refers to the people of Israel, who were required, and understood, to possess this character. The Jewish legislator thus typified Him who, being ‘king in Sion,’ rules among the upright in heart, and governs them with integrity and truth. And as Moses, in the capacity in question, gave his people laws, so Jesus has given his laws, not indeed of carnal ordinances, but of steadfast faith and inward spiritual obedience.—David, too, to say nothing of the import of his name as the beloved, of his personal qualifications, and of his sufferings, cannot fail to strike every one at all acquainted with his history, as a remarkable type of Christ;—in the auspicious commencement of his power by the signal overthrow of the vaunting champion of the Philistines;—in his valour in war, and his wisdom and humanity in peace;—in the principles and character of his administration, in which he led his people according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands;—and in the covenant of royalty made with him and his seed for ever. So close is the resemblance, that the Messiah himself is more than once spoken of by the prophets, under the very name of David.[4]—But by none was the mediatorial dominion more strongly prefigured than by Solomon. In the wisdom of his administration—in the extent of his territory—in the wealth of his subjects—and in the peacefulness of his reign, he was a remarkable type of the Messiah; so much so, that in that mystic epithalamium in which the Saviour’s excellency and love are so fully set forth, this is the very name by which he is designated: ‘Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart.’[5]

2. Prophecy, as well as type, bore testimony to this view of the Saviour’s character. The very first prediction is conceived in terms which allude to the ancient way in which victorious kings expressed their conquest, namely, by placing their feet on the necks of their foes.[6] When the dying patriarch foretold that the ‘sceptre should not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come,’[7] his language clearly enough imports, that on him of whom he spake, should devolve, at his coming, that judicial and legislative authority which had been previously exercised by others. Balaam prophesied: ‘There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a sceptre (the emblem of regal power) shall rise out of Israel.’[8] David said: ‘Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion,’—a prediction which is expressly applied in the New Testament to Christ.[9] The forty-fifth Psalm undoubtedly refers to the Messiah. The circumstances which it details were not verified in the history of Solomon’s reign, besides being, many of them at least, inconsistent with the tenor of his private life, and at variance with the fortunes of his family. The titles by which the person spoken of is saluted, the multitudinous character of his progeny, and the perpetuity of his kingdom, all show that a greater than Solomon is here. Now, in this Psalm, the regal character is sustained throughout: ‘I speak of the things which I have made touching the king. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.’[10] But time would fail to enumerate particularly all the prophecies bearing on this point, and we must content ourselves with referring to some others in the margin.[11]

3. Many of the titles which are applied to Christ in the Scriptures, bear on this subject. He is designated Lord:—‘God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.—Leader and Commander:—‘Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a Leader and Commander to the people.’—Judge:—‘The Lord is our Judge.’—Ruler:—‘Thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be Ruler in Israel.’[12]

4. The Saviour laid claim himself to this character. The passage in which this is related deserves particular attention. ‘Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the king of the Jews? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.’[13] It had been generally rumoured that Jesus was king of the Jews. The jealousy of the Roman government was excited. Pilate feels himself bound, from his office, to call him to account on this point. Jesus, while he explains the sense in which his regal character was to be understood, does not deny the fact. On the contrary, he explicitly avows it. No sinister motive could induce him to decline acknowledging it. Nor does he content himself with a mere simple avowal; but he speaks of it as closely connected with the great purpose of his appearance in our world.

5. We find that others recognise the validity of his claim. It is acknowledged by intelligent and moral beings of every class and rank. At the head of these, stands God the Father himself:—‘Thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head’—‘God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.’[14] Next come angels, tuning their harps of gold to the praises of Zion’s King:—‘And behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb,’ said the angel to Mary, ‘and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.’ ‘And I heard the voice of many angels,’ says John, ‘round about the throne, saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.’[15] Then follow the saints, with notes less high, perhaps, but not less distinct or sincere. ‘The star-led wizards’ inquire for ‘the heaven-born child,’ in these words, ‘Where is he that is born king of the Jews?’ while, as an act of lowly homage, they unfold their ordoriferous treasures and lay them at his feet. Nathanael witnessed this good confession:—‘Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the king of Israel.’ And the Apostle of the Gentiles, as he exhibits Jesus Christ ‘for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting,’ exclaims, ‘Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, amen.’[16] His enemies are reluctantly compelled to bring up the rear of witnesses to his royal claims. The Jewish multitude rent the air with their shouts, as he entered into Jerusalem, crying, ‘Hosanna, blessed is the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.’ The Roman soldiers unwittingly bore their part, as they ‘bowled the knee before him and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!’ And Pontius Pilate must needs cause to be put on his cross, written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, the unalterable title, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’—a title which was read, we may conclude, with profit by many of the multitude, and which was, perhaps, the principal means of conveying to the malefactor that knowledge of the Saviour’s character which led to his conversion.[17]

6. In harmony with all this evidence, is the circumstance that royal appendages are described as belonging to him. We say nothing here of his kingdom, as this will fall to be spoken of afterwards. He wears royal titles. As expressive of his being the inherent source, the meritorious author, and liberal bestower and supporter of spiritual and eternal being, he is called the ‘Prince of life’:—to denote his dominion and authority, he is spoken of as ‘King of saints’:—and, as indicative of his absolute and universal supremacy, he is represented as having on his vesture and on his thigh the splendid inscription, ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords.’[18] He occupies a throne,—the seat of royalty, from which the king dispenses his laws, and on which he receives the homage of his subjects:—‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me on my throne.’[19] His head is adorned with a crown of purest radiance, surpassing in worth and beauty the most costly diadem ever worn by earthly monarch, composed of the richest material, and studded with the brightest gems—its substance being true honour, and its jewels immortal souls. ‘Thou settest a crown of purest gold on his head. Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour. Upon himself shall his crown flourish. They shall be mine in that day when I make up my jewels.’[20] He wields a sceptre, the rod of office, the symbol of regal authority, and the instrument by which the monarch at once gathers and governs his people, and smites and subdues his enemies. ‘The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’[21] Laws are essential to dominion; it cannot exist long without them; and there can be no administration where they are entirely wanting. The Messiah is not without these; the Scriptures are the law of the Lord—a code at once righteous, suitable, extensive, and efficacious:—‘The law is holy, and the commandment holy, just, and good’—‘being not without law to God, but under law to Christ.’[22] Numerous and glorious are his attendants. At the giving of the law they are thus described: ‘The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them: he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints.’ At his advent: ‘Suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ During his life: ‘Angels came and ministered unto him.’ At his ascension: ‘The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive.’ And, at his second coming, when the judgment shall be set and the books opened: ‘Thousands, thousands shall minister unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before him. Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints.’[23]—Then, he has his servants and ambassadors. Of the elements, it is said: ‘He maketh his ministers a flaming fire.’ Of the angelic tribes: ‘Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?’ Of the ministers of religion: ‘Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled unto God. Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ.’[24]—How shall we describe his revenues—the honour, and glory, and worship, and respect, and esteem, and constant obedience, which he exacts as tribute from all the subjects of his dominion? ‘He is thy Lord, and worship thou him. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come into his courts. Oh worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him all the earth.’[25]—And all the royal prerogatives of apprehending and liberating, of condemning and acquitting, of life and death, of pardon and execution, belong to him without reserve: ‘I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.’[26]—Such, if we may so speak, are the ensignia of the Mediator, ensignia of transcendent value and matchless splendour. No titles like his titles;—no throne of such peerless majesty;—no crown of such overpowering radiance;—no sceptre of such resistless might;—no laws so equitable or beneficent;—no retinue so large or so illustrious;—no ministers so dignified;—no revenues so rich;—no prerogatives so absolute, as his! ‘Who in the heaven can be compared to the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto him?’

Of the reality of Christ’s mediatorial dominion there can thus be no doubt. Great must be the guilt of those who deny it. To do so is to nullify types; to contradict prophecy; to blot out the Saviour’s titles; to give the faithful and true Witness himself the lie; to convert his regalia into empty baubles; and to reduce his prerogatives to mere mockery and show. While we profess to recognise and acknowledge the Prince of life, let us not, by reducing our acknowledgment to an empty form, be guilty of re-acting the impious mockery of those who, in derision of his claims, placed on his head a crown of thorns, put on him a purple robe; and as they shouted, ‘Hail, King!’ smote him with their hands. Rather let us place on his head the crown of our salvation, submit cheerfully to be governed by his laws, and look forward to being honoured to sit with him on his throne of glory in the heavens.

[CHAPTER III]


FOOTNOTES:


[1] Ps. 110:4; Heb. 5:10.

[2] Heb. 7:2.

[3] Deut. 33:5.

[4] Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23, 24; Hos. 3:5.

[5] Song 3:11.

[6] Gen. 3:15.

[7] Gen. 49:10.

[8] Num. 24:17.

[9] Ps. 2:6; Acts 4:25, 26.

[10] Ps. 45:1, 3, 6.

[11] Ps. 72; 89:19–24; 110:1–3; Isa. 9:6, 7; 11:1; Jer. 23:5, 6; Ezek. 37:24; Zech. 9:9, &c.

[12] Acts 2:36; Isa. 55:4; Isa. 33:22; Mic. 5:2.

[13] John 18:33, 37.

[14] Ps. 21:3; Phil. 2:9, 10.

[15] Luke 1:31–33; Rev. 5:11, 12.

[16] Matt. 2:2; John 1:49; 1 Tim. 1:17.

[17] John 12:13; Matt. 27:29; John 19:19.

[18] Acts 3:15; Rev. 15:3; 17:14; 19:16.

[19] Ps. 45:5, 6; Rev. 3:1, 2.

[20] Ps. 21:3; 8:5; 132:18; Mal. 3:16.

[21] Ps. 45:6; 110:2; 2:9.

[22] Rom. 7:12; 1 Cor. 9:21.

[23] Deut. 33:2; Luke 2:13, 14; Matt. 4:11; Ps. 68:17, 18; Dan. 7:10; Jude 14.

[24] Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:14; 2 Cor. 5:20; 1 Cor. 4:1.

[25] Ps. 45:11; 96:8, 9.

[26] Deut. 32:39.

CHAPTER III

James Dodson

CHRIST’S QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE KINGLY OFFICE


1. Personal dignity forms a primary and conspicuous feature in the regal qualifications of the Messiah. This, if not always deemed essential in a king, is generally regarded as fit and proper. This general sense of its propriety may be inferred from the ease with which men in every age have gone into the principle of hereditary government. A degree of personal dignity or natural majesty, either real or adventitious, seems essential to qualify for rule. That the reins of government should be placed in the hands of one entirely destitute of everything of this nature, is repugnant to all our feelings of propriety. On this principle proceeded the answer to the question put by Gideon to Zebah and Zalmunna:—‘What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? As thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king.’[1] To the same purpose is the reflection of the wise man:—‘Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning. Blessed art thou, O land, when thy king is the son of nobles!’[2] Now, great is the personal dignity of our mediatorial King. He is the Son of God—a title by which he is designated times without number in the Scriptures. Into the question, whether his sonship be personal or official, we cannot be expected fully to enter here. The remark we have made, however, proceeds on the supposition that it is personal; for, if he were the Son of God only in an official or figurative sense, sonship could never be adduced as qualifying for the very office from which it derived its own existence. Sonship cannot both be derived from, and qualify for, office at the same time. But that the title in question may safely be viewed as denoting personal dignity, as involving something supernatural or divine, as implying a constructive assumption of such dignity as belongs only to God, is borne out by the circumstance, that his assuming this title was considered, by the highest legal and ecclesiastical authorities of the Jews, as sufficient to expose him to the charge of blasphemy, because by doing so he thus made himself equal with God;—an inference which he never once attempted to deny, while he vindicated himself from the imputation which it was falsely understood to involve. ‘Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.’[3] The sonship and office of Christ are, also, frequently spoken of as different; they are often set in opposition to one another, and even introduced as distinct parts of the same simple propositions; as, for example, when it is said, ‘He preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God’—‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’[4] Besides, official sonship is a common thing, but that of Christ is spoken of as peculiar and exclusive; whence he is called God’s ‘own Son,’ and his ‘only begotten Son’[5]—language expressive of a relation supreme in dignity, unique in nature, without a parallel, absolutely his own. That he is qualified for mediatorial dominion by his personal dignity as the Son of God is very impressively set before us in the words of the angel to Mary:—‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David.’[6] If the land may be pronounced blessed whose king is ‘the son of nobles,’ how greatly blessed must that kingdom be whose ruler is ‘the Son God!’

2. The personal dignity, however, is not, in this case, such as to prevent a near relationship to the subjects of his spiritual kingdom. ‘Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, who is not thy brother.’[7] Such was the law respecting the appointment of the supreme ruler among the Jews. It was founded in reason and in accurate views of human nature, as only one who is related by natural ties can enter fully into the feelings of the people, participate in all their troubles, and sympathise with them in all their joys and sorrows. Reason revolts at the idea of a man ruling over angels, or of an angel ruling over men; and it is the same general principle which dictates the impolicy and impropriety of appointing a foreigner to the supreme government of a nation.

To qualify him for ruling over man, it would thus appear to be necessary that Christ should possess human nature. The height of his personal dignity as the Son of God, seems to preclude the possibility of natural relationship to his subjects. By the mystery of the incarnation, however, this difficulty is overcome. A human nature, miraculously provided by the power of the Holy Ghost, was, by a voluntary act of assumption on the part of the Son of God, taken into close and indissoluble union with his person: the Son of God became also the Son of man. The Word was made flesh. He who, as God, was removed far above everything human, as man became qualified for exercising all the sympathies of humanity; and, touched with the feeling of our infirmities, was thus fitted for ruling in the hearts of his people with all the sensibilities of a brother. When his incarnation was announced by the angel, he was spoken of in his regal character. ‘Thou shalt bring forth a son, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever.’[8] His personal dignity is not in this way lessened; the lustre of his divine majesty is not diminished: but there is something superadded which gives us greater boldness in approaching him. When we come to our King with perfect freedom, pressing our suit with eagerness and expressing our confidence that the petition we present shall be granted, were we questioned as to what it is that gives us all this ease, we might reply in the words of the men of Judah to the men of Israel of old—Because the king is near of kin to us.[9]

3. Jesus is farther qualified for mediatorial dominion, by his knowledge and wisdom. These are indispensable regal qualifications. That authority of any kind, particularly supreme authority, should be held by one who is ignorant or foolish, shocks all our sentiments of propriety. ‘Be wise, O ye kings’ (Ps. 2:10). The kings of Israel were required to read in the book of the law; and Solomon, the most distinguished king of antiquity, and one of the most remarkable types of Christ in his regal office, was wiser than all the men of his day. We speak now, not so much of knowledge in general, as of that which qualifies for rule;—knowledge of the principles of government; of the laws of the kingdom; of the character, state, and necessities of the subjects; and of the nature and bearing of foreign relations. Such knowledge is essential to the useful exercise of power. The knowledge of Christ, in all these respects, is extensive and perfect. He knows well the principles of the government which he is delegated to administer; for they are founded on the nature of God and man, and on the relation subsisting between them; and with these, being Immanuel, God with us, he cannot but be most thoroughly acquainted. He knows well the laws of his kingdom, being himself the lawgiver by whom they were all framed and promulgated, and having himself yielded perfect obedience to them all. He knows all his subjects, in the minute variety of their circumstances, characters, necessities, and desires; ‘he needs not that any should testify of man, for he knows what is in man, and he searcheth the reins and hearts.’[10] He is thoroughly acquainted with the rival kingdom of this world, from which he has to reclaim his subjects, and against whose assaults he must defend them; with the kingdom of darkness, from which he has to save them; and with the kingdom of light, with which he has to induce them to form, not a partial or temporary confederacy merely, but a final and permanent alliance.

Nor is wisdom less important than knowledge. Wisdom to foresee, judgment to contrive, prudence to execute, are essential to a ruler. Jesus, ‘the king eternal,’ is at the same time ‘the only wise God’ (1 Tim. 1:17). His understanding is infinite. He can lay down the best plans and devise the best measures for promoting at once the enlargement, the usefulness, and the happiness of his kingdom.

In short, nothing can fail either from ignorance or from indiscretion. There is no lack of information or of prudence. No event can occur unforeseen by him. He is prepared for every occurrence. Nay, such is his wisdom, that what his enemies design for injury, he, by skilful management, can cause to operate powerfully for good.

4. But all these qualities will be of no avail without power. Dignity to adorn, relationship to sympathise, and wisdom to project, can be of no use, unless there be also energy to execute. Force of mind, energy of character, and powerful resources are requisite in a king. Besides skill to plan for the good of his subjects, he must have ministers, finances, armies, to enable him to realise his schemes. Uncontrollable power is one of the regal qualifications of Christ. ‘Wisdom and might are his’ (Dan. 2:20). He possesses all the resources of omnipotence. He is ‘the Mighty God,’ ‘the Lord which is, and which was, and which is to come—the Almighty.’ Creation, providence, regeneration, and resurrection, proclaim the extent of physical and moral energy that he has at his command, in order to conduct the administration of his mediatorial kingdom. His ministers are qualified, by their numbers and endowments, to execute his sovereign pleasure. He can call to his aid all the perfections of Godhead, and all the fulness of the new covenant. The elements of heaven, apostate spirits, and angels of light, are under his control, advancing his cause and opposing his enemies. At his command, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera; a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet an apostle, in fulfilment of his gracious designs; and it was no empty boast, that he could have commanded more than twelve legions of angels. With such vast might, with such immense resources, no purpose can fail from inability to carry it into execution. His people shall be willing in the day of his power. He is mighty to save. Where the word of this King is, there is power.

5. High moral excellence is another indispensable qualification. Without this, dignity serves only as a passport to iniquity; relationship and knowledge confer only greater capacity of mischief; wisdom degenerates into low cunning; and power becomes mere physical force, more to be dreaded than the hurricane or the lightning. Rectitude of intention, justice of administration, and exemplary conduct, are the constituents of that moral excellence which Scripture, reason, and common sense concur in demanding as necessary to qualify for conducting a proper and effective government. These elements of moral worth meet, in the highest degree and in perfect combination, in the character of Prince Messiah. ‘The sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre’ (Ps. 45:6); ‘Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints’ (Rev. 15:3). Rectitude of intention characterises all his plans. Everything is designed for the good of his people and the glory of the Godhead. Other kings may have sinister ends to serve: even when doing what is right in itself, they may have an ultimate respect to their own personal aggrandisement, or to the advancement of some favourite courtier; or, supposing them moved solely by a regard to the good of their subjects, they may be seeking this at the expense of some neighbouring state. No defect of this nature can ever attach to him of whom we are speaking. He can have no intentions but what are benevolent and righteous; nor can he, even for the fulfilment of these, ever overlook what is due to the honour and glory of God. His administration, too, is perfectly equitable. When the intentions of men are the best that can be supposed, the administration is not always such; while, in other cases, both the intention and the administration are the reverse of just. The rights, and liberties, and property of the subjects, are too often sacrificed, by unprincipled rulers, to schemes of lawless ambition or iniquitous favouritism. The administration of Christ, on the contrary, is impartial, righteous, infallible; no one is wronged that another may be benefited; and every act is such as entitles it to meet with ready and implicit submission.

Exemplary behaviour is necessary to give due moral effect to official administration. Laws however wise, acts however equitable, intentions however pure, cannot have the same influence on others when they proceed from persons who are themselves destitute of moral character. No government, however good in itself, can be expected to be successful, which is administered by a known profligate. It is wisely required that he that ruleth over men must be ‘just, ruling in the fear of the Lord.’ It were unreasonable to expect principles to be acted upon, and laws to be obeyed, which are inculcated by persons who are themselves violating them every day. He is likely to be most useful who can appeal, as Samuel did of old, to his people: ‘I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Behold here I am; witness against me before the Lord and before his anointed, whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes herewith?’[11] Jesus set his subjects an example of perfect holiness. His conduct was unimpeachable; his behaviour was unaffected with the slightest moral obliquity. All the laws of his kingdom, whether personal, relative, or religious, were recommended by his example, as well as enforced by his sovereign authority. Perfect moral excellence adorns his character. He is not only the righteous Lord who loveth righteousness, but he practised it so fully and so constantly, as to entitle him, in presence of his most inveterate enemies, to put forth the challenge: ‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’

6. Nor is Jesus deficient in the more gentle qualities of meek compassion, tender mercy, and munificent bounty. Great wisdom and stern integrity may be combined with a harsh, repulsive, and unfeeling disposition, but such a combination can be regarded only in the light of a defect. ‘Mercy and truth preserve the king, and his throne is upholden by mercy.’[12] In the qualifications of Sion’s King, the combination in question is complete. In him, justice and compassion honourably harmonise. ‘Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other’ (Ps. 85:10). While ‘he loves righteousness and hates wickedness,’ all ‘his garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia’ (Ps. 45:7, 8). To the daughter of Sion, her King is announced at once as ‘just and having salvation, lowly and riding upon an ass, upon a colt the foal of an ass’ (Zech. 9:9). He can have compassion upon the ignorant and them that are out of the way. Although having all the resources of destruction at his command, he bears patiently with the disobedience and rebellious insults of his subjects. He waits to be gracious. To the most worthless criminal he extends the golden sceptre of his love. His munificence is exhaustless; his bestowments most bountiful and liberal. Plenty, liberty, honour, are dispensed with open hand. What shall be done to the man whom this King delights to honour, cannot be told or conceived. ‘He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also and him that hath no helper. He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the soul of the needy.’[13]

7. Authority is necessary to the valid exercise of power. Other qualifications cannot confer this; nor can the abundance in which they may be enjoyed make up for the want of it. There are two ways in which legitimate authority may be conveyed—divine appointment and popular choice. The latter, however just and proper among men, cannot obtain here; as it is one of the peculiarities of the case before us, that the king chooses the people, and not the people the king. ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.’ Divine appointment, therefore, is here the only proper source of authority. Not that his right to rule is not confirmed by purchase and by conquest; but these are not in themselves sufficient; in their very nature they presuppose an authority founded on the appointment of God. This, then, is the origin of that authority by which the Messiah is qualified for the exercise of mediatorial dominion. It is a matter of such importance, and admits of such amplitude of proof and illustration, that we shall devote a section to it by itself. ‘The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand’ (John 3:35).

Such is the beauty of Christ’s regal qualifications. Here, dignity and condescension, grace and majesty, are admirably blended. There is nothing redundant, nothing defective. There is nothing present that can be wanted, nothing wanting that is required, and every part is in due proportion and delightful harmony.

[CHAPTER IV]


FOOTNOTES:


[1] Judg. 8:18.

[2] Eccl. 10:16, 17.

[3] John 5:18.

[4] Acts 9:20; 8:37.

[5] Rom. 8:32; John 1:14.

[6] Luke 1:32.

[7] Deut. 17:15.

[8] Luke 1:31.

[9] 2 Sam. 19:42.

[10] John 21:17; 2:25; Rev. 2:23.

[11] 1 Sam. 12:2, 3.

[12] Prov. 20:28.

[13] Ps. 71:4, 6, 7, 12, 13.

CHAPTER IV

James Dodson

APPOINTMENT OF CHRIST TO MEDIATORIAL DOMINION


THIS is a topic of great importance, and deserving of being fully investigated and distinctly understood.

1. Christ was formally appointed to the kingly office by his Father from all eternity in the covenant of grace. ‘Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.—I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.—As the Father hath life in himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also because he is the Son of man.’[1] It belonged to the Father to do this formally, as the representative of Deity in the economy of redemption. Absolutely speaking, Christ’s appointment proceeded from the sovereign act of the divine will essentially considered. The designation of all the divine persons to their respective economical characters and offices, can only be referred to such an act. To conceive it as proceeding from the Father necessarily or originally, is at variance with the perfect equality subsisting among the divine persons themselves. It must, therefore, be viewed as flowing absolutely from God essentially considered in the first instance; and, then, that of the Son and the Holy Spirit as proceeding formally from the Father, in whom all power and authority have been economically vested for this end. To him, therefore, the formal appointment of the Mediator to government or rule must be ascribed. This formal appointment took place in the covenant of grace. ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.’[2] It took place from eternity—in anticipation of the fall and consequent helplessness and danger of man. Hence, after the announcement ‘Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion,’ it is added, ‘I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.’[3] To the same purpose is the declaration—‘I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was:’[4] while he who was to be ‘Ruler in Israel’ was spoken of by Micah as having his ‘goings forth from of old, from everlasting.’[5] How solemn and indubitable this act of formal appointment!

2. Christ’s appointment from eternity to the kingly office, was significantly intimated, in the fulness of time, by the unction of his human nature. In order to our feeling an interest in, and becoming acquainted with, what took place in the everlasting covenant, it required to be made known. This was effected by his being solemnly anointed. To anoint, was the ancient way of denoting regal designation. ‘The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them.—The bramble said unto the trees, If in truth you anoint me king over you.—Samuel also said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over his people, over Israel.—Thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.—The house of Judah have anointed me king over them. Anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.’[6] Similar language is used respecting Christ: ‘Yet have I set (Heb. anointed) my king upon my holy hill of Zion. God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him. I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. Of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together. How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power.’[7] What idea was intended to be conveyed by this phraseology, the passages formerly quoted enable us to determine. There cannot be a doubt, that regal appointment is designed by the unction which Jesus is said to have received; an unction which consisted not, as in the case of kings among men, of literal oil and aromatic perfumes applied to the body by the hand of a prophet, but of the Spirit of grace poured out upon him in rich abundance by the Father. This was the ‘holy oil, the oil of gladness,’ with which he was anointed ‘above his fellows.’ These expressions may refer, in part, to his blessed qualifications; but they must be viewed principally as denoting his authoritative appointment, in respect of which, all his garments may be said to ‘smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces.’

3. Christ’s appointment was still farther intimated by his actual investiture with regal power at and after his resurrection. This might be called the inauguration solemnity of the mediatorial King. What took place in the counsels of eternity was made known in the fulness of time; but it was still more largely and clearly exhibited when the Son of God rose from the dead. The kingly office of Christ being essential to the mediatorial character, must of course have existed from eternity, and must also have been exercised from the beginning of time; yet the Scriptures speak of it as conferred in reward of his obedience unto death. ‘Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.’[8] Its having been conferred at his resurrection may seem inconsistent with having existed from the beginning. They are, however, both true. The Holy Spirit always existed in the church, and yet was not given until Christ was glorified. After Christ was glorified there was a more copious manifestation, a more full dispensation of the Spirit. In like manner, at his resurrection, there was a more ample display, a more extensive exercise of Christ’s regal power. His power was, from the first, exercised on the footing of his meritorious death. But when the death had really occurred, it was fitting that there should be a display of the power which resulted from it, and which had all along a regard to it. In short, the exercise of the kingly office before and after Christ’s resurrection, bear much the same relation to one another, as the exercise of the same office before and after the coronation of an earthly king. The ceremony of coronation makes a public, solemn, august display of the sovereign’s investiture with regal power; but the power itself existed before;—in an hereditary government, from the moment of the demise of his predecessor; in an elective government, from the time of his being chosen by the people. After the resurrection of our Redeemer from the grave, there was a more full, explicit, and expressive recognition than before of his appointment to mediatorial rule. Then did it appear that all power was given unto him in heaven and in earth. ‘His being by the right hand of God exalted,’ was the means of ‘letting all the house of Israel know assuredly that God had made that same Jesus whom men had crucified both Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:33, 36). ‘When he raised him from the dead, he set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come’ (Eph. 1:21, 22). ‘When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high’ (Heb. 1:3). He was King from eternity; from the entrance of sin into our world he exercised the regal functions; in the lowest depths of his humiliation, occasional signs of dignity and power appeared. But not until his resurrection from the dead and ascension to the throne of the Father, was his investiture with this power publicly and formally recognised. Then, however, did his regal splendour come out from the cloud of obscurity in which it had been formerly wrapped; his diadem shone forth with transcendent lustre; his sceptre, the weight of which had before been comparatively unfelt, began now to be wielded with new power; angels sang his coronation anthem:—

‘Ye gates, lift up your heads on high;

Ye doors that last for aye,

Be lifted up that so the king

Of glory enter may;’

And, amid the loud acclaim of these celestial attendants, he ascended his throne, and entered on the formal administration of his kingdom.

4. This appointment is attested by many distinct and indubitable witnesses. The Father gives formal proof of the fact, when he says, ‘Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion’ (Ps. 2:6). The Saviour himself bears this testimony, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth’ (Matt. 28:18). The spirit of Old Testament prophecy declared, ‘I beheld in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him, and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed’ (Dan. 7:13, 14). Apostles, under the New Testament, concur in the evidence they furnish: ‘God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name’ (Phil. 2:9). And every creature in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, are heard saying, ‘Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever’ (Rev. 5:13). Such united, harmonious, unequivocal testimonies, leave us no room to doubt the interesting fact, and render inexcusable every feeling of scepticism on the subject.

Yet, this matter is not without its difficulties.

The appointment of Christ to the kingly office has been represented as inconsistent with his divinity. It is supposed to imply inferiority. But the economical character of the Son removes the difficulty at once. It is not as God absolutely considered, that it takes place; but as Mediator. In this capacity it is easy to suppose him invested with authority; and, considering the deep humiliation to which he voluntarily submitted in this character, there can be no difficulty whatever in understanding either the fact or the nature of his exaltation.

Nor did he, in assuming the mediatorial kingdom, divest himself of anything belonging to him as God. This it were impiety to suppose. Deity is unchangeable. His being, perfections, character, and government, as God, remained the same as they ever were. They might be obscured in appearance, but they were the same in reality. His moral authority over all creatures could never be laid aside. It is essential to his very being and character. The mode of its exercise only was changed: it was now administered in an economical instead of an absolute character, for the good and salvation of his church.

Neither does the appointment of Christ to the regal office suppose that God is deprived of that necessary and essential dominion which belongs to him. If it does not take from Christ his own essential power as God, it cannot be understood as taking it from God absolutely considered. That springs naturally from the inseparable relation subsisting between God and his creatures. The delegation of power does not suppose the surrender of it, on the part of him from whom the delegation proceeds. When a king appoints a plenipotentiary to act for him, he does not divest himself of the inherent right to reign. And if this is the case where the person appointing and the persons appointed are essentially different, why should we find any difficulty in a case where they are ‘the same in substance, and equal in power and glory?’ Nay, so far from God’s essential dominion being subverted by the mediatorial appointment, it might easily be shown to be confirmed and established by it in a variety of particulars.

If the view given, in this chapter, of the appointment of Christ to mediatorial power be correct, there can be no difficulty in understanding how his regal acts were possessed of validity in the earliest ages of the church. This appointment had, as we have seen, a special respect to his death; it was conferred as the reward of his sufferings; and, hence, he was not fully inaugurated till after his resurrection. Still, the administration of mediatorial rule existed from the time of the entrance of sin into our world. The Son of God then entered on the administration of all his mediatorial functions; on this, as well as others. The voice of the Lord God, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, announced him as a prophet: the institution of sacrifices, which there is reason to think was coeval with the fall of man, exhibited him as a priest: and the warfare betwixt the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, which then commenced, unfolded his regal character. In this latter capacity, he never ceased afterwards to act. The formation of the church in Eden; the translation of Abel’s righteous soul to glory; the re-organisation of the church with Noah; the covenant made with Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob; the establishment of the Jewish economy under Moses; the many interpositions made on behalf of the armies of Israel, by which they were rendered victorious over their enemies; the appointment of judges; and the raising up of kings in the line of David, to dispense the benefits of civil government to God’s ancient people—are all so many regal acts of Prince Messiah. Accordingly, when he came in the flesh, he was recognised, not as entering upon, but as in the full possession of, royal prerogatives: ‘Where is he that is born king of the Jews?[9] And, even during the period of his humiliation, as has been before remarked, he claimed and received royal honours, as well as performed regal acts. Now, what we have said regarding his appointment, shows the validity of all these acts from the beginning. His appointment took place in the eternal counsels. It was, therefore, not only what he did after his resurrection, but all the acts which preceded it, that were possessed of valid authority. His sovereignty must never be doubted. Whether he erects or destroys, plants or plucks up, kills or makes alive, implicit submission is due to his righteous sceptre; we must acknowledge his title to do according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and, instead of seeking to impede the regular flow of his administration, it becomes us to shout from the heart, ‘O King, live for ever.’

Christ’s appointment gives him a rightful claim to the implicit and conscientious obedience of every moral creature. ‘Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the truth of God perfected.’[10] It is as mediatorial King that all his commands are given, and in this capacity is it that he is to be obeyed. Let men be convinced of this. He is no usurper. Great must be the guilt of refusing him submission; it is to resist lawful authority, to reject the appointment of God.

This appointment affords ample security for the overthrow of all Christ’s enemies, and the ultimate establishment of his kingdom in the world. Has God appointed him to rule, and shall any one be able to hinder his success? No; we have, in this, sufficient security that no opposition shall ever be able to prevent the progress of his reign. The counsel of the Lord, it shall stand. The heathen may rage, and the people imagine a vain thing; the kings of the earth may set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast their cords from us. But, having respect to the decree by which he has been set King on the holy hill of Zion, He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision; he shall break them with a rod of iron, he shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel; and the heathen shall be given to him for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession. Much reason, then, have the people of God to rejoice in the appointment of Christ to mediatorial dominion. Let them make themselves intelligently acquainted with the evidence by which it is supported, and exult in the stability of the foundation on which it rests—a foundation which no force of earth or hell can ever overthrow. ‘The Lord said unto my Lord, Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies; thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.’

[CHAPTER V]


FOOTNOTES:


[1] Ps. 2:6; Luke 22:29; John 5:26, 27.

[2] Ps. 89:3, 4.

[3] Ps. 2:6, 7.

[4] Prov. 8:23.

[5] Mic. 5:2.

[6] Judg. 9:8, 15; 1 Sam. 15:1; 16:3; 2 Sam. 2:7; 1 Kings 19:15.

[7] Ps. 2:6; 45:7; 89:20; 132:17; Acts 4:27; 10:38.

[8] Phil. 2:8–10.

[9] Matt. 2:2.

[10] John 2:3–5.

CHAPTER V

James Dodson

THE SPIRITUALITY OF CHRIST’S MEDIATORIAL DOMINION


THE subjects which have hitherto engaged our attention may be viewed as preliminary. The necessity, reality, qualifications, and appointment of Christ’s kingly office, prepare the way for an inquiry into the nature of the mediatorial dominion itself. This we are now to consider. Nor can it be more clearly expressed than by saying, in one word, that the government of the Son of God, as Mediator, is strictly and properly spiritual. His kingdom is not an earthly or temporal kingdom, like the kingdoms of this world. It has a higher origin; it interferes, in no respect, with the exercise of lawful civil authority; and the means by which its advancement is effected are different from those which the rulers of this world employ.

1. The origin of the mediatorial dominion illustrates its distinction, in respect of spirituality, from the kingdoms of this world. These all originate in what is natural. Lawful civil authority in general, is, doubtless, an ordinance of God; but, as respects the immediate origin of each individual kingdom, it is an ordinance of man. Whether taking rise from the elective power of the people, from hereditary succession, from conquest, or from usurpation, dominion among men is natural in its origin. To some the crown descends by lineal succession from ancestors from whose heads it has just been displaced by the hand of death. Others have the sceptre bestowed on them by the unconstrained suffrage and cheerful acclamation of a free and happy people. Others, again, establishing right by might, assert their claims by the power of the sword, wade to sovereignty through seas of blood, and mount to the throne on the slaughtered bodies of the men whom they seek to govern. It is otherwise far with the dominion of which we are now treating. The crown of our Mediatorial King was worn by no other; he is its original and exclusive possessor. He enjoys, it is true, the welcome of his spiritual subjects, but this is the result of his administration, and not the source of his authority; and, although blood be connected with the establishment of his reign, it is not the blood of his subjects or enemies, but his own blood, the very shedding of which presupposes an existing right to rule and act as a king. His dominion originates solely in immediate divine appointment, in the spiritual grant of his Father from all everlasting in the covenant of grace. My Father hath appointed unto me a kingdom. To such an origin, no kingdom of this world can lay claim; to such a grant, no monarch among men can pretend. These are of the ‘earth, earthy;’ this is ‘from above.’ The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

2. The ends contemplated by this dominion are spiritual. The immediate ends for which kingdoms are set up among men, are of course worldly ends. The administration of public justice, the preservation of peace, the advancement of morals, and the establishment of social order, are immediately contemplated by civil authority. These, right and proper in themselves, are different from, and inferior to, the ends of Christ’s mediatorial dominion. Those bear a closer relation to the value of the soul, the greatness of the human mind, the vastness of human desires, the immortal destiny of man. To give light to them that are in spiritual darkness, to rescue from the tyranny of sinful passions, to purge the conscience from dead works, to renovate the heart, to sanctify the life, to swallow up death in victory, and to shut the mouth of the infernal abyss,—in one word to save the soul, is the grand end of the mediatorial dominion. A worldly kingdom has to do with the lives and property of men, that of Christ with their hearts and consciences. The one has a respect to their interests in the world that now is, the other to those in the world that is to come. The one aims at making men good subjects, the other at making them true saints. The ends contemplated by the kingdoms of this world terminate in time, but those contemplated by the dominion of the Mediator point forward to, and can be consummated only in, an eternal state of being. Not but that earthly dominion may be so conducted as to subserve the interests of the soul and of eternity, just as the dominion of the Mediator cannot, but produce the temporal interests and social advantages of mankind; but we speak now, not of the collateral or indirect tendencies of each, but of their direct and immediate ends,—which are in the one case worldly, and in the other spiritual. ‘For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost.’

3. The administration of Christ’s kingdom is spiritual. It is administered, as are the kingdoms of this world, by office-bearers, government, and laws; but these are of a character different from those which obtain in other cases. Here, the officers are not persons invested with magisterial authority, and armed with civil weapons; but pastors and teachers, elders and deacons, endowed with ministerial authority, whose weapons are not carnal but spiritual. The government and discipline they administer address themselves to the understandings, and hearts, and consciences of men; they aim at something more than laying restraints, as civil government does, on the persons and overt acts of men; their object is to influence the motives of action and to restrain the inward passions of the soul. The ministers, to whom the management of this government is committed, are made overseers by the Holy Ghost. They assume no right, like civil rulers, to enact, command, or enjoin in their own name; they are ‘not lords over God’s heritage.’ When they issue their counsels, it is in the name of the Lord, being prefaced with ‘Thus saith the Lord’ or ‘It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us to lay upon you those necessary things.’ They claim not to have dominion over their people’s faith, but to be helpers of their joy. Instead of the stern voice of authority, which, at the peril of property, liberty, or life, must be obeyed, they appeal to the law and to the testimony, and invite a strict scrutiny of whatever they utter. We speak as unto wise men, judge ye what we say. They claim no power over the persons or purses of men. The penalties they denounce are not fines, imprisonment, and death. They bear not the sword; but, entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, view it as their prerogative to ‘open or shut’ the doors of ecclesiastical privilege, according to character. Instruction and advice, censure and remonstrance, are the only weapons they feel themselves at liberty to employ. They reprove, rebuke, exhort with all authority. When repeated admonition has failed to produce the desired effect, they reject; when milder measures have proved insufficient, they proceed in the name of the Lord Jesus to deliver over the offender to Satan for the destruction of the flesh: but physical violence they may never use, to produce a constrained submission. The conscience, with which alone they have to do, cannot be influenced by fire or steel. Standing armies, well-stored magazines, swords, and muskets, form no part of their equipments. No. ‘If my kingdom,’ says Christ, ‘were of this world, then would my servants fight: but now is my kingdom not from hence.’ The instruments, the use of which He recognises as legitimate, are:—the Bible; the word of God which is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, the sword of the spirit, the sharp two-edged sword which goeth out of the mouth of him who is Alpha and Omega:—the Cross; the preaching of which is the most effectual means of turning men from darkness to light, of thinning the ranks of Satan, and increasing the number of true adherents to the Captain of Salvation:—the example of Him who is the great pattern of perfection, whose contempt of the world appeared in that he ‘had not where to lay his head;’ his meekness, in ‘bearing the contradiction of sinners;’ his patience, in that ‘when he was reviled he reviled not again;’ and his active benevolence, in continually ‘going about doing good.’ These, under the hallowed influence of the Holy Spirit of all grace, are the means of enlightening, renewing, sanctifying, and consoling men, and of thus bringing them to be, and qualifying them to act as, subjects of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. 2 Cor. 10:4: ‘For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds.’ Zech. 4:6: ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.’

4. The principles of Christ’s kingdom are spiritual principles. It disclaims all sympathy with the maxims on which the governments of this world are too often administered, maxims which are, not seldom, infidel, fallacious, and ungrateful. Instead of the common and pernicious sentiment, that personal virtues are not necessary in public men, it is an established maxim here that ‘he that ruleth over men must be just,’ and that trust is to be committed only to ‘faithful men.’ Instead of supposing that, if the laws of the nation are only understood and acted upon by men in power, it matters not how much the law of God is overlooked and contemned, it is provided that rulers shall have a copy of the law, and shall read in it continually. Instead of regarding it as a matter of inferior moment how much private wickedness may abound in a land, provided only that public tranquillity and obedience to the laws can be preserved, it is a first principle that ‘righteousness exalteth a nation, and that sin is a disgrace to any people.’ In the kingdoms of the world it is a principle too much acted upon, that a state of warfare warrants us to treat an enemy without pity, sincerity, or even humanity; but, in the kingdom of Christ, it is an immutable law that ‘all things whatsoever we would that men should do to us, we should do even so to them.’ But there is no end to the contrast; the longer it is pursued it becomes not more evident that ‘the kingdom of Christ is not of this world,’ than that ‘the kingdoms of this world’ are not yet ‘the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.’

5. In short, almost every thing connected with this kingdom is spiritual. The King himself is no worldly prince, but the Lord from heaven, who is a quickening spirit. The subjects are a spiritual community, consisting of persons who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit as an essential and indispensable qualification to their admission; for ‘except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ The laws by which they are governed are spiritual laws, which take cognisance of the heart. The homage paid to the sovereign Lord, instead of vain and empty ceremonies, consists in the sincere and pious devotion of the soul. His throne is such as no king of this earth ever occupied, an eternal heavenly throne; ‘thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.’ His sceptre is a righteous sceptre, even the rod of strength sent out of Zion, by which he rules in the midst of his enemies. His courtiers are not those who, by intriguing complacence and mean arts of adulation, contrive to bask in the sunshine of royal favour, but ‘whosoever shall do the will of his Father, who is in heaven.’ His attendant retinue is composed, not of fawning sycophants and feigned friends, but of the immortal sons of light, angels and archangels ten thousand strong.

Thus, in whatever light we contemplate it, the spirituality of Christ’s kingdom stands forth as a prominent and well-established feature. Nor is it possible not to be impressed with the affecting confirmation this view of the matter received from his appearance on earth. He steadfastly resisted every attempt to invest him with the attributes of an earthly sovereign. ‘When Jesus perceived that they would come and take him by force to make him a king, he departed into a mountain himself alone.’ With temporal aggrandisement and the showy trappings of royalty, he would have nothing to do. The only occasion on which he enjoyed anything approaching to a triumphal procession, was when he entered into Jerusalem, and then he rode upon an ass. The only robe of office, in which he was ever arrayed, was a cast-off military cloak, thrown around him by his enemies in derision of his regal claims. The only sceptre he ever handled was a reed. The only diadem, he ever wore, was a crown of thorns. For a throne he had assigned him a cross. And the homage offered him by the men of the world, consisted only in pointing at him with the finger of scorn, spitting on him, and striking him with the palms of their hands. Well mightest thou say, O Jesus! ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’

But when we speak of the dominion of the Mediator as spiritual, it is necessary to guard against supposing that it can have no sort of connexion with the world, or with things that are secular. Such an idea it is not at all our intention to convey. From not sufficiently attending to certain distinctions proper to be observed on this subject, mistaken and pernicious conclusions have been drawn. Because the dominion of Christ is spiritual in its nature, to conclude that everything connected with his kingdom must be spiritual also, and that nothing earthly or secular can have any relation to it, is an inference alike illogical in reasoning, and unsupported by fact. The subjects of this spiritual kingdom, after being separated by grace from the world lying in wickedness, continue for a length of time in this lower region of human existence, before they are prepared for being transferred to that brighter, and higher, and more spiritual sphere in which they are to exist for ever. Although not of this world as to their character, they are in this world as respects their place of abode. While, as saints, they number among the ranks of Christ’s spiritual subjects, as men and as citizens they occupy their places and act their parts in the offices and institutions of civil society. While here, they have bodies which require to be fed, and clothed, and protected; and, even when their souls at death are taken to heaven, their material frames, redeemed by Christ and destined to undergo a remarkable change at the last day, sleep till then in the lower parts of the earth, where they are ever contemplated with interest, watched over with ceaseless care, and faithfully preserved by that Saviour-king, who claims dominion over their persons in both their constituent parts, material and immaterial. So long as the saints have bodies, this kingdom can never be so strictly spiritual as to exclude all sort of connexion with matter.

Besides, the kingdom of Christ has a visible as well as an invisible form. This distinction is founded in fact, and is, we believe, universally admitted. Now, a visible church must have visible laws, visible ordinances, visible subjects, and visible office-bearers. And what but this world is the sphere where these laws are promulged, these ordinances observed, these subjects located, and these office-bearers find room for their labours? While God has a visible church in the world, there will be required outward erections for the ordinances of worship, and temporal emoluments for the support of its ministers and institutions.

Nay, more; we may venture to affirm, that, connected with the spiritual kingdom of the Mediator, there are some things which are in themselves strictly and literally worldly or secular. The dominion of Christ, as we shall have occasion afterwards more fully to explain, is universal. It includes all creatures without exception; not merely the church, visible and invisible, but all things, animate and inanimate, rational and irrational, moral and immoral, individual and social, ecclesiastical and political. It may suffice, at present, to remind the reader of one or two Scripture passages by which the assertion is fully borne out. ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth—He hath put all things under his feet—And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.’[1] If, according to these expressions, the mediatorial rule extends over all things, many things strictly secular and worldly must be somehow or other connected with Christ’s kingdom; and such a view of its spirituality as is incompatible with any sort of connexion with the things of this world, is thus shown to be manifestly erroneous and untenable.

The kingdom of Christ is truly spiritual; yet, connected with this kingdom, it seems there may be many things which are properly secular. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world; yet many worldly things are connected with Christ’s kingdom. These statements are not inconsistent. We may find it difficult to reconcile them; we may feel ourselves at a loss to find out a harmonising principle; but we must neither, on the one hand, deny the fact, nor, on the other, impute contradiction to the words of Christ or the language of Scripture. We must not think ourselves warranted, to avoid the difficulty in question, in substituting a quibble for a sober interpretation, or in proceeding to restrict the mediatorial rule agreeably to our own partial and limited views, by cutting off from his economical prerogative whatever is not strictly of a spiritual character. Such would be to use an unwarrantable liberty with the word of God, to interpret the Bible as no other composition will admit of being interpreted, and to take an ungenerous advantage of the mere sound of words. The two ideas are capable of being perfectly reconciled. All that is required for this purpose, is, that whatever is connected with Christ’s kingdom be understood to be somehow or other subservient to spiritual objects,—objects not terminating with, but superior to, and outliving in duration, the present world. Although every thing connected with it may not be in itself spiritual, every thing connected with it may be subservient to what is spiritual. The grand aim and purpose of the whole may be of this description, while many things of a different nature may be subordinate to this end. The dominion of the Messiah may extend over many things besides the church, and may comprehend many creatures besides the saints, and yet embrace nothing but what is somehow or another fitted to be of service to these. The Father has given him to be head over all things; but the reason of this does not terminate in these things themselves; it points to a higher and more spiritual object; He has given him to be head over all things to the church which is his body. Whatever power the Mediator possesses is for the good of the church; is given and exercised for this purpose. But what, we ask, is there that is not for the good of the church? But for the church would the sun continue to shine, the rain to fall, the earth to vegetate? Would the wheels of providence continue to revolve, or the pillars of the universe to be upheld? No. The church is the great conservative element of the world and all that is in it; nor is there any thing which is not capable of being rendered, by infinite wisdom and power, subservient to the interests of God’s covenant society. Here, then, we are furnished with a solution of the difficulty. Every system derives its character and designation from that which constitutes its ultimate end or aim, and not from any inferior or subordinate appendage. We call that an enlightened and virtuous kingdom, whose constitution and administration have for their direct object the promotion of knowledge and morality, notwithstanding that some of the subjects may be wicked, ignorant, or even insane. We call that person spiritual, who gives evidence, from the obvious tendency of his general demeanour, that he is born from above and destined for glory, although many of his thoughts and pursuits may have a relation to this world, and even some of his actions be sinful. Thus it is with the kingdom of Christ. We call it a spiritual kingdom, inasmuch as the great design of its existence is spiritual, notwithstanding that, among the things connected with it, there may be many that are material, and perhaps even worldly.

Christ said of the church, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ But, if this means that his kingdom is so absolutely spiritual as to have no connexion whatever with what is secular or earthly, then when he said of his disciples ‘ye are not of the world,’ he meant that Christians could lawfully hold no worldly property, engage in no worldly enterprise, nor enter into any political connexion whatever. The phrases are in both cases precisely similar; and as, in the latter instance, it would be absurd, and contradictory both to Scripture and common sense, to contend for the exclusive interpretation in question, so must it be in the former.

Thus much to prevent misconception, and to obviate a common mistake. It will now be understood that when we speak of the dominion of the Mediator as spiritual, we mean that its nature and design are wholly celestial, that it is of a character different from the kingdoms of this world, and destined to higher and more glorious purposes.

The view now given of the kingly office of Christ is one of great importance. The tendency to take a carnal view of his kingdom is deeply seated in the human heart, and has appeared in various forms.

It was the radical error of the unbelieving Jews. The prophecies respecting the glory of the Messiah they interpreted literally. They expected him to appear as a temporal prince, to put himself at the head of his countrymen, to rescue them from the yoke of Romish subjection, and to restore the kingdom to its original and rightful possessors. Because Jesus of Nazareth did not fulfil these expectations, they could not look upon him as the true Messiah. To them he appeared as a root out of a dry ground, having no form nor comeliness; they saw no beauty in him for which they should desire him. Blinded by their carnal prejudices, they could not bring themselves to believe, that the prediction that the Messiah should wield a sceptre was fulfilled in one who held only a reed—that the prophecy that the Messiah should wear a diadem, was fulfilled in one who was crowned only with thorns—or that the statement that the Messiah should occupy a throne, was fulfilled in one who occupied only a cross. The event, instead of correcting their error and suggesting to them the true interpretation, instead of leading them to spiritual ideas of his character and reign, only drove them to the mad extreme of contemptuous rejection. Their descendants to the present day adhere to their opinion and follow their example, solely from the influence of the same carnal views. It becomes those to whom God has given more scriptural and spiritual ideas, to pity their mistake; to pray for their illumination; and to do everything in their power to reclaim them from so fatal an error. Ye sons of Abraham! ye wandering tribes of Israel!—still beloved for the fathers’ sakes—be entreated to abandon the prejudices by which you are held in mental bondage; burst your ignoble thraldom; and, giving a spiritual interpretation to the glowing imagery of your prophets, behold the fulfilment of their predictions in the despised Nazarene!

The error of those who look for a literal advent of Christ, and a literal reign upon earth during the millenium, must be traced to the same source, namely, to their overlooking the spirituality of the mediatorial dominion. They expect a visible descent of the Redeemer in his glorified human nature, to erect a local court, to sit upon a literal throne, and to conduct a temporal reign for at least a thousand years. If we have been at all successful in proving that the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual kingdom, this system must fall to the ground, for its whole tendency is to represent his kingdom as a temporal one, to revive the exploded rites and opinions of carnal Judaism, and to bring back upon the church the yoke of beggarly elements from which Christ has made us free. Let those who are in danger of being seduced by the doctrine in question, ponder well the evidence furnished in support of the spirituality of the kingdom of Christ. Let them be jealous of the tendency there is, in the human heart, to be carried away with what strikes the senses in preference to that which appeals to faith. Let them profit by the case of the unhappy Jews, who, by yielding to this natural tendency, have been plunged into the gulf of unbelief, and are still suffering the just award of their iniquity. ‘The letter killeth; the spirit giveth life.’

It is impossible here to overlook the means with which we are thus furnished, of forming a right estimate of the church of Rome, and of determining the question whether that church be Christian or anti-Christian. It pretends to be Christ’s kingdom upon earth, and to be the only church which can lay claim to this distinction. Well, Christ’s kingdom is not of this world—it is a spiritual kingdom;—a kingdom of truth, and righteousness, and love, and peace; a kingdom whose office-bearers, ends, administration, and appendages, are all of a spiritual character. How does the state of things in the Romish church accord with this view? Look at the Roman pontiff,—the assumed representative on earth of Him who strenuously refused to be made a king by men, who studiously avoided all interference with the civil authorities, who wore a crown of thorns, and expired on a cross. You see on his head a triple crown, glittering with gold and sparkling with diamonds; his vestments are of the most costly and gorgeous materials; at his side hang golden keys; grasping the sword of temporal power, he lays claim to a universal, civil, as well as ecclesiastical, authority; and adding the imperial diadem to the sacerdotal mitre, he prostrates even monarchs at his feet. Enter the Vatican,—the habitation of the pretended successor of Him whose kingdom is not of this world, and who had not where to lay his head,—and what do you behold but the unequivocal insignia of temporal power, the gaudy paraphernalia of earthly pomp and grandeur? Visit a cathedral,—where the highest acts of devotion are professedly engaged in to Him who is a Spirit, and who requires such as worship him to worship him in spirit and in truth. There you have lofty domes, massive pillars, pictorial decorations on which the most accomplished artists have expended their skill, splendid vestments, voluptuous music, smoking incense, sparkling lights;—everything, in short, to strike the senses rather than to affect the heart, to glitter in the eye rather than to impress the conscience. These are scandalous departures from the character of that kingdom which is not of this world; they are standing proofs that the church of Rome has no title to be regarded as a church of Christ at all, much less as the Church of Christ: they are the unequivocal, ineffaceable marks of anti-Christianism.

May not this subject be of use, farther, in enabling us to test the character and claims of even Protestant systems of religion? The diversity of sentiment existing among Protestant churches, is painful and bewildering; and it is desirable to be furnished with some principles by which we may estimate their respective conflicting claims. Here is one—the degree of spirituality they possess. The system which has the least of worldly pomp, which least depends on the smiles of the world, which has fewest attractions for the carnal heart; the system which, at the same time, pays most respect to the spiritual principles, and best subserves the spiritual ends, of Christ’s kingdom, is surely that which has the strongest claims on our regard. This is a test that few churches can well stand.—The episcopal church of England, weighed in this balance, will be found wanting. In her present half-reformed state, she retains many of those worldly appendages and outward ceremonies by which the church of Rome is characterised; and a thorough purgation of these, together with a more spiritual system of preaching and administering the sacraments, and a revival of discipline, are required to bring her into even a decent show of conformity to the kingdom which is not of this world.—The Scottish establishment also, though far from being in the same situation with that in England, would do well to subject itself to a searching application of the criterion of which we are now speaking. Although unexceptionable in her doctrinal standards and forms of worship, it may be worthy of being considered, whether there be not things, both in the tone of preaching which extensively prevails, and in the appendages of some of her courts, which will not bear the rigid application of a strictly spiritual test.—Nor let communities which exist in a state of separation from the national church, think that they have no need to try themselves in this way. In all of them, even the purest, will be found, we fear, a measure of the spirit of the world, and departure from the simplicity and spirituality of the primitive model, sufficient to warrant humiliation and call for amendment. In choosing an ecclesiastical profession, perhaps no principle of guidance can be more safe than the degree of spirituality of which a church may be possessed. We cannot be too much on our guard against being deceived by worldly glare, or by the worldly advantages which connexion with a particular community may offer. Are there not many who deceive themselves in this respect;—many who, in joining a church, are influenced in their choice, by the worldly respectability it possesses, or by the ease with which, in its communion, they can indulge the love and pursuit of the world; while the reasons by which they are determined against other churches, are their poverty, their simplicity, their strictness, or their spirituality?

To persons as well as churches, the principle in question furnishes a means of trial. It is well fitted to aid in examining into our own personal character. Who are the subjects of Christ’s kingdom? Such only as are spiritual. Not the vain, the sensual, the passionate, the worldly; but the humble, the meek, the mortified, the self-denied. Such as adopt, not the maxims of the world, but the principles of the gospel. Not such as permit their hearts to be engrossed with the things of earth, and lavish their attentions on its possessions, its grandeur, pomp, and parade; but such as, looking on the world and all things that are in it as transitory, content themselves with little, and cherish a heavenly spirit. Not such, in fine, as restrict their views to time; but such as, while they live, look steadfastly forward to an eternal state of being, and expect, when they die, that an entrance shall be ministered to them abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Soon shall this world and all that belongs to it be at an end; and it concerns those who have no hope beyond the present, to consider what they shall do when old age arrives, or when death knocks at the door of their chamber, and summons them away. Then, true wisdom will be found with those who have obeyed the command of the Saviour: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’

[CHAPTER VI]


FOOTNOTES:


[1] Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22.