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CHAPTER I.-The Lord Jesus Christ is, in the Mediatory character, the moral governor of the nations.

Database

CHAPTER I.-The Lord Jesus Christ is, in the Mediatory character, the moral governor of the nations.

James Dodson

I. His authority is expressly declared to be unlimited.—He says to his disciples, Matt. 28:18, "All power (εξουσια, authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth:" and, John 17:2, "As thou hast given him (the Son,) power (εξουσιαν,) over all flesh." Speaking by his inspired apostle, the Redeemer says, Eph. 1:22, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church." And again, Phil. 2:9,11, "God also hath highly exalted him—that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." And, 1 Cor. 15:27, "For he hath put all things under his feet."

These texts speak of his mediatorial authority, for they refer to a power that is given him. It cannot be said of him, that he receives authority in his essential character as God: for as God, he possesses an underived and eternal right to govern all things. They also affirm that this mediatorial authority is absolutely unbounded: that the whole creation in all its extent and magnificence is subjected to Jesus Christ as Mediator.

Nor can it be interposed as an objection, that sometimes universal terms, such as "all," and "the whole," are used in a restricted sense. Whenever such terms are restricted, it is by the context, by the nature of the subject respecting which they are used, or by other scriptures. No reason exists for making such a restriction here. Does Christ say, "All power is given unto me," it is that he may encourage his disciples whom he is about to send forth to contend against the gross idolatry, the deep-seated superstition, and the corrupt and tyrannical civil institutions of heathen nations, particularly of the Roman Empire, by the consideration that he, as their arisen Redeemer, had been invested with authority to employ all his divine power on their behalf, not only in rendering their ministry effectual, but in controlling, restraining, and eventually putting down all opposition to his gospel. Does he say, "power is given to him over all flesh," he adds a sufficient reason, "that he may give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him." Is he highly exalted, it is, that "Every knee of things in heaven, and in earth may bow at his name." And still more emphatically, and as if for the very purpose of silencing every attempt to limit the mediatorial dominion, the apostle thus follows up the declaration that all things are put under his feet, 1 Cor. 15:27, "But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted which did put all things under him." If it is "manifest" that the Father is excepted, why except him by name? Why not leave it to be inferred? Plainly, that every opening for doubt or cavil might be completely and for ever shut—that no creature might dare to deny the Messiah’s right to its allegiance and homage: no nation—no kingdom—no commonwealth—no ruler; for all things, excepting only him who did put all things under him, are made subject to his unlimited mediatorial authority.

Nor can any reason be found in the nature of the case for limiting these universal terms. Is not Christ Jesus qualified to exercise authority, however ample? To him belongs "All the fulness of the Godhead." "The treasures of wisdom and knowledge" are in him.[1] While the work which he has undertaken—to save sinners out of a world of sin and of hostility to the divine government—requires that the Saviour should have this world, the theatre of saving mercy, placed under his sceptre.[2] And lastly, there are no apparently contradictory statements on this subject to be reconciled. On the contrary, all the teachings of divine revelation, combine to establish the doctrine of the Messiah’s universal authority. History [3] and prophecy,[4] Psalms [5] and didactic scriptures,[6] all unite to convince us that Jesus Christ has, as our Redeemer, authority that knows no created limits. Need it be added, if he is Lord of all, he is Lord of nations.

2. Titles, importing dominion over nations, as such, belong to him.—He is "The prince of the kings of the earth," Rev. 1:5. He is "King of kings and Lord of lords,"[7] Rev. 17:14, 19:16. The rulers of the kingdoms and commonwealths of this world, are, in these texts, designated by their distinctive titles. These titles import official dignity and power. In that character in which it is said of them, that they are "lords" and "kings," civil magistrates are themselves the subjects of the princely government, sovereign lordship, and regal authority of the Messiah. Could any thing be more explicit? Words cannot convey more expressly the fact, that Christ Jesus reigns over kings and magistrates in their official character. Or, which is thc same thing, that nations in their national operations, conducted through the instrumentality of legislative and executive officers, are bound to conform themselves to the will of Christ.

Moreover, these titles belong to Christ as he is the Messiah. Is he the Prince of the kings of the earth, it is in the same character in which he is "The Faithful Witness," and "The first-begotten of the dead," Rev. 1:5. It is "The Lamb," that is, "King of kings, and Lord of lords," Rev. 17:14. This name is "written upon his vesture, and upon his thigh," Rev. 19:16. He has purchased it for himself, by bringing in an everlasting righteousness for his people, and it is in our nature that God hath exalted him. His titles are inscribed upon his humanity.

If, after all this, Jesus Christ be not Lord of civil rulers—if his right of dominion be limited to persons and things in their ecclesiastical character only, then might the charge be brought against the scriptures, of using language calculated to deceive even the honest inquirer. We argue against the Socinian, that the scriptures speak of Christ by divine titles, ascribe to him divine works, require divine worship to be addressed to him, and if, withal, he be not truly God, then is their sound very uncertain, and even unintelligible. The same mode of reasoning may be applied here. Jesus Christ is said to be Lord of all, to have all things put under him, to be head over all things, to be Prince of the kings of the earth, to have all power in heaven and in earth. If, notwithstanding, he is king only in the church, then does the trumpet give, in this important matter a very confused, not to say a deceptive sound. But, no. Whatever men may imagine, whether misguided Christians, or hardened enemies, the voice of inspiration is here a distinct voice; and loudly does it proclaim the blessed truth that Jesus Christ is exalted to the right hand of the majesty in the heavens as Lord of all to the glory of God the Father.

3. Civil rulers are required to render to him allegiance and service.—The second Psalm contains a most distinct and pointed call, addressed to civil rulers, to acknowledge Jesus Christ in his kingly office. "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed ye judges [8] of the earth—kiss ye the son," Ps. 2:10,12. We are not left in doubt whether this Psalm speaks of Christ: it is often applied to him in the New Testament. The verses quoted contain an address to magistrates by their official titles. They are commanded to "kiss the Son;" to express their reverence for him: and to swear allegiance to him.[9] Many intimations, more or less clear and explicit, of the same duty are given in the Scriptures in various forms. Sometimes, by prophetic announcements that such will be the case when the nations are brought, by the influence of divine truth and by the outpouring of the spirit, to acknowledge God’s government. As Ps. 72:10,11, "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and of Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him:" and Isaiah 49:7, "Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee." Sometimes similar intimations of national duty occur in the form of threatenings denounced against nations which refuse to acknowledge him: as Ps. 72:9, "His enemies shall lick the dust," and Isaiah 60:12, "The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish: yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted."

Again, the duty of nations and their rulers to obey Jesus Christ in the mediatory character, is expressly affirmed by the Redeemer himself. He says, John 5:22,23, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." Honour in this connexion, includes obedience; "Honour thy father and thy mother." Moreover, it is such honour as is due to the Father. Jesus Christ claims obedience of all men: none are exempt; for he will judge the world.[10] But this passage contains more. Even now, "All judgment is committed to him;" the immediate cognizance of the wide realms of Jehovah’s government belongs to him, that he may be honoured, obeyed, and served. Can it be denied that rulers and nations as such, are among the subjects of Christ’s mediatorial authority?

4. The Bible contains laws addressed to nations and rulers for their direction in civil things.—The Bible is the word of Christ, The Spirit by whom the Old Testament prophets were inspired, was "the Spirit of Christ," 1 Pet. 1:11. And, from the preface to the moral law, "I am the Lord thy God," (Ex. 20:2,) we ascertain the fact that this law came to Israel, and comes to us, out of the mouth of Christ, and is thus proclaimed anew to mankind, by his authority. The Westminster Assembly have well paraphrased the preface to the moral law, in the following words; "Because God is the Lord, and our God, and Redeemer, therefore, we are bound to keep all his commandments."[11] The law of the Ten Commandments is most assuredly binding upon nations.

The same Lawgiver has, in the Scriptures, enjoined many other precepts exhibiting more fully, the duties prescribed in the moral law; and in many instances these precepts are expressly addressed to nations and rulers as such. The laws given to the Israelites relate, many of them, to the duties of magistrates. The historical part of the Old Testament, and many of the prophecies, are illustrative of national sins and duties: they are designed to warn the wicked, and to encourage the righteous. The New Testament is by no means destitute of instruction and direction regarding civil things. The nature of magistracy, the mutual duties of rulers and subjects, and the sanctions of law, are expressly treated of, Rom. 13:1-7, and 1 Pet. 2:13-17. The Book of Revelation is chiefly designed to foretell the various steps by which, while the enemies of Messiah are destroyed, the nations will be brought to the practical acknowledgment of his authority and law.

Nor is the fact that Israel was God’s peculiar people, any objection to the argument drawn from the giving of laws to that people. They were a nation; they had a civil government, distinct from the ecclesiastical.[12] Both were, indeed, to be administered in professed submission to Jesus Christ. And why should they not both be so still, in Christian nations? This question may be put into such forms as to render it impossible for a Christian to give any but one reply. Is a nation having the light of Divine revelation, bound to observe the Christian Sabbath? or, may such a nation, without sin, continue to observe as the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week? Was Pharaoh bound to obey the Lord Jesus Christ when he commanded him to let the people go?[13] Unless a nation would be sinless in dishonouring the Christian Sabbath, and unless Pharaoh was sinless in his disobedience, then do all magistrates and people incur the divine wrath, who refuse to obey Jesus Christ. Let it be granted, that the Lord Jesus Christ has given one law which rulers and nations are bound to obey, or issued one command to any prince or potentate in his official character, and his moral right to govern the nations is put beyond question. For he exercises no usurped power, he is a righteous sovereign, who knows his own rights and prerogatives, and who will neither himself transcend them, nor allow them to be trampled upon by his creatures with impunity. Not one, but many such laws he has given; the Scriptures abound with them: and, therefore, his right to rule nations and to direct the administration of national affairs, ought not to be doubted, much less denied, and resisted.

5. Jesus Christ is, in the mediatory character, the judge of all mankind, in all relations.—God the Father "hath committed all judgment to the Son," John 5:23, and verse 27, it is said that, in this transaction, he is viewed as mediator; "And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man."[14] Not only the final judgment is committed to him, but he goes forth, even now, as Judge among the nations, observes their doings, visits them for their sins, and rewards their obedience.[15] The apostle John saw him as "the lion of the tribe of Juda, and the root of David," receiving the sealed book of the divine purposes regarding the church and the nations until the end of the world.[16] He opened the book, and rode forth as king of saints and nations, and as Lord of the kingdom of Providence, to give efficacy to his gospel, and to execute judgment upon all tyrannical idolatrous and hostile systems, civil and ecclesiastical.[17] In this character he executes the judgments of the seals, the trumpets and the vials of Revelation, and brings about that happy time, when the "kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ." And at the last day, God, by him, will "judge the world."[18]

To pass judgment authoritatively upon the actions of men, is one of the most important prerogatives of government; it is the application of law as the rule of action, to the conduct of the citizens, and affixing, or announcing the penalties of its violation. Christ is judge: he has in his hand the law of God as the rule of moral action; he applies it as the delegated judge; he announces the penalties of its violation. But he does more; for he also executes his own decisions. He "opened the seals." All this he does among the nations, as well as among individuals: "For the Father judgeth no man, all judgment has been committed to the Son." Because he is the judge, he is also the Lord and King of nations and their rulers.

6. Unless the Lord Jesus Christ administer the divine law as it respects civil affairs, nations, and in their social character, their rulers, must be under the covenant of works.—In innocency, all the worship and obedience of our first parents was rendered to their Creator upon the footing of the covenant of works; their obedience as members of civil society, which was constituted before the fall, as well as their personal and religious homage. Since the fall, that way of access is completely closed. The angel of justice, standing with a flaming sword—the awful penalty of the law, "dying thou shalt die"—effectually bars all approach to the throne of God, except through a mediator. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me," John 14:6. Every true Christian knows and appreciates the value of Christ’s mediation as, notwithstanding imperfections, it opens a way of serving God acceptably, and not under the penalty of death for every transgression. He would not, for the world, lose the comfort of knowing that the law as the rule of his personal obedience is in Christ’s hand. Why should he be deprived of this source of consolation and peace in regard to duties of a public and civil nature? Why should nations and their rulers? The Christian knows that his person and his works need to be sprinkled with the atoning blood of Christ. Why should nations and their rulers be shut out from this fountain of cleansing?

If the mediatorial authority of the Redeemer does not extend to nations as such, we must admit one of three things—that nations are to render obedience upon the footing of the covenant of works; that there is some new arrangement different from both the covenant of works and of grace, established for nations alone; or that they owe no obedience to God at all. The last is atheistical, the second is both unscriptural and unreasonable; for nothing of the kind is taught in the Bible, and reason at once rejects it. The first, the only remaining supposition, is worse than Pelagian, and would bind a burden upon every nation that would sink it into inevitable ruin; for what people can render perfect obedience? And even if they could, the covenant of works is now a broken covenant, and folly itself could not imagine such a distinction between the actions of men, as that in one department they are, (without Christ,) under the curse while in another, God accepts them without a mediator. There is no other alternative but the doctrine, that Jesus reigns by the Father’s gift, over all things, national and civil, political and social: that all acceptable national obedience is rendered through him who is "the way" to the throne of God.[19]

7. If the mediatorial dominion of the Messiah does not extend to civil things, then the great body of Christians of all lands and of all times, have been guilty of rendering to him idolatrous service.—The fact that the great majority of Christ’s disciples have; in all ages, admitted this doctrine, will not probably be denied.[20] It must be admitted that Christianized and reformed nations have always openly and publicly acknowledged Christ’s authority and law: many of them by solemn public covenant transactions. Now, let it be remembered, the Saviour of sinners is no mere candidate for office. He cannot have rights conferred upon him by men. If he has no right by the gift of the Father to rule a nation, he cannot receive such a right by the nation’s act. To attempt to confer it upon him, would be to insult the majesty and incur the wrath of heaven. Can it be believed, that the godly who have, in reforming times when the light of truth shined most brightly, committed their national interests to the keeping of Christ; have by covenant avouched him to be their Lord, and vowed to serve him—that in all this they were acting the part of idolaters? It cannot be. They were not, indeed, infallible, but that they were left thus to dishonour Jesus Christ, is impossible. No! in this very thing they honoured him. They obeyed his and the Father’s command, and the influence of their self-dedication in all things to the divine service, is still seen and felt amidst much declension and corruption. And in those lands where, at the time of the reformation, this truth was best known and most correctly applied, there has been the least declension.

This brings to a close the series of arguments proposed for the establishment of the main doctrine of this Essay. They form a series of allied, and yet independent, arguments. Like the stones in an arch, they furnish mutual support: unlike the stones of an arch, each is capable of standing and doing good service without the aid of the others.

Before proceeding to discuss the second proposition, two objections to our doctrine will be considered. It may be objected that the headship of Christ as it extends to things out of the Church is only the right to direct natural events, to promote the ends of the covenant of grace: that so far as they are directed to natural ends, they are brought about by him as God, and not as mediator.

It would be answer enough to this, to remark, that the Bible gives no ground for such a distinction. It is a distinction that has been elaborated, for the very purpose of explaining away the express declarations of Scripture respecting Christ’s universal Lordship. Moreover, it is directly opposed to the plainest declarations. He is "the head over all things to the church." "All things are made by him, to work together for good to them that love God," Rom. 8:28. We are shortsighted, we cannot see the connexion between remote events and the welfare of the church. Our ignorance does not prevent such a connexion. We know that it exists.

Again, it may be objected, that while Christ’s authority as mediator is over all things that it is not mediatorial to all. This is a late objection, and is either evasive or absurd. It is evasive, if the word "mediatorial" is employed, as it probably is, in the sense of saving; for none ever supposed that Christ received this dominion over the nations that he might save all their inhabitants; and over the kingdom of Providence generally, that he might save irrational and inanimate creatures! He has received "power over all flesh, that he might give eternal life" to some; and it will be shown in the succeeding section of this essay, that in prosecuting this design he will destroy some of those who have been put under his government. He "came to destroy the works of the devil," 1 John 3:7.

If "mediatorial" be used in the ordinary and proper acceptation of the word, then the language of the objection is self-contradictory; and needs no refutation, for it refutes itself. How authority exercised by Jesus Christ as mediator can be any other than mediatorial authority, or exercised in any other way than mediatorially will certainly require more than ordinary sagacity to discover!

Yes, Jesus reigns. He has received a glorious kingdom. Angels in heaven, men on earth, and devils in hell, are made subject to Him. Birds of the air, fish of the sea, the sun, moon and stars, winds and rain, all creatures are his servants. Because "he humbled himself" to save sinners, hath "God highly exalted him." "Bless the Lord, all ye his people."

[go to CHAPTER 2.]


Footnotes:


[1] Col. 2:3,9. 

[2] For a full illustration of this thought, see Symington’s Dominion of Christ, Chap. I. 

[3] He was Israel’s Lord, and issued mandates to other nations, as Egypt, Nineveh, and Babylon, during the Old Testament dispensation. 

[4] Is. 9:6-9, Dan. 7:14. 

[5] Ps. 72., 95., 96., 110., &c.

[6] Besides those quoted above, see Heb. 2:8,9, compared with Ps. 8. Ez. 1. 

[7] In Scripture language, these titles signify magistrates and rulers, whether called kings, presidents, governors, or any other name, or exercising any kind of official power. 

[8] שפטים, Supreme magistrates, such as ruled in Israel before the time of Saul; or the inferior ranks of civil functionaries. 

[9] See 1 Sam. 10:1. The kiss is still, in some form, employed in most countries, as a token of allegiance. It is among the forms of coronation in England. 

[10] Acts. 17:31. 

[11] Short Cat. Quest. 44. 

[12] See Gillespie’s Aaron’s Rod Blossoming. 

[13] For proof that it was Jesus Christ that appeared to Moses, and gave him commission to Pharaoh, see Acts 7. That he was then acting in the mediatory character is plain. He came to redeem his people. 

[14] "Son of man" is not, and cannot be applied to the Messiah in any other than the mediatory character. 

[15] "The whole government and administration of affairs. ‘Tis not to be understood of the last judgment, for then it would be a limitation of that word ‘all.’" Charnock on Providence, p. 220, Ed. 1817. Phila. 

[16] Rev. 5. 

[17] Rev. 6. 

[18] Acts 17:31. 

[19] Is there not a connexion between the denial of Christ’s headship, and legal principles of religion? The persecuting Papists were Pelagians; the martyred Waldenses, the French Huguenots, the English, Scottish and Holland reformers, were Calvinists. Papists have practically set aside the headship of Christ: their victims were all strenuous advocates for Christ’s sole headship. The martyrs have often suffered for this; they did so, in Scotland. The advocates of Christ’s law and government in that kingdom during the reformation, and afterwards, were Calvinists. Their opponents, James VI., and Charles I., and II., with their friends and partisans, were Pelagians. True the persecution arose more directly out of opposition to Christ’s headship over the church: but the claims of Christ as made known in the Bible, and the submission due to him by nations, entered largely into the spirit of the controversy. Witness the burning of the Covenants. 

[20] See Note A.