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Christ’s Headship.


Christ’s Headship.

James Dodson

[from The Covenanter, May 1847, II.10. 298-306.]


The writer of the following article [i.e., Mr. McAuley]—a minister of the Associate [Presbyterian] Church—having failed in obtaining its insertion in the Evangelical Repository—the organ of that body —has asked a place for it in our pages. This we readily grant on the ground of its intrinsic excellence, without, however, pledging ourselves to every mode of expression employed in it. Our readers will be able from these facts to account for the address and, also, for the form of expression occasionally used in the body of the article. The pamphlet, on which this writer comments, was published a year or two ago, by the editor of the Repository for the purpose of vindicating the alterations of the Confession of Faith proposed by the Convention of Reformed Churches. The following extract from the letter accompanying the article, will show some of the writer’s reasons for noticing this pamphlet. It also presents in a succinct form his views of the importance of the doctrine of Messiah’s dominion. He says,

“It is certain if we assault the honour and authority of the Mediator we make a thrust at religion;—yea, at the very corner-stone of our holy religion. And it is certainly no slight attack on the King of kings to assault his dominions:—to attempt to deprive him of his mediatorial dominion over the nations:—to attempt to absolve the kings of the earth, and the nations of the earth from their allegiance to the Mediator:—to free men from performing civil duties in his name. If the Mediator be divested of this much of his dominion, I see not how he is to maintain his dominion over the church. For it is certain, that there is the same connexion between the church and the state, that there is between the Christian and the citizen, in the same man, the same person, that is, the Christian, is the citizen, so in a Christian nation, the same persons that constitute the church, constitute the state. The Christian and the citizen are not merely abstractions, but perfectly homogeneous predicates meeting in the same subject. Now, Christ’s dominion is a dominion over subjects, and not over predicates. Then if you deny to Christ dominion over the citizen, you must either deny to him dominion over the subject, or speak nonsense. But if Christ as Mediator does not have dominion over the subject, he has dominion neither over the Christian nor the citizen.

So, if you give to him dominion over the Christian, you give to him dominion over the person that is the Christian:—his whole person, soul and body,—for time and eternity. This is a subject that is of most vital interest to the church at the present day. And if I could see a returning to sound doctrine on this point, among the different churches, then I would look for the most valuable results to follow attempts at union, (which is that which characterizes our day,) but without this we need look for nothing but a second Babel. Returning to sound doctrine on this point would be indubitable evidence of a day of Christ’s power, when his people will be made a willing people.”

We hope yet to see this “returning to sound doctrine:” and, there even seems to be some evidence that the attempts now making to unite some of the churches, at the expense of so large a part of the Christian faith, and morals, as that which relates to the entire subjection of the whole man to the law of Christ, will be overruled for this very end.

Remarks on “The True Issue.”


John McAuley

Mr. Editor,—With your permission, I will make a few remarks on “The True Issue,” not that I intend any thing like a regular review of it. I consider that the whole controversy concerning the magistracy, and the Confession of Faith, turns on one proposition;—on that concerning the “origin” of magistracy. Your first proposition is, that, “Magistracy originates in God, in his essential character, as the moral Governor of the universe.” I do not know that I have any objection to this proposition, abstractly considered. I believe that not only magistracy, but redemption, and all things have, their origin in God:—in a three-one God. So also, I believe that universal government has its origin in a three-one God; but whether this universal government is administered by a three-one God, or by the Trinity, as delegated to the Mediator is altogether another question. Then, as you see, we have no controversy on the abstract proposition. Our controversy will all turn on your first inference from your proposition; which is, “That magistrates are not the deputies of Christ in his mediatorial character, and are not bound to discharge the duties of their office in his name, not having received their commission from him.

Now, to me, it is plain that your inference is a perfect non sequitur from this abstract proposition. If you had added a supplement to your proposition, stating, “that the government of the nations had never been delegated to the Mediator,” then your inference would have been a legitimate one. I might just as well say, because ecclesiastical government did not have its origin in the Mediator; but in a three-one God; therefore church officers are not the deputies of Christ;—or of “Christ in his mediatorial character.” Would the editor tell us what other character Christ has besides that of Mediator? Is not the Christ the Mediator? I think when the editor denied that the magistrate was the deputy of the Mediator, he would have done well to have shown us whose deputy he is:—is he the deputy of an ABSOLUTE God? Does he act for God, in his name, and place immediately? and what kind of fellowship and communion does he have with God while serving him without a Mediator? Again, he ought to have told us to which of the covenants these duties belong. These duties must be discharged either under the sanction of the covenant of works, or that of grace.

What I principally design, however, is to examine the orthodoxy of your inference; particularly, that part which says, “and are not bound to discharge the duties of their office in his name,” (in the name of the Mediator.) I do not wish you to think it unkind to call in question your orthodoxy, because I am free to confess, that if you are orthodox, I am grossly heterodox—have exceedingly erroneous views of the divine law, and of the nature of the obedience which we owe to it. And I am sure that I have no desire whatever to be a disguised heretic. Now,


It appears from your inference, that civil duties are not to be performed in the name of Christ. But what say the scriptures? Col. 3:17: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him,” It does appear to me, that the editor would have all civil duties performed under the sanction of the covenant of works: because if done under the sanction of the covenant of grace, they must be performed in the name of Christ, the mediator. It is manifest that I am not misrepresenting the editor, from what he says in other places. Evangelical Repository, Vol. 3, No. 12, page 530. “This moral natural law which we make the formal rule of the civil magistrate’s administration, of course does not include in it those principles that have a relation to the covenant of grace, or rather, those principles which are revealed by God in his assumed character as the God of grace,” Page 538. “Magistracy has its origin in God as the moral governor of the universe, and hence those laws which he has issued in his assumed character as Mediator, are not the rule of the civil magistrate’s administration.” This needs no comment. It virtually denies that the moral law, or the law of the ten commandments, is the rule of the civil magistrate’s obedience; for it is certain that the law of the ten commandments was revealed by the Mediator.


I would like to know something more about this “moral natural law” which the editor makes the rule of the magistrate’s obedience. 1. Is it not all included in the law of the ten commandants? and if so, why not make the law of the ten commandments the rule at once? Ah! the editor will reply, “they (the ten commandments) were issued by Christ in his assumed character as mediator!”—“they include principles that have a relation to the covenant of grace!” therefore not suited to the nature of civil duties. 2. Would the editor tell us wherein the sanction of the moral natural law differs from that of the law of the ten commandments, as given by the Mediator? By the sanction of the moral law, I understand that which moves to acceptable obedience;—which holds out the hope of deliverance from everlasting death, and that of inheriting everlasting life. The gospel, or preface to the ten commandments, is their sanction. Now, has the moral natural law any sanction to quicken to obedience, if we deny to it that of the gospel? And if so, what is it? what deliverance,—what blessings does it promise?—and above all, through whom are this deliverance, and these blessings expected to flow, to those who obey this law? These things cannot flow immediately from an absolute God:—they cannot flow mediately through Adam:—and if this law has no “relation to the covenant of grace” they cannot flow through the Mediator. 3. I would like to know what is the precise character of the magistrate’s obedience to the “moral natural law.” Is it a gracious or graceless obedience? It is manifest, according to the editor’s views, that it cannot be a gracious, or evangelical obedience, he, as an officer, not being under the mediatorial dominion,—“not being his deputy,”—“not having his commission from him,”—and being neither federally nor spiritually united to Christ. Then if it is not a gracious or evangelical obedience, it is a graceless one; that is, one that has no favour or acceptance in the sight of God. Then all his obedience, as well as his disobedience is sin, and seeing that he, as an officer, has no relation either to the Mediator or the new covenant, how are these sins to be purged away?


It appears that the editor has found out that we owe obedience to two laws:—to the moral law as Christians, and to the “natural moral law” as citizens: and that these laws are entirely different, as to their “issuing, administration, and sanction.” Now, for my part, I am no believer in this duonomianism. I believe that the divine law is one, whether manifested by the light of nature or revelation; that its giver is one, its administrator one, and its sanction one; and that it comes to all men, in every relation, to whom it comes at all, with precisely the same sanction; and men’s ignorance of the nature of its sanction can, in no sense, alter their relation to the law. Wherever this law is manifested to men out of Christ, it will be to them the “ministration of condemnation,” whether manifested by the light of nature, or revealed on tables of stone: when it comes to men out of Christ, it “reveals the wrath of God from heaven against all ungodliness, and unrighteousness of men,” in every relation: reveals wrath against all kinds of sins, civil as well as social, and ecclesiastical; and that all these are sins against one and the same laws, and that it is alone by the one atonement of Christ that any of these sins can be pardoned; but that it is a propitiation for all kinds of sin. But when it comes to those who are in Christ, it says nothing of condemnation, nothing of wrath, for, or on account of, any kind of sin, whether read in the heavens, seen in the sun, moon, or stars, or read on tables of stone. To such it speaks of his excellency, glory and holiness. “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory in the heavens.” “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Now why is this one language spoken by the heavens and firmament, understood so differently by these two classes? The one class reads it, without, the other by the light of the gospel, its sanction,—the one sees not Christ, the other beholds “him as the end of the law for righteousnessto every one that believeth,”—sees in Christ an end of all their sins, even their civil sins. But how could this be if the law did not come to him accompanied by the sanction of the gospel,—unless it be accompanied with “those principles that have a relation to the covenant of grace?”


I would like to know, if the magistrate does not “discharge the duties of his office in the name of Christ,” how he can accomplish the great and grand end of the magistracy?—the glory of God: and if the grand and ultimate end of magistracy is not accomplished by his obedience, how can he promote its subordinate end;—the good of civil society? 1. I would remark that there is no glorifying God in the discharge of any duty, except it be done in the name of Christ; because obedience rendered in any other way is obedience to the law as a covenant of works, and of course dishonours, instead of glorifying God: whether it be civil, social or religious duties. Then the magistrate is just as much bound to give glory to God in the discharge of his official duties, as the minister of the gospel is in his official duties. Then he, as well as the minister, is bound by the divine law to “do all things whatsoever he does, both in word and deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him,” And this he must do not only as a man, but as an officer; for he does not discharge his official duties as a man, but as an officer, 2. Unless he do all that he does “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” his works instead of being good, will be evil,—“dead works,” which will dishonour instead of glorify God. 3. If the magistrate would glorify God in the discharge of his official duties, he must not only do all in the name of the divine Mediator, but by the direction of his Spirit. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” If he is not “sowing to the Spirit,” in the discharge of his official duties, he is “sowing to the flesh,” and “shall of the flesh reap corruption.” 4. The magistrate must perform his civil duties in the name of Christ, or God will never accept them. Then if the magistrate does not do them in the name of Christ, they will be rejected, both he and his services, like Cain and his offering, Esau and his repentance, and the wicked and their sacrifices; they are all alike abominations to the Lord. 5. The magistrate must do all in the name of Christ, or he cannot draw nigh to God, in the performance of civil duties. And if he does not draw nigh to God, it is certain that he is going away from him. And besides Christ there is no way of access to God. We are just as much bound to draw nigh to God, to walk in him, and live in him as citizens, as we are as fathers, or church members. How can the magistrate live in Christ as a father and out of him as an officer? How can he draw nigh to God as a church member, and go away from him as a magistrate? Then if the civil magistrate does not perform his civil duties in the name of Christ:—his obedience is obedience to the law as a covenant of works:—it is dead works;—sowing to the flesh:—abominable sacrifices:—a going away from God, and thus dishonouring, instead of glorifying him, and rebelling against the divine government. And all these things he is doing as the representative of the nation, and thus not only provoking the divine vengeance on his own head, but upon the nation which he represents. But how will the guilt of that nation be enhanced and aggravated, if all the subordinate officers and citizens follow his pernicious error? And now, if it be impossible for a nation thus to accomplish the grand end of civil government, the glory of God, how can it, on this principle, promote the subordinate end of it, the good of civil society? when they are all as one man, with  one heart, provoking the divine wrath, and pulling down the judgments of God upon their own heads, by their self-righteous and carnal obedience. The wages of sin is not only the death of individuals, but of nations.

I am not a little astonished at the editor when he says, “mankind could have existed in civil society, and could have attained the end of civil society, without a knowledge of these principles,” that is, “those principles which are revealed by God in his assumed character as the God of grace.” Does the editor mean that men in civil society can glorify God “without a knowledge of these principles?”' Does he mean that men can promote the good of society “without a knowledge of these principles?” It is true, the editor says, “this has always been the principle of the Associate Church,” and quotes authorities to prove it. But if this be the principle of the Associate Church, that “men can attain the end of civil society without a knowledge of these principles,” that is, without a knowledge of the Bible, (for this is what the editor means) I am so far from believing it, that I abhor and detest it, and will oppose it while I live.

But you may reply that to carry out these principles, I must acknowledge that the “magistrate is the deputy of the Mediator.” Be it so. I unhesitatingly avow the doctrine. Because there is no such a thing as either magistrates or citizens glorifying God without being under the rule and authority of the Mediator, in the discharge of their respective duties. I believe that glorifying God in the discharge of civil duties, necessarily implies the following things:—


Being taught by Christ as our prophet. 1. Let us look at the matter of his prophecy, that we may know whether he teaches or prophesies concerning civil duties. If so, then the civil magistrate must be in subjection to the Mediator as prophet. It is sufficient to say that the Bible is the matter of his prophecy or instruction. Then if the word of God be the matter of his prophecy and he in this word prophesy concerning civil duties, it is direct rebellion against him and his government not to make this prophecy the formal rule of our civil obedience. “Him shalt thou hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Acts 3:22. It is certain that Christ the Mediator, has, as prophet, laid down the general principles of civil government, such as love, truth, mercy, and justice; that he has laid down the character and duties of rulers, and the duties of citizens. He has also denounced the most awful penalties against the violators of these principles, and the neglecters of these duties. Again, he rewards those who reverence his principles of government, and do the duties connected with them. Then it is certain that Christ as given us, in his prophecy, a complete system of civil government, and not only so, but the true system of civil government can be learned alone from Christ as prophet.

It is true, the heathen, who have never heard the teaching of the great Prophet, must be guided by “natural principles,” and depend on the uncertain prophesying of blind reason, to determine what these “natural principles” are. But why should we, who have a “more sure word of prophecy,” go and join the heathen, in groping after “natural principles” by the dim and uncertain light of reason?[1] 2. Let us look at the necessity of being taught by the great Prophet, that we may know all about civil duties. Unless Christ as prophet teach us, we can never know God, to whom these services are to be rendered; and those that do not know God cannot serve him: those that would know God must know the mediator; those that would see the Father, must look on the face of his Anointed. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” Those that would see the end of civil obedience, must be taught by Christ as prophet, what is the glory of God. If we would behold the glory of God, we must see it shining in the face of Jesus Christ. Then those who lose sight of Christ in the discharge of civil duties, lose sight of the glory of God. Unless we are taught by Christ as prophet, we can never understand the rule to direct in civil duties, can never see the perfections and glory of God shining in any part of his word: without this teaching we can never see any thing but the “letter” of civil precepts “which killeth,” “it is the spirit that giveth life.” We might just as well expect to glorify God in the discharge of the duties of church members, without being taught by Christ, as in the discharge of civil duties. It is said of civil rulers who have not been taught by the great Prophet, “They know not, nor will understand, they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth have gone out of their course.” All men will be full of spiritual darkness concerning civil duties, until taught from above, until spiritually illuminated, until Christ as the great Prophet becomes their teacher.


Glorifying God in the discharge of civil duties, necessarily supposes a constant sense of dependence on the Mediator as the great high priest of our profession:—on the merits of his blood, and the efficacy of his intercession, that our persons and services may be accepted in the sight of God. It is certain that if we lose sight of the Mediator as our high priest,—of his blood,—and of his intercession, in the discharge of civil duties, so will we also lose sight of the glory of God. All who think of God at all, in the discharge of civil duties, without a faith’s view of the great high priest that has passed into the heavens, will contemplate him as an enemy, —“a consuming fire.


Glorifying God in the discharge of civil duties necessarily supposes subjection to the Mediator as king. The absolute necessity of the execution of the kingly office of Christ, to enable him to glorify God in the discharge of civil duties, will appear from the following considerations:—l. Before the magistrate can glorify God, the King of saints, who is also the King of nations, must slay his enmity to God, and his hostility to the divine law:—subdue his pride;—mortify his vanity:—crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts:—deliver from bondage to sin and Satan, and thus “proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound.” 2. That the magistrate may perform his civil duties to the glory of God, he must not only be subdued by Christ as king, but also ruled and governed by him. Before the magistrate can rule, or the people be ruled, to the glory of God, or for their own good, they must first be ruled and governed by the Mediator as king. That men may be ruled in any society for the glory of God or their own good, they must have a king that is able to govern not only their external conduct, but one that has absolute dominion over their understandings, judgments, wills, affections, and consciences:—but in vain will we search heaven, earth, or hell for any other king than the Mediator, that can thus govern men. One, to exercise such dominion over men, must be both God and man. 3. That magistrates and nations may be defended both from temporal and spiritual enemies, they must have the Mediator for their king:—must be under his dominion. Magistrates as such, and nations as such, have both temporal and spiritual, visible and invisible enemies, Satan does not only deceive individuals, but “the nations.” Take the nations from under the protection of the Mediator, throw them outside of his mediatorial dominion, and they then have not one friend,—one protector, in heaven, earth, or hell:—if they fall under the dominion of an absolute God, they fall into the hands of an enemy of infinite power and infinite wrath,—if into the dominion of Satan, they fall into the hands of the destroyer,—if into the dominion of men who are not the “deputies of the Mediator,” they become a prey to men who are the “deputies” of the  destroyer.


That the magistrate may glorify God in the performance of his civil duties, he must have the Spirit of Christ to “lead and guide him into all truth.” He as a magistrate, must be spiritually united to Christ, as well as a husband, father, or church member. To do the will of God, he must have the mind of Christ. The Spirit or mind of Christ must move men in the discharge of every duty, whereby God is to be glorified. All the members of the body, must be in subjection to the head. But how can they be in subjection to the head, without a vital union to it? That the members may act in obedience to the head, the same life or spirit that is in the head must be in all the members. But how can the life of the head be in the members, without an organic union to it?—without a union by bones, muscles, nerves, and blood? The members of one body cannot act in obedience to the head of another body; because they have no vital union to the head of another body. So all Christian magistrates have a vital union to Christ, their living head. Now it is admitted by all that the man who is the magistrate must act in obedience to the head,—in obedience to the mind of Christ, and that he is moved to this obedience by the Spirit of Christ, and by virtue of a spiritualunion subsisting between him and Christ. But it is denied that the magistrate is bound to obey the Mediator as his head, and of course the magistrate as such has no vital or spiritual union to Christ, has not the life of Christ dwelling in him. Then, here we have one and the same member, (for the magistrate, and the man who is the magistrate, are not two persons, but one) united to two heads,—the same member doing one class of duties in obedience to one head, and another class of duties in obedience to another,—the same member animated by two different spirits. This system, however, is in perfect harmony with that which recognizes two laws, entirely distinct as to their givers, administrators, and sanction. A double law, head, members, and Spirit, are in perfect harmony.

But in conclusion, that magistrates and nations are under the mediatorial dominion of Christ, is plain from the fact that he does exercise jurisdiction over them, and it cannot be denied,—he does give laws to them,—he does accompany these laws with rewards and punishments,—he does admonish, threaten and chastise,—he does reward, protect and defend,—and will judge all classes and conditions of men, and angels at the last day. Now, all that I need to say concerning the Confession of Faith, is simply this, if your system be correct, then the Confession should be altered; but if not, it should not be altered.


[1] We commend the following extract, and the whole article from which it is taken, to the attention, particularly, of Seceders. Its author—Brown of Haddington— would never have owned as brethren in Christ’s testimony, those who, while calling themselves by the same name, have abandoned most of the distinctive doctrines on which he laid so just stress.—Ed. Cov.

“To pretend that men’s civil liberty, which is all derived to them from God, as his free gift, can protect them in blasphemy and idolatry any more than in theft or murder, proceeds plainly upon atheistical principles; to pretend that such as enjoy the benefit of revelation should not make use of it for regulating the laws of their nation, or the administration of civil offices, is plainly a contempt of revelation and obstinate drawing back to heathenism.” (Brown’s Dictionary of the Bible—on the word “Rule.”)