« ÎnapoiContinuați »
Revelation unfolds to our wondering eyes, a view of the state of the universe altogether new. The conclusion to which reason conducts us, is, that He who created all things, upholds them by his power, and guides them by his wisdom. This conclusion is not contradicted, but rather is confirmed by the Scriptures, which throw new light upon this as well as other truths which were formerly known, and extricate it from the obscurity and perplexity in which it was involved by the speculations of science falsely so called. We still say that men and angels, beings visible and invisible, animate and inanimate, are sustained by the almighty arm which gave them existence, and are subject to its controul. But instructed in the personal distinctions of the godhead, which unaided reason could not have discovered, we learn that the administration of universal nature is the peculiar province of Him, who, on the ground of a mysterious relation, is called the Son; and that he exercises this high office in human nature, which, by an act equally mysterious, he has made his own. To this wonderful fact we reverently give our assent; but perhaps it is not so often, and so distinctly present to our minds as it ought to be, when its importance is considered ; and we are apt to forget, when we are surveying the diversified scenes of creation, that every movement is effected by him who died upon the cross, as a sacrifice for our sins. What an interesting thought, that heaven and earth are obedient to the voice of one who is bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, and who retains amidst his glory the feelings of a friend and brother! What honour has God conferred upon our nature, by setting it far above all principalities, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, both in this world and that which is to come. It was this instance of the divine goodness, which excited the admiration and gratitude of the holy Psalmist
, when, contemplating the heavens, he burst out into this devout exclamation, “ What is man, that thou art mindful of him, and the Son of man that thou visitest him ?"* This is the true system of the universe, full of consolation and hope to believers, although philosophers may be ignorant of it, or may treat it with scorn. • The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice ; let the inultitude of the isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him ; righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.”+
I have already said, that the mediatorial kingdom of Christ is a gift of the Father, and properly ought to be considered as the recompense of his humiliation and sufferings. This connexion is stated in the following passage, which at the same time gives a sublime view of the exalted state of our Redeemer, and shows the unlimited extent of his dominions. « Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus : who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And 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 ; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”Ị It appears from this and other passages, that nothing is exempt from his authority. He gives law to matter, and to the irrational tribes; he commands the armies of heaven; he claims the inhabitants of the earth as his subjects ; he rules over the spirits of darkness; he is the Lord of the dead and of the living. But it is not necessary to our present purpose to take a minute survey of his mediatorial kingdom in all its extent. Let us view it in relation to the church, which
.. Ps. viii. 4.
† Ps. xcvii. 1, 2.
# Phil. ii, 6-11.
is the peculiar object of his care, and for the sake of which all power in heaven and on earth was given to him. The proper object of his mediatorial kingdom is the church, although it embraces many other things; the world engages his attention no farther than it is subservient to the present good and final salvation of the church : “ Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill
I remark, in the first place, That, having ascended to heaven, and sat down at the right hand of the Father, he founded the church by the ministry of his apostles. During his personal ministry, he announced that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. The disciples, imbued with Jewish prejudices, asked, after his resurrection, “ Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel ?”'+ dreaming of a temporal monarchy. It commenced on the day of Pentecost, when he poured out the Holy Ghost upon his disciples, to qualify them for the work of preaching the gospel, and erecting the church. Peter, referring to what they had witnessed, called upon the Jews to consider it as a proof of the great authority with which our Redeemer was invested : “ He being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”I Having vanquished on the cross the god of this world, he proceeded to rescue from his power unhappy men whom he had long held in bondage, and to make them the subjects of his own kingdom. The difficulties with which the enterprise of the apostles was attended, were many and formidable ; sufficient, it might have been thought, to render their endeavours abortive. There never was an undertaking, the failure of which might have been more confidently predicted. Were twelve fishermen to convert the world to a religion repugnant to their former notions, and habits, and tastes, and to unite the most hostile sects in one society of love? What folly in uneducated men to make an attempt which would have been too arduous for the learned and the eloquent! Yet they did succeed; and Christianity obtained such an interest in the minds and affections of thousands, as paved the way for its subsequent diffusion over a considerable part of the earth. Jews and Gentiles were brought together in holy fellowship; and a community of faith, and worship, and interest, was established among men of different countries and languages. The design of employing instruments so inadequate, in respect of natural talents and accomplishments, was to illustrate the power of Jesus Christ, and to show that he is the author of the second as well as of the first creation. “ The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power."'S The first act of royal authority which he performed after ascending his throne, was to establish' his kingdom upon earth; and the means corresponded to its nature. It is a spiritual kingdom; and was not erected by force of arms, but by the persuasive influence of the truth, and the invisible operations of grace.
“ He shall come down as rain on the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth.”|| The kingdom of heaven came not with observation, with noise and external pomp; but its progress was silent and gradual, and was illustrated by the apt similitude of seed cast into the ground, which springs and grows up, a man knows not how. On the day of Pentecost, a train of events commenced, which will ultimately realize the vision and the prophecy. A stone, cut out without hands, brake in pieces the image which Nebuchadnezzar saw; and it became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the interpretation :—“ In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
• Ps. ii. 6.
| Acts i. 6.
* Ib. ii. 33–36.
& Ps. cx. 2.
| Ib. lxxii. 6
In the second place, He prescribed the form and order of his church, enacting laws and ordinances to be observed in it, and claiming absolute authority over the souls and consciences of the members. Before he ascended to heaven-for even then he possessed regal power, although he had not been formally invested with it—he appointed baptism and the sacred supper, and commanded the Gospel to be preached; and afterwards he enabled the apostles, by the spirit of wisdom, to arrange all the parts of the system. The church is a voluntary society in this sense, that no person is compelled by force to enter into it, and he only is a genuine member who has joined it from conviction and choice; but there is this important difference between it and other voluntary societies, that the members have no right to settle the terms of their union, but must implicitly submit to its original constitution. Strictly human legislation has no place here; the proper province of the rulers is to execute the laws already made by the sovereign ; their decrees possess only subordinate authority, and are not binding, except as they are declarative of his will. “One is our Master, even Christ." “ He is thy Lord, and worship thou him.”+ The duty of the church is to submit to his authority; and it is not performed unless his word be received as the only rule of faith and practice, and every thing which is done in religion be exactly conformable to his commands. In the world, his law may be disregarded and violated; but it should be held sacred in the church, which is his kingdom. In the exercise of his authority, he abrogated the law of Moses, which had been binding for fifteen hundred years, and was fondly supposed by the Jews to be of perpetual obligation. He published a new and spiritual law, which will continue in force till the end of time; he removed the priests and Levites from the altar, and established in their room apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers; he changed the nature of the society, by associating the Gentiles with the Jews; he made all places sacred as well as Jerusalem, and ordained that, from the rising to the setting of the sun, incense should be offered to his name, and a pure offering. As soon as he had announced to his disciples that all power was given to him in heaven and in earth, he said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”+
The authority of Jesus Christ over the church, is exclusive of the authority of man.
Councils may be assembled to declare the truth, and condemn heresies, but they can make no new article of faith ; they may regulate subordi. nate matters, the determination of which lies within the sphere of experience and prudence; but they can neither increase nor diminish the sum of our moral obligations. The supremacy claimed by the Pope, is an invasion of the royal prerogative of Christ, although he calls himself his vicar or substitute. He has intruded into this office, and assumes a paramount power ; pretending to forgive sins, changing the ordinances, and repealing the laws of heaven, and extending his jurisdiction over the visible and the invisible world. “ He exalts himself above all that is called God, and is worshipped ; and, as God, he sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” Hence, instead of being the vicar of Christ, he is justly called Antichrist, his rival and antagonist, who has usurped dominion over the church, and supplanted the authority of its only lawful head by his own. The connexion between church and state has been generally, and, as some think, uniformly productive
• Dan. ii. 44.
† Matt. xxiii. 8. Ps. xlv, 11.
# Matt. xxvüi. 19, 20.
of the same evil, in a greater or a less degree. The alliance is formed on this principle, that the church shall yield something in return for the favour and protection of the state. Without entering upon the question respecting the lawfulness of civil establishments, I content myself with remarking, that, if an earthly sovereign is constituted head of the church, and its affairs are conducted according to acts of parliament, a foreign power is admitted, which, to a certain extent, secularizes his kingdom, and intrenches upon his paramount authority.
The form of the church, under the present dispensation, is not delineated with the same minuteness which we observe in the law of Moses. There every thing is prescribed, the place, and the times, and the ministers of worship, the oblations to be presented, and the rites to be performed in public and in private ; nothing is left to human discretion. The New Testament furnishes only an outline, or general principles deduced from occasional hints, and the example of the primitive times. We are fully satisfied with the constitution of our own church, as agreeable to the Scriptural model ; but, finding that wise and good men adopt different views, and are equally confident that they are conformable to the apostolical standard, we should beware of contending about the subject with the vehemence and bitterness of zeal, which it has too often elicited; and should cultivate charitable sentiments towards those who hold the same faith, although they do not, in all things, walk according to the same rule. Above all, let us guard against the narrow, unchristian idea, that we alone are the true church, and consequently, that the kingdom of Christ is confined to our little society. All belong to it, who sincerely acknowledge him as their Lord, and are willing to be guided by his word ; mistakes about inferior points, and occasional deviations, through ignorance, from the rule which he has prescribed, will not hinder them from being owned as faithful subjects. The kingdom of Christ is catholic. As it is universal by right, so it comprehends within its boundaries all who believe and obey the truth, however diversified by external profession. Some of them may be found even in that pretended church, which is in reality a synagogue of Satan, although it is not easy to conceive how they can retain their allegiance to Christ within the dominions of his adversary; but it is supposed that a remnant will be left there to the last; for immediately before the fall of the mystical Babylon, this warning is given: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues; for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”
In the third place, He upholds the church throughout all generations, by a constant succession of members. The great promise of eternal life, which he has made to his followers, will be performed in another world; their interest in his salvation secures them against the sting of death, but not against death itself; each in his order, when he has completed his term of obedience and trial, lies down in the grave. When we observe the havock which is daily made among the ranks of his disciples, and see those, who professed the truth, and evinced their sincerity by the stedfastness of their faith and the devoted zeal with which they served him, removed, one after another, into the house of silence, where there is no work, or wisdom, or device, we might be tempted to prognosticate the most gloomy result; and we naturally exclaim, “ Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth ; for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” But, while the individuals perish, the race remains : genus immor, tale manet. “Instead of the fathers, he takes the children ;” the places of those who have fallen, are supplied by their own families, and more frequently by strangers ; and thus his promise is fulfilled, that the gates of hell, of is use
the invisible world, into which the souls of the departed enter, and the grave, which may be considered as its portal, shall not prevail against the church. In fulfilling this promise, several acts of his royal authority and power are exerted. Having received from his Father, after his ascension, the gifts of the Spirit, he bestows them upon those persons whom he is pleased to employ, to qualify them for preaching the Gospel, which is the grand means of gathering subjects into his kingdom of grace; or, in the words of an apostle, “ for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."* Papists, and some Protestants, boast of the regular succession of their clergy from the apostles; but the latter must acknowledge that, as the Church of Rome was the medium of communication, it is a very corrupt channel in which power has been conveyed to them. This we know, that, in every age, men have been found, who willingly consecrated themselves to his service, and their labours have been crowned with a blessing. Notwithstanding the opposition which it may encounter, he preserves the Gospel in a particular place, till all the elect there are converted; and he sends it into any country, where he has designs of mercy to accomplish, in spite of the efforts of men and devils to exclude it. The power of Rome, which had conquered the world, could not hinder the propagation and triumph of the truth; and the obstacles to its entrance, or its progress, in India, in China, in Turkey, will give way when the time to favour those regions is come. The words of God respecting the temple, are equally applicable to the opposition with which the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah has to contend: “Who art thou, O great mountain ? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it."'t He exerts a secret power upon the heart, which the strongest prejudices and the most inveterate habits of sin are not able to resist. As the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, his servants do not fight for him; and it is only in a figure that the church is represented as terrible, like an army with banners.” Our religion forbids the employment of external force in its propagation and defence, and leaves it to Antichrist, who, in the want of arguments, has recourse to the sword, and terrifies into compliance those whom he has failed to persuade. The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are not therefore ineffectual. They are mighty, through God, to pull down the strongholds of sin, to cast down lofty imaginations, and to bring every thought into captivity to Christ. There is no man who may not become a subject of this kingdom. However remote he may now be from this character, however hostile may be his sentiments and feelings, he may undergo a change as sudden and wonderful as that of Paul, who, from being a persecutor, became an apostle, and a preacher of the faith which once he destroyed. The grace of our exalted Redeemer operates silently, but surely; it always gains its end; and there are daily added to the church such as shall be saved." All they that be fat upon earth, shall eat and worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him; and none can keep alive his own soul.
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.”!
In the fourth place, He defends the church against her enemies. These may be considered as invisible and visible. By the former, we mean the spirits of darkness, who have a kingdom of their own to maintain, the overthrow of which will be the sure consequence of the establishment of the king
Eph. iv. 12, 13.
Zech. iv. 7.
#Ps. xxii. 29–31.