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CHAP. XX. knowledge, that this too is revealed in the Word,
the ultimate subjection and reconciliation of all souls to God.
The way being thus cleared for the discussion, the enquiry was then entered upon as to what Holy Scripture teaches concerning the nature, design, operation, and ultimate results of Christ's kingdom, as a divine economy ordained and constituted for the subjection and reconciliation of souls to God. And, first of all, it was seen that by the kingdom of Christ is meant that power and dominion which appertain to and are exercised by Him, as the Last Adam, for the recovery of a fallen world; and that this kingdom is ever spoken of as one acquired by Him, a kingdom that He received, a kingdom conferred upon Him, for and on account of his atoning work of righteousness. Because He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, therefore God highly exalted Him, and gave Him the name which is above every name, setting Him at his own right hand, above all rule and authority and lordship and power, and putting all things in subjection under his feet. Next, it was seen that this kingdom is a universal one, that it embraces within its scope and range the whole creation, animate and inanimate, and contemplates its entire restoration to order and beauty, to righteousness and blessedness; in other words, that the Lord Jesus has been invested as the Christ with universal dominion, with a view to, and to culminate in, what St. Peter describes as 'the restitution of all things.' In proof of this the evidence of Scripture, both inferential and direct,
was first adduced. And with the conclusion to which this leads, fall in also the antecedent proba- Chap. III. bilities of the case. If the Father sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world,' a priori the presumption holds good, that a mission so divine cannot but have a perfect consummation. And if, when viewed in relation to the Saviour Himself, the complete success of his mission is antecedently probable, even yet more so is it when considered in relation to the objects of it, born as they are into the world by no will of their own, bringing with them into existence a nature predisposed to evil, and throughout their life on earth subjected to temptations from without, acting upon, and fitting in with, their inner sinful propensities.
At this point in the argument an obvious difficulty presented itself, connected with the free will of man. To many thoughtful men, otherwise disposed towards it, this difficulty interposes to prevent their acceptance of the doctrine of the restitution of all things. The ultimate subjection of all souls to God Chap. IV. was, therefore, considered in relation to the free will of man, and it was contended that no more coercion or violation of the human will is involved in this than in the process of conversion now. The history of the conversion of any soul to God is the history of a human will so wrought upon by divine grace as to overcome its perversity, and to turn it from its bias to evil in the direction of good. He who was truly converted to God in early life, when the heart was comparatively tender and impressible, and he who was converted late in life after a long and hardened course of sin and rebellion, will alike
say, 'By the grace of God I am what I am. If in the latter case there has been no more coercion or violation of the will than in the former, though in it there was so much fiercer and more determined a will to be overcome, why should the hope of the ultimate subjection of all souls to God in the ages to come be rejected on the ground alleged, seeing that it would be but the effect of the same grace, which in the present age subdues so many persistent and depraved wills, bringing them into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
This grand purpose of the kingdom of Christ, it was next seen, is to be brought to pass not all at once but in a succession of eras ; that it is therefore called 'the purpose of the ages,' because its consummation is only to be reached in the evolution of successive epochs. It is in the economy of the fulness of the times, that the good pleasure of God, which He hath purposed in Himself, is to be accomplished, of gathering up together again in one all things in Christ. Therefore the kingdom of Christ is set forth in Holy Scripture in different stages of it, and consequently under varying aspects of it. Sometimes it is spoken of as a kingdom that has come, and at another time as one yet to come; as a kingdom that cometh not with observation, and yet as being visibly manifested in power and great glory. In its present stage and aspect, the kingdom of Christ is one of moral force and spiritual influence and providential government, directed to and resulting in the calling out of a people for his
This is to be succeeded by a further development of the kingdom, in the visible presence
and personal manifestation of Christ, at his second advent, to reign on the earth as the God-Man. He shall take unto Him, we are told, his great power and reign, and the Lord shall be King over all the earth, and there shall be one Lord and his name One. In this dominion the saved ones of this era are to be associated, as a royal priesthood. Being made kings and priests unto God, they are to share with their Lord in the accomplishment of the great purpose of his kingdom, to be fellow-workers with Him in bringing to pass the grand and glorious consummation of it, the reconciliation and subjection unto God of a ransomed and regenerated universe. In connection with this it was seen what Holy Scripture reveals concerning the results of the reign of Christ and of his saints on the earth, in the establishment of righteousness and peace, in the removing discord both from among man and beast, in the taking away of the curse from the earth, and in the renovation of the whole face of nature. Further, in this great work God's ancient people, Chap. VIII. after their conversion, are to bear a distinguished part; for the manifestation of Christ as a King on the earth will be as David's Son and in connection with David's throne, his second coming being coincident with the conversion and restoration of the Jews, and their incorporation into the kingdom of Messiah; so bringing to pass the covenant promise to Abraham, 'In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.' Next, it was seen how on the appearing of the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens the sleeping saints are to be raised, and together with the living saints to be caught up to
meet the Lord in the air, to come with Him in their
spiritual bodies when he descends to the earth. Chap. X. & xi. On the coming of the Lord, it was seen, judgment
will be held on professing Christendom and on the non-christian nations, as set forth in the parables of
the Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep and Goats. Chap. XII.-xiv. In connection with these judgments enquiry was
made into the true significance of those emblems and expressions which set forth the punishment of the wicked, and we were led to the conclusion that none of them warrants the idea of never-ending torment; on the contrary, that both the Greek word used, the analogy of divine judgments generally, and the prevailing use of the symbol of fire, indicate a punishment corrective rather than vindictive, through which and out of which the subjects of it shall come forth purged and purified from evil, the wondrous monuments of the transforming love and power of the Saviour King. Further, it was seen, from the parallel drawn by St. Paul between Adam and Christ, that the effects of the redemptive work of the one shall be co-extensive with, yea shall overpass, the effects of the fall of the other; that the mediatorial reign of the Son of Man is to result in the subjection of all things to God, and that when this great end of it shall have been reached, then will He surrender the kingdom to the Father, and Himself become subject to Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. Next, it was seen that on grounds both of reason and revelation we are warranted in believing that death does not terminate the possibility of salvation, seeing that Christ Himself in his spirit