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THE REIGN ON EARTH OF CHRIST AND
In its present stage and aspect, then, the kingdom of Christ is a spiritual rule in the hearts of his people and a providential government for them. It is a kingdom of moral force and influence, it is the era of the dispensation of the Spirit, by which, though personally absent, Christ dwells enthroned in the hearts of his subjects. Now, real, excellent, and blessed as this dominion is, it nevertheless obviously falls short, both in extent and character, of the kingdom which in virtue of his obedience unto death belongs by right unto Him, that visible, personal, universal dominion predicted of Him as the Messiah, and promised to Him as the Son of Man. We see not yet all things put under Him in a way of actual subjection; every knee does not bend to Him nor every tongue confess Him. His loyal, loving subjects as yet are but few, a little flock,' as compared with the myriads that are ignorant of or disown Him. He does not, as it was said He should, as yet sit on the throne of his father David and reign over the house of Jacob, for the Jews almost to a man denounce Him as an impostor. He does not, as it was said He should
Isa. xxiv, 23.
do, reign in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his Ancients gloriously, for the Holy City is still trodden down of the Gentiles.
Behold, Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell safely, and this is his name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness.' Such is the prophetic promise; but obviously it has not yet been fulfilled. In short, not to multiply passages, the heathen have Ps. ü. S. not yet been given to Christ as an inheritance, nor the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession; the kingdoms of this world are not yet Rev. xi. 15. become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ. But that all this shall ultimately be fulfilled, that the promise as to Christ's kingdom shall be made good, in all its length and breadth, faith forbids us for one moment to doubt, because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. He, whose purpose Eph. i. 9, 10. is the purpose of the ages, will, we are assured, in the dispensation of the fulness of the times accomplish the good pleasure of his will, to gather up together again in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and on earth, even in Him.
The leading features of Christ's kingdom in its present stage and aspect having now been considered, our next enquiry must be, what Holy Writ reveals as to its further development in ages yet to come. And, first, we are warranted in expecting a visible presence, a personal manifestation of Christ
John xvi. 7.
It is expe
John xiv. 3.
Acts i. 11.
on earth, to reign as the God Man. During this
But, then, what shall be the object and purpose
limited sense which we now assign to it. To judge' means in Scripture to exercise rule, not simply to sit for the decision of suits or the trial of offenders. The idea which many have about Christ's coming to judge the world, is that simply of holding a great assize for the reward or condemnation of the living and of the dead, assembled in one mighty multitude before his throne. But this view of Christ's advent is both erroneous and inadequate. It is erroneous, in that judgment even in this limited sense will not be one act upon
all at once and together, but, as Scripture plainly intimates, will be the act of different periods, of different objects, and by different criteria. Passing by, however, this point for the present, I say that to restrict the object of Christ's advent to this kind of judgment is altogether an inadequate view, in that it takes no account of that which is to be the grand purpose of his coming, visibly and personally to rule over the earth, and to bring in the reign of order and righteousness and peace.
That a period of blessedness is some time or other to come upon the earth all are agreed ; a period when, to use the figurative language of the prophet, the wilderness and the solitary place shall Isa. xxxr. 1. be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; when the earth shall be full of the Isa. xi. 9. knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. About this, I say, all are agreed; but all do not agree as to the time and way in which this stage of blessedness shall be brought in. There are those who think that it will be gradually brought to pass by the operation of the same
CHAP. VII. spiritual influence, only extended and enlarged,
which is now at work; by a wider diffusion of the gospel of Christ, by a larger outpouring of the Spirit from on high, resulting in the gradual conversion of the world, and in the submission of all men to the authority of God. Then, and not till then, they think, will Christ come to judge the world, that judgment consisting, as before noticed, in the assignment of everlasting life or everlasting death to each man according to his works.
But to this view there are, I submit, insuperable objections. In the first place, if prior to the coming of Christ the world is to be reduced to a state of holiness and peace, how comes it that the time of his advent is so invariably described as one of the very opposite character, as a time when the tares and wheat will both be growing thickly
together in the field, and as a time similar to that Luke zrii. 26–30. of Noah and of Lot ? For as it was in the days
of Noah and in the days of Lot, said our Lord, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be; even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. I venture to assert that there is really nothing in Holy Scripture to warrant the notion that prior to the advent of Christ the conversion of the world will have been effected, by the same spiritual agency as that now at work, by the preaching of the gospel, and by the progressive expansion of the Church and its ordinances. On the contrary, the testimony of Scripture abundantly shows that the Lord hath reserved the glory of this thing unto Himself, to accomplish it by his own visible and personal manifestation, by a coming
Vatt. xvi. 28.