by J. C. Philpot
A. And first, the NATURE of his kingdom. This, like the place where it is exercised, and whence it issues its royal mandates, is heavenly. Our blessed Lord, when he stood before Pilate's judgment bar, declared that his "kingdom was not of this world." It is, therefore, a kingdom, not earthly but heavenly; and as such possesses peculiar characteristics which entirely distinguish it from all other kingdoms.
We will take a glance, therefore, at some of the peculiar features of this heavenly kingdom:
1. It is eminently a spiritual kingdom. When our blessed Lord went up on high, he received gifts for men, as is declared in those exulting words of the Psalmist, "You have ascended on high; you have led captivity captive; you have received gifts for men, yes, for the rebellious also; that the Lord God might dwell among them." (Psalm 68:18.) These gifts were spiritual gifts, different measures of heavenly grace, as the Apostle explains—"But unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. "When he ascended up on high he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Eph. 4:7, 8.) So also testified Peter, on the day of Pentecost, when the risen Lord, as he had promised, baptized his disciples with the Holy Spirit—"This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has shed forth this, which you now see and hear." (Acts 2:32, 33.) This blessed Spirit was not given, in his full measure of heavenly gifts and graces, until Jesus was glorified. (John 7:39.) Comforting, therefore, his sorrowing disciples, their gracious Master said to them, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away—for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7.)
The disciples seem themselves to have expected a temporal kingdom. This anticipation of worldly dignity and of a throne erected on earth's base clay manifested itself in the request of the mother of the sons of Zebedee—"Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on your right hand, and the other on the left, in your kingdom." (Matt. 20:21.) And, what we would have less expected, even after his resurrection, when the cross and the sepulcher must have, as one would think, forever dispelled their dreams of a temporal throne, the eleven disciples asked their risen Master, "Lord, will you at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6.) Thus even those faithful few who had walked with him in intimate union for several years, who had heard his heavenly discourses, and more particularly listened to those spiritual lessons uttered in their ears after the last supper, and his closing prayer so filled with holiness and truth—even these believing, affectionate disciples seemed to turn their eyes to the restoration of the fallen national and natural kingdom of Israel. They did not see, until baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire, how poor, how low, how unbecoming the glory and dignity of the Son of God it would have been to sway an earthly scepter.
What is its chief glory, but that it is a spiritual kingdom, administered by spiritual means, for spiritual persons, and unto spiritual ends? To subdue hearts, not to conquer kingdoms; to bestow the riches of his grace on poor and needy sinners, not, like Solomon, to heap up gold, and silver, and precious stones; to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, not to spread ruin and desolation over countless provinces; to be surrounded with an army of martyrs, not an army of soldiers; to hold a court where paupers, not nobles, are freely welcome, and where the court dress is not "scarves, ankle chains, sashes, perfumes, and charms; their rings, jewels, fine robes, gowns, capes, and purses" (Isaiah 3:20-22), but "the fine linen, clean and white, which is the righteousness of saints;" to issue not pensions, but pardons; and to grant to favored objects not trophies and medals, but "bands of love," and "the morning star" of his dawning smile, (Hos. 11:4; Rev. 2:28,)—such are some of the objects of the King of saints.
Say that the Lord after his resurrection had appeared in majesty and glory to put to flight the Roman armies; say that he had made Jerusalem his metropolis, and subdued all the nations of the earth; would that have been a conquest worthy of his coming from the bosom of the Father, or in harmony with his agonies in the garden, and his sufferings and sacrifice on the cross? To reign spiritually over believing hearts; to quicken and regenerate, save and sanctify, pardon and bless the objects of his eternal love; to conform them to his suffering image, and make them fit for the inheritance of the saints in light--what would the highest, greatest, and most glorious earthly conquests have been in comparison with such and similar spiritual triumphs of his grace?
2. As being, therefore, a spiritual kingdom, it is a kingdom of grace, for in it, as administered by its heavenly Sovereign, grace "reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life." (Rom. 5:21.) This is one of the chief blessings of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of power, that the throne on which he sits is "a throne of grace." (Heb. 4:16.) Thus, having finished the work on earth which the Father gave him to do, he has gone up on high to carry into execution those purposes of grace which brought him down. To begin, carry on, and complete, from heaven his dwelling place, the work of grace on thousands of his chosen saints here below; by grace to pardon their sins; by grace to subdue their iniquities; by grace to purify their hearts by faith; by grace to sanctify their affections and fix them on things above, where he himself sits on the right hand of God—such and similar conquests of his all-victorious grace make Jesus unspeakably precious to those who believe.
But what heart can conceive, or what tongue recount the daily, hourly triumphs of his all-conquering grace? We see scarcely a millionth part of what Jesus, as a King on his throne, is daily doing; and yet we see enough to know that he ever lives at God's right hand, and lives to save and bless. What a crowd of needy petitioners every moment surrounds his throne! What urgent wants and woes to relieve; what cutting griefs and sorrows to assuage; what broken hearts to bind up; what wounded consciences to heal; what countless prayers to hear; what earnest petitions to grant; what stubborn foes to subdue; what guilty fears to quell! What clemency, what kindness, what long-suffering, what compassion, what mercy, what love, and yet what power and authority does this Almighty Sovereign display! No circumstance is too trifling; no petitioner too insignificant; no case too hard; no difficulty too great; no suer too importunate; no beggar too ragged; no bankrupt too penniless; no debtor too insolvent, for him not to notice and not to relieve! Sitting on his throne of grace, his all-seeing eye views all, his almighty hand grasps all, and his loving heart embraces all whom the Father gave him by covenant, whom he himself redeemed by his blood, and whom the blessed Spirit has quickened into life by his invincible power. The hopeless, the helpless; the outcasts whom no man cares for; the tossed with tempest and not comforted; the ready to perish; the mourners in Zion; the bereaved widow; the wailing orphan; the sick in body, and still more sick in heart; the racked with hourly pain; the fevered consumptive; the wrestler with death's last struggle—O what crowds of pitiable objects surround his throne; and all needing a look from his eye, a word from his lips, a smile from his face, a touch from his hand. O could we but see what his grace is, what his grace has, what his grace does; and could we but feel more what it is doing in and for ourselves, we should have more exalted views of the reign of grace now exercised on high by Zion's enthroned King!
3. But it is a kingdom also of life. A living King needs living subjects. The dead in sin, the dead in profession, have neither part nor lot in the matter. "Death cannot celebrate you." "The living, the living, he shall praise you, as I do this day." (Isa. 38:18, 19.) Jesus is "the way, and the truth, and the life;" and as such says to his people, "Because I live, you shall live also." Thus he appeared to John in the Revelation, calming his fears when he fell at his feet as dead—"And he laid his right hand upon me, saying, Fear not, I am the first and the last. I am he who lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore." (Rev. 1:18.) To give life, and that more abundantly; (John 10:10;) to be "the resurrection and the life, so that he who believes in him, though he were dead, yet should he live," (John 11:25,) was a part of his divine mission. As, then, the kingdom of the beast is full of darkness and death, (Rev. 16:10,) so the kingdom of Jesus is full of light and life, for he has declared that he is "the light of the world;" and that "he who follows him shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12.)
The nature of this kingdom is beautifully unfolded in Psalm 21.* "How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because of your victory. For you have given him his heart's desire; you have held back nothing that he requested. You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head." (Psalm 21:1-3.) It will be observed that among the blessings thus asked and granted was life. "He asked you for life, and you gave it to him--length of days, forever and ever." (Psalm 21:4.) This life is his mediatorial life, and, therefore, a given, not a self-existent life. As he himself declared—"For as the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself." (John 5:26.) Of this mediatorial life he gives to his people; and thus they live by him and on him, as he lives by the Father, according to his own words—"As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father; so he who eats me, even he shall live by me." (John 6:57.) This life quickens, animates, and sustains the Church of Christ as she comes up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved. Thence comes all her union and all her communion with her risen Head. She lives by it in him, and he lives by it in her. Thus Head and members are one; for as in the natural body the life of the head is that of the members, and this oneness of life makes them one, so is there one life in that mystical and spiritual body of which Christ is the glorious Head. But the subject of Christ as our Life is too wide for our present limits, for it embraces all those communications of divine life which make and manifest his people to be a living people, and comprehends every breath of spiritual life in their hearts from the first cry of a convinced sinner to the last hallelujah of an expiring saint.
* Psalm 21 is a kind of pendant, or what is sometimes called a complement to Psalm 20. In Psalm 20 the Church, fore-viewing the sufferings and sacrifice of Messiah, thus prays on his behalf to his heavenly Father—"The Lord hear you in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend you. Send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion. Remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice." (Psalm 20:1-4.) She has a confidence that the Father will accept his burnt sacrifice, will "grant him according to his own heart"—the salvation of his people, and will "fulfill all his counsel"—the counsel of peace "between them both." (Zech. 6:13.) In this anticipation she says, "We will rejoice in your salvation," &c., and adds, in the confidence of faith, "Now know I that the Lord saves his anointed"—that is, his Messiah, his Christ, the very name which Jesus bore, and by which he is still called. But as in Psalm 20 the Church viewed the suffering, sacrificing Messiah, so in Psalm 21 she views the triumphant, reigning Messiah; and sees the Father setting a "crown of pure gold on his head," thus exalting him as King to his own right hand. She sees all his petitions granted, "honor and majesty laid upon him," and himself made "most blessed forever." Thus the two Psalms, as it were, fit into and mutually explain and illustrate each other. Psalm 20 is prayer, Psalm 21 is praise; Psalm 20 sees the cross, Psalm 21 sees the crown. In the one we see what Jesus was; in the other what Jesus is. Read in this point of view, they cast much light upon both the past and present work of Christ; and especially show the deep interest and sympathy which the Church takes and feels in both his humiliation and exaltation.
4. For a similar reason we can only just briefly remark that the reign of Christ is in its very nature a kingdom, also, of light, (1 John 1:7,) as opposed to the power of darkness; (Col. 1:13; Eph. 5:8;) a kingdom of liberty, (John 8:32, 36; 2 Cor. 3:17,) as opposed to the reign of bondage; (Acts 15:10; Gal. 4:24, 25, 31;) a kingdom of love, (1 John 3:1, 16,) as opposed to the reign of enmity and alienation; (Rom. 8:7; Col, 1:21;) a kingdom of peace, (Isa. 9:6, 7,) as opposed to war and strife; and a kingdom of holiness, (Isa. 35:3; Dan. 7:22; Heb. 12:14,) as opposed to a reign of sin and uncleanness. (Rom. 5:21.)
5. But its peculiar characteristic and chief glory is that it is an internal kingdom. "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21.) "The King's daughter is all glorious within." (Psalm 45:13.) This internal kingdom is that "kingdom of God," of which the Apostle declares that it "is not food and drink--but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom. 14:17.) It is, therefore, "not in word but in power;" (1 Cor. 4:20;) requires a new and spiritual birth to see it and enter into it; (John 3:3-5;) is the special inheritance of "the poor in spirit;" (Matt. 5:3;) is entered into "through much tribulation;" (Acts 14:22;) "suffers violence, and is taken by force;" (Matt. 11:12;) and, when received in faith, is "a kingdom that cannot be moved." (Heb. 12:28.)
It is, therefore, not a kingdom of outward grandeur--but of inward grace; not one of temporal majesty--but of spiritual authority; not one of visible pomp and show--but of invisible influence; not a display of rustling robes, clashing bells, pealing organs, painted windows, medieval architecture, white-robed choristers, intoning priests, surpliced processions, and all that sensuous appeal to the mere natural feelings and passions of the human mind, whereby Satan, as an angel of light, deceives the nations--but a holy, heavenly, spiritual reign of the Lord of life in a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a tender conscience. Happy those who, illuminated from above by a heavenly light, and made alive unto God by a new and divine life, are not to be imposed upon by the baubles of an empty religion; who, knowing the truth for themselves by the teaching and testimony, work and witness of the blessed Spirit, cannot and will not "call evil good or good evil, nor put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." Happy those who see, feel, and know the difference between form and power, deception and reality, a name to live and Christ formed in the heart, the hope of glory! Happy those to whom the King of kings has extended the golden scepter of his grace, whom he has made willing in the day of his power, and on whose hearts he sits enthroned as their only Lord and Sovereign.
In viewing with believing eyes the Person and work, grace and glory, qualifications and offices of the blessed Lord, we are apt to fix our faith upon them more in reference to ourselves—to our own personal salvation and consolation, than as eternally designed to manifest the glory of God. It is, indeed, as seeing him fully and wondrously suited to all our wants and woes that we are first led and enabled to believe on the Son of God unto eternal life. A High Priest who has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and who, as now at the right hand of Power, is "able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him," well suits a self-condemned, guilty sinner; a kind and condescending Teacher, at whose feet we may humbly sit to hear his words dropping with unction into the heart, is well adapted to those who feel their ignorance, and long for heavenly instruction; and a King who cannot only manage for them all their temporal and spiritual affairs, but—harder work still!—can rule over their stubborn wills and subdue their iniquities by his Spirit and grace, well meets the case of those who sigh after deliverance from the power and prevalence of a body of sin and death.
But though these benefits and blessings, which come down to the people of God out of the mediatorial life and fullness of the Lord Jesus, are in themselves exceedingly great, and, as realized by heart experience, unspeakably precious, yet are they really but second and, as it were--subsidiary to higher and more glorious purposes. No final object can be so dear to God as his own glory. To fill heaven and earth with his manifested glory must be a purpose of greater significance with the Lord, than to save and bless a ruined race. To forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin is a part of God's glory; (Exod. 33:18-23; 34:5-7; Numb. 14:17, 18;) but the glory itself must be greater than that of forgiveness, of which it is but a part. Thus after the Lord had said to Moses, "I have pardoned, according to your word," he added, "But, as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." (Numb. 14:20, 21.) The glory of his holiness, of his justice, of his power, of his faithfulness, of his love, and all the other perfections of the divine nature, must be equal to that of his forgiveness of sin, not to mention the essential glory of his eternal existence as a Trinity of Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Unity of the undivided Essence. To reveal this glory, that thus it might be seen and admired both in heaven and earth, was the eternal purpose of the Most High, even of him who has said, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isa. 46:10.)
But as God is essentially invisible, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man has seen or can see, this glory could only be revealed in the face of his dear Son, who is "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his Person." This is John's express testimony—"No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." (John 1:18.) In almost similar language speaks the Apostle Paul—"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.) We see, therefore, that to glorify his dear Son was the eternal purpose of God; for in glorifying him he glorified himself, as our Lord declares—"I have glorified you on the earth;" (John 17:4;) and again, "Father, glorify your name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." (12:28.)
But the glory of the Father and of the Son are one, according to the words of our Lord's intercessory prayer—"I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do. And now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began." (John 17:4, 5.) Thus we see that the Son of God glorified his Father on earth, and that the Father now glorifies his Son in heaven. And as he set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places that he might be thus glorified in him, so the main purpose of the present royal dignity of Jesus is to manifest that glory.
These few remarks may perhaps prepare us to enter more clearly into the consideration of that part of our subject which now lies before us, that is, the object, extent, and duration of the royal dignity of Jesus at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
B. The OBJECT of this regal sway demands first our consideration.
In that sublime and most affecting prayer which the Lord Jesus offered up to his heavenly Father on the eve of his sufferings in the garden and on the cross, he himself unfolded one special object of his present possession of supreme authority and power—"As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him." (John 17:2.) From these words of the gracious Lord we gather two things—1, that the Father has given him power over all flesh; 2, that it was necessary he should possess this supreme authority in order to bestow the gift of eternal life on as many as the Father had given him. The execution, however, of this latter purpose, implies and involves several others, which we shall now, therefore, attempt to unfold.
1. The execution of God's will upon earth is entrusted to the hands of the risen and exalted Son of God. God's open will is made known to us in the Scriptures, and this must ever be our guiding rule, for secret things belong unto the Lord God, but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29.) But besides this open or express will, God has a secret will, not revealed, at least not plainly and clearly revealed, as is his positive will in the word of truth, though there doubtless are dim intimations of it, could we see them.
But as all our readers may not see the distinction we make between the open and the secret will of God, let us explain our meaning a little more distinctly. One instance may suffice as an illustration of the distinction between them. It was God's open or expressed will that when he sent his dear Son, Israel after the flesh should believe in him as the promised Messiah; but his secret will was, that his people by outward covenant should reject him, and nail him to the accursed tree, that redemption by atoning blood might be accomplished, and also that the Gentiles should be the first-fruits of the Savior's finished work.
Now, as the secret will of God thus sometimes differs from his open will, who is so fit to carry into execution this hidden will as the Son of his love, of whom we read, "No man knows the Son but the Father; neither knows any man the Father save the Son?" He who ever lay in his bosom as his dear Son must fully know all the mind of the Father, for he declares, "As the Father knows me, even so know I the Father." (John 10:15.) To carry out this will demands infinite wisdom and infinite power, as well as an infinite knowledge of the mind and purpose of God. But in whom shall we find this union of infinite knowledge, wisdom, and power but in the exalted Son of God?
To bring the subject more fully before your mind, take as an instance the execution of the secret purpose of God to save his elect people from all their sins and all their foes. Consider for a moment the countless complications of events connected with the execution of this purpose! Look at the millions of human beings and of human passions which lie in the path as obstacles; the opposition of all the powers of earth and hell; the dreadful state of alienation and enmity into which the elect are sunk; the several and special call of every vessel of mercy; the temptations, trials, and deliverances of each, all which need infinite wisdom to know and almighty power to meet—do but consider these complicated circumstances, and what a view will it give you of the present reign of Jesus as carrying into execution this secret will of the Father. We have named but one instance, but that is sufficient to give us some little idea of the authority and power committed to the hands of Jesus as enthroned King in Zion.
2. Another purpose of the exaltation of the blessed Lord to the throne of mediatorial glory is that he should be a living Head of influence to his Church. This, is beautifully set forth by the Apostle in that heavenly prayer which he put up for the Church of God at Ephesus at the close of the first chapter of his Epistle—"I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in the world to come. And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence." (Eph. 1:19-23.) In what grand, noble, eloquent, expressive language does the Apostle here set forth the exaltation of Jesus, "far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion" in earth, heaven, or hell, and "all things" past, present, and to come put under his feet," that he might be a glorious Head of life, power, and influence to the members of his mystical body.
It has pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell—a fullness of all grace and gifts as well as all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Out of this fullness he is ever supplying the members of his mystical body; for from him, as an ever-living Head, "For we are joined together in his body by his strong sinews, and we grow only as we get our nourishment and strength from God." (Col. 2:19.) It is only by this union with Christ as a living Head, and by receiving supplies of grace and strength out of his fullness, that we come experimentally and feelingly to know that he lives at the right hand of the Father. We may indeed believe it to be so from the testimony of God in the written word, but we have no such evidence as the Lord speaks of when he says, "At that day you shall know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you;" (John 14:20;) or that which John means when he declares, He who believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself." (1 John 5:10.)
This is the grand, the vital distinction between the living and the dead, that the living have union and communion with a living Head, while the dead are "alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart." (Eph. 4:18.) This blessed truth and divine mystery of union and communion with him, the Lord unfolded to his sorrowing disciples in those heavenly discourses, before his sufferings and death, which the Holy Spirit has recorded by the pen of John—John 14, 15, 16. But we shall merely refer to one passage in them as chiefly illustrating our present point—"I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me. Because I live, you shall live also." (John 14:18, 19.) Let us seek to enter into the meaning of our Lord's gracious words here. His bodily presence was now to be withdrawn from the world. It had despised, it had rejected him. It knew him not, it valued him not. It had proved itself utterly unworthy of his continued presence; it should therefore be deprived of that blessing; it should "see him no more." This polluted earth should no more be trodden by his holy feet. His miracles of mercy should cease; his words of grace and truth should be no more heard; and as the world had no powers of sight but the bodily organ of the eye, when he left the earth it ceased to behold him. "But you," he says to his disciples, "but you see me. Because I live, you shall live also."
Our Lord in these words unfolds two mysteries of his heavenly grace—sight and life. The believer sees, the believer lives. But whom does he see, and by whom does he live? He sees Jesus, he lives by Jesus. He sees by a spiritual sight, he lives by a spiritual life, for Jesus is his life; and because Jesus lives, he shall live also. Thus the child of God carries in his own bosom the clearest proof and sweetest evidence that the Son of God is risen from the dead and reigns supreme in the courts above, for he sees him there, he feels him there. His anointed eye, like the eye of Moses, sees him who is invisible;" (Heb. 11:27;) and his believing heart, rising up on the wings of love, seeks those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. (Col. 3:1.)
In the parable of the vine and the branches, this mystery of vital godliness is more fully and clearly unfolded, especially in the words, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, no more can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing." (John 15:4, 5.) A living Head in heaven is the great object of our faith. Without faith in him, there is no union with him; without union with him, there is no communion with him; without communion with him, there is no fruitfulness; without fruitfulness, there is a casting into the fire as a withered and dead branch. Such is the circle of divine life and fruitfulness in the mystery of faith; such the outcome of barrenness and death in the mystery of unbelief. Let us trace it a little more distinctly.
Jesus lives at the right hand of God; because he lives, he quickens into spiritual life the members of his mystical body; as a fruit of this quickening power, they live; they see him; they believe on him; they have union and communion with him; they live a life of faith upon him; and bring forth fruit to his praise. The whole mystery of this life is contained in the experience of the Apostle—"I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20.)
But as this life of faith on the Son of God is exposed to countless fluctuations, and is opposed by countless inward and outward foes; as it has no power to maintain itself, but, like fire, must go out if left untended; and as the extinction of this life would involve the oath and promise of God and the faithfulness of his dear Son, it needs the Almighty power of the enthroned King of Zion to maintain it in being by continual communications of grace and strength out of his own fullness.
3. Another purpose of the regal sway of the Son of God is to subdue all things unto himself. When the Father raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, he virtually put all things under his feet. This was the promise made in Psalm 8, as spiritually interpreted by the Apostle—"You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, and set him over the works of your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him." (Heb. 2:7, 8.) When God created Adam, he gave him dominion over the works of his hands. This dominion, however, he forfeited by transgression. But the dominion given to the first Adam is bestowed in a much larger measure on the second Adam; for to the first Adam was granted dominion only over all things in the earth, but to the second Adam of "things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." (Phil. 2:10.)
But though this dominion is virtually and absolutely given him, and though he sits at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, as a sure pledge of the Father's absolute gift, yet its full accomplishment is still incomplete. This is clearly intimated by the Apostle in the last clause of the words quoted by us from Hebrews 2:8—"But now we see not all things put under him;" and in that remarkable passage—"After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having put down all enemies of every kind. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. For the Scriptures say, "God has given him authority over all things." (Of course, when it says "authority over all things," it does not include God himself, who gave Christ his authority.)" (1 Cor. 15:24-27.)
We shall have occasion, in the course of our Meditations, to dwell somewhat fully on these words; but the point to which we wish to call present attention is, the declaration in them that Christ "must reign until he has humbled all enemies under his feet." But why this necessity? Because the Father has virtually put all things under his feet, both by promise and by performance; by promise when he said, "Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession;" and by performance when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. He must, therefore, reign until he has fully executed the Father's purpose and the Father's promise. Were he to leave the throne before he had "put all things under his feet," where would be the faithfulness of God; where the promised reward of Jesus? But we must bear in mind that as the reign of Jesus is a spiritual reign, so the enemies put under his feet are the spiritual enemies of his people. Their enemies are invisible, and therefore the power exercised against them is invisible also.
We see sin and wickedness universally prevailing; a most cruel, bloody, and fratricidal war (the civil war in America,) desolating some of the fairest provinces of the earth, and by its consequences affecting millions of our own countrymen; Satan raging as if his time were short; vital godliness at a very low ebb; churches torn to pieces with internal strife; few faithful ministers in the land, and these often walking apart as if half afraid of, or half jealous of each other; error widely spreading; and popular preachers either pandering to the worldly spirit of their hearers, amusing them with jokes and anecdotes, and entertaining them with stories, or arresting attention by novel interpretations of Scripture, and running a reckless combat against established truths.
When, then, we survey a scene like this, our hearts may well sink, and our faltering lips may almost say, "Does Jesus reign? Why, then, do these objects meet our eye so opposed to his holy government? If 'all things are put under his feet,' why is the world, why is the Church what we cannot but see they are?" To silence this questioning spirit, which the more it is indulged the more perplexing it becomes, let us bear in mind the great truth which we have endeavored to enforce--that the reign of Jesus is eminently a spiritual kingdom, and exercised for his spiritual people. Thus it is not consistent with his present counsel to put down in an open manner, by visible acts of authority, the enemies of his people, but to strip them of so much of their power as affects the salvation and sanctification of his own loyal subjects.
To set this in a clearer light, let us bear in mind that an evident distinction may be drawn between the partial and the full display of the present power of Jesus. A king may possess in himself absolute power, and yet restrain himself in the exercise of it. So with the Lord Jesus Christ as King in Zion. None who believe in the power of the Lord Jesus as the exalted God-man can doubt his ability to sweep away from the face of the earth every vestige of sin and misery. But he does not do so. Sin still reigns rampant, and the cry of misery rises up on every side. We must come, then, to one of these two conclusions--either that Jesus does not reign with supreme authority--or that his power is for wise purposes not fully put forth. The first conclusion is infidelity; the second agrees with the views that we have put forth of the spiritual reign of Jesus. And to this agrees the testimony of the written word, for we read—"Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven--The whole world has now become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever. And the twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped him. And they said--We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign." (Rev. 11:15-17.)
From this prophetic declaration it is plain that until "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ," which they are not now, the Lord has not "taken to himself his great power and reigned," that is, has not displayed his sovereign authority in visible manifestation. It is now spiritual, and therefore invisible, but not the less real because at present necessarily partial. Were it otherwise, this world would not be a place of temptation and trial, nor would we be conformed to Christ's suffering image by walking here as he walked. View this point, then, of real though partial authority and power as exercised by the Lord, in relation to the various enemies of his people.
Take, first, that enemy of God and man, the arch enemy Satan. By his death, Jesus "destroyed," or, as the word rather means, broke his power; (Heb. 2:14;) and when he ascended up on high "spoiled" him and all his associated "principalities and powers, making a show of them openly." (Col. 2:15.) Does not this look like a complete conquest of the powers of hell? Yet Satan is still permitted to blind the minds of those who believe not, (2 Cor. 4:4,) and hurl his fiery darts against the children of God. Satan could fill the heart of Ananias with evil, (Acts 5:3,) and hinder Paul from good. (1 Thess. 2:18.) Can we reconcile these two statements? Is he destroyed who can blind and ruin the sinner? Is he spoiled who can distress and hinder the saint? Yes--but not fully nor finally. He is virtually destroyed as regards the saints of God, because he cannot destroy them, either body or soul; he is spoiled, if not of all power to hinder or distress them, yet of that overwhelming authority which he is allowed to exercise over the world as being still its god and prince. Thus we can understand how the kingdom of Christ is a real kingdom, and his power a really exercised power, though not at present triumphant in full and open manifestation. But though thus wisely and necessarily limited as to conspicuous display, as regards its spiritual exercise it is full and effectual.
Take as an instance, more fully to elucidate this point, another enemy which is put under his feet—death. The consideration of this may give us a still clearer insight into the nature of the authority exercised by the Lord in his kingdom than the one already adduced. That beautiful chapter, 1 Cor. 15, will throw great light on this part of our subject—"For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Cor. 15:25, 26.) Observe the connection here between the reign of Christ until he has put all enemies under his feet, and the destruction of the last enemy, death. As death is still destroying, he is not yet destroyed, that is, in the full sense of the term. But he will be fully destroyed. When? At the resurrection; for then, and not until then, "will be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory." But is there no destruction of death until his final destruction? Surely. When, by a manifestation of pardoning love, the sting of death is taken away, is not death then spiritually destroyed? Many a dear saint of God has shouted on a dying bed, "O death, where is your sting! O grave, where is your victory?" even at the moment when Death is stinging him to death, and the victorious grave is about to claim for its prey the worn-out body.
We need not pursue further the train of thought. The examples we have given, and to them we might add those of the world and of sin, sufficiently show that the apparent incompleteness of the Lord's triumphs over his enemies, the wide prevalence of sin and misery, and all the opposition made to his authority and power, are no valid arguments against the reality of his reign, or the exercise of his government. It is full and complete for all its intended purposes. If more were needed, more would be displayed. Is it not enough that he reigns spiritually in the hearts of his people; that he controls the power of all their enemies; that he subdues their iniquities; that he sets a limit to the strength and subtlety of Satan; that he deprives death of its sting, and robs the grave of its victory; that he keeps back the raging waves of an ungodly, persecuting world; defeats all devices against his Church; and brings every member of his mystical body through all the storms of time and waves of corruption to the eternal enjoyment of himself? Is not this a real kingdom? Is not this supreme and successful authority? And is not the exercise of this sovereign government, invisible though it is, as effectual as if it were more openly displayed and shone more brightly and conspicuously before the eyes of men?
But here we shall pause, reserving to our next paper our considerations upon the extent and duration of this kingdom of the Son of God, the nature and purpose of which we have thus far, however feebly and imperfectly, attempted to unfold for the edification of our readers and the promotion of the glory of a Triune God.
C. The nature and object of the Mediatorial kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ having thus far formed the subject of our Meditations, we shall now, with God's help and blessing, attempt to unfold the two next points which we proposed for consideration--its EXTENT and DURATION.
Both these points involve difficulties, and have been the subject of frequent as well as warm controversy. But without flinching from expressing our views on the subject, we shall endeavor, while we avoid doubtful and controversial points, to tread as closely as we can in the footsteps of Scripture, and advance nothing which is not, at least in our judgment, in strict accordance with the inspired testimony.
By the extent of the Mediatorial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may understand two things:
1. The present extent.
2. The future extent.
Both of these points will demand our careful and prayerful consideration, that we may advance nothing inconsistent with the word of truth or the dignity and glory of the blessed Lord.
The future extent will come more conveniently under the next section, in which we propose to consider the future development and glorious manifestation of Christ's Mediatorial kingdom; and its duration will fall also better into its place when we have taken a view of his future glory.
We have, therefore, now chiefly to examine the PRESENT extent of the Mediatorial kingdom of Jesus. One word will express this extent—unlimited. Nothing short of, nothing less than this, will be in accordance with his own words—"All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18.) What possible limit can be assigned to "all power in heaven and in earth?" All power in heaven includes dominion over all the angelic multitudes above; and all power on earth embraces absolute, uncontrolled authority over all men, things, events, and circumstances beneath the starry skies.
But the question may, perhaps, arise, "Did not the Lord Jesus, as the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, already possess supreme dominion over angels and men, and so over all things in heaven and in earth?" Surely he did. But his power and authority, as the Son of God, are distinct from his power and authority as now exercised at the right hand of the Father.
The peculiar glory of his Mediatorial kingdom is that the Lord Jesus reigns in our nature—not simply, therefore, as the Son of God, but as the Son of man. This Stephen saw in the vision of faith—"But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55, 56.) This was also the prophetic view given to Daniel—"As my vision continued that night, I saw someone who looked like a man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and royal power over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed." (Dan. 7:13, 14.)
Exactly similar are the declarations of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament—"I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in the world to come. And God has put all things under the authority of Christ, and he gave him this authority for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is filled by Christ, who fills everything everywhere with his presence." (Eph. 1:19-23.) "And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:8-11.) These testimonies demand our careful and particular attention, as in them are locked up some of the deepest mysteries of our most holy faith; and we will therefore bestow upon them, before we proceed further, a few moments' attentive consideration.
The Holy Spirit has set before us in the word of truth the blessed Lord as the object of our faith under three distinct points of view:
1. What he was from all eternity—the only-begotten Son of God; the Son of the Father in truth and love.
2. What he became in time—the Son of man, by taking upon him the flesh and blood of the children.
3. What he now is—the exalted God-man at the right hand of the Father; still the only-begotten Son of God, still the very and true Son of man; but uniting both these distinct natures, the divine and the human, in one glorious Person, and thus crowned with glory and honor, and sitting as a Priest on his throne in the highest heavens. These three points are all embodied in one verse, as spoken to his disciples by our gracious Lord—"I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world. Again I leave the world, and go to the Father." (John 16:28.) "I came forth from the Father;" there is his eternal Deity and Sonship. "And am come into the world;" there is his sacred humanity. "Again I leave the world, and go to the Father;" there is his present glorified state as God-man.
It has been our aim and desire to set him before the Church of God under these three points of view, so far, at least, as we have seen him by the eye of faith and felt him precious. In one series of papers, we endeavored to set him forth in his Deity and Sonship, as the Son of the living God; in another series, we attempted to unfold the mystery of his sacred humanity as the Son of man; and in the present series, now coming to a close, to bring him before the Church in his Mediatorial grace and glory as the enthroned Priest, Prophet, and King of his redeemed people. May he graciously smile on this feeble attempt to set forth his praise, and more and more reveal himself to both writer and reader as the chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely.
It is, then, in his glorious complex Person as Immanuel, God with us, God in our nature, that he now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and in him, as thus exalted to be the head over all things to the Church, faith believes, hope anchors, and love embraces. To look to him, even at times, from the very ends of the earth; (Isa. 45:22; Psalm 61:2;) to call upon him; (Acts 7:59; 9:14; 1 Cor. 1:2;) to confess and bewail at his feet our grievous sins and innumerable backslidings; to seek after clear and renewed manifestations of his glorious Person and finished work, of his atoning blood and dying love; to desire the promotion of his glory, not of our own; that his will should be accomplished in and by us, and not that our own wretched inclinations and sinful desires should be gratified to our fancied present pleasure, but real future glory; to live to his praise; to listen to his voice, and obey it; to be separated from the world and worldly professors and enjoy union and communion with him; to walk in his footsteps; and when this life, with all its sins and sorrows, comes to a close, to die in his loving embrace—is not this to live a life of faith in the Son of God, and thus "to know him and the power of his resurrection?"
It was a special mark of the primitive believers that they "called on the name" of Christ, that is, addressed their prayers to him as God. Thus Saul came to Damascus "with authority from the chief priests to bind all that called on his name;" (Acts 9:14;) and Paul addressed his epistle "to the Church of God at Corinth," etc., "with all who in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, both theirs and ours." (2 Cor. 1:2.) So the heathen writer, Pliny, in his letter to Trajan, the Roman Emperor, written about A. D. 102 or 103, giving an account of the early Christians, says, "They are accustomed on a stated day to meet before daylight, and to repeat among themselves a hymn to Christ as God." It was this worship of Christ, as the exalted Son of God, which drew down upon them such a load of shame and persecution. That they should worship as God one who had been crucified as a common malefactor, was unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who were called, it was Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (1 Cor. 1:23, 24.)
But though we do not tie ourselves strictly down to a prescribed line of thought, and do sometimes avail ourselves of the liberty implied in the very word "Meditations" to wander, not, indeed, from the truth, nor even from the subject, but from a rigid adherence to a fixed path of discussion into the green pastures of musing contemplation of the grace and glory of the Lord the Lamb, yet we feel that we have rather digressed from our point, which was to show the present extent of the Mediatorial reign of Jesus.
We have already pointed out that in all the office characters undertaken by our blessed Lord, there was an initial entering upon them on earth prior to their full assumption as now exercised by him in heaven. In his priestly office there was an absolute necessity for this, as the Apostle so cogently argues—"For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this man have something also to offer." (Heb. 8:3.) What he offered was himself—"Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Heb. 9:25, 26.) As, then, the blessed Lord entered initially into his priestly office when he put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, so he entered initially into his kingly office while here below, before his full assumption of it as now administered by him at the right hand of the Father. Thus we see the subjection of all things to his dominion, even in the days of his flesh, as a pledge of all power being given to him at his resurrection in heaven and in earth. At his rebuke, as Lord of the elements, stormy winds and roaring waves were hushed into a calm. At his approach, diseases fled, for there went virtue out of him and healed them all; under his creative hand, food for famishing multitudes multiplied itself, without stint or limit; at his bidding, water was at once changed into wine; at his commanding word, the paralytic started up from his year-long couch, and the dead from his grave-borne coffin. He had but to speak, and the deaf heard, the blind saw, the lame walked, the leper was cleansed.
Was not this to walk on earth as its King and Lord? Yes; as Lord of the sea, he walked, in calm grandeur, upon its waves; as Lord of the earth, he bade the grave give back the buried Lazarus; and as Lord of hell, cast out devils, and made those infernal spirits cry out as in terror, "Are you come here to torment us before the time?" If, then, his dominion and authority were so unlimited in the days of his flesh, before he ascended the throne of his Mediatorial glory, what possible limit can be assigned to them now? But as our views of it are too often sadly narrow, and our faith in it proportionally weak, let us endeavor to show in some detail how wide, how unlimited is its present extent.
1. First, then, view it as extending over all people; and bear in mind that this includes enemies as well as friends—those whom he will one day break with a rod of iron and dash in pieces as a potter's vessel, and those who serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. We are very apt to lose sight of the unspeakable benefits and blessings which we enjoy in the Lord's exercising kingly authority over all persons, and especially those in high places. Our beloved Queen, our temporal rulers, our judges, magistrates, and all administrators of government; our justly-prized and inestimable constitution; our just and moderate laws; our civil and religious liberties; and all, in fact, that we enjoy as citizens of this highly-favored country, we owe to the real power of our exalted Lord.
How plainly does it declare this under his name as "Wisdom," in the word of truth—"By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even "the judges of the earth;" (Prov. 8:15, 16;) "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water he turns it wherever he will." (Prov. 21:1.) Similar is the testimony of the New Testament—"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God;" (Rom. 13:1;) "Submit yourself to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake—whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well." (1 Pet. 2:13, 14.) Thus all civil authority is of God; and, as the Lord of life and glory sits at his right hand in the plenitude of his power, we cannot err in ascribing to his royal authority every temporal privilege that we enjoy.
And not only in this favored island, the Queen of the isles sitting on her sea-girt throne, the envy and admiration of surrounding nations, but everywhere on this earthly globe, as far as waves roll, winds blow, sun shines, or stars hold on their nightly courses, does the scepter of Jesus sway the destinies and control the designs and actions of men. If, amid all the turmoil and confusion of passing events, it is difficult to realize this, consider the consequences which would result both to the world and the Church, were no such supreme dominion exercised. Look for a moment at the fierce, we may say ferocious, passions of carnal men, and see what earth would soon become--were they left unchained in all their natural ferocity. Without the restraints of law and government, which, as we have shown, are instruments of Christ's supremacy, men would tear each other to pieces, like infuriated wild beasts, and deluge society with blood and crime. Where, amid this awful storm, with every element of fury let loose, would society be? Imagine London given up for one day to the unchecked passions of its criminal population, and then ask yourself, "Is there no mighty power which holds in check these worse than wild beasts?" Yes, there is a power as wide-spread as light, as universal as air, as pervasive and far mightier than that which holds the earth itself in its orbit—the supreme dominion of heaven's exalted Lord. Not to believe this, is not to be a believer at all.
But you will, perhaps, say, "If Jesus reigns thus supreme, why all this disorder, this misery and crime? why is earth what it is? why this bloody, fratricidal war in America? why this appalling distress in Lancashire, if he holds the reins of government?" But are you a judge of order or disorder? Where you see little else but confusion, there may be the greatest order; and wisdom where you would gladly charge the Almighty with folly. Are you a prophet, or the son of a prophet? Can you foretell what blessing is to spring out of this horrid war, or this sore distress? Does not a king punish as well as rule? And how can the Lord more effectually punish men than by scourging them with their own sins? It is God's special prerogative to bring good out of evil, and order out of confusion. If you were to watch carefully from an astronomical observatory the movements of the planets, you would see them all in the greatest apparent disorder. Sometimes they would seem to move forward, sometimes backward, and sometimes not to move at all. These confused and contradictory movements sadly puzzled astronomers, until Newton rose and explained the whole; then all was seen to be the most beautiful harmony and order, where before there was the most puzzling confusion.
But take a scriptural instance, the highest and greatest that we can give, to show that where, to outward appearance, all is disorder, there the greatest wisdom and most determinate will reign. Look at the crucifixion of our blessed Lord. Can you not almost see the scene as painted in the word of truth? See those scheming priests, that wild mob, those rough soldiers, that faltering Roman governor, the pale and terrified disciples, the weeping women, and, above all, the innocent Sufferer with the crown of thorns, and enduring that last scene of surpassing woe, which made the earth quake, and the sun withdraw his light. What confusion! what disorder! What triumphant guilt! What oppressed and vanquished innocence! But was it really so? Was there no wisdom or power of God here accomplishing, even by the instrumentality of human wickedness, his own eternal purposes? Hear his own testimony to this point—"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2:23.) The "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," in the great and glorious work of redemption, was accomplished by the wicked hands of man; and if so, in this the worst and wickedest of all possible cases, is not the same eternal will also now executed in instances of a similar nature, though to us at present less visible?
But having taken this hasty glance at the authoritative rule of Christ over and in the midst of his enemies, let us now look at his mild and merciful dominion over his own people. Here we seem to stand, if not on surer, yet, at least, on plainer and more evident ground. The ancient promise of authority and power given unto the Son of God in prospect of his future exaltation, and of this the Scriptures are full, embraced two things—the subjection of enemies, and the willing obedience of friends—"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion. Rule you in the midst of your enemies. Your people shall be willing in the day of your power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning; you have the dew of your youth." Willingly or unwillingly, all should be made subject to his scepter; for "those who dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him" in the voluntary obedience of love, and "his enemies shall lick the dust" in the forced submission of power.
This distinction between the willing obedience of friends and the forced subjection of foes runs through many other inspired declarations of the nature and extent of the Mediatorial reign of Jesus. Thus, addressing his heavenly Father, the Lord speaks in ancient prophecy—"You have delivered me from the strivings of the people; and you have made me the head of the heathen. A people whom I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me. The strangers shall submit themselves unto me." (Psalm 18:43, 44.) We prefer the marginal reading of the last clause, "The strangers shall lie, or yield feigned obedience," as closer to the original, and more in accordance with the next verse—"The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places." Almost the first act of faith is to obey. It was the first act of the faith of Abraham—"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing where he went." (Heb. 11:8.) The faith of the gospel, therefore, is called "the obedience of faith," (Rom. 16:26,) and to believe the gospel is to obey the gospel, as the Apostle speaks—"But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Elijah says, Lord who has believed our report?" (Rom. 10:16.) When, therefore, we believe the gospel, as made the power of God unto our salvation, we obey the voice of the Beloved as speaking in and by it. "You who dwell in the gardens, the companions hearken to your voice. Cause me to hear it." (Song 8:13.) My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27.) As, then, the good Shepherd speaks, the sheep hear, and, as they hear, they believe and obey. The Prince of Peace sways his scepter of love and grace over their hearts; they take his yoke upon them, which, by submission, they feel to be easy, and his burden to be light; and thus find rest unto their souls.
But this unlimited dominion extends also over all things—all events and circumstances, as well an all persons. This is hard to believe, but, were it not so, what security would there be for the salvation of the Church of God? "All things are yours," says the Apostle; "things present and things to come, all are yours." But how and why are all things yours? "Because you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." (1 Cor. 3:22, 23.) But how could "all things" be ours, unless all things were subjected to the sovereign sway of Jesus? Again, we read that heart-cheering declaration—"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom. 8:28.) But how can "all things work together for good," unless these all things are in the hand, and under the supreme control of the Lord Jesus? for were any one thing exempt, that one thing, like a misplaced wheel in a piece of intricate mechanism, might make the whole machinery go wrong, and work for ill instead of good.
At the end of the same noble chapter from which we have just quoted, the Apostle enumerates a whole series of dangerous and distressing incidents to a Christian course. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for slaughter." (Rom. 8:35, 36.) He then adds, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." (Rom. 37.) But how "in all these things" could the suffering saints of God be more than conquerors, if he who loved them had not supreme control over them? Rising in a glorious climax of triumphant faith, he then declares—"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ver. 38, 39.) "Things present and things to come" must be under the sovereign control of Jesus, as well as "angels, principalities, and powers," or some of them in height, or some of them in depth, or some of them in creation, would be able to separate the saints from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus their Lord. Have we not said enough to show from the word of truth what many believe in doctrine, but few believe in real, heartfelt, practical experience, that all things, events, and circumstances are subjected to the sovereign control of the King of kings and Lord of lords? But we now pass on to more difficult and delicate ground—the FUTURE extent of this Mediatorial reign.