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The Kingdom of Christ.
In proceeding to the more immediate consideration of the Millennium, the circumstance which I shall first notice is the KINGDOM, concerning which so much is said in the Scriptures; and in regard to which I must beg the patient attention of the reader, while I endeavour to lead him step by step through what is written respecting it. If our views are not clear upon this point, we shall never arrive at a proper conclusion in regard to other matters. For the view to be taken of the doctrines of the Advent and Kingdom of Christ, and of the Resurrection of the saints, depends not as some would insist) upon doubtful passages in the Book of Revelation; nor shall I rest my interpretation upon any symbolical or merely figurative texts: but if there are passages in the Word of God, which must be understood in a plain and literal sense, (abating of course that tropical use of words, which is inseparable from ordinary conversation, to such I shall appeal, and by such I purpose to direct my course.
1. I need not occupy time by proving, that the Messiah or Christ, according to the Old Testament Scriptures, was to be a king, as well as prophet and priest; and that in various places, more especially in the Book of Daniel, the said Scriptures speak of the dominion and power which should be given him. A slight acquaintance only with the New Testament will likewise satisfy us, that the Jewish mind was prepossessed with the notion of a king and a kingdom, connected with their Messiah. Thus Nathaniel, when brought to believe in Jesus, confessed, “Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel.”a Thus, when the Lord exhibited his power by feeding the five thousand, the whole multitude would have taken him by force and made him king, had he not withdrawn from them. Thus again, when he rode into Jerusalem on the ass, the people cried: “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord!" “Blessed the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord." And what is more to the point, when Christ was accused before Pilate for claiming to be a king, he plainly declared that he was a King, and that he expected a kingdom.
It must be still more obvious to persons familiar ith the New Testament, that it does continually and almost exclu
a John i. 49. b John vi. 15. c Mark xi. 10 and Luke xix. 38. d John xviii. 36, 37.
sively refer the blessings and the glory therein announced to this kingdom. Jesus we are told went about preaching the Gospel (or glad tidings) of the kingdom in all the cities and villages of Judea;e he sent his disciples to preach the same;" he spake of the things pertaining to it after his resurrection;s St. Paul resolves his preaching into the same subject;h and, in brief, the whole Word of God is called "the Word of the kingdom.'
Against this part of the statement an objection must be noticed: viz. that the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven" are constantly spoken of in Scripture; but that these cannot mean "the kingdom of the Son of Man," or of “Christ.” A comparison however of scripture testimonies will shew, that these expressions all refer to one and the same kingdom.
For instance; that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God are one and the same, will be evident from a comparison of the following parallel passages. St. Matthew says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:"k St. Luke says, “Blessed be ye poor,
yours is the kingdom of God.” Again St. Matthew says, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven:”m the parallel passage in St. Mark is, "unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God."'n The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is indeed a form of speech peculiar to St. Matthew, and only to be met with in his Gospel: the same thing being invariably called by Mark and Luke “kingdom of God.” And even St. Matthew himself uses the two phrases indiscriminately in the following passage: "Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
That the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christ are the same, will appear from a similar process. Speaking of the Transfiguration, St. Matthew says, “Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom:”P which latter sentence St. Luke has—“till they see the kingdom of God;">I and St. Mark—“till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." Again, in the parable of the tares, Št. Matthew says, "that at the end of the world the Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend;” and immediately he adds, “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father:"s thus making the kingdom of the Father and of the Son of Man the same; even as St. Paul calls it, “the kingdom of Christ and of God."
e Matt. ix. 35. Luke ix. 2. & Acts i. 3. i Matt. xiii. 19. k Matt. v. 3. i Luke vi. 20. iv. 11. • Matt. xix. 23, 24. p Matt. xvi. 28.
h Acts xx. 25; xxviii. 23, 31.
m Matt. xiii. 11. Mark 9 Luke ix. 27. Mark ix. 1.
From these various passages I conclude, that only one kingdom is spoken of; and that if it be sometimes called the kingdom of ihe Father, it is in regard to His having expressly appointed it to the Son of Man; even as Jesus says, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me." And the object of Christ in that kingdom is to bring all on earth to do his Father's will, even as it is done in heaven; and then, when he hath thus put all things under his feet, to surrender up the kingdom to God, even the Father."
I must notice also, in regard to this subject, that divines often speak of the kingdom of grace: though it is not a scriptural expression. This is done by way of distinguishing those passages which refer to the visible church, or present dispensation, during which souls are prepared, by the means of grace and the Holy Spirit, to become meet partakers of the inheritance to which God has called them. Our Lord seems to refer to this dispensation of grace, when he likens the kingdom of heaven to tares growing with the wheat, and to good and bad fish caught in a net. In several other passages it is thus spoken of;" and I deem it important to affirm constantly, that the glorious kingdom of our God and Saviour can never be enjoyed by any other, than those in whose hearts he now reigns by the Spirit. But though this is an obvious and undeniable use of the terms "Kingdom of God” and “Kingdom of heaven;" yet can they only refer, in such case, to an imperfect or embryo state of it. The great purpose of God in regard to this kingdom is the MANIFESTATION of the power, glory, and sovereignty of Christ, in such manner as that all flesh shall visibly behold it, whilst the righteous shall shine forth in it like the sun. It is to this manifestation of the kingdom, (which is called its “coming with power,”!) that the great majority of those passages seem to refer which speak of the kingdom; and to which all are subordinate: and, certainly, those Scriptures which advert to it as yet future, must at least refer to a dispensation different from the present.
We may imperfectly illustrate these two conditions of the Kingdom by the case of a prince in exile, who is nevertheless making formidable preparations to assert and vindicate his rights. The king, though not enthroned, is acknowledged by
s Matt. xiii. 41, 43. Ephes. v. 5. u Luke xxji. 29, 30. v1 Cor. xv. 24, 28. w See for example, Matt. xxi. 43; Mark xii. 34; Luke x. 9, 11; xi. 20. * Matt. xiii. 43. y See Mark ix. 1, 2; and 2 Pet. i. 16.
many partisans; over these he already rules, and these he receives under his protection: but he is not yet acknowledged by the nations over which he claims sovereignty; and he waits for the time when they shall say, like Judah to David, “Return thou and all thy servants.
II. I next proceed to inquire concerning the time when this Kingdom may be properly said to have been set up; a right apprehension of which will materially assist our determination of other points.
1. Many consider the kingdom of God to be His now reigning by his power and providence,-over-ruling so much of the wrath of ungodly men, as he suffers to escape, and restraining the remainder of it. Thus, say they, the Jews unconsciously obeyed, even when crucifying Jesus; whereof the Holy Ghost cries in anticipation, "Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion."a Now it must be admitted, as beyond dispute by those who believe the Scriptures, “that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men;" "and that God is the governor among the nations:" but if this be the kingdom intended, it was set up at the creation of the world; for there never was a period since the creation, in which God has not thus ruled and over-ruled mankind. But the Kingdom of which I am speaking was the subject of promise, certainly as late as the time of Daniel;' a circumstance quite incompatible with its existence then and previously.
2. Neither could it have been set up at any period between the time of Daniel and our Lord's incarnation: for it is the Son of Man to whom, according to Daniel,d the dominion is given; and it is impossible he can have reigned as man, before he was made man.
That the Kingdom and glory to be manifested are especially assigned over to him as man, is evident from other scripture testimonies. In Corinthians, the Apostle says of him that God hath put all things under his feet:”e which saying is indeed a quotation (as also Hebrews ii. 5—8) of Psalm viii. wherein he is thus spoken of,—“What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the Son of Man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower (or for a little while lower] than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thine hand: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.” Thus Jesus declared, “that authority was given to him to execute judgment also, because he was the Son of Man." And St. Paul affirms, “that God hath given to him (on account of his obedience and humiliation in the flesh) 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.” He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, must have previously possessed that sovereignty of the universe, which has been, mentioned: but this Kingdom is the reward of the righteous obedience and humiliation of the Christ; in consequence of which the Father hath determined for a while to make manifest his own glory in him, and to put ALL THINGS under him; He only being excepted, who thus puts all under him.h*
z 2 Sam. xix. 9-14. a Psalm ii. 146. b Psalm xxii. 28; Dan. iv. 17. . Dan. vii. a Chap. vii. 13, 14.
e 1 Cor. xv. 27. i John v. 27.
3. A more common notion in regard to the kingdom is, that it was set up at the birth of Jesus: for indeed it is written, “Where is he that is born king of the Jews.” Something may be conceded to this opinion, in regard to that Gospel and means of grace so soon afterwards provided; which, as I have before observed, is called by divines the kingdom of grace: but, surely, if the acknowledgement of authority, and if obedience to authority, be essential to the honour and reality of dominion, the kingdom was not set up then. Who can name the nation, which acknowledged the Lord as king at the time of his first appearing? Even the Jews did not acknowledge him. “He came to his own, but his own received him not!"
They declared that they would not have this man to rule over them; and insisting, that they had no king but Cæsar, they crucified the Lord of Glory!" When Christ's kingdom shall be set up, it shall be of such a character, as that none can mistake, that the . Lord is ruler in it—"His glory shall be openly shewed in the
Phil. ii. 9-11. h 1 Cor. xv. 27, 28. * It is to be regretted, that, owing to an excessive jealousy, the humanity of Christ is not so much meditated on by Christians as it ought to be; though the consideration thereof, as also of his godhead, is full of comfort to the soul. The Unitarians, looking exclusively on those texts which speak of Christ's humanity, have invented a system which shuts out his deity; and thus they have "denied the Lord that bought them.” But Christians frequently go to an opposite extreme, and by viewing Jesus exclusively as God, they are sometimes led practically to deny, that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. It is a most wonderful and edifying truth to ponder in the heart, that a man is now exalted far above thrones, and principalities, and powers! Yet there are some who neglect and fear to speak of Jesus as man;—as though they considered it would degrade Him so to do. Numbers would set him down as a Socinian, who, upon his first preaching to a people who had never heard of Christ, should speak of Him as that man, whom God hath ordained to judge the world in righteousness:" yet this is no more than what St. Paul did at Athens, (Acts xvii. 31.) I hope the reader will pardon this digression, from one heartily believing in his Lord as God; and as heartily denying the sinfulness of his humanity. But a right apprehension of Jesus, as 'very man,' will lead us to a more correct understanding of those Scriptures which speak of His Kingdom; and especially one Scripture, (1 Cor. xv. 24,) which cannot be well explained without it.