« AnteriorContinuar »
THE kingdom of God is the subject of the Bible. To this kingdom we are related; its influence we must experience forever. If obedient subjects, great will be our reward. If disobedient, great our punishment. The Bible is a record of the measures adopted in establishing this kingdom. Its interests on earth are committed to the church. The institutions connected with it are the Sabbath, the Lord's Supper, and Baptism. The concerns of the church are superintended by the christian ministry. From the word of God, and through the church, originate the benevolent operations of the present day. The circumstances in which I speak require me to show the importance of the christian ministry, and the duty of men to extend its influence and to increase its numbers. In order to do this, I propose to give an exhibition of the nature and design of the kingdom of God; for of this it is an important part: and the more fully we realise the importance of the kingdom of God, the more deeply shall we feel the importance of the christian ministry-for without it, the kingdom of God can make no progress in this world.
The kingdom of God is a moral government-established over free agents, that is, over rational beings, possessing intellect, and conscience, and the power of choice in view of motives. It depends for its prosperity on the character of its king, the nature of his law, and the power of motives designed to produce obedience. Hence the kingdom of God is a kingdom of moral influence. To form a more clear
conception of this kingdom, we must attend to the following points.
I. The character of the king.
II. His law.
III. The origin, progress, perfect establishment, and ultimate extension of this kingdom.
I. The character of the king.
To say that God is a perfect being, would be undoubtedly correct. Yet it would convey to the mind no impressive view of his character. To say that he is a spirit, self-existent, independent, infinite, and eternal, and that his attributes are wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth, would also be correct; yet a better view might be given were we to depend less on abstract terms, and to exhibit something more calculated to interest and affect the mind.
In describing himself, God seems to use the word omnipotent, as more comprehensive than any other. For after describing the full exhibition of his character to be made at the end of the world, he presents himself to us as the Lord God Omnipotent. In this light we shall consider his character.
God is omnipotent in two respects. As governor of the material universe, and as governor of the moral universe. Let us consider his power in these respects.
1. In the material universe God governs by physical power, and not by the power of motive. The omnipotence of God in the material world then, implies power to create matter to any extent, and to uphold it and to use it at his will. He is able to vary without end the forms and arrangements of material bodies and systems. All that is beautiful, all that is sublime, he can produce. The principles of taste, he perfectly understands. The laws of attraction, repulsion, and motion, he has established. The solar system, the world of unorganized matter, the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds, were formed according to ideas which existed in his own mind, before they were illustrated by any acts of creation. As this creative power of God is exhaustless, and as he
dwells in boundless space, and inhabits eternity-no one can limit the extent of his works, nor his ability to produce new and diversified arrangements, symmetrical, tasteful, beautiful, and sublime. Even in the present material system, which as he informs us is imperfect, and soon to be reorganized with new beauty, how rich the display of the resources of God. The heavens, the work of his fingers, the moon and the stars which he hath ordained, the revolving seasons, light and darkness, the beauties of colour, stormy winds, the dark rolling ocean, mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, yea all that is in the heavens above, or on the earth beneath, speak of him; they praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created.
What then must be the beauty of the new heavens and the new earth. And if on this very threshold of existence, such are the works of God, what must be the power of that being, who will fold them up as a garment, and change them as a vesture. And how glorious those displays which eternity will witness when he shall invest himself and the holy universe with garments of increasing beauty and perfection. If such the footstool, what must be the palace of the great king. This power does not originate from the moral character of God-for of the beauty of this the material universe is insensible, and all this system might exist in perfection without a moral and intelligent being to behold, admire, and enjoy. Where intelligent beings exist, material arrangements may indicate benevolence towards them. But the ability of God thus to create and arrange matter, depends merely on his creative power and wisdom. The motive which induces him to use this power, is not to be confounded with the power itself.
2. God is also omnipotent in the moral world. And here his omnipotence depends upon his moral character. Moral power over mind, implies the ability to present motives which will influence mind, and produce obedience. The assertion that God is omnipotent in the moral world, implies,
then, that God is able, at some period in the progress of things, to exhibit motives which will produce, from that time, voluntary and joyful obedience in moral beings, who may be created to any extent, so as to render it possible for him to create forever, and to govern all whom he shall create.
But here we cannot fail to notice a striking difference between physical and moral omnipotence. As God does not govern the physical world by motives, he has no need to produce them in order to exert physical omnipotence. But as the government of the moral world does depend on motives, God must produce them, before he can exercise his great moral power, and reign as the Lord God omnipotent. For nothing can operate as a motive which is not understood and believed. And finite minds can obtain knowledge only by experience or example. Intuition belongs to God alone. In the material world, he and none else looks into the essences of things. In the moral world, he and none else searches the heart. Moral beings then cannot obtain either a knowledge of God, or of any other moral being by intuition. A man can know what he has experienced. He can know what he learns from examples. He learns the nature of things, not by intuition, but by their effects.
In order then to govern the moral world, God must produce an amount of knowledge, as it regards himself and the nature of moral beings, which shall enable him to exercise moral omnipotence.
But since no one can understand the nature of God, or of any other moral beings by intuition, the nature of God must be understood by the effects produced by it on moral beings, and the nature of moral beings must be learned by witnessing the effects produced on them by the powerful moral influence emanating from God. When we notice the joyful effects of this influence on those who love and obey God, we learn the nature of holiness, and the character of God as a rewarder of the good. When we notice its fearful effects upon those who do not love and obey God, we learn