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person who is humble and resolute in adversity, who places his whole trust in God, when God seems to forsake him, this example preaches the gospel more effectually than the most ingenious and learned discourse, and inclines others to think and to say, Surely that faith must be rational and well grounded which produces such noble effects; and that religion must have God for its author, which can support the mind under all difficulties and pressures.
7. Lastly, the gospel presented to men a dispensation of such awful and impartial justice so admirably tempered with goodness, clemency, and forbearance, that it appeared highly worthy of him from whom it proceeded, and as suitable to those to whom it was offered. It required a regular and universal regard to righteousness; but it offered an assistance which should add strength to human weakness: it gave no hopes to stubborn and habitual offenders; but it left room for repentance and amendment, and excluded none who by a change from evil to good would make themselves objects of the divine mercy.
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST.
AMONGST the offices which our Saviour sustained, the office of king is first in dignity. Under this character he is described by the angel who was sent to his mother; under this character he is foretold by the prophets.
The first prediction of Christ's regal office is the promise which God made to David, that his house, and his throne, his seed and his kingdom, should be established for ever, as the days of heaven, as long as the sun and moon should continue; of which promise mention is often made in the historical books of the Old Testament and in the Psalms. Hence the Jews concluded that from David should arise the Messias.
The prophets frequently speak of this promised person, as of a king, and David often describes the child who should descend from him, as a great and mighty prince.
I propose to consider,
I. When our Lord's kingdom began:
II. What are the particular characters of his kingdom, which should distinguish it from all other empires.
I. There is a kingdom which our Lord had from the beginning, as he was the Word of God, and the Son of God, and the person by whom God made all things. But the kingdom of which we are now speaking, is that kingdom which he was to receive when he became man, and which was foretold by the prophets, and concerning which the angel thus speaks in St. Luke's gospel: 'He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob
* Psalm ii. xlv. cx.
for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.' And the time when it began is to be first considered.
The kingdom of Christ is commonly accounted to have begun when he ascended into heaven, and sent down the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless our Lord may be truly said to have been born a king, and his kingdom may commence with his nativity, though he did not exert many acts of royal authority, or suffer his reign to be manifest before his ascension.
For soon after his birth the wise men were guided by an heavenly light, and came and offered him presents, and paid him that worship which used to be paid to eastern kings, and acknowledged him as the great king who was to arise in Judæa.
After this he continued in obscurity till he entered into his ministry, during which he gave some intimations of his royal dignity, and permitted himself to be acknowledged as a king, but sparingly and secretly, that he might not offend the civil magistrate; for,
First, he took upon him the name of Messias, or Christ, and suffered it to be given to him. Now Messias, or Christ, in the opinion of all the Jews, was the name of that great king foretold by the prophets; and consequently all who believed him to be the Messias owned him for their king. Nathanael says to him, 'Thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel:' and Christ accepts the acknowledgment. Afterwards, when he was entering into Jerusalem, all his disciples praised God, and said, 'Blessed be the king that cometh in the name of the Lord!' At which the Pharisees were offended, and said to him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. But he answered: If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.'
Secondly, he suffered himself to be called the Lord;' which implies as much.
Thirdly, it is the office of a king to give laws; and this office he executed. ·
Fourthly, when Pilate asked him whether he was a king, Christ owned to him that he was; but to satisfy him he
Cum vero Jesus hic regem se fateatur, negari mihi videtur non
told him further, that his kingdom was not like the kingdoms of this world, and was not opposite to the Roman, or to any other human government. This is that good confession, which, as St. Paul observes, he witnessed before Pontius Pilate.
Thus did Christ's kingdom begin with his birth; but whilst he dwelt here below it was small and obscure, and escaped the notice of the world. His subjects were few, weak in faith, and not confirmed in their obedience, and they forsook him and hid themselves when he was in danger. His kingdom was like a grain of mustard seed; but still it was a kingdom. And therefore, being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come, he answered, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation, neither shall they say, Lo here, or Lo there, for the kingdom of God is within you.' Which is as if he had. said, My kingdom makes not its first appearance, and is not ushered in with royal pomp and splendor, like the Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Grecian, or Roman. It comes silently, and steals upon the world unobserved; for indeed it is already begun, and you know it not.
Hitherto we have seen our Saviour's kingdom in its infancy; but as soon as he was risen from the dead, and at his ascension, it began to be very visible and remarkable. Then, as the lightning which shineth from one side of heaven to the other, so was the Son of Man in
that day. His glory and his gospel were propagated through the world with amazing irresistible swiftness. And therefore the apostles represent him as then invested with royal power, and beginning his reign, because it then began to be conspicuous. Thus St. Peter tells the Jews that God hath raised up Jesus from the dead, to set him on the throne of his father David; that he had set him at his own right hand, and made him Lord of all, and Christ,
posse regnum ejus aliquo modo inchoatum esse cum veritatem cœpit docere: nam ita ipse apud Joannem regnum interpretatur. Neque obstat quod passim regni ejus initium duci videtur ab evectione in cœlum id enim de plena regni possessione intelligendum est.-Certe potestas remittendi peccata, quam Jesus vitam mortalem agens exercuit, ad regnum pertinebat, ut et liberrima illa miraculorum pro arbitrio dispensandorum potestas.' Grotius ad Matt, xxvii. 11,
or Messias, or the anointed king of Israel; that he had exalted him to his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour. And our Lord says of himself, after his resurrection, that all power was given to him in heaven and in earth. In the Revelation he is called King of kings, and Lord of lords.' This royal dignity, this high exaltation, this name above every name, to which angels and men should bow, is represented by St. Paul as a reward which God conferred upon Christ for his humiliation and sufferings. If we therefore consider Christ as man, it was a new dignity which he had not before his ascension, or rather, which he had in a more imperfect degree; but as he was the eternal Son of God, he had, as he says of himself, glory with the Father before the world was.
II. The second thing which I proposed, was to examine what are the particular characters of Christ's kingdom, which distinguish it from all other kingdoms; or, which amounts to the same, the peculiar characters of Christ, as he is a king.
1. Christ was not a temporal prince; his kingdom was not of this world; it differed in many respects from earthly kingdoms. It was not established, like them, either by human policy or by human force, but by a few poor, obscure, helpless, illiterate persons. It experienced such an opposition as would infallibly destroy any earthly dominion kings stood up and rulers took counsel together against it, and the wise and the learned joined with them; and for three hundred years, from time to time, all kind of subtilty and violence and inhumanity was employed to overturn it; but the more it was persecuted the more it flourished, and at last prevailed over all its enemies.
It was a kingdom erected in the hearts and over the
John xvii. 5. Glorify thou me,' &c. that is, says Theophylact, τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην μου φύσιν ἄγαγε εἰς τὴν δόξαν ἦν εἶχον παρὰ σοὶ ἐγὼ Ayos which is preferable to the interpretation given by Grotius. But Grotius speaks otherwise in his Ordin. Holland. Piet. prope init.
'Εις Θεός ἐστιν ὁ φανερώσας ἑαυτὸν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὅς ἐστιν αὐτοῦ Λόγος αΐδιος, οὐκ ἀπὸ σιγῆς προελθών. Ignatius ad Magnes.