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ture of his kingdom, imagining it to be of the same kind with that of David and Solomon, and the consequence was an almost total rejection of the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be their king, notwithstanding the sublime and heavenly doctrines which flowed from his lips, and the miracles which he wrought in attestation of them.*
Now, to lead you into something like correct views of this very important subject, I apprehend we cannot do better than
back to the confession which Jesus Christ himself made concerning his kingdom, when interrogated on the subject by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. The accusation brought against him, by his adversaries, was his having said, “that he himself was Christ-a king.” And when Pilate enquired whether this was true, he did not deny the charge, but immediately replied “ My kingdom is not of this world ; if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence.” John xviii. 36. But a kingdom which is not of this world must be distinguished from such as are by certain constituent principles, sufficiently definite and characteristic to enable us to ascertain wherein the distinction lies, and to this point I shall now address myself, by stating, in a few leading particulars, what I think the Scriptures teach on this subject.
1. When the Son of God declares that his kingdom is not of this world, it must, I think, imply, that it is not of a worldly origin: and this indeed is the account which the prophet Daniel gave of it, when he explained Nebuchadnezzar's dream; for he declared that it should be set up by the God of heaven, ch. ii. 44. The kingdoms of this world, for the most part, originate in the bad passions of mankind, such as pride, ambition, avarice, and the lust of power and dominion. But the kingdom of which we are treating did not take its rise from any thing of this kind, nor yet from the social compact, or the concurrence of politicians.
It is well observed, by Dr. George Campbell, that, “as the great source of the infidelity of the Jews was a notion of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, so we may justly say, that the great source of the corruption of Christians, and of the general defection foretold by the inspired writers, has been an attempt to render it, in effect, a temporal kingdom, and to support and extend it by earthly means. This is that spirit of Antichrist which was so early at work as to be discoverable in the days of the apostles ? See his Preface to the Gospels, p. lvii. 2nd edit.
It originated in the pure benevolence of the Deity, his wonderful condescension and love towards a fallen world; and it is founded upon the mediation of his beloved Son, who came into the world to save guilty mortals, and who, to effect their deliverance, humbled himself even to the death of the cross. Phil. ii. 8,9. It is a kingdom founded upon the death of its Sovereign, and in this respect there is nothing that bears a resemblance to it in the history of the world.
The account which the inspired penmen give us of this matter, and it is no doubt the true one, is, that the mission of Christ Jesus into this world was an act of the purest benevolence on his part, though in obedience to the will of his heavenly Father, who sanctified him, or set him apart in his eternal councils, sent him into the world in the fulness of time, and gave him a commandment to lay down his life for the redemption of a lost world ; that having taken part in flesh and blood, with those whom he came to save, he condescended to act in the capacity of his Father's righteous servant, in all his obedience and sufferings, and especially in laying down his life for guilty rebels; that by his death, which was a voluntary act on his part, the great atonement for sin was made, the justice of God satisfied, everlasting righteousness brought in for the justification of the ungodly, and a way opened for the salvation of perishing sinners, in perfect harmony with the claims of the holy law of God and the honours of the divine government. In this work of obedience and suffering, the Eternal Father had the highest satisfaction, which he manifested, not only by raising his Son from the dead, but also by the reward which he conferred upon him, in crowning him with glory and honour at his own right hand in the heavens, committing all authority and power into his hands, and seating him as King upon his holy hill of Zion, and this is the foundation of his kingdom. The report of his crucifixion is the grand attractive in drawing his subjects unto him, agreeably to what he himself said in the days of his public ministry: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me; thus signifying what death he should die." John xii. 32.
2. And as the kingdom or Church of Christ is not of a worldly origin, so neither has it this present world for its object, end, or attainment; and herein again it differs from all worldly king
doms, and even from the Jewish Theocracy. If you examine what it is that the kingdoms of this world hold out to their subjects, as the greatest benefit which they can promise them, you will find it to be merely some modification of the good things which pertain to it, such as security to their lives, personal liberty, and the quiet possession of their property. The highest end of worldly kingdoms is, at best, but the temporal good of earthly communities: they have no greater happiness to bestow, and all state religions are made subservient to this. But the kingdom of Christ has a much higher end in view, and that is the everlasting happiness of man in a future state, to which the present life is only preparatory. Hence it must follow that the end and design of this kingdom is essentially different from any thing proposed
the kingdoms of this world. And, in confirmation of this, it may be observed, that as the latter have a respect to earthly things, so their administration extends only to the bodies and temporal concerns of their subjects, and is carried on by external force, or the power of the civil magistrate. But the kingdom under consideration is of a spiritual and heavenly nature; it regards the eternal interests of mankind, and its power and influence are exerted over the mind and heart; its constituent principles are righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
3. Its laws also run counter to the spirit and maxims of secular kingdoms; for they enjoin disconformity to the world in all its favourite lusts and pursuits, such as the love of pleasure, of riches, and of honour. It calls its subjects to the exercise of self-denial, the mortification of every unruly appetite, the cultivation of meekness, patience, the forgiveness of injuries, humility, condescension and love. Such laws as these do not suit a nation of this world; nor, indeed, could any nation long exist, in the present state of society, which was wholly regulated by such enactments : they are, nevertheless, wisely adapted to the subjects of the kingdom of heaven, considered as strangers and pilgrims upon the earth, and in a state of suffering while in this mortal life. And if we regard the privileges, immunities, and honours of this kingdom, we shall find that these also form a striking contrast to what pertains to the kingdoms of this world. Temporal monarchs may, indeed, lavish upon their favourites much worldly glory; riches, titles, and posts of honour. These are things ardently sought after by worldly men; but, even when attained, what are they? only momentary enjoyments, suited to gratify the low and baser appetites of our nature, but they can add nothing to the real and lasting happiness of the immortal mind. Christ, however, has promised none of these things to his subjects; on the contrary, he forewarns them of persecution, poverty, and contempt ; they are to be hated of all nations for his sake, and are predestinated to be conformed to himself in his state of humiliation and suffering. The blessings of his kingdom are all of a spiritual and heavenly nature; the pardon of sin, peace with God, the enjoyment of his favour, adoption into his family, the sanctification of their nature, and the promise of an eternal inheritance in the heavenly state, when the days of their pilgrimage are ended. These are blessings suited to the feelings of an awakened conscience, an enlightened mind, and a renewed heart; but they are such as no secular government can possibly bestow upon its subjects—they are peculiar to this spiritual economy.
4. I must add that another distinguishing feature in the kingdom of Christ is that it does not admit of the use of the sword, either in defending, propagating, or supporting it. In all secular kingdoms the sword, or power of the civil magistrate, is had recourse unto for the punishment of evil doers, as well as for defence against their enemies; and this, indeed, is necessary to their very existence as kingdoms. But mark how different is the state of things in the kingdom under consideration! Thus the Saviour speaks: “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if
any hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for 1 came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him : the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day, John xii. 46–48. So he says in another place: “ The Son of man came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” “ If my kingdom were of this world,” said Jesus, “then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered unto the Jews.” He had a little before this discharged the use of the sword when drawn in his defence, and now he tells Pilate, that such was the nature of his kingdom, it did not admit of that kind of defence; nor was the sword afterwards used
either offensively or defensively in his cause, till Christianity became corrupted and incorporated with the secular power. Pilate might learn from this description what a striking contrast there was between Christ's kingdom, in which his subjects “ learned war no more," and that of the Roman emperors who had so often deluged the earth with human blood. Even the kingdom of God under the former dispensation, the Jewish theocracy, was established by means of the sword; but the very nature of Christ's kingdom prohibits the use of such weapons either in its erection or defence. The sword may make hypocrites, but it never did nor ever can procure one real subject to this kingdom; it may coerce the body, but it cannot reach conviction to the understanding, or sway the will and affections. * This kingdom, as we shall see more particularly hereafter, was set up by means of the effusion of the Holy Spirit, whereby men were endowed with power from on high to “bear witness unto the truth,” or testify of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; for by this means the minds of men were enlightened, convinced, humbled, subdued, and reconciled unto God. This was the rod of his strength sent out of Zion, whereby people were made willing in the day of his power; and we learn from Acts ii. the astonishing success which attended it: but I must not here enlarge upon a subject which will come more properly under consideration hereafter.
5. From the account that has now been given of the nature of this kingdom, it must follow, as a necessary consequence, that worldly minded men, as such, cannot be the real subjects of it; or, in other words, cannot be proper members of the churches of Christ: : they can neither relish the privileges of this kingdom, nor be subject to its laws. Hence those memorable words of Jesus to
* The great design of our Lord, in founding a spiritual empire, was to display the perfections of God in the holiness and happiness of his chosen people. The kingdom of Christ is a dominion of truth and of rectitude, of love and of peace. Now the interests of such a monarchy, and the end proposed by it, cannot be promoted by any other than spiritual means, and those of divine appointment. It is only so far as the minds of men are enlightened by heavenly truth, their consciences impressed with God's authority, and their hearts engaged on spiritual things, that the cause of Christ is advanced. But in what way shall persecuting force be applied to irradiate the dark understanding, to arouse the stupid conscience, and to sanctify the depraved heart?” Essay on the Kingdom of Christ, by the late Mr. AB. Booth.