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Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see, or enter into the kingdom of God;” and, when giving the Roman governor some account of his subjects, he describes them to be those who are of the Truth, and hear his voice; that is, they are such as believe the Gospel, and give earnest heed to its doctrines, precepts, promises, and admonitions, yielding unreserved obedience to him as their Saviour and their King. Accordingly, we find him repeatedly speaking of them in contradistinction to the world at large: thus, “ If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” They are “ born again of the incorruptible seed of the word”-renewed in the spirit of their minds, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God had before ordained that they should walk in them.” And, if we would have a proper view of the temper and spirit which are characteristic of the true subjects of this kingdom, we may learn it from what Jesus said to his disciples in answer to the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” To answer this question, he called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven: whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. xviii. 2, &c. Now from this we may learn that the rule of preferment in his kingdom runs in a totally opposite direction to what takes place in the kingdoms of this world. We know that in the latter, high birth, family connexions, abundance of riches, splendid talents, commanding eloquence, &c., invariably entitle their possessors to distinction and fame; but, in the “ kingdom of Christ,” all these things go for no more than they are worth ; while humility, self-denial, patience under sufferings, renunciation of the world, piety to God, and benevolence to man take the precedence.*
*“ What has the policy of princes or of prelates to do in maintaining, or in extending an empire of truth and of rectitude ? Truth seeks no subterfuges and rectitude fears no examination; but the operations of policy are subtle, and its first designs are latent. The policy of great men may form civil establishments of Christianity, and adorn the exterior of public worship. It may dignify ministers of the word with pompous titles, unknown to the New Testament, and invest them with temporal power, till their claim of succeeding to the apostles becomes an insult upon common
Having submitted to you these few observations on the nature of Christ's kingdom as contradistinguished from all worldly kingdoms and the Jewish theocracy also--we shall now turn our attention to a more particular consideration of the doctrine on which this kingdom is founded, a subject at which indeed we have already glanced.
When Simon Peter made that memorable confession of his faith which we have recorded, Matt. xvi. 16, “Thou art THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD,” his divine Master not only pronounced him “ blessed,” but he added,“ upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” That the rock here spoken of is the truth which the apostle confessed, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, I presume it is
unnecessary to waste our time in proving. That doctrine is the central point of all divine revelation, and the marrow of the Gospel. “ The things concerning Jesus were written that we might believe that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that, believing, we might have life through his name.” Hence the blessedness pronounced upon Simon Peter's confession-for it is written also in another place, “ If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,” Rom. x. 9. But, to illustrate this subject a little more at large, I observe that,
The foundation of the Gospel, which you know is the doctrine of this kingdom, is a mournful fact, viz. that the whole human race are by nature in a state of sin. Take away this proposition, and the entire system of revealed truth is left without meaning : if you receive it in its full import, you perceive the use of the different parts, and the harmony with which they unite. The proposition itself is often attested in Scripture ; but the truth of it stands independent of any revelation, and must be admitted by every candid observer, whether he believe or reject the divine mission of Jesus ; for, though different states of society have exhibited different forms of wickedness, authentic history does not record any one which has escaped the general contamination. No inconsiderable part of the business of every government is to interpose restraints upon the evil passions of its subjects; yet so ineffectual are these restraints that the peace of the best constituted society is often disturbed by enormous crimes, while there are transgressions which elude the strictest human legislation, and which indicate a deeper depravity of mind than those enormities that are punished : and, in fact, every human being who knows himself, and pays due attention to the workings of his own heart, must have the consciousness of imperfection, of failing, and demerit.
These and similar things may be effected by it, under the fair pretext of rendering religion respectable, and of making it more general ; but the empire of Jesus Christ disdains them all, because they belong to the kingdoms of this world.” Mr. Booth's Essay.
Divine Revelation, indeed, does not leave us wholly ignorant of this melancholy fact-for it connects the abounding of iniquity with a transaction which took place soon after the creation of the first man. “ By one man,” says the apostle Paul,“ sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, in that all have sinned”—“ by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” This is the commentary made by an apostle upon the third chapter of Genesis : and when we take that chapter, the commentary of Paul, and other incidental expressions, in connexion, we are led to consider the transgression of the first parents of the human race as altering the condition of their posterity, rendering this earth a less comfortable and less virtuous habitation than it would otherwise have been, and introducing sin, with all its attendant misery, amongst a part of the rational creation who were made at first after the image of God, Gen. i. 27.
The Gospel, then, or doctrine of the Kingdom of Christ, proceeds upon a fact which was not created by revelation, but would have been true, although the Gospel had never been promulgated ; and that fact is, that mankind are universally the subjects of personal guilt, and, as such, in a state of condemnation, from which they are unable by all their efforts to extricate themselves. The Scriptures represent the whole world as the children of wrath, and subject to the curse of the divine law, because they are the children of disobedience. It is not in the nature of repentance to avert those evils which past transgressions had deserved: and, even if it were, the Scriptures represent men as fatally indisposed to forsake their sins and return to God, from whom they have re
volted: nor can we form a conception of any mode, consistent with the honour, and the great objects of the divine government, , by which a creature who continues to transgress the divine laws, can arrest the course of that punishment which is the fruit of his transgression.
Here, then, when all the ingenious reasonings of man fail, and every appearance in nature conspires to show that hope is presumptuous, revelation steps in to our aid, and the Gospel of the kingdom is fitted by its peculiar character to enlighten and console the human mind. It teaches us that God who is rich in mercy, moved by compassion for human wretchedness, out of the great love wherewith he loved the world, devised a plan for delivering the children of Adam from that sin and misery from which they were unable to extricate themselves: Eph. ii. 145; Rom. iii. 19, and v. 12; Gal. iii. 10, 22. Foreseeing from eternity that man would yield to the seductions of Satan, and abuse that liberty which forms an essential part of his nature, the blessed God comprehended in the same eternal counsel a purpose to create and a purpose to save or redeem. Accordingly, soon after the transgression of the first man, some discovery was made of the gracious plan; for at the same time that a curse is pronounced upon the ground, and death is declared to be the punishment of sin, there is an intimation of future deliverance in these words :—“ I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Gen. iii. 15. This promise was unfolded and the plan gradually developed through a succession of dispensations, all conspiring in their place to produce the fulness of time, when the plan was executed by the manifestation of that sublime being whom prophecy had announced. Of him the light of nature can give us no information ; but, as the importance of the office which he executed renders his character peculiarly interesting to the human race, the Scriptures declare that “In the beginning he was with God and also that he was God—that by him all things were made—that he had glory with the Father before the world was called into existence; but that, veiling his glory, though he could not divest himself of the nature of God, he was born in a miraculous manner, was made in the likeness of men, took part with them in flesh and blood, and tabernacled
among those whom he came to redeem, and whom he is not ashamed to call his brethren.
The purpose for which this extraordinary messenger visited the earth was declared by an angel who announced the singular manner of his birth : “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins.” John his forerunner thus marked him out : “ Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” He said of himself, “ I am come to call sinners to repentance”-“The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many”—“I am the good shepherd, and lay down my life for the sheep.” And the charge which he gave to his apostles was this, that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name amongst all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. In fulfilment of the character of a Saviour which he assumed, and which his name imports, he officiated as the great prophet of the church, revealing the Father's counsels, making known his true character as the just God and yet the Saviour, teaching men the will of God both by precept and example, and clearly unfolding that future state in which they are to receive according to the deeds done in the body; and he enforced the practice of righteousness by every motive that was adapted to work upon the heart and affections of men. He also submitted to the most grievous sufferings, and the most cruel death --voluntarily submitted to them, as the method ordained in the counsel of heaven for procuring their deliverance from sin; and in this way he discharged the office of high priest of his church. There is no mode of expression that we can devise, which is not employed by the sacred writers to convey this conception, that the death of Christ was not barely a confirmation of the truth of Christianity, an example of disinterested benevolence and heroic virtue, but a true and proper sacrifice for sin, offered by the divine substitute to the Moral Governor of the world, in order to avert the punishment which the sins of men deserved, and to render it consistent with the character of God and the honour of the divine law to forgive sin. Hence it is said concerning Christ Jesus, “God hath set him forth as a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness in the remission of sins that are past.”—“We are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” “Christ