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DOCTRINE OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.
known unto you, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.”_" This is the word of faith which we preach, that 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.” Declarations of this kind abound in the holy Scriptures, and they abundantly show that “sinners are saved by grace, through faith, and not of works, lest any man should boast;" for it is of the sovereign distinguishing grace of the Most High, that one man comes to the faith, whilst another is left in unbelief and impenitency of heart : it is of his own self-moved good pleasure that he takes out of the nations a people for his praise.
The account which the inspired writers give us of the state of the human heart, before the word of the truth of the Gospel gets access into it through the power of the Spirit of God, is that it is strongly fortified by presumptuous reasonings against the knowledge of God—by culpable ignorance both of his character and of their own—by prejudices which pre-occupy the judgment, and which lead them to account the Gospel foolishness, and also by evil dispositions and worldly lusts. These are what the Scriptures call“ strong holds,” or impregnable fortresses, and they are what the apostles and first ministers of the word had to contend with in preaching the everlasting Gospel ; but they were wonderfully successful in casting them down. The weapons of their warfare were mighty to this end ; but they were mighty only through God, or the power of his Spirit. They had recourse to no carnal weapons: the power of the civil magistrate was everywhere against them; and, had the case been otherwise, they could not, consistently with the nature of their Lord's kingdom, avail themselves of it—they had no recourse to worldly motives, or inducements, to influence the minds of men, or entice them to profess Christianity. The only weapons which these heralds of salvation made use of were the doctrines and motives of the Gospel, accompanied by a corresponding conversation. They set before men their lost and undone state by nature and practice, and at the same time exhibited the full and free redemption which there is in Christ Jesus, for the very chief of sinners; and they plied both their hopes and their fears, by a consideration of the amazing grace of God on the one hand, and by the terrors of the Lord on the other; at the same time confirming their doctrine by miracles—by an appeal to numerous prophecies, now fulfilled in the coming and kingdom of the Redeemer—by the purity of their lives, and by their patient suffering for Christ's sake. But, in all the success that attended their ministry, they acknowledged the excellency of the power to be of God, and not of themselves. 'Tis he that grants to his own word the energy of “a fire, and a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.” The ministers of it are but as the sounding of the ram's horns at the taking of Jericho, or as the earthen pitchers which contributed to Gideon's victory, in both which instances the excellency of the power was entirely of God, and not of man. 2 Cor. iv. 7.
I just now said that the leading object of the apostolic ministry, as it respected the world at large, was to bring men to the faith, or to convince them that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews had taken, and by wicked hands had crucified and slain, was the true Messiah, the promised seed, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. And the reason why so much account was made of their believing this doctrine seems to be, that it formed a cardinal point, a line of demarcation, as it were, between the church and the world ; for, in the apostolic writings, it is common to find the whole human race divided into two classes-believers and unbelievers.* But it is proper to add, in this place, that another reason why so much stress is laid upon faith, in the apostolic writings, is, that wherever it takes place in the mind-whereever it is unfeigned and genuine, it never fails to draw a train of other virtues along with it. Thus it is said to purify the heart, Acts xv. 9—to give the victory over the world, 1 John, v. 4, 5—and to work by love, Gal. v. 6; for the apostle John affirms that “whosoever believeth that Jesus
* John iii. 36 ; Acts xvii. 4, 5, xxvi, 18, xxviii. 24; 1 John v19, 20,
docTRINE OF CHRIST'S KINGDOM.
is the Christ is born of God; and that whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world : and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith : who is he that overcometh the world,” says he,“ but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John v. 1–4.
It is no uncommon thing to find the inspired writers varying their modes of expression on this subject; and thus that which, in one place, is ascribed to faith, is in another attributed to our receiving Christ; as when it is said, “ he came unto his own, and his own received him not;" that is, they did not believe him to be the Christ, the Son of God : " but, to as many as received him, to them gave he power (or privilege) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” John i. 11, 12; which the apostle, writing to the Galatians, thus expresses_“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus," ch. iii. 26. There is no discrepancy in these statements--a child may reconcile them. To receive Christ is to believe God's testimony concerning him ; for there is no other way of receiving any thing upon testimony, but by giving credit to the testifier.
Moreover, it ought to be well observed that Christ Jesus the Lord is held forth, in the Gospel testimony, as the anointed prophet, priest, and king of the church ; and it is essential to true faith to receive him in each of these offices: that is, to submit to him as the great teacher sent from God, the prophet whom the Lord was to raise up unto the children of Israel, like unto Moses, whom they were to hear in all things
-their atoning priest, who hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and so reconciled them unto God by his bloodand their exalted king, lawgiver, and governor, into whose hands all authority and power are now committed, both in heaven and on earth; who sits upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom (having the government upon his shoulder), to order all its affairs, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.” Isa. ix. 6, 7.
To sum up then, in few words, the substance of these general remarks on the doctrine of the kingdom, I would say, that, as eternal life is the object of the Redeemer's purchase, so the power of bestowing it resides in him--that he prepares his people for it, by means of his word, and Spirit, and ordinances — and that he will at length confer it upon them. To accomplish this godlike purpose, this wondrous plan of bringing lost sinners to the possession of the happiness and glory of the heavenly state, is the design of the Redeemer's kingdom in this sinful world, where he reigns in the midst of his enemies, subduing rebels by his grace, and sanctifying them through the power of his truth. .
In order to carry into effect his all-wise and gracious purposes towards the heirs of salvation—that he may train them up by a course of salutary discipline into conformity to himself and a state of meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light-he has instituted the fellowship of his churches, which, in the language of prophecy, are termed “the dwelling places of Mount Zion,” Is. iv. 5. By means of the glorious Gospel of his grace, the rod of his strength which he sends out of Zion, the chief shepherd causes his sheep to hear his voice and return from their wanderings on the mountains of sin and error to himself, the shepherd and bishop of souls-he gathers them into folds and flocks-and commits them to the care of undershepherds, whom he commands to “feed his lambs and his sheep,” to lead them into green pastures beside the living stream, to watch over them with paternal solicitude, and protect them from the devouring wolf, Joh. X. In the churches he has planted his ordinances as so many wells of salvation, Isa. xii. 3. There the word of life is to be held forth—the unadulterated milk dispensed, on which the disciples feed, as new born babes are nourished by means of the mother's breastthere he establishes his throne and sways his sceptre over a willing people—there he manifests his special presence among his subjects, dispensing in rich abundance the blessings of his grace
-and there he calls upon his disciples to wait upon him that he may restore comforts to the mourner, renew the strength of the fainting soul, relieve the tempted and distressed, and supply their every need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
To justify the truth of this representation, we shall now turn our attention to the Acts of the Apostles, for the purpose of showing how the matter stood at the beginning, and also to ascertain what is the pattern therein afforded us of a Christian church. From this portion of holy writ we learn that when the Son of
DOCTRINE OF CHRIST'S KING DOM.
God had accomplished the work of our redemption by means of his death, and was risen again," he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of his apostles forty days,” during which time he gave them instructions concerning the setting up of his kingdom in the world, ch. i. 3. They were told to tarry at Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them, agreeably to the promise which he had made them. Accordingly, on the day of Pentecost, this extraordinary event took place: and the holy apostles were now more perfectly enlightened into the spiritual and heavenly nature of their Lord's kingdom, and they preached the doctrine on which it was founded with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, God also bearing them witness with signs, and wonders, and divers miracles. The apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, declared to a vast multitude, who were then convened at Jerusalem out of almost every nation under heaven, the divine mission, the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorious exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth, and demonstrated, from the writings of the prophets, that he was really the Messiah, the Son of the living God. This manifestation of the truth, accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, carried irresistible demonstration to their minds — they were deeply penetrated with a conviction of guilt in having imbrued their hands in the blood of the Son of God, and they cried out “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call.” The result was the conversion of about three thousand of his audience, who gladly received the truth which the apostle testified concerning Christ and his salvation. These were baptized agreeably to the Saviour's own command, and on the same day added to the number of disciples that already existed in Jerusalem: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and prayers--praising God, and having favour with all the people : and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” Acts ii. 37-47.
The learned Dr. Mosheim, referring to the words now quoted,