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Together with the reasons thereof;* and therefore we pass it over at present, and shall proceed to consider,
4. How Christ deals with his subjects after he has brought them hitherto, and inclined and enabled them to submit to his government: this is expressed in the answer we are explaining, in the following heads.
(1.) He rewards their obedience. This supposes that he requires that they should obey him, and that their obedience should be constant and universal, otherwise they deserve not the character of subjects; and, as to what concerns the regard of Christ to this obedience, though herein men are not profitable to God, as they are to themselves, or to one another, yet it shall not go unrewarded. The blessings which Christ confers on them are sometimes styled a reward, inasmuch as there is a certain connexion between their duty and interest, or their obeying and being made blessed, which blessedness is properly the reward of what Christ has done, though his people esteem it as an act of the highest favour; in this sense he rewards their obedience, and that either by increasing their graces, and establishing their comforts here; or by bringing them to perfection hereafter. But inasmuch as their obedience is, at present, very imperfect, which tends very much to their reproach, and affords matter of daily humiliation before God, it is farther added,
(2.) That Christ corrects them for their sins. This is inserted among the advantages of his government, though it is certain, that afflictions, absolutely considered, are not to be desired ; nevertheless, since they are sometimes needful, 1 Pet. i. 6. and conducive to our spiritual advantage, they are included in this gracious dispensation, which attends Christ's
government, as by these things men live, Isa. xxxviii. 16. How much soever nature dreads them, yet Christ's people consider them as designed for their good, and therefore not only submit to them, but conclude that herein he deals with them. As we are far from blaming the skilful chirurgeon, who sets a bone that is out of joint, or cuts off a limb, when it is necessary to save our lives, though neither of these can be done without great pain : thus when God visits our transgressions with the rod, and our iniquities with stripes, we reckon that he deals with us as a merciful and gracious Sovereign, and not as an enemy, since his design is to heal our backslidings, and prevent a worse evil from ensuing thereby.
(3.) He preserves and supports his subjects under all their temptations and sufferings. There are two sorts of temptations mentioned in scripture, to wit, such as are merely providential, which are designed as trials of faith and patience ; as when the. apostle says, My brethren, count it all joy when yé fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience, James i. 2, 3. and elsewhere the apostle Paul, speaking of the persecutions which he met with from the Jews, calls them temptations, Acts xx. 19. But, besides these, there are other temptations which arise from sin, Satan, and the world, whereby endeavours are used more directly to draw Christ's subjects from their allegiance to him: thus it is said, Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed, James i. 14. and elsewhere, They that will be rich, that is, who use indirect means to attain that end, or make this the grand design of life, fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition, 1 Tim. vi. 9. and the devil, who has a great hand in managing these temptations, and solicits us to comply therewith, is, for that reason, called, by way of eminency, the tempter, 1 Thes. iii. 5. and Matt. iv. 3. In both these respects, believers are exposed to great danger, by reason of temptations, and need either to be preserved from, or supported under them, that they may not prove their ruin; and this Christ does in managing the affairs of his kingdom of grace for his people's advantage, and herein that promise is fulfilled to them, There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able, but will, with the temptation also, make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it, 1 Cor.
* See Queest. LXXVIII.
(4.) Christ powerfully orders all things for his own glory, and his people's good, as they are said to work together for good, Rom. viii. 28. and herein his wisdom, as well as his goodness, is illustrated. Sometimes, indeed, they cannot see from the beginning of an afflictive providence to the end thereof, or what advantage God designs thereby; herein we may apply those words of our Saviour to Peter, though spoken with another view, What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter, John xiii. 7. This will eminently appear, when they shall see how every step which Christ has taken in the management of his government, has had a subserviency to promote their spiritual advantage hereafter. Thus we have considered how Christ executes his Kingly office, more especially towards his people, who are his faithful subjects.
Secondly, We are now to speak concerning the exercise of Christ's Kingly government towards his enemies. He is, as has been before observed, their King; not by consent, or voluntary subjection to him, nor do they desire to own his authority, or yield obedience to his laws; but they are, notwithstanding, to be reckoned the subjects of his government; which is exercised,
1. In setting bounds to their power and malice, so that they cannot do what they would against his cause' and interest in the world. How far soever he may suffer them to proceed to the disadvantage of his people; yet he is able to crush them in a noment; and, when he sees their rage, and how they set themselves against him with their combined force, and insult, as though they had brought their designs to bear, as not doubting the success thereof, he tells them plainly, that they imagine a vain thing, and that he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision, Psal. ii. 1, 4. and the rea-' son is very obvious, because God is greater than man. Though it would be a dishonour to him to say, that he is the author of sin, yet it redounds to his glory, that he sets bounds and limits to it, and over-rules it by his wisdom to his own glory; as it is said, Surely, the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain, Psal. Ixxvi. 10.
2. Christ has exercised his Kingly government in gaining a victory over his enemies; this he did, when he spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in his cross. This, indeed, was done by him, when he was in the lowest depths of his sufferings, and, in a more eminent degree, exercised his Priestly office;
yet, in some respects, he is said, at that time, to have exercised his Kingly, and that in a very triumphant manner, as it is here expressed; and elsewhere he is said, through death, to have destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, Heb. ii. 14. hereby he purchased those restraints which the powers of darkness were brought under more than they were before. Satan's chain was hereby shortened, and his subjects delivered out of his hand, being ransomed by the blood of Christ; and, as the consequence thereof, they were afterwards persuaded to withdraw their necks from that yoke, which they were formerly under, by the power of that grace that attended the preaching of the gospel, whereby they were subjected to Christ's government. Moreover, our Saviour tells his people, that he had overcome the world, John xvi. 33. not only because he had in his own Person, escaped the pollution thereof, and not been entangled in its snares, nor hindered in the work he was engaged in, by the afflictions and injurious treatment that he met with from it, but as he procured for them those victories over it, whereby they shall be made more than conquerors through him that loved them.
3. Christ's kingly government is, and shall more eminently appear to be exercised towards his enemies, in punishing them for all their rebellions against him. There are reserves of vengeance laid up in store, and more vials of wrath, which shall be poured forth on Satan, and all the powers of darkness, which
they are not without some terrible apprehensions of, from thre knowledge they have of God as a just judge ; upon which account they are said to believe and tremble, James ¡j. 19. and as for all his other enemies, he will break them with a rod of iron; he will dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel, Psal. ii. 9. or bring them forth, and slay them before him, Luke xix. 27. Thus concerning the manner how Christ's kingly government hath been exercised, both towards his people and his enemies; and this leads us to consider,
III. The various seasons, or ages, in which Christ's kingly government has been, or shall be exercised, together with the different circumstances relating to the administration of it therein. As soon as ever man fell, and thereby stood in need of a mediator to recover him, Christ was revealed, as one who had undertaken his recovery, and, as a victorious king, who should break and destroy that power, that had brought him into subjection to it. Now there are various periods, or seasons, in which he has executed his kingly office, or shall continue so to do.
1. He did this before his incarnation, during which time his government was visible, as to the effects thereof, as extended to all those who were saved under the Old Testament-dispensation: they were subdued and defended by his divine power, that was then exerted, as well as discharged from condemnation, by virtue of the sacrifice, which, in the fulness of time, he was to offer for them. We have already shewed how he executed his prophetical office during this interval ; * now we must consider him as exercising his kingly office. The majes. tic way in which he delivered the law from mount Sinai, was a glorious display thereof; and the Theocracy, which they were under, which is described, in scripture, as a government distinct from, and excelling all others in glory, and the subserviency of it to their salvation, was a farther evidence that he was their king. This he evinced, at one time, by his appearance to Joshua, as the captain of the Lord's hosts; and at another time it was represented in an emblematical way, when he was seen by the prophet Isaiah, as sitting upon a throne, and his train filling the temple. And in the book of Psalms, he is frequently acknowledged by the church as their king; concerning whom it is said, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre, Psal. xlv. 6. and, in many other places he is described as the King, the Lord of hosts, not only as predicting the future exercise of his government, but as denoting what he was at that time; concerning whom it was said, Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King in her? Jer. viii. 19. And when God declares that he had ad
• See Page 257
vanced him to this mediatorial dignity, and set him on his holy hill of Zion, the kings and judges of the earth are exhorted to serve him with fear, and, in token of their willingness to be his subjects, to kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and they perish from the way,
when his wrath is kindled but a little, Psal. ii. 6, 10, 12. 2. After his incarnation, when he first came into the world, he was publickly owned, by the wise men (who came from the East) as one that was born King of the Jews, and the gifts which they presented to him of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Matt. ii. 2. compared with ver. 11. the best presents that their country afforded, were designed to signify that homage which was due to him, as one whom God had appointed to be the King of his church, though his external mein, and the circumstances of his birth, contained no visible mark of regal dignity. While he conversed with his people, in the exercise of his public ministry, he gave them frequent intimations hereof, when describing the nature of his kingdom, as spiritual, and not of this world; and, when one of his followers addressed him, as the Son of God, and the King of Israel, he is so far from reproving him, as ascribing to him a glory that did not belong to him, that he not only commends his faith that was expressed herein, but gives him to understand, that he should have a greater evidence of this truth, when he should see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon him, John i. 49–51.
And, in the close of his life, when he entered into Jerusalem, with a design to give himself up to the rage and fury of his enemies, providence, as it were, extorted a confession of his regal dignity, from the unstable multitude, and, at the same time designed to fulfil what was foretold by the prophet Zechariah, when he says, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem ; behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation, lowly, and riding vyon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass, Zech. ix. 9. and their saying, Hosannah, blessed is the King of Israel, that cometh in the name of the Lord, John xii. 13. was the result of a present conviction, which they had of this matter, though it was not long abiding, and hereby they were, as it were, condemned out of their own mouth. And, after this, when Pilate asked him this question, in plain terms, Art thou the King of the Jews? he publickly professes himself to be so; nevertheless, he gives him to understand, that his kingdom was not of this world, upon this account the apostle says, that before Pontius Pilate he witnessed a good confession, and styles him, King of kings, and Lord of lords, 1 Tim. vi. 13, 15.
3. Christ still executes his Kingly office in that glorified state, in which he now is. This the apostle intimates, when alluding to the custom of kings in their solemn triuniphs over VOL. II.