DAGG BK. 5 CHAPTER III
OFFICES OF CHRIST.
JESUS CHRIST IS THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN.
A mediator is a middle person between two parties. The term is especially applied to one who interposes between parties at variance, with a view to effect a reconciliation. Men are under the displeasure of God, on account of their sins, and are in rebellion against him, and enemies in mind by wicked works. Christ appears as mediator, to effect a reconciliation.
The duty of a mediator differs, according to the relation of the parties. When the variance between them arises wholly from misunderstanding, an explanation is all that is necessary to effect a reconciliation. In this case a mediator is simply an interpreter. When an offence has been given, but such a one as may be pardoned on mere entreaty, the mediator becomes an intercessor. But when the circumstances are such as to require satisfaction for the offence , the mediator must render that satisfaction or become surety for the offender. On God’s part, as he has committed no wrong, nothing more is required than an Interpreter, to show to man his uprightness. But, on the part of guilty man, it is necessary that the Mediator should be both Intercessor and Surety.
The union of two natures in Christ qualifies him for the work of mediation. As man, he sympathizes with us, is accessible, both when we desire to present petitions and to receive instruction; and he is capable of standing as our substitute or surety, and of making the requisite satisfaction of divine justice. As God, he understands fully the claims against us, has ready access to the offended Sovereign, has all the knowledge which it can be necessary to communicate to us, and can give dignity and value to the satisfaction offered in our behalf. These qualifications are found in no other person, and accordingly “There is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
In the one office of Mediator three offices are included, which need separate consideration: those of Prophet, Priest, and King.
JESUS CHRIST, AS PROPHET, MAKES REVELATION FROM GOD TO MEN.
Among the revelations made by prophets, the foretelling of future events has held a conspicuous place: but this does not constitute the whole of the office. The word prophesy does not always refer to future events, as is apparent from an incident in the injurious treatment which our Redeemer received at his trial. When blindfolded he was struck by one of the attendants, who contemptuously demanded, “Prophesy who is he that smote thee.” From this example we learn that the term was not exclusively used for the foretelling of future events, but was applied to the making of any declaration which required superhuman knowledge.
Jesus Christ, as a Prophet, was superior to all other prophets. Moses was so far distinguished above the rest, that it was said no prophet had arisen like him; but Moses foretold the coming of Jesus Christ, in these words: “The Lord, thy God, will raise up unto thee, a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” Elijah was a prophet, highly distinguished in his day, and was translated to heaven, without tasting death: but Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount of transfiguration, to lay down their prophetical office and honors at the feet of Jesus, when the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” Moses and Elijah were to be heard in their day; but the voice from the excellent glory singled out Jesus as the superior prophet, whose instructions we are commanded to receive.
Not only was Christ superior to the prophets of the former dispensation, but it was he who qualified them for their office, and spoke through them. This fact accords with his statement, “No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” He is, in this view, the only Prophet, the only Revealer of the mind of God. Before his personal ministry commenced, he made revelation by prophets whom he inspired; during his ministry, he spoke as one from the bosom of the Father; and after he left the world, he continued to make revelation, through his apostles and others, to whom he gave his Spirit. The last book of the Bible is a revelation which he gave to is servant John; and the whole Bible is now to us as the word of Christ. His truth he still uses, as the Prophet of the Church, instructing his people into the knowledge of God.
God has sometimes been pleased to make known his will by the ministry of angels; but the prophets, whom he ordinarily employed, were men of like passions with ourselves. There was peculiar fitness, as well as condescending kindness, that the great Prophet of the Church should be one in our own nature. Though it was true, “Never man spake like this man,” it was still true, that he spoke with the voice of a man; and, instead of the terrific thunders heard from Sinai, addressed those who were willing to receive his instructions, in the accents of tenderness, as an affectionate friend. But such affection might have existed, without the knowledge necessary to make known the whole mind of God. This qualification his divine nature supplied. Paul asks, on one occasion, “Who hath known the mind of the Lord? and who hath been his counsellor ? But, it had been predicted of Jesus, that he should be called Wonderful, Counsellor. He was the wisdom of God, from the bosom of the Father, and was therefore fully qualified to reveal the mind and counsel of God to men.
At the feet of this Prophet let us sit, that we may learn the knowledge of God. With Mary, let us take our place there, leaving the cumbering cares of the world, and opening our ears and our hearts to receive his heavenly instructions. Peter, James, and John, who saw his glorious form in the holy mount, when the bright vision had passed away, were left in possession of the divine command: “Hear ye him.” Let us take this direction as the guide of our way, until we shall be admitted to the brighter vision of his glory, of which the former was but a shadow.
JESUS CHRIST, AS PRIEST, MADE AN EFFICACIOUS SACRIFICE FOR THE SINS OF HIS PEOPLE, INTERCEDES FOR THEM AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, AND BLESSES THEM WITH ALL SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS.
A prophet approaches men with revelations from God; but a priest approaches God in behalf of men. His chief business is to offer sacrifice, and make intercession. Priests have existed in the various religions of the heathen world; but in the forms of worship instituted by divine authority for observance of the Hebrew nation, we find the most instructive exposition of the priestly office. The Epistle of the Hebrews explains the design of this institution, and sets forth the Levitical priests as types of Christ in his priesthood. It is there stated to be the duty of the priest to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.
The text last quoted refers to two kinds of offerings which the priest presented: one for thanksgiving, the other for propitiation. Various offerings were prescribed as expressions of gratitude for mercies received, and others to make atonement for sins. Christians make their offerings of praise and thanksgiving through Christ, as their high priest; but the only atoning sacrifice is the offering which he made of himself, when he gave his life a ransom for us.
All propitiatory sacrifices involve the idea of substitution. The animal offered represented the offerer, and bore his sins, which were confessed, over its head. So Christ bore our sins, our iniquities being laid on him. With reference to the use of lambs in sacrifice, he is called “the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world.” The idea of substitution is clearly conveyed in such passages as these: “For a good man some would dare to die; but God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “He who knew no sin was made sin for us.”
Those who deny the divinity of Christ, deny also the doctrine of his vicarious sacrifice. When he is said in Scripture to die for us, they understand the import of the language to be, that he died for our benefit; but they exclude the idea of his suffering in our stead, bearing the penalty due to our sins, that we might be released from it. He is supposed to have died for our benefit, in that he gave us an example of patience and resignation in suffering, confirmed the doctrine that he taught, and, by rising from the dead, established the truth of the soul’s immortality, and the resurrection of the body. These several benefits, all will admit, are derived from the death and resurrection of Christ: but they do not fully come up to the import of the strong language which the Scriptures employ in relation to this subject. The ancient martyrs generally set us a noble example of patience and resignation in suffering and death. Many of them exhibited a fortitude and triumph in the prospect of their dying agonies, not seen in the example of our Redeemer. In the garden, his soul was exceedingly sorrowful in the prospect of his sufferings, and he thrice prayed that the cup might pass from him; and, on the cross, though he was all submissive to his Father, and yielded his spirit at last into his Father’s hands, yet he exhibited none of the joyful exultation which has often shone forth in the martyr’s last moments, but he seemed oppressed, shrouded in gloom, and mourning the withdrawal of his Father’s presence. All this may be accounted for, if we consider that his death had been merely to set us an example, it might be said, with greater propriety, that Peter, Paul, and other Christian martyrs, died for us: but Paul will not admit this; for he says, in a manner which implies a strong denial, “Was Paul crucified for you?”
The sincerity of the ancient Christians was demonstrated by their readiness to suffer and die, rather than renounce the faith which they professed. Christ’s death may be said to confirm his sincerity in the same way; but if this is what is meant by his dying for us, Stephen, James, Peter, and Paul died for us in this sense. But though the death of Jesus may be understood to establish his sincerity for the confirmation of his doctrine, he was accustomed to refer, for this purpose, not to his death, but to his miraculous works and his resurrection. It was his resurrection also, rather than his death, which established the truth of the soul’s immortality and of the resurrection of the body. If, therefore, these confirmations of truth for our benefit are what is intended by Christ’s dying for us, it would be more correct to say, that he wrought miracles and rose from the dead for us. But his death has so prominent a place in the Scriptures, as that to which we are indebted for eternal life, that we are compelled to seek for a higher sense of the phrase, “Christ died for us.”
The humble disciple of Jesus, who is willing to learn, as a little child, in what sense his Lord and Master died for him, needs only to read with attention the passages of Scripture which have been quoted, and which fully establish the doctrine, that Christ’s death was an atoning sacrifice for our sins. This doctrine is essential to Christianity. It is the grand peculiarity of the Christian scheme. Hence Paul determined to know nothing but “Christ crucified,” to glory in nothing but “the cross of Christ.” The gospel was the preaching of Christ crucified. It was a stumbling block to the self-righteous Jews, and foolishness to the philosophical Greeks; but to those who received it to the salvation of their souls, it was Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. It was not Christ transfigured on Mount Tabor; not Christ stilling the tempest, the raising the dead; not Christ rising triumphantly from the grave, and ascending gloriously, amidst shouts of attendant angels, to his throne in the highest heavens: but Christ on the cross, expiring in darkness and woe, that the first preachers of the Gospel delighted to exhibit to the faith of their hearers. This was their Gospel; its centre, and its glory. It was faith in this Gospel that controlled the hearts of their converts, and made them ready to die for him who had, by this death, procured for them eternal life. In this faith they exclaimed, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” To this they referred when they said, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
The doctrine of Christ’s atoning sacrifice explains the Old Testament dispensation. To what purpose were its victims brought to the altar, and the rites of its worship all stained with blood? Was God really pleased with the slaughter of animals, and the smell of their sacrifice? Paul has explained, that these were a shadow of good things to come; but the body is of Christ. As mere types of Christ’s atoning sacrifice, they are intelligible. This they prefigured. “Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us; an offering and a sacrifice to God of sweet smelling savor;” and it was only because of their reference to this sacrifice, that the sacrifices of the preceding times were acceptable to the Lord.
The general prevalence of sacrifices, in the religions of the world, is a fact which it is difficult to account for. If it be supposed to arise from principles implanted in human nature, it will furnish a strong argument to prove that human nature has ever felt, and must feel, the necessity for such a sacrifice as is made by the death of Christ. If the prevalence of sacrifices be accounted for by tracing them to an ancient institution, given to our race by revelation from God, an argument, still stronger in favor of our doctrine, is furnished by the fact. It appears, from this view of the subject, that the institution is not only more ancient than the laws of Moses, but has come down from the time when Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. As this sacrifice, like all subsequent ones which were offered by faith, had reference to the sacrifice of Christ, the whole institution of sacrifice bears testimony to it.
The sacrifice of Christ, which is the object of Christian faith on earth, will be the song of glorified saints in heaven. The Lamb, in the midst of the throne, will appear in their view, not as once honored and powerful, but as having been made a sacrifice, “a lamb that had been slain.” He was once the victim on the sacrificial altar, but he will be the object of adoration in the everlasting song, “Unto him that loved us,” & c.
When the birth of Jesus was announced by the angel, it was said, “His name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” This was the grand design of his coming into the world: “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” To effect this salvation, a sacrifice was demanded; and, that he might make the required sacrifice, it was necessary that he should assume human nature: “When he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not but a body hast thou prepared me.” “It was necessary that this man have somewhat to offer.” His humanity was the victim laid on the altar, for which reason it is said, “He bore our sins in his own body, on the tree.” “The Captain of our salvation must be made perfect through suffering;” and he must, therefore, have a nature capable of suffering: “For this cause, he was made lower than the angels, that, for the suffering of death, he might be crowned with glory and honor.” There is, doubtless, also a peculiar fitness in the arrangement, by which the Redeemer is the near-kinsman of the redeemed; and the sacrifice made in the nature that had sinned. Had the Son of God undertaken the salvation of angels, there would have been a fitness in his taking on him the nature of angels: but as he came to save men, he took on him human nature, and was made in all points like his brethren.
While the fact of the sacrifice depended on the assumption of a nature capable of suffering, the undertaking of the work, the efficacy of the sacrifice, the power to lay down his life, and the power to take it again, depended on the divine nature of Christ. The divine nature, alone, could not be made under the law: and the human nature, alone, could not have originally consented to be made under the law; and would not thereby, had it been possible, have exhibited any humiliation, any voluntary impoverishing of himself, that we might be made rich. The question has sometimes been proposed, how much obedience did the human nature of Jesus Christ owe for itself, and how much did it render for the benefit of others? But this is a useless question, and is asked on a mistaken apprehension of the facts concerning Christ’s assumption of our nature. The man Christ Jesus never had an existence separate form the divine nature. The Word did not enter into flesh previously existing: but “the Word was made flesh.” Had the Word entered into a previously existing man, we might conceive of the obligations which that man had previously owed to the law, and the continuance of those obligations. But the Son of God was made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law. As the assumption of human nature was designed for the salvation of his people, all that he did and suffered in that nature, is to be viewed as a part of the great design, and constituting a part of the work.
We are not permitted to suppose that the divine nature of Jesus Christ could, in itself, endure the sufferings necessary to make atonement, or that it did, in the proper sense, suffer with the human nature. We cannot conceive that the perfect blessedness of God can consist with the endurance of suffering, any more than we can conceive the divine immensity shut up within the limits of a human body. Yet we are authorized to conclude, that whatever Jesus did or suffered, does, in some manner, represent to us the mind of God. To think God to be altogether such an one as ourselves, is a gross and sinful view of him, which he resents: but we are, nevertheless, compelled to form our conceptions of his mind from the knowledge which we have of our own. This mode of conception his word authorizes. The pity of a father for his children, is made by God himself the image in which we are to see his pity for those who fear him. Pity, as exercised by human beings, may be a very painful emotion; but, when we attribute it to God, we must conceive of it as possessing all that is excellent in human pity, but without the imperfection of pain. So, the mind of the holy Jesus exhibits to us the mind of God. The pity which he felt, however painful it may have been to his human soul, is an image in which we are permitted to see the compassion of God. Could we have before our contemplation all the affections and emotions that the holy soul of Jesus ever experienced, we might learn therein more of the mind of God than is otherwise discoverable: and if we understood the affections and emotions of which he was the subject in his last hours, we should probably understand, better than in any other way, how the divine perfections were concerned in his atoning sufferings. It is our duty to look to Jesus, who endured the cross, and to study his character, that the same mind may be in us, and we feel the stronger obligation to study with what mind he suffered death; because Paul prayed to have fellowship with his sufferings, and to be conformed to his death.
What, then, were the emotions of Jesus in his last sufferings? When he consented to make the sacrifice in the body prepared for him, he said, “Thy law is within my heart.” He doubtless retained this law in his heart, through his intensest agony, and approved it, even while he was undergoing its dire penalty. In this particular Paul had fellowship with him, for he could say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” When Jesus bore our sins in his body on the tree, it is reasonable to suppose that his human soul had a sense of the great evil of sin; otherwise we cannot understand how it should approve the law under which he was suffering the penalty for sin. Whatever other emotions had a place in his mind, we are authorized to conclude that he had a deep sense of the evil of the sins which he bore, and of the excellence of the law which those sins opposed. While love, stronger than death, identified him with his people, who were under the sentence of the violated law, he loved also that law with all his heart. These contending affections painfully struggled together in his breast. The sins of his people were not offences which he had personally committed; and therefore remorse, in the proper sense, was not an ingredient in his suffering. But an affectionate husband, who loves his wife as his own flesh, would, when grieving for a crime which she has committed, feel nearly the same agony as if he had personally committed it; so, when Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, he felt the sins of the Church as if they had been his own. In this sense of the evil of sin, which was an element in the sufferings of Jesus, it was lawful for Paul to desire fellowship with him. The Scripture teaches that Jesus offered himself to God, through the eternal Spirit. This Spirit produces love to God and his law in the hearts of believers, and gives them a sense of the evil of sin; in both which particulars they have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings. Now, if we suppose that the Spirit, which was given to Christ without measure, opened to his view, when hanging on the cross, the full glory of the divine law which the Church, his bride, had violated; and the full enormity of the sins which his people had committed; what intense agony would these discoveries produce! No agony of the deepest penitence could surpass it. Yet all this Jesus probably felt; and in all this we may well pray to have fellowship with him.
If the view which we have taken, gives us any just insight into the emotions which rent the holy soul of Jesus, when he hung on the cross for us, it should make us feel, deeply feel, the moral power of that cross. To think as he thought, and feel as he felt, is enough to constrain us to live to him who died for us. No higher motive to holiness can be needed, than that which proceeds from the cross.
The denial of Christ’s divinity, and that of is atonement, consistently accompany each other. We should have little need of a divine person, to fulfil the offices ascribed to Christ, if that of making an efficacious sacrifice for sin be not included. The system in which these two cardinal doctrines are omitted, is another gospel, which Paul, and the first ministers of the Christian religion, knew not; and which cannot meet the necessities of lost men. It is worthy of special remark, that the two positive institutions of Christianity–baptism and the Lord’s supper, refer to these two doctrines, and silently and significantly preach them. In baptism, we devote ourselves to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; acknowledging the divinity and authority of each person in the Godhead: and the divinity of the second person is more especially acknowledged in those brief accounts of baptism, in which persons are said to have been baptised in the name of Christ. In the Lord’s supper, the doctrine of atonement is clearly set forth. “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” The two ordinances have, from the days of the apostles, been observed by the great body of professing Christians; though their form and use have not been kept pure, as they were originally delivered, and the two doctrines which they set forth, have been maintained in the great body of Christian professors, in all ages; though accompanied with much corruption.
The Scriptures plainly teach that the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ was necessary to render the justification of a sinner consistent with the justice of God. “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time, his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
Had it not been absolutely necessary, we cannot account for it, that God should have inflicted such suffering, or even permitted it to fall, on his beloved Son, who was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” The death of Christ, if he was not a divine person, was, as we have before shown, the effect of perjury and suicidal prevarication on his part; and if it was not an atoning sacrifice indispensably necessary to satisfy divine justice, it is difficult to show that it was not, on the part of the Father, a display of injustice and cruelty towards the Son of his love. Why was his ear deaf to the thrice-repeated petition, “Let this cup pass from me?” Why had the sorrows of Gethsemane, and the bloody sweat of the agonized, but innocent, sufferer, no effect to move the pity of the Father, to whom Christ had said: “I know that thou hearest me always.” The resigned language of the suffering Jesus, and the condition on which he bases the petition, furnish the answer: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
What ever views of propriety may be entertained by short-sighted mortals, it is manifestly the teaching of sacred Scripture, that God could not, consistently with his justice, forgive our sins on our mere asking, or even on our penitential acknowledgments. We are required to forgive offences till seventy times seven, when a brother acknowledges his trespass; but sins against God are not private offences , to be remitted in the same manner. A judge who should pardon a criminal, that, according to law, ought to be condemned, and turn him loose on the community, would be false to his sacred office. So God sustains the character of a righteous Judge; and, sooner than disregard the claims of law, and overthrow his moral government, he is willing to plunge the sword of justice into the heart of his beloved Son. And such is the reverence of the Son, for the law of his Father and the claims of justice, that he patiently consents to be led as a lamb to the slaughter, that his death may justify God in forgiving and saving the guilty.
How the death of Christ rendered full satisfaction to divine justice, is a question which we shall have occasion to consider, under the head of Justification.
Those who suppose the doctrine of atonement, have viewed it as inconsistent with justice, that the innocent should suffer for the guilty. Their views, however, are plainly at variance with those which are presented in the Book of God. “He suffered, the just for the unjust.” “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Even in human affairs, sureties are allowed to pay the debts of others; and, with reference to this well-known arrangement among men, Christ is called the surety of the better covenant. To render such suretyship consistent with justice, his voluntary consent must be given, and he must have had a perfect right to dispose of himself. The right he possessed, because of his divinity; and the consent was given in the covenant of grace which he made with the Father.
A part of the priest’s office consisted in making intercession for the people. The high priest did this in a special manner, when he went into the holy of holies. Jesus interceded, when he prayed for Peter that his faith might not fail; and when he poured forth to his Father the beautiful prayer recorded in John xvii. But now, in the holy of holies, the immediate presence of God, he ever liveth to make intercession for us. How that intercession is carried on, we cannot undertake to explain. What his mode of asking is, we know not; but in some mode, he asks, and the heathen are given to him for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession. In some mode, while he sympathises with his suffering followers on earth, he asks grace for them, to help them in their trials and sorrows, and his intercession prevails.
The remaining part of the priest’s office consisted in blessing the people. The high priest did this, on his return from the holy of holies. This, also, our great High Priest will do, in the most public manner, when he shall return from the heavens which he has entered, and meet his people in the great congregation at the last judgment. It is of little importance, whether we refer this act of blessing to the priestly or the kingly office of Christ. It was anciently said, that the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth. Yet we refer Christ’s teaching to his prophetical, rather than to his priestly office. So, though the ancient priests blessed the people, yet, as the priest’s office was to approach God, in behalf of men; rather than to approach men with either revelations or blessings from God; we may consider the blessings conferred on the obedient subjects of Christ’s reign, as the bestowments of his royal munificence; and, therefore, as appertaining to his kingly office. This accords with the language of Scripture: “Then shall the King say: `Come, ye blessed of my Father.'” But all Christ’s offices yield blessings to his people; and were undertaken by him for their sake.
JESUS CHRIST, AS THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN, EXERCISES KINGLY AUTHORITY OVER ALL CREATURES, TO THE GLORY OF GOD, AND THE GOOD OF HIS PEOPLE.
The superscription which Pilate placed on the cross, was, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” This writing expressed a truth of which its author was not aware. Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, foretold by the Hebrew prophets, and expected by the nation as the king who would rule over them, and raise them to great prosperity.
The Hebrew word Messiah, to which the Greek word Christ corresponds, signifies the Anointed. When kings and priests were introduced into office among the Israelites, it was usual to anoint them with oil. We have one example, in which a prophet was set apart to his work, by the same ceremony. Jesus was the Anointed, because he sustained all these offices; and, although he was not introduced into either of them, by a literal anointing with oil, he had the unction of the Holy Spirit, of which the literal unction with oil was a type. The words of Isaiah read by him in the synagogue of Nazareth, were applied to himself: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach,” &c. Here the anointing must be understood as referring to his prophetical office. The same reference seems to have been made with taunt and derision by the individual who smote Jesus, and said: “Prophesy, thou Christ, who is he that smote thee?” In this taunt, it was implied, that the Christ was expected to be a prophet. But from the common use of anointing, we are led to refer the term Christ rather to the priestly and kingly offices, with which Jesus was invested. The most common reference, is to his kingly office. He was reported to Pilate, as making himself “Christ, a king.” In expecting their Messiah, the Jews looked for a king, who was to rule over them and deliver them from their enemies. Many of the prophecies concerning the Christ, relate to his reign as king over Israel: and when he, before the Jewish council, claimed to be the Christ, he referred to the future manifestation of his kingly power and glory, “Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
A proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah, is found in the fact, that the prophecies were fulfilled in him. The time and place of his birth, and the tribe and family from which he was to spring, were particularly foretold; and the events corresponded to the predictions. Many prophecies of events in his life, sufferings, death, burial, and resurrection, were exactly fulfilled. Jesus appealed with confidence to the Scriptures, for proof of his claims: “Search the Scriptures; for they are they that testify of me.” And the apostles said: “To him give all the prophets witness.”
Further proof that Jesus was the Christ, is furnished by the testimony of John the Baptist, by the voice of the Father at his baptism, and at his transfiguration in the mount; by his works, to which he often appealed in proof of his claim; and by his claim before the Jewish council, and before Pilate, and which was sustained by his miracles, and ultimately by his resurrection from the dead.
To all these proofs it may be added, that the Jews have found no other Messiah. They have confidently expected one, and the time for his coming has long passed. Either Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah foretold, or the prophecies were false, and the religion of which they were a part was not from God. Jesus Christ, as the Supreme God, had, of original right, sovereign authority over all creatures. But when the Word was made flesh, he took on him the form of a servant; and, for a time, appeared divested of divine power and glory. But, after having humbled himself, and completed the service for which his humiliation was necessary, it pleased God to reward that service by exalting him to supreme authority over all creatures. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
A peculiarity of Christ’s dominion as Mediator, is, that it is exercised by him in human nature. Why it was the pleasure of God to exalt human nature to a dignity so high, it is impossible for us fully to comprehend. We see in it the complete defeat of Satan, the apostate angel, who aimed to bring our inferior nature entirely under his power. He triumphed over the first Adam: but the second Adam has triumphed over him, and will bring him into complete subjection, with all the hostile powers that he has set in array; and will, in the very nature over which Satan triumphed, bring them into subjection under his feet. This dominion over principalities and powers Jesus Christ exercises, with a reference to the good of his people, redeemed from among men. To secure this benefit, the exercise of his dominion in human nature doubtless contributes. The redeemed are one with him, as he is one with the Father. That wonderful prayer is fulfilled, “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” They are admitted to a communion with God, far more intimate and glorious than could otherwise be enjoyed; and are exalted to such honor, that they are said to reign with Christ. This dignity is nowhere ascribed to angels. Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. This exercise of divine authority, through the human nature of Jesus Christ, will manifest the glory of God in its richest displays; and angels and men will here learn, through eternal ages, the perfections of the divine nature, and will for ever admire and adore, with ineffable joy.
Another peculiarity of this dominion, is, that it opens a new dispensation to rebellious men. When the angels, that kept not their first estate, sinned against God, they were driven from his presence, and condemned to hopeless woe. No mediator was provided for them; and no gospel of salvation was ever proclaimed in their ears. Such an administration of divine authority, as gives hope of pardon to offenders, was unknown in the government of the world until man sinned; and this administration constitutes a distinguishing feature of Christ’s mediatorial reign. Hence, he is the Mediator between God and men, and not between God and angels; and hence the Mediator is emphatically called “the man Christ Jesus.” On earth, the Son of Man had power to forgive sins; and in heaven he sits on a throne of grace, to which we are permitted and invited to come, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need. When God displayed his glory to Moses, and proclaimed his name in the hearing of that favored servant, his forgiving mercy had a conspicuous place in the revelation: “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering,” &c. so, in heaven, where his full glory is seen, the dispensation of his mercy from the throne of grace on which the exalted Mediator sits, constitutes the most lovely and attractive exhibition of the divine glory that the happy worshippers are permitted to behold.
Of the two peculiarities which have been mentioned as distinguishing the mediatorial dominion of Christ, the first could not exist until the humanity of Christ was exalted to the throne. Then the mediatorial reign, in its full development, commenced, when the Father said, “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” But the second peculiarity existed in an incomplete administration of this mediatorial reign, which was exercised from the time of man’s fall. Before the efficacious sacrifice for sin was made, in which the humanity of Christ became its virtue, pardons were bestowed on believers, from the days of Abel. It is now made known to us, that these pardons were engaged, as the surety for sinners, to do the work which he has since performed: and the inquiries of angels, and the faith of Old Testament saints, were all directed forward to the coming of Christ, for explanation of that mysterious dispensation by which rebels obtained mercy.
Jesus Christ is head over all things to the Church. He exercises his supreme authority for the benefit of his people, for whose sake he sanctified himself to undertake the work of mediation. He is head over principalities and powers; and angels honor and obey him, and are sent forth as ministering spirits, to minister to the heirs of salvation. He is Lord over all the earth; and regulates every agent and every event in the world, so that “all things work together for good to them that love God.” If Christ is ours, all things are ours; for all things are in his hands, and he holds them for the benefit of his people.
In the few words which Jesus spoke respecting his kingdom, when he stood before Pilate, the most important instruction is conveyed. We cannot too much admire the wisdom with which he accurately described, in so few words, the kingdom that he came to establish: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” The kings of the earth maintain their authority by force. The coerced obedience which they procure, is often reluctantly rendered. The proper subjects of Christ’s kingdom are a willing people, who voluntarily give themselves up to his authority, and serve him with delight. In extending his kingdom he has not allowed carnal weapons to be used; but such only as are powerful, through God, to bring the heart into subjection: “Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice.” He who receives the truth, hears the voice of the king, and acknowledges his authority. To believe the truth, is to obey the Gospel; and this is to be subject to Christ as king. The Jews had expected the Messiah to set up a kingdom, which would be like the kingdoms of the earth, and surpass them in glory. The disciples of Jesus entertained similar views; and hence arose the request to sit on his right hand, and on his left, in his kingdom. Hence, too, arose their despondency when they saw him crucified. They had thought that it was he who was to restore the kingdom to Israel; and his death darkened their prospects, and cut off their hopes. The faith of the expiring thief recognised the expiring Jesus as king; and prayed, “Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom:” but the mourning disciples of Jesus could not see the bright prospect of his kingdom, through the darkness of the grave. Yet, the death of Jesus was necessary to the establishment of his kingdom: “For obedience unto death, he was crowned with glory and honor.” And the dying love of Christ is the constraining power which brings the heart into subjection to his authority.
Wrong views respecting the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom, have been productive of much evil. The princes of this world crucified the Lord of glory, because they could not recognize him in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, who came into the world to bear witness to the truth, and not to introduce his kingdom with the pomp which the carnal mind is pleased with. And Christ has been crucified afresh, and put to open shame, by his professed followers, because of their wrong notions respecting his kingdom. A visible ecclesiastical organization, distinguished by the observance of external forms, has claimed to be the kingdom of Christ; and its power has been extended and wielded by means far different from those which Jesus authorized. To banish this corrupt Christianity from the earth, correct views respecting the kingdom of Christ must prevail.
The Messiah was to rule in the midst of his enemies; and his iron sceptre was to break in pieces, as a potter’s vessel, all who are disobedient, and do not obey the truth: but those who obey the truth are “the children of the kingdom:” and to them the benefits and blessings of his reign belong. In this restricted sense, none but regenerate persons enter into his kingdom. We are translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son, when we receive his truth into our hearts. In this sense, no profession of religion, and no observance of external forms, can bring any one into the kingdom of Christ. The tares may resemble the wheat: but the tares are the children of the wicked one; and the good seed only are the children of the kingdom; and when the Son of Man shall gather out of his kingdom whatever is offensive to him, the tares will, equally with the briars and thorns, be rejected, as not belonging properly to his kingdom, and doomed to be burned. Let it then be distinctly understood, that the kingdom of Christ is not a great visible organization, consisting of good men and bad, who are bound together by some ecclesiastical tie. He rules over all; but he accounts all as the enemies of his reign who do not obey the truth: and the hypocrite and formalist have no more part in his kingdom than Herod and Pontius Pilate.
Some obscurity has arisen in the interpretation of Scriptures in which the word kingdom occurs, from supposing that it always refers to the territory of subjects that are under the government of a king. Kingdom is king dominion, king jurisdiction. The primary idea is kingly authority. In this primary sense it is used in Luke xix. 12: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom.” See also Rev. xvii. 12. This radical idea the word retains everywhere; but it becomes so modified by the connection in which it is used, as to refer to the time, place, or circumstances in which kingly authority is exercised; to the persons over whom it is exercised; and, sometimes, to the benefits resulting from its exercise. An example of this last use is found in Rom. xiv. 17: “The kingdom of God is righteousness peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” The phrases, “kingdom of heaven,” “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of Christ,” “kingdom of God’s dear Son, ” are used with reference to the reign of the Messiah. They denote God’s exercise of kingly authority in the person of the Messiah; and this radical idea, as before stated, becomes modified by the connection in which the phrases are used. When parables are introduced with the words “The kingdom of God is like,” we are to understand that some fact or truth connected with the reign of the Messiah is illustrated by the parable. It will be impossible to make sense of many passages, if the term be understood always to signify the subjects over whom Christ reigns. How, in this signification of the term, can the kingdom be like a merchantman, a net, a treasure? “The kingdom of heaven is like to a man which sowed good seed in his field.” Here, no comparison can be intended between the subjects of Christ’s reign and the man that sowed the seed. But the parable illustrates important truth commented with the reign of the Messiah. It teaches that the world, represented by the field, is under his dominion; that, for a time, the good and bad are permitted to remain together; but that a separation will finally be made, and the blessings of his reign will be enjoyed by those only who are “the good seed,” sown by himself, and who only are “the children of the kingdom.”
The mediatorial reign of Christ will include the judgment of the great day. It is said, “We must all stand at the judgment seat of Christ;” and also, in describing the sentences pronounced, “Then shall the king say,” &c. Then they who condemned and crucified Christ the king, and all who would not have him to reign over them, shall stand at his tribunal. The decisions of that day will be made according to the relation which each individual has borne to Christ. What men have done to the least of his disciples, he will regard as done to him; and, according to the dispositions so evinced, will be every man’s final doom.
Will the mediatorial reign of Christ continue after the transactions of the great day? An important change will doubtless then take place in the manner of his reign. All his enemies will have been subdued, all his ransomed people brought home, and his last act of pardoning mercy performed. Yet, we are informed that the glory of God and the Lamb will be the light of the New Jerusalem; that the Lamb will be in the midst of the throne; and that he will feed the redeemed, and lead them to the fountains of living water. From these representations, we appear authorized to conclude that Christ will remain the medium of communication through which the saints will for ever approach God, and receive glory and bliss from him. The language of Paul in 1 Cor. xv. 25, is not inconsistent with this opinion: “He must reign, until he hath put all enemies under his feet.” When it is said, “Until the law, sin was in the world, we are not to conclude that sin was not in the world afterwards: so, when it is said, “He must reign until,” &c., we must not infer that he will not reign after this time. It will not accord with his own representation of the subject, if, when those who would not have him to reign over them, shall have been slain before his face, he himself shall cease to reign. When it is said, “then shall the Son be subject to the Father,” we are not to understand that this subjection excludes the idea of reigning; otherwise it would be implied that his previous reign had not been in subjection to the Father. Christ now reigns in subjection to the Father; but the harmony of his administration with the will and perfections of God, cannot fully appear while rebels go at large under his government; but when all enemies have been subdued, the harmony of his administration with the government of God, absolutely considered, will be made apparent. The coincidence of the two modes of government will be fully manifested. This will be the time of the restitution of all things. He must reign until his enemies are subdued; and the heavens must receive him until the time of the restitution of all things; but he will not, then, either forsake heaven or cease to reign.
 1 Tim. ii. 5; 2 Cor. v. 18; Col. i. 20; 1 John ii. 1; Gal. i. 4.; iii. 13; Tit. ii. 14.
 Job xxxiii. 23.
 Acts iv. 12.
 Isaiah lxi. 1; Luke iv. 18, 23; Heb. ii. 3; 1 Pet. i. 11; Deut. xviii. 18; John iii. 34; xvi. 1; Rev. i. 1.
 Matt. xxvi. 68.
 Duet. xxxiv. 10.
 Deut. xviii. 15.
 Matt. xvii. 5.
 1 Pet. i. 11.
 John i. 18.
 Rev. i. 1.
 John vii. 46.
 Romans xi. 34.
 Isaiah ix. 6.
 Ps. cx. 4; Zech. vi. 13; Heb. iv. 14, 15; v. 6; vi. 20; vii. 24, 26; viii. 1; ix. 11, 12, 14, 26; x. 12, 14; Isaiah liii. 5, 7, 12; John i. 29; x. 15; 1 Cor. v. 7; Eph. v. 2; 1 Tim. ii. 6; Heb. ix. 26; x. 5; xiii. 12; 1 Pet. ii. 24; iii. 18; 1 John i. 7; Rev. v. 9; vii. 14; Rom. viii. 34; Heb. vii. 25; ix. 24.
 Heb. v. 1.
 Matt. xx. 28.
 Lev. xvi. 21.
 1 Pet. ii. 24.
 John i. 29.
 Romans v. 8.
 2 Cor. v. 21.
 1 Cor. i. 13.
 1 Cor. ii. 2.
 Gal. vi. 14.
 1 Cor. i. 23.
 Rom. i. 16.
 Gal. vi. 14.
 Gal. ii. 20.
 Heb. x. 1.
 Eph. v. 2.
 Heb. xi. 4.
 Rev. v. 6.
 Rev. i. 5.
 Matt. i. 21.
 Luke xix. 10.
 Heb. x. 5.
 Heb. viii. 3.
 1 Pet. ii. 24.
 Heb. ii. 10.
 Heb. ii. 9.
 Heb. ii. 16, 17.
 John i. 14.
 Gal. iv. 5
 Ps. l. 21.
 Ps. ciii. 13.
 Heb. xii. 2.
 Phil. iii. 10.
 Ps. xl. 8.
 Rom. vii. 22.
 Heb. ix. 14.
 Matt. xxvi. 28.
 Rom. iii. 25, 26.
 John xi. 42.
 Matt. xxvi. 39.
 1 Pet. iii. 18.
 2 Cor v. 21.
 Heb. vii. 22.
 Heb. vii. 25.
 Ps. ii. 8.
 Num. vi. 22–27.
 Mal. ii. 7.
 Matt. xxv. 34.
 Num. xxxiv. 17; Ps. ii. 6; Isaiah xxxii. 1; Zech. ix. 9; Matt. xxi. 5; John xviii. 36; Matt. xxv. 34; Heb. ii. 9; Rev. v. 13; 1 Tim. vi. 15; Rev. xvii. 14; xix. 16; Eph. i. 20–23; v. 23; Phil. ii. 9, 10.
 1 Kings xix. 16.
 Isaiah lxi.1.
 Matt. xxvi. 68.
 Luke xxiii. 2.
 Luke xxii. 69.
 John v. 39.
 Acts x. 43.
 John iii. 28.
 Matt. iii. 17.
 Matt. xvii. 5.
 Matt. xxviii. 18.
 John xvii. 21.
 1 Tim. ii. 5.
 Matt. ix. 6.
 Ex. xxxiv. 6.
 Ps. cx. 1.
 John xviii. 36.
 Ps. cx. 3.
 John xviii. 37.
 Luke xxiv. 21; Acts i. 6.
 Luke xxiii. 42.
 Phil. ii. 8, 9; Heb. ii. 9.
 Ps. ii. 9.
 John iii. 5.
 Col. i. 13.
 Matt. xiii. 38.
 Matt. xiii. 45.
 Matt. xiii. 47.
 Matt. xiii. 44.
 Matt. xiii. 45.
 Rev. xxi 23.
 Rev. vii. 17.
 Rom. v. 13.
 Luke xix. 27.
 1 Cor. xv. 28.
 Acts iii. 21.