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God Seeking Kings.
One great part of God's eternal purpose in creation was to rule His universe by a MAN. "Unto the angels hath He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak; but one in a certain place testifieth, What is MAN, that Thou art mindful of him, or the SON OF MAN that Thou visitest him?" (Heb 2:5,6).
To Adam therefore He said, "have dominion," or "rule." After the words of blessing, conveying fruitfulness to man, "be fruitful and multiply," there are three words added, conveying earth over to man as his possession and his kingdom, so that he might exercise authority in it by "divine right." 1. Replenish or fill. 2. Subdue. 3. Rule.
Adam's unfaithfulness, by which dominion was forfeited, did not make the great purpose of none effect. That purpose has stood and shall stand for ever. Instead of the first Adam God brings in the "last Adam," the "second Man," the Lord from heaven, as His King, and He introduces His offspring as kings under Him, to fill, subdue, and rule the earth.
He has found His King, and has put all things under His feet: placing on His head the many crowns, and setting Him on the throne of universal dominion,-- though as yet we see not all things actually put under Him. He says, "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion": and He gives Him the heathen for His inheritance and the uttermost ends of the earth for His possession. He is the great Melchizedec,--the priestly King,--into whose hands all things have been put.
But under Him, or associated with Him, are other kings. These are the redeemed from among men,--the chosen according to the good pleasure of His will: by nature, sons of the first Adam, but created anew and made sons of the second.
From the ranks of fallen men God is selecting His kings. He has sent His Son to deliver them from their death and curse. He has sent His Spirit to quicken them and to transform them, not merely into obedient loving subjects, but into kings, heirs of the great throne. "Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make PRINCES in all the earth" (Psa 45:16).
These kings, though by nature mortal men, become heirs of immortality, and at the resurrection of the just, put on all that is to fit them for their everlasting reign. Everything connected with them is of God.
1. God elects them. It is by His will that they are what they are. He finds the race of Adam in the horrible pit, and out of that ruined mass He chooses some,--not only to salvation but to glory and dominion. These kings are the chosen of God.
2. He redeems them. They are found in the low dungeon, captives and prisoners in the hands of the great oppressor. God sends redemption to them,-- redemption through Him who takes their captivity upon Him, that they may be set free; who enters their prison-house, and takes their bonds upon Him that they may be unbound. In Him they have redemption through His blood.
3. He consecrates them. Their consecration is by blood. It is the blood of the covenant that sets them apart for their future work and honour. Sprinkled with the precious blood they are "sanctified" for dominion;--for that holy royalty to which they have been chosen.
4. He anoints them. With that same anointing with which Christ was anointed, they are anointed too,--anointed for royal rule,--priestly-royal rule. The Holy Spirit, dwelling in them, as in their Head, coming down on them, as on their Head, fits them for the exercise of dominion. The wisdom needed for government is a holy wisdom, and this holy wisdom they receive by means of the unction from the Holy One.
5. He crowns them. They are, as yet, only kings- elect. Their coronation-day is yet to come. Yet the crown is already theirs by right; and He who chose them to the throne will before long put the crown upon their head.
Not out of the ranks of angels is He seeking kings. This would not suit His purpose, nor magnify the riches of His grace. Fallen man must furnish Him with the rulers of His universe. Human hands must wield the sceptre, and human heads must wear the crown.
To this honour He is calling us. He is sending out His ambassadors for this end; and the gospel with which they are intrusted is the glad tidings of a kingdom. And this in a double sense. There is a kingdom into which they are to enter and be partakers of its glory: and yet, in the same kingdom, they are to be God's anointed kings. It is a kingdom doubly theirs. They not only "see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3); they not only "enter into the kingdom of God"; but they occupy its thrones. "The kingdom, and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom, under the whole heaven, is given to the people of the saints of the Most High, and they possess the kingdom" (Dan 7:22,27). "I appoint unto you a kingdom," says our Lord, "that ye may sit on thrones" (Luke 22:28). "To him that overcometh will I give to sit on my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father on His throne" (Rev 3:21). Hence they sing the song, "Thou art worthy, for Thou hast redeemed us by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev 5:9). Not to be reigned over, but to reign, is the honour to which they are called. "They shall REIGN for ever and ever" (Rev 22:5).
O sons of men! This is the honour to which God is calling you. It is for the end of making you His kings that He is seeking you. To deliver you from wrath is the beginning of His purpose concerning you; to set you on His throne is the end. Nothing short of this. Think what the riches of His grace must be, and His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus our Lord! Where sin has abounded grace has abounded more. Herein is love! Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should not only be called sons but kings; that we should not only be lifted to a place in His family, but to a seat upon His throne! To make us in any way or in any sense partakers of His glory and sharers in His dominion is much but to make us "heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ," is unspeakably more. A throne such as man can give and take away seems to many a worthy object of ambition; how much more the kingdom which God gives, the kingdom which cannot be moved.
And if any one asks, How may I share this royalty and win this crown? we answer in the well- known words, "As many as received Him, to them gave He power (right) to become the sons of God"; for what is true of the sonship is true of the kingship too. We obtain it by receiving the Son of God. He that takes Christ receives a kingdom, and becomes a king. His connection with the King of kings is His security for a throne. Oneness with Christ gives him the royal inheritance. To be washed in His blood, to be clothed with His raiment, to be quickened with His life, to be gladdened with His love, to be crowned with His crown,--these are some of the steps of honour, up which He leads those who believe in His name.
For it is a throne that cannot be bought. It is THE GIFT of "the King eternal, immortal, and invisible"; and He giveth it to whomsoever He will. The invitation which the Son of God gives to us in His gospel is an invitation to a throne and crown. He holds it up and bids us look at it. He holds it out and bids us take it.
I know not if all this were ever better described than by John Bunyan, in the beginning of the "Pilgrim's Progress," in the dialogue between Christian and Pliable:--
"Pli.--Come, neighbour Christian, since there are none but us two here, tell me now further what the things are, and how to be enjoyed, whither we are going.
"Chr.--I can better conceive of them with my mind, than speak of them with my tongue: but yet, since you are desirous to know, I will read of them in my book.
"Pli.--And do you think that the words of your book are certainly true?
"Chr.--Yes, verily; for it was made by Him that cannot lie.
"Pli.--Well said; what things are they?
"Chr.--There is an endless kingdom to be inhabited, and everlasting life to be given us, that we may inhabit the kingdom for ever.
"Pli.--Well said; and what else?
"Chr.--There are crowns of glory to be given us, and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the firmament of heaven.
"Pli.--This is very pleasant; and what else?
"Chr.--There shall be no more crying, nor sorrow: for He that is owner of the place will wipe all tears from our eyes.
"Pli.--And what company shall we have there?
"Chr.--There we shall be with seraphims and cherubims, creatures that will dazzle your eyes to look on them. There also you shall meet with thousands and tens of thousands that have gone before us to that place; none of them are hurtful, but loving and holy; every one walking in the sight of God, and standing in His presence with acceptance for ever. In a word, there we shall see the elders with their golden crowns; there we shall see the holy virgins with their golden harps; there we shall see men that by the world were cut in pieces, burnt in flames, eaten of beasts, drowned in the seas, for the love that they bare to the Lord of the place, all well, and clothed with immortality as with a garment.
"Pli.--The hearing of this is enough to ravish one's heart. But are these things to be enjoyed? How shall we get to be sharers thereof?
"Chr.--THE LORD, THE GOVERNOR OF THE COUNTRY, HATH RECORDED THAT IN THIS BOOK; THE SUBSTANCE OF WHICH IS, IF WE BE TRULY WILLING TO HAVE IT, HE WILL BESTOW IT UPON US FREELY."
Thus very simply and beautifully does Bunyan put the manner of our obtaining the glory. Some would call this too free. Some would say, Here is the way made far too easy, without any preparatory alarms and repentance. But there stands John Bunyan's idea of the way of a sinner's entrance into the kingdom; and let him who can improve or correct it do so. "The Lord, the Governor of the country, hath recorded that in this book; the substance of which is, If we be truly willing to have it, He will bestow it upon us freely."
Bunyan's soundness of doctrine is well known. His Calvinism was of a very decided kind. His views of Christ's redemption-work were very precise. His belief as to the necessity of the Holy Spirit's work was undoubted; yet he delighted to set forth the gospel in all its scriptural simplicity, unencumbered with preparatory exercises and processes intended to make the sinner "fit for receiving Christ," and fit for having the peace of the gospel dispensed to him; and never did he state that free gospel more freely, that simple gospel more simply, than when, in the manifest fulness of his heart, he wrote the above sentence, and put it into the lips of his pilgrim:-- "IF WE BE TRULY WILLING TO HAVE IT. HE WILL BESTOW IT UPON US FREELY."
Such a sentence shines like a star; yes, like a star to a tempest-tossed sinner in his night of darkness. He asks, How may I be saved? how may I be made a worshipper? how may I become a temple? how may I be taken into the royal priesthood? God's answer is not, works, and pray, and wait, and get convictions, and bring yourself under the stroke of the law; but believe and live; believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. Likest in its naked simplicity to these divine utterances is that star- like sentence of the Puritan dreamer. It is but another form, in language all his own, of the concluding message of gladness dropped from heaven, as the great book of truth was about to be closed and sealed:-- "WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM TAKE THE WATER OF LIFE FREELY."
Too free! Too easy! Too simple! It will only make skin-deep professors! Another gospel! So say some whose idea of the gospel seems to be that of a work to be done by the sinner, not of a work which Christ has already done; whose exhortations to the inquirer are, Wait, pray, seek, wrestle, labour on, and possibly God may drop salvation into our lap; whose theory of a sinner's approach to a Saviour turns all upon the necessity of some long, laborious preliminary seekings, repentances, convictions, terrors, by which he is so humbled and broken, as to be at length in a right frame for Christ to bless him, in a right condition to be trusted with rest of soul;--whose largest grasp of the glorious gospel extends only to this, that it is good news for the qualified, for those who have been ploughed deep enough and long enough by the law.1818"Satan would keep souls from believing by persuading them that they are not yet qualified and sufficiently fitted for Christ, and that they have not seen themselves absolutely lost, not so much burdened with sin as they should. And, it is to be feared, that Satan makes use of many of God's ministers, as the old prophet mentioned, 1 Kings 13:11, &c,. to keep off, and drive away souls from Christ, under the notion of preaching peremptory doctrine for Christ, and so seek to fit men for him, as some have preached many months together this doctrine, before they would preach Christ at all; whereas their commission, and the example of Christ and His disciples, was to preach glad tidings first."--Powel, an old Puritan.
Well: go to; go to, we say to such. Away and dispute the matter not with us, but with the Master. Ask Him why He "received sinners" at once, without preliminary work, or qualification, or preparation, or delay; why He said to the hardened profligate of Sychar, "Thou wouldst have asked, and He would have given"; to Zaccheus, "Make haste and come down, for today I must abide at thy house"; to the adulteress, "Neither do I condemn thee"; to the thief upon the cross, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Upbraid Him with allowing three thousand of Jerusalem sinners, at one bound, and under one single message, to pass into the kingdom, instead of keeping them "waiting at the pool," or tortured by the law into gloomy fitness for the glad tidings: express your astonishment that He should have set such an example of rearing churches out of heathen idolaters in a single day,--Corinth, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Philippi, without waiting for years before calling their members "saints," or permitting them to sit down at the table of the Lord; set up your foolishness against His wisdom, your presumption against His lowliness, your traditions against His commandments, your love of darkness against His joy in light; proclaim your amended gospel, the gospel of Galatia, "Except ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing"; but what will be the result of those amendments and restrictions on Christ's free gospel? What will all this wood, and hay, and stubble come to in the great day of the Lord? What will be thought of all these barriers which human self-righteousness has reared to check the speed of the flying manslayer, and keep him from too easy and too swift an entrance into the city of refuge, when "the breath of the Lord, like an overflowing stream" (Isa 30:28), shall sweep these barriers and their builders clean away.
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