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CHRIST'S UNIVERSAL REIGN.
Cor. 15: 25. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under
OUR blessed Saviour, both in the Old and New Testainent, sustains the character of a king. , I have set my king, saith God by the psalmist, on mine holy hill of Zion. Isaiah speaks in this language: Behold a king shall reign in righteousness. Jeremiah, in like manner : Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. By the prophet Daniel, it was foretold, that the God of heaven should set up a kingdom.
The kingdom of Messiah is spoken of, as preeminent. Of the increase of his government and peace, there shall be no end; upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even forever.
Agreeably to all these declarations, when our Saviour appeared in the flesh, it was in character of a king; he came to establish a kingdom. This was even rumored about to his disadvantage, as if his design had been to overthrow the civil government. When Pilate, under the influence of this gross misconception, asked Jesus, if he were a king, Jesus answered, It is, as thou sayest. I am a king ; but my kingdom is not of this world ; but for this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.
The Gospel dispensation is denominated “the kingdom of God." The law and the prophets, saith Christ, were until John; from that time the kingdom of God is preached, etc., the Gospel is made known. The administration of this kingdom will continue in the hands of Christ, until the great designs of infinite wisdom are accomplished ; at which time, it will revert back to its original source, even to God the Father. By this authority committed to Christ, the most important objects are to be effected. The reign of Christ is not a slothful, ineffectual, and inglorious reign. He must reign, saith the Apostle, till he has put down all rule, all authority, and power; he must reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet; and then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom unto God; and the Son himself shall be subject unto him, that God may be all in all. The time, when all shall be subject to Christ, will, it appears, be immediately after the general resurrection.
We will now endeavor to show what is meant by that universal subjection to Christ, foretold in the text; and in what sense it can be said, that all things shall be put under him.
The expression “all things," must be so understood as to designate rational beings only. Inanimate objects, such as the earth, the ocean, the sky, the winds and clouds, can never act in opposition to his will. They manifest his glory, but never counteract his designs. Fire and hail, snow and vapor, and
, stormy winds all unite in fulfilling his word. The irrational animals, as they are incapable of knowing God's will, must be, for that reason, incapable of opposing it. Besides, it is supposed, that the material heavens and earth and all the inhabitants of the earth, air and sea, man only excepted, will be consumed before that august period, of which we are speaking.
It follows then, that rational beings, such as men and angels, are exclusively meant, by the “all things,” which shall be made subject to Christ.
But in what sense, it may be asked, will the whole human race, and apostate spirits ever be put in such subjection?
I answer, that this can never be said of all, in the same sense. Part of the human race will be reduced to a willing subjection. Through the power of God's word and Spirit, they will be brought to love the kingdom of Christ, and cordially submit to his laws. All sin, whether concealed in the heart, or displayed in the life, is a species of warfare, is enmity against God. The heart, full of sensuality, is not and cannot be conformed to the law of God : for whenever it yields to God, it then becomes a new heart, ceases to be prevailingly sensual, and to remain under the reigning power of sin. It is the joy and happiness of a believer's heart, that the Lord sits, as king over all the earth! that he will assuredly influence, restrain, or regulate all his creatures in whatever part of the universe, in such a manner, as is most consistent with infinite wisdom, justice and mercy.
The Christian in the exercise of the temper, which renders him such, earnestly desires, that the Lord may reign forever, and has no inclination to alter the course of his most perfect government. The laws of Christ appear to him absolutely perfect; and it is the deliberate determination of his heart to give up himself, to be ruled by them. When a sinner turns to God, he feels and acknowledges, that he has need of Christ; and that the Gospel, which he has opposed by his disobedience and unbelief, is the only religion which can be satisfactory to an awakened conscience. In this view of the matter, he yields himself to Christ, and the word of his grace, being willing to receive salvation on any conditions, which the Gospel makes known, and to acknowledge himself, as lying entirely at the mercy of God. To use the psalmist's prophetic language, he falls under, and submits himself to Christ, as his conqueror and king. In this way, by a voluntary surrender, will many of Christ's enemies be put under his feet. And all who thus submit, and become obedient subjects, he will exalt to great honor. He that humbleth bimself, shall be exalted.
It is indeed, a sorrowful reflection, that so small a proportion of mankind give any proof of being brought to these terms. It is melancholy to believe, that so large a part of our degenerate race perseveringly rebel against the Prince of Peace. It is not charity, but inattention to the terms of salvation, as they are re
vealed in Scripture, which leads men to think favorably of the spiritual state of the world in general. We have no reason to doubt that the words of Christ, in which he described the state of mankind in his day, are in the highest sense applicable to them at present : Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. Yet we know not, that this state of the moral world is to continue unto the end. There seems much reason to believe, that a day will come before the final consummation of all things, when truth, peace, and righteousness will mightily prevail,when the Spirit of God shall be unusually poured out from on high : When the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills. According to his word, we look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. And perhaps the uncommon exertions which are now making in the various parts of the Christian world, for the propagation of Christianity among the heathen, and among others who are not in a condition to enjoy the established means of grace, may be the instrument of bringing on better days, and of extending the kingdom of Christ. Many may thus be reduced in holy subjection to him, and be brought to serve him, in obedience, all the days of their lives.
But we are not allowed to entertain the comfortable hope, that all are to be reduced in this way : Christ must indeed reign, till he has put all enemies under his feet. All will not however be brought to a willing obedience,-many will remain enemies still. In what sense, can it be said of these, that Christ shall reduce them under his feet? I answer, they will be made to experience that punishment which God's justice has prepared for them who reject his grace. The king will then say: As for these mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me. However opposed they are to the government and person of Christ, they will then feel his irresistible power ; perceive that all their
impious hostilities is ineffectual, and that no one ever hardened himself against God and prospered.
If a whole nation had risen up against the lawful authority of their king, and he by foreign aid had conquered, confined, and disarmed all those who continued unreconciled, there would be the greatest propriety in saying, that he had reduced his subjects.
In like manner those of mankind who die in their sins, though they retain the same perverseness of heart, and the same unwillingness to submit to the commands of Christ, as formerly, will experience the weight of his arm, extended for their punishment. They are now permitted to mix with the rest of men, without bearing any marks of the divine displeasure. favor which God beareth unto his chosen,” is not made manifest, in this life, by the good things, which he bestows on them, but denies to his enemies. And, although God is abundantly able to consume his enemies, in a moment, he bears with them, even when in the most flagrant manner, they violate his laws. They are not put under his feet, either by being brought to a holy and willing obedience, or being made the objects, on which the divine wrath is displayed. But after the resurrection and the decision of the last day, it shall be seen how entirely the enemies of God are within his power. It will be seen that the end of the wicked is, that they should be cut off forever.
Besides ; sinners do in this world, not only themselves neglect the religion, and counteract the laws of Christ, but are instrumental of leading others into the same disobedience : They strengthen the hands of the wicked, and encourage the ungodly, in an evil way. But after the resurrection, when they are confined in that prison, which is prepared for the devil and his angels, and where they shall serve as monuments of God's mighty indignation, they will have no opportunity, of encouraging others to oppose the dominion of Christ. They will be in company with none, but such as are already irrecoverably corrupted. As they have formerly been the instruments of perverting some, and hardening others, their future punishment will be such, as Vol. II.