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Martin Bucer in the beginning of the Reformation, wrote to pious Prince Edward VI., two books of church policy, to which he prefixeth the title De Regno Christi, of the Kingdom of Christ. The complaints poured forth by him at that time against the wise men of this world, and the common sort of people, as enemies to Christ's kingdom, may be now renewed, and with new aggravations; so rare a thing is it in any age to find a people disposed to receive the whole kingdom of the Son of God.
It should not seem strange, that formerly, such as desired to decline the one extreme of prelatical tyranny, having nothing to stay them in their way, nothing in the middle to rest upon and to associate themselves unto, did run to the other extreme of popular anarchy. But now when from the mercy of God, by the advice of the Assembly and authority of Parliament, the case shall be changed and a remedy provided, the people of God will know where to fix their judgment and choice. Can any wise man imagine, that such a chaos of anarchy, libertinism, and popular confusion as now covereth the face of this kingdom, and wherein all errors and sects cover their heads under the Catholic buckler of independency, that such a Tohu Vavohu can be the face of the kingdom of Christ, or the work of the new creation, of which it may be said, "And God saw that it was good." Can any of the godly think that the kingdom of Christ draweth the minds of men from the humble exercise of faith, to the ambition of new and vain opinions; that it transformeth religion into fancy, virtue into speculation, zeal into contention, truth into policy, and charity into faction? Doth not the present posture of religion, and the constitution of the church (which yet is not so independent, as it is by some. desired to be) call as loud for a Reformation, and for settling of religion, as the former did, before a Reformation was begun? And may we not say, that we have spent our strength in vain, and purchased our misery at a great price, if we shall rest where we are, that is, in Independency? I should not exceed, if I should say, were we all agreed in
all things, except in the point of Independency, we would quickly run again into divisions; and that nothing in a family, in a city, in a kingdom, in a state, or in a church, hath more need of Reformation than that independeney which all men in all societies naturally love and seek after. The government of the church by subordination of assemblies hath endured much opposition and many trials, and is at this day set upon at all hands, yet is the proverbial speech of the Hebrews verified concerning it, Myrtus stans inter urticas, myrtus tamen est, et vocatur myrtus, The myrtle standing amongst nettles, is for all that, the myrtle, and is so called; and necessity will drive all that love the preservation of religion and peace of the church unto this shelter and sanctuary at last, although in fair weather some kick against it, and would not only pull at the branches, but pluck it up by the roots. When after all these tempests and troubles the kingdom of Christ is uniformly settled in the land, Christ Jesus will be seen in his beauty and strength, his people will be filled with truth and peace, and the instruments of so good a work, especially such as remove impediments out of the way, shall against all envy and emulation have their own testimony and honour; according to the Hebrew sentence, Nisi ipse elevasset lapidem, non fuisset inventa sub eo hæc margarita, If the stone had not been lifted, the pearl had not been found under it.
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
"Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."— JOHN Xviii. 36, 37.
It is acknowledged, and universally confessed, that justice or righteousness is a noble and most excellent virtue. When the dispute was betwixt justice and fortitude, righteousness and courage, whether of the two should have the first place, both of them being most noble virtues, justice was preferred, because courage without justice is of no use; but if all men were just, there should be no need of courage or fortitude. This justice is a constant and perpetual will of giving unto every one his due: it rendereth to the inferior what is due to him, to the equal what he ought to have, and to the superior, but most of all to God, and to his Son Jesus Christ, who are supreme, what belongeth to them. There be in these days many complaints of the want of military skill and courage for the truth and cause of God; but the complaint of the want of justice is more just, for if all men were just, the former complaint would be silenced. And there be many complaints of inferiors, of equals, and of superiors, that they receive not that which belongeth unto them; but the Son of God, who is supreme and sovereign above all, may more justly complain that he getteth not his right, which is the greatest injustice in the world, and the cause of so great injustice amongst men, and, therefore, the cause of the great wrath of God; which to deprecate
and to turn away we are humbled before God, and do afflict our souls this day. Oh that the conclusion might be a resolution in all, according to their places and callings, to render unto Christ his own right!
This parcel of scripture containing the answer of Jesus Christ unto Pilate, before whom he witnessed a good confession, holdeth forth his right; for being accused by Pilate of the highest degree of ambition, sedition, and rebellion, and indeed of no less then læse-Majestie, he defendeth himself by discovering the causes of these tragedies, and by revealing the mysteries of his kingdom, confessing that he was indeed a king; but withal, showing that his kingdom needed not to be formidable either to Pilate, to his master Tiberius, or to any in authority, because his kingdom was not of this world. This he maketh manifest from the common condition and manner of earthly kingdoms and kings, which have their soldiers and guards that fight for them, and defend them from violence; but he maketh not use of any, this being the end of his kingdom, that the truth of the gospel may prevail and reign in the hearts and lives of men, against the tyranny of darkness and lies. Nor should it seem any thing strange, that he hath so many adversaries, and his kingdom findeth so great opposition in the world, there being so few, whether of the church or state, that submit themselves to be captived and ruled by the truth. None are subjects of his kingdom to obey his voice, but such as by regeneration are the children of the truth, which is parallel to what he saith, "But wisdom is justified of her children," (Matt. xi. 19).
There be four principal points aimed at in the text. First, the dominion and sovereignty of Christ: "My kingdom." Secondly, the condition and quality of the kingdom of Christ, negatively expressed, as best serving his present intention: "My kingdom is not of this world."
Thirdly, the end and use of his kingdom; that the truth may have place among the children of men for their salvation and eternal happiness: "To this end was I born, and
for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth."
Fourthly, the subjects of the kingdom of Christ; such as hear the voice of Christ, and obey his will: "Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice."
The knowledge of the first is necessary, that the Son of God may have his due, and we may be humbled for not rendering it unto him.
The knowledge of the second is necessary, that kings, princes, and great ones in the world, may have what is due unto them, lest from their unjust suspicions, and evilgrounded jealousies, they become enemies to the kingdom of Christ, and that they may be humbled for lodging any such thoughts or fears in their hearts.
The third is necessary to be known, that we may have the benefit intended for us in the gospel, and be humbled, that we have not endeavoured as we ought, to find the comfort and power of the truth in our hearts and lives.
And the fourth is necessary, that we may henceforth shew ourselves to be the children of truth, and willing subjects. of the kingdom of the Son of God.
That Jesus Christ is not only our Prophet, revealing unto us the whole will of God, by the law discovering unto us our sin and wretchedness, and by the gospel righteousness and life; and our Priest, by himself offered in a sacrifice, purging us from sin, and arraying us with long garments, clean and white, which is the righteousness of the saints: but that as our supreme Lord and King, by his mighty power and sovereignty, he ruleth in us and over us, and conserveth and maintaineth our blessed estate thus revealed and purchased, against all enemies, is a truth as necessary for us to know, but never enough acknowledged, so very much insisted on in scripture, as may appear:
First, by the titles of honour and dignity put upon him ; a Commander, a Captain, a Ruler or Governor, a Prince, Michael the great Prince, a King, the Prince of the kings of the earth, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the