« ZurückWeiter »
with which they eminently served Jesus Christ. " Oh blessed victory, (says Meyer,) where the conqueror and conquered both triumph together!” And thus enemies and rebels are subdued, and made subjects of the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Hence, Jesus Christ exercises a kingly power over the souls of
all whom the Gospel subdues to his obedience. No sooner were the Colossians delivered out of the power of darkness, than they were translated into the kingdom of Christ, the Son. Col. 1: 13. This kingdom of Christ, which is our present subject, is the internal spiritual kingdom, said to be within the saints: "The kingdom of God is within you.” Luke, 17:20, 21. Christ sits as an enthroned King in the hearts, consciences, and affections of his willing people. Psalm 110: 3. And his kingdom consists in " righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Rom. 14: 17.
In the prosecution of this point, I will show how Christ obtains the throne in the hearts of men; how he rules in it and by what acts he exercises his kingly authority; and what are the privileges of those over whom he reigns.
I. We will show how Christ obtains a throne in the hearts of men, and that is by conquest : for though the souls of the redeemed are his by donation and right of redemption, the Father having given them to him, and he died for them; yet Satan has the first possession. As it was with Abraham, to whom God gave the land of Canaan by promise and covenant, yet the Canaanites, Perizzites, and sons of Anak, had the actual possession of it, and Abraham's posterity must fight for it, and win it before they enjoy it. The house is conveyed to Christ by him that built it, but the strong man armed keeps possession of it, till a stronger than he comes and casts him out. Luke, 11 : 20-22. Christ must fight his way into the soul, though he have a right to enter, as
into his dearly purchased possession. And so he does ; for when the time of recovering them is come, he sends forth his armies to subdue them; as Psalm 110: 3, " Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." The Hebrew may as fitly be rendered, and so is by some, "in the day of thine armies;" when the Lord Jesus sent forth his armies of prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, under the conduct of his Spirit, armed with that two-edged sword, the word of God, which is sharp and powerful. Heb. 4:12. But that is not all : he causes armies of convictions and spiritual troubles to begird and straiten them on every side, so that they know not what to do. These convictions, like a shower of arrows, strike into their consciences ; "When they heard this, they were pricked to the heart, and said, "Men and brethren, what shall we do ?" Acts, 2 : 37. Christ's arrows are sharp in the hearts of his enemies, whereby the people fall under him. Psalm 45: 5, 6. By these convictions he batters down all their vain hopes, and levels them with the earth. Now all their weak pleas and defences, from the general mercy of God, the example of others, &c. prove but as paper walls. These shake their hearts, even to the very foundation, and overturn every high thought that exalts itself against the Lord.
The day in which Christ summons the soul by such messengers as these, is a day of distress within ; yea, such a day of trouble, that none is like it. But though it be so, yet Satan hath so deeply intrenched himself in the mind and will, that the soul yields not at the first summons, till its provisions within are spent, and all its towers of pride and walls of vain confidence be undermined by the Gospel, and shaken down; and then the soul sees its need of Christ. Oh, now it would be glad of terms, any terms, if it may but save its life ; let all go as a prey to the conqueror.
Now it sends many
such messages às these to Christ, who is come now to the very gates of the soul; Mercy, Lord, mercy, oh were I but assured thou wouldst receive, spare, and pardon me, I would open to thee the next moment ! Thus the soul is "shut up to the faith of Christ,” Gal. 3:23, reduced to the greatest strait and loss; and now the merciful King, whose only design is to conquer the heart, hangs forth the white flag of mercy before the soul, giving hope that it shall be spared, pitied, and pardoned, though so long in rebellion against him, if yet it will yield itself to Christ.
Many doubts, fears, half-resolves, reasonings for and against, there are at the council-table of man's own heart at this time. Sometimes there is no hope; Christ will slay me, if I go forth to him; and then it trembles. But then, who ever found him so that tried him? Other souls have yielded, and found mercy beyond all their expectations. Oh, but I have been a desperate enemy against him. Admit it, yet thou hast the word of the King for it : "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isa. 55 : 7. But the time of mercy is past, I have stood out too long. Yet if it were so, how is it that Christ has not made short work, and sunk me into the flames of hell ? Still he waits that he may be gracious, and is exalted that he may have compassion.
A thousand such debates arise, till at last, the soul considering, if it abide in rebellion, it must perish; if it go forth to Christ, it can but perish : and being encouraged by the messages of grace sent into the soul at this time, such as Heb. 7: 25, " Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him ;” and John, 6 : 37, " He that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out ;' and Matt. 11 : 28,
Come unto me,
that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" it is, at last, resolved to open to Christ. Now, the will spontaneously receives Christ; that royal fort submits and yields; all the affections open to him. Concerning the triumphant entrance of Christ into the soul, we may say, as the psalmist rhetorically speaks concerning the triumphant entrance of Israel into Canaan, "The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? Thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?" Psa. 114:5, 6. So here, in the like rhetorical triumph, we may say, the mountains and hills skipped like rams: the fixed and obstinate will starts from its own basis and centre; the rocky heart rends in twain. A poor soul comes into the world, full of ignorance, pride, self-love, desperate hardness, and fixed resolutions to go on in its way; and, by an hour's discourse, the tide turns, Jordan is driven back. What ailed thee, thou stout will, that thou surrenderest to Christ ! thou hard heart, that thou relentest, and the waters gush out? And thus the soul is won to Christ ; he writes down his terms, and the soul willingly subscribes them. Thus it comes to Christ by free and hearty submission, desiring nothing more than to live under the government of Christ for the time to come.
II. Let us see how Christ rules in the souls of such as submit to him. There are six things in which he exerts his kingly authority over them.
1. He imposes a new law upon them, and enjoins the strictest obedience. The soul before could endure no restraint; its lusts gave it laws. We ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, serving divers lusts and pleasures.” Tit. 3 : 3. Whatever the flesh craved, and the sensual appetite longed after, it must have, cost what it would ; even if damnation were the price of it. Now, it must not be any longer " without law to God; but under law to Christ.” These are the articles of peace
which the soul willingly subscribes in the day of its admission to mercy,
my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” Matt. 11:29. This " law of the spirit of life, which is in Christ Jesus, makes them free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 8 : 2. Here is much strictness, but no bondage; for the law is not only written in Christ's statute-book, the Bible, but copied out by his Spirit upon the hearts of his subjects, in correspondent principles; which makes obedience a pleasure, and self-denial easy. Christ's " yoke is easy." ' His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John, 5 : 3. The soul that comes under Christ's government must receive law from Christ; and under law every thought of the heart must come.
2. He rebukes and chastises souls for the violation and transgression of his law. That is another act of Christ's regal authority: "Whom he loves he rebukes and chastens.” Heb. 12:6, 7. These chastisements of Christ are either upon their bodies and outward comforts by the rod of providence, or upon their spirits and inward comforts. Sometimes his rebukes are smart upon the outward man. "For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." 1 Cor. 11:30. They had not that due regard to his body that became them, and he will make their bodies to smart for it. And he had rather their flesh should smart, than their souls should perish. Sometimes he spares their outward, and afflicts their inner man, which is a much smarter rod. He withdraws peace, and takes away joy from the spirits of his people. The hidings of his face are sore rebukes. However, all is for their benefit, not their destruction. And it is not the least privilege of Christ's subjects to have a seasonable and sanctified rod to restore them from the ways of sin, Psalm 23:3; while others are suffered to go on stubbornly in the way of their own hearts.