by: William Symington
The question of Paul, Is Christ divided? is one to which professing Christians have not given sufficient heed, and the evil consequences are abundantly apparent.
It was deemed essential to the salvation of men that their Redeemer should possess the powers at once of a prophet, a priest, and a king. These offices, while essentially distinct, are necessarily and inseparably connected with one another. Such a union has been by some utterly denied; and its denial has laid foundation for some capital errors which have exerted a pernicious influence on the Christian church. By others it has been criminally overlooked; and the neglect with which it has been treated has occasioned vague and conflicting conceptions regarding the great work of man's deliverance from sin and wrath by the mediation of the Son of God.
If, as we presume will be readily admitted, the whole of Christ's offices are necessary to the salvation of fallen man, it follows that they are all essential to the character of the Savior, and that, of course, we cannot suppose him to have existed for a moment without any one of them as this would suppose him to have been, for the time at least, no Savior. This fearful result might itself be deemed sufficient to put Christians on their guard against fancying either that Christ was invested with his different offices at different times, or that he acts at one time according to one and at another time according to another. From the very first he must have possessed the powers of all his offices; and in every part of his work all must have come into operation. For example, when he taught his disciples, he acted not only as a prophet, but also as a priest and a king; inasmuch as the doctrine which he taught brought fully to view his sacerdotal character, and the authority with which his instructions were enforced distinctly recognized his regal power. Again, when as a priest he offered himself a spotless sacrifice to God, he gave to the world as a prophet a new revelation of the character of God, and of the principles of the divine moral government; at the same time that as a king he triumphed gloriously over his enemies. In like manner, his royal achievements not only manifest his majesty and his power, but serve to publish the clemency of his grace, and to recognize the merit of his atoning sacrifice as the ground on which they proceed.
This doctrine of inseparable union does not by any means confound the distinction subsisting between the various offices of our Mediator, any more than the union of persons in the Godhead amounts to a denial of the essential distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; or than the union of natures in the person of the Son of God is at variance with the ascription by the inspired writers of some things to the one nature, and of other things to the other nature. Without confounding the distinction between them, we may, therefore, safely maintain the inseparable union of Christ's mediatonal offices—a union which obtained in every pain he endured, and in every act he performed or will ever perform in behalf of the elect; and which it becomes the believer joyfully and gratefully to recognize and acknowledge, as the absence of any one of them would disqualify him for performing the work of our redemption.
In proceeding to consider the kingly office of Christ, it is to be borne in mind that it stands in inseparable connection with his sacerdotal office. He sits a Priest upon his throne. Nor will any enlightened subject of Zion's King feel that there is any incongruity, in his case at least, between the miter and the crown, the altar and the throne, the censer and the scepter, the smoking incense and the shout of victory. "We have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens" (Heb. 4:14). "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Heb. 10:1213).
The kingly office of Christ forms an interesting part of the Christian system, and as such both merits and requires extensive illustration. We may judge of its importance from the frequency with which Christ is spoken of in the sacred writings under the character of a King. Is the advent of Messiah announced to the ancient church? It is in these words: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy KING cometh unto thee" (Zech. 9:9). Are the members of the church invited to behold his excellencies? Such is the character in which he is discovered: "Go forth, O ye daughters of Zion, and behold KING Solomon, with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in the day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart" (Song of Sol. 3:11). Is a gracious discovery of the Savior promised? It is thus conveyed: "Thine eyes shall see the KING in his beauty" (Isa. 33:17). Are the saints required to exult in the Redeemer? It is in these terms: "Let the children of Zion be joyful in their KING" (Ps. 149:2). Does the believer record the effect produced by some singular manifestation of the divine presence to his soul? This is his language: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the KING, the Lord of hosts" (Isa. 6:5). Or is the church required to celebrate the ascension of her Lord? In strains borrowed from the triumphant entrance of an earthly monarch into the capital of his kingdom, she exclaims: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the KING of glory shall come in" (Ps. 24:7).
Such being the frequent allusion made in the Scriptures to this particular feature of the Savior's character, an examination into the mediatorial government of Christ presents peculiar attractions to every true disciple of Jesus; and as the theme is ample, as well as inviting, it requires the patient, candid, and believing attention of all who would be wise unto salvation.
The sovereign authority of Christ may be viewed either as necessary, or as official. Viewing him as God, it is necessary, inherent, and underived: viewing him as Mediator, it is official and delegated. It is the latter of these we are now to contemplate. The subject of our present inquiry is, the MEDIATORJAL DOMINION of the Son; not that which essentially belongs to him as God, but that with which, by the authoritative act of the Father, he has been officially invested as the Messiah. It is that government, in short, which was laid upon his shoulders—that power which was given unto him in heaven and in earth.
In proceeding to the consideration of this interesting and momentous subject, the first thing which claims attention is the NECESSITY of Christ's kingly office. This takes precedence of all other points, inasmuch as its establishment will tend to prepare for the more careful investigation of the other parts of the subject, by impressing the mind with a higher sense of its importance. "For he MUST reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet" (1 Cor. 15:25).
1. The kingly office of Christ is necessary to the fulfillment of God's gracious purposes respecting the elect. The right of dominion over all things necessarily belongs to him as God. Had his kingdom embraced nothing but the material and the moral worlds, generally considered, there should have been no room, because no need, for the mediatorial rule, all the purposes of his government being perfectly subserved by his essential control as God. But there is something else than the material and moral world, generally considered, under the government of the Almighty. Man, having broken the original moral constitution under which he was placed, and become liable in consequence to judicial displeasure and punishment, and God having determined to rescue a number of the human family from the fearful consequences of such a state, that this might be done honorably and successfully, it became necessary that the government of these, and of others on their account, should be committed to him who was chosen to be their Savior. God, from the very perfection of his nature, could not in his absolute character deal with rebel sinners in any way with a view to their salvation. In this character he must seek their punishment for he is just: and not only could he not procure or offer pardon and deliverance from the curse of the broken covenant, but he could not even bestow it, nor could he actually deliver them, or conduct them to any of the blessings of salvation. Hence the necessity of another being appointed, not only to purchase and to offer redemption through his blood, but to apply it, to give it effect, to bestow the benefits of grace on the destined subjects of salvation.
2. Indeed, to complete the mediatory character itself, such an office was requisite. Jesus, the chosen of God, is of course a perfect Savior. But this he could not be without being invested with regal dignity and power. The work given him to do, supposes him to be so invested. It is SALVATION; and what is that? It is not merely, as we are apt to suppose, paying a ransom by which the claims of the divine moral government shall be satisfied; it is not merely making announcement that such satisfaction has been given and accepted, and offering redemption to the guilty on this ground. These are certainly important and essential parts of salvation; nor would we be understood as wishing to disparage either the one or the other. No; we can never enough appreciate or extol them. Still they do not, in themselves, constitute salvation; if there were nothing more, not a single sinner could ever be saved. The ransom must be applied as well as paid; the offer must be not only made, but accepted; and to secure this the Mediator must be invested with regal power.
Each office of Christ has its own peculiar province in which it is essential and indispensable. Generally speaking, it may be said that his province as a priest is to purchase; as a prophet, to publish; as a king, to apply. In the first, he procures; in the second, he makes known; in the third, he gives effect. They are all alike essential: not one of them can be dispensed with. The regal office can as easily be supposed to supersede the sacerdotal or the prophetical, as the sacerdotal or the prophetical can be supposed to supersede the regal. It were absurd to talk of applying what had not been procured; but not less so to talk of procuring what could not be applied.
Let us, for the sake of illustrating and confirming the point under consideration, try what consequences would follow from supposing government or dominion to be expunged from the mediatorial functions of Christ. As priest, he makes atonement for the sins of the chosen of God, procures pardon, purchases deliverance from condemnation, pays the ransom due for their sins, and completely removes all legal obstructions to their salvation. As priest, also, he represents their case to the Father, pleads the merits of his sacrifice, and expresses his will that they may be put in possession of the purchased benefits of redemption; and the Father is pleased to hear and sustain the validity of his claims. As prophet, he makes known to men that all this has been done, informs them plainly that the curse of the law has been removed, God reconciled, and heaven opened for their reception.
Yet will these avail for their salvation? All this may be conceived to be done, and yet not one sinner rescued from the pit, not one rebel restored to the favor of the Almighty, not one child of Adam exalted to glory. Without something more, the benefit arising from these interpositions is lost; without another office, the functions of these two are neutralized. Without regal authority, the sacrifice, however meritorious, has no power; the intercession, however powerful, has no efficacy; the doctrine, however clear, has no saving influence; and the Son of God must be content to see the whole human race perish for ever in their sins, as if his blood had never been either shed on Calvary, or carried within the veil. Such being the case, we can appreciate the import of the answer returned by the Savior to the question of Pilate: "Art thou a king then? Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world" (John 18:37).
This view of the necessity of the kingly office in particular to the perfection of the others, agrees well with the account given in Scripture of the work of the Messiah. The purchase of redemption having been effected, the ransom for sin paid, the decease at Jerusalem accomplished, what step does he take next? Does he surrender all further concern in the salvation of men? Does he abandon all mediatorial actings, and retire into the bosom of the Father? No. Follow him in his ascension to heaven; see him pressing forward into the presence of God and presenting his petition, "Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee" (John 17:1). Ere it is asked it is granted. This is the address with which the Father salutes him as he enters the heavenly places not made with hands: "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Ps. 110:1). As if he had said to him—Thou hast established thy right to that rebel world: I surrender the government of it into thy hands: go through it and find out thy redeemed: gather them from the four winds of heaven: for this purpose institute ordinances, promulgate laws, issue commands, appoint servants, subordinate whatever exists to the gracious and magnificent ends of thine appointment. And what is the result? Why, the miter becomes a crown; the censer a scepter; the Mediator passes from the altar to the throne; heaven becomes at once a temple and a palace, while its walls echo with the loud acclaim of welcome bursting spontaneously from the whole celestial host to the newly inaugurated monarch.
3. The kingly dignity of the Mediator is necessary, as a reward of his obedience unto the death. Never was service so meritorious, whether we consider the sacrifice made or the end contemplated. In estimating the sacrifice made in performing this service, we must remember that the Son of God left the bosom of his heavenly Father, the region of uncreated light, and all the attractions of celestial society; that he put the essential splendor of his perfections in eclipse, and assumed the likeness of sinful flesh; that he tabernacled with men on the earth, and there submitted to poverty, reproach, and pain; that he endured the persecution of men and devils, and suffered the most awful and mysterious agony, springing from the hiding of his Father's countenance. Then, the end contemplated was nothing less than this: that men might be saved from everlasting destruction, made fit for heaven, reinstated in the society of angels and of one another, and restored to the favor of God. When or where was there ever service to compare with that of Christ? Who ever delivered from misery so profound? Who ever exalted to bliss so dignified? Who ever made sacrifices so self-denied in order to accomplish a benevolent undertaking? Here is merit transcendent, overwhelming, which beggars description and sets comparison at defiance.
Should not such service be rewarded? Every principle of moral rectitude says that it should. "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26). This is not more a maxim of inspiration than a dictate of right moral feeling; and with this the stipulations of the eternal covenant, inspired predictions, the testimony of the Mediator himself, and the assertions of his apostles, all cordially harmonize.
But in what shall this merited reward consist? Not merely in the satisfaction of his own bosom, and the approbation of his heavenly Father. These are great, indeed, but they are not enough. They are inward, and, however fit to be appreciated by the Savior himself, inadequate for giving expression to others of a sense of the value of his work. There must be something substantial, visible, outwardly glorifying, in the mediatorial reward; something to attract the notice, and call forth the applause of men and angels. Regal exaltation, absolute and unlimited, meets exactly the requirements of the case. If men who have been faithful over a few things are to be rewarded by being made "rulers over many things," surely it is due to him who, "as a Son, has been faithful, like Moses, over all his house," that he be made "ruler over all." Having, as a part of his humiliation, suffered himself to be made subject to rulers, to be placed at their bar, to be judged by their laws, to be counted worthy of death by their unrighteous decree, it is fitting that, in reward of what he has effected, he should be invested with sovereign rule over the princes of this world, and, in his turn, demand of them obedience to his authority, punish them for their proud and obstinate rebellion, and subordinate all their measures and movements to the gracious purposes of his reign.
4. Nor is this dominion less requisite to counteract the opposition made to the work of man's salvation by its enemies. "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." That a work of such grace and benevolence as that of man's salvation should provoke hostility, seems strange; but it is not more strange than true. It has many enemies—enemies to its internal operations in the heart; and enemies to its outward administration in the world. Against those internal operations in the heart which salvation supposes, there rise up a host of adversaries. The law, as a covenant of works, by demanding the punishment of the guilty violator, slays the peace of the soul. Indwelling corruptions wage incessant warfare against the quickening, sanctifying, and comforting work of the Spirit. "I find then a law that when I would do good, evil is present with me" (Rom. 7:21). Satan and his emissaries, numerous, subtle, and powerful, assail by their temptations, accusations, and persecutions. "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Eph. 6:12). The world, with its allurements and terrors, its smiles and frowns, tries to undermine the principles of stability. "Because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19). Death, by threatening to execute the curse of the broken covenant, awakens slavish fears; deprives of tranquility; maintains in ignoble and distracting bondage. He must be a king in order to threaten to hold the body in corruption, and then to engulf in final ruin both soul and body for ever: "to deliver them who, through fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:15).
In opposition to the outward administration of the work of Christ in the world, also, a whole host of enemies stand forth. Wilful ignorance, unblushing infidelity, hardened profanity, open idolatry, Mohammedan delusion, Jewish obstinacy, anti-Christian domination, and civil misrule, form a combined phalanx of portentous breadth and depth; an unholy alliance of discordant materials, yet breathing only one spirit of determined enmity to the reign of Christ in the world, and resolved to prevent the progress, and, if possible, to effect the extermination of his kingdom by every means in their power.
Are these enemies to meet with no resistance? Is the kingdom of the Messiah to fall a prey to their rapacious hatred, and that of his great arch-enemy to be erected on its ruins? Certainly not. It is the prayer of every saint that they may meet with a signal defeat. The honor of the Savior himself demands their final overthrow; and the Word of God assures us that such shall be the ultimate issue of the contest. By whom is this end to be brought about, but by the Messiah himself? "My sword," says he, "shall be bathed in heaven: behold it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the Lord is filled with blood; it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea" (Isa. 34:5-6). "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? This that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine-fat? I have trodden the wine-press alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shalt be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come" (Isa. 63:1-4).
To the accomplishment of this work, investment with regal power and authority is indispensable. In this capacity it is that Jesus encounters his enemies. It is not on the white horse merely, but on the red, the black, and the pale, that he goes forth conquering and to conquer, and bearing back with him from the field of battle the palm of victory. Nor is there anything in this at variance with his general character as Mediator. The Savior of his people, and the conqueror of their foes, are not incompatible features. The prosperity of the people of God is intimately connected with the destruction of their enemies. These things go necessarily hand in hand. At the deluge, the preservation of the true seed and the destruction of those who had corrupted their ways, were inseparably conjoined. The rescue of the Israelites from Egypt stood connected with the overthrow of the Egyptians; and when the Jews were restored from Babylon their Chaldean oppressors were spoiled.
5. The kingly office is not less necessary to meet the needy circumstances of Christ's own people. They are all of them, by nature, rebels, enemies to Christ, both in their minds and by wicked works; their bosoms rankle with every hostile feeling; the carnal mind is enmity against God, and by nature all are carnal, sold under sin. It is not possible, such being the case, that they should embrace of themselves the overtures of reconciliation, accept without hesitation the offers of mercy, and acquiesce with cordiality and esteem in the terms of salvation. No; they treat them with despite, they spurn them from them with scorn. They must be reconciled—they must be made willing—their imaginations must be brought down. And how but by the Savior's rod of omnipotent strength sent forth out of Zion; by the irresistible scepter of his grace, swayed with authority for this very end; by the sharp arrows of conviction which penetrate the heart of the King's enemies only when propelled by him whose right hand teaches terrible things, and who in regal majesty rides prosperously because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness!
They are all by nature guilty, and stand in need of pardon; but to dispense forgiveness is a royal prerogative, and Christ could never have exercised it had he not been a king. They are naturally unruly, and need to be governed; nor can they frame or execute laws for themselves—the Lord is their lawgiver; and to promulgate laws, to enact statutes, belongs to one invested with regal dignity. They are, moreover, weak and defenseless; exposed to the combined opposition of the enemies formerly specified, they have in themselves no ability to withstand either their artifices or their strength; that he may not only restrain and conquer all their enemies, but rule and defend themselves, Christ must hold the office of a king.
Such is the varied necessity that exists for the regal office of the Mediator. A review of the several points by which it is established may serve to strengthen our conviction of the importance attaching to this feature of the character of our Redeemer. Without Christ's kingly work, the gracious purposes of God could not be executed; the mediatorial character itself would not be complete; the work of salvation must continue unrewarded; the enemies of truth and holiness should finally triumph, and the necessities of the children of God remain for ever unsupplied. Such things cannot—shall not be. "The Lord is our king, and he will save us" (Isa. 33: 22). The exalted Redeemer is at once a "Prince and a Savior" (Acts 5:31).
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