by A. A. Hodge
HIS OFFICES OF PROPHET AND OF PRIEST
I AM to open this afternoon the great subject of the Offices of Christ. In the last Lecture we discussed the great mystery of his Person as God and man in two distinct natures and one Person for ever. These three, Christ's Person, his Office and his Work, are absolutely inseparable. One of them cannot be understood as separated from the other two. He assumed humanity and became God and man in one Person in order that he might assume his office as Mediator between the holy God and sinful man, and his office and work are alike inconceivable except when viewed in connection with the unparalleled constitution and comprehensive range of his Person.
I. The office of Christ as Mediator is obviously one. He occupies the whole of it at the same time. He discharges exhaustively all the parts of it. All its parts have one end, and are mutually interdependent. The English word "office" unfortunately has come to have two meanings. In ordinary usage it stands for a concrete whole, a man occupying a position defined by law, involving many correlated functions, as the office of judge or of governor or of president. But, nevertheless, it continues to be used in its ancient classical meaning of function or duty, the exercise of which is involved in the office. This distinction is well marked by the Latin words munus and officium. The munus expresses the position defined by law, involving a destination and obligation to the accomplishment of a certain work. Officium, on the other hand, expresses the idea of function. Thus, Christ undertook but one munus or office, that of Mediator between God and man, in order to secure the salvation of his elect. But in doing this he necessarily discharges all the officia or functions which the work necessarily involves. The munus or office of Mediator involves all the three functions of the prophet, of the priest and of the king. These are not separate offices, as are those of president, chief-justice and senator, but they are the several functions of the one office of Mediator. They are not separate functions capable of successive and isolated performance. They are rather like the several functions of the one living human body—as of the lungs in inhalation, as of the heart in blood-circulation, and as of the brain and spinal column in innervation; they are functionally distinct, yet interdependent, and together they constitute one life. So the functions of prophet, priest and king mutually imply one another: Christ is always a prophetical Priest and a priestly Prophet, and he is always a royal Priest and a priestly King, and together they accomplish one redemption, to which all are equally essential.
All these functions, moreover, equally involve the possession and exercise by Christ of the attributes of both his divine and his human natures. It was necessary that he should be God in order that he should be the original Prophet of prophets and Teacher of teachers of the secrets of the divine will; that he should as Priest and Sacrifice render an obedience in the stead of men which he did not owe for himself, and render by his vicarious sufferings a satisfaction to the justice of God of expiatory value equal to the sufferings of all men to all eternity; and that as King he should reign in the hearts and over the lives and destinies of all his people. It was no less necessary that he should be man in order that he should take man's place and obey and suffer in man's stead, and that he should become "a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people;" so that he himself, having suffered, being tempted, "is able to succor them that are tempted" (Heb. 2:17, 18).
II. This office or munus, having for its end the complete salvation of sinful men, is designated in the New Testament by two comprehensive titles: (1) Μεσίτης, Mediator. This is applied in a lower sense to Moses, as a mere messenger or go-between, through whom the law was given to the Church from Sinai (Gal. 3:19, 20). But it is applied in the highest sense to Christ, as the efficient Peacemaker, the Daysman, having full power to make the peace between God and man, and to deliver man efficaciously and with infallible certainty from all his dangers (1 Tim. 2:5, 6). (2) The second and more comprehensive title applied in Scripture to this great undertaking of Christ is παράκλητος, Paraclete. The word paraclete is the Greek equivalent for the Latin advocatus, advocate. The words ad-vocate and παρά-κλητος mean one called in to help. The Roman "client," the poor and dependent man, called in his "patron" to help him in all his needs. The patron thought for, advised, directed, supported, defended, supplied the necessities of, restored, comforted his client in all his complications.
The client, however weak, with a powerful patron was socially and politically secure for ever. We are lost, we have nothing, and we need everything. We are guilty, righteously condemned, held under sentence. We are ignorant, blind, weak, helpless. Christ undertakes for us just as we are, and he does everything for us as our Advocate or Paraclete, called in to help us and deliver us. If any man sin, he has a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1). But even Christ cannot do the whole work alone. So when the Saviour, having finished his earthly work, was ready to depart, he said to his disciples, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another παράκλητος (Paraclete, Advocate, unhappily translated Comforter), that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth" (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). In this munus or office of saving men the incarnate God-man and the Holy Ghost work together, the function of one being as essential as that of the other, and mutually depending upon that of the other. The God-man is our Patron, who undertakes for us in the functions of teaching, redeeming and ruling. The Holy Ghost is our other or co-ordinate Paraclete or Advocate, who unites us to Christ by dwelling in us, communicating his life to us, and executing in us all the beneficial and sacrificially merited stages and elements of Christ's salvation. The two are together our perfect Paraclete. The one is our objective, external, transcendent Paraclete, sitting in, and reigning from, the heavens; the other is our subjective, internal, immanent Paraclete, dwelling in us and inspiring in us a divine life and hope.
The essential parts of our salvation are regeneration, justification, sanctification, resurrection, glorification. These obviously involve, upon the part of the two divine Persons who together have undertaken the munus of our salvation, the distinct offices or functions of making reconciliation by atonement, of intercession and introduction to the Father, of teaching, of reigning over and disciplining the individual and the community of which he forms a part, and finally of quickening to life and communicating to the regenerate sinner his part in the benefits of Christ's work, and preserving and perfecting him therein. These are distributed under the heads of the threefold functions of Christ as Prophet, as Priest and as King, and of the functions of the Holy Ghost, the immanent Paraclete ever dwelling in the hearts of his people.
III. The Function or Office of Christ as Prophet.—A prophet is one who speaks for another. In religious concerns a prophet is one who speaks to men for God. Hence he must be for this purpose a seer, one who sees, and therefore knows, and hence is qualified to speak in God's name. The absolutely necessary qualifications for the office are competent information, adequate powers of expression and unquestionable authority.
Every human prophet necessarily presupposes an infinite, eternal, divine Prophet from whom his knowledge is received, just as every stream presupposes a fountain from which it flows. As there must be a first mover in all movement and a first cause in all efficient causation, so there must be a first Teacher of all teachers and a supreme Lord of all lords.
Father, Son and Holy Ghost are equal in knowledge as well as in power and glory—equal, i. e., both in the sense of originality and of universal comprehension. All things involved in the divine Being; all things spontaneously emergent in the divine imagination; all things embraced in the divine purpose; all things that have been or shall be actually existent in the past, present or future,—are all in their inmost essences, as well as in their phenomena, present within the universal sweep of the intuitional consciousness of God for ever. But it is the function of the second Person in the constitutional economy of the Trinity to communicate objectively any portion of this divine knowledge to his intelligent creatures. He is the eternal Word of God. He, as to his divine nature, is the express image of the Godhead, otherwise invisible, and he is the radiant glory of the divine essence. No man hath seen God at any time save the Son and he to whom the Son reveals him. He that hath seen Christ, the incarnate Word, hath seen the Father. He is at once the Word in God, for eternally the Word was with God, and he is the Word from God, exhibiting the glories of God in the whole range of creations, providences and objective revelations. All the lights of nature, the broken fragments of tradition, the secrets of the ethnic temples, the wisdom of the schools, the crescent moons of philosophy, science and the arts, the broader daylight of modern civilization,—all these, and far more than these, the brightest constellations of supernatural revelation, the rising sun of the inspired Scriptures from the first dawn growing brighter and brighter to the perfect day, and the unparalleled radiance of the celestial throne within the circle of which the archangels stand,—all these are but the reflections of His inexhaustible light whose function it is to make manifest the otherwise hidden light of God.
But as in all vision there most meet at once the complementary gifts of light and eyes—light the instrument and medium, eyes the organs—so in this communication of the light of God to his creatures the complementary functions of Christ radiating the light and of the Holy Ghost opening the intellectual and spiritual eyes must meet together. And especially in the case of fallen men, where this spiritual vision has been lost, the subjective eye-opening work of the Spirit is the more necessary. And these two have been working together in this prophetical function of the work of human redemption from the first. Abraham saw the day of Christ, and all the prophets spoke of him. The priesthoods of Aaron and of Melchizedek, the temple service in all its parts, were shadows of which his Person and work were the substance. The Spirit of Christ testified within all these holy prophets, and inspired their words and generated their religious experience, which in their immortal psalms have become normal to the Christians of all times. After his incarnation Christ's human nature became the most effective organ through which his teaching function was wrought out. His all-perfect human life, standing alone, the conspicuous anomaly of all history, is the transcendent lesson he has taught us—a lesson, alike as to the nature and prerogatives of God, and as to the possibilities and responsibilities of man, which after the lapse of nearly two millenniums remains the acknowledged lesson of all the ages, acknowledged as well by foe as friend. In the appointed testimony of the twelve apostles, in the inspired text of the New Testament, in the special dispensation of grace which has led his Church forth through all the changes of two thousand years, in his general providence comprehending the evolution of all nations, in the ceaseless, everywhere active operations of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, in the new light breaking in upon each wondering soul at death, and in the revelation of unutterable things in the third heavens of which Paul had a transient glimpse which it is not lawful for a man on earth to utter,—Christ has been fulfilling the teaching function of his great work as Redeemer. And throughout all the eternal ages he will never cease. In the New Jerusalem, the city of gold and crystal, wherein the unending career of God's perfected sons shall be continuously run, he will still continue the inexhaustible Source of all their knowing. For for ever and for ever "the Lamb is the light thereof."
Even in this life this precious office of Christ in behalf of his people surpasses all estimate. It is to be feared that while taking refuge under our Lord's mediation as Priest, Christians now-a-days make far too little of his function in them as Prophet. The condition of our experiencing the full measure of this benefit is, that we should implicitly submit our whole intellects to him as our Teacher, that we follow him without question in our thinking as much as in our acting; that the entire encyclopædia of human knowledge be brought under the regimen of his teaching; and that his doctrine in every department of thought be central and regulative to all other truth. On this condition, and on this condition only, he will grant us that unction from the Holy One whereby we shall know all things (1 John 2:20). Spiritual-mindedness is the crowning grace of a Christian character, and is the unquestionable evidence of the presence of eternal life. A new and celestial light is let in broadly over the whole horizon of our thought. The entire rational world is transfigured. Even in the case of some of the intellectually least highly endowed of Christ's people the telescope of faith reveals the deepest and most ravishing secrets of his kingdom. Just as in the material astronomy the telescope of highest power takes into its field the narrowest segment of the sky, so in the disclosures our divine Prophet makes to his redeemed on earth often the intensest insight into the glowing centre of the heavenly world is vouchsafed to those whom the world regards pitifully as the unlearned and foolish, and whom even the Church recognizes as only babes in Christ.
IV. The Office of Christ as Priest.—The unity of the human race and the universal sense of sin are proved by the fact that in all ages and nations all historical religions provide a priesthood to stand between God and his worshiper. A priest is a man divinely chosen, qualified and authorized to appear before God and to act in behalf of men. A prophet, we have seen, comes down from God manward. A priest goes up from man Godward. Bishop Butler (Analogy, pt. ii. ch. 5) and Michaelis declare that the universal prevalence of priests and piacular sacrifices demonstrates the existence of a sensus communis essential to human nature as it now is, establishing the facts of human guilt, of divine justice, and of the absolute need of mediation and expiation. The entire state of the case stands pictured to us in the Jewish ritual with the utmost vividness as in a vast historical object-lesson. God created man in his own likeness; a weak creature, but with the potency of the highest powers, with the possibilities of the grandest destinies, and consequently the responsibility of maintaining a record and of achieving a character in conformity to the law of absolute moral perfection, armed with the alternative sanctions of the blessing of God which is life, or the curse of God which is death. Man, abusing all the conditions of a favorable probation, sinned, and fell under the inexorable condemnation of the immutable law which sways the moral universe in all cycles and in all realms. The judgment of this law was immediately and consistently executed upon the entire existent human race, inwardly in the conscience of man and outwardly in the providence of God. Ashamed, conscious of his defilement and nakedness, afraid, conscious of his guilt and alienation from God, man was driven out of the garden to wrestle with the wild forces of nature for a living, under the frown of God. Death and pain seized him, and the farther he wandered through the continents and down the ages, the farther he went from God, the more corrupt his nature and hopeless his condition. All along this line the Spirit of God strove with men, and under his inspiration men chose their best and wisest and sent them up to God as priests, with gifts and the blood of atoning sacrifices in their hands, if by any means per-adventure God's justice could be satisfied and his just wrath appeased.
All this ritual of mediation and of expiation was gathered together into one divinely-ordered system in the Mosaic tabernacle and ceremonial institution made in all things according to the pattern God showed to Moses in the mount (Heb. 8:5). All members of the human family, as such, were judicially excluded from the divine favor and presence. But as God graciously purposed to redeem men and restore them to life in union with himself on certain conditions, he forthwith graciously selected the Israelites out of all the nations of the earth, and made them, in behalf of all nations, a priestly nation to represent all nations before God, and ultimately to be the organ of the reconciliation and restoration of all. Out of the nation of priests he chose the tribe of Levi to be a priestly tribe, to represent the whole nation before God and to act as the organ of its communion with God. Out of the tribe of Levi he chose the family of Aaron to be in the strictest sense the priestly order in successive generations, and of this family of priests the head by the law of primogeniture was the one high priest, in whom the whole body of priests, and through them the whole tribe and nation, and through them all the families of man on earth, are ceremonially summed up—who is the one absolute priest, the one adequate type of Christ, able to perform in his own person every part of the typical service.
According to this symbolism, God, although he is omnipresent and everywhere active in his natural relation, yet as Moral Governor and Source of spiritual life is withdrawn from the world and sits apart. But to give visible objective expression to his willingness to have men brought back to his favor and fellowship, he directed Moses to erect a tabernacle, afterward rendered permanent in the magnificent temple of Solomon—a place of meeting and communing between God and man (Ex. 25:22). This sanctuary was essentially a large parallelogram embracing three successive courts. The inner one of all, called the Most Holy Place, was entirely enclosed, shut in darkness, a perfect cube. Here God sat alone enthroned over the ark of the covenant, the foundation of his throne, containing the moral law expressed in the ten commandments, which were at once the foundation of his own government and his official indictment of all men as condemned sinners, and enthroned between the cherubim, or symbols of redeemed humanity as it will be in the end, when the true heavenly temple is consummated. This most holy seat of God holding aloof, yet willing to meet men on conditions consistent with his perfections, was separated from the next court by a close curtain, which none but the high priest, and he only once a year, could lift. Exterior to this was the Holy Place, which contained the table of shewbread, the golden candlestick and the altar of incense, all symbolizing the Christian life redeemed, sanctified and offered as an acceptable sacrifice to God. Exterior to this was the outer court, sacred to the Jews or to the priestly nation, from which the uncircumcised Gentiles were excluded. A believing Israelite, conscious of sin, proposing to return to God and seek eternal life in him, had his way of return distinctly marked out. He must come first to the altar of burnt-offering and make expiation, and then to the laver of regeneration and seek spiritual cleansing, and then approach through the Holy Place to the veil which divided it from the immediate presence of God. On every occasion of sin he was directed to obtain a lamb perfect in age, sex and condition; take it to the priest before the altar; lay his hands upon its head, signifying the transference to it of his guilt or obligation to endure the penalty; give it to the priest, who then executed upon it, in the stead of the sinner who presented it as his substitute, the capital penalty of death. Then the blood of the victim was sprinkled upon the sinner and upon the horns of the altar, in token of the expiation of sin upon the one hand and the propitiation of God upon the other. The promised effect of this service was, as is constantly asserted (Lev. 4:20; 5:10, 13, 16, 18, etc.), that "his sin shall be forgiven him."
On the great day of atonement, once every year, this priestly work was done, so as to exhibit the principle most perfectly. The high priest was the one whose office included and superseded that of all other priests. He represented the whole redeemed Church, the entire body of the elect, bearing the titles of all the tribes engraved upon his shoulders and upon his breast He. took two goats ceremonially perfect—two, yet constituting one sacrifice, to symbolize the entire function alike after and before death. On the head of the one goat he laid his hands and confessed all the sins of the whole people. The other goat he executed and sacrificed on the altar of burnt-offering. The first goat was then sent forth into the trackless wilderness bearing into absolute and final oblivion the sins of the people, now expiated by the vicarious death of the other goat. With the blood of the second goat and with a censer kindled with coals from off the altar of incense the high priest now passed through the otherwise inviolable curtain into the presence of God enthroned over the mercy-seat between the cherubim. This blood was now spread over the golden lid covering the ark of the covenant, shutting out the vision of God looking down upon the tables of the law, witnessing against the sins of men. David hence sings of the blessedness of him "whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered"—i. e. covered out of the sight of justice by sacrificial blood.
The high priest represented the people. What he did, they did in him. And he, and they through him, could at best pass that veil but once a year, and then only with the fresh blood of the goat judicially slain in their stead. This was because God is just, and without the shedding of blood there is absolutely no remission. The restrictions which limited it to the one day in a year and to the freshly-repeated sacrifice originated in the incompetency of the blood of bulls and goats really to expiate the guilt of sin. The sacrifices of bulls and goats were like token-money (as our paper promises to pay), accepted at their face value until the day of settlement. But the sacrifice of Christ was the gold which absolutely extinguishes all debt by its intrinsic value. When, therefore, Christ by the one sacrifice of his divine-human Person had put away sin (Heb. 9:26; 10:10–12), the veil which shut off the Most Holy Place, the dwelling-place of God in the temple, "was rent from the top to the bottom"—that is, utterly and for ever removed (Matt. 27:51), so that not high priests only, but every trusting Christian fleeing from sin and the wrath which follows it, has boldness to enter, not once a year, but in every instant of need, "into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Heb. 10:20).
The entire religious life of the Jewish Church and of every individual believer centred in the priests, and pre-eminently in the high priest. He was the head of the nation and of the Church. He was the ever-living organ of their living union and fellowship with God. Cut off from the high priest, they were without God in the world, and without access or opportunity for any possible communication of prayer or sacrifice. But when in fellowship with the high priest they not only had peace with God, but they were at once translated into the sphere of divine life and relations; their prayers and sacrifices were accepted, and the presence of the Holy Ghost made their whole sphere alive with spiritual fruitfulness and blessedness.
V. In all essential points this Mosaic ritual system was truly and designedly representative and expository of the mediatorial office, and especially of the priestly function, of Christ. The two correspond as shadow and substance, as token-money (paper promises to pay) and real money; as type—i. e. prophetic symbol—and antitype. 1st. Christ was a real priest: (1) He possessed all the qualifications really, intrinsically and in the highest degree. He was absolutely righteous and holy; he had an absolute right of intimate access to God and the right of bringing near to God; he possessed in his own person on its human side the most intrinsically valuable and acceptable of all offerings; he was divinely appointed to this end (Heb. 2:16; 4:15; 5:5, 6; 7:26; 9:11–24; John 16:28; 11:42). (2) He performed all the parts of the priest's official work: (a) He mediated, in the general sense of the word (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5); (b) he offered a propitiatory sacrifice (Eph. 5:2; Heb. 9:26; 10:12; 1 John 2:2); (c) he appeared in the true Most Holy Place, of which the inner court of the tabernacle was only the figure, and presented his sacrificed body for us, and ever liveth to make intercession for us (Heb. 9:24; 7:25; Rom. 8:34; 1 John 2:1). (3) He was also the sacrificial victim. His characteristic designation is "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." The Lord laid upon him the iniquity of us all: he was made a sin-offering for us (2 Cor. 5:21). 2d. The Mosaic ritual was designed to be expository of his method of saving men. He does essentially and exhaustively that which the ritual services only symbolized. These things "are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ" (Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5). The whole New Testament, and especially the Epistle to the Hebrews, is a continuous commentary upon the truth of this assertion. The same is conspicuously proved by the fact that the veil of the temple (the key to the entire ritual order) was "rent in twain from top to bottom" the moment Christ's real sacrifice was offered. The instant the debt was discharged by the real payment the token-money was canceled. The instant the real expiation was "finished" the whole symbolical system provisionally representing it became necessarily functum officio. Soon afterward, consequently, the temple was razed to the ground and the ritual rendered for ever impossible.
VI. On the other hand, the perfect priesthood of Christ and his one intrinsically efficacious sacrifice infinitely and in manifold ways transcend all created and finite types. Thus Paul, having shown abundantly that the priesthood of Aaron is typical of that of Christ, proceeds to show that he was too large and perpetual a priest to be one of a series included under the Aaronic order—that, on the contrary, he was an "everlasting priest" after the order of Melchizedek, who was without predecessors or successors. The Aaronic priests came in succession, a series of many individuals. Christ abides a Priest for ever. The entire mediatorial and priestly work was, under the Mosaic system, distributed among many priests and Levites, each of whom did only his appointed part, while it was not the separate parts, but the coherent organic whole, which sufficed to effect the end designed. On the other hand, Christ discharges the entire priestly work alone, and he does it for all believers and during all time completely. "It is finished." Each of that series was morally impure, only ceremonially pure. Christ was absolutely pure and righteous. Each of that series was under the obligations of law, and owed obedience and expiation on his own account. Christ was God himself, above and personally independent of all legal responsibilities, able therefore to render a perfectly free vicarious service and penal suffering in the stead of others. The victim offered under the ceremonial institute had no intrinsic value. Christ is of infinite intrinsic value. The victim suffered without choice or conscious comprehension of the part it was taking in the drama of God's spiritual kingdom. In the case of Christ the real moral value of his expiating work as Priest, its power to make amends, to repair the offence of sin to the justice and law of Jehovah, did not reside in his mere sufferings, abstractly considered, either in their quantity or their quality, but in their connection with the moral attitude and exercises of the Person suffering. He in the sinner's place and suffering the penalty due the sinner, he in the mortal agonies of his soul, justified God's justice. He consented to the law which condemned him vicariously. His cross was not, like the final lake of fire, a scene of mere capital execution, a Golgotha. On the contrary, it is a greater and more glorious Mount Sinai on which the absolutely perfect moral law is affirmed and made venerable. It is the great white throne on which the Moral Governor of the universe sits regnant, revealed in immaculate whiteness; it is the point wherein alone, in all the realms of space and all the successions of time, the inmost heart of the great Jehovah has been opened as through a wide window to the sight of his creatures; it is the focus in which all the divine perfections are blended in their most intense radiance. Here "mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85:10). And here the holy angels, the elder sons of God, experienced in all mysteries of the innermost "third heavens," gather in intense expectancy, and with faces veiled to shield them from the insufferable light "desire to look into" (1 Pet. 1:12) this uncovered heart of God.
Besides, in the type the sinner was one party, the offended God another party, the mediating priest a third party, and the unwilling victim substituted in the place of the sinner is yet again a fourth party. From this the utter misconception has been inferred that Christ is a Friend of sinners, while God the Father is a stern, inimical Judge determined to crush them according to the forms of law—that Christ gives himself to suffer so as to excite the compassion of the angry Father and dispose him to open a way of escape to the objects of his wrath. All love and mercy are attributed to Christ, while all inexorable justice and wrath are attributed to the Father. The Father is conceived of as relenting only in consequence of the effective satisfaction offered by the Son. But the truth is that the love and tenderness of the Father is the cause, not the effect, of the sacrificial death of his Son. "God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." Christ in his single Person unites the three parties of the offended God, the mediating priest and the substituted victim. It is not one divine Person offering satisfaction to another divine Person. But the divine nature in Christ, which is numerically one with that of the Father, is the very nature that both demands and furnishes the satisfaction. The merciful God out of his infinite compassion assumes to himself, and inflicts upon himself in his own personal humanity, the penalty in the stead of the sinner. "Ipse deus, ipse sacerdos, ipse hostia, pro se, de se, sibi satisfecit" (John Wessel, 1419–89). Himself at once truly God and truly Priest and truly sacrificial Victim, he made satisfaction for the sins of men to himself, by himself, by means of his own agonies. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost equally love the sinner, while they equally demand punishment for the sin. The Father gives his well-beloved Son; the Son voluntarily and sui jure puts himself in the sinner's place to receive the judicial blow; and it is by the eternal Spirit (sympathizing and co-operating) that he offered himself without spot to God (Heb. 9:14). The whole Godhead in all the adorable Persons is revealed in this transcendent act of human redemption. They exhibit a common holiness tolerating no sin, and a common love sparing no sacrifice to deliver the beloved object from destruction. But to us this is especially revealed in the divine-human Person of Christ. As he can the most fully sympathize with us because he is a man and has suffered, so we can most fully sympathize with him. In him we see the signs of sacrifice we understand—the bloody sweat, the crown of thorns, the pierced hands and feet and side. But he and the Father are one. The Person we see and love, the tears and blood we understand, are those of a man. But the man is God, and the blended righteousness and love which his death reveals are the righteousness and the love of God.
VII. This Priesthood of Christ is Absolutely Perfect.—1st. He has been the medium of communication between God and man from the beginning through all stages of human history. His kingdom was prepared from the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). He has been Priest ever since the foundation of the world (Heb. 9:25, 26). He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). The gospel which Paul preached and we believe is the mystery (secret) which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God, who created all things in Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:9). Through him have all the scattered rays of true religion in all ages and to all people been revealed. In him all true believers of all dispensations have been accepted, and found the standing-place and life. Through his atonement not only all adult believers, but all dying in infancy, all idiots and all who have been saved by any extraordinary means known only to God, are reconciled to God and stand absolved from guilt.
2d. He is, in the complete and permanent and saving sense, the Priest only of his own people, his sheep, those from the beginning given him by the Father, those who believe on him through the effectual calling of his Spirit. Nevertheless, it is true that in a very important sense he has always been the Priest of the whole historic human race. He is the second Adam. He took upon himself human nature, the seed of Abraham. He was made under the law and fulfilled the obligations, preceptive and punitive, which rest upon all men alike. He arrested in behalf of the whole race as a body the immediate execution of the legal penalty. The whole course of human history, of all peoples and nations, of all religions and civilizations, has been evolved under the shield of his cross, under a dispensation of arrested judgment or forbearance, secured through his mediation. He by his expiation removed utterly out of the way of all men alike the objective hindrances in the justice of God and in the judgment of the law which rendered their salvation absolutely impossible. In this general sense Christ, as the man whom God has appointed Priest, is the common bond of the whole human race, and his meritorious service the common basis of all human history.
3d. But while he, in his priestly work, has made the salvation of all men possible on the condition of their accepting it, he has made the salvation of those whom the Father has given him certain by purchasing for them that faith which is the condition of their personal participation in his work. He rendered his obedience and suffering in the stead of those whom he represented under a covenant with his Father. The Father from the beginning "gave to him" his sheep. These, by the very act of Christ's atonement, are secured to him. When it pleased the Lord to make his soul an offering for sin, it was also provided that he should see his seed—that he should see of the travail of his soul and should be satisfied (Isa. 53:10, 11). Our Confession of Faith declares (chap. viii. § 5): "The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath" not only "fully satisfied the justice of the Father," but also "purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given unto him." Not merely forgiveness of sins, but all that we shall ever experience: regeneration, justification, the adoption of sons, fatherly discipline, perseverance, increase of grace, deliverance in death, the resurrection of our bodies and all the unimaginable beatitudes of heaven,—all these, kingdom and priesthood and glory, are parts of "the purchased possession" secured for us through the priesthood of Christ.
4th. And the perfection of Christ's priesthood is this, that he is a Priest for ever. We rest not upon an historic fact long passed, upon a priestly office transacted in our behalf two thousand years ago. But we rest upon a living Priest, an absolutely immortal Priest, whose entire priestly work, past, present and future, is all one. We rest on a Priest who is not only living, but who is the omnipresent, immanent Source of eternal life to all who accept his mediation. He is ever appearing in the presence of God for us. He is ever making intercession for us. He sits enthroned at the right hand of all power, making all things work together for good to them who love him. He is at the same time, through his Spirit, omnipresent as our Priest in all hearts and throughout all lives—in our hearts and in our lives, in our closets and in our homes, in our markets and in our temples, making intercession for us and making intercession within us (Rom. 8:26, 27).
And he is our only Priest. The Christian ministry is not a priesthood. This is a fundamental doctrine. The titles by which this ministry is called in the New Testament, and all the inspired definitions of the office to be discharged by these ministers, fall under the two categories of teaching and ruling. Absolutely nothing else is provided for; absolutely nothing else is even hinted at; absolutely no place is left for a New Testament priesthood. Christ occupies the office, and discharges all the functions of it exhaustively. Before Christ came there was a place for a symbolical priesthood as types or prophetical settings-forth of his priesthood. But there is no place for the token-money when the gold has been paid. There is no place for the type when the antitype has come, no place for the shadow when the sun shines at noon. It is error to suppose that Christ's work can be rendered more complete, is supplemented, by an earthly priesthood. It is error to suppose that we need many or any other earthly mediators to go between us and Christ, who is our Brother, our own flesh and blood, within us and around us all the time.
Dear friends, take my advice in this. In maintaining our evangelical position against Romanists, Ritualists and exclusive Churchmen, do not waste your force by laying emphasis upon any subordinate question as to church government, liturgies or parity of the clergy. Stand up only for essentials. Strike right at the heart of error. The three central dangerous errors of Romanism and Ritualism are these: (1) The perpetuity of the apostolate; (2) the priestly character and offices of Christian ministers; (3) the sacramental principle, or the depending upon the sacraments as the essential, initial and ordinary channels of grace. These are three radical heresies which exclude the truth, derogate from the honor of Christ and betray souls by inducing them to build upon false foundations. But if these three pestiferous roots of error are excluded, there can be no difference of radical importance between bodies of Christians who hold to the historic faith of "the holy catholic Church."
5th. Being a Priest for ever, he will be the organ of our communion with God, and his merits the foundation of our standing during all eternity as well as upon earth. In the New Jerusalem the "Lamb shall be the light thereof." As a "Lamb that has been slain" he stands in "the midst of the throne." And of all the redeemed it is said that "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters" (Rev. 7:17).
6th. And, finally, we are rendered complete in him, "for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in him ye are made full, who is the Head of all principality and power" (New Version, Col. 2:9, 10). Having identified himself with us, he identifies us with himself. We are endowed with both the qualifications and prerogatives which distinguish himself in relation to God. We receive an unction from the Holy One, and know all things. We receive as the priests of God the right to draw near to the inmost heart of God and to offer acceptable service and worship. We are delivered from all bondage, alike from the evil within us and from the evil without us, and we are set in the position of those who reign over all the subordinate powers alike of the material and of the spiritual worlds. He crowned us with his own crown, and made us to sit with himself on his own throne, for we are, through the whole range of our being and during the entire sweep of our existence, joint-heirs together with Christ. This truth is as sure as it is wonderful. Yet it utterly pass-eth understanding. Thought gives place to emotion and rises into adoring rapture: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." "For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God 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."
THE KINGLY OFFICE OF CHRIST
THAT the office of Mediator between God and sinful men must include the function of kingly dominion and control is self-evident. Christ's functions as Prophet and Priest would have been ineffective without it. That the promised Messiah of the Old Testament was to be a King, and that the historical incarnate God of the New Testament actually is a King in the highest sense, are witnessed to by almost every page of the whole Bible.
"There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel" (Num. 24:17); "His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6); I have "set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.… Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Ps. 2:6–9); "One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:13, 14). The angel Gabriel, in the annunciation to the Virgin Mary, said, "Thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:31–33). The universality and pre-eminence and absoluteness of his kingly authority is expressed in the Revelation when it is declared that the Lamb is "King of kings and Lord of lords." The ancient Hebrews in reading substituted "Adonai" for "Jehovah." The Septuagint translates Adonai by Κύριος, Lord. This latter word occurs between seven and eight hundred times in the New Testament, and in the vast majority of instances it is applied to Christ. The title which spontaneously springs to the lips of all men, even of the indifferent stranger, but with infinitely more meaning from the lips of all who have been made recipients of his love, is Lord, Jesus, Possessor, Master, Sovereign. It is universal over all, dominating the highest as well as the lowest, comprehending and bending to its own sway all lower authority and power—King of kings. It is absolute in all, knowing no limit in soul or body, in time or eternity, absolutely owning, possessing and disposing to his own uses all we are and all we possess, each thing entirely, and all things in all relations.
I. And all this is predicated of him not merely as God, but as God-man in his work as Mediator between God and man. As the second Person of the Trinity, equal in power and glory to the eternal Father, the Word of God possesses an absolute, inherent sovereign dominion as King over the whole universe. This authority is intrinsic, underived, inalienable, and is the same yesterday, to-day and for ever. During all the years of the earthly life of the God-man, alike while an unconscious babe in the manger and while hanging a dying victim on the cross, the eternal Son of God was exercising his sovereign dominion over the entire universe.
But in his office as Mediator, and in his entire Person after the incarnation as God-man, he was constituted a King by the authority of the entire Godhead as represented in the Father. His mediatorial sovereignty is derived as contradistinguished from his essential divine sovereignty as intrinsic. It is given to him by the Father as the reward of his obedience and suffering. "He emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:7–11). This authority, thus bestowed upon him by the Father, is special, having particular reference to the salvation of his own people, and, to that end, to the administration of all the provisions of the covenant of grace, of which he is the gracious executive. It attaches not to his divine nature exclusively, but to his entire Person as the God-man. A MAN sits upon the mediatorial throne of the universe. He who stood insulted, despised, condemned at Pilate's judgment-seat, now sitting at the right hand of God, rules all worlds, as he will hereafter, seated on the great white throne, judge all men. Our blood-brother according to the flesh has "all power in heaven and in earth," that he may "make all things work together for good to them who love God." The attributes of both the divine and the human natures are together exercised in the administration of this kingly reign. All his kingly acts are infinitely wise, righteous and powerful, because he is God. But they are at the same time the acts of a man. They possess a truly human quality, for in all his administration he has a feeling for our infirmities as well as an eye for our interests.
II. Christ is already a King upon his throne in the full sweep of his kingly administration. He has, of course, as the eternal Word, been Mediator between God and sinful man ever since the fall of Adam. Otherwise, the sentence of the law must have been unconditionally executed immediately upon the apostasy. Ever since, we have been living and human history has been evolved under a system of forbearance involving an arrest of judgment. This was of course possible only as the human family has existed under the protection of a divine and competent Mediator. All the functions of the mediatorial office mutually imply one another. If he were "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), he must have been a Prophet before Moses, a Priest before Aaron, and a King before David. He was in these respects their predecessor and the ground from which they sprang, as well as their successor and antitype. A close inspection shows that the Jehovah of the Old Testament, who is also called the Angel of, or the one sent by, Jehovah, is the second Person of the Trinity, as is declared by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. (Compare Ps. 45:6, 7 and Heb. 1:8, 9; Gen. 31:11, 13 and 48:15, 16, and Hosea 12:2–5, Ex. 4:14, 14 and Acts 7:30–35.) He reigned over all human affairs, as the biblical history relates. He gave the law from Sinai, including the entire ceremonial ritual, as well as the Ten Commandments. He brought Israel out of Egypt through the wilderness and established them in the Holy Land "with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders" (Deut. 26:8). He fought their battles with the Philistines, established his types and representatives, David and Solomon, upon their temporary symbolical thrones, and he directed the entire course of human history to the consummation of the fullness of times, in preparation for his own advent in the flesh.
But, on the other hand, in the strictest sense we must date the actual and formal assumption of his kingly office, in the full and visible exercise thereof, from the moment of his ascension into heaven from this earth and his session at the right hand of the Father. He could not have actually entered upon his kingly office as the God-man before he had become both God and man in the one Person through his incarnation. His function as Priest in a sense precedes his function as a King, as well as acts together with it. His atonement is the foundation of his royal right to his people and his royal administration in their behalf. When he was announced it was "declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand." He was received by his disciples and rejected by the Jews as one claiming to be a king. Pilate wrote the title of his kingship in three languages and attached it to his cross. "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Heb. 10:12, 13). His kingly office is essentially the royal dispensation of grace by him as a Saviour. In order that this may be universally and infallibly effectual and complete, he declares that now "all power is given to me in heaven and on earth," and he founds on this his great commission to his Church: "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations." And Peter on the great day of Pentecost declared that when the prophet David recorded the sworn promise of God to raise up Christ to sit upon the throne, he spake of the resurrection of Christ: "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:32–36).
III. The present mediatorial kingdom of the God-man is absolutely universal, embracing the whole universe and every department of it. This principle evidently involves the most momentous consequences. It has been disastrously abused by the Papal Church, and just as disastrously ignored by the Protestants. It follows logically from the Papal principles that the Church is an external visible organization of which the pope, the vicegerent of Christ, is the head—that if Christ is absolute Sovereign over the universe and all its departments, then the pope, his vicar, is supreme governor at least over all bodies and affairs of mankind. But upon Protestant principles this atrocious consequence disappears. The Church is not a corporation or visible organization. Christ has no representative exercising vicariously his royal authority on earth. There is no question as to Church authority or union between Church and State involved. Protestants should shut out for ever all these dead issues and the prejudices which they excite, and open their minds to the scriptural evidence and to the stupendous and infinitely blessed practical consequences of the great principle I have stated—that the mediatorial kingdom of the God-man is absolutely universal, embracing in its rightful sway all God's creatures and all their actions.
This truth, nevertheless, is just as plainly and as certainly taught in the New Testament as any other article of our faith. In Ps. 8, God declares his purpose to put all things under the feet of man. This purpose Paul (Eph. 1:20–23) declares was fulfilled in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (aiōn); and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things to the Church. He declared to his disciples, as the ground of the commission he gave to them, "that all power had been given to him in heaven and on earth." In Phil. 2:9, 10, Paul says: "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." This absolutely and exhaustively includes the whole universe in all its categories of heaven, earth and hell, just as the passage in Ephesians includes all duration, the aiōn, or world-age, which now is and that which is to come. And this is repeated and emphasized in the most forceful language in Heb. 2:8: "For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him;" and in 1 Cor. 15:27, He only "is excepted which did put all things under him." That is, absolutely all things but God the Father. And all this is spoken, not of his authority as eternal God, but of his mediatorial authority as God-man; because (1) it is given to him by the Father; (2) it is given to him as the reward of his obedience and sufferings; (3) when the purpose for which it is given is fully accomplished, "when he has subdued all things unto himself," he shall deliver up this "given" kingdom over the universe "to God even the Father," and become himself, as God-man, "subject unto Him that put all things under him, that God may be all and in all" (1 Cor. 15:24–28).
Theologians have accordingly made a distinction, designed to classify the different aspects and methods of this vast administration of royal power between Christ's kingdoms of power, of grace and of glory. These, of course, are not absolutely different realms or spheres of government, since the kingdom of power includes the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of grace precedes and prepares the way for the kingdom of glory. They are rather different methods of working and different special systems of administration, all comprehended in his universal reign as King.
I. Christ's Kingdom of Power.—This is the providential reign of the God-man over the whole universe in the interests of his mediatorial work as Redeemer of his own people. The universe in all its provinces, material and spiritual, constitutes one system. The certain attainment of any end, the absolute control of any single department, necessarily involves the control and the co-ordinate administration of all the parts.
(1.) Hence Christ's universal kingdom of power must include, in the first instance, his providential control of the whole physical universe. The physical universe is the necessary basis of the intellectual, moral and spiritual world. The higher cannot be adequately governed unless the lower is controlled. The laws of matter and the order of the material world remain the same as before, and no change takes place that can be discovered by science. Nevertheless, the glorious fact is that the God-man, as mediatorial King, has, during the present aiōn or world-age, brought the whole mechanism of the material universe into requisition as means to secure the establishment of his mediatorial kingdom. He guides the marshaled hosts of heaven to that supreme result. The great currents of all the world-forces are directed to that end. The sweet influences of the Pleiades obey his voice and the bands of Orion are in his hands. It is not the God absolute, but it is our kinsman Redeemer, the man who is also God, who orders the courses of the stars, "who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains; who giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens when they cry;" who "numbereth all the hairs of our heads," and "will not allow any plague to come nigh our dwelling."
(2.) Christ's mediatorial kingdom of power includes the universal moral government of God over all his intelligent creatures. The moral government of God over the human family constitutes only one province of the immeasurable empire. Angels and devils and whatever intelligent creatures may exist in other worlds must constitute one systematic moral whole with the human race. The entire moral empire of God must be governed on the same general principles of righteousness. The will of God must be the common rule of all, his love their common motive, his glory their common end, his fellowship their common goal. Christ in this widest sense is King of kings and Lord of lords. God hath appointed his Son "heir of all things." He is placed far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named." "All in heaven and all on earth, who are to bow at the name of Jesus," include all rational creatures. And all men and angels are to be gathered to his judgment-seat. The devils "are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6).
He exercises this universal moral government providentially in various ways, according to the various characters and conditions of his subjects, but always upon the same principles of essential righteousness. He employs angels as ministering spirits for his people at present, and he will employ them as his executive agents in the siftings of the great judgment. He restrains and controls the action of the devil and his angels, the spirits of the power of the air. He controls all events for the good of his people. Especially, he directs events to the end of effecting their complete discipline and education, and consequent preparation for the enjoyment of his glory. The end is the complete redemption of his people. But in order to secure this all the members of the human family in their successive generations and in their various family and national groups must be dealt with as subjects of the same government. During the present world-age it is not God absolute, but our kinsman Redeemer, the God-man, who is the Lord, "the Governor among the nations." He speaks with authority to every conscience. He has a supreme right to control for his own ends the service of every life. He orders every political and social event and the entire evolution of civilization and associated human activity to the accomplishment of his supreme end. And at the close every tribe and people and tongue shall stand to be judged before his throne and to have its destiny fixed by his decree.
II. Christ's Kingdom of Grace.—This spiritual kingdom, which is the special care of Christ, for the sake of which his government of the universe is undertaken, respects first, his own spiritual people individually, and second, his professed people collectively organized in the visible Church.
(1.) Christ reigns over his own individually, both from without and from within. From without he subdues his and their enemies, restraining Satan, his angels and wicked men. He strengthens them in weakness, defends them in danger, directs and co-operates with them in action, and gives them ultimately the victory in all their contests, and causes them always to persevere to the end, that they may receive the crown of life. He also, under the inspiration of his Spirit, brings his spiritual people into sympathy with one another, and stimulates and guides the great currents of sympathy and the large interdenominational movements of the catholic Church, and all the various functions in which is manifested the "communion of saints."
From within, the God-man reigns supreme in every Christian heart. It is impossible to accept Christ as our Sacrifice and Priest without at the same time cordially accepting him as our Prophet, absolutely submitting our understanding to his teaching, and accepting him as our King, submitting implicitly our hearts and wills and lives to his sovereign control. Paul delights to call himself the δοῦλος, purchased servant, of Jesus Christ. Every Christian spontaneously calls him our Lord Jesus. His will is our law, his love our motive, his glory our end. To obey his will, to work in his service, to fight his battles, to triumph in his victories, is our whole life and joy.
(2.) Christ's kingdom of grace also embraces his visible Church. Although the true Church is constituted simply by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and although no organization is essential to its being or coextensive with its existence, nevertheless Christ wills that his true Church shall, for great practical ends, tend always spontaneously to organize itself in some form. Its forms are very various, determined in their differences by providential conditions, and they are of very different excellence, and yet they are all, whether better or worse, forms of the true Church, and therefore co-ordinate phases of the one Church. And Christ alone is the legitimate Head of this visible Church in any of its forms whatsoever. He has appointed no vicegerent. He has forbidden his servants to be called rabbi or master. He pronounces a curse upon those who lord it over his heritage, whether national sovereigns or universal patriarchs or popes. He has in his inspired Word and through his ever-indwelling Spirit provided for the government of this Church through all ages. He has therein ordained the conditions of membership, the laws and offices, and he by his gracious providence leads to the selection of the right incumbents. There is no doctrine we are bound to believe which he has not clearly revealed in his Word, nor any duty we are bound to fulfill. The disciples of Christ are the Lord's freemen, discharged from all human bondage, because they are bound to render absolute obedience to him alone. It is to this principle that the Church of Scotland and her long line of martyrs, under Knox, Melville and Chalmers, have borne such a noble testimony. The Covenant bound Scotland and Puritan England to live or to die by Christ's crown and covenant.
Christ declared that his kingdom is "not of this world"—that it is not one kingdom associated with the other kingdoms, with like organizations, laws, methods of administration and ends. But it is a spiritual kingdom, embracing and interpenetrating all others, so different in method and ends from them that it cannot, when loyal to its Head, interfere with any of them or enter into organic alliance with any of them. Its Head, members, laws, officers, methods, penalties and rewards and ends are not of this world, but are spiritual—i. e. they are revealed and applied by the Holy Ghost, and they bring man into relation to the great world of spiritual realities which is revealed in the Scriptures.
The kingdom of Christ therefore interpenetrates all the political commonwealths of this world, and all the political commonwealths of this world embrace the kingdom of Christ. Like different gases, the kingdom of Cæsar and the kingdom of Christ are vacuums to each other. They interpenetrate each other in occupying the same territory, and yet each retains its own identity and properties unchanged. They necessarily affect each other on certain sides, but when properly administered they do not interfere with one another. Having the same subjects, they nevertheless have entirely different ends, different agencies, different laws and different methods.
III. Christ's Kingdom of Glory.—During the present age Christ is set forth principally as a conquering Captain, reigning at the head of his militant host, the Captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:10) and the conqueror of his and our enemies and the subduer of the world (Rev. 19:11–16). But hereafter the Scriptures reveal a final consummation, when Christ's kingdom shall be complete in all its members and shall be developed to its perfect state—when all the redeemed shall be gathered, the crisis of judgment passed, the glorified bodies of the saints reunited to their perfected spirits: then "shall the Son of man sit in the throne of his glory," and "there shall be no more curse; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads" (Rev. 22:3, 4).
IV. But if Christ's mediatorial kingdom is, as asserted, absolutely universal—especially if his direct authority embraces without exception every human being on the face of the earth during all ages, in all their relations and in all their actions—then the question necessarily arises, If Christ's kingdom embraces every human relation, how can there be any distinction between Church and State, between the things which belong unto Cæsar and the things that belong unto Christ?
This is a question which, however simple in itself, has continued to puzzle the minds of men from the beginning, and this confusion of thought has necessarily introduced confusion and conflict of action.
Among the Jews the State and the Church were one identical organism, discharging both secular and ecclesiastical functions, in part through the same officers and in part and at times through distinct officers.
The answer given by the Papists, while admitting the distinction touching Church and State, is that as Christ is King of all men and his authority is supreme in every sphere of human interest and action, the pope his vicar reigns in his name supreme over all earthly sovereigns; that the Catholic Church, an external organized body, is in every land supreme over the State, the State being, in truth, only a subordinate and changeable organ of the Church for the purpose of executing the functions of temporal government.
The answer of the Erastians, of the State-Church systems, makes the State supreme over the Church, and the Church is practically regarded only as an organ of the State for the purpose of effecting the functions of religious institution and worship.
But the true principle has in this last age become generally recognized, that State and Church, considered as organized societies with laws and officers, have entirely distinct spheres, methods and objects, and hence that they have no specific organic relation to one another whatever. They indeed embrace the same territory and the same personal constituents. The same men and women who in one relation constitute the State in another relation constitute the Church. The State deals with the persons and property of Church members and with the public property of ecclesiastical societies precisely as she deals with that of all other persons and voluntary societies, and the members of the Church and ecclesiastical societies owe precisely the same obedience to the State that is owed by all other citizens and associations.
All this is perfectly clear and true, but inferences have been drawn from these principles which absolutely divorce the State from all religion and emancipate it entirely from the mediatorial authority of Jesus Christ. It is absurdly argued that if the State is absolutely free from any entangling alliances with the Church, it must be free from all religious qualities and obligations; that if it is free from the authority of the Church as an organized society, it must be free from the authority of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church, and of the Bible, which contains his code of laws. It is argued that as no man has any right to impose his own religious convictions on others, so no body of men can possess any such right, and therefore that no majority of citizens has the right to impose by State legislation upon a recalcitrant minority obligations having a religious origin. These inferences, however unwarrantable and preposterous, are exceedingly prevalent, and are admitted, if not proclaimed, by many true Christians who are unconscious of their absurdity and utter disloyalty to the Lord that bought them and whom they profess to serve as their King.
It is very evident that it does not follow because the organized bodies we call "churches" have no organic connection with the State, nor any right to pronounce judgment upon things purely within the jurisdiction of the State, that therefore the State has nothing to do with religious laws or obligations. There are three positions here of infinite importance to the Christian citizens of the United States:
1st. As a matter of fact, every State in the world must have, and has had, a religion of some kind. The State is an association of human beings for the purpose of promoting and protecting the interests of society within the limits of secular life. The State is the people themselves acting in their organic capacity through the machinery of law. It is self-evident, therefore, that the State or collective body must have all the qualities which belong to its constituent members. A house is a great deal more than the wood or brick or stone or iron of which it is built; nevertheless, every house has the quality of its material, whether wood or brick or stone or iron, and will necessarily act under given circumstances as determined severally by the nature of its material. So every State is vastly more than the persons of which it is composed; nevertheless, the character of the State must in every respect be determined by the character of the people which constitute it. If the people are rational the State will be rational; if moral, then moral; if rich or energetic, then it will possess those qualities; and, none the less, if the people be religious will the State they compose be religious. It is simply absurd that a man can be thoroughly convinced that God exists and that he is a Moral Governor who will demand an account for all the deeds done in the body—that he can have his heart full of loyal affection and devotion to God as an individual while engaged in private business, and then be perfectly oblivious of the existence and of the claims of God as soon as he begins to act politically as a citizen of the State. If a man knows that God has forbidden theft, or incest, or divorce except on certain conditions, or the pursuit of worldly business on the weekly Sabbath, he cannot as a citizen do otherwise than make and execute laws in conformity to the known will of God. If a State in its public law acts atheistically, it can only be because a majority of its citizens are in heart atheists, no matter what religious professions they may make. Middle ground, a negative position, is absolutely impossible. God is either recognized or denied, he is either carefully obeyed or rebelliously disobeyed; and this impossibility of a negative position is just as true in political societies and in their conduct as in any other department of human life. Every nation has a religion or is positively, aggressively atheistic; indifference is antagonism.
2d. Every Christian must believe that the State ought to be obedient to the revealed law of Christ. This is so because—(1) the Word of God explicitly declares that "the powers that be are ordained of God;" that "rulers are ministers of God to us for good;" that "whoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God" (Rom. 13:1–4). (2) Because Christ himself explicitly declared that to him as Mediator all power (ἐξουσία, right of dominion) in heaven and on earth had been committed (Matt. 28:18). He is thus made "Lord of lords and King of kings." (3) Because the Christian revelation expressed in the inspired Scriptures expresses the will of Christ upon many subjects in which it can be carried out only through the agency of the State and of her laws and officers. The State must pronounce her will as to the rest of the Sabbath day, as to marriage and divorce, as to the rights of property and the relations of capital and labor, as to capital punishment and as to the education of the young. The ground covered by these subjects the State cannot possibly avoid. And it is equally impossible for a Christian man, who knows the will of Christ as to the points in question, to ignore or disobey that will when acting in the capacity of a citizen of the State. If he does do so, he is consciously guilty of direct disloyalty to his Lord. All intelligent and honest Christians must seek to bring all the action of the political society to which they belong obedient to the revealed will of Christ the supreme King, the Ruler among the nations. The Church and the State are mutually, entirely independent. The officers and the laws of the one have no jurisdiction within the sphere of the other. Nevertheless, Christ is the common King of each, and his Bible is the common statute-book of each. The only difference is, that under the one and selfsame King, Christ, the light of nature is the primary, the word of Scripture the supplementary, law of the State; while the word of revelation is the primary and the light of nature the supplementary law of the Church. But Christ and conscience and the Bible rule equally in each sphere.
3d. These United States of North America are, and from the beginning were, of law, of right and of actual fact, a Christian nation. The original colonies were settled by bodies of men of conspicuous Christian character, who emigrated from their European homes for religious reasons. They were Puritans, Huguenots, Scotch, Scotch-Irish, Dutch and German Presbyterians, Quakers, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics, but all alike Christians. Beyond any other equally various and numerous set of men known in human history, they were earnest Christians, and they came here for the very purpose of crystallizing their faith in imperishable institutions. These men subdued the wilderness, founded the nation and laid all the foundation-stones of our constitutional law. The common law of England, the creature of Christianity, is the common law of nine-tenths of our States and Territories. Christian denominations, Episcopal or Independent, were established by law in almost all the early colonies. Theism is recognized explicitly in almost all our State constitutions, and Christianity in many of them. Christianity has been recognized from the first by explicit action in the appointment of chaplains for Congress and for the army and navy of the United States and for the legislatures and prisons of the several States; by the appointment of fast-days and of thanksgiving-days by the supreme magistrates of the several States and of the nation; and by the enactment of the Sabbath laws and of the laws for the suppression of blasphemy. What was true at the first has been becoming more and more true to the actual fact ever since. Nearly one-half of all the actual adult population of the country are communicants in the Christian churches. The ratio of the communicants in our evangelical churches to the whole population was in 1800 as 1 to every 14.50 of all ages; in 1850 it was as 1 to every 6.57; in 1870, as 1 to every 5.78; and in 1880, 1 to every 5 of the total inhabitants; while in the mean time between six and seven millions of our Roman Catholic fellow-Christians have come into existence. From 1800 to 1880 the whole population of the nation has increased 9.46 fold, while in the same time the communicants of our evangelical churches have increased 27.52 fold.
There are not two laws for individuals and for communities. The obligations which bind individuals necessarily bind all the communities which these individuals constitute. Every human being is bound to be Christian; therefore every community of human beings is bound to obey the law of Christ. The United States, as a matter of historic fact, have always professed to be a Christian State, and we are therefore doubly bound to this allegiance—(1) by virtue of the common obligation which binds all men; (2) by virtue of the special opportunities and covenants of our ancestors, which descend upon us by natural inheritance.
V. The overwhelming importance of this principle and weight of this obligation appear in the clearest light the moment the nation claims to regulate the supreme function of education. It is insisted upon that the right of self-preservation is the highest law of States as well as of individuals; that if the suffrage is universal, all holders of that suffrage must be educated in order to secure the safety of the State; that in consequence of the heterogeneous character of our population and the divisions of the Christian Church there is no agency in existence competent to educate the whole body of the holders of the universal suffrage except the State herself.
The situation, therefore, stands thus:
1st. The tendency of the entire system, in which already vast progress has been made, is to centralization. Each State governs her own system of common schools by a central agency, which brings them, for the sake of greater efficiency, into uniformity of method and rules. These schools are graded and supplemented by normal schools, high schools and crowned by the State university. The tendency is to unite all these school systems of the several States in one uniform national system, providing with all the abundant resources of the nation for the entire education of its citizens in every department of human knowledge, and in doing this to establish a uniform curriculum of study, uniform standards for the selection of teachers and a uniform school literary apparatus of textbooks, etc.
2d. The tendency is to hold that this system must be altogether secular. The atheistic doctrine is gaining currency, even among professed Christians and even among some bewildered Christian ministers, that an education provided by the common government for the children of diverse religious parties should be entirely emptied of all religious character. The Protestants object to the government schools being used for the purpose of inculcating the doctrines of the Catholic Church, and Romanists object to the use of the Protestant version of the Bible and to the inculcation of the peculiar doctrines of the Protestant churches. The Jews protest against the schools being used to inculcate Christianity in any form, and the atheists and agnostics protest against any teaching that implies the existence and moral government of God. It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding from the public schools whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes least, and then he that believes least must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or the agnostics may be. It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of Atheism which the world has ever seen.
3d. The claim of impartiality between positions as directly contradictory as that of Jews, Mohammedans and Christians, and especially as that of theists and of atheists, is evidently absurd. And no less is the claim absurd and impossible that a system of education can be indifferent on these fundamental subjects. There is no possible branch of human knowledge which is not purely formal, like abstract logic or mathematics, which can be known or taught in a spirit of entire indifferency between Theism and Atheism. Every department which deals with realities, either principles, objective things or substances, or with events, must be in reality one or the other; if it be not positively and confessedly theistic, it must be really and in full effect atheistic. The physical as well as the moral universe must be conceived either in a theistic or an atheistic light. It must originate in and develop through intelligent will—that is, in a person—or in atoms, force or chance. Teleology must be acknowledged everywhere or be denied everywhere. Philosophy, ethics, jurisprudence, political and social science, can be conceived of and treated only from a theistic or from an atheistic point of view. The proposal to treat them from a neutral point of view is ignorant and absurd. English common law is unintelligible if not read in the light of that religion in which it had its genesis. The English language cannot be sympathetically understood or taught by a mind blind to the everywhere-present current of religious thought and life which expresses itself through its terms. The history of Christendom, especially the history of the English-speaking races, and the philosophy of history in general, will prove an utterly insoluble riddle to all who attempt to read it in any non-theistic, religiously-indifferent sense. It is certain that throughout the entire range of the higher education a position of entire indifferentism is an absolute impossibility—that along the entire line the relation of man and of the universe to the ever-present God, the supreme Lord of the conscience and heart, the non-affirmation of the truth, is entirely equivalent to the affirmation at every point of its opposite.
The prevalent superstition that men can be educated for good citizenship or for any other use under heaven without religion is as unscientific and unphilosophical as it is irreligious. It deliberately leaves out of view the most essential and controlling elements of human character: that man is constitutionally as religious (i. e. loyally or disloyally) as he is rational; that morals are impossible when dissociated from the religious basis out of which they grow; that, as a matter of fact, human liberty and stable republican institutions, and every practically successful scheme of universal education in all past history, have originated in the active ministries of the Christian religion, and in these alone. This miserable superstition rests upon no facts of experience, and, on the contrary, is maintained on purely theoretical grounds in opposition to all the lessons which the past history of our race furnishes on the subject.
It is no answer to say that the deficiency of the national system of education in this regard will be adequately supplied by the activities of the Christian churches. No court would admit in excuse for the diffusion of poison the plea that the poisoner knew of another agent actively employed in diffusing an antidote. Moreover, the churches, divided and without national recognition, would be able very inadequately to counteract the deadly evil done by the public schools of the State with all the resources and prestige of the government. But, more than all, Atheism taught in the school cannot be counteracted by Theism taught in the Church. Theism and Atheism cannot coalesce to make anything. All truth in all spheres is organically one and vitally inseparable. It is impossible for different agencies independently to discuss and inculcate the religious and the purely naturalistic sides of truth respectively. They cannot be separated; in some degree they must recognize each other and be taught together, as they are experienced in their natural relations.
I am as sure as I am of the fact of Christ's reign that a comprehensive and centralized system of national education, separated from religion, as is now commonly proposed, will prove the most appalling enginery for the propagation of anti-Christian and atheistic unbelief, and of anti-social nihilistic ethics, individual, social and political, which this sin-rent world has ever seen.
VI. The allegiance we owe is not to a doctrine, but to a Person, the God-man, our mediatorial King. We are bound to obey the Bible in all our actions and relations as citizens as well as church-members, because it is the law he has promulgated as the rule of our action, and because he is our supreme Lord and Master. The foundation of his authority is not our election, but the facts that he is absolutely perfect and worthy of absolute trust and obedience, and that he has created us, continues to uphold us in being, supplies us with all that makes existence desirable, and that he redeemed us from the wrath of God by his blood. His authority therefore does not depend upon our faith or our profession. It binds the atheist and the debauchee as much as the believer or the saint. No man can plead immunity because he is an unbeliever. Nor can we who are believers be excused from the consistent ordering of our whole lives according to his revealed will because the majority of our fellow-citizens disagree with us. Let others do as they will; as for us and for our houses, we will serve the Lord.
And if Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings, if he is really the Ruler among the nations, then all nations are in a higher sense one nation, under one King, one law, having one interest and one end. There cannot be two laws for Christians—one to govern the relations of individuals, and the other the relations of nations. We must love our neighbor-man as ourselves, so the Master says; therefore we must love our neighbor-nation as our own. The rivalries, jealousies, antagonisms and cruel wars between nations are all hideous fratricidal contests and satanic rebellions against Christ our common King. How miserably small and narrow and selfish is the form of so-called patriotism which our poor children are taught is so great a virtue, in comparison with that holy, uplifting passion which comprehends all nations as inseparable parts of the one living universal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ! Suppose your enterprise in the great competitions of manufacture and trade surpasses theirs, and you grow rich and gild your palaces with the spoils of their poverty; suppose your sinews of war or your personal prowess and valor surpass theirs, and your empire grows great out of the ruins of their commonwealth,—what are you, after all, but the betrayer of your brother's peace or the destroyer of your brother's life and the disloyal render of the body of your common Lord? Alas, that we have yet to learn that the so-called code of honor among nations is just as mean and vulgar a thing as the code of honor among individuals!
And if Christ is really King, exercising original and immediate jurisdiction over the State as really as he does over the Church, it follows necessarily that the general denial or neglect of his rightful lordship, any prevalent refusal to obey that Bible which is the open lawbook of his kingdom, must be followed by political and social as well as by moral and religious ruin. If professing Christians are unfaithful to the authority of their Lord in their capacity as citizens of the State, they cannot expect to be blessed by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in their capacity as members of the Church. The kingdom of Christ is one, and cannot be divided in life or in death. If the Church languishes, the State cannot be in health, and if the State rebels against its Lord and King, the Church cannot enjoy his favor. If the Holy Ghost is withdrawn from the Church, he is not present in the State; and if he, the only "Lord, the Giver of life," be absent, then all order is impossible and the elements of society lapse backward to primeval night and chaos.
Who is responsible for the unholy laws and customs of divorce which have been in late years growing rapidly, like a constitutional cancer, through all our social fabric? Who is responsible for the rapidly-increasing, almost universal, desecration of our ancestral Sabbath? Who is responsible for the prevalent corruptions in trade which loosen the bands of faith and transform the halls of the honest trader into the gambler's den? Who is responsible for the new doctrines of secular education which hand over the very baptized children of the Church to a monstrous propagandism of Naturalism and Atheism? Who is responsible for the new doctrine that the State is not a creature of God and owes him no allegiance, thus making the mediatorial Headship of Christ an unsubstantial shadow and his kingdom an unreal dream?
Whence come these portentous upheavals of the ancient primitive rock upon which society has always rested? Whence comes this socialistic earthquake, arraying capital and labor in irreconcilable conflict like oxygen and fire? Whence come these mad nihilistic, anarchical ravings, the wild presages of a universal deluge, which will blot out at once the family, the school, the church, the home, all civilization and religion, in one sea of ruin?
In the name of your own interests I plead with you; in the name of your treasure-houses and barns, of your rich farms and cities, of your accumulations in the past and your hopes in the future,—I charge you, you never will be secure if you do not faithfully maintain all the crown-rights of Jesus the King of men. In the name of your children and their inheritance of the precious Christian civilization you in turn have received from your sires; in the name of the Christian Church,—I charge you that its sacred franchise, religious liberty, cannot be retained by men who in civil matters deny their allegiance to the King. In the name of your own soul and its salvation; in the name of the adorable Victim of that bloody and agonizing sacrifice whence you draw all your hopes of salvation; by Gethsemane and Calvary,—I charge you, citizens of the United States, afloat on your wide wild sea of politics, THERE IS ANOTHER KING, ONE JESUS: THE SAFETY OF THE STATE CAN BE SECURED ONLY IN THE WAY OF HUMBLE AND WHOLE-SOULED LOYALTY TO HIS PEZRSON AND OF OBEDIENCE TO HIS LAW.
"I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession, that thou keep the commandment, without spot, without reproach, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in its own times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in light unapproachable; whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power eternal. Amen" (1 Tim. 6:13–16).
From the Free eBook - Popular Lectures on Theological Themes by A. A. Hodge