The Government of Christ (1738)
[John Webb (1687-1750), The Government of Christ (1738). Preached before Governor Jonathan Belcher (1682-1757) during his first governorship of the royal colonies of Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire (1730-1741).
John Webb's election day sermon briefly relates the role of God's providence in the Puritan establishment of New England. Webb also mentions the Great Awakening of the 1730's that was described by Jonathan Edwards. Webb, who was also a Great Awakening minister, lists Edwards' famous A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton (1735), that was edited by Benjamin Colman (see Colman's sermons Government the Pillar of the Earth and Christ Standing for an Ensign of the People in the Belcher Foundation Christian History Library, for examples of Colman's own work). Edwards' narrative was co-published by famous hymnist Isaac Watts (see Watts' tribute to his friend Governor Jonathan Belcher in Poems about Governor Jonathan Belcher by Isaac Watts and Other Poets).
(Webb's words about the Great Awakening include the following: "And not long since, He made a most surprising display of His free and sovereign grace in some parts of the land, in converting, or reforming, whole congregations and towns almost, in a few months space, by the immediate influences of His Spirit, succeeding the means of grace, without any awakening providence thereto.")
Webb's comments also give the Christian Colonial view of "non-establishment of religion": "And to this purpose, you [rulers] must employ your superior power and talents so as to make the civil administration, in the most effectual manner, to observe the great end of the Redeemer's kingdom. And this may be done; not by making and executing laws, with a design to oblige the consciences of men in matters of divine faith and worship; for this is a royalty of Christ, a flower in His crown, which He has reserved only to Himself: But it may be done, [...] by distinguishing the most faithful subjects of Christ, with the more peculiar [special] smiles of government; and by setting before the people a bright example of every Christian grace and virtue."
(In other words, government should not make laws establishing a certain religion or telling people how to believe and worship; yet, at the same time, government should encourage Christianity both by favoring outstanding sincere Christians and by exemplifying the values of Christ in the rulers' own lives (i.e., by setting a good Christian example). This is a fine line: Government cannot coerce or proscribe religion, yet it is supposed to favor individual Christians and to model the values of Christianity.)
Webb also went on to say to the General Assembly: "And if there are any laws wanting to secure the honor and interest of Christ's religion among us, that you would take the matter into serious consideration." In other words, he wasn't talking about establishing a religion; he was talking about establishing certain values, the standard of Christ--making Christ's values (which were really the Ten Commandments) the basis of the law of the land. There is a distinction between establishing matters of faith and worship, and making certain values the foundation of a country's legal code.
NOTE: For mention of John Webb in the context of Governor Belcher's administration, see the Belcher Bulletin article A Good Ruler in the Emerging Trilateral Center of the New World Order. For an election sermon on a similar theme, see William Cooper, The Honors of Christ Demanded of the Magistrate (1740).
The Government of Christ considered and
applied. A Sermon Preached at Boston, in the Audience of His Excellency Jonathan
Belcher, Esq; The Honorable His Majesty's Council; and the Honorable House of
Representatives of the Province of the Massachusetts. May 31, 1738. Being the
Anniversary for the Election of His Majesty's Council for the Province.
By John Webb, M.A.
Pastor of a Church in Boston.
Boston: Printed by J. Draper, Printer
to His Excellency the Governor and Council, for N. Procter, 1738.
At a Council held at the Council Chamber in Boston, upon
Thursday June 1st, 1738.
THAT Thomas Hutchinson and Edward Hutchinson, Esqrs; give the thanks of this Board to the Rev. Mr. John Webb, for his sermon preached yesterday before the Great and General Court or Assembly; And that they desire a copy thereof for the press.
Attest. Simon Frost, Dep. Secr.
Isaiah ix. 6.
-- The Government shall be upon his
THE Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is of that nature and concernment to mankind, that a discourse upon it can never be out of season: and, if I mistake not, it may very fitly be considered on this occasion; when the heads of our tribes are met together in a solemn Assembly, to give thanks to the God of Heaven, for the many great and distinguishing privileges, both civil and religious, which we are favored with; and to ask direction and a blessing from on high, upon all the administrations of government in the land; and especially upon the important affairs, which lie before the Great and General Assembly of the Province.
And agreeably I have chosen these words of the evangelical prophet, as the foundation for such a discourse.
And, to make the way clear, we may observe, that in the sixth and seventh verses of this context, we have one of the most illustrious prophecies concerning the Messiah that is to be met with in any part of the Old Testament. For here, many hundreds of years before the accomplishment of it, the prophet gives us a particular account of the coming and kingdom of Christ: as if he had lived in these Gospel days, and seen the fulfillment of his own predictions.
And accordingly there are two things observable in the prophecy.
First, we have here a plain prediction of the incarnation and humiliation of the Son of God, in the discharge of His mediatorial undertaking. This the prophet gives us in two words: "unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." But as I have not time to explain these passages at present; I must go on to consider, the Glory that should follow upon the abasement of the Son of God, and the reward of His humiliation.
Secondly, we may further observe a very clear prediction of the glorious exaltation of the Son of God, after His birth and sufferings in the human nature. And in this He is described both by His name and dominion.
1. He was to have a name given Him above every name. For says the prophet, "His name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Now these characters of His person and office are the most magnificent that any language can describe; and serve to create in every pious mind, a most lively and astonishing idea of the incomparable glory of our exalted Redeemer: For they can't be ascribed to any mere creature without blasphemy and nonsense.(1) And therefore must belong only to the eternal Son of God, who is one in nature and essence with God the Father, and God the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit]. Again,
2. He was to have a dominion every way answerable to the dignity of His person. This was foretold in the words of my text, and in the following verse. "And the Government shall be upon his Shoulder --- Of the increase of his Government and Peace there shall be no End, upon the Throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice, from henceforth and for ever."
Here by "government" we may understand the administration of all affairs in the Kingdom of Providence and Grace.
And when the prophet foretells that this government should "be upon the shoulder of Christ," the meaning is, that our Lord Jesus Christ, by virtue of His mediatorial undertaking, would have a right to this government, and have the administration of it committed to Him by the Father.
And whereas the word "shoulder" is used to express this; 'tis a plain allusion to a common custom among mankind to lay heavy burdens upon the shoulder: and as plainly intimates, in this place, that as all governments if they are rightly managed, so this especially is a very great burden, requiring extraordinary care, and diligence, and fidelity, in the administration of it.
And having taken this general view of the words: I come now more particularly to consider this important truth that is evidently contained in them. Namely,
Jesus Christ has the government of all things committed unto Him by the Father.
In discoursing upon this weighty subject, I shall go into the following method.
I. I shall say something concerning the person who is the subject of this government.
II. I shall consider the nature and properties of this government.
III. I shall show how Christ came to have the administration of it put into His hands.
IV. Say what the great end of it is.
V. Apply the matter, as near I can, so as
to answer the design of the present solemnity.
I. In the first place, I shall take a brief view of the Person who is said to have this government upon Him.
And in a word, the Person who is the more
immediate subject of this rule and government is the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is
GOD and MAN united in one Person. For it is not the Son of God,
considered as God alone; nor the Son of Man, simply considered,
that has this dignity and dominion given to Him: For in the former sense, the
Son of God being equal with the Father(2)
in all divine perfections, needs no delegated power from Him, but has a natural
right to exercise a universal and absolute sovereignty over all created
beings. And in the latter sense; that is, if we consider Christ only as man, He
would be very unequal to the charge committed to Him; for it is vastly too
great, as we shall presently see, for any created being, as such. And from hence
it necessarily follows, that it is, and must be, the Lord Jesus Christ,
considered as GOD-MAN in one Person who has the government laid upon
Him. And therefore He is spoken of, in our context, as partaking both of the
human and Divine natures. His human nature is plainly pointed out in
these words, "Unto us a Child is born;" for He could become a
child and be born, in no other way, but as He was made man. And when the prophet
adds, "Unto us a Son is given," this, compared with the
following character of His person, does as plainly intimate, that He is the "eternal
Son of God," as well as the Son of Man. And agreeably this same
prophet does, in another place of his prophecies, describe them to us, under the
title and character of Immanuel. Isa. 7:14: "Behold a Virgin
shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel; which, being
interpreted, is, God with us;" for this is the exposition which the
Holy Ghost Himself gives of the Word in Matth. 1:23. And having said this
concerning the Person who administers the government spoken of in the text,
II. I come now to enquire more particularly into the nature of this government.
And in general, by this government of Christ we may understand His administration of all affairs in Heaven and earth, so as to advance the glory of God, in the eternal salvation of all God's elect, and in the everlasting destruction of all his and his people's implacable enemies.
Now this government may be considered, either in general, as it is extended to all the creatures, for the good of His church and people in the world; and in this respect it is the same with the Kingdom of Providence. Or, it may be considered in particular, as it has a more immediate relation to the church, of which He is constituted Head in the New Covenant; and in this regard, the Kingdom of Christ is usually called the Kingdom of Grace.
But as the time will not allow me to consider the government of Christ in this double respect; so it will sufficiently answer my present design, to speak of it in the first sense only: or, to give you some short account of the Government of Christ in the Kingdom of Providence.
And accordingly I shall here say something first, concerning the acts of Christ's government. And, secondly, concerning the properties of it.
First, I shall consider the acts of Christ's government; or show wherein, or in what respects, he exercises that power and authority committed to Him by the Father.
But as it would be endless almost, to reckon up all the particular acts of Christ's regal authority; I shall mention only, His upholding and preserving all things in being: His overruling and directing all things, to the great end they were made for: and His judging the world of angels and men at the last day. For these three more general and comprehensive acts include all the particular ones under them.
To proceed then,
I. Jesus Christ, by virtue of His sovereign power, upholds and preserves all things in being: Hence is said, in Heb. 1:3: "To uphold Things in Being by the Word of his Power." And again the Apostle observes, in Col. 2:17: "He is before all Things, and by him all Things consist." And therefore from these, and the like passages, it plainly appears, that the weight of the creation is laid upon Christ; and that He supports the whole, and all the parts of it. For, as a pious expositor(3)well observes, "When, upon the apostasy of man, the whole world was breaking to pieces under the wrath and curse of God, the SON OF GOD, undertaking the work of our redemption, has bound it up again, and established it by his almighty power and goodness." He therefore preserves the world from disbanding and running into confusion: He keeps up the frame and maintains the order of it: He has all the care upon Him of the whole family in Heaven and earth; and provides all things necessary for their constant support. And this He will continue to do, till He has brought in the whole number of God's elect and redeemed ones, and completed His own mystical Body: For 'tis principally for the sake of these, that the world, as it now is, continues in being.
2. As Jesus Christ upholds, so He actually overrules and directs all things, so as to answer the great end of their being: that is, so as to advance the glory of God in the winding up of all.
And here I might fitly consider the influence He has over the natural world, or that which we usually call the ordinary course of nature. For, as this is part of God's providential kingdom, so it necessarily falls under His general care and direction: And he makes use of all things in it some way or other, to subserve the main ends of His government.
But as it is of greater concernment to us to consider the dominion of Christ over the moral world; over angels and men, both good and bad; I shall continue my discourse under this head, to this part of Christ's government: and say,
(1.) All the angels, both good and bad, are in subjection to Christ, and He rules and governs them all according to His royal will and pleasure. And agreeably, the Apostle Peter speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ says in 1 Epist. 2:22: "He is gone into Heaven, and is on the right Hand of God, Angels, and Authorities, and Powers, being made subject to him."
And therefore as for the holy angels, who kept their first estate, Christ being an head of confirmation to them, they are the courtiers of Heaven that surround His throne of glory; the ministers of state that constantly and cheerfully attend and execute His orders. And for this reason, they are called "ministering Spirits," in Heb. 1:14. And He sends them forth, not only "to minister for them who shall be Heirs of Salvation," but He makes great use of them in the administration of the Kingdom of Providence. For we frequently read in Scripture, of their immediate agency in many of the great events of time; and particularly in some of the most remarkable dispensations of His justice and grace to the world of mankind.
And as the angels of light, so the powers of darkness, or the evil angels, are absolutely under the dominion of Christ. They are indeed the most powerful and implacable enemies He has to deal with. But however, as our great Redeemer is the Angel spoken of in Rev. 20:1: "Who has the key of the bottomless Pit, and a great Chain in his Hand," He either permits or restrains them at His pleasure. And when, at any time, He gives them leave to exert their power, and vent their rage and malice, He overrules them and their actions, so as to accomplish the great ends of His own government, contrary to their own inclination and endeavors; as when He made them to confess Him to be "the Son of God,"(4)and to be "the Means of his Death,"(5)whereby the kingdom and works of the devil was to be destroyed: For upon this great event we read, in Col. 2:15: "Of his spoiling Principalities and Powers, and making a Shew of them openly, triumphing over them in his Cross." And having said this concerning the dominion of Christ over the angels both good and bad, I come to say,
(2.) Jesus Christ exercises the same sovereign power and authority over the whole world of mankind; and rules and governs them, and all their affairs, both public and private, according to His will. For we read in the 28th verse of the 22nd Psalm, which is a plain prophecy concerning Christ, that "the Kingdom is the LORD's, and he is Governor among the nations."
And in consequence of this, He forms the states and empires of the world, and enlarges, or diminishes, or dashes them to pieces again, as He sees fit. This power He claims to Himself in the 18th chapter of the prophecies of Jeremiah; and says particularly in the 6th verse, "Behold, as the Clay is in the Potters Hand, so are ye in my Hand, O House of Israel." And as He forms of the kingdom of the earth, by His sovereign power; so He gives the dominion over them to whom He pleases: He pulls down one and sets up another, without giving any account of His conduct. And agreeably we read, in Dan. 2:21: "He changeth the Times and the Seasons: he removeth Kings and setteth up Kings: he giveth Wisdom unto the Wise, and knowledge to them that know Understanding."
And in this part of His administration, He over-rules the grand affairs of empires and states, so as best to subserve the great end of His mediatorial kingdom. A very remarkable instance of this we have, in His enlarging the borders of the Roman Empire, and establishing peace in all the parts of it, about the time when "he gave out the evangelical Law from Zion," and sent forth His ambassadors to publish the glad tidings of salvation in all parts of the earth; for by this means, the Apostles of our Lord, had the greatest advantage to travel, from one place to another, "to preach the everlasting Gospel to every Creature,"(6) agreeable to the commission they had received for this purpose.
And as the more public, so the more private affairs of mankind, are under the governments and direction of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is perfectly acquainted with every individual person in the world; and knows all that belongs to Him. Yes, "he searcheth the very Hearts of the Children of Men, and turns them which way soever he pleaseth, even as the Rivers of Water are turned."(7) And hence it is He makes the godly to "be his willing People in the Day of his Power," Psal. 110:3. And directs the counsels and actions of the wicked, even contrary to their own intentions, so as to accomplish His own most glorious designs: as we may see in the instance of the King of Assyria, spoken of in the 10th chapter of Isaiah. For his private design was plainly "to destroy and to cut off nations not a few," Verse 7: but our sovereign Lord over-ruled him and his management, so as only to correct and reform a degenerate people; as we find in the following context. And thus I have considered the dominion of Christ, as it is exercised over all things; and more especially over angels and men, both good and bad. And now there remains but one thing more to be spoken to under this Head. And this is,
3. Jesus Christ will finally judge the world, and reward every reasonable creature according to his deeds. This is asserted and confirmed to us from the mouth of our Savior Himself, in John 5:22, 23: "The Father judgeth no Man," i.e. He judges no man immediately in His own person; "but hath committed all Judgment to the Son:" and for this weighty reason, "That all Men should honour the Son, even as the Father." And of this we have a further testimony in Acts 17:31, where we are told, "That the Father hath appointed a Day, in the which he judges the World in Righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained: whereof he hath given Assurance unto all Men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." And therefore, at the appointed day and hour, which is known only in the secret councils of Heaven, Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven in all the pomp and glory that becomes this high office, and the great occasion; and as we are assured, in Rom. 26, and onwards, "He will render to every Man according to his Deeds: To them who by patient Continuance in well doing, seek for Glory, and Honour, and immortality; eternal Life:" But to "them that are contentious, and do not obey the Truth, but obey Unrighteousness; Indignation and Wrath, Tribulation and Anguish, upon every Soul of Man that doeth Evil; of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile."
And with this Act of judging the world, Christ will conclude His administrations in the mediatorial kingdom, properly so called. For presently upon this, we read of "his delivering up the kingdom to God, even the Father." As in 1 Cor. 15:24.
And thus I have considered the more general and comprehensive acts of Christ's regal authority. And now,
Secondly, the next thing in order, is, to say something concerning the properties of Christ's kingdom and government. And here I have time only to name the particulars that deserve a more large and distinct consideration. As for instance,
This Government of Christ is universal, and knows no bounds within the compass of God's creation. This is evident from what has been said already. And therefore the kingdom of Christ is said "to rule over all" in Psal. 103:9. And He Himself is called, "LORD of all," in Acts 10:16.
Again, this government of Christ is administered with irresistible power; i.e. in such a manner, as effectually to bring to pass all the counsels of Heaven that are concerned in it. For as all power in Heaven and earth is given to Him, we may fitly apply those words to Him, in Dan. 4:35: "He does according to his Will in the army of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth: and none can stay his Hand, or say to him, What doest thou?"
But however, this government is conducted by "the most consummate wisdom." For as infinite Wisdom laid the design, and formed the model of it, so our Lord Jesus Christ, in His administration, makes use of those laws, means and instruments, which are every way fitted, in the best manner, to answer the glorious intentions of His kingdom. And with an eye to this (I doubt not) He is called, "the only wise God our Saviour," in Jude, verse 25th.
Moreover, this government of Christ is administered according to the strictest rules of justice and righteousness. Hence it is said in the 7th verse of the context, "to be ordered and established with judgment and with justice." And this is confirmed in Psal. 89:4, where justice and judgment are said to be "the Habitation," or the very "Basis, of Christ's Throne." And, in Psal. 45:6: "The Sceptre of his kingdom is a right Sceptre."
And to this I shall add, the administrations of Christ's kingdom are tempered with infinite goodness, grace, and mercy. For though, as I said but now, justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne; yet, His throne is also called, a "Throne of Grace," in Heb. 4:16. And accordingly, He is most mild and gracious in the present exercise of His government: in extending patience and long-suffering towards His enemies: in doing good to all; yes, even to the unkind and unthankful: in declaring His readiness to be reconciled to sinners upon their submission to Him: and in opening all the treasures of grace and goodness to His willing and obedient people. And upon these accounts, He is called "Prince of Peace," in our context.
And now, finally, This kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ is an everlasting Kingdom. For so it is said to be, in the verse following the text: "Of the Increase of his Government and Peace there shall be no End, upon the Throne of David, and upon his Kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with Judgment and with Justice, from henceforth even for ever." And agreeable to this are those words in Psal. 45:6: "Thy Throne, O God, is for ever and ever." Indeed, the time is hastening when an end will be put to the present method of Christ's administration in His kingdom. For when the whole number of God's elect ones shall be effectually called and completely saved; which is the special design of the present administration; Christ will then (as I observed before) "deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father,"(8) i.e. He will resign the more immediate government into the hands of the GODHEAD: But however, the happy effects of this government will still abide; and the glory both of the REDEEMER and REDEEMED continue forever and ever.
And thus I have given you some account of the nature of Christ's kingdom, in the acts and properties of it: which was the second general head I proposed to consider. And now,
III. The next thing in order, is to show, how Jesus Christ, God-Man, came to be vested with this sovereign power and dominion over all things.
And, in a word: It was by the special will and appointment of the Father. For Christ did not take to Himself this great power without leave from the Father; nor without His immediate designation to the office. For it was agreed between God the Father, and God the Son, in the covenant of redemption, that in case the Son would undertake the work of man's redemption the Father would make Him "his First-born, higher than the Kings of the Earth." See Psal. 89:27. And accordingly, the government, in the text, is said to "be laid upon his Shoulder," and not assumed by Him. And again, the Father, speaking of this exaltation of Christ, says in Psal. 2:6: "I have set," i.e. I have appointed, raised up, and crowned, "my King, upon my holy Hill of Zion."
And there appears to have been these two reasons more especially, why this glorious dignity was conferred by the Father upon His Son Jesus Christ.
1. The first was, to reward His great humiliation, suffering and death, in the mediatorial undertaking. For this undertaking was a free and voluntary act in the Son of God. It was what He was under no obligations to enter upon, any farther than His own will inclined and disposed Him. And therefore since He was pleased, in conformity to His Father's will, and in conjunction with it, to undertake an affair that required the greatest abasement in Himself, and would, in the issue, bring the highest possible honor to God; God the Father decreed and promised this dominion to His Son: and in consequence of these, has conferred the highest honor upon Him, as the reward of His undertaking. Of this the Apostle gives us a large and distinct account, in Phil. 2:5, and onwards: "Let this same Mind be in you, which was in Christ Jesus: who being in the Form of God, thought it no Robbery to be Equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the Form of a Servant, and was made in the Likeness of Men: And being found in Fashion as a Man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto Death, even the Death of the Cross. Wherefore God also has 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: And that every Tongue should confess, that Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father."
2. Another special reason why this dignity
was conferred upon Jesus Christ was, that He might be qualified to accomplish
the great business of His mediatorial undertaking. For the work of man's
redemption was of that nature and importance, and the difficulties attending it
so great, that it appears absolutely necessary that He, who should undertake the
work, should be vested with a sovereign power and dominion over all things; a
power to overcome all opposition, and to over-rule all events, so as to effect
the great end proposed. And, for this reason, we are told, in Col. 1:19: "It
hath pleased the Father, that in him should all Fulness dwell," i.e. a
fullness of power and authority, as well as a fullness of grace and merit. And
by this means, Christ is said to be "mighty to save," in Isa. 62:1.
"And able to save to the uttermost, all that come to God by him," as
in Heb. 7:25. And this leads us to the next general Head in the method proposed.
And this is,
IV. To give a short account of the great end of Christ's government and kingdom.
For, as every well constituted government has some noble end in view; a public good that is constantly aimed [at] in all the faithful administration of it, so the kingdom of Christ, being the result of infinite wisdom, the highest and last end of all, must necessarily be proposed in it. And this can be nothing less than the manifestation of the glory of God. For this is the declared end of all the works of God, in creation, providence, and redemption. And in particular, it evidently appears to be the great end our blessed Savior had in view, in the whole of His mediatorial undertaking. To be sure, it is what He had a principal regard to in coming into the world: and therefore we have that anthem of praise, sung by a multitude of the heavenly host, at His incarnation and birth, Luke 2:14: "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth Peace, good-will towards Men." Again, it is what His eye was chiefly fixed on, in all that He did and suffered on earth: and therefore, upon His leaving the world, He made that most comfortable appeal to His Father, John 17:4: "I have glorified thee on Earth: I have finished the Work which thou gavest me to do." And consequently, when He had entirely passed through His state of humiliation and suffering; and, in a state of exaltation, had all power in Heaven and earth committed to Him, he necessarily kept the same great end in view.
And accordingly we have a most glorious display of the Divine perfections in the reign of our Redeemer: They all shine with an infinite brightness, in the administration of His government.
But as I have not time to illustrate this in all the particulars, I shall, on this occasion, only name the infinite mercy and justice of God, which appear with a distinguishing glory in the reign of our Lord Jesus Christ. For when, on the one hand we consider Christ "as Head over all Things to the Church," as in Eph. 1:22: we have the most [...] [rapturous] discoveries of the infinite grace and mercy of God, and of all other divine perfections, that are more nearly related to them; not only in His continual care to defend them against all the power and rage of earth and hell, which are in combination against them; to assist them under all their weaknesses; to comfort them under all their sorrows; to carry on and perfect His own work in them; and to conduct them, at length, safe into the immediate presence and enjoyment of God; where Grace, Grace will be the subject of everlasting songs of praise: So, on the other hand, when we consider Christ as Lord of all, and exerting His power over His enemies; here we have the most [...] [awesome] manifestations of infinite holiness, justice and righteousness; in the judgment which He frequently executes on earth against sin and sinners; in the restraint He continually lays upon His implacable enemies; in the frowns of His indignation which they are perpetually under; and in pouring out all the vials of divine wrath upon them in the world to come. And upon these accounts, the Apostle gives us to understand, in the forecited Phil. 2:11, that, first or last, "Every Tongue shall confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father."
And this brings me now,
V. In the fifth and last place, to apply the preceding discourse, to the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our own interaction.
1. From what we have heard we may reasonably infer the eternal power and God-head of our blessed Redeemer. For, though the government under consideration, was committed to Him, as we have said, by a particular dispensation from the Father; yet, such is the nature and importance of it, that it requires nothing less than infinite perfection to conduct it aright. That is to say, there needs the same infinite power, which at first created all things, to uphold and preserve the world in its being and order: There needs infinite knowledge to understand the particular nature and circumstances of every individual being, as it falls under His care: There needs infinite wisdom to guide every thing to its proper end: There needs infinite patience to bear the many and repeated affronts that are daily offered to the Sovereign of the world; and there needs infinite justice and righteousness, and, in a word, every divine perfection, to judge the world with an exact and righteous judgment. And therefore, since the world is thus judged by Christ, at the last day: the consequence from hence is plain and necessary, that He is the infinite God in our nature.
And agreeably, we have these characters of His person and office, given to Him in our context; such as THE MIGHTY GOD, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, THE PRINCE OF PEACE; that as I observed before, can't be ascribed to any mere creature, without blasphemy and nonsense. And besides, on the account of His universal dominion, the inspired Apostle made no difficulty to call Him, "God blessed for ever," in Rom. 9:5. And, upon further search, we find, that several of the incommunicable attributes of the divine nature, are, in Scripture expressly ascribed to our Lord Jesus Christ. Such as proper eternity, immensity, omnipotence, omniscience, and the like; as I could easily show, were this a fit season to enlarge upon the subject.
And therefore, by the way, we may with propriety enough take notice of the gross contradiction and idolatry, which these men, in the way of their reasoning and practice, run themselves into, who deny the divinity of Christ in the highest sense of the word; and yet, at the same time, own that all divine perfections belong to Him, besides self-existence, absolute supremacy and independency (which they would have be the only incommunicable characters of the one supreme God;) and also allow, that divine honors are due to Christ, on the account of His dignity and dominion.
For when they deny His Godhead in an absolute sense, they, at best, make Him a dignified creature [creation]. And this, in the nature of things, is to make Him but a finite being; for to suppose an infinite creature, is an infinite absurdity.
And again, when they confess that all divine perfections, besides those above-mentioned, belong to our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently, that eternity, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and the like, are truly ascribed to Him; this is, in effect to make Him the Most High God. For this God frequently challenges these perfections as belonging to Himself alone; and besides, these perfections do also, in the nature of things, necessarily suppose the subject of them to be strictly and properly infinite; unless we suppose, than which, I think, nothing can be more absurd, that there is greater and less, in proper eternity, immensity, omnipotence, and the like. And therefore when we consider, on the one hand, what they say to derogate from the true and proper Godhead of Christ; and, on the other hand, what they are forced, from Scripture-light, to ascribe to Him, they make Christ, in one and the same sense, to be both finite and infinite; which is a flat contradiction.
And besides, if Christ is not the supreme God, He cannot be the proper object of divine worship; for God Himself challenges such worship, as His property alone, Matth. 4:10.
[* * *]
And therefore to conclude this head, let us devoutly acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the only true God, and our God, and so worship and glorify Him accordingly.
II. We should hence learn to eye and adore the sovereignty of Christ, in all the dispensations of providence and grace that we meet with. For as He has the superintendency of all things in Heaven and earth, and does particularly over-rule and direct the grand affairs of kingdoms and provinces here below, according to His will and pleasure; we are certainly bound to eye the hand of His providence in all the times and seasons that pass over us. And if we religiously attend this duty, we shall soon find, that we owe as much to the special providence and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, as any one people under Heaven.
For when we consider the many and great things He has done for us; some of which we have seen with our eyes, and many more which our fathers have told us of; and, particularly, how He at first brought our predecessors into this wilderness, and bear them hither as upon eagles' wings; how He supported them under the many dangers and hardships of a wilderness state; [...] and at length turned an howling wilderness into a fruitful field, as we see at this date. And when we further consider the many invaluable privileges, both civil and religious, wherewith we have all along been favored and distinguished among the British Colonies: precious privileges, secured to us under the sanction of a Royal Charter, and peaceably enjoyed under the protection of ourr lawful and rightful King GEORGE II. who, among innumberable instances of his paternal care for the welfare of his subjects in general, has, by a distinguishing act of grace, filled up the several posts of honor and government, reserved to himself by the Royal Charter, from among the sons of our people; who are therefore under the strongest ties in nature, of interest and affection, to seek our peace and prosperity: I say, when we consider these things in general, we shall scarce find any people in the world, that owe more than we do, to the governing providence and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, upon this occasion, I can't forbear to be more particular in one article, wherein the honor of our dear Lord Jesus Christ is most nearly concerned, and whereby our obligations to Him are heightened to that degree, that I verily believe, no one people in the world were ever under greater, to make the best returns of praise and obedience to Him. And this is with respect to our religious privileges, which I hinted at before.
For, as Christ, in taking the government of the world upon Him, had a peculiar [special] eye to His Kingdom of Grace which He was to set up in it; so His grand design in forming and establishing this people at first, appear, evidently to have been, that He might set up His Gospel Kingdom in these parts of the world, in the purity and power of it; and therein receive the most explicit and practical acknowledgments of Himself in His kingly rule and government.
And accordingly He first inspired our forefathers with the purest sentiments, concerning the nature of the Gospel kingdom, and of His sovereignty along in it; and enabled them to bear a faithful testimony to this glorious truth in their native land.
And when, in the course of His providence, He ordered the matter so as to transplant and establish them here; He immediately took possession of these ends of the earth for himself. He set up Gospel churches in the land: churches pure in their doctrine, worship and discipline: and in the constitution of them, the freest, I am persuaded, of any in the world, from those mixtures of human invention, which have been so great a stain upon most of the churches of the Reformation.
And as He thus planted, so He illuminated these churches at first, with pastors after His own heart. And having early put it into the hearts of our fathers, to erect a school of the prophets; He has from time to time, besides a considerable number that have been our chief glory and defense in the civil administration.
And agreeably we have all along had many signal tokens of Christ's promised presence with us. He has accompanied the means of grace we enjoy, with the converting and sanctifying influence of His Holy Spirit: and many have been the sons and daughters born to God, in most of the assemblies of our Zion. And though there has been a visible, and growing declension in these churches, which has oft-times been observed and bewailed; yet our compassionate Redeemer has at times remarkably revived His own work, here and there, among us. And not long since, He made a most surprising display of His free and sovereign grace in some parts of the land, in converting, or reforming, whole congregations and towns almost, in a few months space, by the immediate influences of His Spirit, succeeding the means of grace, without any awakening providence thereto.(9) And as we still hope and pray, that this may be only the first fruits of a larger harvest to come; so all orders and degrees among us, are upon this, and all the accounts abovementioned, under infinite obligations to pay all possible honors to our great Redeemer, as the King, which the Father has set upon His holy hill of Zion. And agreeably, I come now, in the following uses, to apply the subject to the several orders among us.
III. Is the government of the world committed into the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ? Then all the rulers of the land, are to be considered as the subjects of Christ; and, as far as He has made Himself known to them, they are expressly bound to honor Him in all their administrations.
For, as Christ is Lord of all, He keeps the reins of government in His own hands; and disposes of states and rulers according to His own sovereign will and pleasure. And therefore He has given to none of the princes of the earth; no, not to the greatest of them, a power to act their own will, in an arbitrary and despotic manner; or to make their own will their only rule, in the exercise of that power committed to them: But, in all their administrations, He requires they should have a strict regard to such laws, as He has made known to them, either by providence or grace.
And if such as we usually call sovereign princes on earth, owe this subjection to Christ, as absolute Lord of Heaven and earth; all subordinate rulers and judges in a state, are, doubtless, under as great obligations to yield an entire subjection to the laws of Christ, in their administrations, of justice and judgment among the people: Nor will the pretense of obedience to the laws or instructions of the higher powers excuse them, or any else, in breaking in upon the known rights of mankind, or transgressing any of the laws of nature or revelation, when there happens to be an inconsistency between them, as sometimes there has been, through the weakness or wickedness of men in power: But, in this case, the known rule, by which the Apostles of our Lord governed and justified themselves, is to take place, Acts 5:29. "We ought to obey God rather than men."
It is therefore the duty and interest of all in authority among men, whether supreme or subordinate, to eye the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign Lord of all; to set His laws before them, as the general rule of their administrations; and, as near as they can, to imitate Him in all those moral perfections, which shine so gloriously in the administration of His government.
And now, may it please Your EXCELLENCY [Governor Jonathan Belcher], with the honorable Board of Counsellors, the honorable House of Representatives, and all that sustain any posts of honor and service in the government: You see, my honored fathers, whose you are, and whom you ought principally to serve.
The Lord Jesus Christ, as Sovereign of the world, has placed you, under our gracious King GEORGE on the throne of Great Britain, at the head of affairs in this Province: you therefore owe the highest honor and allegiance to Him.
And to express this loyalty to the King of kings, you must not only make that personal dedication of yourselves to Him and His service, which equally concerns all mankind; but you must, with the greatest diligence and fidelity, apply yourselves to the special duties of your respective stations, in the service of your king and country.
And here, since our blessed Lord Jesus Christ has set up His Kingdom of Grace among this people, as I observed before; and has given you, not only the laws of nature, but the light of Divine Revelation to guide you in all your administrations; you ought surely, as Christian rulers, to be chiefly concerned that this kingdom of Christ may flourish in the land.
And to this purpose, you must employ your superior power and talents so as to make the civil administration, in the most effectual manner, to observe the great end of the Redeemer's kingdom.
And this may be done; not by making and executing laws, with a design to oblige the consciences of men in matters of divine faith and worship; for this is a royalty of Christ, a flower in His crown, which He has reserved only to Himself: But it may be done, by employing the sword of justice, for the restraint and punishment of open prophaneness, immorality, irreligion, and the like; by distinguishing the most faithful subjects of Christ, with the more peculiar [special] smiles of government; and by setting before the people a bright example of every Christian grace and virtue.
And here I might with propriety enough, have gone into a particular consideration of the state of this people; and have shown both the reigning distempers of the land, and the methods our honorable rulers, in their several stations, are to go into, in applying the proper remedies for the cure of them: But I find myself prevented, by several late excellent discourses of this nature, upon this occasion; and have, in a great measure, prevented myself, in one or two discourses published heretofore, by the direction of the honorable House of Representatives.
I shall therefore, in this place, only earnestly entreat all that are immediately concerned in the elections of this day. That in the choice of His Majesty's Council for the Province, which is a singular privilege we enjoy, you would have a strict regard to the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ; and not choose men to serve a particular turn; but men that are understanding in the divine wisdom from Christ, the wonderful Counsellor: For these are the only men that can act from the purest principles, in the service of God, their king, and their country.
And when you come to act in General Assembly, I humbly request, on the behalf of our common Lord and Master, that you would act from the same divine principle. And if there are any laws wanting to secure the honor and interest of Christ's religion among us, that you would take the matter into serious consideration.
And here, suffer me, with due deference, to express my prevailing fears, that there is something of this nature greatly wanting on your part, to prevent the cruel oppression and injustice that has, for a long time, been reigning among us, on the account of the uncertain and fluctuating state of our medium of trade; for righteousness between man and man is certainly an essential branch of the religion of our blessed Savior.
And if anything farther may be done by our honorable legislators, to restrain that flood of iniquity which threatens our ruin: this is what our supreme Lord expects and requires from you.
But upon the best inquiry I have been able to make, I find, to your honor, that we have a most excellent body of laws, for the suppression of vice and immorality; and that the great thing wanting on this head, is the due execution of the whole--some laws in being. Not that I suppose this is the only thing wanting to effect a thorough reformation in the land; for there is evidentially, in this respect, too great a backwardness in all orders and degrees among us; and even among those who are called to minister in holy things, and are watchmen and reprovers by office.
But as my business here is with the civil magistrate; may I prevail with the worthy gentlemen in commission for the peace, to exert themselves, and be zealous in the cause of virtue and good order; in searching out and punishing the workers of iniquity, as the laws of the land, and the oath of God you are under, oblige you; for herein you will eminently serve Christ the Lord.
And suffer me with great humility, on this occasion, to entreat Your Excellency in conjunction with the honorable Council, solemnly to renew your charge to the judges and other magistrates, who immediately receive their commission from you; in the words, (or to the like effect) that the renowned King Jehoshaphat did on a like occasion, as we find, in 2 Chron. 19:6, 7. "Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for Men, but for the Lord, who is with you in the Judgment. Wherefore now, let the Fear of the LORD be upon you, take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of Persons, nor taking of Bribes." And when you may find a necessity to enlarge the number of those in commission, I earnestly beseech you, in the name and fear of God, always to have an eye to that excellent advice, which Jethro once gave to Moses, in Exod. 18:21, 22. "Provide out of all the People, able Men, such as fear God, Men of Truth, hating Covetousness: and place such over them. And let them judge the People at all Seasons."
And now, to urge the Advice given to our honorable rulers in their several degrees, I shall take leave just to mention some few of the many arguments and motives, which, with due consideration, must have the greatest influence upon you. As for instance,
All the power you are vested with, you reinvested originally from Christ, as He is supreme Governor among the nations. And therefore God Himself, speaking of civil rulers, says, in Psal. 82:6. "I have said, Ye are gods," i.e. I have appointed and constituted you rulers over the people. And agreeably the Apostle tells us, in Rom. 13:1, "The Powers that be are ordained of God." And for this reason, the civil magistrate is called, the "minister of God," in the 4th verse. Again,
In your advancement in the world, the Lord Jesus Christ has imparted of His own honor unto you. And therefore you are called "gods," by his special appointment, in the aforecited Psal. 82:6. And agreeably He demands from His people a proportionate degree of reverence and obedience unto you. For that is His sovereign will in this case, Rom. 13:2, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." And again, in verse 7, "Render therefore to all their Dues: Tribute to whom Tribute is due; Custom to whom Custom, Fear to whom Fear, Honour to whom Honour." Furthermore,
As Christ is Lord of all, He keeps the same strict eye upon you, that He does upon the rest of mankind, and critically observes and records all your tempers, designs, and managements in your administrations among the people. And to this purpose we read, in Psal. 82:2, "God standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty: he judgeth among the Gods." And besides,
Though, for the present, you are raised in honor and power above your brethren, yet, your breath is in your nostrils; and you must, in a little time, be leveled with the meanest [lowest] of the people, in the dust of death. For so says the Lord Himself, the Author of your advancement, in Psal. 82:6, 7, "I have said, Ye are Gods: and all of you Children of the most High. But ye shall die like Men, and fall like one of the Princes." And here I can't but take notice, with grief and sorrow, of the late convincing proof of this, in the death of that honorable person, (the Hon. Edmund Quincy, Esq; [...]) who, for many years past, and in divers [various] stations, has been a great honor and blessing to his country, in the wisdom, prudence, piety and steadiness, that ever appeared in the share he once had in the public administrations; and whom God has taken from us in the height of his service for the country. This sad instance, I doubt not, my honored fathers, has given you a lively view of your own mortality. And as you must thus die like other men, your glory will not descend into the dust after you. Nor will there any further notice be taken of you on earth, than only, to grace your memory with praise, in case you now approve yourselves fathers and benefactors to your country; or, to load you names with infamy, if you should prove (which God forbid) to be the oppressors of the people. But this consideration, though in itself, is but of little weight in compare [comparison] with the following one. For,
In the last place, as Christ will judge angels and men at the great Day, He will particularly call all the rulers of the earth to an account for their administrations in this world. And as their talents and betrustments here are greater than others; so (no doubt) will be the terror or comfort of their future great account. And agreeably, we read concerning such kings and rulers, "who set themselves against the Lord," and "against His anointed;" and prove themselves the plagues of mankind, while they have any power in their hands; that Christ will at last "break them with a Rod of Iron", and "dash them in Pieces like a Potters Vessel," see Psal. 2:2, 9. And therefore, not only the mean men, but even the mighty, who bid defiance to Heaven, when they shall see "Christ appear from Heaven, in flaming Fire," to take Vengeance on his Adversaries; will hide theem selves in the Dens, and in the Rocks of the Mountains. And say to the Mountains and Hills, Fall on us, and hide us from the Face of him that sitteth on the Throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; For the great Day of his Wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" as in Rev. 6:15, 16, 17. While, on the other hand, those princes and rulers among men, who, like "David, serve God and their Generation, according to the Will of God," shall have distinguishing crowns of glory set on their heads at the last day, and be peculiar [special] favorites around the throne of Christ forever and ever. And from this consideration of the final judgment, we have that exhortation to the rulers of the earth, with which I conclude this head, Psal. 2:10, 11, 12, "Be wise therefore, O ye Kings: be instructed, ye Judges of the Earth. Serve the Lord with Fear, and rejoyce with Trembling. Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the Way, when his Wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him." And this leads me to the last head of improvement, which is this,
IV. Let us all now submit to the scepter of Christ's government, and be chiefly concerned for the advancement of His kingdom and interest in the world. By the kingdom of Christ here I intend His spiritual kingdom, which is the great end of His providential kingdom. And this is what we are under infinite obligations to seek the advancement of; both on the account of Christ's setting up this kingdom among us; and considering also, that the grand design of our forefathers in coming hither, was to assert and maintain His supremacy alone in this kingdom. And now, that we may, in the most effectual manner, answer the just expectations of our blessed Lord and Savior concerning us; I shall just hint at a few things, and conclude the discourse.
1. Let it be the first and great concern of everyone, that this kingdom of Christ may be set up and flourish in his own heart. And therefore, where the foundations of this kingdom have not been laid already in any heart; let the miserable sinner, with a diligent use of all the other means of conversion, be earnest in his supplications, that the Almighty Spirit of our Redeemer, would, in the way of free and sovereign grace, conquer the reigning enmity within "and give him a new Heart, and a new Spirit." And where Christ has done this already; let the happy soul rejoice in God his Savior, and, in the exercise of a lively faith, pray continually for the quickening, sanctifying, and comforting influences of the ever blessed Spirit of grace; for hereby we shall all readily bow to the scepter of Christ, and become His willing and obedient people, and know in happy experience, what that kingdom of God means, "which consists in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." Upon this,
2. Let us confess and bewail the great opposition which the kingdom of Christ meets with in the world, and more especially among ourselves. For after all the spiritual light and privileges, wherewith Christ has distinguished this land and people, He has a multitude of open and secret enemies among us. There are a great many here and there, who lead such loose and debauched, such profane and irreligious lives, that they proclaim to all the world, that they will not that Christ should reign over them. Again, among those who profess a subjection to Christ, and have taken to themselves a form of religion, have we not reason to fear, from the prevailing deadness and coldness of professors, and their backwardness to every good work: and from their readiness to drink in the poison of error, and upon any light temptation to forsake the pure Scriptural worship of these churches; which, no doubt, is observed and resented by our Savior as a very great apostasy from Him; and more especially in any of the children of New England; I say, when we consider these things, have we not reason to fear that a very great proportion of visible professors, are utter strangers to all vital religion; and so, whatever their outward profession may be, they are enemies in heart to Christ and His religion? And besides, when the very best of men look into their own hearts, they soon find a great deal of opposition to the work of grace there, from the workings of that inbred enmity against God, and His holy laws, which all mankind bring into the world with them. And therefore in our concern for the advancement of Christ's spiritual kingdom, these, and the like things, are greatly to be lamented by the people of God. Again,
3. Let us earnestly pray for the enlargement and prosperity of Christ's kingdom in the power and glory of it: "That his Kingdom may come, and his Will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven." And to this end, that the Lord would make bear His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God: That where the name of Christ is known, His scepter may be universally bowed down unto: and especially our own nation and land.
And since God has given us a Protestant king on the British throne, with the hopeful prospect of a long succession of such princes in the illustrious House of HANOVER; for which we owe the most grateful acknowledgment, to Heaven; Let us pray, that the days of our king may be many, and his reign prosperous; that the honor of Christ, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice, may be ever near his heart. And especially let us go on to pray, that the most afflictive dispensation of providence, in the death of our late incomparable and gracious Queen CAROLINE, (whose death has been as heartily and universally lamented in this Province, as in any part of His Majesty's dominions) may be sanctified to his royal person and house, and to the whole nation: That His Majesty may be graciously supported under the irreparable loss; and from this most affecting instance of the vanity of earthly glory, in the height of it, may be abundantly quickened and enlarged to a faithful discharge of that duty, which the sovereign Lord of all expects from one in his exalted station: That when he comes to lay down his earthly crown in the dust, he may receive a most distinguishing crown of never-fading glory in the world to come.
Again, let us pray, that our more immediate rulers may have abundant measures of the Spirit granted to them from on high, to fit them, in their several stations, eminently to serve the Lord Christ, in being "a Praise to such as do well, and a Terror to evil doers."
That our ministers, in the course of their ministry, may desire "to know nothing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified," and be enabled to display the lovely glories of our Redeemer, in their doctrine and conversation.
That our churches may hold fast the things they have received; and by walking stedfast in the faith and order of the Gospel, may have rest and be edified.
That the means of grace which we enjoy, may have those divine influences attending them, whereby saving conversions may be multiplied among us, and converts filled with righteousness.
In a word, let us pray for the plentiful effusions of the ever-blessed Spirit of grace, that the "Work of God may appear unto his Servants, and his Glory unto their Children; and that the Beauty of the Lord our God may be upon us." And now,
4. Finally, let us all, in our several places and relations, study and endeavor, by Divine assistance, faithfully to discharge the duties required of us in the Gospel of God our Savior. And then may we hope to have the smiles of His providence upon us in all our affairs, both public and private; and in a little time to see the fulfillment of that gracious promise, which (I doubt not) has a reference to these Gospel days, in Isa. 44:2, 3, 4, 5, 6, "Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the Womb, which will help thee, Fear not, O Jacob my Servant, and thou Jesurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour Water upon him that is thirsty, and Floods upon the dry Ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy Seed, and my Blessing upon thine Off-spring: And they shall spring up as among the Grass, as Willows by the Water-Courses. One shall say, I am the LORD's: and another shall call himself by the Name of Israel. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the LORD of Hosts, I am the first, and I am the last, and besides me there is no God."
2. Phil. 2:6.
3. [Matthew] Henry
4. Luke 4:41.
5. John 13:17.
6. Matth. 28:10.
7. Rev. 2:23;. Prov. 11:1.
8. 1 Cor. 15:24.
9. See the Rev. Mr. [Jonathan] Edwards' Faithful Narrative, etc., lately published in London, by Dr. [Isaac] Watts and Dr. Guyse.
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