The Kingdom of God
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, March 11th, 1849
This was the conviction wrought in the heart of a heathen monarch, after his tremendous sins of idolatry and of cruel persecution of the servants of the Most high God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, had been cast into a burning fiery furnace, heated seven times hotter than usual, in order to express the king s wrath. This was followed on by a miracle wrought by their covenant God; and to prove that the fire had power it did two great things; it first of all consumed the mightiest men in Nebuchadnezzar s army who threw the young men in, and then burned off their bonds and fetters. The foes and the murderers were gone, and the bonds and fetters were gone; and therefore "the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, 0 king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt." How comes this about? "And the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." Who would not go into a burning fiery furnace to lose all their bonds? But the fire was permitted to do no more. "Upon their bodies the fire had no power, nor was a hair of their heads singed, neither were their coats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed upon them." Oh, the marvellous ways in which God interposes and interferes on the behalf of His people! When the monarch was constrained, under this deep conviction, to bid them come forth, you see he did not want any one to fetch them out, for they could not only walk about in the fire, but walk out of it too; and so the promise was, "I will bring the third part through the fire," (Zech. 13:9) and God brought them forth. Then said Nebuchadnezzar, I will issue my proclamation, relative to the matter of fact that my conscience is convinced fully of, unto all people in my dominions: "Nebuchadnezzar, the king, unto all people, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are His signs! And how mighty are His wonders! Then comes our text - kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation."
Now these words have been deeply impressed upon my mind by passing events and circumstances; for you can hardly meet with an intelligent person but he has something to express of regret, of sorrow, or of wonder relative to the overturning of kingdoms, and empires, and dynasties, and the humbling of monarchs, and the reversing of state. Persons very naturally inquire, if we are not safe in France, where shall we run? If we are not safe in Germany, where shall we run? If we are not safe in Italy, where shall we run - where shall we find a kingdom that is secure and safe, and that cannot by possibility be overturned? Beloved, here it is. "We, receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved." Have you found it? Have you received it? "A kingdom that cannot be moved." Have you had grace from the Son of God to receive it? This is what I desire to impress upon your minds this morning. This kingdom we have found and received by faith, many of us. And what we now want is in our meditations upon this portion of holy writ, to have grace from on high to serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. If I were a politician I could say a great deal concerning the events which are turning up all around us; but this would not do your souls much good. I will therefore at once direct your attention to the interesting statement which I have read as the basis of our discourse, and upon which I shall endeavour to open four things to your view.
First, a kingdom which is said to be Jehovah s, the Most High God. Secondly, the interests of that kingdom, which it becomes every subject to look well into. Thirdly, the natives of that kingdom, for they are a peculiar race, and we shall do well to ascertain if we belong to them. And, fourthly, the generation specified in succession "from generation to generation;" and here we shall have something to do with the line of succession. Upon these four points I hope to be able of offer a few thoughts in accordance with the oracles of truth; and I beseech you to pray for me, that I may so preach that a great number may believe and be brought nigh to God.
I. First of all, then, let us say a few words about this kingdom-the antecedent is in the verse immediately preceding our text, in which the monarch talks of "showing the signs and wonders that the high God had wrought towards him." He had not yet got quite into our school, and into the use of the phraseology of the servants of the living God, who call Him the "Most High God." But by-and-bye you will find this same man learning that phrase also, and putting it forth. However, he calls Him here "the High God," higher than his own god, higher than all the idols and gods of the heathen, higher even than himself, and he would fain have been a god. Glory to our covenant God, that this is a suitable and proper appellation, for the kingdom is His.
The points I wish to establish is, that Jehovah s kingdom of grace is perfectly distinct from all the kingdoms of the world. We might say much concerning the kingdom of nature, and show how He rules that, as He did in the instance of those three persons, so that even fire should lose its power, and they walk about in it unhurt. We might say a good deal about the kingdom of nature, and show how He rules that, or else He would not have been able to say, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." (Isa. 43:2) And if He were not the God of the kingdom of nature, he could not control and govern it. This is seen marvellously in the instance of the young man whose father brought him to Jesus Christ, and who was possessed of a devil. The devil, if he had been king, would have made the fire to burn the young man or the water to drown him;" but no, says the father, "oft times it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him;" but he has not been allowed to burn him with fire, or drown him with water. I shall not, however, descant largely upon God s kingdom in nature, because I shall want the whole of my time to speak of the kingdom before me, that is, the kingdom of grace.
And, first of all, my precious Lord says, His kingdom is "not of this world;" it is not carnal, it is not in the might and power of human potentates, it is not submitted to the authority of carnal minds, it is not that which the enemies of Jesus Christ are to lay their hands upon if they had authority and offices appointed unto them in it. No, they are usurpers in all these respects; for the kingdom of our God, the kingdom of grace, is the Church on earth, as founded in the Divine will of eternal sovereignty; and therefore the prophet Daniel was commissioned to tell this monarch concerning this kingdom, in contrasting it with other kingdoms that should rise, and, having attained their meridian glory, decline and perish one after another, that in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed." Mark, "the God of heaven;" not an earthly monarch, not carnal minds, and the multitude that hate Jesus Christ, not even priestly authority, but "the God of heaven" shall do it. It is supernatural, and it is founded on His Divine will. "The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed. And the kingdom shall not be left to other people but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" - the same kingdom of which the text speaks, founded in the Divine will. Hence when Jehovah speaks of the King himself, He says, "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion." (Ps. 2:6) His Zion is His holy hill, His living Church, His elect Church, His ransomed Church, his regenerated Church, is His holy hill, His kingdom and dominion in a spiritual point of view. And this will in which the kingdom is founded is of ancient date. Look back to the earliest history we possess, and the account given of what real godliness was in Adam s days, in Abel s days, and in Abraham s days, and we shall find that the kingdom then, and for ages before, was founded in the settled purpose of eternity, in time council of peace, between the persons of Deity. The mind of Jehovah, "while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world," and down to the end of time, was declared, arranged, settled, and recorded, and not one iota can be reversed or altered.
Moreover, it is absolute in the Divine mind "With whom took He counsel?" or whom did He consult on the matter? Where is the being that gave advice, or communicated understanding to Him? The prophet Isaiah might ask those significant questions, but no human being has ever answered them. No, His will is absolute law. Probably it would be found a rather dangerous experiment to make the will of a created being absolute law; but there is no such danger with God. We are nowhere so safe, so happy and secure, as under the guidance, control, and management of Jehovah s absolute will. It was His absolute will, and the order and arrangement of His kingdom that it should be constituted of "righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." It was His sovereign, absolute will that He should select its inhabitants from all nations, kindreds, and peoples under heaven, and make them His own. It was His sovereign and absolute will that all that pertains to its laws, its privileges, and provisions, in the statute book which lies before me, the precious Bible, should be dictated, ordered, and inspired by Himself, without consulting any one. Moreover, it is a kingdom that has always been advancing, according to the absolute sovereignty of His own will. I know that the powers of darkness have done, and are now doing, all in their power to stop its progress. Their cry still is of our beloved Zion, "Raze it, raze it, even to the ground;" but I equally know that all the powers of darkness, and all the enemies they employ upon earth, shall not succeed in their diabolical enterprise. The glorious King Himself hath said, and it is set down for our encouragement with pen of the Holy Ghost "Upon this Rock" Himself "will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt. 16:18) I know that the race of Pagan persecutors, shortly after Jesus ascended to glory, hurried millions of His dear disciples, the subjects of His kingdom, home to glory, by means of wild beasts, by fire, by suffocating dungeons, by exile and banishment, and by every possible cruelty; yet that did not hinder the advancement of the kingdom. No, it promoted its advance. The more His people were afflicted the more they multiplied and grew. If I view the attempts made after Paganism had received a check, by an infinitely worse foe than Paganism, I mean Popery, or Infidelity, I class them together, for they are essentially one and the same; and if I view the millions of Christ s precious sheep and ransomed ones, the holiest and best men that ever honoured creation under the grace of God, whom they too have hurried home by their murders, and all to arrest the progress of the kingdom of Christ; what do I see follow? What of all this? Why, "instead of the fathers have come up the children "and the kingdom of our precious, glorious Redeemer is still advancing, and must grow and advance. I am quite aware, also. Of what is coming upon the Church. I have warned you of it for the last quarter of a century, though many have laughed at me for doing so; but by-and-bye, when too late to see your danger, "God will laugh at your calamity, mock when your fear cometh." I fell a firm persuasion; increase everyday by every event, that the Church of Jehovah, His spiritual kingdom upon earth, has yet to pass through a hotter field of bloody persecution that she has ever known since Christ ascended to glory, though it shall be of short duration. But shall it injure the Church? Not at all. Shall it stop the advancement of the Church? No, not for an hour - amidst all she shall go on. The very blood of the martyrs shall be the seed of the Church; for Jehovah hath sworn that "a seed shall serve Him, and He will account it unto Him a generation." So that the kingdom of God, which is spiritual and distinct from the world at large, is not only absolute in all that pertains to its foundation and ancient of date, going back to eternity, but is advancing day by day in the conversion of sinners unto God, and bringing them to Jesus, and in the comfort and establishment of every real child of God.
This kingdom, founded in the Divine will, is organized with infinite wisdom. There is an organization of the Church of God which belongs exclusively to Himself. We sometimes speak of organized churches visible, and whose organization is accomplished by the efforts of men, in a godly way, according to the word of God; and I love to contemplate the proper, consistent, and scriptural organization of a Christian Church, such as ours is, to wit; and God grant that it may continue its present organization, without variation, as long as a living Church is known upon earth. But this is not the organization I mean. There are privileges, advantages, comforts, pleasures, and usefulness pertaining to the organization of a Christian Church. Believers should not be like a scattered flock of sheep, not knowing one another; but should be knit together as one in heart, in love, and in bearing one another s burdens. The organization I mean is that which consists of people, the principles, and the privileges, all of which are in accordance with, nay, organized by, infinite wisdom. The people. "This people have I formed for myself. They shall show forth my praise." (Isa. 43:21) And in forming this people, if He passes by Cain and takes Abel, He does it as a sovereign; if he passes by Ishmael and takes Isaac, He has a right so to do; if he passes by Esau and take Jacob, it is not for the merits of the creature, but "even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight." If he takes Abraham out of the land of Chaldea, and leaves all the patriarch s old friends and neighbours, sunk in the depths of the basest idolatry, He has a right so to do. If He makes of Abraham a great nation, and yet the fewest of all nations upon the face of the earth, it is all His own work. The people were selected, appointed, and predestinated by Himself. And when the apostle, under Divine inspiration, would mark the organization of the Church, he says, alluding to the circumstance I have already named, "Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated." "Was not Esau Jacob s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness." (Malachi 1:2,3) And why is this distinction? The apostle is commissioned to tell us in these words, "That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth; it was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." I pray you mark, in the face of all the caprice of the proud Pharisees of the present day, that it is not said that the excellency, the holiness, the merits, the purity, and the godliness of Jacob were thereby to be manifested, but "that the purposed of God according to election might stand." That is the way He organizes His kingdom; and who shall reply? Who shall say unto Him, "What doest thou?" Is He not God? Ye proud free willers, if you mean to be gods, as the devil told your mother she should be, set up yourselves as such and declare at once with your barefaced Infidelity, "Jesus shall not be God. I will be God; and repent, and turn, and pray, when, and how, and as I like." But that can never be; no, not even in hell. Let Jehovah then be God, and let everything bow to His sovereign commands and power. He has organized the Church, His spiritual kingdom, and selected its people, and, therefore, our blessed Lord hath said, "Thine they were and thou gavest them unto me." "All mine are thine and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them." "All the Father giveth me shall come unto me, and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out." This is the Father s will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." There, then, is the organization as regards the people. Now as to the principles. Upon what principles has Jehovah organized His Church, His kingdom upon earth? One word would serve as a title page, a running title, to the whole statute book of the kingdom; and that word is "grace." It is a grace kingdom. All its principles, doctrines, laws, and statutes, emanate from the fullness of grace in the Father s heart, in the Person of the Son, according to the register of the Holy Ghost. Grace makes the characteristics.
Moreover, as regards privileges. Here a vast amount of illustration opens to my view, but I must limit myself to only one or two remarks. This blessed kingdom of our God has privileges for all its subjects, who are declared to be made "kings and priests unto God." Nay, more, they are declared to be a "nation of priests;" not, be it observed officially such, but personally and spiritually such: that is, they are chosen, ordained, qualified, taught and instructed, and enabled to offer spiritual sacrifices, "holy and acceptable unto God," and are accustomed every one of them to bring the burnt offering, the Lord Jesus Christ, and come before Jehovah with it. They are instructed to reject as unholy, carnal and awfully offensive to God all pretensions to an official priesthood, and to hang all that honour upon the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is "a priest after the order of Melchisedec," and not after the order of Aaron. Moreover, among their privileges, we must not omit to name those of adoption, of intimacy, of fellowship, of feasting, of clothing, and of decoration, all coming from the Lord; and if I take the last idea, as set down by Isaiah, I find that the Church is made to sing, "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels." (Isa. 61:10) And so hath the Lord honoured His Church with all the graces of His Holy spirit. Moreover, if we speak of the privileges under which the kingdom of Jesus Christ is organized, we find a vast revenue of promises, all of which are "yea and amen" in Jesus Christ, (2 Cor. 1:20) and are to the glory of God in the experience of every subject of His grace.
Let us pass on to mark one thing more respecting this kingdom; I mean its unchangeable character; for my text says expressly that "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom." It shall know no variation. What, do you tell us that it is a chartered kingdom." Yes, it is a chartered kingdom, and the charter is the covenant of grace; and we should do well to keep an eye upon the three prominent features in the charter. First, then, it is clear in its statements. None can be mistaken in it, but those who deny Jehovah s sovereignty, and consequently hate His kingdom and reign. It is not only clear but conclusive. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be taken from it. And it is not only clear and conclusive, but compulsory. I make choice of this word, for in other kingdoms the idea of compulsory laws clear in its statements, and what can be clearer than the statement with which it is headed? - "I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy; and I will have compassion upon whom I will have compassion." And the explanation, I was going to say, attached to it is this, "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Rom. 9:15,16) That is our charter. He has no where in that charter bound Himself as regards how, or where, or when, the disciples of His grace and mercy shall be made. It is "I will" and "they shall." "I will write my laws in their hearts." "I will be their God. They shall be my people." There is no appeal from that, as the charter and covenant of grace. Moreover, the charter is conclusive. Men do not like this, and are everlastingly engaged in adding to it terms and conditions, proposals, contingencies, and uncertainties; but not one of them can they engross upon Jehovah s parchment, for only that which He has put His signature to is allowed to stand. No, He will keep to the sacred conclusiveness of having made choice of His Church in Christ before all time; and He will not add one to the number, nor allow one to be lost. It is conclusive as regards all its privileges; nor can a blessing be withheld, as it is written, "The Lord God will give grace and glory, and no good thing will He withhold." (Ps. 84:11) Moreover, it is compulsory. It asks no man s leave. There is no petitioning for a change. It admits of no reluctance when it is enforced. But observe here that God never authorized any human being to compel the conscience of another, that God never authorized any human being to force His creed upon the conscience of a fellow-worm. That does not come from God. But when the compulsion is His own; when He sends forth His servants with His message, and compels sinner to come in, lays His hand upon them, takes possession of them, conquers and subdues them, transforms and regenerated them, He asks not their leave. It is His own work.
II. Let me now go on to drop a word or two about the interests of this kingdom, which are great and rare, and concern the monarch and the subject both. I shall only mention two or three of those interests; and if one of them fail, the monarch is injured as well as the subject. The interests, then, are mutual. And mark, first, the new covenant treasures which constitute the revenue of the kingdom. Only just for one moment imagine that there is no security there; that all the blessings of the covenant of grace are like the golden ores in yonder promontory, to be scrambled for by all the rabble of the world! What is the consequences? but that the gospel of Jesus Christ sinks into contempt. Look for a moment at those treasures. I give you them in three words; life, liberty, and love - all in the covenant of grace, all in the new covenant store. Life divine and eternal in Christ; a life capable of enjoying God; that lives down every other Life; that vanquishes and overcomes all opponents; that can never die; that shall exist with its author and giver unto all eternity: a life of blessedness, a life of honour, a life of genuine happiness, a life of dignity, a life that is growing, a life that is akin to heavenly glory, and shall be consummated there.
Moreover, liberty belongs to new covenant blessings, and forms part of the revenue of the kingdom. For among the treasures which I myself have found in the new covenant, is that of which the glorious Prince of Peace says, "If the Son make you free, then are free indeed." Not many Sabbaths ago we dwelt upon it as the "perfect law of liberty" - not of bondage, or conditions, terms or contingencies, but the "perfect law of liberty." And it runs to this extent, that every subject of the kingdom of God in this spiritual point of view is entitled to a freedom from the curse, a freedom from the law, a freedom from the thraldom of Satan, a freedom from the idolatries of Egypt and the yoke of Pharaoh, a freedom from the love of the world and the spirit of the world, a freedom from creature dependence and Pharisaic pride - in one solemn word, a freedom from modern divinity, the most appalling thing in existence; such a jumbling, compromising mass of contradictions as perhaps the world never witnessed before under the name of which would make a man claim the government of himself, rather than allow God to govern him. Yet, further, a liberty is found in this new covenant treasure to range the garden of the Lord, and pluck the choicest flowers and fruits, receive special communication, taste the greatest dainties, rejoice in the new wine of the covenant, and of the kingdom, and habitually to approach the court of heaven itself, and enjoy communion with God. Oh what liberty is here! Add to this among the interests of the kingdom, the love which reigns, the love which fulfils the law, as our precious Lawgiver has said, the love which lies at the root of the whole of the privileges bestowed; the love of God the Father in His gifts, the love of God the Son in His perfect work, and the love of God the Spirit in the work He begins and carries on in His people s experience, and the Love of all His citizens on toward another; for they are exhorted to love one another with a pure heart fervently. Only imagine these interests to be once interrupted!
Again, these interests are mutual, and concern the King as well as His subjects. Interrupt the life - then the King Himself does not know how many of His subjects may live or die; nor can any one of them be sure, though made alive of God, but he may die tomorrow, and perish for ever. What a wretched thing to be placed in this uncertainty! But when the King Himself says, "I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish;" then they may with one accord exclaim, "I have received eternal life, and cannot perish." Moreover, if we have not liberty in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but are in fetters and legal bonds, Jesus is robbed of a large revenue of praise and glory, and the believer forfeits a large amount of enjoyment and usefulness. What should we say if the love of God towards His Church and people were doubted? What should we say if the love of the persons of the Deity towards each other in the grand scheme of grace were to be doubted? Why all would henceforward be a dead blank, a tremendous uncertainty. What if the love of God should not be "shed abroad in the heart" towards Jesus Christ? Why this would be the consequence, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed with a curse." Then, what should we say if there be no love among Christians one towards another? "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Don t you see therefore the mutual interest which reign supreme between the King and His subjects?
But whilst we speak of the interests of the kingdom, we must not lose sight of its dignity. All its subjects are dignified characters; and yet all their dignity is concentrated in their glorious sovereign. All His subjects are brought out from the world, washed and made clean, forgiven freely, justified perfectly, accepted cordially, "received graciously, and loved freely." Moreover, if you speak of their dignity, they are destined to reign with Jesus, their Monarch, for ever and ever. If you speak of their dignity in union with their glorious Lord, they will be ashamed of everything like a degradation; they will not stoop to the beggarly elements of the world, "but as He who has called them is holy, so will they be holy in all manner of conversation." And then with reference to the defence of the Kingdom. Some people think their best defence to consist in a multitude of soldiers; some say "wooden walls of old England" are her best defence - a sorry defence this, if it be all our defence. It was at one time thought in Italy that Antichrist was their defence, and that he was infallible; but now, poor wretch, the tables are quite turned, and if he were not dreadfully infatuated, or worse than that, he would see that his infallibility is not worth the claiming, for it did him no good when he claimed it. Beloved, all such defences as these are no good whatever; they are mere "refuges of lies." But, on the other hand, what is our defence? What is the defence of our kingdom?" "Salvation has the Lord appointed for walls and bulwarks." (Isa. 26:1) Nay, more, the Psalmist could sing, "the Lord is my defence" - "the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them;" (Ps. 34:7) and Jehovah said to Abraham, "Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield" (Gen. 15:1) and defence. Bear this one thing in mind, that whatever powers, prelates, and pontiffs, may tumble to pieces and fall - and it is to be expected that many multitudes of them will ere long - the power which preserves our Zion can never fall. It is omnipotent; it is the arm of the Lord; and therefore the prophet said in his prayer, "Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old." (Isa. 51:9)
III. I must now, in the third place, describe the natives of this kingdom. And let me remind you that these natives are the elect of God, the election of grace, God s chosen people, loved in their covenant Head from everlasting, separately viewed in the predestinating mind of the eternal God as His special property, as His "peculiar treasure," as His own family, as His own household, as His own kingdom, as His own portion - "the Lord s portion is His people, Jacob the lot of His inheritance." I know that some persons entertain a great aversion to the word "elect," and that consequently certain squeamish preachers take the utmost care to avoid using the phrase in the strong and bold form in which I have put it; and lest it should give offence will say, they are the Lord s dear people, and the like. Well, that is true so far it goes. They will tell you also that they are the Lord s own Church; and that too is correct so far as it goes. But why object to the word elect? When Peter writes, "to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus Galatia," &c, he uses the word "elect" first; he begins with "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." (1 Pet. 1:1,2) These are the natives of Christ s kingdom. But I must dwell only upon their being home-born. "Of Zion it shall be said, this and that man was born in her." (Ps. 87:5) And be it remembered that God s spiritual births have been going on in the hearts of multitudes of sinners down to the present hour, and shall still go on. It is those very persons to whom the glorious King Himself spoke when He said they were born not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, nor of blood, but of God. (John 1:13) Jesus, in preaching to Nicodemus, and using the simile of a kingdom, says, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God;" (John 3:3) and again, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5) So that all the inhabitants of the kingdom that are owned as natives must be born of God with a life Divine, with a spiritual nature and existence, new creatures really capable of enjoying God, and living in a holy atmosphere.
One word more. There is a peculiar description of them given by that wretch Haman - would to God that we had no Hamans in England in our days - when he sought the annihilation and destruction of God s Church in the time of king Ahasuerus, and the subtle Jesuit cried, "O King, live for ever, there is a certain people in the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king s laws, therefore it is not for the king s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed." And what was the reason? Why? That "their laws, were diverse from all people." Now this I think a fine testimony to come from the mouth of so inveterate a foe of God s people, with regard to their peculiar character as natives of His kingdom. "Their laws are diverse from all people." (Esther 3:8) Now beloved, if grace has not made you to differ from the world, if it has not distinguished you as new creature in another character, I fear it has done very little for you. "Their laws are diverse from all others." And let it be remembered, that the laws of Christ s kingdom are such as I have described in the earlier part of our subject - all of grace from first to last; and if your experience of these laws and your submission to them be diverse from all others in the present day, I know that modern professors will stand aloof from you, and will term you peculiar - a peculiar people. Well, we grant it. But what are the peculiarities? They cannot charge us with being peculiarly vicious - they cannot charge us with peculiarly profane or licentious, blessed be God: though I think we might bring these charges upon many of them. "Your laws are diverse and peculiar," say they, "they are all grace from first to last; they put men down lower than God has put them, (but not lower than the fall has put them, by the bye), and they set up a scheme so unlike the generous feelings of mankind at large, that we cannot sanction them." "Their laws are diverse from all people, therefore it is not for the king s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed." But, though our Laws are diverse from all others, we mean to abide by them, God helping us, to rejoice in them. When the Jews were apprised of this wicked conspiracy, what course did they take? Did they attempt to amalgamate their laws with those of the people around them? Did they say, "Well, instead of having a sacrifice once a-morning, let us have one once a-week." No, they would not think of the least alteration. And there stood the people of God adhering constantly to the laws of God. Now, my hearers, whatever comes upon the Church of God in these times, I exhort, enjoin, and conjure you in the name of the living God, deviated not one iota from the grand and glorious principle, "By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." (Eph. 2:8) Let others then take their creature doings, to Rome. Wash ye your hands of them, and abide steadily by the fact that "your laws are diverse from all people."
IV. I pass on now, in the fourth place, to look at the generation specified in succession - "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion from generation to generation." Here, be it observed, that we are very fond of a line of succession; but it must not be carnal and fleshly; it must not be secular; it is a spiritual line of succession. All others are set up and maintained by the spirit of Popery for lucrative ends. This on line of succession has been specified in the Scriptures in a text which I have already cited - "instead of the fathers shall come up the children;" and our God has had a generation to serve Him after the very manner I have been describing alike in every age. There is no deviation; invariably the same essential prominent characteristics have marked the Church of the living God. The apostle dwells sweetly upon this in his epistle to the Hebrews, in which he goes back as far as Abraham s days, and then comes down through the times of Moses, the patriarchs, and the prophet, and marks them all as men of faith. It is such a striking likeness, that if you were to have all their portraits drawn by an artist in accordance with the Holy Ghost s description of them in the epistle to the Hebrews, you would say "they are all of one family, so strong is the family likeness, conspicuous in them all." And what, think you, it is? I shall mark three features of their countenance and leave you to judge if you belong to them. Whether they were born in antediluvian times, or in the Mosaic times, or under the prophets ministry, or under the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, or during the apostles days, or down to the present hour, their family likeness has always exhibited, and always will exhibit SPIRITUALITY, SEPARATION, and SUBORDINATION. They are all living in a spiritual atmosphere, they all feast upon spiritual things, worship God "in spirit and in truth," stand opposed to the carnal multitude, having prove that "to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." They are all separated from the world, and they have obeyed the Divine injunction, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing." (2 Cor. 6:17) But they would never have obeyed that injunction except by God s command and authority; for He brings them out of the world just as He brought the Israelites out of Egypt, "with a high hand and an out-stretched arm," and He cannot allow them to return. He leads them to a holy habitation; and separate and distinct they must be from the world.
But they are not only spiritual and separate, but subordinate to the monarch. They have touched His sceptre top; they have obtained life Divine from Him. They are furnished as His soldiers with weapons of warfare, and those weapons are not carnal, but "mighty through God;" and as they are employed and used by mighty grace imparted unto their souls, they "pull down strongholds," and "cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." Now mark the subordination - "and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." "Thy will be done" is the favourite motto inscribed upon their banners; "not as I will, but as thou wilt," shouted their glorious Captain, and they reiterate the cry. The will of Jehovah is the law of their life. The will of Jehovah is known to be the controlling power of their life. The will of Jehovah is accepted rather than the will of the creatures; and their soul are brought to bow down and humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, ascribing all glory to Jesus' precious name; and are so subordinate as to accept of what He gives with gratitude, and cheerfully to yield what He deprives them of or withholds. Insubordination anywhere is a devilish thing, but worst of all in Christians towards their God. And every murmur, and every restless, disquiet, uneasy feeling about either His providence or the dispensations of grace, is insubordination, and partakes of the spirit of rebellion against God. Look well to it, then, that you belong to this generation.
One word more and I close. These generations are taught and trained supernaturally, and then they come of age. All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be their peace. They are trained with the discipline of experience, the discipline of His Church, the discipline of trials, conflicts, and crosses, all of which are so many instruments in the hands of God to train you and me for glory. And up our path with thorns, or orders us to take retrograde movements in our journey, all of it is to train us to glory. And when He has accomplished His will, and taught us every lesson He intends, for the purpose of training us through every feature of His discipline, then comes the majority, the full age; then comes our patrimony, then comes the "far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," which all His subjects are to realize in their personal experience. May He command a blessing on these few hints, and His great name shall have all the gory. Amen.