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of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is my kingdom not from hence :” John xviii, 36.
Scarcely any thing can be more interesting than the account given to us, in the New Testament, of the sudden illumination, on this subject, of the apostles themselves. Like the other Jews, they appear to have conceived very eager expectations of a visible, worldly, kingdom. Such expectations were constantly discouraged by their Divine Master, who ever taught them the lesson of child-like humility, and who, for his own part, declared that he came not “to be ministered unto, but to minister.”. Yet, even after his resurrection, we find them still clinging to the same hope, and inquiring of their Lord, whether he would at that time “ restore again the kingdom of Israel ?” Acts i, 6. In his answer to this inquiry, Jesus, instead of immediately undeceiving them, prepared their minds for more spiritual views, by the promise of the Holy Ghost; and no sooner was that promise fulfilled, than the whole tenour of their thoughts respecting the kingdom of the Messiah was changed. No longer did they look for temporal victory or worldly dominion. They now comprehended that their beloved Lord and Master was already exalted at the right hand of the Father, to be a Prince and a Saviour: immediately they began to preach repentance and remission of sins in his name; and they hesitated not to explain the prophecies which spake of the Son of David, whom God was to raise up to sit upon his throne, as already accomplished in Jesus, who was “ made both Lord and Christ” —who was enthroned in glory at the right hand of the Father
INVISIBLE AND SPIRITUAL;
who had led captivity captive—and who was now shedding forth, upon all believers, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. In the Epistles, which present to us the standard of apostolic faith at a still later and riper period, not a trace is to be found of any Jewish notions respecting the establishment of a worldly kingdom. The views which the writers of these treatises entertained respeeting the nature and progress of Christianity, appear to have become absolutely unconnected with prospects of such a nature; but, in Jesus, the Mediator between God and man, they recognized their eternal and celestial sovereign. They submitted themselves to the laws of his government as to a spiritual dispensation ; and they could now declare to their brethren, that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost :” Rom. xiv, 17.
When we reflect on the spiritual nature of the kingdom of Christ, we cannot be surprised that it is, in the New Testament, still more usually denominated the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God. The comparison of numerous passages in that Sacred Volume, affords an ample evidence that these terms are all employed to express one and the same kingdom. It is the kingdom of heaven, because the King of heaven rules over it, and because it appertains to unseen and celestial objects : it is the kingdom of God, not only because the Father has appointed it, but because it is conducted and regulated by the wisdom and power of the Deity: it is the kingdom of Christ, because Christ is the glorious Head of it-because he is the person by whom, in the divine economy, that wisdom and power are actually exerted.
III. For the more particular elucidation of this
subject, it may now be observed that Jesus Christ, in his reign, is the author of grace. The passages of Scripture in which the gift of grace is attributed to him are very numerous. Sometimes he is presented to our attention singly as the bestower of it; at other times he is, in this respect, associated with God even the Father, and is described as being in union with him, the source from which it flows. “ Grace to you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ," is the salutation of the apostle Paul to the Romans : Rom. i, 7. Similar terms are employed by him at the commencement of most of his other epistles, and the farewell with which these apostolic letters are usually concluded, is the “ Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you,” or “ with your spirit :" Gal. vi, 18; Phil. iv, 22; I Thess. v, 28; II Thess. iïi, 18; Philem. 25. In the conclusion of his second epistle to the Corinthians, more especially, the grace of Christ and the love of God are evidently mentioned as joint and parallel blessings : “ The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all:" II Cor. xiii, 14. So, also, the apostle John concludes the book of Revelation, as follows: “ The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen :" Rev. xxii, 21.
The term “ grace," as it is employed in the Scriptures, is one of a very extensive import. It literally signifies favour; and, as it relates to the Divine Being, is applicable to the whole variety of blessings, but especially to those of a spiritual nature, which he condescends to impart to his dependent creature, man. Thus it is with the Lord Jesus Christ, through the riches of whose favour the members of his church
332 WHEREBY HE STRENGTHENS, CONSOLES,
know all their petitions answered, and all their need supplied. Are they in want of faith?—they are taught to ask it of him.—“ Increase our faith” was the cry of the disciples to Jesus: Luke xvii, 5; comp. I Cor. vii, 25. “ Peace be to the brethren,” said the apostle Paul, “and love with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ :" Eph. vi, 23. Are they sorrowful, cast down, and afflicted? To Jesus, as well as to the Father, they are taught to look for consolation. “ Now, our Lord Jesus Christ himself," said the same apostle, “ and God, even our Father,—comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work:” II Thess. ii, 16, 17. Are they attacked by their spiritual enemy, encompassed with many trials, and destitute of all strength in themselves to maintain the conflict?-let them listen to the words of their Redeemer—“My grace is sufficient”—“my strength is made perfect in weakness :" II Cor. xii, 9; comp. II Tim. iv, 17; II Pet. ii, 9; Rev. iii, 19.
Very clear, in these several particulars, is the testimony of inspiration to the grace or divine favour, bestowed on the true inembers of the church by its all-powerful Head; but there are three principal respects, in which it becomes us more especially to observe the operation of the grace of Jesus Christ; namely, forgiveness, conversion, and sanctification.
That authority over the world to forgive sin, which we have already noticed 'as claimed and exercised by Jesus, was a power which belonged unalterably to his divine nature ; and it is fully brought into exercise, now that God hath “ exalted him to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins:" Acts v, 31. “ Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” was the petition which the dying
Stephen addressed on behalf of his persecutors, to his glorified Master: Acts vii, 60. When Paul exhorted the Colossians to put on “ bowels of mercies," and to forbear one another in love, he added, “ Even as Christ forgave (or freely forgave you, so also do ye:" Col. iii, 13. He had himself experienced the pardoning love of Christ, and was anxious that others should participate in the same grace : “ Howbeit,” said he, “ for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me, first, Jesus Christ might shew forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting :” I Tim. i, 16. So, also, the apostle Jude commands us to “ keep” ourselves “in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life :" ver. 21; comp. Acts xv, 11.
The efficacy of the grace of our Saviour, for the conversion of sinners, is clearly recognized by the sacred writers. We read that he is exalted to bestow repentance as well as pardon; (Acts v, 31 ;) and the Greek word, here and in other passages rendered “ repentance," properly signifies that complete change of judgment, intention, and feeling, which is more accurately expressed by our word “ conversion.”. “ Unto you, first,” cried the inspired Peter to his Jewish auditors, “ God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities :" Acts iïi, 26. The apostle Paul was a memorable instance of that total transmutation of mind and heart, which is often produced in sinners, by the grace of Jesus Christ; (I Tim. i, 12–15;) and long after this change had taken