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blessings of the gospel in the present, and in the future world. Divines have therefore generally considered the kingdom of God, as the kingdom of grace here, and the kingdom of glory hereafter. The former is intended to make us meet for the latter. Grace and glory indeed, are not so much different states, as different degrees of the same state. True christians are now made partakers of this kingdom, though their present participation is imperfect. Here they are heirs; but there they are inheritors and possessors! Here they belong to the kingdom; but there they will fully enjoy it.
(I). The blessings and privileges of the kingdom of God, as comprising a state of grace here, are briefly summed up by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans. "The kingdom of God," says he, "is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Let us briefly contemplate these blessings.
One of the blessings of the kingdom of God is righteousness. By this righteousness the apostle doubtless implies that righteousness by which a sinner is justified and accepted, as righteous before God. This unspeakable privilege includes pardon of sin; and this is a blessing, which is published in the name of Jesus Christ, wherever his gospel is proclaimed. Hear the Saviour's declaration to his disciples, before he ascended into his glory: "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Hear the language of St. Paul on this subject:—" Men and brethren, be it known unto you, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.'' Hear the language of God himself, as cited by the same inspired apostle, respecting the subjects of the covenant of grace :—" I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." My dear young friends, you have committed sin; and you must bear its awful consequences in an eternity of misery, unless you obtain remission. But remission is included in the gospel blessings: all sins, however numerous, however aggravated, may be blotted out, through the atonement of the Saviour: for " the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin." Is not pardon of sin an invaluable blessing?—But justification implies more than forgiveness. It not only considers the sinner as pardoned; but accounts him righteous. The law, indeed, denounces a curse upon every transgressor; and the God of truth has declared by his apostle, "that by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight:" alleging as a reason, "that by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law, when understood, convicts a man as a sinner; leads him to see and feel that he is so; and convinces him, that he never can be saved by it. How then can he obtain deliverance? Blessed be God, the apostle teaches us this. "But now," says he, "the righteousuess of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is hy faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus." This is the remedy which the infinitely gracious God has provided, to give relief to the conscience, distressed and burdened by sin. Here we see the mystery, whereby God can be just, and at the same time the justifier of the ungodly. Through the atonement and righteousness of Christ, sinners are pardoned and accepted by God, as if they were personally and completely righteous in themselves. This, my beloved, is the righteousness of the kingdom of God—a righteousness which is necessary to your salvation. And faith is the instrument by which you obtain an interest in it: —" Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." In this righteousness of the kingdom is doubtless included that sanctification, which always accompanies justification, and which I shall notice in the next clause of our text.
Another blessing of the kingdom of God, is peace. And what an unspeakable privilege is here set before you !" There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." They may sometimes live in insensibility and thoughtless security; but does this deserve the name of peace? No, it is only the effect of blindness and hardness of heart, and must at length give place to terror and dismay. But those who are interested in the kingdom of God, possess a peace which passeth all understanding; springing from reconciliation with God, and flowing to them through the atonement of Jesus. He is our peace—having made peace for us by the blood of his cross; "and being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."—Jesus likewise gives the heirs of the kingdom peace, amidst all the tribulations and vicissitudes of life. And I add, that he bestows on them peace in the prospect of death. When the awful hour arrives, which puts a period to all the hopes and enjoyments of a worldly man, the heir of the kingdom oftentimes can rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. But though he may sometimes go all his life long in bondage through fear of death, yet this fear is generally removed before the messenger arrives. The olive branch is held out, the believer is enabled to lay hold on it, and the peace of God takes possession of his soul.
The third blessing of the kingdom of God, as comprising a state of grace, is joy in the Holy Ghost.— Do not imagine, my dear young friends, that if you become religious you must become gloomy and melancholy, and bid farewell to every pleasure and delight. What can be more false than such a representation? Religion is calculated to afford, and actually does afford, joys eminently superior to any the world can afford—joys which the world knows nothing of—joys it can neither give nor take away. Interested in the blessings of the kingdom, the believer may sing,—
"The sorrows of the mind
Be banished from this place;
To make our pleasures less.
A thousand sacred sweets;
Or walk the golden streets."
(2). But the state of glory comes after the state of grace. All those who are partakers of the kingdom of grace, will soon be admitted into the kingdom of glory. The one is absolutely and certainly connected with the other: it is the Father's good pleasure to bestow on his people the kingdom of glory. There they will join the society of angels and archangels; and, like them, become the ministers of God to do his pleasure. They will there be made kings, as well as priests unto God for ever and ever. Here, indeed, they are princes; but they are princes in disguise: here they are unknown to the world, though well known to God. Here, like David, they are anointed, but not proclaimed. Here they are entering the kingdom, considered as a state of glory, and they are entering it through much tribulation. But there they will be distinguished by their royalties—there they will put on their robes—there they will sway their sceptres—there they will wear their crowns; crowns of life and glory, which shall never fade away—there they will reign with Christ for ever and ever. But