The Kingdom of God
The Elders and Messengers of the Warwick Baptist Association, convened with the church at Wallkill, N. Y., June 7 and 8, 1848, to the churches of which she is composed, greetings.
Brethren Beloved for the Truth’s sake: – Another year has been added to the centuries of the past since we had the privilege of addressing you upon those subjects which are ever of importance to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth; a year fruitful in events interesting not only to the children of God but to the world of mankind at large. While the purposes of His grace who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, have been developed in such a manner as to animate the hearts of His people with emotions of gratitude, the nations of the earth have been agitated and convulsed to an unusual and remarkable degree. Some have been desolated with wars and have witnessed the hand of man raised in mortal strife against his fellow man, crimsoning the ground with human gore; others have suffered from famine and disease which have consigned their thousands to the tomb; others still have been distracted with intestine dissensions, governments have been revolutionized and kings, hastily abandoning their tottering and falling thrones, have fled for safety to foreign lands, or have retained a precarious tenure of their scepters by granting important concessions to the demands of their subjects. In the midst of all this confusion and tumult, the children of God are abundantly blessed in being the subjects of a King whose throne is established and sure, and whose kingdom’ is unchangeable and everlasting,
“A kingdom which can ne’er decay –
While time sweeps earthly thrones away;
The state which power and truth sustain,
Unmoved forever must remain.”
This kingdom in the Scriptures of Truth is denominated, “The Kingdom of God.”
Holy men of old who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, predicted the rise of this kingdom and described both it and its Sovereign with so much accuracy that it may with propriety be said that its history was written centuries before it existed as a visible kingdom. The Psalmist David viewing with prophetic eye the rise of this kingdom and the opposition which should be arrayed against it, exclaimed, “Why do the heathens rage and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and cast their cords away from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak to them in His wrath and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.”
The prophet Isaiah, who beheld the glory of Zion’s King and the blessings which should result from the establishment of His kingdom, declared that the Spirit of the Lord should rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and of might, the spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord. That the government should be upon His shoulder, and His name should be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. That of the increase of His government and peace there should 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 forever and forever.
The prophet Jeremiah foresaw that “the Lord should raise unto David a righteous Branch and a King, who should reign and prosper, and who should execute judgment and justice in the earth.” In whose days Judah should be saved and Israel dwell in safety, and whose name should be called “The Lord our Righteousness.” To Daniel it was revealed as “a kingdom which the God of heaven should set up, which should never be destroyed, nor left to other people, but should break in pieces all other kingdoms, and should stand forever.”
The remaining prophecies contain many declarations relative to the kingdom of God, all of which have had or must have their fulfillment.
In the fullness of time it was “set up,” and the birth of its King proclaimed by an Angelic host and heralded by the “star in the East,” and other prodigies which agitated and alarmed the minds of men and carried consternation even into the palaces of kings, troubling Herod the king of Judea, and all Jerusalem with him. – Matthew ii. 3.
The messenger of the Lord also, of whom it had been foretold that he should go before Him to “Prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight,” made proclamation of the near approach of this kingdom, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand,” and soon after pointed out its King to those who were with him as “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.”
It is evident however from the “record which God has given of His Son” that although these miraculous events caused great excitement among all ranks of men, yet very few were aware of the nature of His kingdom, for while some regarded Him as an earthly monarch “who should restore Israel,” and exalt the nation of the Jews to its former power and glory, the majority of men viewed Him as an impostor and blasphemer, whom they arrested and took before the judgment seat of Pilate where, although pronounced a “just man,” yet so embittered were His enemies against Him that they caused Him to be crucified, thus performing “whatsoever Thy hand and counsel had determined before to be done.” – Acts iv. 28.
But He could not be holden of death. Its bonds were broken, He burst the tomb, and rose a mighty Conqueror over death, hell and the grave. Ascending on high He led captivity captive, received gifts for men, and taking His seat on the throne of His glory, seated on their thrones the twelve judges whom He declared should judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Matthew xix. 28.
Brethren, we have briefly alluded to some of the prophecies made of old relative to the King of Zion, and to their fulfillment in His Person when upon earth. His kingdom, He declared, was not of this world, and that “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John iii,3. These are mysteries which the natural mind never has been able to comprehend, and while some in wonder and astonishment have asked, “How can these things be?” thousands of others even among professors of religion have boldly asserted that “These things are not so,” pronouncing them as “hard sayings,” unworthy of credit or belief, and, pointing to the great religious movements and carnal efforts which characterize this age in which we live, and which they can “see” and understand and rejoice in, although but the works of their own hands, they cry, “Behold the kingdom of God, which we by human means and measures, might, and power are engaged in building up:” but God has said, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” and His kingdom which is spiritual is seen by comparatively very few, and those only to whom it is given to know its mysteries; – Matthews xiii. 11, who are “born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.” – John i.13.
Had man proved successful in what his will has prompted him to do in relation to the kingdom of God it never would have been established, its King would have remained in the tomb, and not one of the human family ever would have beheld or participated in its blessings. But God who hath declared that “His counsel shall stand and that He will do all His pleasure,” has been pleased to reserve unto Himself in every age a people whom He has constituted His subjects by “the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost,” and “because they are sons He hath sent into their hearts the Spirit of His Son crying Abba Father,” – Galatians iv. 6. “They are not natural but spiritual, and receive of the things of the Spirit of God – not the studied letter of the word –, which the natural man cannot receive or discern, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, for they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Cor. ii. 4. This is the reason why the subjects of the kingdom of God have been always regarded as a strange and peculiar people. They were anciently described by one who was their enemy, as a “people whose laws were diverse from all people.” – Esther iii. 8. A prophet of God calls them “an afflicted and poor people.” – Zeph. iii, 12. They were afterwards pronounced “a sect that were everywhere spoken against.” – Acts xxviii.22. And an inspired Apostle addressed them as “strangers scattered” among the nations of the earth. – 1 Peter i.1. These have been their characteristics in all ages, and are fully applicable to them at this present day. Their King was not known or recognized as a Sovereign by any of the “princes of this world.” – 1 Cor. ii,28. Neither are they known or regarded by the professedly religious world as the people of God, but as the “Master of the house was called Beelzebub,” so are they called who are of His household. – Matthew x. 25. The doctrine of salvation by free and sovereign grace alone, which they all do solemnly believe, actively teach, and rejoice in, is pronounced a “dangerous doctrine,” calculated to subvert the institutions of society; to promote licentiousness, to encourage men to pursue vicious courses, and to discourage them from seeking the paths of rectitude. Their enemies (plainly taught in the Scriptures) have been publicly denounced as false and pernicious, and they, from the pulpit, have been held up to the scorn and contempt of their fellow men. But their King has dealt fairly and honorably with them. He has informed them, that as He was persecuted so they also should be persecuted and reviled and even put to death, and the whole history of His kingdom verifies the truth of His declarations; and the relation of their sufferings, given in the 11th of Hebrews, is but a description of their treatment in nearly every subsequent age. Yet it has pleased the Lord from time to time to stay the storm of persecution and give His people rest. But His word assures us “That all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” – 2 Timothy iii. 12. We have reason therefore to believe, not only from His Word, but from events which are transpiring around us, that the flood-gates of persecution may ere long be again opened and the subjects of the Kingdom of God be required to seal their testimony to the Truth as it is in Jesus with their blood.
But, brethren, although the Lord may not count us worthy to suffer thus openly for His name’s sake, our faith will be tried in such manner as to teach us our entire dependence upon Him, and so as to redound to the glory of His great and holy name. His word abounds with admonition and instruction relative to our deportment and conduct as His subjects and followers. We are directed “to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called,” – with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace, and if we “have heard Christ, and have been taught by Him as the truth is in Jesus, to put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and that we put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness; to let no corrupt communication proceed out of our mouth, but that which is good in the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” These, dear brethren, are but a very few among the many admonitions which the Prince of Peace has left upon record for the observance of His subjects, and He has enjoined us if we love Him to keep His commandments, assuring us that His commandments are not grievous but joyous.
Brethren when we behold the mystery of iniquity which doth already work and contemplate “that wicked whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved,” and view the multitudes of our fellow creatures who have embraced the errors and delusions of Arminius and of those “who believe not the truth but have pleasure in unrighteousness,” we realize the imperative necessity of strictly adhering to the literal word of God and endeavoring by our obedience to its precepts, and commandments, to manifest our love for our gracious Sovereign, and our respect for the Laws which He has ordained for the government of His Kingdom; and we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth; whereunto He called you by our Gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or by the epistles” (of His disciples) “and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and God, even our Father, which has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.”
H. D. Horton, Moderator 1848