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Christ’s Providential Government of the World

Psalm, 97:1

The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

Many persons profess to believe that there is a God who created all things, and even to credit the gospel also, who are not established in the faith of his particular providence in governing the world. Some of those who are of a speculative cast will tell us, that God acts not by particular but by general laws; that these laws were impressed in the original constitution and nature of things at the creation, and that everything must necessarily operate according to the law of its nature, without any need of divine immediate agency; just as a clock once constructed, wound up, and set a going, will move on of its own accord without any assistance of the artificer till it has run the length of its paces. They think it far beneath the Deity to be continually attentive to the concerns of his creatures, especially the particular concerns of individuals. So that their whole scheme amounts ultimately to this—that though God at first created the world, he hath left the government of it to these unmeaning sounds—nature, chance, or fate.

The text, however, gives us better information; for it declares, that the lord reigneth. He not only at first made all things, and impressed upon them laws in their original formation, but he also continues to superintend and govern all his works by his providence; and upholds, directs, and disposeth of creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest to the most minute; and that according to his own most perfect holiness, wisdom, and goodness. This is a most important and comfortable doctrine to the fearers of God; and so the earth is called, upon the consideration thereof, to be glad and rejoice.

I. We shall consider this as it relates to God’s providential kingdom in governing the world.

II. To the reign of the Messiah, which also includes the former as subservient to it.

III. The use to be made of this doctrine.

The whole word of God is full of this comfortable truth, that Jehovah reigneth, and that his kingdom ruleth over all, Psalm, 103:19.

1. It shews us plainly, that God not only foresees whatever comes to pass, but also determines the time, circumstances, and manner of it. So he says himself, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” Isaiah, 46; 9:10. Here he not only declares his foreknowledge, but his determinate counsel with regard to future events; or what is commonly called his decrees as the Sovereign of the world. But this is not all; he also declares, that he will most certainly put his determinations into execution—“My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” So he is said to “work all things after the counsel of his own will,” Eph. 1:11. and to “do according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Dan. 4:35. True indeed, he often, nay ordinarily, uses the instrumentality of second causes and free agents to execute his purpose; nay, even the wicked intentions and actions of men he over-rules and makes subservient to his holy, just, and good designs, as in the case of Joseph and his brethren, Gen. 50:20. and in the delivering up of Christ to be crucified, Acts, 2:23. with many other instances that might be produced; but yet both these events are ascribed unto God, Gen. 45:8; Acts, 3:18. and 4:28.—He has also the particular circumstances of every event under his direction and management. It is the combination and adjustment of circumstances that, naturally speaking, produceth the event intended. If these were left loose and unsettled, so must the effect which depends upon them. Not that God is confined to one train of circumstances; he can bring about his purpose in innumerable ways: but it plainly appears from scripture, that he hath determined all the means and circumstances conducive to a purposed event, as well as the event itself, and that he uses and manages them all to that end with infinite skill. This might be clearly illustrated from the fore-mentioned accounts of Joseph and the death of Christ.—His providence is not only engaged in the great affairs of the world, such as the government and revolutions of empires and states, but it extends to the private and minute concerns of individuals. Christ says of his people, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered,” Matt. 10:30. Nay, the very smallest of his irrational creatures are the subjects of his care and goodness: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father,” Matt. 10:29. or as Luke has it, “none of them is forgotten of God,” ch. 12:6. In short, the scripture abundantly holds forth that Jehovah reigneth, not only in his miraculous providences towards his ancient people, but in his universal government of the world, Psalm, 83:18. and that not only in the great concerns of the world, but also in the particular minute concerns of individuals. Nor does he reign merely as the upholder, and preserver, and disposer of all things, but as the moral governor of his rational creatures. He judges the world in righteousness, and to him they are accountable as the Sovereign and righteous Judge of all the earth, who will do justice to every one. Indeed his government of the natural world is clearly subservient to his moral government, which makes the chief figure in revelation. Every view therefore we can take of proper reign or government is applicable in the highest degree to Jehovah.

What generally blind men’s minds as to his providential government, are—The intervention of means or second causes—Their ignorance of God’s design in many providences—And, as to his moral government, the afflictions of the righteous, and the prosperity and impunity of the wicked in this life, tend to obscure it in the eyes of many.

1. As to means or second causes—Some of them operate naturally, or according to the established course of nature, such as the sun dispensing light and heat—the regular succession of seasons, with all their effects—the propagation and death of animals—the qualities and operations of certain parts of matter, as that of fire to burn, &c. In a thousand such things men are apt to lose sight of providence on account of their being so regular and fixed; yet the scripture makes the established course of nature to depend immediately upon God—“He upholdeth all things by the word of his power,” Heb. 1:3.—He actuates all things, and gives natural causes their energy and effect. He maketh the sun to know his rising and going down, Psalm, 104:19. He maketh day and night, light and darkness, Psalm, 74:16. and 104:20. The succession of seasons is established by covenant not necessity, Gen. 8:22. and all their produce in like manner, Psalm, 104:13–16; Acts, 14:17.—It is he that multiplies the race of men; he made us and not we ourselves, Psalm, 100:3.—It is in him we live; and it is he that killeth as well as maketh alive—It is he who gave the fire its nature, and who continues its operation. The established course of nature is part of the divine government, wherein his glory is to be seen, Psalm, 19:1, 2. and he makes natural causes to fulfil his particular purposes. He has in many instances suspended and altered the course of nature at pleasure. He has arrested the sun and moon in their courses, and even made the sun go backwards. He has used the elements as instruments of his righteous vengeance, punishing a guilty city with fire and brimstone from heaven, and a wicked world with an universal deluge. When he wanted to shew his power in behalf of his people, he suspended the operations of nature; the water did not drown, nor the fire consume, nor hungry voracious lions devour them.

There are second causes which act voluntarily, or from their own choice and design, such as rational creatures. This so much resembles the Deity’s own manner of acting, that men are apt to look upon the free agent as the first cause, and so to overlook divine providence in the matter. But God rules over the spirits of free agents as well as over inanimate matter, (though in another way) and makes all their motions and determinations subservient to his purpose. Kings have the greatest power and influence in the nations of this world; but their “hearts are in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water he turneth them whithersoever he will,” Prov. 21:1. and this holds as well with respect to bad as to good kings. He maketh them the instruments of good or evil, of mercy or judgment, as he sees proper; witness Cyrus, Vespasian, &c. Sometimes he uses the wisdom and sagacity of men; at other times he makes very small and unlooked-for things to blast and defeat the best human plans, and the very wrath of man he makes to praise him. All that favour on the one hand, or distress on the other, which we receive by the will of man is directed by him. We may see this in the instance of Joseph, of Paul, and of others.—Some second causes appear to us fortuitous or accidental, and hence we are ready to imagine they are under no direction but pure chance. But nothing is chance with God. A man draws a bow at a venture, but it kills Ahab as the Lord purposed, 1 Kings, 22:34. Another is trodden to death in a crowd, as it were accidentally, but it is to punish his unbelief, 2 Kings, 7:19, 20. The thing that has the greatest appearance of chance to us is a lot, yet we are told that the determination thereof is of the Lord, Prov. 16:33. as exemplified in the cases of Achan, Josh. 7:18. and of Matthias, Acts, 1:24–26.

2. Ignorance of God’s design in many providences is another reason why men do not recognize his hand in them. His way is often in the sea, and his path in the deep waters, so that his footsteps are not known. And when men cannot trace how such and such dark providences tend either to the glory of God or the good of his creatures, but seem to militate against both, they are apt to entertain doubts if the Lord have them under his special direction. But it is not only unreasonable; it is arrogant to circumscribe providence by our conceptions, or to deny his government in everything which we do not understand, considering how limited our knowledge is. What conceptions could we form of the mazy, intricate, and dark providences which have issued in some of the most glorious events that ever took place in the world, such as Israel’s bondage in Egypt, the sufferings of Christ, the rejection of the Jews, &c? Is it not enough that we are told, that he reigns in the darkest providences, and will make all things work together for good to them that love him?

3. His moral government is darkened to many by the afflictions of the righteous, and the prosperity and impunity of the wicked in this life. This stumbled the Psalmist greatly, and led him to doubt the Lord’s concern in human affairs, see Psalm, 73—But it should be noticed, that the wicked have not always gone unpunished in this world. The wrath of God has not only been revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men in his word, but in the most striking and signal judgments; witness the case of the old world, of Sodom, of Egypt, the Canaanites, the unbelieving Jews, &c. enough to show that God is the hater of iniquity. On the other hand, many signal and miraculous deliverances has he given to his people; witness Noah, Israel, the three children, Daniel, &c. all which openly demonstrate his love of righteousness.—The justice of the divine administration cannot be properly seen if we judge of it by what takes place in this life only. So much of it is to be seen as to make men know that God reigneth to the ends of the earth; but the scripture refers us chiefly to a future state for clearing up the justice of his moral government.—The afflictions of the people of God in this life are declared to be for their benefit in relation to another life; while the prosperity of the wicked is but of short duration, and hurtful to their eternal interests.

II. Let us consider the words as they relate to the reign of the Messiah, in which the former is included as subservient to it.

That these words do apply to the Messiah is plain beyond all dispute, provided we allow the inspired apostle to be a proper commentator; for he quotes the 7th verse of this Psalm, and applies it to Jesus as risen from the dead, and exalted far above angels, Heb. 1:6. “And when again he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” The original is, worship him all ye gods, (elohim) which the seventy translate his angels, and the apostle, angels of God; but the sense is the same in all. As, therefore, the apostle applies ver. 7 to Christ as God’s first-begotten from the dead and heir of all things, and exalted above angels who are commanded to worship him, it is evident the first verse must apply to him; and that of him it is said, “Jehovah reigneth, let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of isles be glad thereof;” for there is no change of person intervening; nay, it is clear that the command given to angels to worship him in ver. 7. is grounded on his reign, ver. 1. The Psalm contains a grand description of the majesty and universality of Christ’s reign, who is repeatedly termed Jehovah: “The Lord (viz. the Messiah) reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.” In ver. 5. he is termed, the Lord of the whole earth, before whose presence the hills melt like wax, every obstacle giving way to him. It is added, “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory,” ver. 6. Then follows a denunciation of confusion and shame upon idolaters or worshippers of idols, “Confounded be all they who serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols,” which was the practice of the whole heathen world; while at the same time the Messiah is pointed out as the true object of worship not only from men, but from the highest created beings; “Worship him all ye gods,” ver. 7. and the reason is given, “For thou, Jehovah, art high above all the earth, thou art exalted (viz. in consequence of his resurrection) far above all gods,” ver. 9. all the angels being made subject to him. Then the saints are called to view him as their deliverer, to rejoice in him as their king, and to give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness, ver. 10–12. All this gives us a most exalted view of the dignity of the Savior, Jehovah, the Lord of the whole earth,—the object of the religious worship of angels.

This appears to me to be the view which the apostle had of this Psalm. And if so, it gives us a most extensive view of Christ’s kingdom or dominion.

I do not intend at present to treat of Christ’s kingdom in that sense wherein it respects only his peculiar people and church whom he hath redeemed, and who shall all finally partake of his glory; nor yet of the visible appearance of that kingdom among men, which includes many false professors. This has been frequently handled agreeably to the scriptures. But what I have in view is his universal kingdom, or dominion, over the whole creation of God. Upon this I would observe,

1. That he was naturally entitled to this universal dominion as the Creator of all things: for “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made,” John, 1:3. And that not only the lower creation, but the highest intelligences in heaven; “for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him, and by him all things consist,” Col. 1:16, 17. The relation of the Creator to his creatures, gives the most undoubted right of sovereign dominion over them. But then,

2. The apostle does not adduce this Psalm to prove Christ’s universal dominion as Creator, but as the Messiah raised from the dead and exalted above angels; as Lord and heir of all things, having all things put under him, see Heb. chap. 1; 2. and 8 and that by w ay of donation from the Father who thus exalted and constituted him heir of all things. So that we must understand the Psalm speaking of him as in our nature or as the Son, when it saith, the Lord reigneth, ver. 1. and when it terms him universally “the Lord of the whole earth,” ver. 5. and not only so, but when it declares him high above all the earth, and exalted far above all gods, i. e. the angels of God in heaven who are commanded to worship him.

Some texts express the universal dominion and authority of Christ in general terms. He himself says, “All things are delivered to me of my Father,” Matt. 11:27. The Baptist says, “The Father loveth the Son, and he hath given all things into his hand,” John, 3:35. Peter says, He is Lord of all, Acts, 10:36. and Paul observes upon the universal word all in Psalm, 8:6. “For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him,” Heb. 2:8. These universal expressions therefore must be taken in an unlimited sense.

There are other texts which mention the extensive bounds of his dominion, as well as the creatures and things which are the subjects of it. He says, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” Matt. 28:18. Heaven, then, is one part of his extensive empire. He is exalted far above all heavens; there his throne is at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Heb. 1:3. All the holy angels in heaven are his subjects, as is clearly and repeatedly declared, see Eph. 1:21; Philip. 2:9, 10; Heb. 1:4. ad. ult. 1 Pet. 3:22. They had formerly dominion assigned them, but now all is immediately put under the Son, and they are his ministers, Heb. 1:14; chap. 2:5–9. The spirits of just men made perfect in heaven are all his subjects, and the purchase of his blood; and they join with the angels in worshipping the Lamb: for he is Lord of the dead as well as of the living, Rom. 14:9. Heaven itself is at his disposed; and so he appoints a kingdom to his disciples as the Father hath appointed unto him.

The earth is another part of his empire, and he has all power in it. Hence he is called “the Lord of the whole earth.” It will be owned, that he is in a peculiar manner Lord and king of his people and church on earth, as has often been shown. But this is not all; the whole world belongs to him, and “he is the governor among the nations,” Psalm, 22:28. The Father hath by grant given to his only Son, begotten from the dead, “the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession,” Psalm, 2:8. This cannot be restricted to his elect among all nations; for it includes a rightful power to punish rebels against his government, who will not have him to reign over them, ver. 9, and this plainly implies, his right of dominion over them as King. The same universal dominion is held forth, Psalm, 22:28, 29. and Psalm, 18:43–46; Psalm, 47:7, 8; Psalm, 72:8–12. where we find it attended with the destruction of all who will not submit to him as their rightful King. The Jews would not receive him as their king, nor have him to reign over them, and accordingly he brought destruction on them and on their city, Matt. 22:7. When he sends forth his apostles to preach the gospel, he bids them go into all the world, and publish it to every creature, to all nations; which shows that his dominion extends over the whole earth; and he bids them also declare universally, that he that believeth consequently submits to him as King, shall he saved; but that he that believeth not, consequently refuses subjection to him, shall be damned. This shows, that he has all power on earth and that every one is accountable to him, and so under his administration, as to be either saved or punished by him, as they receive or reject him.—

Further, He is the Sovereign of all the mighty kings on earth, Psalm, 72:11. Hence he is styled “King of kings and Lord of lords,” 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; ch. 19:16. and “the Prince of the kings of the earth,” ch. 1:5. for all the kingdoms of the world are included in his grant, Rev. 11:15. Hence the kings of the earth are admonished to be wise, and the judges to be instructed—to serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling; and to kiss the Son (i. e. acknowledge him as their Sovereign) lest he be angry, &c. Psalm, 2:10–12. So that the nations of the earth and all their rulers are under his administration. They are all under obligation to believe in him as the Savior, and obey him as their King; and all who will not do so, shall undoubtedly be punished as rebels against their lawful Sovereign. Again, he over-rules all the revolutions, events, and commotions of this world in subserviency to the great ends of his government and kingdom. He not only opens the book with seven seals, but directs and over-rules all the events, whether of mercy or judgment, that fall out under every one of them to the end of time; for the Lord Christ reigneth, and must reign, even in the midst of his enemies, until they are finally subdued and made his footstool.

Lastly, All judgment is committed to him; “for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father—and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man,” John, 5:22, 23, 27. This includes a power to raise the dead, and cite them before his tribunal, both the righteous and the wicked: for all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive the things done in the body, according to that they have done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Cor. 5:10. Now, if all the earth are amenable to him as their Judge; if he has sovereign power to confer rewards and inflict punishment according to men’s works; then he must be King of all the earth, for these are acts of kingly government. Even the devils themselves are the subjects of his power and righteous judgment, and shall at last be punished by him.

Thus it appears that Christ is Lord over all, the supreme head of the whole creation of God; and that, in consequence of his death and resurrection, he is “highly exalted, and has obtained a name which is above every name, &c. Phil. 2:9–12. His government extends over heaven, earth and hell, angels, men and devils, the world that now is, and that which is to come; and all things in nature, providence, and grace, are committed into his hand.

Having thus briefly illustrated this subject, both as it relates to God’s providential kingdom in governing the world, and also to the reign of the Messiah, it only remains that we consider what practical improvement we should make of the doctrine. And on this I remark that

1. It should lead us to view the hand of God in everything that concerns us, as we may clearly perceive the saints of old did, particularly Jacob, David, and Job. Whether in prosperity or adversity, it is a sweet and pleasant employment to converse with God in everything that befalls us—in all the dispensations of his providence. To a mind so engaged, everything then seems full of God. When his ways are in the dark with respect to us, let us still hold fast the general conclusion, that all his ways are mercy and truth to them that fear him, and that all events shall work together for good to them that love God. This view of providence lays a solid foundation for our confidence and trust in his almighty power and goodness—of thankfulness and gratitude for his mercies—of resignation, patience and contentment under afflictions. When thus engaged, the language of our souls will be “It is the Lord! let him do what seemeth good unto him.” “I was dumb: I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.” This view of the subject should also teach us to acknowledge God in all our ways, and undertakings, saying “If the Lord will, we shall do this or that.” But further,

2. In the universal reign of the Messiah, we have exhibited to our view a glorious manifestation of God, and of his goodwill to guilty men. He sent him into our world out of his great love, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. He has exalted him as a Prince and a Savior to grant repentance and remission of sins. All power and authority are committed into his hands both in heaven and on earth; and, vested as he now is with such unlimited dominion, he is fully able to crush all his enemies, and to save to the uttermost all that trust in him. This is surely a matter of joy to the whole earth; for under his reign all nations of the earth are blessed. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.”

3. The dominion of Christ constitutes an obligation upon all men, wherever his gospel comes, to believe in and obey him. He is their Sovereign by the universal power which is given unto him as Lord of all, and so has an undoubted right to their faith and obedience, whether they yield it or not. Consequently in rejecting him, they are rebels against his just authority, and are amenable to him as their Judge. None can plead exemption here, for he is Lord of the whole earth. Hence they are admonished to “Kiss the Son, and serve God in fear, and rejoice with trembling,” Psalm, 2.

4. Again: this doctrine may also serve to rectify various speculative errors, which abound in the professing world; such as—that is not the duty of men to believe the gospel—that none but believers are under obligations to obey Christ—that the kingdom of the Messiah has no concern with the affairs of this world—that men may do that as politicians which they could not do as Christians—and that that may be lawful in nations which would be sinful in Christians; with numerous other mistaken opinions which are but too prevalent among us.

5. Lastly: let those who profess themselves to be the subjects of Christ, and to love his kingdom, manifest their obedience, by a conscientious regard to his authority, by observing all things whatsoever he has commanded; by earnestly seeking its peace and prosperity; and by vigorous scriptural exertions to extend the knowledge of his salvation, and communicate the benefits of his government throughout every clime; that the nations who are now sitting in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death, may be blessed with the cheering beams of the Sun of Righteousness, until the whole earth be filled with glory. Amen.[1]

 

 

[1] M’Lean, A. (1823). Christ’s Providential Government of the World. In The Works of Mr. Archibald M’Lean (Vol. VI, pp. 3–18). London: William Jones. (Public Domain)

Christ’s Providential Government of the World

Psalm, 97:1

The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.

Many persons profess to believe that there is a God who created all things, and even to credit the gospel also, who are not established in the faith of his particular providence in governing the world. Some of those who are of a speculative cast will tell us, that God acts not by particular but by general laws; that these laws were impressed in the original constitution and nature of things at the creation, and that everything must necessarily operate according to the law of its nature, without any need of divine immediate agency; just as a clock once constructed, wound up, and set a going, will move on of its own accord without any assistance of the artificer till it has run the length of its paces. They think it far beneath the Deity to be continually attentive to the concerns of his creatures, especially the particular concerns of individuals. So that their whole scheme amounts ultimately to this—that though God at first created the world, he hath left the government of it to these unmeaning sounds—nature, chance, or fate.

The text, however, gives us better information; for it declares, that the lord reigneth. He not only at first made all things, and impressed upon them laws in their original formation, but he also continues to superintend and govern all his works by his providence; and upholds, directs, and disposeth of creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest to the most minute; and that according to his own most perfect holiness, wisdom, and goodness. This is a most important and comfortable doctrine to the fearers of God; and so the earth is called, upon the consideration thereof, to be glad and rejoice.

I. We shall consider this as it relates to God’s providential kingdom in governing the world.

II. To the reign of the Messiah, which also includes the former as subservient to it.

III. The use to be made of this doctrine.

The whole word of God is full of this comfortable truth, that Jehovah reigneth, and that his kingdom ruleth over all, Psalm, 103:19.

1. It shews us plainly, that God not only foresees whatever comes to pass, but also determines the time, circumstances, and manner of it. So he says himself, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” Isaiah, 46; 9:10. Here he not only declares his foreknowledge, but his determinate counsel with regard to future events; or what is commonly called his decrees as the Sovereign of the world. But this is not all; he also declares, that he will most certainly put his determinations into execution—“My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” So he is said to “work all things after the counsel of his own will,” Eph. 1:11. and to “do according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Dan. 4:35. True indeed, he often, nay ordinarily, uses the instrumentality of second causes and free agents to execute his purpose; nay, even the wicked intentions and actions of men he over-rules and makes subservient to his holy, just, and good designs, as in the case of Joseph and his brethren, Gen. 50:20. and in the delivering up of Christ to be crucified, Acts, 2:23. with many other instances that might be produced; but yet both these events are ascribed unto God, Gen. 45:8; Acts, 3:18. and 4:28.—He has also the particular circumstances of every event under his direction and management. It is the combination and adjustment of circumstances that, naturally speaking, produceth the event intended. If these were left loose and unsettled, so must the effect which depends upon them. Not that God is confined to one train of circumstances; he can bring about his purpose in innumerable ways: but it plainly appears from scripture, that he hath determined all the means and circumstances conducive to a purposed event, as well as the event itself, and that he uses and manages them all to that end with infinite skill. This might be clearly illustrated from the fore-mentioned accounts of Joseph and the death of Christ.—His providence is not only engaged in the great affairs of the world, such as the government and revolutions of empires and states, but it extends to the private and minute concerns of individuals. Christ says of his people, “Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered,” Matt. 10:30. Nay, the very smallest of his irrational creatures are the subjects of his care and goodness: “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father,” Matt. 10:29. or as Luke has it, “none of them is forgotten of God,” ch. 12:6. In short, the scripture abundantly holds forth that Jehovah reigneth, not only in his miraculous providences towards his ancient people, but in his universal government of the world, Psalm, 83:18. and that not only in the great concerns of the world, but also in the particular minute concerns of individuals. Nor does he reign merely as the upholder, and preserver, and disposer of all things, but as the moral governor of his rational creatures. He judges the world in righteousness, and to him they are accountable as the Sovereign and righteous Judge of all the earth, who will do justice to every one. Indeed his government of the natural world is clearly subservient to his moral government, which makes the chief figure in revelation. Every view therefore we can take of proper reign or government is applicable in the highest degree to Jehovah.

What generally blind men’s minds as to his providential government, are—The intervention of means or second causes—Their ignorance of God’s design in many providences—And, as to his moral government, the afflictions of the righteous, and the prosperity and impunity of the wicked in this life, tend to obscure it in the eyes of many.

1. As to means or second causes—Some of them operate naturally, or according to the established course of nature, such as the sun dispensing light and heat—the regular succession of seasons, with all their effects—the propagation and death of animals—the qualities and operations of certain parts of matter, as that of fire to burn, &c. In a thousand such things men are apt to lose sight of providence on account of their being so regular and fixed; yet the scripture makes the established course of nature to depend immediately upon God—“He upholdeth all things by the word of his power,” Heb. 1:3.—He actuates all things, and gives natural causes their energy and effect. He maketh the sun to know his rising and going down, Psalm, 104:19. He maketh day and night, light and darkness, Psalm, 74:16. and 104:20. The succession of seasons is established by covenant not necessity, Gen. 8:22. and all their produce in like manner, Psalm, 104:13–16; Acts, 14:17.—It is he that multiplies the race of men; he made us and not we ourselves, Psalm, 100:3.—It is in him we live; and it is he that killeth as well as maketh alive—It is he who gave the fire its nature, and who continues its operation. The established course of nature is part of the divine government, wherein his glory is to be seen, Psalm, 19:1, 2. and he makes natural causes to fulfil his particular purposes. He has in many instances suspended and altered the course of nature at pleasure. He has arrested the sun and moon in their courses, and even made the sun go backwards. He has used the elements as instruments of his righteous vengeance, punishing a guilty city with fire and brimstone from heaven, and a wicked world with an universal deluge. When he wanted to shew his power in behalf of his people, he suspended the operations of nature; the water did not drown, nor the fire consume, nor hungry voracious lions devour them.

There are second causes which act voluntarily, or from their own choice and design, such as rational creatures. This so much resembles the Deity’s own manner of acting, that men are apt to look upon the free agent as the first cause, and so to overlook divine providence in the matter. But God rules over the spirits of free agents as well as over inanimate matter, (though in another way) and makes all their motions and determinations subservient to his purpose. Kings have the greatest power and influence in the nations of this world; but their “hearts are in the hand of the Lord; as the rivers of water he turneth them whithersoever he will,” Prov. 21:1. and this holds as well with respect to bad as to good kings. He maketh them the instruments of good or evil, of mercy or judgment, as he sees proper; witness Cyrus, Vespasian, &c. Sometimes he uses the wisdom and sagacity of men; at other times he makes very small and unlooked-for things to blast and defeat the best human plans, and the very wrath of man he makes to praise him. All that favour on the one hand, or distress on the other, which we receive by the will of man is directed by him. We may see this in the instance of Joseph, of Paul, and of others.—Some second causes appear to us fortuitous or accidental, and hence we are ready to imagine they are under no direction but pure chance. But nothing is chance with God. A man draws a bow at a venture, but it kills Ahab as the Lord purposed, 1 Kings, 22:34. Another is trodden to death in a crowd, as it were accidentally, but it is to punish his unbelief, 2 Kings, 7:19, 20. The thing that has the greatest appearance of chance to us is a lot, yet we are told that the determination thereof is of the Lord, Prov. 16:33. as exemplified in the cases of Achan, Josh. 7:18. and of Matthias, Acts, 1:24–26.

2. Ignorance of God’s design in many providences is another reason why men do not recognize his hand in them. His way is often in the sea, and his path in the deep waters, so that his footsteps are not known. And when men cannot trace how such and such dark providences tend either to the glory of God or the good of his creatures, but seem to militate against both, they are apt to entertain doubts if the Lord have them under his special direction. But it is not only unreasonable; it is arrogant to circumscribe providence by our conceptions, or to deny his government in everything which we do not understand, considering how limited our knowledge is. What conceptions could we form of the mazy, intricate, and dark providences which have issued in some of the most glorious events that ever took place in the world, such as Israel’s bondage in Egypt, the sufferings of Christ, the rejection of the Jews, &c? Is it not enough that we are told, that he reigns in the darkest providences, and will make all things work together for good to them that love him?

3. His moral government is darkened to many by the afflictions of the righteous, and the prosperity and impunity of the wicked in this life. This stumbled the Psalmist greatly, and led him to doubt the Lord’s concern in human affairs, see Psalm, 73—But it should be noticed, that the wicked have not always gone unpunished in this world. The wrath of God has not only been revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men in his word, but in the most striking and signal judgments; witness the case of the old world, of Sodom, of Egypt, the Canaanites, the unbelieving Jews, &c. enough to show that God is the hater of iniquity. On the other hand, many signal and miraculous deliverances has he given to his people; witness Noah, Israel, the three children, Daniel, &c. all which openly demonstrate his love of righteousness.—The justice of the divine administration cannot be properly seen if we judge of it by what takes place in this life only. So much of it is to be seen as to make men know that God reigneth to the ends of the earth; but the scripture refers us chiefly to a future state for clearing up the justice of his moral government.—The afflictions of the people of God in this life are declared to be for their benefit in relation to another life; while the prosperity of the wicked is but of short duration, and hurtful to their eternal interests.

II. Let us consider the words as they relate to the reign of the Messiah, in which the former is included as subservient to it.

That these words do apply to the Messiah is plain beyond all dispute, provided we allow the inspired apostle to be a proper commentator; for he quotes the 7th verse of this Psalm, and applies it to Jesus as risen from the dead, and exalted far above angels, Heb. 1:6. “And when again he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” The original is, worship him all ye gods, (elohim) which the seventy translate his angels, and the apostle, angels of God; but the sense is the same in all. As, therefore, the apostle applies ver. 7 to Christ as God’s first-begotten from the dead and heir of all things, and exalted above angels who are commanded to worship him, it is evident the first verse must apply to him; and that of him it is said, “Jehovah reigneth, let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of isles be glad thereof;” for there is no change of person intervening; nay, it is clear that the command given to angels to worship him in ver. 7. is grounded on his reign, ver. 1. The Psalm contains a grand description of the majesty and universality of Christ’s reign, who is repeatedly termed Jehovah: “The Lord (viz. the Messiah) reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.” In ver. 5. he is termed, the Lord of the whole earth, before whose presence the hills melt like wax, every obstacle giving way to him. It is added, “The heavens declare his righteousness, and all the people see his glory,” ver. 6. Then follows a denunciation of confusion and shame upon idolaters or worshippers of idols, “Confounded be all they who serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols,” which was the practice of the whole heathen world; while at the same time the Messiah is pointed out as the true object of worship not only from men, but from the highest created beings; “Worship him all ye gods,” ver. 7. and the reason is given, “For thou, Jehovah, art high above all the earth, thou art exalted (viz. in consequence of his resurrection) far above all gods,” ver. 9. all the angels being made subject to him. Then the saints are called to view him as their deliverer, to rejoice in him as their king, and to give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness, ver. 10–12. All this gives us a most exalted view of the dignity of the Savior, Jehovah, the Lord of the whole earth,—the object of the religious worship of angels.

This appears to me to be the view which the apostle had of this Psalm. And if so, it gives us a most extensive view of Christ’s kingdom or dominion.

I do not intend at present to treat of Christ’s kingdom in that sense wherein it respects only his peculiar people and church whom he hath redeemed, and who shall all finally partake of his glory; nor yet of the visible appearance of that kingdom among men, which includes many false professors. This has been frequently handled agreeably to the scriptures. But what I have in view is his universal kingdom, or dominion, over the whole creation of God. Upon this I would observe,

1. That he was naturally entitled to this universal dominion as the Creator of all things: for “all things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made,” John, 1:3. And that not only the lower creation, but the highest intelligences in heaven; “for by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him, and by him all things consist,” Col. 1:16, 17. The relation of the Creator to his creatures, gives the most undoubted right of sovereign dominion over them. But then,

2. The apostle does not adduce this Psalm to prove Christ’s universal dominion as Creator, but as the Messiah raised from the dead and exalted above angels; as Lord and heir of all things, having all things put under him, see Heb. chap. 1; 2. and 8 and that by w ay of donation from the Father who thus exalted and constituted him heir of all things. So that we must understand the Psalm speaking of him as in our nature or as the Son, when it saith, the Lord reigneth, ver. 1. and when it terms him universally “the Lord of the whole earth,” ver. 5. and not only so, but when it declares him high above all the earth, and exalted far above all gods, i. e. the angels of God in heaven who are commanded to worship him.

Some texts express the universal dominion and authority of Christ in general terms. He himself says, “All things are delivered to me of my Father,” Matt. 11:27. The Baptist says, “The Father loveth the Son, and he hath given all things into his hand,” John, 3:35. Peter says, He is Lord of all, Acts, 10:36. and Paul observes upon the universal word all in Psalm, 8:6. “For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him,” Heb. 2:8. These universal expressions therefore must be taken in an unlimited sense.

There are other texts which mention the extensive bounds of his dominion, as well as the creatures and things which are the subjects of it. He says, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” Matt. 28:18. Heaven, then, is one part of his extensive empire. He is exalted far above all heavens; there his throne is at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Heb. 1:3. All the holy angels in heaven are his subjects, as is clearly and repeatedly declared, see Eph. 1:21; Philip. 2:9, 10; Heb. 1:4. ad. ult. 1 Pet. 3:22. They had formerly dominion assigned them, but now all is immediately put under the Son, and they are his ministers, Heb. 1:14; chap. 2:5–9. The spirits of just men made perfect in heaven are all his subjects, and the purchase of his blood; and they join with the angels in worshipping the Lamb: for he is Lord of the dead as well as of the living, Rom. 14:9. Heaven itself is at his disposed; and so he appoints a kingdom to his disciples as the Father hath appointed unto him.

The earth is another part of his empire, and he has all power in it. Hence he is called “the Lord of the whole earth.” It will be owned, that he is in a peculiar manner Lord and king of his people and church on earth, as has often been shown. But this is not all; the whole world belongs to him, and “he is the governor among the nations,” Psalm, 22:28. The Father hath by grant given to his only Son, begotten from the dead, “the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession,” Psalm, 2:8. This cannot be restricted to his elect among all nations; for it includes a rightful power to punish rebels against his government, who will not have him to reign over them, ver. 9, and this plainly implies, his right of dominion over them as King. The same universal dominion is held forth, Psalm, 22:28, 29. and Psalm, 18:43–46; Psalm, 47:7, 8; Psalm, 72:8–12. where we find it attended with the destruction of all who will not submit to him as their rightful King. The Jews would not receive him as their king, nor have him to reign over them, and accordingly he brought destruction on them and on their city, Matt. 22:7. When he sends forth his apostles to preach the gospel, he bids them go into all the world, and publish it to every creature, to all nations; which shows that his dominion extends over the whole earth; and he bids them also declare universally, that he that believeth consequently submits to him as King, shall he saved; but that he that believeth not, consequently refuses subjection to him, shall be damned. This shows, that he has all power on earth and that every one is accountable to him, and so under his administration, as to be either saved or punished by him, as they receive or reject him.—

Further, He is the Sovereign of all the mighty kings on earth, Psalm, 72:11. Hence he is styled “King of kings and Lord of lords,” 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; ch. 19:16. and “the Prince of the kings of the earth,” ch. 1:5. for all the kingdoms of the world are included in his grant, Rev. 11:15. Hence the kings of the earth are admonished to be wise, and the judges to be instructed—to serve the Lord with fear, and to rejoice with trembling; and to kiss the Son (i. e. acknowledge him as their Sovereign) lest he be angry, &c. Psalm, 2:10–12. So that the nations of the earth and all their rulers are under his administration. They are all under obligation to believe in him as the Savior, and obey him as their King; and all who will not do so, shall undoubtedly be punished as rebels against their lawful Sovereign. Again, he over-rules all the revolutions, events, and commotions of this world in subserviency to the great ends of his government and kingdom. He not only opens the book with seven seals, but directs and over-rules all the events, whether of mercy or judgment, that fall out under every one of them to the end of time; for the Lord Christ reigneth, and must reign, even in the midst of his enemies, until they are finally subdued and made his footstool.

Lastly, All judgment is committed to him; “for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all men might honor the Son, even as they honor the Father—and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man,” John, 5:22, 23, 27. This includes a power to raise the dead, and cite them before his tribunal, both the righteous and the wicked: for all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, to receive the things done in the body, according to that they have done, whether it be good or bad, 2 Cor. 5:10. Now, if all the earth are amenable to him as their Judge; if he has sovereign power to confer rewards and inflict punishment according to men’s works; then he must be King of all the earth, for these are acts of kingly government. Even the devils themselves are the subjects of his power and righteous judgment, and shall at last be punished by him.

Thus it appears that Christ is Lord over all, the supreme head of the whole creation of God; and that, in consequence of his death and resurrection, he is “highly exalted, and has obtained a name which is above every name, &c. Phil. 2:9–12. His government extends over heaven, earth and hell, angels, men and devils, the world that now is, and that which is to come; and all things in nature, providence, and grace, are committed into his hand.

Having thus briefly illustrated this subject, both as it relates to God’s providential kingdom in governing the world, and also to the reign of the Messiah, it only remains that we consider what practical improvement we should make of the doctrine. And on this I remark that

1. It should lead us to view the hand of God in everything that concerns us, as we may clearly perceive the saints of old did, particularly Jacob, David, and Job. Whether in prosperity or adversity, it is a sweet and pleasant employment to converse with God in everything that befalls us—in all the dispensations of his providence. To a mind so engaged, everything then seems full of God. When his ways are in the dark with respect to us, let us still hold fast the general conclusion, that all his ways are mercy and truth to them that fear him, and that all events shall work together for good to them that love God. This view of providence lays a solid foundation for our confidence and trust in his almighty power and goodness—of thankfulness and gratitude for his mercies—of resignation, patience and contentment under afflictions. When thus engaged, the language of our souls will be “It is the Lord! let him do what seemeth good unto him.” “I was dumb: I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it.” This view of the subject should also teach us to acknowledge God in all our ways, and undertakings, saying “If the Lord will, we shall do this or that.” But further,

2. In the universal reign of the Messiah, we have exhibited to our view a glorious manifestation of God, and of his goodwill to guilty men. He sent him into our world out of his great love, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life. He has exalted him as a Prince and a Savior to grant repentance and remission of sins. All power and authority are committed into his hands both in heaven and on earth; and, vested as he now is with such unlimited dominion, he is fully able to crush all his enemies, and to save to the uttermost all that trust in him. This is surely a matter of joy to the whole earth; for under his reign all nations of the earth are blessed. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.”

3. The dominion of Christ constitutes an obligation upon all men, wherever his gospel comes, to believe in and obey him. He is their Sovereign by the universal power which is given unto him as Lord of all, and so has an undoubted right to their faith and obedience, whether they yield it or not. Consequently in rejecting him, they are rebels against his just authority, and are amenable to him as their Judge. None can plead exemption here, for he is Lord of the whole earth. Hence they are admonished to “Kiss the Son, and serve God in fear, and rejoice with trembling,” Psalm, 2.

4. Again: this doctrine may also serve to rectify various speculative errors, which abound in the professing world; such as—that is not the duty of men to believe the gospel—that none but believers are under obligations to obey Christ—that the kingdom of the Messiah has no concern with the affairs of this world—that men may do that as politicians which they could not do as Christians—and that that may be lawful in nations which would be sinful in Christians; with numerous other mistaken opinions which are but too prevalent among us.

5. Lastly: let those who profess themselves to be the subjects of Christ, and to love his kingdom, manifest their obedience, by a conscientious regard to his authority, by observing all things whatsoever he has commanded; by earnestly seeking its peace and prosperity; and by vigorous scriptural exertions to extend the knowledge of his salvation, and communicate the benefits of his government throughout every clime; that the nations who are now sitting in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death, may be blessed with the cheering beams of the Sun of Righteousness, until the whole earth be filled with glory. Amen.[1]

 

 

[1] M’Lean, A. (1823). Christ’s Providential Government of the World. In The Works of Mr. Archibald M’Lean (Vol. VI, pp. 3–18). London: William Jones. (Public Domain)