The Kingdom of God, promised by covenant and prophets, is to be distinguished from the general and universal Sovereignty of God.
PROPOSITION 79. The Kingdom of God, promised by covenant and prophets, is to be distinguished from the general and universal Sovereignty of God.
This is, owing to lack of discrimination, a most fruitful source of mistake. Take the Kingdom in its initiatory form and its covenanted and predicted aspect, and it will be found widely different from the Sovereignty that God exercises by virtue of His God-headship. The latter indeed is the source of the former, but the Kingdom of covenant is a visible, outward Theocratic Kingdom, manifested here on earth, identified with a certain people, promised in a definite manner, and ruled over by “the man ordained.” As we shall show hereafter (Prop. 81), it is a Kingdom specifically promised to the “the Son of Man,” who is the Son of David. These, and other aspects of it, clearly distinguish it from such a sovereignty.
Obs. 1. It is but justice to say that many of our opponents (as e.g. Thompson, etc.) and others (as e.g. Van Oosterzee, etc.) justly discriminate between this Kingdom and God’s Sovereignty, telling us that we must not make this Kingdom denote the Supremacy of God as manifested in Creation and Providence, in His “Universal Government over this and other worlds.” They correctly inform us that the promised Kingdom is a special divine organization with Christ as its Head, and with believing subjects, etc., while the other is the sustaining, guiding, controlling, directing disposition, mediate and immediate, of the Universe under the Divine Headship. They teach us that the one is given by covenant promise, and that the other ever existed, even before this special Kingdom was promised to man. They properly direct us to the language of Christ and of His disciples in preaching that the Kingdom “is at hand,” as justly implying that something which did not then exist was to be set up in the future. And they happily direct us to two passages, given by the same writer, as illustrative of the two, viz.: Dan. 6:26 and 7:13–14.[*]
Note. Indeed, if we were to gather the fragmentary evidences thus presented to us by various writers, we should have an abundant array of proof, much of it derived from those who have no sympathy with us. Those who constitute the Church a Kingdom are forced by simple consistency into this attitude. Hence Kurtz (His. Old Cov., vol. 2, p. 97) remarks: “It is essentially necessary to make a twofold distinction in the process of divine revelation; that is to say, it is necessary to distinguish the preservation and government of the world in general, from the more special operations connected with the introduction and working out of the plan of salvation,” etc. The sovereignty of “the Absolute,” which figures so largely in many religious books, etc., and upon which so much stress is laid as “the Kingdom,” is simply a decided removal from covenant and promise. The reader will compare Dr. Storrs’ excellent remark, see Prop. 37, Obs. 7, as well as Kurtz’s, Prop. 26, Obs. 3. Dr. McCosh presents the Universal Sovereignty ably in his “Methods of the Divine Government, Physical and Moral,” so also Butler, Paley, Chalmers, the Duke of Argyll, and others; but this is only the source or foundation of this special manifestation of government. Dr. Craven (Lange’s Com., Rev., p. 97), in his “Excursus on the Basileia,” properly distinguishes between the two; and this is characteristic of numerous able Chiliasts.
Obs. 2. Others, however, do not discern between things that differ, and make the very Sovereignty which promises, overrules, bestows the means for attaining, and finally gives the Kingdom (Prop. 83), to David’s Son—the Kingdom itself. Illustrations of this looseness will abundantly appear as we proceed in our argument.[*]
Note. Many excellent men mistake this sovereignty for the covenanted Kingdom, so that literally thousands, like that noble Christian, Alfred Cookman (Life, p. 359, etc., in some of his most eloquent utterances), locate the kingdom in the same, not seeing how it strikes at the root of the most precious promises given to man. Even some Millenarians, not fully grasping the covenanted truth, not consistently confining themselves to the Theocratic idea, also, in a measure, mistake and confound the Divine Sovereignty for, and with, the Kingdom of covenant. This is seen e.g. in the interpretation given to Christ’s inheriting David’s throne, which, over against the most positive covenanted declarations and predictions, they make the Father’s throne in the third heaven, etc.
Obs. 3. It is noticeable that in works of Sys. Divinity this Sovereignty is placed under the part pertaining to God and His general government, and is separated from the promised Kingdom of Christ by treating of the latter under the Part relating to Christ and His work. A distinction is observed, made, and taught in a specific form, but practically it is ignored, and in definitions it is made to disappear, forgetting that thus a radical defect is introduced, and a palpable contradiction is involved. For, uniting the two and making them one, they at once make that, which they tell us was never (even for a moment), intermitted, the subject of recorded promises as something to come, to be inherited, etc.[*]
Note. Williamson (Theol. and Moral Science, p. 73) says: “The Kingdom of God! What is it? No more or less than the reign of God.” This is true of the Divine Sovereignty, but it is not correct as he applies it, for on p. 311 he quotes “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand,” and ignoring the non-fulfilment of the imposed condition “repent,” the non-intermittence of the Divine reign, he frames a new “spiritual kingdom, designating it as follows: “It is a new and more perfect dispensation.” This illustration out of many is given to show how able writers confound source and result, cause and effect, and overlook a specific covenanted and predicted kingdom under David’s son, with characteristics which, down to the present, have never yet been realized.
Obs. 4. The line of argument already presented (which forms but a small portion of the Scriptural reasons to be assigned), is amply sufficient to show, that a specified Theocratic Kingdom, incorporating the Davidic throne, which once existed, which was withdrawn, and which is promised to be restored under David’s Son, is something widely different from the general Sovereignty of the Almighty over the universe. So plain, and simple, and self-evident is this Proposition, that no more space is required in its consideration.[*]
Note. We can indorse Dr. Moll’s statement (Lange’s Com., Psls. p. 306): “There is a distinction to be made between God’s general government of the world, and that special one—the Theocracy—which He established on earth, in and through the seed of Abraham. Even in the imperfect and typical (?) form which it assumes in Old Test. history, this is described as His descending to the earth and His ascending to heaven. This theocracy, insignificant as was its origin in Israel, has a world-embracing destination. It shall gather into itself all nations, who, as one people of God, shall serve and adore one and the same heavenly King; and their princes shall accomplish those purposes which God has ordained for them, viz.: to be the leaders of their people to salvation, and their protectors in the service of God.” Avoiding the typical, and keeping logically to the Theocratic idea, we receive and extend this language.