Sunday, November 15, 2009
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Preached at Trinity Chapel, Alfred Street, Leicester, On LORD'S Day Evening, July 6th, 1845 - by John Warburton
"For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
WE read these words as a text in the morning, and promised, by the help of God, to make a few remarks. First to show that the kingdom is his, the power is his, and the glory is his. We attempted, first, to notice, by the kingdom of God, we sometimes understand the kingdoms of the world, which are all under his suffrage, his rule, and his power. We took notice, in a literal way, that the Lord rules over all; that kings and emperors govern by him. Secondly, we noticed by the kingdom of God, sometimes we understand the gospel, the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Thirdly, noticed that we understand by the kingdom of God, the kingdom of grace set up in the heart. By the kingdom of grace, we considered, that blessed entrance of God the Holy Ghost into the hearts of his people, where he reigns, rules, and where he keeps his court, his palace. In this kingdom of grace are all the stores and supplies for God's people through time: faith, love, patience, hope, watchfulness, thankfulness, prayer, praise, and adoration: all blessings stored up in the kingdom of grace. This kingdom is the Lord's. It is not of men to cultivate it, as some people tell us. It is not of man to get any of it, by any good works he can perform. All these blessings in this kingdom of grace, are the gift of God; they are of a sovereign nature; none know this, but those who have this kingdom of grace in the heart; and the Lord teaches his children it is his own kingdom. So these blessed stores of grace he teaches them their need of. They are brought into situations and places in which they can no more get faith, and believe God, than they can create a world. They are sometimes brought into such situations, that they have no patience at command, no thankfulness, no watchfulness, no prayers, no adoration, nor one single grace can they cultivate, raise up, quicken, and bring into their souls; so that they are brought to prove, it is God's kingdom, it is not theirs. Therefore the poor soul is brought to beg of the Lord that he would give it him. The Lord communicates it to him. The Lord never leaves them to themselves. The Lord blesses them with the sweet graces of his Spirit in their heart.
My dear friends, the family of God, the older they grow, the more experience they have of works, the more they are brought to wander in this vale of tears, the more they prove and know this kingdom is God's, and is his gift. 'Thine is the kingdom:' the kingdom of grace. Thus they are brought to prove that grace which the Lord communicates. They are brought to cry, 'Lord, quicken thou me,' for my soul cleaveth to the earth. Why, man, art thou not a quickening voice? say some, canst not thou set about it, feel determined to raise up thy affections to God, determined to keep thy soul alive by the quickening power of man's diligence, by prayer and watchfulness? Ah, my friends, you might as well attempt to put your finger up and take the sun, or empty the ocean with a bucket; it is God's kingdom, God's blessing, God's communicating. Now no doubt some of you here, though in a profession, yet despise such things as these, and look upon it as encouraging nothing but licentiousness; it is not, as you say in your language, encouraging people to do the best, to lift up their hearts to God, to strive to obtain the kingdom. To such we say, How can you be judges of the kingdom of God's grace when you have it not in your hearts? Poor souls, I feel for you. The Lord says, 'Without me ye can do nothing;' but you think you can have got the kingdom of God's grace within you, but you have not; you have not life. You bolster yourself up with resolutions, and this is all you have. Why, say you, I believe the truth of God. The devil does that; he believes that. Well but, say you, I believe God is good. The devil believes it, yet he is a devil: you may believe it and be a child of the devil: the kingdom of God is not in natural knowledge or understanding, nor in believing natural things as revealed in the scriptures; no, faith in Christ, in the power of God, is God's gift. Now you know nothing at all about unbelief. No, says one, and I do not want. Nor I, says another. I should be very glad not to be tormented with the devil and unbelief, a tormenting devil; trying with all my might to believe, to take up a little comfort, come to the promise, in believing have a little refreshment; but, alas, I find unbelief too powerful for an arm of flesh even to attempt to raise up the soul to have faith, love, patience, humility, meekness, watchfulness. It is the kingdom of God's grace; he communicates when he will and how he will. Hear what the apostle says: 'Every good gift, and every perfect gift.' Do you read it so, that it is of man's resolution, of man's power to cultivate or raise up? Nothing at all of the kind: 'Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above.' So you see the kingdom is not at man's disposal, man's working, man's faith, man's prayers to fetch it, carry it, or drive it back when it comes; it is the blessed gift of God. The kingdom of God is his own work, it comes from above, 'and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness.' The Lord be blessed for this: 'no variableness? no, not even the 'shadow of a turning.' So that the blessed truths of God's kingdom of grace, all its glory, all its preciousness, all comes from God, and is communicated to his people, when he will, how he will, and where he will, with whom there is not the shadow of a turn. It shall accomplish his own purpose, to his eternal glory. Dear me, say you, you leave nothing for man to do; nothing but the people of God to sit still and receive it, when God communicates it with power to their heart. Nothing at all. I tell you what, my friends, the older I get, the more I am brought to see the sovereign, discriminating grace of God's kingdom above all the sovereigns of the universe: without him they would perish; he directs the course of all.
'For thine is the kingdom.' O, says the poor soul, if I did but know this kingdom was in my heart! Why, I tell you what, my dear friends, God has left it on record; it is so plain, so simple, so pointed out where this kingdom of God is; the fruits and effects of this kingdom are manifest, what it produces, that there is no possibility of deception. Dear me, says one, I think it is all over with me, I am deceived, I know nothing at all of the kind. Where this kingdom of grace is in the soul it is opposed to everything that is against God: it works, leads, and influences everything in the soul that is God-honoring, raising up the soul after God. Well, says the soul, I am not a whit nearer now, I must have it opened up plainer than that. The Lord's children are such a comical set of folks, they must have it brought right opened and backed by the word of God, until their very feelings are opened up, their very experience pointed out and declared, so that they cannot squeeze out; they will get out if they can. This is the difference between those who have the kingdom in their heart and those who are in an empty profession. Professors take encouragement from reading, being zealous, their uprightness, their purity, their zeal and godliness. But God's children, my friends, cannot take encouragement here, they must have God's truth brought home to their heart, to break down every obstacle. Art thou there, poor soul? then the kingdom of God is in thy heart. What is the reason thou art not satisfied like other professors of religion? You have come to chapel, done your duty, been at prayer-meetings, read your Bible, had family prayer; take comfort, be satisfied thou art in the right path, God is thine, thou shalt land safe in glory. Ah, says the soul, I want the internal witness of God to my spirit that he is mine, and I am his. Dost thou pant for this? Hast thou longed for this? Is it thy heart's desire? Is thy soul breathing after the Lord for him to make it known, give thee the testimony in thy heart? Yes, says the soul, it is my very heart's desire. Then as sure as ever the Bible is true, the kingdom of God is set up in thy heart. 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.' Whatever is spirit will breathe after God, and nothing will satisfy it. But, says the poor soul, I so often have not these breathings, sometimes so careless, so earthly, so worldly, so carnal, that I seem as if I had not the least spark of life, love, or any feeling after God. Art thou comfortable under it? Comfortable! no, bless you, why sometimes I am the most miserable creature on the earth; no life, no love, not any love for God, so miserable and wretched in my feelings, that I cannot go panting after the presence of God, for him to lift up the light of his countenance; no spiritual life; there never was such a creature known as I. Hear what the apostle says: 'The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that we cannot do the things that we would.' So where the kingdom of God is, the devil is working, and all the corruptions of the heart boiling up against the good work; all the wretched tempers, ungodly nature boiling up like a pot, the blessed fruits of the Spirit opposing it, the soul groaning under it, confessing the wickedness that it feels, panting to God for deliverance.
So you see, where the kingdom of God dwells in the heart, there is the opposite. You that have a religion to which there is no opposition in your heart, can come and go to church or chapel, do your duty, pray, read, all comfortable within, pleased that you have done your duty, and are going very comfortably, happy in taking that text, 'Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are paths of peace;' you know no more about wisdom's ways than a horse. You may talk about it, yet know nothing about wisdom's ways. Wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, but the people of God are so often in foolish ways, backsliding ways, so seldom brought up into wisdom's ways, to come and have a blessed sight of Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, come by faith and have a blessed sight of their being interested in him; there by faith again they look upon him whom they have pierced. O what pleasant paths, what paths of righteousness the Lord leads them into, what joy, and rejoicing! But, my dear friends, come to feel the opposition within of which the apostle speaks, the two natures opposing each other, what calamities does this bring into the soul. It brought the apostle to cry out, 'The things that I love, I do not: the things that I hate, those I do.'
O what a difference between Paul and professors in the present day! They tell us the things they love they do, and the things they hate they avoid. But Paul says, 'The things I hate I do, and the things I love I do not.' Know then, poor child of God, thou art treading in the apostle's steps, feeling the depravity of thy heart boiling up, groaning against it, the spirit opposing, the soul hating it, but no power to overcome this, therefore groaning out to God, 'O wretched man that I am I who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' So were this kingdom of God's blessed grace is in the heart, sin opposes it, and it will oppose sin. Therefore the apostle says, 'Grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.' And blessed be God, dear soul, thou wilt in the end, for God says, 'The elder shall submit to the younger.' Sin shall never have dominion over thee. It may plague, pester thee, and lead thee captive at times, but, blessed be God, the kingdom of his grace set up in thy heart is imperishable; the Lord will maintain it until the end, and bring thee off more than conqueror through him that loved thee.
By the kingdom of God, we sometimes understand everlasting, eternal, ultimate glory; that immortal place of rest, where, the Lord says, 'The wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are for ever at rest.' All God's children that have this kingdom set up in their heart, are at all times panting for their home; for here they find no rest, nothing but briars, thorns, difficulties, crosses, temptations, weakness, sinkings, despairing; sometimes afraid they never shall land on that happy shore, the kingdom of glory, to dwell with the Lord for ever and ever. Thou wilt, poor soul. Bless the Lord for ever he has secured it. The Lord has secured it, my dear friends; he has revealed it, he has told us so, he has passed his word, pledged his honor, pledged his justice, pledged his power, pledged his glory; and therefore it is impossible that even unbelief, or the workings of the devil, shall ever rob the people of God of eternal glory: for this kingdom is theirs. The Lord has given it you, poor dear soul, from everlasting, before ever you were born, ever did good or evil; yea, it is his own eternal purpose from everlasting to everlasting. He has secured the thing for good. Hear what the Lord says, and God's word is far before the word of man, 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' What a blessed declaration. 'Fear not.' Now this little flock often are fearing they shall never have the kingdom. So ignorant, so unbelieving, so foolish, so hard-hearted, so carried away, so wretched, so unworthy, cannot sometimes think ever it can be possible that ever such souls as theirs can enter into eternal rest. They at times seem completely sunk with fears. 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' And again, by way of encouragement, he will say to them on his right hand, 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' Is there a soul here, a poor grasshopper, who believes there is a God, and can really think that ever the Lord purposed a thing and was disappointed in the preparation of it? Can you have such a mean, contemptible view of God, who spake the world into existence? He has prepared a kingdom, and can the devil, sin or unbelief rob God's children of what the Lord has prepared for them? Not all the obstacles laid in the way, all the fears, the ups and downs, the sinking and despairing, shall prevent the accomplishment of his purpose. Were they not all present in his own eternal purpose when he prepared the kingdom? Yes, my friends. And again the Lord says, 'I go away, but will come again.' He says, 'I go that I may prepare a place for you, that where I am, there may you be also.' Is there any possibility of getting out of that? He does not say, I will give them an opportunity to believe; that they shall have it offered to them that believe; but, 'I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am, there ye may be also.' And by the mouth of the apostle he seems to wind it up. The kingdom of eternal glory is theirs, they shall inherit it. Wherever the kingdom of grace is implanted, the kingdom of glory shall be entered upon. 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again.'
Now you mind, my friends, God is so particular in his word, so discriminating, so separating, not blending all together. The Lord's people are thus brought discriminatingly into it. 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again.' 'Us,' his family. The 'us' are God's holy nation; the 'us,' his peculiar people; the 'us,' his blessed family: heirs of God, and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. Poor dear child of God, has he not begotten thee and me again and again to a lively hope, when so sunk at times that we have said all hope was taken away? Hath not the Lord revived our hope again, sealed it upon our heart? 'Begotten again.' Now the song says, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.' The 'us,' says the apostle: 'Begotten again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.' He goes on, 'To an inheritance:' so you see God has begotten us again, quickens and brings them up with hope to an inheritance. They are longing for this inheritance, panting for this inheritance, crying out, 'This is not my rest, it is polluted.' Their heart pants after Jesus to be with him for ever. 'To an inheritance.' He tells us what it is, 'incorruptible and undefiled.' This is just what these poor souls want, to be in a place where they will never be defiled, never see sin, never feel sin, never know what sin is; to be in a place where the presence of God, the glory of God, the beauty of God, and the grandeur of his blessed love, mercy, and grace shines for ever and ever: to be with him, to be like him, where there is no defilement to be met with, 'an inheritance undefiled, and that fadeth not away.' The Lord knew what man would be guilty of, in speaking of such a glorious inheritance, such a blessed and happy place, that he would put it down to man's doing his duty, getting faith, being zealous, doing the best he could to enter into this inheritance, and after all he might lose it. The Lord knows what the carnality of man is, therefore he brings in this glorious truth, that neither death, hell nor sin should ever spoil it. 'Reserved in heaven for you.' What God appoints for you, 'who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.' Ah, my dear friends, it does my soul good when God brings his truth into my heart. The truth of God is more precious than rubies; they are nothing but dung compared to the glorious truth of the ever-blessed God. 'Buy the truth and sell it not,' and when tried in the furnace of affliction, that truth is as dear to me then as life. But, says one, such kind of preaching as this, preaches people into idleness and neglect. I do not know what it does with a parcel of empty professors, who have not the kingdom of God in their souls. Such preaching as this, with the mighty power of God coming with it, comes with life to the heart, enlivens them, animates and revives them. The poor soul that hath a little drop of this in the heart, is enabled under the sweet, enlivening teaching of the blessed Spirit, to give body and soul up to God — to honor him with body, soul, and spirit. The more he drinks of this blessed river, the more fruitful in good works, the more he glorifies God in conversation, and the more he loves the law of God.
Secondly, we find the Lord says, 'Thine is the power.' Then if the power be of God, it is not of man, I am sure of this, we need not take up half an hour in coming to this conclusion. 'Thine is the power.' So it is not a mixture of God and man together to make up the power. My dear friends, this sometimes so humbles my soul, that I can hardly walk, it shakes my very strength of body. What was it brought this mass into existence out of a dark chaos, to be made out of nothing and balanced in the empty air? that stretched out the heavens as a curtain? that placed millions of stars, the blazing sun, the moon reflecting from it to rule the night, and the sun to rule the day: what was this? was it the joint concern of God and man? No, there was no man in existence. No man could help him. It was his power that made the earth, when he said, 'Let the earth come forth;' and divided the earth from the waters, and said, 'Let the dry land appear;' and it was so; in a moment power went with the word, the thing was done in the twinkling of an eye. Here, then, is the power of God displayed. 'Thine is the power.' What a power was that, which gathered the boundless waters into one spot, that compassed the seas, that furnished the earth with every plant, with all its verdure, all its glory! The power of God said, The earth shall have seed in itself, the earth shall produce it, that it shall grow up to maturity. What was it that could divide the seasons — the summer, winter, spring, and autumn; the sun, wind, cold, heat, day, and night? The power of God. What could bring particles of dust, form and shape them into man, so that he should have every member in its place, the eyes, ears, and all the channels necessary for the body; who ever could form this from the dust but the power of God? He made man out of the dust of the earth — these earthly bodies to be living bodies, moving, rational bodies; and breathing into it the breath of life, man became a living soul. Here then is power. What could deliver the Israelites from the Red Sea, and from Pharaoh's bondage, but the power of God? He commanded the waters to divide, called them up like a wall, and made a way for the ransomed of the Lord to pass over. What could bring the walls of Jericho down with a blast of the ram's horns? the power of God. They might have blown the ram's horns until now, if the power of God had not gone forth. My dear friends, it is the power of God, also, that stops a sinner in his mad career, and prevents him going to hell. All men are 'born in sin, and shapen in iniquity,' his will, desires, and very nature are all set upon and delight in sin, and there is nothing that will ever put him out of conceit of sin, ever bring him to hate sin, ever bring him to turn his back finally from sin to God, but the mighty power of God entering into his heart; nothing else. What power was it that the Lord carried home to the heart of Saul of Tarsus? 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?' The power of God. My friends, the voice of the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord divideth the flames of fire. The voice of the Lord stilleth the mighty waters. It is the voice of his mighty power entering into the sinner's heart that stops the sinner in his mad career, causes him to turn his back on the devil's kingdom, and brings him to God, and the kingdom of his blessed Son. It is the power of God that strips a poor sinner of his self-righteousness. The children of God are Arminians born, would live Arminians, and die Arminians if the Lord would let them. They are born Arminians when the Lord opens their eyes; stops them by his mighty power, so that they cannot go on in sin; they cannot think the Lord will have mercy on them till they get better; they begin to work as hard as they can to keep down sin: do their duty, and strive to get holy again; so if they get better, they think the Lord would have mercy upon them; they think he never will till they get better. The Lord, my dear friends, in order to cure them of this, shows them the only way of reception is in his beloved Son; not in their own goodness; not in their works; that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness sake to every one that believeth; these poor souls want to get a righteousness of their own; and always when they come to wind up matters at night, going to bed, in searching the books over, to see what sort of a day they have had, they generally find it is the worst day they have had, so that the poor sinner is obliged to confess what a sinner he is; he begins afresh to double his diligence; in the morning he will set to, downright; he will not be such a fool as to be led away from God, and if he will but spare him, he hopes he shall have a better day on the morrow. Perhaps, in the morning, he sleeps too long; he begins to work to keep down sin, anger, and everything contrary to God's blessed word. Well, instead of this, sometimes his temper breaks out; something occurs that makes his temper rise up; he comes out with a hasty word, which turns his religion all topsy-turvy, down he comes, tumbling into the ditch, and his own clothes abhor him. At it he goes again, he is a right-down Arminian, and an Arminian he would remain if the Lord would let him; but in order to cure him, God brings the debt book up, opens it at the holy law, seals it home with his mighty power. He begins to see what this law is; what God, the maker of that law, is; that he is a righteous God. He comes to see and know he is entirely lost. That this law requires a holy, perfect life from beginning to end, without a single flaw, without a single thought contrary to it, else it damns the soul; when it came to pass thus with the poor soul, down goes his Arminianism. All he has is burnt up. By the righteousness of the law, all his good works are cursed; he cries out, 'I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad.' Here he comes, stripped of all his works, a poor condemned sinner to Christ: 'Lord save, or I perish' is the language of his heart. Here, my friends, the power of God brings the law home to his heart. What is the reason so many thousands who read the law, think they are doing God service: that they are obeying the law? Because the power of God never brought the law home to their conscience; never opened it up by the debt book being opened to their soul; they never had it brought home as a killing letter; never brought home so as to condemn them. The power of God is as much required to reveal salvation to a poor sinner's heart, as to raise the dead. Under the work and power of God the poor soul has the power of salvation; blood and love are blessedly applied to his heart with power.
It is the power also of God that keeps his people from everything disgraceful, no thanks to themselves: kept by the power of God to the present moment; there is the power to preserve us on our way: the power of God enables us to stretch out our hands, and open our eyes; the power of God must move our heart, will, and affections out towards his. There was one king of Israel for his misrule, one of the prophets telling him the judgment of God should come upon him, stretched out his hand to smite him, while his hand was stretched out, it was all withered up in a moment, so that he had no power to bring it in again. My friends, whether we know it or not, it is the power of God that sustains us; have you never seen a poor creature in a moment, with all the use of his limbs taken away? another in a moment, restored again when God speaks? 'In him we live and move, and have all our being,' so the power of God; the Lord's children know and feel it is all by the power of God every communication is made to their soul, and when they have it, they know it is the power of God. 'Thine is the glory,' and bless him, 'for ever and ever.'
For the glory is his. What could we do with the glory? how could we manage the glory? we, who are poor dust and ashes, we could not manage it, all the glory, that is the source of immortal joy, the bright magnificence, the grandeur in its fullest sense; we could never do anything. 'Thine is the glory.' My dear friends, is it not heart-breaking, soul-ravishing, devil-conquering, world-vanquishing, sin-subduing, spirit-cheering, when but a little sparkling of God's glory shines on our faculties? We never can see the glory of God, but as God's glory shines into our hearts. But, my dear friends, the soul to have the heart filled, so as to give God the glory, it must be by the glory shining into the heart: 'thy God thy glory.' The prophet says, 'Arise, shine, for the light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee: 'this soul could not arise, could not shine, could not give God the glory, till this glory comes, shines, and arises in his heart.
May God bless you and me, enabling us to say, Amen. The Lord's people, under the teaching of the Spirit, can add their hearty Amen. The Lord grant it may be carried home to your souls, and he shall have all the glory. Amen.