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A Discourse, Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Sunday Morning, Sept. 10, 1848,
BY THE REV. JOSEPH IRONS,
“The Lord haih prepared His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom
ruleth over all.”—Psalm ciii. 19. There is not a doctrine known among men, more offensive to the unregenerate children of Adam, than that which is contained in my text. There is not a matter of fact recorded in Scripture, more blessedly satisfactory to the living Church of God, than the fact or facts, contained in the verse I have just read. There is not a sentiment more repulsive to formalists and Pharisees, than the sentiment urged and insisted upon here. The sovereignty of Jehovah. This is evidently the subject; for the text says, “He hath prepared the throne itself in the heavens;" and having His throne and His kingdom essentially His own, that" His kingdom rules over all.” The kingdoms of the world; the kingdom of darkness; the kingdom of Antichrist
, however they may rage, must ultimately submit to the sway of Israel's glorious self-existent Monarch. This is the sentiment which cheers the heart of every child of God; and when he feels his impotency, and finds himself oppressed, and persecuted, and tried, he comes back, sweetly, to this conclusion, "My Father is ruling all this, and reigning over all this, and if it were not for my real advantage, and His glory, He would stop it in one moment." "If He views, as we view, in the day in which we live, Antichrist making the most rapid strides, and threatening-nay, even boasting of the grasp it has made, and of the reigning power determined upon by it: what does the child of God say to all this? " Jehovah hath prepared His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all." And though He may suffer the conflict;
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shall be sung,
though He may permit the battle of Armageddon yet to be fought; though He may see fit, in the exercise of His sovereignty, and for the scourge of the degenerate churches, to allow the paw of the Apocalyptic beast to tread down His garden for awhile ; glory to His name, that “ His kingdom shall rule over all," and that ultimately the song
" The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ."
Before I enter immediately upon our subject, do allow me to drop one experimental hint. If we believe the facts recorded in my text, how is it that we do not live in accordance with such belief? How is it that we are moved, and harassed, and depressed, and exercised, and sometimes almost dismayed at little events, over which we have no control, though the carnality of our minds wishes them to be otherwise ? Take what event you please, in any one week or day of your life; in business, in your circle of friends, in the Church of God, in daily experience, care, or anxiety; and the principles which we hold dear, if they are acted upon, bring us to a holy calm : it is “even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight.” “ His kingdom ruleth over all," and, therefore, the subjects of His grace do well to keep an eye upon the sceptre, and to keep the finger of faith touching its top, ascribing to Jehovah, wisdom, might, majesty, and dominion, and so lying passive in His hands, and waiting His method of so turning events as to prove His gracious dealings with us.
I now invite your attention to the language of my text, in something like order, for the purpose of assisting your memories. And, first of all, we shall dwell upon the sovereignty proclaimed. Secondly, upon the extent of empire described :-“His kingdom ruleth over all.” And then, thirdly, upon the inquiries suggested.
I.-A word or two, in the first place, upon the sovereignty which is here proclaimed. It is not the sovereignty of a worm; it is not the sovereignty of a creature; it is not the sovereignty of the devil; but the sovereignty of Jehovah. You will see that the word “ Lord” at the commencement of my text is in capitals—of course in the original it is Jehovah. “Jehovah hath prepared His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all."
Here I propose to meditate for a few moments, upon the glorious majesty of selt-existence in a Trinity of Persons, as the God whom we worship. This will lay a foundation for all we shall have hereafter to say. The glorious majesty of Divine self-existence in the Trinity of Persons, including all the attributes of the Godhead. Oh! my soul, wbat solemn awe becomes thee! What profound reverence should overwhelm thee! What deep bumiliation should prostrate thee! whilst thinking of, speaking of, adoring and praising such a being. If for a moment you can limit your meditations to this point, it may serve to drive away all the frothy light things of the wilderness, through which we are passing; and “ though by searching we cannot find out God to perfection," yet we may discover enough from His word, and revelation of Himself, to fill our thoughts with deepest solemnity while dwelling upon infinitude, upon omnipresence, upon omniscience, upon omnipotence, upon eternity, upon immutability, and viewing or contemplating all the attributes of Deity, as essentially belonging to each of the Persons of the Godhead, to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, distinctly, yet unitedly, in the glorious self-existent Jehovah.
Oh! my soul, how canst thou speak of Him, if to this we add the most interesting, the most majestic fact, that all these perfections in each of these Personalities, owe there existence to none but Jehovah Himself! Self-existent! Who can understand that word? Who can roll back his thoughts into an eternity that has passed, and see the same selfexistence beyond it, originating it? Who can carry forward his thoughts through all the revolutions of time, to the consummation of all things, and the glory of His kingdom, and see self-existence sustaining all, supporting all, accomplishing all, ruling all, and “crowning all with loving kindness, and tender mercies, and not stand in awe of the glorious majesty of the Deity? Solomon seemed to enter a little into this kind of ineditation, when dedicating the temple to the Lord. “Behold," says he, " the heaven, and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee; how much less this house which I have builded !” Magnificent as it was, with all the splendour that surrounded him, with all the signal tokens of Divine favour received by him, and with all the prospects opening to him of the magnificence and glory of the worship of this temple, he is overwhelmed with the consciousness of his own littleness, and cries out, “Who am I, and what is my Father's house?” So full of the glory of the Lord, was the house he was dedicating to His honour, that there was no room for the creature, no room for the priest to minister; and I wish there was none in our day, from my heart, and that the house of God was so filled with His glory, that there should be no room for any other priest but Christ in all His temples. Solomon prostrates himself, adores the majesty of heaven, is overwhelmed with the consciousness of God's greatness; and shall not you and I? Shall we not keep constantly in view, this sacred fundamental principle of our most holy faith, that equal glory, equal majesty, and all perfections belong alike, and in a self-existent manner to Jehovah the Father, Jehovah the Son, and to Jehovah the Holy Ghost, even to the glorious Triune God, one self-existent Divine essence, who giveth an account of none of His matters. Well indeed may poor sinners “lay their hands on their mouths, and their mouths in the dust, and cry out 'unclean, unclean,' before God." Well indeed may angels, and seraphim, and cherubim, cover their faces with their wings, and cry, even within the veil, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty."
And yet I, a poor worm of the earth, am permitted to talk about Him; nay more, to get a view of His covenant, “ for the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant. I have been musing somewhat after this sort, upon the glorious Being I worship, "whose I am, and whom I serve," until I have shrunk from the thought of taking His holy name upon sinful and polluted lips. Oh, that the seraphim may fly unto me, with a “live coal in his hand," taken “from the altar," and lay it upon my mouth,” saying, “Lo! this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." Then enjoying forgiving love, knowing my Divine relationship, and feeling a union with the Lord Jesus Christ, I throw off the gloom, cast away the slavish dread, and shout aloud, “This God is my God for ever and ever, and will be my guide even unto death."
Mark, this glorious, majestic, self-existent Being in His Trinity of Persons ordained all the events of time" His kingdom ruleth over all.” I cannot bear the mention of the word “contingency," when God is brought into account. “ Happening "_"chance"-"contingency," are phrases which do very well for the yocabulary of Infidels,
but they are not fit for Christians; for I know by my precious Book, that this glorious Being, concerning whom I ain attempting to say a few words, “ordered all things after the counsel of His own will." Do you wish to alter that counsel? Do wish to set up your own will against His? “He ordereth all things after the counsel of His own will." Are
desirous to throw things into disorder, into utter confusion and ruin? If so, quarrel with God's sovereignty as fast as you can. But if you desire order to be maintained—and God is the God of order—then rejoice that He ordained all the events of time as an act of His own sovereignty, and consequently that He rules them all; who shall be rich, and who shall be poor; who shall rule, and who shall be ruled; where and how a kingdom shall be set up; in what manner it shalí reach the meridian of its splendour; how it shall decline, and when it shall be abolished. All are ordered and ordained by Himself. Nations, empires, lesser circles of associated human beings-all are planned, ordained, ordered, settled by Himself. Hosts and armies too, are at His control; and therefore, He is called “the Lord of Hosts.” Kings the most mighty, and against whom, apparently, there is no rising up, as the wise man hath it, are put down, turned adrift into the field to eat grass, like cattle, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, who became so deformed, that “his hairs were grown like eagle's feathers, and his nails like bird's claws," and seven times passed over him, and all the magicians, councils, advisers, wealth, pomp, and armies that he possessed could not alter it. It was ordained of God to be so, and He carried it out for His own purposes to the moment and the date. Do you suppose that a Pharaoh in his tyranny, typifying the devil, and in his cruel exercise of task-master's authority over the Lord's chosen Israel in Egypt, was a mere matter of chance ? Do you imagine it was a promiscuous thing at his own control? Hear what the great Eternal Himself says about it:-“For this same purpose I raised him up, that I might show my power and glory in him." And shall we dare then to talk of chance? Follow on to the destroying of the seven nations of Canaan, and the introduction of the chosen tribes to possess the land. And say what was it. Did they deserve it? Did they earn it? Could their own swords or bows obtain it? Verily not. They were a stiff-necked and perverse people. They had forfeited all claim to the Divine favour as much as the nations who were disinherited. And yet the Lord says, “When the iniquity of the Amorites is full, I shall accomplish my purpose.” He had ordained the event, that the seven nations should be dispossessed, and that His Israel whom He had chosen should and possess the land. Indeed we might go through the whole Scripture history, and show that, from the mightiest monarchs to the most obscure individuals, known upon the face of the earth, their station, their position, their circumstances, their joys, their sorrows, all that is painful and vile, and all that is pleasant and delightful in their experience, were ordained and settled By the infinite wisdom and eternal love of Israel's covenant (God; and this to such an exactness that He has not left it in the power of the worm to make one hair white or black, or to add one cubit to his stature, so that his very height is settled and ordained by the God of heaven and of earth. If Goliah grew to be six cubits, and David was in height but a boy, God ordained it to be so.
Look also at events as they arise in the world, in business, in the family; nay, limit it to your own personal experience and history.
Take just into view what God has done for you since you were capable of thinking, and since you were, as it is called, thrown upon the world and began to enter upon life. Observe the events which have taken place; the journeys you have performed, your associations, your prospects, the disappointments you have met with, the overwhelming circumstances that have threatened to crush you, or the bright opening of days of prosperity, comfort or wealth, that have dawned upon you. Think you they are all matters of chance? Do you attribute any of them to your own wisdom, your own discretion, your own perseverance ? If you are an Infidel, you may; but if you are a Christian, you know that it is God who gave you power to acquire wealth. His own word says so. You know, further, that it is He who removes riches from you, and gives them wings to fly away, and that even the wrath of man, which would have lain hands upon you, He restrained at His pleasure, and even made it to praise Him. You know, moreover, that your steps have been ordered of the Lord, that your habitations are fixed by Him, and that all that pertains to your joys or sorrows is under His own sovereign control. "If I see Him hold a balance between what I call pain or pleasure, joy or sorrow, good or evil, I find the balance even ; His own hand holds it steady, so that not an event, not a circumstance can transpire in the history of the people of God, but it is under His sovereign operation and control. And this only confirms what I set out with, that “He ordered all things after the counsel of His own will." In His goodness, He ordered the building of Grove Chapel, Camberwell, and the devil and all his agents could not hinder it. So He ordered me to proclaim His truth and glory, and nothing can prevent it. It is ordained and settled by Himself. And shall we not say that He is overruling and managing our affairs as a Church? Sometimes the believer seems to put out his hand to touch the event, and to move it this way or that way, Why this is as bad as Uzziah's touching the ark. Leave it with the Lord, for He ruleth over all things.
“ The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom ruleth over all.” But there is one point in this universal dominion of His, before I
go to the second head of my discourse, that is very peculiar in the proclamation of His sovereignty, and which I would have you never to lose sight of. It is the distinction which He effects and maintains between His Church and the world. This is sadly overlooked in the day in which we live, and the race of mankind are unjustly represented, though not in these exact words, yet to this amount, as a race of beings herded together of all sorts and kinds—sheep and swine, dogs and children, doves and ravens, and all the rest, clean and unclean, thrown into one mass, and then very kindly and good-naturedly invited to make themselves all alike. That is not God's way of acting. When God put them all together in the ark of Noah, He did not change their natures. He put them there to preserve alive a stock for the earth; but the lion did not become a lamb-the raven did not become a dove; and so marked was the distinction emblematically given there, that when the raven was sent out she could light upon the floating carrion, and return no more; but the dove, when sent out, could not partake of the unclean thing, but, coming back, alighted upon Noah's hand, which clearly marks the difference existing between the clean and the unclean, and between the Church and the world. So has it been in all ages. God's Church was at first limited to the