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The complete title of the earlier editions of the following sermon indicates the design of the author,—“Concerning the Kingdom of Christ, and the Power of the Civil Magistrate about the things of the Worship of God.” It was preached to the Parliament on October 13, 1652,“ a day of solemn humiliation.” It was the time of the naval war with the Dutch. The bill for a New Representative, or, in other words, the question whether the Long Parliament should now be dissolved, was keenly agitated. The weightier question, as to the settlement of the Constitution, burdened and perplexed the nation. During the month in which the sermon was preached, numerous private conferences on the former point took place between the leaders of the Parliament and the officers of the Army. These circumstances may account for the appointment of a day of humiliation. What determined Owen to make choice of the delicate and important subject of which he treats in this sermon, might be the prevalence of a desire in many quarters for a proper adjustment of ecclesiastical affairs. A petition from the Army (see " Whitelocke's Memorials,” p. 516) had been presented to the Parliament on the 13th of August 1652, “reciting that they had often sought the Lord, and desire these particulars to be considered.” Then follows a list of twelve “particulars;" the first of which is, “ That speedy and effectual means be used for promoting the gospel, profane and scandalous ministers be outed, good preachers encouraged, maintenance for them provided, and tithes taken away."
The sermon breathes a spirit weary of the lengthened confusion which had distracted the land. The principles contained in it raise questions as important in themselves, and as fresh in interest now, as in the days when Owen lived and preached. Whatever may be thought of his views on the relation of the magistrate to the church, this sermon, in which his judgment is declared on this tovic of paramount and engrossing moment, has evidently been prepared with unusual care.-ED.
CHRIST'S KINGDOM AND THE MAGISTRATE'S POWER.
“ I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my
head troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.”_Dan. vii. 15, 16.
What there is of concernment for the right understanding of these words in that part of the chapter which goes before, may be considered in the opening of the words themselves; and therefore I shall immediately attend thereunto.
Tnere are in them four things considerable:-1. The state and condition which Daniel, the penman of this prophecy, expresseth himself to be in,-wherein he hath companions in the days wherein we live: “He was grieved in his spirit in the midst of his body." II. The cause and means whereby he was brought into this perplexed frame of spirit: “The visions of his head troubled him.” III. The remedy he used for his delivery from that entangled condition of spirit wherein he was: “He went nigh to one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this.” IV. The issue of that application he made to that one that stood by for redress: “He told him, and made him know the interpretation of the things.”—All these I shall briefly open unto you, that I may lay a foundation for the truth which the Lord hath furnished me with to hold out unto you this day.
I. In the first, the person spoken of is Daniel himself: "I Daniel.” He bears this testimony concerning himself, and his condition was, — “He was grieved in his spirit.”
The person himself was a man highly favoured of God above all in his generation; so richly furnished with gifts and graces that he is once and again brought forth as an example, and instanced in by Cod himself upon the account of eminence in wisdom and piety. ret all this preserves him not from falling into this perplexed condition, Dan. i. 17–20; Ezek. xiv. 14, xxviii. 3. Now, as the principal work of all the holy prophets, which have been since the world began,
Luke i. 70; 1 Pet. i. 10–12, was to preach, set forth, and declare the Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah who was for to come; so some especial concernments of his person, righteousness, and kingdom, were in especial manner committed unto them respectively;—his passion and righteousness to Isaiah; the covenant of grace in him to Jeremiah; and to this Daniel, most eminently, the great works of the providence of God in the shaking and overturning of kingdoms and nations in a subserviency to his kingdom. With the revelation hereof, for the consolation of the church in all ages, did the Lord honour him of whom we speak.
For the present he describes himself in a somewhat perplexed condition. His spirit (mind and soul) was grieved, sick, troubled, or disquieted in the midst of his body; that is, deeply, nearly, closely: -it sets out the greatness of his trouble, the anxiety of his thoughts within him. Like David, when he expostulated with his soul about it,—“Why art thou so sad, my soul? and why art thou so disquieted within me?” Ps. xliii. 5,-he knew not what to say, what to do, nor wherewith to relieve himself. He was filled with sad thoughts, sad apprehensions of what was to come to pass, and what might be the issue of the things that had been discovered unto him. This, I say,
, is the frame and temper he describes himself to be in,-a man under sad apprehensions of the issues and events of things and the dispca sations of God (as many are at this day); and upon that account closely and nearly perplexed.
II. The cause of this perturbation of mind and spirit was from the visions of his head: “ The visions of his head troubled him.”
He calls them“ visions of the head,” because that is the seat of the internal senses and fantasy, whereby visions are received. So he calls them “a dream,” verse 1, “and visions of his head upon his bed." Yet such visions, such a dream it was, as, being immediately from God, and containing a no less certain discovery of his will and mind than if the things mentioned in them had been spoken face to face, he writes them by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, verse 2, for the use of the church.
I shall not take the advantage of going forth unto any discourse of dreams, visions, oracles, and those other divers ways and manners (Heb. i. 1) of revealing his mind and will, which God was pleased to use with his prophets of old, Numb. xii. 6–8. My aim lies another way:-it sufficeth only to take notice, that God gave him in his sleep a representation of the things here expressed, which he was to give over for the use of the church in following ages. The matter of these visions, which did so much trouble him, falls more directly under our consideration. Now,
1. The subject of these perplexing visions is a representation of the
four great empires of the world, which had, and were to have, domi. nion in and over the places of the church's greatest concernments, and were all to receive their period and destruction by the Lord Christ and his revenging hand.
And these three things he mentions of them therein :-(1.) Their rise; (2.) Nature; (3.) Destruction.
(1.) In verse 2 he describes their rise and original: it was frons the strivings of the four winds of the heavens upon the great sea;" he compares them to the most violent, uncontrollable, and tumultuating things in the whole creation. Winds and seas !—what waves, what horrible storms, what mixing of heaven and earth, what confusion and destruction must needs ensue the fierce contest of all contrary winds upon the great sea! Such are the springs of empires and governments for the most part amongst men,—such their entrances and advancements. In particular, such were the beginnings of the four empires here spoken of. Wars, tumults, confusions, blood, destruction, desolation, were the seeds of their greatness: “ Ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem adpellant,” Galgac. apud Tacit. [Agr., 30.] Seas and great waters do, in the Scripture, represent people and nations, Rev. xvii. 15, “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” As "waters,” they are unstable, fierce, restless, tumultuating; and when God mingleth his judgments amongst them, they are as “a sea of glass mingled with fire,”—brittle, uncertain, devouring, and implacable. It is a demonstration of the sovereignty of God, that he is above them, Ps xciii. 3, 4, “The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." Now, from these, tossed with the winds of commotions, seditions, oppressions, passions, do flow the governments of the world, the Spirit of God moving upon the face of those waters, to bring forth those forms and frames of rule which he will make use of.
(2.) Unto verse 9 he describes them in order as to their nature and kind;-one of them being then ready to be destroyed, and the other to succeed, until the utter desolation of them all, and all power rising in their spirit and principle.
I shall not pass through their particular description, nor stay to prove that the fourth beast, without name or special form, is the Roman empire; which I have elsewhere? demonstrated, and it is something else which at this time I aim at. This is that which troubles and grieves the spirit of Daniel in the midst of his body. He saw what worldly powers should arise,—by what horrible tumults, shakings, confusions, and violence they should spring up,—with what
Sermon on Heb, xü. 27. VOL VIIL
fierceness, cruelty, and persecution, they should rule in the world, and stamp all under their feet.
(3.) Their end and destruction is revealed unto hiin, from verse 10 unto verses 12, 13; and this by the appearance of "the Ancient of days” (the eternal God) in judgment against them; which he sets out with that solemnity and glory, as if it were the great judgment of the last day;—God, indeed, thereby giving a pledge unto the world of that universal judgment he will one day exercise towards all, “ by the man whom he hath ordained,” Acts xvii. 31. And this increaseth the terror of the vision, to have such a representation of the glory of God as no creature is able to bear. God also manifests hereby his immediate actings in the setting up and pulling down the powers of this world; which he doth as fully and effectually as if he sat upon a throne of judgment, calling them all by name to appear in his presence, and, upon the evidence of their ways, cruelties, and oppression, pronouncing sentence against them. ' Be wise, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling,” Ps. ii. 11, 12. “He changeth the times and seasons,” Dan. ii. 21. “He ruleth in the kingdom of men, and setteth over it whom he pleaseth,” chap.
And this is the first thing in this vision at which the prophet was perplexed.
2. There is the approach of the Lord Christ unto the Father, with his entrance into his kingdom and dominion, which is everlasting, and passeth not away, verse 14.
This being the end of the vision, I must a little insist upon it; not that I intend purposely to handle the kingdom of Christ as mediator, but only a little to consider it as it lies here in the vision, and is needful for the right bottoming of the truth in our intendment.
Various have been the thoughts of men about the kingdom of Christ in all ages. That the Messiah was to be a King, a Prince, a Ruler,—that he was to have a kingdom, and that the government was to be on his shoulder,—is evident from the Old Testament; that all this was and is accomplished in Jesus of Nazareth, whom God exalted, made a Prince and a Saviour, is no less evident in the New;but about the nature of this kingdom, its rise and manner of government, have been, and are, the contests of men.
The Jews to this very day expect it as a thing carnal and temporal, visible, outwardly glorious, wherein, in all manner of pleasure, they shall bear rule over the nations at their will;—such another thing, of all the world, as the popedom, which the Gentile or idolatrous worshippers of Christ set up for his kingdom: and of some such thing it may be supposed the apostles themselves were not without thoughts,