WE need but a careful examination of this psalm to know to whom it applies. The subject matter of the psalm is the covenant of Jehovah established in Him who is the Mediator of that covenant; and the royalty of the Lord Jesus Christ, the King, is set before us as a branch of that covenant provision and covenant mercy.
I would here remark, that Bishop Horsley, who is one of our most eminent critics on this part of the Work, says, that the Jewish expositors have formed a very correct judgment in their interpretation of the Psalms, for they have said, that whenever mention is made of a kingdom and of a king, and whenever the term king is not capable of special application to some earthly monarch who lived at that time, it invariably refers to King Messiah. They could see no farther; they overleaped the intermediate periods; they could only see the future glory of Messiah, which we see too, as well as they; but they could not affix to the Lord Jesus Christ that which belongs to Him now.
In the passage which I have selected for our consideration this day, the throne of Messiah is spoken of; and the establishment, the basis, or if you will, the characteristics of that throne, and set before us--"Justice and judgment are the habitation of Thy throne."
It appears to me, that there are two errors into which men have fallen with regard to the descriptions given in the Word of God of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of these errors is, confining their attention exclusively to the humiliation and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ in his incarnation and ministry here on earth; and being so taken up with this, that they altogether overlook that which occupies even a larger part of the Word of God, namely, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ in His kingdom. The other error to which I refer, is the opposite extreme. When the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is spoken of; when His Almighty power and glory are set before us, there are those who regard such passages as so many descriptions of, or appendages to, Deity; they seem to overlook the union between Deity and humanity in the person of the Lord Jesus, and they can see nothing but His divinity.
Now, there is error in both these interpretations. The Scriptural view of such passages is, that He whose glory is described, and whose dominion is depicted in the various titles under which He is presented in the Word, that He is Messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of man; and that there is a kingdom, a glory, a dominion attaching to Him in virtue of His Messiahship, and because of the word which He has done. The Lord Jesus, of whom you have all heard that He was made man, that He was crucified, that He died, that He rise again; He has ascended to the right hand of God, He has been crowned, He has been exalted, He has all power and dominion given to Him at this very moment as King of kings and Lord of lords. While we sit here He is at the right hand of God, and moves the universe.
Now, there are some very precious truths which hang upon those declarations of the dominion of the Lord Jesus, as set before us in the Word of God. The first of those truths, which, we believe, is very little understood amongst us, is, that from eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was set up as the great covenant Head of His Church. You remember His own words in the 8th of Proverbs, where He speaks under the title of Wisdom, and says--"I was set up from everlasting." I believe that from eternity, it was the purpose of Jehovah to manifest Himself; and, as far as I can understand the Scriptures, the only intelligible manifestation that God has ever made of Himself to His intelligent creatures, has been in the face of Jesus Christ. I mean that if God had not manifested Himself in the incarnation of His Son, man would have groped after Deity in the darkness of his understanding, and he never would have attained to anything like an intelligent conception of Deity; he might have parceled out some of the perfections of the Godhead; he might have told us of the mercy of the God that fed him; he might have told us of the power of the God who could crush things around him in an instant; he might have told us of the majesty of God, and he could spell out some few syllables of it in the works of creation; but as to anything like an intelligent, harmonious conception of the Being that we call God, he never would have arrived at it. Therefore I say that it was the purpose of Jehovah, from all eternity, to manifest Himself in the face of Jesus Christ. This is a subject which I have endeavored more than once to impress strongly upon your minds. I believe that the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ was no afterthought of God, after the fall of man; but I believe it was the eternal, everlasting council of Jehovah to manifest Himself in humanity. And not only did Jehovah purpose to make this exclusive manifestation of Himself in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it was His purpose and His plan, from all eternity, to make Him the Head over all things. Let me remind you of two passages in the New Testament, which bear upon this subject. In the 1st of Ephesians, the Apostle says, that it was the purpose of God to bring all things under the Headship of Christ; for mark the words of the 10th verse--"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times, He might gather together in one, all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him." Take another passage, the 1st of Colossians; Christ is there spoken of as the Creator of all things--"All things were created by Him, and for Him, and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist." So that it was the purpose of Jehovah to make Christ the Head of all creation, to gather together, or to sum up, as the word literally signifies, all things in Christ. This is the first idea we wish to impress upon you, and a very precious one it is.
There is another view which we must also take. Whenever we read of the exaltation of the Lord Jesus, we must remember that His exaltation is the reward of service. You know the passage to which I am alluding, the 2nd of Philippians, where we read that, "He being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore"--as the reward of that ministration, that service, because of the fulfillment of His covenant engagement, because He endured the curse due to the sins of His people--"Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." He who was thus constituted, from everlasting, the Head of all things; that all creation should, as it were, find its center in Him; He who has been exalted to the right hand of God as the reward of His finished work; He has dominion given to Him. Dear brethren, these are some of the very precious and comforting ideas which present themselves to the minds of God's people, in connection with the declaration of the royalty of the Lord Jesus Christ, as set before us in the Word of God.
But another very precious view is also suggested to the mind, and one, brethren, upon which we cannot lay too much stress. The Lord Jesus never would have been where He is, at the right hand of God, if one of His ransomed people had been left unpardoned and unjustified before God. We see here the great evidence of the salvation of God's people. If this be worked out in our minds, if it be worked out upon our knees, what liberty it will give to the souls of God's children. When we come before the Lord with a deep sense of what we are, feeling that we are sinners, O that we may keep this truth in mind, He who has saved my soul is at the right hand of God, God has acknowledged His work, and therefore I may come before the Lord with all liberty. Why is He there? Not by virtue of His Godhead, but because He as man finished the work which He Father gave Him to do. It would be no comfort to me if I could see only the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; but when the heavens are opened to my view, and when I see what Stephen saw--when I behold not the Son of God, but the Son of Man, standing on the right hand of God, my poor soul is comforted, and I say, there is His reward, there is the carrying out of what He prayed for when He said, "I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do; and now, O Father, glorify Thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." (John 17:4,5)
Now, the dominion which the Lord Jesus Christ exercises in that manhood, He claims it--He tells us, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18) And it is the privilege of everyone who is a member of His body to look to Him, believing that His almighty power is engaged on the behalf of His people. Therefore--I speak it with reverence--I have a right to claim the power of Jehovah on my behalf; I have a right to believe that God has clothed me with His own attributes and perfections, and that heaven and earth should sooner pass away than that one jot or one tittle of His promise to His poor unworthy servants--or rather, most worthy servants as seen in Christ, should fail.
Now, as to the Headship of Christ, let me add another word for the comfort of God's people. In the 1st of Ephesians, I find the Apostle praying for the people to whom he wrote, that they "might know what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." So that while, on the one hand, we have that great truth presented to us on which we have been dwelling, that all things are under the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ--devils, angels, principalities, powers, and so on--we see, on the other hand, that He is the Head over all things to the Church.
O, brethren, it is no wonder that we try to set before you what a privileged people God's people are; and it is no wonder that these things appear strange to men whose eyes are blinded, and whose hearts are darkened. Why, these are privileges that it will take an eternity to spell out, height, length, depth, breadth; all the wonderful things that belong to the Church of God.
But we have to speak next of the basis, or the establishment of this kingdom, called here "the habitation" of the throne of Messiah. In the margin of your Bibles you will the word rendered "establishment." A beautiful translation of this word has been given by Bishop Horsley; he says, "Justice and judgment are the platform of Thy seat." He means by it that to which the marginal reading would also direct our attention, that the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ is established upon justice and judgment.
When men tell us that these passages refer only to Solomon, that they refer to this king or the other king, as the Jews in the present day are trying to think, we say, It is a miserable view. We ask, of what earthly kingdom or throne could it ever be said that righteousness and judgment were the platform, the basis, the establishment of it? Never has this world, from its foundation, seen more than a little glimpse of anything like it, except when God Himself was the King of His people Israel, when the shout of a King was among them. And as this must be applied exclusively to the dominion of the Lord Jesus, so of none other king can that be said which is declared of Him in the 1st verse of the 32nd Isaiah, "A King shall reign in righteousness;" or, as it is written in the 45th Psalm, "The sceptre of Thy kingdom is a right (a straight, a righteous) sceptre." We can have no hesitation in the application of this Psalm to the Lord Jesus, for the Holy Ghost has made application of it to Him in the 1st of Hebrews, "Unto the Son He saith, Thy throne O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom."
Now, what are we to understand by the establishment of this throne being justice or righteousness? Why, it is the very hinge upon which all Gospel truth turns. I do believe there are multitudes amongst us, who have just got so far as to believe that the throne of Jesus is a throne of grace. It is well, if men have intelligently received that truth, that it is a throne of grace; but we have a key to the interpretation of this kingdom of grace in the 3rd and 5th chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. In the 5th of Romans I find that grace is established sorely upon righteousness, for I read that "As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." Again, turn to the 3rd of Romans, and in the 26th verse, you read what was the purpose of God in this manifestation of Gospel righteousness through the blood-shedding of our Lord Jesus Christ, "That He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." See, then, what follows from this view of the pardoning mercy of God. The believer comes to God with a plea which no one can use but the man who understands the Gospel in this view of it. The child of God as he bends his knees before the throne of grace is privileged to say, "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
There is an expression in the 5th of Romans that seems to be marvelously overlooked by some, when one hears it painfully stated, as it is in the present day, that the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ has not effected that for which it was shed--that there are millions of souls who were ransomed by that blood who were never saved by it; when we are told that that blood was shed for Judas as well as for Peter. Why, it strikes away the very foundation of my hope. All my hope hangs upon the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus; and if I am told I must add to that atonement my faith, my repentance, my prayers, anything of my own, you take away from me at once the foundation on which all my hopes rest. Now, in that passage in the 5th of Romans, I am told of being justified by the blood of Christ. Thus I learn that it is His blood that justifies. I cannot, brethren, make those distinctions that some men make between the passive and the active obedience of Christ imputed to His people. I look upon His whole work as a covenant work; I believe that Jesus came to save His people; I believe He came to fulfill His covenant engagement, promise, oath; I believe He came to do the work that was committed to Him, and that He did it. Therefore I cannot understand that the blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus was a kind of experiment upon the tender hearts of men, to see whether they would not yield to such an exhibition of love as he manifested. I believe He came to save the people who were given to Him by His Father, and I believe that His people are "justified by His blood;" or if not, if that blood were shed for all, then let me rather go to the greatest extent of universal fullness--let me say the Lord has done it, all are redeemed, therefore all must be saved.
We say, then, that it is in this way the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ is manifested; that He has done that which was given Him to do, and that in a righteous way He is placed on that throne. The Lord's people ought to look to the security that there is to their souls in this, that it is as a matter of righteousness that every one of them is saved; that this righteousness is the basis of the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that His mediatorial kingdom rests upon the righteousness of God.
What are we to understand by the word judgment? Righteousness and judgment are the establishment--the platform of Thy throne. Some of our lexicographers seem to go most elaborately into the meaning of this word "judgment," when applied to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the writings of Bishop Horsley there are no less than seven or eight words given, in order to bring out the large and comprehensive idea of the judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are very much mistaken if we limit the term judgment to the idea of punishment; bringing to trial, and then condemning. Judgment, as in this place, and when referring to the work of God, not only means what He does as to the wicked, of which we must say something before we conclude, but His dealings with His own people are also spoken of as judgments; and, therefore, I find the term judgment defined as plan, arrangement, power to execute, and so on. When this passage tells us, that judgment is the establishment of the throne of Jesus, as well as righteousness or justice, it teaches us that there is plan, that there is arrangement, that there is counsel, that there is power to carry out all that which, in a righteous way, He will carry out for His people. And if I were asked, what part does judgment occupy in the establishment of the throne of Jesus, I would say that it comes in as the executive department; that it comprehends the carrying out of that well-arranged plan, in which there can be no hitch, no disturbance.
We who live in this lower atmosphere see the gathering clouds, the mists, the thick and heavy vapors. We feel, it may be, the large drops before the shower, and we think there is some disorder in the elements; the atmosphere seems to be charged with something which we cannot explain, and yet it is all a beautifully arranged plan. There was not one sinner whose hand was red with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ as He hung upon the cross, who had altered or deranged one particle of the Lord's plan and purpose. Those very scenes that appear to us to be dyed in the most awful colors, were all according to the purpose of God. Even the death of the Lord Jesus is spoken of as the predetermined counsel of God. (Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28) Judas going to his own place was a matter of prophecy long before Judas lived. All these things, which are brought before us in Scripture, mark out the great truth that God makes no mistake. And when men of the world think they are disturbing God's arrangement, they are but machines that God uses for the carrying out of His own purposes. And when I turn to these Scriptures, I cannot think that God may be overcome by the wickedness of man.
Therefore, when I read of judgment, I take it to mean arrangement, or plan, in the dominion which He exercises. And as to His people, is there one of His children who would allow even the very smallest incident in this checkered life to be a matter of mere chance? No; the man who lives most closely in fellowship with God, loves to think that every minute circumstance of his life, it may be his sickness, or it may be his health; it may be his sorrows, or his disappointments; it may be his good success or his ill-success, but yet he loves to think that all these things are ordered of God, and he rolls himself upon that precious truth, that there is love, that there is wisdom and arrangement in all that God does with regard to His dear people.
But, then, it is a two-edged sword that we are now handling. It is like that pillar of cloud of which we read in the 14th of Exodus, that it was a cloud of darkness to the Egyptians, whilst it gave light by night to God's people Israel. So does this great truth, that the throne of Jesus is established upon judgment, cut two ways. It sends the mind, in the painful exercise of memory, to scenes that make the heart ache.
O, when one turns to the cities of the plain; when one reads of the overwhelming of those sinners, who were steeped in their rebellion against God; when one sees them destroyed by that burning rain of brimstone and of fire, we say the heart aches at such an exhibition of the judgment of God. And was not God just when He did it? Is there one in this congregation who would dare to say, that if God had sent him to the nether hell long since, He would have been just in so doing? God is a holy God, and, therefore, until the eye can rest upon the justice of God reeking itself in the curse which fell upon the head of the Lord Jesus, the soul of the sinner cannot have peace; it is as a matter of justice that God should come out of His holy place to punish transgression. We believe that it is a great principle which is stereotyped in the dealings of God, that He will "by no means clear the guilty." (Exo. 34:7; Num. 14:18) God makes no acts and statutes for men to break through and elude. God's statutes stand, and there must be the punishment of the guilty one, either in the person of the guilty, or in the person of the substituted one for the guilty, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
And when the mind goes back again to the history of the Deluge, we there see a large execution of the vengeance of the Lord; one little band alone was saved in the midst of universal destruction; and it may be, that little band was saved for the sake of that one man, whom only God saw to be righteous before Him in his generation.
And what are we to think of the men, who, trampling upon the Word of the Gospel--trampling upon every righteous feature of God's character which He has presented to us in His Word, either disregard His truth and say, "We will not have this man to reign over us," (Luke 19:14) or else try to work out a salvation of their own, thus placing their idol righteousness alongside the throne of Christ, and saying, we will be saved in our own way, or we will not be saved at all. Sirs, these are solemn truths!
O, if peradventure God should this day have made any heart feel that it would desire to draw near to the throne of grace, but that conscience speaks loudly when viewing that throne to have for its platform righteousness and judgment; if there should be any heart here touched by the mighty power of God, and made to feel that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, we say to such, we think we have given encouragement to every sinner amongst us, who is taught to believe the record which God hath given of His Son. (1 John 5:10) I have no Gospel to preach to a righteous man; I have no Gospel to preach apart from the finished work of the Lord Jesus; but I have to proclaim a Gospel sealed with His precious blood, and that Gospel tells us that, "By Him all that believe are justified from all things." (Acts 13:39) We want to impress it upon you, that the sinner is justified before God by the blood of Christ. The knowledge of this truth would bring you into the presence of the Lord, not merely as pardoned criminals, but as God's righteous, God's justified people.
Brethren, may the Spirit apply the Word to your hearts. May He show you that He who is exalted on that throne has all spiritual blessings to pour out upon His poor, needy people. May He be to you a Prince and a Saviour, to give you repentance and remission of sins. And may He, by His Spirit, so apply His truth to your souls, that you may go on your way rejoicing.