The LORD Reigns.
The Lord reigneth: let the earth rejoice. - Psalms xcvii:1.
The importance of good government is too evident to require proof. The presumption is, that any form of government is preferable to anarchy. Woe to the country in which every man does that which seems right in his own eyes. Happy are those countries governed by equitable constitutions, every citizen recognizing the supremacy and majesty of law. A constitution is superior to both common and statute law. Common law yields to statutory enactments, and statutes are silent when constitutions speak. A mobocratic spirit, unless arrested in its tendency, would ruin any government and any country.
If governments are so important among men, it may surely be inferred that God does not leave the universe ungoverned. The fact, however that he is supreme Governor of all things, is not left to inference. It is positively stated, "The Lord reigneth." "His kingdom ruleth over all." God's reign is my present theme.
I. It Is A Reign of Right.
He has a right to reign. He is the Almighty
Creator of all things. There is not a being in the universe that God has not made. There ia not one that can exist, for a moment, without his sustaining energy. It surely is his prerogative to demand the obedient subjection of all his creatures to his government. If creation does not furnish a claim to the services of the being created, there is no such thing as a claim to any thing. Any other being who attempts to rule in any province of the divine empire, is a usurper. He virtually makes an effort to rob Jehovah of his prerogative. Satan's jurisdiction is impious usurpation. Men understand the idea attached to the term property. Many a farmer, forgetful of God, considers the products of his farm as the result of his own labor. He claims them as his property. But there would have been no products if God had not sent the rain and the sunshine. If the term property is applicable to the possessions of men, it is infinitely more applicable to what belongs to God. Indeed, it is only in an inferior sense that men are owners of property. Jehovah is the supreme Proprietor of all things. He is the only Being who has a sovereign, unconflicting claim to any thing. He never surrenders his claim. As all things belong to God, his government of the universe is one of right. It is his unquestionable prerogative to sit on the Throne, and send out his edicts from the central, to the remotest parts of his empire. "None can stay his hand and say, What doest thou?"
II. God Reigns Righteously.
A king may rule of right - his accession to the throne may be accordant with constitution and law - and yet he may reign wickedly. The annals of royalty furnish ample and melancholy confirmation of this fact. God governs the universe on principles of righteousness. There is no injustice in any of the measures of his administration.
The principles of justice, established of old, even from eternity, are inflexibly adhered to. Could you create a million suns, and cause them all to pour their concentrated rays successively into every part of the divine dominions, you could not, with the aid of all that transcendent effulgence, detect the slightest deviation from these principles. "The Judge of all the earth will do right." A God of truth without iniquity, just and right is he. "Righteousness belongeth to God." Even when "clouds and darkness surround him, justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne." Our God not only reigns of right, but he reigns righteously.
III. The Extent of the Divine Reign.
It is universal. It embraces all the various orders of heavenly intelligences. We read in the Scriptures of angels, cherubim, seraphim, principalities, powers, authorities, etc. These terms are doubtless descriptive of different ranks in the celestial hosts. But God reigns over all. There is in heaven no ungoverned angel, no independent
seraph, no self-directing principality. God rules over, all, and all most cheerfully and devoutly recognize their allegiance to him. Their wills so fully harmonize with the divine will as to preclude all collision and insure perfect happiness. They are so gloriously governed, as to feel no governmental restraint. "When government has reached this point, the stamp of immaculate perfection is upon it. All men are under the divine government. They are either obedient or rebellions subjects. The saints rejoice to live under the government of such a Being, and the wicked can not escape from its jurisdiction. And, strange as it may appear, the Almighty Governor of the universe makes the "wrath of man praise him." He so controls the actions of the ungodly as to make them subserve the accomplishment of his own purposes. Hence he says, "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so, but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few." Isaiah x: 5-7.
Death does not terminate men's responsibility to God. It only transfers them to another world, which, like the present, is under the divine government. In that world they will eternally owe allegiance to the divine Throne. The righteous
in heaven and the wicked in hell will forever be under the government of God.
The divine government, likewise, extends to fallen angels. God rules over them. The very fact that they are enduring the penalty of his law proves that he has control of them. They can neither escape the penalty of the law nor go beyond the limits of the government. Truly the government of God is a universal monarchy. He sways the scepter of universal empire. Men may be banished, or they may expatriate themselves from earthly empires; but from the empire of God there is no banishment, and there can be no self-expatriation. It embraces all worlds and is commensurate with the vast domain of space.
IV. The Earth Should Rejoice That the LORD Reigns.
What says the text? The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice. The best interests of the earth are involved in the fact that the Lord reigns. What would our world be if Jehovah were not on the Throne?
1. The earth should rejoice that the Supreme Ruler reigns of right - reigns righteously - and that his government embraces all worlds. - There is in this fact a source of joy which can never be exhausted. No contingency can ever arise to change the fact; and, therefore, the source of joy h creates must be unfailing. Jehovah reigns. What happiness this thought imparts! I should
say, however, that it imparts happiness only to the righteous. That the Lord reigns fills tha wicked with terror.
2. The earth may well rejoice that the Governor of the universe possesses all power. - He is able to protect those who put their trust in him. They can be placed in no circumstances in which he will be incompetent to defend them. "The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly."
3. The earth should rejoice that the divine law has suitable sanctions, promissory and penal. - These sanctions make a most powerful appeal to the two great principles of human action, hope and fear. Eternal life is promised to the right eous; eternal death is threatened to the wicked. How can the inhabitants of the earth be more highly benefited than by the effective operation of these promissory and penal sanctions? Therefore the earth should rejoice.
4. The earth should rejoice that in the administration of the divine government the day of judgment will come, in which all the apparent inequalities of providential allotments will be fully understood. How many things defy our comprehension now! How inscrutable are many of the divine proceedings! The judgment day will "indicate the ways of God to man." How clearly will it then appear that God did all things well! Every act of the divine government will, on the last day, receive a full and majestic vindication. Surely there are
good reasons why the earth should rejoice because the Lord reigns.
1. How great a Being is God! The Psalmist says, "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be feared; and his greatness is unsearchable." The greatness of God is seen in his government of the universe. What an infinite complexity of objects and interests must occupy the divine mind while it superintends the affairs of all worlds! No created being can render him assistance. The work is all his own. And yet the Omnipotent Monarch of all worlds governs them with infinite ease to himself and with infinite advantage to the universe. "He fainteth not, neither is weary." Well did Massillon say, "God alone is great."
2. How important that we be obedient subjects of the divine government. Are you obedient?
3. Alas for those who rebel against the government of God. Who has hardened himself against the Lord and prospered? Sinner! "Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like his?" "Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth: But woe to that man who striveth with his Maker."
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via Inter Library Loan, through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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