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THE GOVERNMENT ON CHRIST'S SHOULDER.
ISAIAH ix. 6,
And the government shall be upon his shoulder.
As a people whose affairs are ruined have great need of an active and expert governor; so the government of such a people is a great burden. Such a people are lost sinners; and with respect to them these words speak two things.
1. The burden and weight of heading of them, taking the government of them, and management of their affairs. The shoulder is the instrument of bearing burdens; Gen. xlix. 15,-" and bowed his shoulder to bear," &c. Sinners' affairs were so ruined, that it was hard to find one who had a shoulder fit for the government of them; bnt infinite wisdom finds out one who had shoulders sufficient for the weight.
2. Jesus Christ, the person on whom this burden was laid. The word signifies the principality. The principality in this case was laid upon this Child, this Son. It has been (Heb.) upon his shoulder. It was laid from eternity by his Father, and is, and shall be on him for ever. Princes are, in the style of the Holy Ghost, burden-bearers; Numb. xi. 17,-" And they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone." On him was laid the heading of lost sinners, the retrieving of their desperate affairs, and the government and management of them to salvation.
This is a part of the glad tidings of the gospel, and refers to both the preceding clauses, the copulative being used instead of the relative. Q. d. "Unto us a Child is presented born, unto us a Son is given, on whose shoulder the government is laid." So the sense is, He is born, presented, and given to us, a Prince and Governor; whom we ought therefore to submit to and receive as our native prince. In this Samson was a special type of him.
DOCTRINE. Jesus Christ is presented and given to us of the Father as our Prince and Governor, on whose shoulder the burden of the government of ruined sinners of mankind is laid for salvation.
In prosecuting this doctrine, I shall shew,
I. The occasion of setting up this Prince and Governor.
II. The import of this principality and government laid on Jesus Christ for the benefit of mankind-sinners.
III. The honour, power, and authority belonging to this principality and government of Jesus Christ.
IV. The burden of this principality and government laid on him. V. Lastly, Improve the doctrine.
I. First, I shall shew the occasion of setting up this Prince and Governor. It was sinners' absolute need, from which free grace took occasion to set up Jesus Prince over them. Their need will appear in three things.
1. Their first prince was gone, to manage their affairs no more. Adam, their natural head, mismanaged the government quite, sunk their interest, rendered himself incapable of the government, betrayed his trust, and deserted them; their matters being brought to such a pass that it was quite beyond his reach to retrieve them.
2. They were left in confusion, in the hand of the enemy Satan. They were no more a people, as not being God's people; Rom. x. 19; broken from God, and broken among themselves. They were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, having none to head them for their good, or to care for them.
3. Their affairs were desperate. They were in a state of enmity with heaven, a state of slavery to hell. None in earth, nor among the angels in heaven, could be able for the government of them. Allude to Isa. iii. 6-8, "When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand: In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing; make me not a ruler of the people. For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen; because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory." For their matters were beyond recovery by any creature, and no created shoulder fit for the burden.
For such a time as this came Jesus to the kingdom, when none other could or would take the burden of it. When the whole earth could not afford one, Heaven gave sinners a Prince, of shoulders sufficient for the burden.
II. Secondly, I shall shew the import of this principality and government laid on Jesus Christ for the benefit of mankind-sinners. It speaks,
1. His near relation to them; as between a king and his subjects by right, head and members. He is to make one body with them; he the Head, they the members; he the Prince, they the people. So that their interest becomes a joint interest; his honour and their advantage are closely linked together.
2. His eminency among them. Whatever persons come into the blessed society, he alone is the Prince there. The kings and monarchs of the earth are but subjects in Christ's kingdom, to receive, not to give laws. His eminency quite overtops all other.
3. His honourable office he has over them. He is the Governor, the only Lawgiver, to whom they all must submit. His Father put this honour on him, and sinners ought to acknowledge it, and honour him accordingly; John v. 22, 23, "For the Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son; That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him."
4. His sovereign power and authority over them. He is made a sovereign Prince over the children of men, therefore called the Prince of the kings of the earth; Rev. i. v. He has an illimited power and jurisdiction vested in his person, in this and the other world; Matt. xxviii. 18, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." He has power of life and death; so he is called the Prince of life, Acts iii. 15.; and the keys of hell and death hang at his girdle, Rev. i. 18.
5. Lastly, The burden of the care and duty belonging to the office and station. Many of the princes of the earth value themselves on the honour, little regarding the duty of their place. But this Prince bears on his shoulder, takes the weight of the charge on him, and performs the duty of it; therefore he is called a Shepherd and Bishop of souls, 1 Pet. ii. 25.
III. Thirdly, I shall shew the honour, power, and authority belonging to this principality and government of Jesus Christ. I take up this in these four honours vested in his person.
1. The legislative power belongs to him solely; Isaiah xxxiii. 22 "The Lord is our Lawgiver." He gathers a church, which is his kingdom. He is the sole legislator in it; Matth. xvii. 5, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, bear ye him ;" a ministerial explication and application of them being all that any can pretend to, being the officers of this Prince. He is an absolute monarch, whose will is the only law; and none but he has the wisdom and goodness to be trusted with absolute power. To him only belongs the appointing of offices, officers, and ordinances in his kingdom. And whatsoever of that sort has not his stamp and superscription on it in his kingdom, is null.
2. The supreme executive power is lodged with him; John v. 22, "The Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." And whosoever execute the laws of his kingdom, must have their commission from him, or they intermeddle to their peril. By him rewards and punishments are distributed, and he is Judge of all. Now he judgeth particular persons, churches, and nations; and the time is coming wherein he will appear on his throne
with awful solemnity, and judge and sentence the whole world, Matth. XXV.
3. The power of granting remissions, receiving into peace with heaven, pardoning and indemnifying criminals and rebels; Acts v. 31, "Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto Israel, and forgiveness of sins." He exercised that power when he was on earth, and much more now. The scribes quarrelled it; Mark ii. 5-7, " When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" And he wrought a miracle to confirm it; verses 10, 11, "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy), I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all," &c.
4. Lastly, A large and vast dominion, reaching to both worlds, earth, heaven, Matth. xxviii. 18, and hell, and the passage between the two worlds, viz., death; Rev. i. 18. In his hand is,
1. The kingdom of grace; Eph. i. 22, " And gave him to be the head over all things to the church." All grace and favours of heaven are at his disposal. Kings of the earth can bestow silver and gold, houses and lands, on their favourites; but he righteousness, peace, and joy; Rom. xiv. 17, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."
2. The kingdom of glory; Luke xxii. 29, 30, "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom," &c. The eternal weight of glory is in his hand; he is the righteous Judge, whose it is to give the crown of glory; he who admits to, and excludes out of that kingdom.
3. The kingdom of Providence; Eph. i. 22, "And hath put all things under his feet." He rules not only over his kindly subjects, but in the midst of his enemies. The wheel of providence through the world is directed by him. In the same hand the government of the church is lodged, the government of the world is lodged also.
IV. The fourth thing is, the burden of this principality and government laid on Christ Jesus. It is sevenfold.
1. The burden of the purchase of it. It behoved to be purchased by a price of infinite value, and it was laid upon him to do it. "Without shedding of blood there was no remission." And so he re
deemed the subjects, not "with silver and gold, but his own blood," 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. The Father is indeed said to give it him, Psalm ii. 8; but that giving is the delivering it upon the paying down of the price; Acts xx. 28, "Feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood."
2. The burden of a war with the devil, for recovering of it. However dear it cost him, he could not have the possession thereof, without vanquishing the power and force of hell, that was engaged to hold fast what they had got. So on the cross he encountered the serpent; Gen. iii. 15; and by his Spirit in the gospel he carries on the war, raising his kingdom out of the devil's kingdom, rescuing the captives and prisoners out of his hands.
3. The burden of subduing them. The designed subjects of his dominion, are born subjects of the devil's kingdom, unwilling to quit with their old master, and to submit to this their new prince; and therefore cannot be brought over without being conquered and subdued, and the burden of this lies on him, Psalm cx. 3; who is mighty in battle, and with the sword of the Spirit makes it effectual in their conversion.
4. The burden of their reconciliation with heaven; Eph. ii. 14, "For he is our peace, who hath made both one," &c. He has the peace to make up betwixt God and sinners, that his dominion may be happy in peace with God. And as he purchased the peace by his blood, so he becomes God's messenger of peace to sinners, and travels between the parties till it be made up, and confirmed by a sure covenant of peace entered into.
5. The burden of their defence and protection; Isa. xxxiii. 21, 22, "But there the glorious Lord will be unto us as a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king, he will save us." The subjects of this prince have many enemies, without them: and within them. Satan, the prince of this world is continually making war on them, to withdraw them from their allegiance to their rightful Lord, employs the men and things of this world, and the corruptions lodged within their own breasts, to advance his designs against them but Christ defends them.
6. The burden of their provision, in all things necessary for life and godliness. He cares for them in all these, from the least to the greatest of their wants; 1 Pet. v. 7, "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." Their food and raiment for their bodies he has the providing of; and his visitation preserves their spirits, laying in new supplies of grace, exciting, quickening, and strengthening it.