Monday, February 13, 2006

John L. Dagg--Manual of Theology Ch. 3 - Part 3


The Church Universal is in progress of construction, and will be completed at the end of the world, after which it will endure for ever.

The words of the Saviour, "On this rock will I build my church," prove that the building was not then completed. In another place, speaking of the church under the figure of a fold: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."(72) The calling of the gentiles, and the introduction of them into the privileges of the gospel, are here intended. By the ministry of the word accompanied with the influence of the Holy Spirit, great multitudes were converted in the days of the apostles. These converts are described by Peter as lively or living stones, built on Christ the living stone disallowed of men, but chosen of God and precious.(73) Paul uses the same figure; and both of these inspired writers speak of the edifice as a growing temple.(74) The work is still in progress; and innumerable multitudes are yet to be gathered, who are to complete the glorious structure. On the last day, when all the redeemed shall have been brought in, Jesus will present them to the Father: "Behold, I and the children which God hath given me."(75) This will be the church completed in number, sanctified and glorified, a glorious church, without spot, wrinkle, or any such thing. The church will remain throughout eternity: "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end."(76)

Some difficulty exists in determining the date at which the church of Christ may be properly said to have commenced. The same difficulty exists respecting the beginning of the gospel, and of Christ's mediatorial reign. Mark dates the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ from the ministry of John the Baptist;(77) but Paul says that the gospel was before preached unto Abraham.(78) The reign of Christ is dated from the time of his exaltation at the right hand of the Father; yet saints were saved by his mediation, and he was David's Lord, under the former dispensation. So Christ said, "on this rock will I build my church," as if the work was still future; and yet the edifice is said to be built on the foundation of the prophets, as well as of the apostles.(79) The Scriptures represent a gathering of all things under Christ, both in heaven and on earth,(80) at the time of his exaltation in human nature to supreme dominion. The Old Testament saints who had been saved by the efficacy of his blood before it was shed, and who had desired to understand what the Holy Ghost signified when it testified to their prophets concerning the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow, were waiting in heaven for the unfolding of this mystery. Moses and Elias evinced their interest in this theme, when, during their brief interview with the Saviour on the mount of transfiguration, they discoursed of the decease which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.(81) The angels had desired to look into this mystery, but the fulness of time for its disclosure did not arrive until the man Christ Jesus entered the heavenly court, and was crowned with glory and honor. Then the angels gathered around and worshipped the Son. Then the saints drew near, and adored him as their Lord and Saviour. The proclamation was made throughout the courts of glory, and every inhabitant of heaven rendered willing homage to the Mediator. The Holy Spirit brought the proclamation down to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, that it might go thence through all the earth. They who gladly received it, were received into his royal favor, made citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, and members of the great ecclesia.

In the words of Christ before cited, the church is represented as a building. The beginning of an edifice may be dated back to the first movement in preparing the materials. In this view the church was begun, when Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham first exercised faith. But in another view, the building was commenced when the materials were brought together in their proper relation to Jesus Christ. To the Old Testament saints, until gathered under Christ with the saints of the present dispensation, Paul attributes a sort of incompleteness, which may be not unaptly compared to the condition of building materials not yet put together: "These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."(82)


The doctrine of the Scriptures concerning the kingdom of Christ, has been investigated in the Manual of Theology, pp. 221-229. The result of the investigation, so far as our present subject is concerned, may be briefly stated as follows:--
The kingdom of Christ is the kingly authority with which he, as mediator, is invested, and which he exercises over all things, for the glory of God and the good of his church. The peculiarities of this divine reign are, that it is exercised in human nature, and that it grants favor to rebels. An incomplete administration of it commenced, immediately after the fall of man; but the full development was not made till the man Christ Jesus was crowned with glory and honor, and seated at the Father's right hand. The subjects of his reign are divided into two classes; the obedient, and the disobedient. To the obedient, all the blessings of his reign are promised; and the disobedient, he will ultimately gather out of his kingdom, and banish to everlasting misery. The obedient subjects of his reign, are the same persons that compose the church universal, which has been defined "the whole company of those who are saved by Christ." For the benefit of this church, his kingly authority over all things is exercised.

As theological writers have maintained that there is a visible church catholic, distinct from the spiritual universal church of the Scriptures; so some of them have maintained that there is a visible kingdom of Christ, a society of external organization, into which men enter by baptism. But the kingdom of Christ is not a society of men, bound together by external organization, like a family, a nation, or a local church. This view of it is not authorized by the Holy Scriptures.

The kingdom of Christ is properly the kingly authority with which he is invested; and the phrase is used, by metonymy, to denote the subjects of his reign, and especially the obedient subjects on whom the blessings of his reign are conferred. But the tie which binds these obedient subjects to their king, and his reign, is internal. "Every one that is of the truth, heareth my voice."(83) These men constitute a holy nation, a nation bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom; but they are not made a nation by external organization.

Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world."(84) We are not to understand this declaration to imply, that his reign had nothing to do with the men and things of this world. The other sentence just quoted, which was spoken in connection with this declaration "Every one who is of the truth, heareth my voice," claimed the men who receive and love the truth as the subjects of his kingly authority. Having all power in heaven and earth committed to him, he rules in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth. Hence every relation among men, and all the duties arising from it, come under his authority. The family, the nation, and the local church, are all institutions in his kingdom, or under his reign; and the external organization of these institutions should be regulated according to the will of the sovereign king; but the kingdom itself exists, independent of all external organization.

Some passages of Scripture have been supposed to favor the opinion, that the kingdom of Christ is a society of external organization, including good men and bad. The kingdom of heaven is compared to a net cast into the sea, which brought good fish and bad to the shore;(85) to a sower, who sowed seed that fell in bad ground as well as in good;(86) to a field, which contained tares as well as wheat.(87) These parables are designed to illustrate important truths connected with the reign of Christ. The gospel of the kingdom was to be preached to every creature; and the commission to preach it, was accompanied with the declaration, "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned."(88) However variously men may be affected by the word preached, and however difficult it may be to distinguish their true character, and separate the bad from the good in the present life, the separation will be made in the last day, and none will be admitted to enjoy the blessings of the reign but obedient subjects. To suppose an organized religious society, including good men and bad, to be intended by the net which enclosed good fish and bad, or the field containing tares and wheat, is to overstrain and misapply the parables. The Saviour does not so explain them. The field is the world, and not an organized society in the world. The command was given that the tares and wheat should be permitted to grow together until the harvest, which is the end of the world. Then the King will sit in judgment on the whole world, and not on a particular society in it; and will separate the good from the bad, whom he has permitted to remain together in his kingdom. Then he will remove out of his kingdom all that offends; and will say concerning his enemies, in the midst of whom he now reigns, "Those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."(89) Yet it is the will of the King that bad men and good should be permitted to remain together in the world; but instead of commanding that they should be permitted to grow together in religious association with each ocher, he commands his followers, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate."(90) Moreover, though the tares and the wheat grow together in the field, the tares are called the children of the wicked one; and the good seed, the children of the kingdom. The kingdom does not embrace the good and bad alike, as sustaining the same relation to it; but a society embraces all its members, irrespective of their moral character.

Families, nations, and local churches, are societies of external organization; and they are organized for the present world. At the end of the world, all these organizations will cease. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world; but at the end of the world, when earthly organizations shall have passed away, he will gather the wicked out of his kingdom; and the kingdom itself, freed from all rebellious subjects, will continue for ever. Then shall the righteous, who alone are the children of the kingdom, shine as the sun, in the kingdom of their Father.


If none but true believers were admitted into the churches, there would be an exact agreement between the character of the membership in the local churches, and in the church universal. And if all believers professed their faith without delay according to the law of Christ, and united with the local churches, the aggregate membership of the local churches, and that of the universal church, so far as it exists on earth, would be identical. Nothing but disobedience to the law of Christ gives occasion to distinguish between the church universal, and the great body of professing Christians united in the several local churches; and in a pure state of Christianity, the distinction might be overlooked. When the church universal was spoken of in the times of the apostles, the thoughts of men were naturally directed to the great body of professing Christians; and for all the ordinary purposes of speaking and writing, the distinction between this aggregate of professors and the true body of Christ was unnecessary. So when we speak of a wheat-field, we disregard the fact that tares may be here and there intermixed with the wheat. The name does not signify this intermixture, but is applied as if nothing but wheat were in the enclosure. In like manner, the name church was used in some cases for the aggregate of Christian professors, although in its strict signification, false professors are not included.

The fact that the same name ecclesia that is applied to local churches, is also applied to the church universal, is liable to mislead into the opinion that the membership must be strictly homogeneous; and, therefore, the universal church must include false professors as well as the local churches. So the name brass, denotes the same mixture of metals, whether it is applied to a large mass or a small one. The cases, however, are not analogous. The name brass denotes the metal without respect to its quantity, and is as applicable to a particle as to a mass. But the name ecclesia does not denote the material of which a church is composed, and is not applicable to a single member. It signifies the quantity rather than the quality. There may be an ecclesia of wicked men as well as of righteous. It applies to a local church, because the members of it actually assemble; and it applies to the church universal, because the members of it will actually assemble in the presence, and for the everlasting worship of God. The mere fact that the same name is applied, gives no ground for the conclusion that the membership in the two cases is strictly homogeneous. In the epistles to the local churches, the members are addressed as saints and faithful men in Christ. This was their character according to their profession, and what they ought to be according to the law of Christ. False professors who might chance to be among them, were not of them. When excluded, they were not deprived of rights which had belonged to them. Hence, the churches were addressed as if composed entirely of true Christians.

Though unconverted persons are not entitled to membership according to the law of Christ, they nevertheless obtain admittance into local churches through human fallibility. Membership in the church universal is determined by God himself. When Paul described the Hebrew saints as come "to the church of the first born," he described them as come also "to God, the judge of all." The infallible judge determines membership in the great ecclesia; but fallible men admit to membership in the local churches. Hence, a corrupt element finds entrance into local churches, and because of it they are not strictly homogeneous with the universal spiritual church. This want of homogeneousness existed in some degree, even in the purest age of Christianity; but it became much more manifest when corruption overspread the churches, and the evils attending it are now painfully felt by the lovers of Zion.

1. Eph. i. 22.
2. Eph. iii. 21.
3. Matt. xvi. 18.
4. Job xli. 28.
5. 1 Cor. xv. 9.
6. Gal. i. 13.
7. Phil. iii. 6.
8. Matt. xxv. 40.
9. Acts xxvi. 10, 11.
10. Eph. iii. 10.
11. Eph. iii. 21.
12. V. 3.
13. V. 5.
14. Rom. xv. 24.
15. Eph. iv. 4-6.
16. V. 13.
17. Eph. ii. 14, 16.
18. Eph. i. 22, 23.
19. V. 4.
20. V. 23.
21. Eph. v. 25-32.
22. V. 23.
23. 1 Cor. vii. 2.
24. Col. i. 24.
25. Heb. ii. 12.
26. Heb. xii. 22-24.
27. V. 10.
28. V. 13.
29. Gal. iv. 26.
30. Eph. ii. 19.
31. Eph. iii. 21.
32. Matt. xviii. 17.
33. Acts xi. 2.
34. Acts xxviii. 22.
35. Phil. iv. 3.
36. Rom. xvi. 1.
37. Phil. ii. 15.
38. Matt. v. 15.
39. Matt. v. 14.
40. Matt. v. 16.
41. Rom. x. 9.
42. Matt. x. 32.
43. Matt. vii. 21, 23.
44. Matt. vii. 20.
45. John xv. 14.
46. 2 Cor. xi. 14, 15.
47. 1 John ii. 19.
48. Acts viii. 21.
49. 1 Cor. v 4, 5.
50. John xv. 19.
51. Gal. v. 22.
52. 1 John iv. 7.
53. 1 John iii. 14.
54. 1 John iv. 21.
55. John xiii. 34.
56. 1 Thes. iv. 9.
57. Col. iii. 14.
58. Acts iv. 32.
59. 1 Thes. iv. 10.
60. 1 John v. 1.
61. Acts ii. 1.
62. Acts ii. 44.
63. Acts xx. 29, 30.
64. 1 John iv. 1.
65. 2 John 10.
66. Matt. xxiv. 12.
67. Acts xv. 28.
68. Matt. xviii. 18.
69. Acts xx. 28.
70. 1 Peter v. 1, 3.
71. John iii. 5.
72. John x. 16.
73. 1 Peter ii. 4, 5.
74. Eph. ii. 21.
75. Heb. ii. 13.
76. Eph. iii. 21.
77. Mark i. 1, 2.
78. Gal. iii. 8.
79. Eph. ii. 20.
80. Eph. i. 10.
81. Luke ix. 31.
82. Heb. xi. 39, 40.
83. John xviii. 37.
84. John xviii. 36.
85. Matt. xiii. 47-50.
86. Matt. xiii. 3-8.
87. Matt. xiii. 24-30.
88. Mark xvi. 16.
89. Luke xix. 27.
90. 2 Cor. vi. 17.

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