Alexander H. (Alexander Hamilton) Vinton.

Man's rule and Christ's reign. A sermon, preached on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th, 1862 online

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Online LibraryAlexander H. (Alexander Hamilton) VintonMan's rule and Christ's reign. A sermon, preached on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 1)
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NovKvrBEB 27th, 1862,






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Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1862.

To THE Rev. Alexander H. Vinton, D.D. :

Dear Sir : At the close of tlie services in St. Mark's

Church, this day, there was a general expression of wish

that the sermon there dehvered by you should be printed.
Sympathizing entirely and earnestly in that wish of

your congregation, in our own and in their behalf, we

beg permission to have it published.

With cordial and affectionate respect,










To THE Hon. Hamilton Fish, and others :

Gentlemen : I thank you very sincerely for the kind

feeling that prompts your request for the pubUcation of

my sermon of Thanksgiving Day, and cheerfully submit

it to your disposal.


St. Mark's Rectory, Dec. Ut, 1862.


EzEKiEL 21 : 26, 27.

" Thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem, and take off
the crown: this shall not he the same : exalt him that is low, and
abase him that is high. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it :
and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is ; and it
shall be given to him."

Zedekiah was one of a series of kino's who
had profaned the sacred royalty of Israel, and
God was about to terminate not only his reign
but his dynasty. The crown and the diadem
were both to be taken away from Jerusalem,
that is, the kingly and j^riestly powers were to
be superseded by the rule of a foreigner and a
pagan. Nebuchadnezzar was to be their future
lord, and Babylon their royal city. Not that
his reign should be lasting or his power per-
petual ; for there was an ancient covenant of
God, that of the fruit of David's loins should
come forth a king who should reign forever.

In this grand revolution of Israel God was
only preparing the way for his Messiah, and not

by tliis revolution alone, but by others that
should follow the track and tread on the heels
of this. The Babylonian dominion was to be
followed by the Persian; the Persian by the
Grecian, and that again by the Eonian; and
then should come the splendor and power of
God's royal Christ. "I will overturn, over-
turn, overturn it: and it shall be no more
until he come whose right it is; and it shall
be given to him."

This very lesson was taught to Nebuchadnez-
zar himself, for in the remarkable vision inter-
preted by Daniel he saw a great image com-
posed of various metals, of which Babylon was
the golden head, representing three great rev-
olutions of empire, and after these one grander
still, in which a stone, cut without hands from
the mountain, should break in pieces all other
dominion, and should stand forever. This was
the divine regency of Christ. Thus it is, that
temporal events help on divine plans. Thus
in the mind of God political and religious ideas
lie side by side. The nation and the Church are
coordinate forces in effecting the divine cove-
nant, and Jesus Christ is King of nations as he
is King of saints. There are certain grand, fix-
ed purposes of God which run straight through
tlie order of the universe, from the beginning

to tlie end. There is to tliem no past nor pre-
sent nor future — that is, no finished facts can
add proof to their certainty — no present force
or lack of force can stop them from working
out into life and action before our very eyes ;
and no contingency or peradventure can, for an
instant, bar their way to final completeness.
Not that the Divine purposes drive on to their
inexorable results alone, treading down nature
and art and man, as if to show how superior
God is to the world that he has made, and to the
laws he assigned for it. It is just as true that
man is in the world as that God is — man as he
was made and is not yet unmade ; in the image
of God, with intelligence and a -will — man a
doer not less truly than God a doer. A Divin-
ity moving sublimely in the world does not ex-
clude humanity working actively, although he
shapes our ends, rough-hew them as we will.

These Divine purposes running in parallel
strands through the whole course of things,
and fastened at each end, are the warp of the
universe into which all its history is to be pic-
torially woven.

They are wound around the great axis of the
world, and wrap up the coming centuries, fold
beneath fold, and then as the cylinder revolves
the warp is unrolled, and comes out to meet and


siij)ply the days and months and years and ages,
and as it comes, man works into that steady
warp his ever-shifting woof. He tosses his busy
shuttle back and forth between the strands,
with bonnd and rebound, day and night, with
many-colored threads and many-patterned forms,
until the straight, strong warp-threads are cov-
ered up and hidden, and the whole product
seems to be made by man alone. He has work-
ed his mind and passions and will into it so com-
pactly, that history is made up of the freaks of
his fancy — the whims of his willfulness, the
orderly shapes of his intelligence in business, lit-
erature or government ; and colored throughout
with the complexions of his loves and hates ;
silvery and golden for his better affections,
burning crimson for his lusts, and deadly pur-
ple for his antipathies and loathings. So that
all history seems man-made. Yet it is not so.
This is only the filling and the woof. God's
pui'poses are still the foundation and the warp.
Let any bold hand attempt to thwart these pur-
230ses, to traverse the course of Providence, to
tear the fabric of events across the fibre, and
the man learns a lesson of profitable modesty.
He may seem to force a hole in the texture, but
the rent will run with the warp, and it is only
man's work that is broken across, not God's.

So miicli we are tauglit by universal experience
as well as Kevelation, while Revelation adds
anotlier truth tliat experience is not yet ripe or
universal enough to learn of itself ; that is, that
God's purposes in the world have ultimate
reference to the glory of his mediatorial Son.

We gather glimpses of this gi*and truth
as we study the history of the world, with.
Revelation for its key. History loses its j)ro-
faneness as interj^reted by the Bible, and we
can recall events and their surroundings which
were procured by man acting out his own vol-
untariness so completely, that nothing but his
own personal self is projected on the scene, and
yet just these events and just these surround-
ings made the necessary crisis which manifested
the Christ. Could the Saviour have been born
before the fullness of the time decreed ? And
what constituted the time's fullness and fitness ?
Was it not a universal, earthly monarchy and a
universal language ? And whence came that
monarchy but from human ambition or the
universal language, but from commerce, curi-
osity, luxury, taste, all human purely, and of
the earth ? Man working in the dark to bring
God out into light.

So when the Saviour had lived out his hu-
man term, the Divine plan that req^uired that he


sliould die contemplated likewise the metliod
no less tlian the end. The pm-pose must have
its complement in the means. The Christ must
have a Judas and a Pilate, or else the world's
salvation were forfeit. Yet were there ever two
examples of pure voluntariness and independent
action more signal than theii^ ? Judas plottiog,
hesitating, chaffering, betraying and repenting ;
Pilate arguing, excusing, deprecating, yet yield-
ing and condemning, are the very impersona-
tions of free ^vill and voluntary accountability.
So do the destroying deeds of devils illustrate
the salvation of Christ.

We need not linger on history any longer to
establish the principle, as a fast truth of the
world, that God oveiTules the changes of the
times, in order to bring out the peculiar glory
of his anointed Son — but for our present use,
let us look at it in its prospective bearings.

Our text is not yet fulfilled. There still are,
and shall be, overturnings, overturnings, over-
turnings among men, of which the presiding
purpose shall be all divine and Christly. They
shaE, each and all, tend to bring out his king-
dom into riper development. I say riper de-
velopment, for all the influences of that king-
dom are not yet fruited. The power of the
Gospel is a thing of gi'owth and succession. It


was necessary to graft it on human nature in
separate cions, coming into bearing at different
periods. The earliest ages of the Church
learned mainly the devotional and pious ele-
ment of the Gospel, while it is only in its later
periods that its ethical influence has hurst into
groTTth. The first and great commandment was
accepted first, and it sprang forth in the luxuri-
ant godliness which makes the early Church
seem so freshly holy through all the ages. But
Christians were slower in accepting the second
cardinal law of Christ's kingdom, '* Thou shalt
love thy neighbor as thysel£*' Their godliness
is not yet thoroughly mated with charity, and
this life-principle of Christian ethics yet seeks a
nobler and wider development. "VMien tMs
shall have become universal — when g^xUiness
and charity, twin sisters of a divine birth, shall
walk hand in hand through the world, wel-
comed and adorned alike with royal honors
from men's willing hearts, then will begin the
hallelujah period of the Churc-h ; for the king-
doms of the world will have become the
kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.
Christ's reign will be unhindered in any one of
its declared purposes; deliverance to, ^he cap-
tive, the opening of the prison-doors to Them
that are bound, eyesight to the blind, and the


liealing of all broken hearts. The grand rule
of mutual conduct among men will be, " to do to
others as we would they should do to us." The
world will need no other redress for its disqual-
ifications and w^retchedness. God can claim no
worthier tribute for his Son than a world of
men changed divinely into an equal and loving

In the changes of the world, then, we are to
look for the steady advance of those great prin-
ciples which grow from the Gospel of Christ,
and which Christ's reign was intended to illus-
trate. And those principles are, as we have
«een, the establishing of human rights and the
improvement of the human condition, morally,
socially, politically ; the awarding to each man
his prerogatives as a child of the Heavenly
Parent ; the loosing of every bond but those of
rational and moral obligation ; the breaking of
all subjection but that voluntary allegiance to
law, which is the sublimest act of human inde-
pendence, and the crown of humanity. This
is the liberty wherewith Christ makes all men
free. And to this the progress of religion and
the revolutions of the times infallibly tend.
For not only does our practical Christianity
take the form of ^philanthropy more than ever,
in its missions, its hospitals, its asylums ;Jts

. 13

care for tlie body, as well as the soul ; its reme-
dies for social evils, as well as spiritual ; but
every civil change of our times looks toward
the enlargement and elevation of humanity.
Even the first French Kevolution, which re-
versed the proverb that " Satan is clothed as an
ano^el of lio^ht," and was, instead, a celestial idea
mantled with hellish horrors ; which wrote its
edicts with daggers, drawn and diipping from
human hearts ; even this mighty overturn left
not itself without extenuation, in the thoughts
which it set adrift in the world, that stirred the
world's mind to grand and solemn issues.

That sublime idea lived on, when the revolu-
tion was past ; lived on, when the horrors had
subsided into the pit again and the blood-stains
were faded out ; still lives on, in the Christian
sentiment of brotherhood, and will live till
Christ comes again, and live forever, proving
itself celestial by its immortality.

So in the more recent changes of the times.
See it in Italy — poor Italy, as we used to think—
the cemetery of national character, where you
moved among memorials of dead beauty and
grandeur, and trod on relics of glory at every
step ; where the living humanity seemed taper-
ed down to a point, without any pith or fibre,
but only soft succulence; where men's souls


seemed shriveled into absorption by the press-
ure of despotism, civil and spiritual — Italy,
glorious Italy now, has been overturned, over-
turned, overturned. The graves are opened.
The manhood that was buried there is awake
again, in the strength and beauty of the resui'-
rection. We have stood amazed at the sudden-
ness and completeness of the change, in which
despot after despot fled away, in a terror that
was ready to call on the mountains to fall upon
them and the hills to cover them; while the
people possessed themselves of freedom and
empire, as calmly as if the right had never
been contested nor the possession broken for a
moment. What a splendid demonstration it is
of man's capacity for self-government and free-
dom — for self-government is freedom; and
what a long leap of progress our race has
taken in the emancipation of Italy ! Will any
man say that this overturn is not of God,
for the speedier manifestation of his Christ?
We know, indeed, the human agencies that
worked the work. We know how French
policy, and Austrian fear, and Papal bigotry,
and Neapolitan meanness helped on the result,
drawing or driving the enslaved people into
revolution and independence. We know that
not every cause and motive was divine and


Christly, but, in part, basely human. Yet the
result, how worthy of divinity and of Christ !
A free people, a free government, a free Gospel,
is not this the liberty of Christ, social, civil
and religious ?

And when the work goes on to complete-
ness; when, as in the case of Jerusalem, God
shall take away not only the crown of despo-
tism, but the diadem too ; when king and priest
shall tyrannize no more ; when he who wears
both crown and diadem, claiming to be both
temporal and spiritual sovereign of the earth,
shall be superseded ; when the clay and iron
feet of Nebuchadnezzar's image, which repre-
sents the Papal dominion, shall crumble away,
and Rome, no longer " lone mother of dead
em]3ires," shall be the royal city of an evan-
gelized Italy, will not all this fresh freedom of
soul and body, deliverance to the captive, sight
to the blind, demonstrate the acceptable year
of the Lord, and prove that Christ is come,
whose right it is ?

See how the overturn in Kussia tends
toward the same issue. The serf is a slave
no longer, but one with a recognized manhood
in him. The agency here was not the same as
in Italy. There, freedom was the claim of
the people; in Russia it was the gift of the


012 028 304


despot. In tlie one, it came from within ; in
tlie other, from without. With one it was an
inspiration; to the other a revelation. Yet
the same divine spirit of beneficence wrought
alike in both, aiming at the same triumph of
Christ in the world. We have not, indee^,
seen the issue of the measm^e in Russia, and
there are signs that bode confusion. Yet we
may safely be hopeful of the result; because
the experiment runs in the line of God's great
purposes of love to the race. There is no idea
so plastic and creative in its influence on char-
acter as the idea of liberty; none so fertile of
improvement, or that lifts a man so surely up
to the level of his destiny. And I may add,
that no social experiment was ever tried that
has proved so harmless as the gift of free-
dom. I say the cjift of freedom, because
when freedom is quarreled for and battled for,
it may sometimes carry its habit of fierceness
too long. Born of cruelty and suckled with
blood, its first strength may be savage. But
let freedom be conferred as a Christian boon,
in the spmt and temper of Christ, and there
will always be found enough of that essential
principle of humanity which responds to a felt
divinity to insure for the experiment a grateful
welcome, and therefore the perfect safety of


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Online LibraryAlexander H. (Alexander Hamilton) VintonMan's rule and Christ's reign. A sermon, preached on Thanksgiving Day, November 27th, 1862 → online text (page 1 of 1)