Gillespie On The Twofold Kingdom

One Instance more of his mis-alledging and perverting of testimonies. In the close he cites a passage of Mr. Case his Sermon August 22. 1645. “He (Christ) is King of Nations and King of Saints. As King of Nations he has a temporal Kingdom and Government over the world, etc. and the rule and regiment of this Kingdom he has committed to Monarchies, etc. Here is Erastianism, (says Mr. Coleman p. 38.) a step higher then ever I or Erastus himself went. And I desire to know of Mr. Gillespie, if he will own this as good divinity.” Yes Sir I own it for very good divinity, for my Reverend Brother Mr. Case, says not that Christ as Mediator is King of Nations, and has a temporal Kingdom in the world, and has committed rule and regiment to Monarchies or other lawful Magistrates, (which is the point that you and Mr. Hussey contend for, being a great Heterodoxy in Divinity) but he says of the Son of God, that he is King of Nations, and has committed Rule to Monarchies, which I own with all my heart. The distinction of the twofold Kingdom of Christ, a universal Kingdom, whereby he reigns over all things as God: and a special economical Kingdom, whereby he is King to the Church only, and rules and governs it, is that which being rightly understood, overturns, overturns, overturns the Erastian principles.

George Gillespie, Male audis or, An answer to Mr. Coleman his Malè dicis: Wherein the repugnancy of his Erastian doctrine to the word of God, to the solemne league and covenant, and to the ordinances of Parliament…. (London, 1646), 55. (HT: Matthew Winzer; Gil Garcia). [Spelling modernized].

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  1. Dr Clark,

    I agree with almost everything you write, except this issue.

    When Gillespie says that Christ reigns over the nations as the Son of God and over the church as the Mediator, he is dividing the person and the office of Christ artificially. I cannot but think of Gillepsie’s doctrine as a kind of nestorianism when it comes to Christ’s kingship.

    Have you read An ecclesiastical republic : church government in the writings of George Gillespie? I think Dr. McKay does a great job of demonstrating the unreasonableness of this artificial division that Gillespie introduces in Christ’s kingly office.


    • Venkatesh,

      1. I do not necessarily agree with every quotation posted under Heidelquotes (or anywhere else on the HB). I post them for a variety of reasons.

      2. I do not necessarily agree with everything that Gillespie says here. E.g., He wanted the magistrate to enforce Christian orthodoxy. I agree with Kuyper here. This is a great mistake. I see no warrant in the New Testament for such an idea. I should like to see a single piece of unequivocal evidence from the NT that the apostles expected the magistrate to impose and enforce the Christian religion in the Roman Empire.

      3. I hardly think that to distinguish between the ways God administers his kingdom, generally and specially, makes on a Nestorian. This is virtually what Calvin taught. Was Calvin a Nestorian? If so, one might hurl back the accusation that his critics are Eutychians.

      To distinguish the modes (duplex) of God’s administration of his kingdom is not the same as separating the two natures and making of them into two persons (as Nestorius is alleged to have done—about there is considerable doubt today). There is a difference between distinguishing and separating. The Athanasian teaches us to distinguish the persons of the Trinity. Chalcedon teaches us to distinguish the two natures. Distinction is not separation.

      After all we make all manner of distinctions. We distinguish between circumstances and elements in worship. Is that Nestorian? No. Why is Gillespie to be regarded as orthodox on worship but not when he employs Calvin’s distinction?

      We may disagree over the role of the magistrate but if Gillespie and arguably Rutherford made this distinction in the way Christ administers his kingdom and we respect rightly for their work, perhaps that should give one pause before hurling accusations of heresy against them?

  2. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for your reply. I certainly did not intend to hurl an accusation of heresy on Gillespie. However, I understand that I could have come across that way. I take your advice and will be more careful on my choice of words henceforth.

    Also, I am firmly with you on the need to make distinctions in theology. I wholeheartedly embrace all these distinctions that you have mentioned. However, not every distinction is legitimate. All I am saying is that Gillespie, in his zeal to defend this twofold distinction in Christ’s kingship (Christ reigns as Eternal Son of God over secular realm and as Mediator over the church), interprets a number of passages in the NT (Matt 6:13; 28:18; 1 Cor 12:28; 15:24-25; Eph 1:20-22; etc)in a way that are very unconvincing. Dr. McKay, in the first chapter of his book, does an admirable job of pointing out the inadequacies in Gillepsie’s exegesis. Hence I deem Gillespie’s distinction to be invalid. Many of the later RPs also came to the same conclusion despite their high regard for these forefathers.

    Regarding your desire to see an unequivocal evidence from the NT on the imposition of Chrsitian orthodoxy: I can produce it, but I am not sure you will agree. In Acts 4:27, the NT church applied Psalm 2 to their contemporary rulers. Herod, Pontius Pilate, and Sanhedrin (who asked Peter and John not to preach) were examples of “judges and rulers” who refused to kiss the Son. From this passage, it is easy to see that there is a continuing and a positive obligation on the rulers in the New Covenant era to allow the preaching of the Gospel. If they do not allow it, they are sinning. What is this but an obligation to impose Christian orthodoxy?

    • Venkatesh,

      You are interpreting Acts 4 with Ps 2. You have reversed the order. You have produced no unequivocal or explicit evidence. You’ve produced an unlikely inference. This does not meet the test I set.

      I say unlikely because the point of Acts 4 is not to speak to who should be the civil magistrate nor to the mediatorial Kingship of the Son over the magistrate (nor to a national covenant).

      The Apostles were preaching in Jerusalem, to those people who had been the national people of God but whose national covenant had expired with Christ’s death (Acts 3). In 3:17 Peter says that both the Jewish rulers and the people acted in ignorance in the crucifixion of Christ. He calls them to repent and to turn in faith to Jesus the Messiah. It’s in this context that the priests and “captain of the temple and the Sadducees” (4:1) arrested Peter and John, “because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (4:2). They were proclaiming a spiritual kingdom (“My kingdom is not of this world” —John 18:36). People were being regenerated, believing the gospel, and being saved. When Peter and John were brought before the leaders (civil and religious) they again preached the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection. The preached Jesus the stone rejected by men and salvation (4:11). They wanted to punish the apostles but they couldn’t because of the fact of the healing. It’s in this context that they invoke Ps 2.

      Jesus is the king over all the nations! Amen. Who are “Gentiles” in this use? They are the Jewish leaders who had been persecuting the apostles as they persecuted and crucified Jesus (4:23-26). Peter makes this explicit in vv. 27-31. Nowhere is there any evidence in Acts 3 or 4 that Peter and John were interpreting Ps 2 as a guide for the civil magistrate or inferring that the magistrate is any more than the minister Paul says him to be in Romans 13. The Jewish leaders were defying the Son, instead of kissing him.

      I agree with Gillespie here, that the Son is Lord over ALL magistrates but not in the specific or special way (in grace) that he is Lord over the church. He is explicitly said to be head over the church (Eph 5:23). There is no inference necessary. It’s explicit. There’s nothing like this regarding his mediatorial kingship over the civil magistrate. He rules, as Paul indicates, the magistrate generally as he rules everything else.

  3. Dr. Clark,
    I am not surprised that my unequivocal evidence failed to meet your test. I think we differ in our hermeneutic. So, I too find your case that Jesus is NOT the mediatorial head of the nations equally unpersuasive.

    I think you are assuming greater discontinuity between the OT and NT on Christ’s kingship than is warranted. The Psalms (which you and I sing) repeatedly testify that Jesus IS the head of the nations. Psalm 22:28 calls him the ruler of the nations. Psalm 89:27 calls him the “highest of the kings of the earth” (YLT). Jer 10:6-7 once again calls YAHWEH the king of the nations. The context here in Jeremiah is clearly that of geo-political kingdoms. And we find in the NT a CONTINUITY with the OT because in Revelation Jesus is once again called “Ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5 YLT). Again, Revelation gives him this title in the context of describing his redemptive work. It would be a hard-stretch to say that all these titles are merely describing his essential rule (as that of the Son of God). I think (and the RP tradition in general) that these passages describe his mediatorial rule.

    So, in the light of this continuity between OT and NT, I think we should not conclude that in Romans 13 Paul is cancelling the principle that magistrates are under the mediatorial rule of Christ. As RPs we have no problem embracing Romans 13 and still maintain mediatorial kingship (as we understand it).

    In light of this understanding here are a few of my comments on Acts 4

    1 ) I don’t think I am reversing the order. I am interpreting the NT in continuity with the OT and not starting from scratch with the NT (something which our Baptist brethren do). We assume greater continuity between Psalms 2 and Acts 4.

    2) I think Acts 4 does clearly point to the fact that Psalm 2 is guide for modern civil magistrate. Acts 4 indicts these Jewish rulers along with Herod and Pontius Pilate. Do we not regard Pilate as a Civil magistrate? And when you say that “The Jewish leaders were defying the Son, instead of kissing him.” Does this not prove my point – that being representative of the people, they were, as a corporate entity obliged to kiss the Son? Did not the Lord punish the entire nation (AD 70; as indicated in Matt 24) corporately for their corporate rejection of the Messiah?

    3) Lastly regarding the spirituality of Jesus’s kingdom: William Symington in his book, Messiah the Prince, says, “Christ said of the church, My kingdom is not of this world. But, if this means that his kingdom is so absolutely spiritual as to have no connexion whatever with what is secular or earthly, then when he said of his disciples ye are not of the world he meant that Christians could lawfully hold no worldly property, engage in no worldly enterprise, nor enter into any political connexion whatever. The phrases are in both cases precisely similar ; and as, in the latter instance, it would be absurd, and contradictory both to Scripture and common sense, to contend for the exclusive interpretation in question, so must it be in the former.” (p 64)

    • Venkatesh,

      I think we are operating with different definitions of unequivocal.

      The Oxford Dictionary defines it thus:

      “leaving no doubt; unambiguous: an unequivocal answer
      he was unequivocal in condemning the violence.”

      The case for mediatorial kingship as Symington argues it rests on a series of assumptions and inferences. Any such case is necessarily ambiguous and necessarily equivocal. Mediatorial kingship may be correct (obviously I am not persuaded) but Gillespie and Rutherford were not persuaded. Today, virtually no one else in the Reformed world, apart from the RPs is persuaded by the assumptions, methods, and inferences on which the case rests.

      It still seems to me that Symington’s argument (and your summary of it) rests on a backward hermeneutic, i.e., it does not allow the NT to interpret the OT nor does it pay sufficient attention to the way the NT interprets the old generally.

      It looks like a conclusion in search of text. It looks like an a priori.

      We agree that Christ is Lord of all and that he is the sovereign king over all and that one day all the kings of the earth will kiss the Son, indeed every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Christ is Lord.

      We disagree, however, as to the mode by which Christ administers his twofold kingdom, general and special.

  4. Dear all,

    I understand that there are those who passionately hold to the mediatorial kingship of Christ and others who take a different stance. Indeed, as a brother once cautioned to me, as much as we are convinced of our own position, there is a need to examine our traditions in light of Scripture and be willing to abandon that tradition if it can be proven wrong by the supreme standard of sacred writ. I certainly would not ascribe infallibility to a position simply because it is historical.

    I will not reveal explicitly what my stand on this issue is. Suffice to say, Christ is King over all civil magistrates, and the church as well. But that does not mean I hold to exactly same position as the RP and the RP forebears on the relationship between Christ and the civil magistrate. I am slowly beginning to understand why they interpreted Scripture (e.g., Psalm 2) the way they did. It appears to me that the historical, cultural, social and political milieu the RP forebears were situated in had an impact on their hermeneutics and why they thought of Christ as the mediatorial King. Notwithstanding my respect for these Reformed forebears, I realize that I cannot absolutize the historical, social, cultural, and political context that they lived through as ideal.

    I am not a historian, and as such, my understanding could be wrong. As such, I do seek enlightenment from those who can shed light on how the understanding of Christ as mediatorial King was conceived and developed.


    • David, thanks for providing a gracious comment on this. I would agree that there is a large and significant element of historical, socio-political background to understanding this RP distinctive. I have found it curious however that the position has changed somewhat, and narrowed to and requires a position that doesn’t reflect the wider consensus. I’m grateful though for the reflection at present in this thread.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    Thank you once again for your interaction. I have a few questions for you. I ask these questions to understand your position better and also to sharpen my own thinking in this important area. I am not intending to be mean-spirited or polemical.

    1. Would you say that when the national covenant operated, Israel was under the mediatorial dominion of Yahweh/Jesus Christ?

    2. In Psalm 2, when it was originally written, was the call to kiss the Son (to “kings and rulers”) a call to submit to the mediatorial dominion of Christ?

    3. Are you saying that the fulfillment of the ceremonial laws and the expiry of the civil laws is tantamount to an expiry of the mediatorial dominion of Christ — both over Israel and over the nations? And are you looking for explicit evidence of Christ being head of the nations in the NT because of this expiry of the mediatorial dominion (of course I am assuming a bit when I ask this question)?

    Please let me know when you have time.

    • Venkatesh,

      1. Because the national Israelite covenant was a theocratic administration, there was no church/state distinction. The state was religious, not secular. The state was charged with enforcing orthodoxy and punishing religious/theological heresy. Thus, I’m not sure that the mediatorial kingship idea even makes sense in that context. God the Son was Lord over all then as now. The King represented his kingly office, the priests, his priestly office, and the prophets, his prophetic office.

      God the Son revealed himself in types and shadows and the OT (broadly) and old covenant (more narrowly, the Mosaic and Davidic epochs) believers apprehended him, by faith, through types and shadows.

      2. So, I struggle with the premise of the 1st question. When Ps 2 says “kiss the Son” I don’t think it has anything to do with a mediatorial kingship. It has to do with faith and repentance. Christ is the king of Ps 2 but I don’t think it has anything fundamentally to do with civil polity either in the typology or in the New Covenant fulfillment. The idea of a religious civil polity was always and only temporary and typological. It was never meant to be extended beyond the old covenant (as defined above).

      3. Thus, I doubt that there was ever a mediatorial kingship to expire. I note that in WCF 19 we do not confess a mediatorial kingship expired but that a civil polity expired:

      4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

      The body politic expired. The Son was sovereign over all the nations. He was sovereign over his typological church and he is sovereign over his new covenant church. He was sovereign over all the nations and kings and he remains so. Did he have a special relation to national Israel? Yes, because in that temporary state-church he administered his kingdom and his salvation under types and shadows pointing to the heavenly realities and to the realities to come.

  6. Dear Dr. Clark and Andrew,

    I appreciate your kind responses to my comment. I had written that comment partly because I have witnessed how brethren elsewhere have quarreled with one another over this issue; and partly because I have witnessed in the past how zeal and passion for our own traditions tend to override sound exegesis of passages such as Psalm 2.

    Hope this explains why I shared my comment.


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