INTRODUCTION TO THE 1999 EDITION
William Symington, Covenanter pastor of a Reformed Presbyterian congregation in the town of Stranraer, eighty miles south of Glasgow on the southwest coast of Scotland, was born in Paisley on June 2, 1795. Near the end of his Stranraer pastorate, after recovering from nearly a year of ill health, he finished the manuscript for Messiah the Prince, as he says in his diary for November 14, 1838: “This day finished MS. of ‘Messiah the Prince,’ and on Monday (12) corrected first proof sheet.”
Dr. Symington’s outstanding work has proved to be an enduring theological classic, one of the clearest expositions of the Scriptures in support of the proposition that Jesus Christ was appointed by the Father as King over all men and nations (Psalm 2). The reprint of this classic is to be heartily welcomed with a renewed enthusiasm for the biblical doctrine of the “Crown Rights of King Jesus.” He is “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36), including civil government.
In 1864, not long after Symington wrote Messiah the Prince, that awesomely bloody distress in America known as the “War Between the States” (or, “Civil War,” or “Great Bloody Holocaust”) led the American Covenanters to found the “National Reform Association.” Later, in 1884, it was the NRA which issued the first reprint of Messiah the Prince [Philadelphia, The Christian Statesman Publishing Company, 1884]. In 1990, 106 years later, Still Waters Revival Books reprinted it, and now the NRA is reprinting it for a second time, 115 years after its first reprint.
Now, 161 years after Symington wrote the book, we come to 1999, when we are witnessing a time of perhaps greater church apostasy, ignorance, and failure to teach the whole counsel of God, especially as regards Christian civil government, since the period prior to the Reformation of the 16th century. May this reprint of Symington’s Messiah the Prince be so blessed in the providence of Almighty God as to serve His purposes: to awaken the slumbering churches to rethink their governmental duties, which the apostolic church recognized as their duty—a duty, the implementation of which, today’s church is in total confusion; to prompt more prayer and labor for a change from today’s abject and servile acceptance by the churches of humanistic civil governments; to reassume their God-given responsibility to build Christian civil governments; to begin refusing to accept the “status quo” of the seemingly never-ending proliferation of humanistic and illegitimate governmental bureaucracies with their endless regulations. This is a crucial dimension of the whole Gospel, one that is missing from the thinking of today’s church.
The soon-to-be 21st century church is suffering from a kind of prefrontal lobotomy of her spiritual brain. Her preaching stands in stark contrast to that of the early church. The early church preached Christ’s Kingship over the Roman Empire; today’s church would rather (by default) preach Thomas Jefferson’s illicit, unauthorized, and unbiblical doctrine of the “separation of church and state.” Today’s church doesn’t know the difference between legitimate and illegitimate doctrines of the “separation of church and state.” She stumbles along, oblivious to the biblical teaching that the Father has established His Son, the enthroned Messiah, as King over the civil governments of all nations (Psalm 2), rejecting out of hand Christian civil government, opting rather for Jefferson’s secular version.
We live in a time when the church has failed to comprehend and obey the whole of our Lord Jesus’ Great Commission. Jesus said to: “Make all nations My disciples,” but today’s church has responded: “Yes, Lord, but we have a better idea. We will revise your command, reducing it to the level of just making individual disciples, and ignoring the rest of it. We will conduct our personal evangelism, while avoiding the awkward context of bringing the whole nation to acknowledge you.”
Our Lord cannot be pleased!
It is the church’s mission to witness to the nations. The church must understand that individuals are won to Christ in the context of a covenantal and corporate witness to the nations. The church must be confessionally committed to obeying the command of King Jesus to disciple the nations, as He said: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations (‘make all nations My disciples’), baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20). This clear statement of our Lord gives the church authority to teach the nations the principles of Christian civil government; to call them to submit to the authority of Christ and to build their nations on the law of God.
The church desperately needs to resume preaching the whole Gospel of Jesus as preached by the apostles, meaning that today’s truncated version of the Gospel must be abandoned, or at least drastically modified to bring it into obedience to the Lord Jesus. The church must learn to present the Gospel of Christ as the early church did: not only calling individuals to repentance, but also challenging Caesar’s claim to absolute rule (Acts 17:9). Christian civil government is not an option—a mere matter of personal or church doctrinal preference—but an essential teaching of the New Covenant message that Jesus is Lord of all.
When Peter preached to the Sanhedrin, “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), he was directly contradicting the words of Augustus Caesar, who had claimed in 17 B.C. that, “Salvation is to be found in none other save Augustus, and there is none other name under heaven given to men by which they must be saved.” Peter went head to head with Caesar! Would that today’s church would do likewise. Peter was not afraid to confront the head of the Roman Empire with the radical doctrine that Caesar was accountable to a Higher Authority, namely, to Jesus Christ.
Symington’s thesis in Messiah the Prince, a thesis the church urgently needs to hear, inevitably leads to an unavoidable conclusion: that Jesus Christ is the God-appointed Prince over all nations. All civil governments should—and will, someday—be “Christian.” Thus, it is an absolute condition necessary for worldwide evangelization, that we learn to send forth missionaries who will teach their converts to build Christian civil governments in their respective nations; who will labor to see this goal realized before Jesus returns bodily to end the history of this world as we have known it, and usher in the eternal age (1 Cor. 15:24-28); and who will realize that Jesus will not return until this goal is accomplished (Phil. 2:9-10).
What is necessary for this to take place? How can the church be brought to an understanding of its biblical responsibility?
First, the church must awaken to the yawning chasm of its failure to read and understand and obey what Jesus and Peter plainly said, that Jesus Christ was King over Caesar; that He is King over Washington, and every other world capital; and He is to be recognized as such.
Second, the church must begin to relearn its history. We must understand why the Christians in pagan Rome were thrown to the lions in the Coliseum; why Nero lit his garden parties with the gruesome lighting of the tar-soaked bodies of living Christians spiked on poles serving as evening garden torches. Such is the hatred of the pagans for the rule of King Jesus over civil government! For the next 250 years, the Caesars sporadically initiated vicious persecutions of the Christians in their midst, interspersed with cooling off periods, until the conversion of Emperor Constantine c.300 A.D. It was on Constantine’s watch that we had the Edict of Milan of 312 A.D., which brought religious liberty and freedom to the Christians to worship without fear of the dread hand of civil government interfering with the worship of Jehovah.
The civil government of Rome had opposed the doctrine of Christ’s Kingship over their presumed and illegitimate turf of civil government, a hatred which was duplicated in spades 1600 years later by King Charles II, when he not only repudiated the Solemn League and Covenant, but determinedly tortured and slaughtered the Scottish Covenanters. After he died, his brother James II took up the sword, wielding it until 18,000 men, women, and children had been tortured and slaughtered without mercy. It was only then that Parliament had had enough, deposed James, and invited William of Orange to come to the rescue. The result was the Revolution Settlement of 1688, which stopped the slaughter and gave the Presbyterians liberty to choose their own pastors (good), but also, along with that relief, jettisoned the national covenants (bad). Civil government has been trending downward toward total secularization ever since. It has taken 311 years, but here we are! Ever since the Revolution Settlement of 1688 (actually 339 years since the Stuart King Charles!! repudiated the Solemn League and Covenant in 1660), the Church has been sliding backwards, guilty of accepting in principle and approving in practice‑lock, stock, and barrel‑the whole of our present secularized civil government.
Today, we in the United States, following the lead of our Founding Fathers‑some of whom were Christians who naively embraced the Trojan Horse doctrine of “natural law” thinking that this would retain a Christian character for the nation (how wrong they were!), and therefore have wider appeal—have almost succeeded in totally eliminating religion from public discourse. Behold the wondrous and nefarious influence of our “We the People” Constitution, which, along with its many excellencies as a “procedural document” (as R. J. Rushdoony correctly observed), nevertheless gives no acknowledgment of Jesus Christ or His law, and disallows any moral standards for holding public office (see Article VI, par. 3b “. . . but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”). Today, our, “We the People” Constitution has been interpreted by the secularists in our midst, with the acquiescence of the slumbering church, as meaning, “no moral test” shall ever be required. Furthermore, even a cursory examination of Madison and Hamilton’s renowned and revered “Federalist Papers,” will reveal that they refused to reference the Bible or the laws of God in Scripture, but yet have numerous references to the pagan Greeks and Romans.
It should be obvious to all where Madison and Hamilton were looking for their authority! This is consistent with the overall tone of their appeal to “natural law” which everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, was supposed to obey. “Natural law” was sufficient authority—sufficient legitimacy—for them to organize a civil government, and, as it turned out, was sufficient for the church as well which naively lent its approval. “Natural law” would get everyone’s approval, while the law of God in Scripture would not. Especially the approval of leading intellectuals like Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, who, it was thought, would never approve of a constitution which acknowledged the Christ, the King of kings, and His law as the foundation for the nations. The coin of complicity in the church’s sellout to secularism served as further justification for their failure to insist that Christ should be honored as King of this new nation. But the churches had a convenient fig leaf: just point to Jefferson’s rewrite of the Gospels, in which he, in his superior wisdom, left out all of Jesus’ miracles, and presented a gutted “gospel,” the good works of all of us (“natural law”?) being sufficient for any man’s “salvation.” The churches were cowed before Jefferson’s towering intellect. Surely it would be better to accept half a loaf, and go for “We the People” as the ultimate source of law. Little did they know what lay ahead, as the nation would steadily secularize, with Christian society being in, first gradual, then headlong retreat during the next 200 years!
So what do we see today? The church is in panic retreat before the monstrous colossus of a secularizing society. We see the effects of a profound evangelical malaise, with more professing “born again Christians” than ever, existing side by side with a frightening and unprecedented rise of societally destructive perversions of all kinds—all the old disgustingly familiar brands, with new ones seemingly being invented daily. We have just heard two well-known Christian conservative leaders publicly announce that they were giving up on politics; that the “political solution” is the wrong way to go; that we should just go back to saving souls.
We see, that in spite of ten years of a flurry of “Christian conservative” political activity, plus rising anti-abortion protests, that the evangelical church seems nearly impotent, with less power than ever to shape society along the lines of the laws of God. She seems to be reduced to merely threshing about, hopelessly bemoaning the rise of abortion, the sludge of pornography, the rise of the “gay” movement, the election and reelection of a Chief Executive who comes from an “Arkansas Mafia” using his “talents” to ingratiate himself with a languid and indifferent public, all the while perverting the sacrosanct Oval Office, selling our vital national technological secrets to our enemies, and irresponsibly beginning a war in the Balkans.
Something is wrong with today’s church. What is it? And what can the church do about the unprecedented flood of iniquity inundating our society? How can we again build the societies of men on the laws of God? What is needed is an all out commitment to study and apply the doctrine of the mediatorial reign of Christ as elucidated by William Symington in this landmark book, Messiah the Prince!
No group of Christians, be they a church or individuals, can ride a theological fence forever, especially when that fence is the dividing line between secular civil government and Christian civil government. It all comes down to this confidence: that the civil governments of this earth will one day enter into their own national covenants with “King Jesus.” (We believe that the Solemn League and Covenant is an excellent example for the nations to follow in drawing up their own national covenants, which we are convinced will eventually occur worldwide.) Almighty God, in His eminent grace and abundant mercy, is in the process of judging and pruning and reviving and educating His church.
The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the blessed Trinity, is awakening His Body, purchased with the blood of the Son of God, to the “Great Commission” where our Lord instructed His followers to, “Make all nations My disciples” (Matt. 28:18-20). The church of Jesus Christ is to be about the task of building Christian civilizations, of rebuilding Christendom, this time along the lines of God’s laws for the nations.
Undoubtedly Christ’s Great Commission includes personal evangelism, but evangelism conducted in the context of a mighty effort to build the societies of men on the laws of God as found in the Scriptures, and the bringing of civil governments to enter into their own national covenants, acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord, as the mediatorial King!
The only alternative to Messiah the Prince is to allow humanistic and “revolutionary” governments to continue proliferating across the globe, marching down the road to their own obliteration at the hands of King Jesus, the White Horse Rider of Revelation 19, who holds the rebellious nations in derision before His wrath falls upon them to their own destruction.
For the church of the LORD Jesus Christ, there remains the fundamental need of repentance for her inexcusable obloquy towards Christian civil government; an admission of her wrong-doing; an acknowledgment that she has failed when she has evangelized without teaching the new disciples Christ’s command for corporate national covenanting. This failure goes back a long long way. We need a renewal of the faith of the Covenanters, who died for not only their right to choose their own ministers—but for “the Crown Rights of King Jesus.” That meant then, and it means now, Christian civil government. That is the inevitable conclusion of Messiah the Prince.
Today’s appalling flood of man’s-rights-centered laws are mostly composed of the deadly fruits of Enlightenment French Revolution thinking. They are choking apostate Western “Christian” civilization to death. We live in revolutionary times. Nationalistic revolutions are filling the vacuum left after the “Revolution Settlement” of 1688, which stopped “The Killing Times,” the name given to the slaughter of 18,000 Covenanter men, women, and children from 1660 under Charles II to 1685 under his brother James II. The killing was stopped, but the national covenants with King Jesus were rejected, and Christian civil government became merely a memory. We have gone steadily downhill from there, with our own United States “We the People” Constitution being one of the outstanding milestones on the road to secularism. But thank the Lord for the testimony of the American Covenanter church, and the National Reform Association, that has faithfully witnessed through the years to this gross rejection of the King of kings.
Fundamentally, we need a Godly Revolution, back to basic biblical morality. This “revolution” must begin in the churches with repentance: a) for their acquiescence in this spurning of the Crown Rights of King Jesus, and, b) for following after the suicidal Christianity-cleansed policy of Thomas Jefferson’s secular “separation of church and state.”
The biblical theme of Messiah the Prince is needed today as never before. The current reprint of this theological classic could not have been more timely. The church of Christ faces crucial challenges as she looks forward to her tasks for the 21st Century.
May she never again fail her King, Who is “Lord of all.”
Raymond P. Joseph Pastor, Southfield (Michigan) Reformed Presbyterian Church Member,
National Reform Association Board of Directors.
Since its inception the National Reform Association (NRA) has contended for the recognition of the crown rights of Jesus Christ over the nations on the basis of His mediatorial reign. There were two conferences, one in Xenia, Ohio, and one in Sparta, Illinois, which led up to the founding of the National Reform Association in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, in 1864. At the conference in Ohio, it was stated that “the neglect of God and His law, by omitting all acknowledgment of them in our Constitution” was “the crowning original sin of the nation.” Therefore, it was proposed that the U.S. Constitution be amended to recognize “the being and attributes of Almighty God, the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, the law of God as the paramount rule, and Jesus, the Messiah, the Saviour and Lord of all.” In Illinois, the convention adopted a plan to “bring this nation to an acknowledgment of the authority of Christ and His law.” The object of the NRA was defined as bringing the nation to recognize “the authority of Jesus Christ as the Governor of the Nation;” because as David McAllister, founding editor of The Christian Statesman, wrote: “Jesus Christ, as Mediator, has all power and universal dominion committed to him, which must include authority over nations.” In pursuit of this object, the National Reform Association published in 1884 William Symington’s classic work on the mediatorial reign of Jesus Christ—Messiah the Prince.
The doctrine of the mediatorial reign of Jesus Christ declares that at His ascension Jesus Christ was exalted to sit at the right hand of God the Father, and was invested with supreme authority over all things in heaven and on earth (Ps. 2:6-12; 110:1-2; Dan. 7:13-14; Isa. 9:6-7; Acts 2:33-36; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-22; Phil. 2:9-11). Christ is not only the Head of the church, but Lord of all; His authority extends over all men, nations, and spheres of life, including the sphere of civil government. Hence, Jesus Christ is the Prince of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5) and King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16). The doctrine of the mediatorial reign indicates that, in regard to the civil government of the nations, political sovereignty belongs to Jesus Christ. It is this great truth that has inspired and sustained the NRA for the past 135 years.
It is in pursuit of the original vision of the NRA to proclaim, on the basis of His mediatorial reign, “the authority of Jesus Christ as the Governor of the Nation” that the NRA once again sends forth to the church and the public, Messiah the Prince. No one has ever articulated the doctrine of the mediatorial reign of Jesus Christ with as much clarity, vigor, and spiritual power as William Symington; and his message is needed today more than ever. In reading this book the mind is enlightened, and the spirit is stirred. Symington’s work inspires zeal for Jesus Christ in all His mediatorial power and glory. A true Christian cannot read it without being moved to worship anew the King of kings, and to earnestly contend for His crown rights in all spheres of life.
In this reprint of Messiah the Prince the type has been completely reset to provide a clear, modern edition. The text has not been altered and reproduces the exact wording, footnotes, and editorial comments of the 1884 edition. The only changes introduced in this 1999 edition are those of modernizing the spelling of select words, some minor changes in the punctuation, the addition of a few Scripture references, and the breaking up of long paragraphs into shorter ones. The editorial comments of previous editions have been retained in the footnotes, and no new ones have been added to this edition.
Special thanks is extended to Christ’s Covenant Church in Front Royal, Virginia, and to Immanuel Free Reformed Church in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, for their support of this project. Without it, this new edition would not have been possible.
William O. Einwechter Vice President, National Reform Association Editor, The Christian Statesman Press
Mercersburg, Pennsylvania April 2, 1999
The present may be regarded as a sequel to the work on the Atonement and Intercession of Christ, published by the author some few years ago. The subjects, as will be seen from the introductory pages of this volume, have an intimate connection with each other. The glory of the divine Redeemer is deeply involved in both. The writer is not aware of the existence of any work on the exact plan of that now offered to the public. It has been his object to present a condensed, yet comprehensive, view of the nature, properties, extent, and duration, of the kingdom of the Messiah.
Two departments—the church and the nations—have received a large share of attention. But their paramount importance, apart from other considerations, is sufficient to account for this, and to render any apology unnecessary. In adverting, as was unavoidable in the discussion of these topics, to questions that are keenly agitated at the present time, the author has studied to keep clear of all allusion to matters purely of a party nature, which have been unhappily mingled up with the discussion of a great and vital principle. Having no party purpose whatever to serve, he hopes he may have been enabled to escape, in some considerable degree at least, that bitterness of feeling, and obliquity of judgment, which the spirit of party naturally engenders. It is one of the painful and unhappy results of controversy, especially when it happens to involve points in which the immediate interests of the respective parties are supposed to be concerned, that it is almost sure so to pervert the mind, and awaken animosities, as to be greatly unfavorable to the detection and establishment of truth.
The author commits his work to the candid judgment of all who love that Redeemer, whose princely glory he has attempted to delineate; and to the promised blessing of the Spirit of Christ, who can give efficacy to the feeblest of human efforts.