The Westminster Divines on the Extent of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom


Order of Contents

Introduction & a Note about Rutherford

Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only

Burgess, Anthony
Burroughs, Jeremiah
Cheynell, Francis
Divine Right of Church Government
Featley, Daniel
Gillespie, George
Gouge, William
Henderson, Alexander
Jackson, John
Leigh, Edward
Ley, John
Reynolds, Edward
Rutherford, Samuel

Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is Over All Things

Burges, Cornelius
Case, Thomas
Marshall, Stephen
Rutherford, Samuel



Introduction & a Note about Samuel Rutherford

While Christ has a Kingdom of Power over the whole world as He is divine, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the Mediatorial Kingdom that has been delegated to Him as King only over the Church, or co-extensive with his Kingdom of Power over the whole world?

As seen below, most of the Westminster Divines, while acknowledging that Christ as Mediator has been given power over the whole world to govern all its affairs to his glory and the good of his Church, yet He is only Head and Mediatorial King over his Church, which He rules spiritually through his Word via his ministers and ordinances.  Christ exercising power against the world cannot make the world to be in his Kingdom because a kingdom, as Burgess, Gillespie and Leigh argue below, is by definition for the good of the subjects (Rom. 13:4; WCF 23.1; WLC #45).  But Christ dashing those who resist Him by providential judgments (Ps. 2:8-12) is not for their good, but for the good of his Kingdom, the Church.

As may have been noticed, Samuel Rutherford is on both lists as holding both viewpoints.  In 1644 in his Due Right of Presbyteries, Rutherford argues that the civil magistrate is the vice-regent of Christ and under his Mediatorial Kingdom.  In his Catechism of an unknown date, Rutherford speaks of Christ having his Kingdom of Power (throughout the world) as Mediator (though he goes on to qualify this as only a spiritual power).

Later in 1644, Rutherford argues in detail and at length against the civil magistrate being a vice-regent of, or deriving his power or authority from, Christ, and that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is only his Church, in his Lex Rex.  In 1646, Rutherford again argues in even more length and detail, in the same categories as his compatriot George Gillespie, that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is his Church.

James Walker explains the reasons for this change (The Theology and Theologians of Scotland, p. 146):

“Rutherford in his Due Right, p. 437, teaches unequivocally that the civil magistrate has directly spiritual and supernatural ends.  That view, however, he was led to modify, and in his later books he often rather extremely takes up another view.  Thus he explains himself in his Divine Right of Church Government (p. 592), after he had passed through the Erastian conflicts of the Westminster Assembly: 

‘It is true I have said that the intrinsic end of the magistrate is a supernatural good, but:

1. That I speak, in opposition to the author of The Bloody Tenet, to Socinians and such as exclude the magistrate from all meddling with religion, or using of the sword against heretics, apostates, and idolaters.

2. That I understand [this] only of the material end, because the Prince, punishing idolatry, may per accidens and indirectly promote the salvation of the Church by removing the temptations of heretics from the Church; but he does that, not in order to the conscience of the idolater, to gain his soul (for pastors as pastors do that), but to make the Church quiet and peaceable in her journey to life eternal.  But all this is but to act on the external man by worldly power.'”

Rutherford’s assessment of his change of terminology respecting the issue may be a bit generous.  Many arguments he gives in The Due Right he refutes in The Divine Right.  Whatever be made of the change (or lack thereof) in Rutherford’s thought, his later works expressing that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is limited to the Church only represent his fullest, most qualified and mature thought on the subject, which categories and terminology he did not depart with the rest of his life in his later writings.



Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only


Burgess, Anthony  1664

An Expository Comment, Doctrinal, Controversial, and Practical upon the whole first chapter to the second epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Sermon 28, ‘Of the Dominion and Lordship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ’, p. 123 ff.

First, We are to consider that Christ has a two-fold Lordship, Kingdom or Dominion; The one divines call Natural and Essential; The other: Dispensatory and Mediatory.  The former He has as God, and so is Lord in the same sense, that the Father is Lord.  The second He has as He is Mediator, God-man; and therefore it is in some respects distinct from the former: God the Father is not Lord in that peculiar and proper respect as Christ is.  

For although that be true which divines say, that Christ’s natural or essential Kingdom, does virtually and eminently contain all that his Mediatory does, yet there is some formal respect to be made.  Now as Christ’s former Lordship and Dominion was natural and necessary, so this may in some sense be said to be given Him; or as the Scripture says, Acts 2:36, ‘He was made by the Father both Lord and Christ,’ appointed to be the Lord and the Head of his Church:  Not that this does anyway evacuate his divine nature; as if because He were made Lord, that therefore He was not so essentially, for nothing was given Christ to perfect Him; what He received of his Father in time, did only manifest that He was God: for none can be Lord and Head of his Church, but He who is truly God.  If therefore as He is Media∣tor, it be said to be given Him to be Lord, and to have a name above all names, yet this does not deny but prove his divine nature, because none but God can have such power, and do such things.

Secondly, This Official, or Mediatory Kingdom has its degrees; it is militant and triumphant.  Militant, and so the Lord Christ has not as yet subdued all his enemies under his feet; it does not follow, that Christ is not Lord, because every thing is not wholly conquered, because there is sin and the Devil working still.  For as David was King, although still there was a great part to be conquered by him; he was king at Hebron, when he was not made King over Israel, yet he had a right to all, before he was in actual possession:  So it is with our Lord Christ, He is made Lord over all, only there is time required, to bring all things in subjection to Him.

And as for his triumphant and consummate Kingdom or Lordship, that will be at the Day of Judgement; when having saved all his people, and overcome all their enemies, then He shall take the triumph of all his victories.  And here we may take notice how to understand that difficult place, 1 Cor. 15:24,25, where Christ is said, After all enemies are subdued, to deliver up his Kingdom to the Father.  

The Socinians urge that, to show that his Dominion and Kingdom will be but for a season, whereas the Scripture in many other places, makes his Kingdom to be without end, Lk. 1:32,33.  To reconcile this therefore you must know that the apostle does there speak of Christ’s Kingdom as it is militant, and in respect of that Dominion and Government, which now Christ uses in his Church, not in respect of the Lordship and Dominion itself, Christ shall never cease to be the King and Lord of his people; only that manner of government, which now Christ exercises shall cease, all ordinances and administrations, the ministry and sacraments, yea all magistracy and civil power, that God might be all in all; for then we shall not mediately by Christ approach unto God, as we do here, but immediately, yet so as all glory and honor will redound to Christ.


Fourthly, this lordly power which Christ has, extends to all things in the world, He is Lord over the whole world.  He is the universal Monarch; for God has given Him all the kingdoms of the world, Rev. 11:15.  The kingdoms of this world are there said to become the Lord’s, and of his Christ: Yea in some sense this great Dominion is given to every saint, Rev. 2:26.  To have power over all nations, even as He has received of the Father.  Hence it is said, John 5:22, that the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son; not that the Father has wholly abdicated Himself from the government of the world, as the Socinians say, but because Christ as Mediator is subordinate unto him in this administration.  Christ therefore has an universal power over the whole world;

And whereas learned men say, One man cannot be universal governor over the whole world, much less over the Church, because no man can have those qualifications fit for to discharge that government: yet in Christ this does not hold, because He is God as well as man; but this Dominion of Christ, in respect of his Church, is of another nature than that of the world, for He rules the world with a rod of iron, breaking every thing to pieces that shall prejudice his Church: So that this power over them is wholly coactive [coercive], as they do not willingly own or submit to Him as a Lord; so He does by his omnipotent power keep them under, and makes them servants and vassals for his work, and to bring about such glorious ends, which they never intended, or shall have any benefit by, as those that built Noah’s Ark, were not preserved in it.  

But to his Church, there He holds out a scepter of grace.  For as they do willingly own him as their King, submitting to his order and laws; so He takes special care over them, and they may more safely lay themselves down under his protection, than under the greatest Potentate in the world.


The Magistrate’s Commission from Heaven, declared in a sermon preached Sept. 28, 1644  ToC



Burroughs, Jeremiah  1647

Gospel Worship, Sermon 13, p. 273

Prayer is a great ordinance; a great duty of worship that sanctifies all; prayer has a casting voice (as I may say) in all the great works of God in the world, the great affairs of the Kingdom of God: the Kingdom of his Power, and the Kingdom of Christ.  I say prayer has a kind of a casting voice, and does order under God the great things of the world…



Cheynell, Francis  1650

The Divine Trinunity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, ch. 9, pp. 347-9

Finally, the Kingdom which is administered by our royal Mediator, God-man, in a glorious way, is but a dispensatory kingdom, not his natural Kingdom, an inferior [subordinate] and temporary Kingdom, not his sovereign essential eternal Kingdom; and therefore even in the very administration of it, our Mediator, God-man, is in respect of order and that gracious dispensation unto which He condescended for our salvation, employed in a kind of subordinate way; and when He has accomplished that work for which He undertook this royal office, He will refine this dispensatory Kingdom and become subject (as man, and as Head of that body which He has purchased) to his Father, Himself, and the Holy Spirit, as one God, blessed forever, that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). For as we are Christ’s, so Christ is God’s (1 Cor. 3:23), in that safe sense and subordinate way which we have but even now declared, that the divinity of Christ (which humbled and, as it were, emptied itself in the administration of this subordinate, temporary and dispensatory Kingdom, yet with the preservation of its natural and eternal right) may be more gloriously manifested by the full possession, use, and enjoyment of that natural, divine, eternal kingdom, which does belong to Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  For all three co-essential and co-equal persons reign with the same power, majesty, and glory in the unity of the divine essence and common acts in all and over all, infinitely and immutably from everlasting to everlasting; although the natural reign of Jesus Christ will not be so fully and gloriously manifested until He has resigned his dispensatory Kingdom, and brought all his elect, notwithstanding all their wants, sins, infirmities, temptations, trials, enemies, safe to heaven. This dispensatory kingdom is administered principally by the Godhead, instrumentally by the manhood, absolutely and perfectly by the person of Christ acting in a divine way as God, and human way as man, that the properties of each nature may be reserved as peculiar to each, even while He does mediate, reign and judge, according to both; and therefore divine honor is still reserved as proper and peculiar to the divine nature of our Mediator, who is God-man in one person.

This definite and dispensatory Kingdom is changeable and terminable; it did begin with the first foundation, and will end with the perfection of the Church of God.  Christ was a Mediator from all eternity in the decree of God. He was actually given to be a Mediator as soon as necessity required, He was manifested in the flesh in the fullness of time, and will cease to be a King in this mediatorial and dispensatory Kingdom when He has finished his work, and saved his Church.  Now nothing is more clear than this, that Christ is now subject to his Father in all respects, in which He shall be declared to be subject when He gives up his dispensatory Kingdom; and we are not to worship Jesus Christ with divine worship as He is subject to his Father, but as he is equal to his Father, as He is indeed one God with his Father and the Holy Ghost.

3. Christ may be considered as Head of that body unto which He has united Himself, and which He has purchased with his dearest blood; and so we know Christ the Head, and his body the Church, make up one Christ-mystical. The glory of Christ as a Head is exceeding great, and is excellently described (Eph. 1:20-23). Christ is set at God’s own right hand in heavenly places far above all principality, power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.

‘And has put all things under his feet and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of Him that fills all in all.’

Now Christ mystical the Head and body, whole Christ-mystical is to be subjected to God, when the mediatorial and dispensatory Kingdom is resigned; and therefore if you take Christ, as the apostle does (1 Cor. 12:12), for the Head and body, for Christ-mystical, we say that Head and members are to be subject to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as one God, blessed forever.




The Divine Right of Church Government  by sundry London ministers during the time of the Westminster Assembly  1646  (this edition 1844)  A number of the authors were Westminster divines

Part 1

Ch. 1

Jesus Christ our Mediator has the government (both of the Church, and of all things for the Church) laid upon his shoulder, Isa. ix. 6, and to that end has all power in heaven and earth given to him, Matth. xxviii. 18, John v. 22, Ephes. i. 22. But lapsed man (being full of pride, Psal. x. 2, 4, and enmity against the law of God, Rom. viii. 7) is most impatient of all government of God and of Christ, Ps. ii. 1, 2, 3, with Luke xix. 14, 27; whence it comes to pass, that the governing and kingly power of Christ has been opposed in all ages, and especially in this of ours, by quarrelsome queries, wrangling disputes, plausible pretences, subtle policies, strong self-interests, and mere violent willfulness of many in England, even after they are brought under the oath of God to reform church government according to the Word of God.  Yet it will be easily granted that there should be a government in the Church of God…

Ch. 2, section 2

And here we are further to consider, that church government is either, 1. Magisterial, lordly, and supreme; and so it is primitively and absolutely in God, Matt. xxviii. 18.  Dispensatorily and mediatorily in Jesus Christ our Mediator only, whom God has made both Lord and Christ, Acts ii. 36; Matt, xxiii. 8, 10; 1 Cor. viii. 6, and to whom God alone hath dispensed all authority and power, Matt, xxviii. 18, 19; John v. 22. Now church government, as settled on Christ only, is monarchical…

Ch. 3

Ecclesiastical power is either supreme and magisterial; or subordinate and ministerial.

I. Supreme magisterial power, consisting in a lordly dominion and sovereignty over the Church; and may come under a double consideration, viz:

1. As it is justly attributed to God alone. Thus the absolute sovereignty and supreme power (to speak properly) is only his over the Church, and all creatures in the whole universe: now this supreme divine power is either essential or mediatorial.

1. Essential, viz. that power which belongs to the essence of God, and to every person of the Trinity in common, as God. “His kingdom ruleth over all,” Psal. ciii. 19. “God ruleth in Jacob to the ends of the earth,” Psal. lix. 13. “The kingdom is the Lord’s, and he is the Governor among the nations,” Psal. xxii. 28.

2. Mediatorial, viz. that magisterial, lordly, and sovereign power or dominion, which God hath dispensed, delegated, or committed to Christ as Mediator, being both head of the Church, and over all things to the Church. This power is peculiar only to Jesus Christ our Mediator. “All power is given to me both in heaven and in earth,” Matt. xxviii. 18. “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand,” John iii. 35. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son,” John v. 22. “One is your Master, even Christ,” Matt. xxiii. 8, 10. “God hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the Church,” Eph. i. 20-23.—This power of Christ is the only proper fountain whence all ecclesiastical power flows to the Church.


Ch. 5 

As the Scripture is the rule of church government, so Christ is the sole root and fountain whence it originally flows; therefore, it is said in the description, church government is a power or authority, derived from Jesus Christ our Mediator.  Take it in this proposition, viz:

Jesus Christ our Mediator has all authority and power in heaven and in earth, for the government of his Church, committed unto him from God the Father. This is clearly evident,


Section II

3d. From the different causes of these two powers, viz. efficient, material, formal, and final; in all which they are truly distinguished from one another, as may plainly appear by this ensuing parallel:

1. They differ in their efficient cause or author, whence they are derived. Magistratical power is from God, the Creator and Governor of the world, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4; and so belongs to all mankind, heathen or Christian;  Ecclesiastical power is peculiarly from Jesus Christ our Mediator, Lord of the Church, (who hath all power given him, and the government of the Church laid upon his shoulder, as Eph. i. 22; Matt. xxviii. 18, compared with Isa. ix. 16.) See Matt. vi. 19, and xviii. 18, and xxviii. 19, 20; John xx. 21-23; 2 Cor. x. 8: and consequently belongs properly to the Church, and to them that are within the Church, 1 Cor. v. 12, 13. Magistratical power in general is the ordinance of God, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4; but magistratical power in particular, whether it should be monarchical in a king, aristocratical in states, democratical in the people, &c., is of men, called, therefore, a human creature, or creation, 1 Pet. ii. 13; but ecclesiastical power, and officers in particular, as well as general, are from Christ, Matt. xvi. 19, and xxviii. 18-20; Tit. iii. 10; 1 Cor. v. 13; 2 Cor. ii.  For officers, see Eph. iv. 11, 12; 1 Cor. xii. 28.

Argum. 5th. The civil magistrate, as such, is not properly subordinate to Christ’s mediatory kingdom; therefore is not the receptacle of church power from Christ. Hence thus:

Major. Whatsoever formal power of church government Christ committed to any, He committed it only to those that were properly subordinate to his mediatory kingdom. For whatsoever ecclesiastical ordinance, office, power, or authority, Christ gave to men, he gave it as Mediator and Head of the Church, by virtue of his mediatory office; and for the gathering, edifying, and perfecting of his mediatory kingdom, which is his Church, Eph. iv. 7, 10-12. Therefore such as are not properly subordinate to Christ in this his office, and for this end, can have no formal church power from Christ.

Minor. But no magistrate, as a magistrate, is subordinate properly to Christ’s mediatory kingdom. For,

1. Not Christ the Mediator, but God the Creator authorizeth the magistrate’s office, Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 6.

2. Magistracy is never styled a ministry of Christ in Scripture, nor dispensed in his name.

3. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world, John xviii. 36; the magistrate’s is.



Featley, Daniel  1645

The English Annotations  1645  See here for an introduction to this commentary.  6 of the 11 commentators were Westminster divines, and thus the commentary became popularly to be known as the Westminster Annotations

On 1 Cor. 15:24

‘delivered up the Kingdom to God’  

Christ has a double Kingdom:

1. Essential, as God, and this Christ possesses with his Father and the Spirit forever.

2. Economical, as Mediator between God and Man; and this Kingdom which He received from his Father, He shall surrender up again to his Father after He has subdued sin and death, and put all his enemies under his feet.

‘put down all rule’  

Or, ‘made frustrate[d]’, or, ‘taken away’.  That is, all his enemies, which shall be spoiled of all the power they have.


On Eph. 1:21-23

‘every name that is named’

Above every thing whatsoever it be, or above all persons, be they of never such power or excellency.  Honorable and famous men are called men of name, and the Name of the Lord is often taken in Scripture for the Lord Himself (Phil. 2:9).  The apostle’s meaning is, that Christ, even as man, is exalted, not only above all States and Potentates upon earth, but also all angels and archangels in heaven.

‘and has put all things under his feet’  

See Ps. 8:6; 1 Cor. 15:25

‘head over all things to the Church’  

Christ is said to be the Head of the Church in three respects especially:

First, in that He is above the Church, and rules it, as the head guides the body.

Secondly, because He conveys life into it, as the head does to the members.

Thirdly, because He provides for it, as the head does for the members, and participates in the same nature with it, as the head does with the members.

‘the fullness of Him that fills all in all’

The love of Christ is so great to the Church, that though He does fully satisfy all with all things, yet He esteems Himself but as a maimed and imperfect head, unless He have the Church joined to Him as his body.




Gillespie, George  


ed. Mitchell & Struthers, Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1874) p. 307-8

Session 752 – December 4, 1646 – Friday morning

Report was made of the remaining part of the Confession of Faith by Dr. Burges.

Upon a motion by Mr. Gillespie for an alteration in the chapt[er] about the Civil Magistrate [ch. 23], and upon debate it was:

Resolved upon the Q [the final edition of the Confession], ‘That in the said chapter for the word “Christ,” the word “God,” shall be put in three places.’  Dr. Burges enters his dissent.

Memorandum-‘This vote was not intended to determine the controversy about the subordination of the Civil Magistrate to Christ as Mediator.’ 



All of Gillespie’s Writings on Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is the Church Only  110 pp.  ed. Travis Fentiman

2 paragraphs at the end of Argument 1 in ‘That Excommunication and other Church Censures are Appointed by Jesus Christ, and that Church Officers are Appointed by Him to dispense these censures’ in Notes of Debates and Proceedings of the Assembly of Divines and other Commissioners at Westminster

“There is no date assigned in Gillespie’s MS to these arguments, but they were probably occasioned by [John] Seldon’s statements on 20th February 1644 in regard to the discussions on Matthew ch. 18 which are at page 25.  See at a later date, pages 91-95.” – Editor




William Gouge  1626  

Gouge was a member of the Westminster Assembly.  A Guide to Go to God: or, An explanation of the perfect pattern of prayer, the Lords prayer, London, 1626, p. 48

Q: How does God reign as King?

1. By his absolute power He reigns over the whole world.
2. By his special grace He reigns over his Church.

1.  He has a universal kingdom, called his kingdom of power: because by his absolute and supreme power he over-rules all creatures whatsoever, or wheresoever they be.  In regard of this universal sovereignty of God, the Scripture says, “His kingdom rules over all.  For who has resisted his will?” And therefore he says unto God, “How terrible art thou in thy works?  Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves to Thee”.

2.  He has a particular kingdom, called his kingdom of Grace, whereby He reigns over a select people called out of the world, which voluntarily yield obedience unto him.  The company of this people is in one word the Church: and it is a society chosen of God, redeemed by Christ, called and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, which has been in all ages of the world, some in heaven, others on earth spread over the face thereof far and near: in which respect it is styled the holy catholic Church.  This is properly the kingdom of Christ, in, and by whom the Father reigns.  For it is said that “a kingdom was given to the son of man” [Dan. 7:13-14]: Of whom saith the Father, “I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion” [Ps. 2]whose “people shall be willing in the day of his power” [Ps. 110].



Henderson, Alexander  1643

‘A Sermon Preached to the Honorable House of Commons at their late solemn fast, Wed. Dec. 27, 1643’, on Ezra 7:23, in Sermons of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643-1645), p. 88

not that any mortal man whether Pope or Prince, can be properly head of the church, or vicegerent unto Christ the Mediator in his special and economical kingdom of grace.  For princes are vicegerents to God, and to his Son Jesus Christ as He is God, in his universal kingdom of providence



John Jackson  1640 

The Key of Knowledge

The Third Form of Knowledge, or the Fathers Catechism

That whereas God’s kingdom is three-fold, of power, of grace, and of glory, we pray that the kingdom of his power may come upon us, the kingdom of his grace may come into us, and for the kingdom of his glory, that we may come into it.




Leigh, Edward  1654

‘On Christ’s Kingly Office’, in his System or Body of Divinity, Book 5, Ch. 4, pp. 420-423  1654

A System or Body of Divinity, 1654, Book 8, Ch. 6, ‘Of the Lord’s Prayer’, p. 643

‘Thy Kingdom come.’

This word ‘come’ is diversely to be expounded according to the diverse significations of the Kingdom of God.  

The universal Kingdom, or Kingdom of Power is said to come when it is manifested and made apparent that all things are guided by the power and providence of God.  

The Kingdom of Grace is said to come unto us when it is either begun and erected in us, or continued and increased amongst us.  

The Kingdom of Glory, when the number of the elect is accomplished, and all God’s enemies subdued, and all the saints possessed of that glorious place.

‘Kingdom’ in general is a government or state of men, wherein one rules and others are subject to him for their good.  The Kingdom of God is a state in which God has supreme power and men are so subject to Him that they partake of eternal happiness by it.

‘To come’ properly notes a motion whereby a man goes from one place to another.

Five things are meant in this petition:

1. Let the Gospel, the Scepter of this Kingdom be published and propagated.

2. Let the Subjects of this Kingdom be converted.

3. Let the graces of this Kingdom be increased.

4. Let the enemies of this Kingdom be subdued.

5. Let the glory of this Kingdom be hastened.

Christ’s Kingdom is two-fold:

1.  His Universal Kingdom by which He rules over all creatures, even the devils themselves, called the Kingdom of power and providence, so He is called King of Nations, Jer. 10:7.

2.  Peculiar, his Mediatory Kingdom, which He exercises over his Church as King of Saints, Rev. 5:3, which is such an order, wherein Christ does rule, and the faithful obey to their special good and benefit, or that government in which God most graciously rules, and we most willingly obey to our everlasting good.



Ley, John  1645

The English Annotations  1645  See here for an introduction to this commentary.  6 of the 11 commentators were Westminster divines, and thus the commentary became popularly to be known as the Westminster Annotations

On Matt 28:18

‘All power’

Absolute power without restraint and limitation, all dominion and authority to rule and govern.

‘is given unto Me’

God the Father has given it to Me; and I have now received it as man, who as God had the same power with the Father from eternity (Phil. 2:7) and now unto Me did He give the same in the fullness of time: now I have put off the form of a servant, wherein I was to suffer death for man’s redemption; therein I was obedient, but now God has highly exalted Me, and given Me a name above every name, etc.  Phil. 2:8, etc.

‘in heaven’

Which comprehends power of sending the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:33, power over angels, Phil. 2:10; Heb. 1:4; Col. 1:16, power to give heaven to all his, Mt. 25:3-4.

‘in earth’

Power to gather a Church out of all nations, Ps. 2:8; Mk. 16:15-16, and to rule over all.  See Acts 10:36,42; Eph. 1:20-22; Rev. 17:14; Dan. 7:14.



Reynolds, Edward  1632

The Shields of the Earth: A Sermon on Ps. 47:9  1634

An Exposition of the 110th Psalm, 1632, p. 7 ff.

But we must here distinguish between Regnum naturale, Christ’s natural Kingdom which belongs unto Him as God co-essential, and coeternal with his Father, and Regnum oeconomicum, his Dispensatory Kingdom, as He is Christ the Mediator, which was his, not by nature, but by donation and unction from his Father, that He might be the Head of his Church, a Prince of Peace and a King of Righteousness unto his people.  In which respect He had conferred upon Him all such meet qualifications as might fit him for the dispensation of this Kingdom.

5.  …He has honored Him with many ambassadors, and servants to negotiate the affairs of his Kingdom, some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministery, and for the edifying of his Body, 2 Cor. 5.20. Eph. 4:11,12

6.  He has given Him the souls and consciences of men even to the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, and for the territories of his Kingdom, Ps. 2:8; Jn. 17:6.

7. He has given Him a power concerning the laws of his Church.  A power to make laws, the Law of Faith, (as St. Paul calls it, Rom. 3:27) Mark. 16.15, 16.  A power to expound Laws, as the moral Law, Matt. 5. A power to abrogate Lawes, as the Law of Ordinances, Col. 2.14.

8. He hath given him a power of judging and condemning enemies, Ioh. 5.27. Luk. 19.27.

Lastly, He has given Him a power of remitting sins, and sealing pardons, which is a royal prerogative, Matt 9:6; Jn. 20:23.  And these things belong unto Him as He is as well Man as God, Jn. 5:27.  For the works of Christ’s mediation were of two sorts:

Opera ministerii, workes of service, and ministry, for He took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was a Minister of the Circumcision, Phil. 2:8; Rom. 15:8, and

Opera Potestatis, works of authority and government in the Church.  ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and earth,’ Matt 28:18.

The quality of this Kingdom is not temporal or secular, over the natural lives or civil negotiations of men; He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, his Kingdom was not of this world, He disclaimed any civil power in the distribution of lands and possessions, He withdrew Himself from the people when by force they would have made him a king, and Himself, that in this point He might give none offence, payed tribute unto Caesar, Matt 20:28; Jn. 18:36; Lk. 12:13,14; Jn. 6:15; Matt 17:27.  

But his Kingdom is Spiritual, and heavenly over the souls of men, to bind and loose the conscience, to remit and retain sins, to awe and overule the hearts, to captivate the affections, to bring into obedience the thoughts, to subdue and pull down strong holds, to break in pieces his enemies with an iron rod, to hew and slay them with the words of his mouth, to implant fearfulness and astonishment in the hearts of hypocrites, and to give peace, security, protection and assurance to his people.


Rutherford, Samuel   late 1644-1646


A Peaceable & Temperate Plea...  (1642), ch. 19, Question 10, pp. 294-308

Lex Rex…  (1644), Question 42, ‘Whether all Christian Kings are Dependant from Christ, and may be called his Vice-Regents’, pp. 210-16

Divine Right of Church Government...  (1646), ch. 23, Question 19, p. 509 ff., 539 ff., 547 ff., 563 ff., 600-14

The Covenant of Life Opened, pp. 82-85

This section shows that Rutherford only considered nations to have a federal holiness about them (and thus in the Mediatorial Kingdom) insofar as the were brought into professing membership in the Church and baptized.



A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience, Ch. 17, pp. 223-4

“Objection:  How then does the magistrate, as the magistrate, serve Christ, Mediator in punishing Gospel heretics, and bringing his kingly honor to the new Jerusalem, and casting his crown down at the feet of the Lamb?

Answer: The magistrate, as the magistrate (should we speak accurately in such an intricate debate) does not serve Christ as Mediator, for then all magistrates, heathen and Indian, were obliged to serve Him, as the axiom proves: Quod convenit, convenit.  But the magistrate, as such a magistrate, lustered with Christianity punishes Gospel heretics, and sins against his magistratical office if he do not so: for Christianity spiritualizes the exercise of marital, paternal, magistratical power, and elevates them above their common nature in Christian husbands, fathers, magistrates, which it cannot do in all husbands, as husbands; fathers, as fathers; magistrates, as magistrates: even suppose they be heathens, Quod non ni est non operatur.

Objection: But why then may not a Christian magistrate, as a Christian , if not as a magistrate be a vicar of Christ?


1.  Because Christ as Mediator, has no vicars, nor sub-mediators, and so the minister, or the Christian magistrate as the Christian magistrate, cannot be the vicar of Christ.

2.  Because the Christian Magistrate, as the Christian Magistrate, and even lustered with Christianity, which is not in every Magistrate, yet operatur in externals and only can as a Christian Magistrate proceed according as the heresy is proved by witness, or confessed, and obstinately maintained by the Heretic, and all this is external, and doth but externally, and in external means promove the Church’s spiritual good, and the mediatory Kingdom, and it is such a promoving as Christ may well want, though ordinarily he cannot want pastors and teachers.

Question:  But does not the Mediator Christ, as Mediator, promove his Mediatory Kingdom in, and through the Christian prince, as his instrument, subordinate to him as Mediator?

Answer: Not at all, for Christ uses the Christian magistrate as his servant to beat the wolves from the flock, but not as King, Mediator as God-man, Head of the Church, for Christ Mediator as Mediator, works not by external violence, or, by the sword, in his mediatory Kingdom (John 16:36), “If my Kingdom were of this world, mine own would fight for me.”  Therefore, it is but borrowed accidental help and service, that Christ has in his mediatory Kingdom, from kings, He works not as Mediator by fighting. Christ who is Mediator qui est Mediator acts by believing kings, not quâ Mediator as He is Mediator, the sword may procure good and peace to the mystical visible body, and immunity from spiritual errors. But this is a means to Christ as Mediator in the by, and at some times, not such as is the ministry of the word, 2 Cor. 10:5, which is spiritual not carnal: though ministers be not sub-mediators, yet Christ as Mediator works and conquers in them, and by them.”



Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom is Over All Things

Only Presbyterian (and not Erastian) divines are included


Burges, Cornelius  1646

ed. Mitchell & Struthers, Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1874) p. 307-8

Session 752 – December 4, 1646 – Friday morning

Report was made of the remaining part of the Confession of Faith by Dr. Burges.

Upon a motion by Mr. Gillespie for an alteration in the chapt[er] about the Civil Magistrate [ch. 23], and upon debate it was:

Resolved upon the Q [the final edition of the Confession], ‘That in the said chapter for the word “Christ,” the word “God,” shall be put in three places.’  Dr. Burges enters his dissent.

Memorandum-‘This vote was not intended to determine the controversy about the subordination of the Civil Magistrate to Christ as Mediator.’



Case, Thomas  1645

The following quote by Case is disputed by George Gillespie.  Gillespie argues that a Kingdom over civil governments as His vice-regents may be said to be ‘given’ to Christ as the Son of God at the Ascension:

(1) Not essentially as God (by which nothing can be given to Him), but Personally, in that all divine attributes, including omnipotence, are derived from the Father to Christ in his being eternally begotten. 

(2) Being eternally begotten in eternity is paralleled in the history of redemption in the Son of God rising from the dead.  The ‘giving’ of Christ of all authority (Mt. 28:28) is in the sense of Christ’s divine power being made manifest to all (Acts 13:33-34; Rom. 1:4).

There is much more to Gillespie’s view of Mt. 28:18 than this, but the two interpretative points he makes about the possibility of interpreting Case seem to be fairly common to Gillespie’s era and that from the late 1500’s and early 1600’s (Gillespie quotes numerous reformed theologians to document this).  David McKay, who has assessed Gillespie on this topic, leaves the interpretation of the quote by Case below undetermined (An Ecclesiastical Republic, p. 51).  Case has been put here to be generous to the view that Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom includes civil governments.

A Sermon Preached before the Honorable House of Commons at Westminster, Aug. 22, 1645, being the day appointed for their solemn Thanksgiving unto God for his several mercies to the forces of Parliament… on Isa. 43:14 (London, 1645), p. 26, as quoted in W.D.J. McKay, An Ecclesiastical Republic: Church Government in the Writings of George Gillespie (Rutherford House, 1997), p. 51

‘He [Christ] is King of Nations, and King of Saints:

As King of Nations, He has a Temporal Kingdom and Government over the world now He is in heaven, though He exercised not such a Kingdom while He was on earth; the Father having now given Him all power both in heaven and earth; and the rule and Regiment of this Kingdom He has committed to Monarchies, Artistocracies, or Democracies

But Christ is also the King of Saints: as He has an inward and Spiritual government in the conscience, which is only his throne; so He has an outward kingdom, which He does visibly exercise in his Church.’



Marshall, Stephen

The Power of the Civil Magistrate in Matters of Religion Vindicated & the extent of his power determined, a Sermon  1657  ed. Giles Firmin 

pp. 2-3

1. Question  Whether the Lord has committed to the these Magistrates the Care of Religion

2. Question If so, what he has committed to them in his behalf?

To the first I answer affirmatively, and thus I prove it:

 Fourthly, because Jesus Christ as Mediator, has the Kingdom and the power: He is head and ruler over all for the Church’s good, Eph. 1:22.  Therefore all being under Him, must be subservient to Him and his ends, Prov. 8:15,16.  ‘By Me kings reign, etc.,’ which is meant of Christ, v. 23.  ‘I was set up from everlasting.’  The Hebrew word is the same with Psalm 2:6.  ‘I have set [anointed] my King.’  Uncius, regno inauguratas sum, Princeps constitutus sum.

p. 11, [Giles Firmin the editor is writing]:

Our Author [S. Marshall] has given seven reasons to prove the latter, and I doubt not but they will appear to be seasons to rational men: Some scruple there may be about the fourth [point, above], which was the cause why he would not print his sermon, as I have hinted in my epistle to the reader.  

But yet to clear our Author, this I will say for him, he did not intend to side with Mr. Coleman and Mr. Hussey, in their judgment about the civil magistrate [who were Erastians], i.e. that, Jesus Christ as Mediator has substituted and given commission to the Christian magistrate to govern the Church in subordination to Him, or that he is a governor in the Church, vice Christi [in the place of Christ].  There Mr. Gillespie oppose[s].  I never heard him [Marshall] publicly, nor privately own any such thing, that text in Eph. 1:22, which he quotes, lead him (with other texts) to what he has said.  

That text he handled largely in the country upon the lecture days, and while I viewed over some notes I took from him, I saw enough to convince me he was far from their [the Erastians’] judgment.  I will give the reader a taste.  For his Analysis:

[Stephen Marshall:] “There is a double dominion Christ has by sitting at the right hand of his Father, ver. 20.  1. A dominion over all creatures.  2. Over his Church.  

The first is laid down in three expressions.  

1. He has lifted Him up above all, etc.
2. Put all under his feet.
3. Gave him to be Head over all.

The second is laid down in two expressions.

First, that He has a headship over this as his body: a political Head He is to all, but they are not his body as his Church, to which He is, q.d. a natural Head.  

Secondly, it is his fullness.

Again, these two dominions are laid down under a double consideration:

First, what they are simply in themselves.

Secondly, what they are in relation one to another.  

What is it to the Church that Christ is head of the world?  and what to the world that He is head over the Church, what are they better or worse?  He has given Him to be head over all things to the Church.  The same relation then that there is between medium and finis: the Church has not only more of his heart and love, but all subservient to his Church; were it not for his Church, He would not foul his fingers with the world.  Then [Marshall] drew up a general doctrine.

Doctrine.  Christ having finished the work of our redemption, has now committed to Him the Dominion and Lordship over all creatures.

One distinction I must premise.  A double title Christ has to this Lordship. 

First, Natural, as the second person of the Trinity, this is his essential right, and not meant here.

Secondly, Delegated, as Mediator, given as a reward of his sufferings: this is a power immediately to execute, the sovereign authority over the creature.  This power because some question, I will prove: Rom. 14:9; Matt 28:18; Phil. 2:6-11; Ps. 8:4, compared with Heb. 2:6-8, besides prophetical predictions, etc.

Then he [Marshall] opened, wherein this dominion stood: his third head was this.  There are constituted by Christ, powers, gifts, authorities, omnes species magistratus: and all governments, what power soever they have, is from Him.  His Church-officers do not belong to this.’

[Firmin:] Thus much he [Marshall].  Whence, if the magistrate and the Church-officer come under different dominions of Christ as Mediator, then though he does maintain the magistrate to be under Christ as Mediator, receive his power from Him, etc. yet it will not follow that he [the civil magistrate] governs the Church vice-Christi [in the place of Christ], for the Church, for the Church officer comes under another dominion.

When Gregory of Naz. would asswage the anger of the president and told him that he did not rule with Christ, govern the commonwealth with Christ, that he received his sword from Christ, etc.  I know not but he meant Christ as Emmanuel our Mediator, but yet Gregory did not think the president ruled the Church under Christ.  Yet hence will follow what our author [Marshall] does infer.  That since the magistrate is thus under Christ, that it is his duty to take care of Christ’s Church, and do what in him lie that his master Christ be set up in his dominions, for the Church, for the Church is that [which] He minds more than Commonwealths, and these for the sake of that.



Rutherford, Samuel  early in 1644

Rutherford’s Catechism (Blue Banner, 1998), pp. 36-9, unknown date 

Chapter 17, Of His Kingdom

Q. Who called Christ to be king?

A. His Father put the crown upon his head; He entered not to the throne by violence, blood, or tyranny (Ps. 2:6; Dan. 2:44; Lk. 1:32).

Q. But is not Christ a king for ever?

A. As God He needed not receive a kingdom, but as mediator his Father gifted Him with a kingdom to Him and all his heirs.

Q. What comfort have you in this?

A. Christ has loved us, who thought He could not keep heaven or his own kingdom, but would needs leave his Father’s house to come down and seek us poor slaves.

Q. How many kingdoms has Christ as mediator?

A. Three, a kingdom of power, of grace, of glory.

Q. What is Christ’s kingdom of power?

A. The hand of Christ’s power coming in and bearing up the whole frame of nature tottering and like[ly] to fall to nothing through Adam’s sin (Gal. 1:17; Heb. 1:2).

Q. What are the works of Christ in the kingdom of grace?

A. As the only head and king of the kirk, He gives law to his kirk (Isa. 6:9; 22:22; Heb. 3:6), gathers his subjects, and rules over their conscience by the sceptre of his sword (Ps. 45:3; Rev. 1:16; 6:2-4), He rewards his subjects (Eph. 4:8; Lk. 23:43; Rev. 3:21), and makes all his enemies his footstool (Ps. 110:5; 2:9; 72:9; Mt. 25:34; P. 69:28; Isa. 32:1).

Q. What properties are in Christ as king?

A. First, power and authority to do what He pleases, having feet like fine brass burning like fire, showing that where He sets down his feet He will go forward in despite of his enemies, and his power is seen in that the stiffest knees in heaven and earth shall bow to Him (Rom. 14:11; Zech. 9:10; Ps. 72:8; Dan. 7:14; Mt. 28:18).

Q. What is the second property?

A. He has wisdom, and is the stone with seven eyes full of knoweldge (Zech. 3:9), the counselor (Isa. 9:6), his head and hair like white wool, as white as snow, and his eyes like flaming fire, to show the He is an aged and most wise senator.

Q. What is the third property of this king?

A. Most glorious (Rev. 10:1; Ps. 45:8), for He that rides on the clouds has a rainbow on his head, his face as the sun, and his one foot stands on the sea and his other on the earth, at which time He stands upon his own ground.

Q. What is the fourth property?

A. He is most just in his government (Ps. 45:6,7; 72:2), for justice goes about Him as a belt or girdle (Isa. 11:5; 42:1-3).

Q. What are the properties of the kingdom?

A. It is spiritual over the conscience, the government spiritual, void of worldly pomp, the sceptre spiritual, the rewards given to his friends spiritual, and it is eternal (Lk. 1:33; Dan. 3:44).

Q. But will not Christ render the kingdom to this Father (1 Cor. 15)?

A. He does but make an accoumpt [account] of his conquesse [conquest] to his Father, and rules no more by the Word and sacraments as He does now.  

Q. When began Jesus to reign?

A. Even when the blessed seed was promised to Adam, but when He ascended to heaven He was as it were crowned and put in full possession of glory in the eyes of all (Mt. 28:18; Act 2:36; Phil. 2:9; Dan. 7:13,14).

Q. What is his kingdom of glory?

A. It is the full perfection of grace, where He shall be all in all to his saints.

Q. Came He to this kingdom by merit?

A. No, because He is born king, but He came to it by conquessing [conquest] it to Him and his.

Q. How makes He us kings?

A. When he gives us faith whereby we overcome the world (1 Jn. 5:4), and Satan and death, and by his Spirit He crucifies sin in us (Gal. 6:14; 2:20).


The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (1644), pt. 2, Appendix, pp. 401-3 & 445-8




Related Pages

The Extent of Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom

All of the Writings of the Westminster Divines Online by Topic

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The Establishment Principle

Against Separation from Impure Civil Governments


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