So Jeremiah 10 calls them to hear the word which Jehovah speaks unto the house of Israel. "Thus saith Jehovah, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Forasmuch as there is none like unto Thee, O Jehovah; Thou art great, and Thy name is great in might. Who would not fear Thee, O King of nations? "
Their idols are nothing; the only one to fear is God Himself. And here you observe that not only was the prophet Jeremiah a prophet to the nations, but the Lord Himself is called "King of nations" - another peculiarity of the Book of Jeremiah. The nations have their place in a broad scale in this prophecy; and I may observe here that this is the true idea in Revelation 15:3. There "King of saints" ought to read "King of nations."
There is no such notion in the scripture as King of saints. The relation that the Lord bears to saints is not King but Head, or Lord. He is never King, except in relation to Israel or to the nations.
The phrase in Rev. 15:3 is a quotation from Jeremiah 10:7. All the most ancient copies have the true word, namely, "King of nations." I only mention this in passing. It is more important to note as a distinction in Scotland than in England, because there the idea that the Lord Jesus is King of the church, or King of the saints, is exceedingly prevalent, and has been ever since the assembly of divines at Westminster committed themselves to that error. In my opinion it is a mistake of the most lowering character. It falsifies the present relation of the Lord Jesus Christ to His saints.
It is not that He is not Lord over them - that He is not their Lord. Not so. He is Lord, most surely, just as, no doubt, Sarah was quite right in calling her husband by that term. It is clear that the Spirit of God thinks so and records her reverence (1 Peter 3:6) for the consideration of others, but, nevertheless, it would have been a very poor and miserable thing if Abraham had been nothing to her but lord. No: Abraham was her husband, and Abraham had responsibilities towards Sarah, instead of Sarah merely having duties towards him. It is a very meagre way of looking at relationships if we only see one side of them, and that the side that suits us. No: relationship always implies moral duties, and the relationship of the Lord Jesus towards the saints is one not only of authority, which is perfectly true, but of love, of care, of cherishing, even as a man his own flesh.
Well now, such is not the case with a king. A king is not bound to cherish all his subjects as his own flesh. A king is not to give a portion to every subject in his kingdom. That would be ridiculous to expect. A king does give a worthy portion to his own daughters and his own sons. This is quite right and becoming, because of the family relation of the closest kind, and so there is between Christ and the saints. If I reduce the church merely to a nation, to a people, I make but a distant connection between them and Christ instead of the greatest intimacy, that exists according to all the counsels of God.
Thus in my judgment, therefore, you sap and mine the peculiar blessedness of the Christian if you make the relationship to be one of a king to a people instead of a head to a body. If I can look up to Christ as the Bridegroom of my soul and of the church; if I can look at Christ as not only my Lord but the Head from Whom every member derives nourishment, and upon Whom there is a claim of dependence to think for it and care for it and guide and direct it - such a view brings the greatest possible confidence in my love; and the more simple the faith, the greater the strength that results to the soul.
Whereas if I merely make Christianity a distant relationship - that of a people to a king, I sacrifice its choicest element. It is plain I may look for defence against foreign foes, but I must shift for myself for the most part in my own matters. The king does not think much about me or you and we cannot expect him to do so. I have no personal claim of nearness to the throne, and this distinction everybody understands. But in divine things, it has evil results. The idea of remoteness from Christ goes well with the idea of our being free to arrange our plans to our own liking, of our being left to arrange our own forms of government in the church.