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of absolute and eternal darkness. That world, hung round with fear, amazement, and despair, overcast with midnight, melancholy with solitude, desolate of every hope of real good, opens to him through the dreary passage of the grave. Beyond this entrance he sees nothing, he knows nothing, he can conjecture nothing, but what must fill his heart with alarm, and make his death-bed a couch of thorns. With a suspense, scarcely less terrible than the miseries of damnation itself, his soul lingers over the vast and desolate abyss; when, compelled by an unseen and irresistible hand, it plunges into this uncertain and irreversible doom, to learn by experience what is the measure of wo, destined to reward those, who obey not God, and reject the salvation proffered by his Son.
In such a situation what man, not yet lost to sense and thought, not yet convinced, that he has committed the sin which cannot be forgiven, would not hail with transport the dawn of the Gospel; the clear rising of the Sun of righteousness; to illumine his path through this melancholy world; to dispel the darkness of the grave; to shed a benevolent light upon the entrance into eternity, and brighten his passage to the heavens!
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.-HIS INTERCESSION.
HEBREWS vii. 24, 25.—But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchange
able priesthood. Wherefore he is able, also, to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by him ; seeing he ever liveth lo make intercession for them.
HAVING in a series of discourses examined, as far as I thought it necessary, the personal holiness of Christ; and his atonement for sin ; I shall now proceed in the order, originally proposed, to consider his Intercession.
In the first verse of the text, St. Paul declares, that Christ, in contradistinction to earthly high priests, has an unchangeable priesthood; or, as the original more exactly signifies, a priesthood which passeth not from one hand to another. In the last verse, he infers from this fact, that he is able to save his followers to the uttermost, because he ever lives to make intercession for them. The Intercession of Christ, therefore, is here declared to be real; to be made for his followers; and to be effectual to their salvation. Of course it claims, in a high degree, our serious attention.
To intercede denotes, originally, to go between one person and another. In its secondary, or figurative, sense, the only one in which it seems now to be used, it denotes offering petitions in behalf of another; and, in the Scriptures, offering such petitions to God. On this subject we have St. John as a Commentator, to direct us. If any man sin, says this Apostle, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. The original word, here translated addocate, is wagaxantos. It denotes either a person, who, in the Roman courts under the appellation of Patronus, attended a client, and in countenancing, advising, and interceding, for him, took an efficacious care of his interest: or an Agent of one of the States, either allied, or tributary, to Rome, who took a similar care of the interests of that State before the Roman Government, and interceded, from time to time, with the Emperor on its behalf, as those interests demanded. Such is one of the offices, assumed by Christ in the heavens.
It will be seen at a glance, that this subject is merely a Scriptural one. All our knowledge concerning it is derived from Revelation only. Reason can add nothing, but conjecture, to what the Scriptures have taught; and you are not now to learn, that additions of this nature are of very little value. The observations, which I propose to make concerning it, I shall arrange under the following heads.
I. The Character and Circumstances of those for whom Chriol intercedes :
II. The Manner, in which his intercession is performed.
1st. The text. Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him : seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. It cannot but be seen, that St. Paul speaks here of no other intercession, than that which is made for such as come unto God by Christ.
2dly. The passage already quoted from 1 John ii. 1, My little children, these things write 1 unto yoy, that ye sin not. And
if any I man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the right
persons who are here said to have an advocate with the Father, are the persons denoted by the word we: that is, St. John, and those to whom he writes; or whom he here styles little children: in other words, the children of God.
3dly. Romans viii. 34, Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died: yea rather, that has risen again : who is even at the right hand of God; wło, also, maketh intercession for us. The persons for whom Christ is here said to intercede, are those included in the word us; those, who in the preceding verse are called God's elect; and of whom it is said, that none shall hereafter be able to lay any thing to their charge; and of whom in the verses following it is declared, that nothing, whether present, or future, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I know of no passage in the Scriptures, which even seems to teach any other doctrine, except Isaiah liji. 12, And he made intercession for the transgressors. Of this passage I observe, first, that saints may be, and with the utmost propriety are, considered as designed by the word transgressors, in this place. Saints, both before and after their regeneration, are transgressors; and in this character, only, need the intercession of Christ.
Secondly, the murderers of Christ are very naturally designated, in this place, by transgressors: and the passage may be considered as a prophecy of the intercession, which he made for them on the cross.
In the same verse it is said, He was numbered with the transgressors: that is, with the thieves, between whom he was crucified; and with all the other capital criminals, condemned to the same death. All these were eminently transgressors; and with them he was numbered, or reckoned, when he was pronounced to have the same character, and sentenced to the same infamy and suffering. As the word transgressors denotes malefactors, or murderers, it the former of these clauses, it is very naturally understood to denote persons of the same character in the latter. In the former clause, also, the prophet speaks of one fact, which took place on the day of Christ's crucifixion: it is very naturally supposed, therefore, that he pursues the same subject through the verse, and that the intercession, mentioned by him, was made on the same day. If these remarks are just, the prophet may be fairly considered as predicting, in this passage, the prayer of Christ for his murderers:
, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do! This was a real and wonderful instance of intercession ; and was gloriously answered in the conversion of several thousands of these
persons to the faith and obedience of the Gospel. 2dly. The Children of God are, still
, the subjects of backsliding, and sin, in greater or less degrees, while they live. In
every child of God there still exists a law in his members, which wars against the law in his mind, and often brings him into captivity to the law sin, which is in his members. It is to be remembered, that all such sins are committed not only against the law, but against the grace, of God; and are aggravated by this high consideration. Originally, they were apostates; but afterwards they were reconciled to God by faith in the blood of his Son. For this unspeakable blessing their obligations to obedience are increased beyond measure. Against these obligations, and against their own solemn covenant, recognizing and enhancing them, they still have sinned. Their ingratitude, therefore, is peculiar, and all their transgressions are heightened by the amaz. ing consideration, that they have been redeemed, sanctified, and forgiven.
3dly. Notwithstanding their backslidings, they are not utterly
My mercy, saith God, will I keep for him for evermore ; and my covenant shall stand fast with him. His seed, also, will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my slatutes and keep not my commandments : Then will I visil their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my loving kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. Psalm lxxxix. 28–33. This is the universal language of the Scriptures concerning this subject. Persecuted, but not forsaken ; cast down, but not destroyed; perplexed, but not in despair ; chastened, but not killed. Such is the language of the Apostles; and such was their condition. Such, also, in various respects, is that of all their followers.
For the obliteration of the sins of persons, so circumstanced, it cannot be irrational to suppose, that some provision would be made by Him, who sent his Son to die for them; and who had promised in the covenant of Redemption, that they should endure for eder.
II. I shall consider the Manner, in which the Intercession of Christ is perforned.
On this subject I observe,
1st. Some of the ancients were of opinion, that Christ erecutes this office by presenting, continually, his human nature before the throne of his Father. Aquinas, also, a more modern writer, says, “ Christ intercedes for us by exhibiting, with a desire of our salvation, to the view of the Father, the human nature assumed for us, and the mysteries celebrated, or accomplished, in it."
It will be admitted on all hands, that Christ does thus exhibit his human nature in the heavens; nor can it be denied, that this is a continual exhibition of what he has done, and suffered for the glory of his Father, and the salvation of his Church. All this was done by him in the human nature ; which is, therefore, an unceasing and affecting symbol of his wonderful labours for these great ends. The same exhibition is, also, a strong and constant memorial of his own love to his followers, and his earnest desires that they may be forgiven and saved. These desires, therefore, together with these labours and sufferings, being all forcibly exhibited in this presentation of his human nature before the throne of the Majesty in the heavens ; it is, I think, a well-founded opinion, that in this manner, the intercession of Christ is, partially at least, performed. In support of this opinion, we are to remember that the high priest, whose intercession was a type of that of Christ, made this intercession, not by offering prayers for the people in the most holy placebut by sprinkling the blood of sacrifices on the mercy-seat. As the blood of the sacrifice was here presented before God by way of intercession; so Christ is considered as presenting the memorials of his sacrifice before God in the heavens: and as the high priest by this act opened to the Israelites the earthly holy places; so Christ is considered as in the like manner opening the heavenly holy places to his own followers for ever.
2dly. Christ pleads, substantially, for the forgiveness of the sins of his followers, their preservation in holiness, and their final acceptance into heaven.
Intercession in its very nature involves petition. The manner in which it is performed may vary; but the substance is always the same. In whatever manner, therefore, Christ may be supposed to intercede for his children, he must, substantially, offer up petitions on their behalf. That they need this intercession cannot be rationally doubted. The blessings, to which they are conducted, are the greatest of all blessings; their final forgiveness, acceptance, purification, and eternal life. Of these and all other blessings they are wholly unworthy. That much is necessary to be done for such persons, in order to save them from punishment, and secure to them immortal happiness, is a doctrine accordant with the dictates of common sense. In this world great evils are remitted, and great blessings procured, to the undeserving, by the intercession of the worthy and honourable. Analogy, therefore, leads us to look to similar means, for the accomplishment of similar purVOL. II.