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we need, and all that we can rationally desire. The way of salvation is here become a highway, and.way-faring men, though fools, need not err therein.
The Religion of the Gospel is a religion designed for sinners. By the expiation of Christ it opens the brazen door, which was for ever barred against their return. Here the supreme, and otherwise immoveable, obstacle to the acceptance of sinners, is taken away. If sinners were to be accepted, it was not possible that this cup should pass from Christ. The next great obstacle in the way of their acceptance is found in their unholy, disobedient hearts, propense to evil only, and continually; and the next, their perpetual exposure to backsliding, and to falling finally away. These obstacles, immoveable, also, by any means on this side of heaven, the Spirit of grace by his most merciful interference in our behalf entirely removes. Man, therefore, in the Gospel finds his return from apostacy made possible; made easy; made certain ; actually begun ; steadily carried on in the present world ; and finally completed in the world to come.
But no other scheme of religion presents to us even plausible means of removing these difficulties. Natural religion, to which Infidels persuade us to betake ourselves for safety, does not even promise us a return to God. Natural religion is the religion of law ; of that law, which in the only legal language declares to us,
; Do these things, and thou shalt live: but the soul, that sinneth, shall die. These things, the things specified in the requisitions of the law, we have not done ; and therefore cannot live. We have sinned, and therefore must die. It has been formerly shown, that the law knows no condition of acceptance, or justification, but obedience. Concerning repentance, faith, forgiveness, and reconciliation, concerning the sinner's return to God, and his admission to immortal life, the law is silent. Its only sentence, pronounced on those who disobey, is a sentence of final condemnation.
Whatever we may suppose the law to be, we have disobeyed its precepts. Nothing has been ever devised, or received, by man as a law of God, which all men have not disobeyed. Infidels cannot devise such a law, as they will dare to call a law of God, and publish to men under this title, which they themselves, and all other men, have not often disobeyed. From the very nature of law, a nature inseparable from its existence as a law, disobedience to its precepts must be condemned: and, if nothing interfere to preserve the offender from punishment, he must of necessity suffer. To what degree, in what modes, through what extent, these sufferings will reach, the Infidel cannot conjecture. To his anguish no end appears. Of such an end no arguments can be furnished by his Inind; no tidings have reached his ear; and no hopes can rationally arise in his heart. Death, with all the gloomy scenes attendant upon a dying bed, is to him merely the commencement of doubt, fear, and sorrow. The grave, to him, is the entrance into a world,
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 to 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 advocate, 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.
1. The Character and Circumstances of those for whom Christ 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 interces. sion 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 I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the rightcous. The
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; who, also, maketh intercession for us. 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 liii. 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, in the for. mer 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 of 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 amazing consideration, that they have been redeemed, sanctified, and forgiven.
3dly. Notwithstanding their backslidings, they are not utterly cast off
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 visit 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 performed.