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former passages, but shall chiefly confine myself to the subject of his intercession, which has not, until now, expressly occurred to our meditations.
The word the apostle uses here, and in Heb. vii. 25. 'seeing he ever liveth to make intercession,' occurs likewise Acts, xxv. 24. where Festus speaks of the process managed by the Jews against Paul; and also Rom. xi. 2. of Elijah's making intercession to God against Israel. From these passages, compared together, we may observe that the word is to be taken in a large sense. He pleads our cause, he manages our concerns, he answers our enemies. Who, then, shall condemn those for whom the Lord Jesus thus employs his power and his love? He is our Advocate.' He takes upon him our whole concern. He pleads as a priest, and manages as a king, for those who come unto God by him.
I. He pleads as a priest. His office of intercession has a plain reference to his great instituted type, the high priest under the Levitical dispensation; who according to the appointment of God, entered within the vail, to present the blood of the sacrifice before the mercy seat. We have a clear and infallible explanation of the design of this institution. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people. The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while the first tabernacle was yet standing. Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater aud more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,' &c. Thus Jesus is passed into the heavens,' entered into the holy of holies, with his own blood. His presence there, in our nature, with the marks of his sufferings for us, as the Lamb that has been slain, is an unceasing, virtual intercession on our behalf. I meddle not with curious questions on this subject, as to the manner in which his intercession is carried on: it is sufficient to know that he is there, and for us, as our representative. This consideration is of continual Heb. ix. 6-12.
* 1 John, ii. 1.
+ Lev. xvi. 2.
use to animate and encourage sinners in their approach to God. There are three cases particularly, in which the heart that knows its own bitterness must sink, were it not for the relieving thought, that there is an Advocate with the Father,' a High Priest,' who, by his intercession is able to save to the uttermost.'
1. When the mind is burdened with guilt. Great is the distress of an awakened conscience. The sinner now is sensible of wants, which God alone can supply, and of miseries, from which he cannot be extricated but by an almighty arm. But when he thinks of the majesty and holiness of God, he is troubled, and adopts the language of the prophet, Wo is me! I am undone.”* He dares not draw near to God, nor does he dare to keep any longer at a distance from him. But when such a one is enabled to look to Jesus as the intercessor, what light and comfort does he receive! For the Gospel speaks inviting language. Let not the weary and heavy laden sinner fear to approach. Your peace is already made in the court above, and your Advocate is waiting to introduce you. Lift up your hearts to him, and think you hear him in effect, saying, 'Father, there is another sinner who has heard of my name, and desires to trust in me. Father, I will, that he also may be delivered from going down into the pit, and interested in the ransom which I have provided.'
2. When we are deeply conscious of our defects in duty. If we compare our best performances with the demands of the law, the majesty of God, and the unspeakable obligations we are under; if we consider our innumerable sins of omission, and that the little we can do is polluted and defiled by the mixture of evil thoughts, and the working of selfish principles, aims, and motives, which, though we disapprove, we are unable to suppress: we have great reason to confess, To us belong shame and confusion of face.' But we are relieved by the thought, that Jesus, the High Priest, bears the iniquity of our holy things, perfumes our prayers with the incense of his mediation, and washes our tears in his own blood. This inspires a confidence, that though we are unworthy of the least of his mercies, we may humbly hope for a share in the great blessings he bestows, because we are heard and accepted, not on account of our own prayers and services, but in the beloved Son of God, who maketh intercession for us. Thus the wisdom and love of God have provided a wonderful expedient, which so far as it is rightly understood, and cordially embraced, while it lays the sinner low as the dust in point of humiliation and self-abasement, fills him at the same time with a hope full of glory, which, with respect to its foundation, cannot
*Isa. vi. 5.
+ Dan. ix. 7.
be shaken; and with respect to its object, can be satisfied with nothing less than all the fulness of God. There are favoured seasons in which the believer, having a lively impression of the authority and love of the Intercessor, can address the great Jehovah as his Father, with no less confidence than if he was holy and spotless as the angels before the throne, at the very moment that he has abundant cause to say, 'Behold, I am vile! I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes !'*
3. This powerful and prevalent intercession abundantly_compensates for the poverty and narrowness of our prayers. Experience confirms what the Scripture declares of our insufficiency to order own cause before the Lord, to specify our various wants, and to fill our mouths with such arguments as may engage the attention, and enliven the affections of our hearts: We know not how to pray as we ought.' And though the Holy Spirit teaches believers to form petitions, which, in the main, are agreeable to the will of God, yet we often mistake and ask amiss; we often forget what we ought to ask, and we are too often cold, negligent, weary, distracted, and formal in prayer. How prone are we to enter by prayer into the Lord's presence, as the thoughtless' horse rushes into the battle!' to speak to God as if we were only speaking into the air, and to have our thoughts dissipated and wandering to the ends of the earth, while his holy name is upon our polluted lips! It is well for us that God is both able and gracious to do more than we can ask or think; but that he actually does so, for such unworthy creatures, is owing to our Intercessor. He knows all our wants, and pleads and provides accordingly. He is not negligent, though we too frequently are. He prayed for Peter's safety, before Peter himself was aware of his danger. Have we not sometimes been, as it were, surprised, and shamed by the Lord's goodness, when he has condescended to bestow special and needful mercies upon us, before we thought of asking for them! These are affecting proofs of our Intercessor's attention and care, and that he is always mindful of us. But,
II. Jesus the High Priest is upon a throne. He is a King, 'King of saints, and King of nations.' He is not only a righteous advocate, but he possesses all authority and power. And it belongs to his office as King, effectually to manage for those in whose behalf he intercedes. I have already observed, that the original word includes this sense.
1. He is the source and fountain of their supplies. All their springs are in him. The fulness of wisdom, grace, and consolation, out of which they are invited to receive, resides in him.
* Job, xl. 4. xlii. 6.
† Rom. viii. 26. Jer. viii. 6. Luke, xxii. 31, 32.
And, therefore, he says, If ye ask any thing in my name, I will do it."* Not merely I will present your petitions, but I will fulfil them myself. For all things are committed into his hands, and it is he' with whom we have to do.'t He therefore enjoins us, if we believe or trust in God, to believe also in him.' His invitations, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink ;'§ Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely ;'|| equally express his sovereignty and his munificence. On him the eyes of all who know him wait, from age to age, and are not disappointed. He opens his hand, and satisfies them with good.'¶ Nor is the store of his bounty diminished by all that he has distributed, for it is unsearchable and inexhaustible; like the light of the sun, which gladdens the eyes of millions at once, has done so from the beginning, and will continue to do so to the end of time.
2. He appoints and adjusts their various dispensations, with an unerring suitableness to their several states capacities, and circumstances. If a skilful gardener had the command of the weather, he would not treat all his plants, nor the same plant at all times, exactly alike. Continual rain, or continual sunshine, would be equally unfavourable to their growth and fruitfulness. In his kingdom of providence, he so proportions the rain and the sunshine to each other, that the corn is usually brought forward from the seed to the blade, the ear, and the full ripe ear. And I believe it would be always so, were it not for the prevalence of sin, which sometimes makes the heavens over our head brass, the earth under our feet iron,'** and turns a fruitful land into barrenness. So, in his kingdom of grace, he trains his people up by various exercises. He delights in their prosperity, and does not willingly grieve them. But afflictions in their present state are necessary; and his blessing makes them salutary. But this is their great privilege, that their comforts and their crosses are equally from his hand, are equally tokens of his love, and alike directed to work together for their good. He appoints the bounds of their habitations, numbers the hairs of their heads, and is their guide and guard, their sun and shield, even unto death. Here they meet with many changes, but none are unnoticed by him, none that can separate them from his love; and they all concur in leading them on to a state of unchangeable and endless joy.tt
3. He is the Captain of their salvation.'
They are his sol
diers, and fight under his eye; yet the battle is not theirs, but his. Israel of old were to muster their forces, to range themselvelves for the fight, to use every precaution and endeavour, as though success depended entirely upon themselves. Yet they obtained not the victory by their own sword, but it was the Lord who fought for them, and trod down their enemies before them; and they had little more to do than to pursue the vanquished, and to divide the spoil. And thus it is in the warfare which true Christians maintain, not against flesh and blood only, but against principalities and powers;* against the spirit of the world, and against Satan and his legions. They fight in his cause, but he upholds them and conquers for them. Their enemies are too many and too mighty for them to grapple with in their own strength; but he rebukes them, and pleads the cause of his people. His gracious interposition in their favour is beautifully set forth, together with its effects, in the vision which the prophet saw when he was sent to encourage the rulers and people of the Jews against the difficulties they met with when rebuilding the temple. He saw Joshua the High priest,' who, in that character, represented the collective body of the people, standing before the Lord, clothed in filthy garments, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.' Such is our attire as sinners, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and such are the attempts of our enemy to deter us from approaching to him who alone can relieve us, or to distress us when we appear before him. But when Joshua could not speak for himself, the Lord spake for him, claimed him for his own, as a brand plucked out of the fire, silenced his adversary, clothed him with change of raiment, and set a fair mitre upon his head. Thus David acknowledged the Lord's goodness in providing him a table in the midst of his enemies; who saw with envy his privileges, but were not able to prevent his enjoyment of them. Many a time the Lord thus comforts and feeds his people, while waiting on him in secret, or attending his public ordinances: and were our eyes opened, like the eyes of Elisha's servant, to behold what is very near, though unseen, we should feel the force of the Psalmist's observation. The powers of darkness surround us, their malice against us is heightened by the favour of our good Shepherd towards us; they rage, but in vain; for though they could presently deprive us of peace, and fill us with anguish, if we were left exposed to their assaults, they are under a restraint, and can do nothing without his permission. When he is pleased to give quietness, who
* Eph. vi. 12.
Zec. iii. 1-4.
Psalm xxiii. 5.