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Rented as having 'washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' For persons of this disposition, our Saviour is a perpetual and effectual advocate, to obtain perfect forgiveness of their past sins, and to cleanse them, by the perpetual assistance of his Spirit, from all unrighteousness. They have a High-priest, not who cannot be touched with the feeling of their infirmities, 'but who was himself tempted in all points like as they are, yet without sin.' And he * is able also,' as well as willing, 'to save them, to the uttermost, that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' [Heb. vii. 25] And because he thus lives for ever, and has an unchangeable priesthood, therefore he is said in scripture to be a priest, not after the order of Aaron, which was a perpetual succession of priests, not suffered to continue by reason of death; but after the order of Melchisedec, who was both prince and high-priest, and of whom is recorded neither predecessor nor successor, that he might be a type and emblem of him, 'who ever liveth to make intercession for us.'
That which remains is, to draw some practical inferences from the whole of what has been said.
And 1st, From the doctrine of our Lord's sitting at the right hand of God to intercede continually for us, and to govern his church by the mission of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, the apostle's inference is very natural: 'Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.' [Heb. iv. 16.] Again, chap. x. 19: * Having boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,' (i. e. having access to God through him,) ' by a new and living way which he has consecrated for us; and having a High-priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. For he that spared not his own Son, [Rom. viii. 82.] how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.'
2dly, If we follow the example of our Lord's humility and righteousness here upon earth, we may hope, through him, to be made partakers also of his exaltation in heaven. 'I go,' says he, c to prepare a place for you, and I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.' Again: 'To him that overeometh,' (that is, who perseveres in resisting the temptations of sin,) ' unto him will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my father in his throne.' These promises caused St. Paul so to express himself, as if God had already 'raised us up together' with Christ, and 'made us already sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' [Ep!i. ii. 6.] The manner of expression is highly figurative; but the literal and proper sense of it is what he elsewhere thus explains: 'We have hope,' says he,' as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the vail, whither our fore-runner is entered for us.' And if we have this hope in us, then ought we accordingly to 'set our affections on things above, not on things in the earth; that where our treasure is, there may our heart be also;' that we may •eek ' those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God,' and where 'our life is hid,' (that is, deposited, laid up for us in the determinations of the divine good pleasure, it is hid,) ' with Christ in God: that our conversation' (the thoughts of our home and final abode)' may be in heaven, from whence also we look- for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ;' who, at his coming, shall so change us, that we shall become like him; when ' we shall see him as he is; and as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. " By employing our meditations in this manner, upon our Lord's state of exaltation in heaven, so as to make it a continual motive to us, to prepare ourselves to become finally partakers of that promised inheritance; we shall contribute what in us lies, toward fulfilling that prophecy, which he spake before his death: 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' [John xii. 32.] 3dly, Another proper and most important use of the doctrine before us, is as follows:—If our Lord came down upon earth, to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself; and if, in his state of exaltation in heaven, the design of his continual intercession with God, and of his whole government of the church by his Spirit, be still always one and the same, even the putting away of sin; then from hence we may learn, how great and fatal a corruption it is of the Christian religion, for men who live wickedly, in a course of debauchery, or in the habitual practice of any known siu whatsoever, to expect to obtain salva
tion by relying presumptuously upon the merits of Christ, or upon his intercession, instead of obeying his commands delivered in the gospel. . ' The blood of Christ, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God,' was shed, not to render men safe in unrighteous living, but to 'purge the conscience' of such as truly repent and amend, to
* purge them from dead works to serve the living God:' [Heb. ix. 14.] the end why our Lord gave himself for us, being,
* that he might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.' If this great end be attained; if (according to the language of St. John) ' we walk in the light,' (that is, in the practice of true virtue and holiness,) ev.en 'as God is light, and in him is no darkness at all j' then indeed ' the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us from all (past) siu-' But 'if we have fellowship with him, and (still) walk in darkness,' (that is, continue to live wickedly, and yet hope for benefit from the profession of God's true religion from what Christ has either done or suffered for us,) 'we lie, and do not the truth.' [1 John i.6.]
[dr. 8. CLARKE.]
THE UNSPEAKABLE GIFT.
Ephes iv. 7. Unto every one of us is given grace, according to the
measure of the gift of Christ.
[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.] The Church, having, in the course of her holy offices, led us through all the different stages of the life of Christ, from his advent in the flesh to his death on the cross,—and from thence to his glorious resurrection, and triumphant ascension,—has now, at length, brought us to the celebration of that joyful festival, wherein she proposes to our meditation the blessed fruit and crown of her Redeemer's labours, the effusion of the Spirit from on high. And with good reason it is, that she Vol. I. 2 N
calls us together more than once to contemplate this greatest of God's mercies, from which alone we derive all our power and ability to contemplate the least of them. For though it was Christ who died, and rate, and ascended,—it was the Spirit, that proclaimed the news of his having done so to the world: though it was Christ who wrought our salvation, it was the Spirit that communicated the knowledge of it to the sons of men, and makes that knowledge effectual in their hearts. To his descent, we owe the publication of the glad tidings, and the conversion of the nations that were once 'afar off, but are now made nigh by the blood of Jesus,' * having access by one Spirit to the Father.'
At the beginning, when God had finished his wonderful and glorious works, and pronounced them to be good, he made a deed of gift of the whole to his creature man, who might have continued, as he was placed, in the light of his heavenly Father's countenance. But, by sin, man turned away from God, as the earth does from the sun: and, therefore, stripped of all the good and perfect gifts of glory and beauty, he sat desolate and disconsolate, in the shadow of death. Sin having thus occasioned a general forfeiture, man has now more reason than ever to acknowledge every good thing he enjoys, to be a free gift of God, coming down from above. And accordingly, we find, that a right notion of this matter is one of the marks which characterize a believer, and distinguish him from a man of the world. The one speaks of possessing as his own, what the other acknowledges to have received from God. 'Soul,' saith the carnal worldling in the gospel, 'thou hast goods laid up for many years.' * What hast thou,' saith St. Paul, 'that thou didst not receive?' The language of Esau is, ' I have enough.' Jacob speaks in another style; * The good things which God hath given me.' Pilate interrogates Christ, 'Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and I have power to release thee?' Christ replies to him, * Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.'
And this gift of holiness, or of the Spirit, whose title is the 'Holy One,' was indeed the good and the perfect gift, the joy, the crown, and the glory of all gifts ; insomuch that Christ calls it emphatically, ' The gift of God f saying to the woman of Samaria, ' If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.' Wherefore St. Paul says of it, • Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift;' a gift, which no tongue of man could treat of as it deserved; so that a new set of tongues, endued with the force and activity of fire, were sent from heaven, to display and describe to the world the glories of this manifold grace of God. But we are to consider the giver of this unspeakable gift, which is Christ; • the gift of Christ,' says the text. And it could be the gift of no other, because man having by rebellion forfeited the original grant, the attainder must be take off, before the grant could be renewed. Christ only could taken off the attainder; and therefore Christ only could renew the grant. And as he did renew the grant, it is plain he has taken off the attainder. He died on the cross, to atone for sin; he arose from the grave, to show that the penalty was paid to the uttermost farthing, because the surety was released and set free for ever; he ascended, to plead the merits of what he had done for his brethren; and he sent down the Spirit upon the Church, to demonstrate the acceptance of those merits, scattering abroad the tokens of his victory, and pouring forth the pledges of his munificence on the Church, for which he died to purchase them. That same Jesus who was crucified, * being exalted to the right hand of God,' hath shed forth those streams of the water of life, which have been flowing ever since from the throne of God and the Lamb, through the appointed channels, to water every plant and flower in the garden of God. I say every plant and flower, because ' unto every one of us,' as the Apostle declares, 'is given grace.' No member of Christ is without the grace of Christ, which is conveyed with his blood, by the sacraments and other ordinances, to quicken and animate the whole body of the Church, as the vital heat is diffused, with the natural blood, through the arteries, to support and invigorate all the parts of the body of a man. When, therefore, all flesh, Gentile as well as Jew, became incorporated into the Church, which is the body of Christ, the Lord poured out of his spirit upon all flesh; and there was no age, sex, condition, or nation, that did not partake of the fountain of life freely, which flowed from the heart of Christ pierced on the cross, and which, when circulated in the Church, as the blood is in the body, wherever it came, brought life, and health,