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On this subject I observe,
1st. Some of the ancients were of opinion, that Christ executes 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 vicw 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 place, but 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 pur. Vol. II.
poses, in the Universal providence of God. Especially will this scem natural, and necessary, where the greatest blessings are to be obtained for those, who are unworthy of the least of all blessings.
3dly. In John 17th we have, if I mistake not, an example of this very intercession.
This chapter is the last communication of Christ to his Apostles before his death. In it he recites, briefly, his wonderful labours for the glory of his Father, and for the good of his children; declares, that he had finished the work allotted to him; and announces, that he was bidding adieu to the scene of his humiliation, and preparing to enter into his glory.
On these grounds, he prays his father to sanctify, and perfect, his children; to keep them, while they were in the world, from the evil; to make them one in their spirit, their character, and their pursuits; and to cause the love, which He exercised towards Christ, to rest upon them. At the same time, he declares, that he had given to ihem his own glory; and that it was his will, that they should be where he was, and behold his glory for ever. All these illustrious things, also, he solicits, on the ground of his Father's love to him, and his own labours and sufferings in obedience to His will.
In this prayer of Christ we have probably a fair specimen of his intercession in the heavens. The same things are recited, and the same things requested, here, which we are taught to expect there; and all is asked of God, which can contribute to their safety, or their happiness.
If these observations be allowed to be just; it will be seen, that the great ends of Christ's intercession are to preserve his followers from final backsliding; an evil, to which, if left to themselves, they would certainly be exposed, notwithstanding all the virtuous principles which they possess : to obtain the forgiveness of those sins, which they commit after their Regeneration : and to secure their reception into the world of glory. These ends are of the highest importance to them, and in the highest degree declarative of the goodness of God.
This method of proceeding, on the part of God, is wholly accordant with the common dictates of the human mind. Similar means, as I have observed, are used, and efficaciously used, to procure the remission of punishment, and the enjoyment of good, for unworthy men in the present world. That which is done here, therefore, and has ever been done with the plainest propriety, and the most decisive efficacy, strongly illustrates the reasonableness and propriety of what is thus done in the heavens.
From these observations I infer, 1st. The perfect Safety of the Children of God. Christ, the Son of God, and the infinitely meritorious Redeemer of men, intercedes for their preservation in holiness, the forgiveness
of their backslidings, and their final acceptance into heaven. The Father always heareth the Son. It is impossible, that his intercession should fail, or that the purposes of it should not be accomplished. His followers, therefore, though exposed to ten thousand dangers, and to numberless temptations, enemies, and backslidings; though always in a state of peril, and living only a doubtful and scarcely perceptible life; will pass safely through all these hazards, and finally arrive at the possession of perfect holiness and everlasting joy:
In the preceding discourse I evinced the truth of this doctrine by arguments, drawn from the Atonement of Christ. It is equally evident from his intercession. Christ, in his prayer at the tomb of Lazarus, says to the Father, I knew that thou hearest me always. In his Intercessory prayer, in the xvii. of John, he declares, that he intercedes, not only for his Apostles and their fellow-disciples then existing, but also for them, who should believe on him through their word; that is, the Gospel. Those then, who believe on him through the Gospel, are universally interested in that intercession of Christ, which the Father hcareth always. Of course, their safety is complete, their interest in the divine favour indefeasible, and their title to endless life unalterably secure.
2dly. We have here a strong proof, ihat Christ is unchangeable.
In Proverbs 3th, after giving a variety of testimonies of his compassion for sinners, he informs us, that before the mountains were settled, or the earth was made, he rejoiced in the habitable parts of !he earth, in a glorious foresight of the good, which he intended to accomplish; and that his delights were from eternity with the sons of men. In the indulgence of this divine benignity, though infinitely rich in the possession of all good, yet for our sakes he became
that we through him might become rich. The Word, who was in the beginning with God, and by whom all things were made, became flesh, and dwelt among us ; and we beheld his glory, (the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. While he dwelt in this Apostate world, he underwent a course of extreme humiliation, labours, and sufferings, for the sake of mankind; and, in the end, purchased for them the regeneration of the soul, and a title to everlasting life, with the agonies of the cross.
To the heavens he has gone before, to prepare a place for them, and to receive them to himself. In that glorious world, amid all the splendours of his exaltation, he forgets not for a moment those worms of the dust, whom he came to redeem; those backsliding, frail, sinning apostates, for whom he poured out his blood on the accursed tree; but, in the strong language of the Apostle, ever lives to make intercession for them. By his intercession, as well as by his government, he secures their continuance in holiness
i cleanses them from secret faults; restrains them from presumptuous sins; and thus keeps them innocent of the great transgression. Thus his love is, from everlasting to everlasting, the same boundless love to himself, divinely glorious; to them great beyond example, beneficial beyond degree.
3dly. The intercession of Christ most affectingly teaches us the Grace of God in the salvation of sinners.
Sinners are originally redeemed, forgiven, and sanctified, by the mere, sovereign goodness of God. After all these mighty works are accomplished, they are still guilty and undeserving; they need the intercession, as well as the atonement, of Christ; and without it could not, so far as we are informed, be with propriety blessed in the heavens. In consequence of this intercession, they are preserved from fatal declension; their sins, committed after their regeneration, are forgiven; and themselves admitted to the presence of God.
In heaven, this intercession is continued for ever. Throughout eternity, the children of God are thus furnished with the strongest evidence, that their everlasting happiness is the result of mere, sovereign goodness and mercy; and that all the glory of devising, accomplishing, and bestowing, this happiness is to be ascribed to Uim. The praises of the heavenly world, and the gratitude whence they spring, will from this source derive a more exquisite rapture; their sense of dependence on God be more humble, intense, and lovely; and their perseverance in holiness find the most delightful, as well as the most powerful, motives.
Athly. How wonderful is the love of Christ to sinners!
It is beyond measure wonderful, that he should love them at all. What are they? Guilty, rebellious, odious creatures; opposed to his will, designs, and character; requiting his love with ingratitude, hatred, and contempt; crucifying him afresh by their unbelief; and accounting the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing. Why did he love them? Not because they were rational beings. With a word he could have created millions of such beings, for one of them; and all more rational, and more exalted, than themselves. Not because of their moral excellence; for they had none. Not because he needed them; for he cannot need any thing; and they possessed nothing, which they did not receive from him.
On the contrary, all his conduct towards them sprang from his own boundless good-will: his disinterested love. They were not leserving; but he was pitiful; they were not valuable; but he was bountiful; they were not necessary to him ; but he was infinitely necessary to them.
Herein is love ; not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and gave his Son lo die for us. It was because Christ was superlatively good; and because we were poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked, and in want of all things that this glorious Person had compassion on us in our apostacy and ruin. He lived and died, he reigns and intercedes, that we might live, and not die. This great work he began to execute liere; and he carries it on in the heavens throughout eternitv.
In that world of glory, although elevated to the throne of the Universe, and beholding all things beneath his feet; although loved, ubeyed, and worshipped, with supreme attachment and homage by the great kingdom of virtuous beings; he assumes, and executes, the office of an intercessor for the fallen children of Adam. In that world he is not ashamed to call them, however degraded by their apostacy, and however odious by their guilt, by the endearing names of friends and brethren. He is the universal ruler ; but he is not ashamed to appear as the Elder Brother, the First-born of this human assembly; nay, as a suppliant for those whom he rules. He is a person of infinite dignity and perfection; but he is not ashamed to appear as a companion to those, who could originally say to corruption, Thou art our father, and to the worm, Thou art our mother and our sister. Thus the character, which he exhibited on earth, he sustains in heaven. He is still in the same manner meek and lowly of heart; and still feeds his disciples and leads them to fountains of living waters. To him they have been indebted for the atonement of their sins, and the salvation of their souls ; and to him they will be infinitely indebted for the communication of knowledge, holiness, and enjoyment, throughout the endless ages of their being
What character can be compared with this? Before it, how does all other excellence fade! 'In it what exaltation and conde. scension are blended! What greatness and benignity united! What must be the Mind, in which these majestic, and these sweet and lovely, characteristics thus unchangeably and for ever harmonize : a mind supremely great and glorious in the lowly station of a man; a child; a servant to a humble artisan; and divinely meek s nd condescending in the infinite splendour of universal dominion !
What dishonour is here reflected on the pride of Men and fallen Angels! Pride, unsatisfied with all present attainments, and making the greatest communications, from God, of distinction and glory, the mere foundations of claiming more, and of murmuring, because they are not elevated to higher honours, and replenished with more extensive enjoyments! How poor, how debased, how odious, how guilty, is that pride! How contemptible does it appear, when compared with the Redeemer's condescension ! În heaven there is no pride ;-on earth, and in hell, it is the prevailing character. Men are proud; fallen Angels are proud. Christ is meek and lowly of heart. What would become of the universe, were pride to find a place in the infinite Mind?
5thly. How differently are Christians regarded by Christ, and by evil men ?
Christ descended from heaven, and left the glory, which he had with the Father before ever the world was, to befriend Christians. He became a man; he lived; he laboured through life; he hung upon the cross, and was buried in the tomb; to redeem them from sin and death. He arose from the dead; ascended to heaven; sal