Page images


does not require me to account for it, or to for a season oppose it with no less pertinacity reason upon it. That it is so, I appeal to than any of those who have continued to hate fact.

and resist it to the end of life. Saul of Tar2. The inestimable gift of a Saviour, to sus was an eminent instance, Acts ix. 1. He atone for sin and to mediate between God did not merely slight the doctrine of a crucis and man, (John iii. 16 ;) that there might be fied Saviour; but, according to his mistakeit a way opened for the communication of mercy views, thought himself bound in conscience to sinners, without prejudice to the honour to suppress those who embraced it. He of the perfections and government of God- breathed out threatening, and slaughter, and, this gift was the effect of his own rich grace as he expresses it himself

, was exceedingly and love, (Rom. v. 6, 8,) no less unthought mad against them, (Acts xxvi. 11,) and made of, and undesired, than undeserved by fallen havoc of them. His mind was filled with

this bitter and insatiable rage, at the moment 3. Wherever this love of God to man is when the Lord Jesus appeared to him in his made known by the gospel, there is encour way to Damascus. Is it possible that a man agement, and a command given to all men thus disposed should suddenly become a everywhere to repent, Acts xvii

. 30, 31. The preacher of the faith which he had long la. manifestation of the eternal Word in the hu- boured to destroy, if his heart and views had man nature, and his death upon the cross, are not been changed by a supernatural agency? spoken of as the highest display of the wisdom Or that the like prejudices in other persons and goodness of God. Designed to give us, can be removed in any other manner? in one and the same transaction, the most af 7. If all men had heard the gospel in vain, fecting sense of the evil of sin, and the strong- then Christ would have died in vain. But est assurance imaginable, that there is for this is prevented by the covenanted office and giveness with God, Rom. iii. 24, 25. influence of the Holy Spirit, (John xvi. ,

4. Men, while blinded by pride and preju- who accompanies the word with his encra dice, enslaved to sinful passions, and under and makes it the power of God to the salve the influence of this present evil world, nei- tion of those who believe. He prepares the ther can nor will receive the truth in the love minds of sinners, and, as in the case of Ly of it, 2 Cor. iv. 4; John v. 40; vi. 44. They dia, (Acts xvi. 14,) opens their hearts to urz are prepossessed and pre-engaged. This, at derstand and receive the truth, in the love least, is evidently the case with many people of it. in this favoured nation, who, when the gospel 8. But who will presume to say, that when is proposed to them in the most unexception- God was pleased to make a proposal of mercy able manner, not only disregard, but treat it to a race of rebels, he was likewise bound to with a pointed contempt and indignation, overcome the obstinacy of men in every case, Luke iv. 28, 29; Acts xvii. 18. Such was and to compel them to accept it by an act its reception at the beginning, and we are of his invincible power. If he does thus innot to wonder, therefore, that it is so at this terpose in favour of some, it is an act of free day.

mercy to which they have no claim. For if 5. As all mankind spring from one stock, we had a claim, the benefit would be an act there are not two different sorts of men by of justice, rather than of mercy. May not nature; consequently they who receive the the great Sovereign of the world do what gospel are no better in themselves, (Eph. ii. he will with his own ? Matt. xx. 15. And 3,) than they are who reject it. The apostle nothing is more peculiarly and eminently his writing to the believers at Corinth, having own than his mercy. Yes, we are assured, enumerated a catalogue, in which he com- that he will have mercy on whom he will prises some of the most flagitious and infa- have mercy; (Rom. ix. 18;) and whom he mous characters, (1 Cor. vi. 9–11,) and will, he may justly leave to be hardened in allowed to be so by the common consent of their impenitence and unbelief. We have mankind, adds, "such were some of you.” all deserved to be so left; but he, as the potSurely it cannot be said, that they who had terover the clay, has power and right to make degraded themselves below the brutes, by a difference, as it seemeth good in his sight. their abominable practices, were better dis- And who will say unto him, What doest posed than others to receive that gospel, thou ? Job ix. 12. which is not more distinguished by the sub 9. When sinners are effectually called by limity of its doctrine, than by the purity and the gospel, then they are visibly chosen out holiness of conversation which it enjoins ! of the world, (John xv. 19,) in the spirit and

6. It seems, therefore, at least highly pro- tempers of which they before lived, disobebable, that all men universally, if left to them- dient and deceived, even as others. Old selves, would act as the majority do to whom things pass away, and all things become new, the word of salvation is sent; that is, they 2 Cor. v. 17. Their hopes and fears, their would reject and despise it. And it is unde- companions and pleasures, their pursuits and ‘niable, that some, who in the day of God's aims, are all changed. The change in these power have cordially received the gospel, did respects is so evident, that they are soon no

ticed and marked, pitied or derided, by those | the articles of the Church of England, which from whom they are now separated. “And I are still of so much authority by law, that no think they who really experience this charge person can be admitted into Holy Orders will willingly ascribe it to the grace of God. amongst us, till he has declared and sub

10. But if they are thus chosen in time, it scribed his assent to them. But I hope never follows of course that they were chosen from to preach a doctrine to my hearers which everlasting. Both these expressions, when needs the names and authority of men, howapplied to this subject, amount to the same ever respectable, for its support. Search the thing; and the seeming difference between scriptures, (John v. 39,) and judge by them them is chiefly owing to our weakness and of the importance of this doctrine. Judge ignorance. To the infinite and eternal God of it by the text now before us. The apostle our little distinctions of past, present, and fu- speaks of it as sufficient to silence every ture, are nothing. We think unworthily of charge, to free from all condemnation, and the unchangeable Jehovah, and liken him too inseparably connected with eternal life; for much to ourselves, if we suppose that he can those whom God justifies he will also glorify, form a new purpose. If it be his pleasure to Rom. viii. 30. Though volumes have been convert a sinner to-day, he had the same written upon the subject, I think it may be gracious design in favour of that sinner yes- explained in few words. Every one must terday, at the day of his birth, a thousand give an account of himself to God; and the years before he was born, and a thousand ages judgment will proceed according to the tenor (to speak according to our poor conceptions) of his holy word. By the law no flesh can before the world began. For that mode of be justified, for all have sinned: (Rom. iii. 19, duration which we call time, has no respect 20:) but they who believe the gospel will be to him who inhabiteth eternity, Is. Ivii. 15. justified from all things, (Acts xiii. 39,) for

With regard to those who reject the de- which the law would otherwise condemn claration of the mercy of God, who though them; and as they who believe not are concalled and invited by the gospel, and often demned already, (John iii. 18,) so believers touched by the power of his Holy Spirit, will are already justified by faith, and have peace not come to the Saviour for life, but persist with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, in their determination to go on in their sins, (Rom. v. 1,) in the present life. They plead their ruin is not only unavoidable, but just in guilty to the charge of the law; but they can the highest degree. And though, like the likewise plead, that they renounce all hope wicked servant in the parable, (Matt. xxv. 24,) and righteousness in themselves, and upon they cavil against the Lord, their mouths will the warrant of the word of promise, put their be stopped, (Rom. iii. 19,) when he shall at whole trust in Jesus, as the end of the law length appear to plead with them face to face. for righteousness to every one that believeth: Then their cobweb excuses will fail them, (Roin. x. 4:) and this plea is accepted. “To and the proper ground of their condemnation him that worketh not, but believeth on him will be, that when he sent them light, they that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counturned from it, and chose darkness rather ted for righteousness,” (Rom. iv. 5,) and his than light, because their deeds were evil, sins are no more remembered against him, John üi. 19.

Heb. viii. 12. II. The great privilege of the elect, com This justification, in its own nature, is auprehensive of every blessing is, that they are thoritative, comple and final. It is an act justified, finally and authoritatively justified of God's mercy, which, because founded upon from all that can possibly be laid to their the mediation of Jesus, may, with no less charge; for it is God himself who justifieth truth be styled an act of his justice, whereby them.

the believing sinner is delivered from the The justification of a sinner before God, curse of the law, from the guilt and power by faith in the obedience and atonement of of sin, and is translated into the kingdom of Christ, is considered by many persons, in his dear Son, Col. i. 13. It includes the parthese days of refinement, in no better light don of all sin, and admission to the state of than as a branch of scholastic theology, which a child of God. It is a passing from death is now exploded as uncouth and obsolete. At unto life, John v. 24. By faith of the operathe Reformation, it was the turning point be- tion of God, the sinner, once afar off

, is tween the Protestants and Papists. Luther brought nigh, is accepted in the Beloved, and deemed it the criterion of a flourishing or a becomes one with him, as the branch is falling church ; that is, he judged the church united to the vine, and the members with the would always be in a thriving or a declining head, John xv. 15. The sanctification of a state, in proportion as the importance of this believer is iinperfect and gradual; but his doctrine was attended to. How important it justification, in this sense, from the moment appeared to our English reformers, many of when he begins to live a life of faith in the whom sealed their testimony to it with their Son of God, is perfect, and incapable of inblood, may be known by the writings of Cran- crease. The principle of life in a new-born mer, Latimer, Philpot, and others; and by infant, and the privileges dependent upon his


birth, (if he be the heir of a great fainily,)| Christ to the glory and praise of God, Phil

. are the same from the first hour, as at any i. 11. But if you learn it only from men and future time. He is stronger as he grows up books, if you are content with the notion of to the stature of a man, but is not more alive; it in your head, instead of the powerful expehe grows up likewise more into the know-rience of it in your heart, it will have a conledge and enjoyment of his privileges, but trary effect. Such a lifeless form, even of his right to them admits of no augmentation; the truth itself, will probably make you heady for he derives it, not from his years, or his and high minded, censorious of others, trifling stature, or his powers, but from the relation in your spirit, and unsettled in your conduct. in which he stands as a child to his father. Oh! be afraid of resembling the foolish virThus it is with those who are born from gins, (Matt. xxv. 1–12) of having the lamp above; they are immediately the children and of your profession expire in darkness for want heirs of God, though for a time, like minors of the oil of grace ; lest when the bridegroom while under age, they may seem to differ but cometh, you should find the door shut against little from servants; (Gal. iv. 1, 2;) and it you. doth not yet appear what they shall be.

But though justification in the sight of God be connected with the reality of faith, the comfortable perception of it in our own con

SERMON XLVII. sciences is proportionable to the degree of faith. In young converts, therefore, it is usually weak. They are well satisfied that Jesus is the only Saviour, and they have no Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ doubt of his ability and sufficiency in that that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, character, in favour of those who put their who is even at the right hand of God, who trust in him; but they are suspicious and jea also maketh intercession for us. ROMANS, lous of themselves; they are apprehensive of viii. 34. something singular in their own case, which may justly exclude them from his mercy, or The redemption of the soul is precious. they fear that they do not believe aright. But Fools make a mock of sin, Prov. xvi. 9. the weakest believer is a child of God ; and But they will not think lightly of it who duly true faith, though at first like a grain of mus- consider the majesty, authority, and goodness tard-seed, is interested in all the promises of of him against whom it is committed : and the gospel. If it be true, it will grow, (Mark who are taught by what God actually has done, iv. 26,) it will attain to a more simple depen- what sin rendered necessary to be done, bedence upon its great object, and will work its fore a sinner could have a well-grounded hope way, through a thousand doubts and fears, of forgiveness. For wisdom does nothing in (which, for a season, are not without their vain. The death of the Son of God would use,) till at length the weak christian be- have been in vain, (Gal. ii. 21,) if the great decomes strong in faith, strong in the Lord, and sign in favour of sinful men could have been is enabled to say, “ I know whom I have be- effected by inferior means. But as he, in the lieved,” 2 Tim. i. 12. Who shall lay any office of Mediator, was the hope of mankind thing to my charge? Who shall condemn? It from the beginning; so the great work he is God who justifieth. It is Christ who died bas accomplished, and the characters he susfor me and rose again.

tains, when made known to the conscience, are But especially at the great day, the Lord in fact, sufficient to relieve in every case, to the Judge shall ratify their justification pub- answer every charge, and to satisfy the belicly before assembled worlds. Then every liever in Jesus that there is now no condemtongue that riseth in judgment against them nation to fear. There are many (as we have (Is. liv. 17,) shall be put to silence. Then observed) ready to accuse, but it is in vain; Satan will be utterly confounded, and many the charge may be true, but it is overruled. who despised them on earth will be astonish- Who shall dare to condemn, if things be as ed and say—“These are they whose lives we the apostle states them in this passage? Whoaccounted madness, and their end to be with ever would impeach the hope of a true beout honour. How are they numbered among liever, inust prove, (if he can,) that Christ did the children of God!" Wisdom, v. 4, 5. not die; or that he did not rise from the dead;

The right knowledge of this doctrine is a or that he was not admitted into the presence source of abiding joy; it likewise animates of God on our behalf; or that he is unmindlove, zeal, gratitude, and all the noblest pow- ful of his promise, to make intercession for ers of the soul, and produces a habit of cheer- all who come unto God by him. For if these ful and successful obedience to the whole points are indubitable and sure, it is impos will of God. But it may be, and too often is, sible that the soul which has trusted in Jesus, misunderstood and abused. If you receive and put its cause into his hands, can miscarry, it by divine teaching, it will fill you with those The death and resurrection of our Lord, fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus his appearance in our nature, clothed with

;lory, seated on the right hand of the Majes- sion on our behalf. I meddle not with cuty on high, as the High-Priest of our profes- rious questions on this subject, as to the mansion, can scarcely be considered too often. ner in which his intercession is carried on: These old truths are always new to those who it is sufficient to know that he is there, and love him, and are the food by which their souls there for us, as our representative. This conlive. Yet I shall not at present repeat what sideration is of continual use, to animate and I have offered upon them from former passa- encourage sinners in their approach to God. ges, but shall chiefly confine myself to the There are three cases particularly, in which subject of his intercession, which has not, until the heart that knows its own bitterness must now, expressly occurred to our meditations. sink, were it not for the relieving thought,

The word 'the apostle uses here, and in that there is an advocate with the Father, a Heb. vii. 25,—“Seeing he ever liveth to High Priest, who, by his intercession, is able make intercession," occurs likewise in Acts to save to the uttermost. xxv. 24, where Festus speaks of the process 1. When the mind is burdened with guilt. managed by the Jews against Paul; and also Great is the distress of an awakened conin Rom. xi. 2, of Elijah's making intercession science. The sinner now is sensible of wants to God against Israel. From these passages which God alone can supply, and of miseries compared together, we may observe that the from which he cannot be extricated but by an word is to be taken in a large sense. He almighty arm. But when he thinks of the pleads our cause, he manages our concerns, majesty and holiness of God, he is troubled he answers our enemies. Who then shall and adopts the language of the prophet, “Wo condemn those for whom the Lord Jesus is me, I am undone!” Isa. vi. 5. He dares thus employs his power and his love? He is not draw near to God, nor does he dare to our advocate, (1 John ii. 1,) he takes upon keep any longer at a distance from him. But nim our whole concern. He pleads as a when such a one is enabled to look to Jesus Priest, and manages as a King, for those as the intercessor, what light and comfort who come unto God by him.

does he receive ? For the gospel speaks inI. He pleads as a Priest.—His office of in-viting language. Let not the weary and Tercession has a plain reference to his great heavy-laden sinner fear to approach. Your instituted type, the high priest under the Le- peace is already made in the court above, vitical dispensation ; who, according to the and your advocate is waiting to introduce appointment of God, entered within the vail, you. Lift up your heart to him and think to present the blood of the sacrifice before you hear him in effect saying, · Father, the mercy-seat, Lev. xvi. We have a clear there is another sinner who has heard of my and infallible explanation of the design of this name, and desires to trust in me. Father, I institution. “Now when these things were will, that he also may be delivered from gothus ordained, the priests went always into ing down into the pit, and interested in the the first tabernacle, accomplishing the ser- ransom which I have provided.” vice of God. But into the second went the 2. When we are deeply conscious of our high priest alone once every year, not with defects in duty. If we compare our best out blood, which he offered for himself and performances with the demands of the law, for the errors of the people. The Holy Ghost the majesty of God, and the unspeakable obthis signifying, that the way into the holiest ligations we are under; if we consider our of all was not yet made manifest, while as innumerable sins of omission, and that the the first tabernacle was yet standing. Which little we can do is polluted and defiled by the was a figure for the time then present, in mixture of evil thoughts, and the working of which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, selfish principles, aims, and motives, which that could not make him that did the service though we disapprove, we are unable to supperfect, as pertaining to the conscience; press, we have great reason to confess, “To which stood only in meats and drinks, and us belong shame and confusion of face," Dan. divers washings, and carnal ordinances, im- ix. 7. But we are relieved by the thought, posed on them until the time of reformation. that Jesus the High Priest bears the iniquity But Christ being come an High Priest of of our holy things, perfumes our prayers good things to come, by a greater and more with the incense of his mediation, and washes perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, our tears in his own blood. This inspires a that is to say, not of this building; neither confidence, that though we are unworthy of by the blood of goats and calves, but by his the least of his mercies, we may humbly hope own blood, he eniered in once into the holy for a share in the greatest blessings he beplace, having obtained eternal redemption stows, because we are heard and accepted, for us," Heb. ix. 6–12. Thus Jesus is not on the account of our own prayers and passed into the heavens, entered into the services, but in the beloved Son of God, who holy of holies with his own blood. His pre-maketh intercession for us. Thus the wisdom sence there, in our nature, with the marks and love of God have provided a wonderful of his sufferings for us, as the Lamb that has expedient, which, so far as it is rightly unbeen slain, is an unceasing virtual interces- derstood, and cordially embraced, while it

lays the sinner low as the dust in point of fulness of wisdom, grace, and consolation, out humiliation and self-abasement, fills him at of which they are invited to receive, resides the same time with a hope full of glory, which, in him. And therefore he says, “ If ye ask with respect to its foundation, cannot be any thing in my name, I will do it," John xiv. shaken; and with respect to its object, can 14. Not merely, I will present your petitions, be satisfied with nothing less than all the ful- but I will fulfil them myself. For all things ness of God. There are favoured seasons in are committed into his hands, and it is he which the believer, having a lively impres- with whom we have to do, Heb. iv. 13. He sion of the authority and love of the Interces- therefore enjoins us, if we believe or trust sur, can address the great Jehovah as bis Fa- in God, to believe also in him, John xiv. 1. ther, with no less confidence than if he was His invitations, “ If any man thirst, let him holy and spotless as the angels before the come unto me and drink;" (John vii. 37;) -throne, at the very moment that he has abun- Whosoever will, let him take of the water dant cause to say, Behold I am vile ! I ab- of life freely;" (Rev. xxii

. 1?;) equally exhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes!" press his sovereignty and his munificence. Job xl. 4; xlii. 6.

On him the eyes of all who know him wait 3. This powerful and prevalent intercession from age to age, and are not disappointed. abundantly compensates for the poverty and He opens his hand, and satisfies them with narrowness of our prayers. Experience con- good, Psal. cxlv. 17. Nor is the store of his firms what the scripture declares of our in- bounty diminished by all that he has distribusufficiency to order our own cause before the ted, for it is unsearchable and inexhaustible, Lord, to specify our various wants, and to fill like the light of the sun, which gladdens the our mouths with such arguments, as may en- eyes of millions at once, has done so from the gage the attention, and enliven the affections beginning, and will continue to do so to the of our hearts. “We know not how to pray as end of time. we ought,” Rom. viii. 26. And though the 2. He appoints and adjusts their various. Holy Spirit teaches believers to form peti- dispensations, with an unerring suitableness tions, which, in the main, are agreeable to the to their several states, capacities, and circumwill of God, yet we often mistake and ask stances. If a skilful gardener had the comamiss; we often forget what we ought to ask, mand of the weather, he would not treat all and we are too often cold, negligent, weary, his plants, nor the same plantat all times, exdistracted, and formal in prayer. How prone actly alike. Continual rain, or continual sunare we to enter by prayer into the Lord's pre. shine, would be equally unfavourable to their sence, as the thoughtless horse rushes into growth and fruitfulness. In his kingdom of: the battle! (Jer. viii. 6.) to speak to God as providence, he so proportions the rain and the if we were only speaking into the air, and to sunshine to each other, that the corn is usualhave our thoughts dissipated and wandering ly brought forward from the seed to the blade, to the ends of the earth, while his holy name the ear, and the full ripe ear. And I believe is upon our polluted lips ! It is well for us, it would be always so, were it not for the prethat God is both able and gracious to do more valence of sin, which sometimes makes the, than we can ask dr think ; but that he actu- heavens over our head brass, the earth unally does so, for such unworthy creatures, is der our feet iron, (Deut. xxviii. 23,) and turns owing to our Intercessor. He knows all our a fruitful land into barrenness. So, in his wants, and pleads and provides accordingly. kingdom of grace, he trains his people up by He is not negligent, though we too frequently various exercises. He delights in their prose

He prayed for Peter's safety (Luke perity, and does not willingly grieve them. xxii. 31, 32,) before Peter himself was aware But afflictions in their present state are peof his danger. Have we not sometimes been cessary, and his blessing makes them salutas as it were surprised and shamed by the Lord's tary. But, this is their great privilege, that goodness, when he has condescended to be their comforts and their crosses are equally stow special and needful mercies upon us, be- from his hand, are equally tokens of his love, fore we thought of asking for them? These and alike directed to work together for their. are affecting proofs of our Intercessor's at- good. He appoints the bounds of their habitention and care, and that he is always mind- tations, numbers the hairs of their heads, and ful of us. But,

is their guide and guard, their sun and shield, II. Jesus the High Priest is upon a throne. even unto death. Here they meet with mas -He is a King, King of saints, and King of ny changes, but none that are unnoticed by nations. He is not only a righteous advocate, him, none that can separate them from bis but he possesses all authority and power. And love, and they all concur in leading them on it belongs to his office as King, effectually to to a state of unchangeable and endless joy,. manage for those in whose, behalf he inter-2 Cor. iv. 17. cedes. I have already observed that the ori 3. He is the Captain of their salvation, ginal word includes this sense.

Heb. ii. 10. They are his soldiers, and fight. 1. He is the source and fountain of their under his eye; yet the battle is not theirs supplies. All their springs are in him, The I but his. Israel of old were to muster thei.


« PreviousContinue »