« PreviousContinue »
ficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” When he fore. warned his disciples that they were to be brought before governors and kings for his sake, did he require them to tell, at that very instant, what defence they could make? or did he even set upon them preparing answers to such questions as might be put unto them? No: on the contrary, he said unto them, “ Be not anxious how, or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.” When ye are brought to the trial and work of confessors, then shall you find the courage and wisdom of confessors. So it is, my brethren, with respect to us: grace to suffer, is for a suffering season: grace to die, is for dying moments: then, but not before, is the time of need. Are you solicitous about grace for future emergencies ? let me ask you, I pray, have you got all the grace you need for present duty? If you think you have, I can, without further inquiry, assure you, that you are mistaken. At this very moment you need grace to cure your anxiety and distrust, to check your impatience and presumptuous curiosity. Cast your care upon God for every needfal support, when you shall be called to suffer and die, and come to his throne for grace, that may enable you to live to some good and useful purpose in the mean time. Seek grace to mortify your remaining corruptions, to strengthen your faith, and to inflame your love; seek grace to perform all the duties of social life, to make you goodl neighbours, good friends, good parents, or good children, that you may serve and glorify God in those stations and conditions of life which his providence hath alloited you. These ought to be the immediate objects of
your care; for till the present time cease to be a time of need, it is indecent, it is foolishi, to look beyond it, and to distress yourselves with a premature anxiety
about the morrow. Our errand, then, to the throne of grace, is no other than this, to obtain mercy for the pardon of past sins, and grace proportioned to our present necessity; either to subdue our corruptions, to resist temptations, to support us under the afflictions we feel, or to strengthen us for the duties we are called to perform. I now proceed in the
Third place, To illustrate the grounds of encouragement upon which the apostle's exhortation is founded. These are suggested in the two preceding verses: We have a great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God. This High Priest is passed into the heavens; and he is not an High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
The 1st thing to be considered is the personal worth and dignity of our High Priest. Of this we have a lofty description in the beginning of the epistle: there he is styled the Son of God, and the Creator of the worlds, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person, who upholdeth all things by the word of his power; infinitely higher than the angels, inasmuch as he is their Lord and head, and they only ministering spirits, whom he employs as his servants, and sends forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation. Thus great is the Christian's High Priest : this is that exalted Person who hath undertaken to mediate between God and sinners. Have we not here then one solid ground of encouragement, a firm foundation for our hope of the divine favour aud acceptance ? but this ground of encouragement receives a mighty addition, when, together with the personal dignity of our High Priest, we consider, in the
2d place, The value of what he did and suffered in
that character. Having assumed our nature, "and taken upon him the form of a servant,” he yielded a perfect obedience to that law which we had broken, and at last submitted to a painful, ignominious, and accursed death, that we might live through him. “ He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in bim." Hereby the law was magni. fied, divine justice infinitely glorified, and a way opened for the free and honourable exercise of mercy and grace to a guilty world. The sufferings of the Son of God in our nature, and for our sins, afford a display of the divine holiness and justice, more bright and awful than if the whole human race had perished irrecoverably. While the law is not made void, but established, by what he did ; at the same time by what he suffered, a public testimony is given to all intelligent creatures, that sin is an evil of such deep malignity, that nothing less than a sacrifice of infinite worth could expiate the guilt of it, or save the transgressors from endless misery: So that this dispensation, which provides so effectually for the glory of God, bath a powerful tendency to quiet our minds, and to cherish our hopes of pardon and acceptance; because now it appears, that God may be merciful without impairing the authority of his government; nay, perfectly just, as well as infinitely gracious, when he justifieth those who believe on Jesus. These hopes will appear to have a firmer foundation, if, to the dignity of our High Priest, and the inestimable worth of his obedience and suffering, we add, in the
3d place, That he was fully authorised to undertake this office; for, as we read in this same epistle, “ Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he who said unto him, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee.” Indeed, without such a divine constitution, the sa.
crifice he offered could have been of no benefit to us. The acceptance of one life in the place of another, dependeth solely upon him to whom the forfeiture is made. But, blessed be God, the designation of our Lord to the office of bigh priest, is so plainly and repeatedly asserted in Scripture, that there is no room left us to doubt of it. “He gave himself for our sins, according to the will of God." Hence he is styled the Messenger of the covenant, the Serrant, and the Elect of God. Io every part of his un. dertaking he acted by commission from his heavenly Father: “He came not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him;" which affords the strongest encouragement to draw near to God with filial boldness, and to hope for acceptance through this great High Priest of his own designation and choice, this "mighty One, upon whom he hath laid our help.” Yea,
4thly. To remove every possible ground of jealousy, God hath testified, in the most public and solemn man. per, his perfect satisfaction with his whole conduct as Mediator; which is a circumstance of the utmost importance to give our hope a firm and lasting foundation. Though Christ had died on purpose to expiate our guilty and to reconcile us to God; though his sacrifice had been of infinite worth in itself, and offered in consequence of bis Father's appointment; yet, after all, something would have appeared wanting to assure our faith, if it had not been furnished with the strongest evidence that this sacrifice was really accepted. But, thanks be unto God, the certainty of this is put beyond all question in the sacred Scriptures. Twice was it proclaimed by an audible voice from heaven, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The miracles wrought at his death, and that greatest of miracles, his own resurrection from the dead, are further confirmations of this comfortable truth;
but, above all, his ascension into heaven, and his exaltațion to the right hand of the majesty on high, remove every coneeivable cause of fear, and do well support that triumphant challenge of the apostle, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth: Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again; who is even at the right band of God; who also maketh intercession for us." Which brings me to the
5th and last ground of encouragement, namely, That our great High Priest, who is passed into the heavens, is ever mindful of our interest, and lives and reigns for the benefit of his people. We are told in Scripture, that the legal high priest carried the names of the twelve tribes on his shoulder and breast-plate, when, on the great day of atonement, he made his solemn entrance into the holy of holies; that while God looked upon him, he might at the same time remember the tribes of Israel, accept bis offering for the expiation of their guilt, and hearken to his prayers and intercession on their behalf. In like manner, our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is gone into the heavenly sanctuary, “ap. pears in the immediate presence of God for us,” sustaiying the character of the second Adam, the head and representative of all his spiritual seed; and is raised to the highest dignity and power, that he may manage their affairs to the best advantage, and effectually secure their eternal salvation. He was a sufferer himself, and knoweth the heart of a sufferer, not by report, but by personal experience. He was tried with temptations even as we are; and though he conquered them all, yet he had proof of the skill, as well as of the malice of the tempter, and can make allowance for the disproportion betwixt himself and us. Nay, he stooped thus low, not only to make