|« Prev||Chapter IX. The intercession of Christ.||Next »|
Chapter IX. The intercession of Christ.
The nature of it — Its aim, not only that believers continuing so may be saved, but that they may be preserved in believing — This farther proved from the typical intercession of the Judaical high priest — The tenor of Christ’s intercession, as manifested John xvii. 11, opened, and verses 12–15 — The result of the argument from thence — The saints’ perseverance fully confirmed — Rom. viii. 33, 34 at large explained — Mr G.’s interpretation of the place in all the parts of it confuted — Vain supposals groundlessly interserted into the apostle’s discourse — What Christ intercedes for for believers farther manifested — The sum of what is assigned to the intercession of Christ by Mr G. — How far it is all from yielding the least consolation to the saints manifested — The reasons of the foregoing interpretation proposed and answered — The end assigned of the intercession of Christ answered — God works perseverance actually — A supply of means that may not be effectual not to be ascribed thereunto — Farther objections answered: Christ not the minister of sin by this doctrine — Supposals and instances upon the former interpretation disproved and rejected — A brief account of our doctrine concerning the intercession of Christ for believers, and of the true end of the act of his mediation — The close of the argument, and of the first part of this treatise.
Of the intercession of Christ, both as to the nature of its typical representation by the high priest’s entering into the holy of holies every year with blood, Heb. ix. 7, and its effectual influence into the perfect, complete salvation of believers, so much hath been spoken by others, and the whole of the doctrine delivered with so much clearness, spiritualness, and strength, that I shall not need to add any thing thereunto. That Christ intercedes for the preservation of believers in the love and favour of his Father to the end is that which I intend to manifest, and which may, as I suppose, be very 366easily undeniably evinced. Some few considerations will make way for the demonstration of the truth which is under consideration, or confirmation of the perseverance of saints from the intercession of Christ:—
1. The intercession of Christ being his appearance for us in the presence of God (Heb. ix. 24, he is gone into heaven ἐμφανισθῆναι τῷ προσώτῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ, to make a legal appearance for our defence before the judgment-seat of God, and by being there is our advocate, 1 John ii. 1; he is said to “be able to save us to the uttermost,” Heb. vii. 25), there is certainly something or other that he puts in for in the behalf of them in whose cause he appears and sues, that so he may save them to the utmost, Now, this must be either that, being and continuing believers, they may be saved, or that they may believe and continue believers unto salvation. That the first is not the sole import and aim of the intercession of Christ may be manifested from this double consideration:—
(1.) From the nature of the thing itself. There is nothing but the establishment of the very law of the gospel (“He that believeth shall be saved,”) wrapped up in this interpretation of the intercession of Christ. But this neither hath Christ any need to intercede for, it being ratified, confirmed, and declared from the beginning; neither is there, nor can there be, any opposition made against it, to shake, weaken, or disturb it in the least, it depending solely on the truth and unchangeableness of God, not being vested, by any condition whatsoever, in any other subject. (2.) Nor would this be availing to his militant church, whose preservation he aims at and intends in his intercession; for the whole of his desires may be granted him to the uttermost, and yet his whole church at any time militant perish for ever. Though not one soul should continue believing to the end, though the gates of hell should prevail against every one that names the name of Christ in the world, yet that truth, “He that believeth shall be saved,” taken in the sense of our adversaries, for a promise to perseverance in believing, and not a promise to actual true believers, might stand firm for ever. To say, then, that this is the whole intercession of Christ for his church, is to say that in his whole intercession he interceded not at all for his church. He is heard in his intercession, and he may be heard to the uttermost in this, and yet his whole church be so far from being saved to the utmost as utterly to be destroyed and consumed, John xi. 42.
2. Doubtless the intercession of Christ must answer the representation of it which the apostle so much insists on, Heb. vii.–ix. Of the oblation of Christ there were many types in the Aaronical priesthood of the law; of his intercession but one principally, — namely, that solemn entrance of the high priest with blood and incense into the holiest of holies, in the great anniversary sacrifice on 367the tenth day of the seventh month: on the which day, also, the great jubilee or joyful time of deliverance, typifying our deliverance by Christ, began. Hereunto is added the priesthood of Melchizedek, whereof there is mention neither of its beginning nor ending, to secure us of the continuance of our Mediator in the act of his priesthood for ever. Now, the end of the high priest’s so entering into this holy place, was to carry on the work of expiation and atonement to perfection, and complete peace with God in the behalf of them for whom he offered without; and therefore the Holy Ghost saith that his entrance with blood was to “offer for himself, and for the errors of the people,” Heb. ix. 7, it being but a continuation of his oblation begun without unto a complete atonement. And therefore there is no real difference between the efficacy of the death of Christ, and that of his intercession upon the actual accomplishment of it. It being, then, the complete taking away of the sins and errors of the people, as to the guilt of them, and the continuance of their peace with God, which was intended by the high priest’s entrance with blood into the holiest of holies, that which answers thereunto, or the deliverance of believers from the whole guilt of sin, and their preservation in the love and favour of God, is the intendment of Christ in his intercession. Let the effects and fruits of the oblation of Christ be bounded and limited to the procuring of a new way of salvation, without purchasing for any one person whatever power and grace to walk in that way, and then exclude his intercession from any influence into the preservation of them who do enter that way therein, and perhaps indifferent men will scarce think the glory and honour of the Lord Jesus to be of any great regard with us.
3. That this is the import of Christ’s intercession for believers is evident by that preface which we have thereof, John xvii., being a manifest declaration on earth of that which Christ lives in heaven to do. This was the incense wherewith he entered into the holy place, which he now prepared, and which was afterward beaten small in his agony, that it might be ready to make a sweet perfume at his entrance into heaven, as he was sprinkled with his own blood. That Christ intercedeth, and for his elect, for whom he died, that they may believe, our adversaries deny; but that he intercedes for actual believers hath not hitherto been questioned. What it is which he requests on their behalf, the tenor of that prayer of his, John xvii., will manifest. Verse 11, saith he, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are;” — “Keep them from sin and ruin, from every thing that will hinder them from union with me.” What is it that our Saviour here prays for, and for whom is he so engaged? That it is for believers, as such, for whom he puts up these supplications, our adversaries in the cause in hand do contend. That these may be 368kept through the power of God unto unity among themselves, which they have by their union with him, is his dying request for them. He prays not for such oneness as is consistent with their separation from his and his Father’s love. Where now shall we fix the supposed failure of those who effectually and eventually are kept up to spiritual union, who cannot fall out of nor fall off from (totally nor finally) the love of God? Either Christ is not heard in his request, or the Father cannot keep them by his power, if these thus interceded for are not preserved. Many temptations, many oppositions, great tribulations without, strong corruptions within, they must needs meet withal: these they have no power in themselves to overcome nor to resist. Should they be left to themselves, they would never be able to hold out to the end. Saith Christ, “I shall lose these poor sheep for whom I have ‘laid down my life’ to bring them unto thee. Holy Father, do thou therefore keep and preserve them from all these evils, that they may not prevail over them. And ‘keep them through thy name,’ thy power” (for we are “kept through the power of God unto salvation”); “let thy power be exerted for their preservation. And what is too strong for thy power? Who can take them out of thy hand? Lay that upon them for their defence, show it out in their behalf, that all their enemies may feel the weight and strength thereof. ‘Keep them through thy name,’ thy grace; let that be sufficient for them. Let them have such supplies of gospel grace and pardoning mercy (concerning which I manifested thy name unto them, verse 6, and so revealed thee [as] a Father), that they may be encouraged to trust in that name of thine, and to stay themselves upon thee.” Where the failure is, doubtless is not easy to manifest. In the verses following our Saviour adds many motives to make his intercession prevalent in their behalf:—
First, Verse 12, he saith that, according to that commission that he had received, he had faithfully preserved them whilst that he was in the world; and now being ready to leave them, as to his bodily presence, he urges the special preservation of his Father as needful, that after all the care and cost which he had laid out about them, they might not utterly perish. And then, —
Secondly, Verse 13, he urges the necessity that they should have some assurance of it in the midst of all their troubles and trials, that they may have consolation upon their confidence in the words which Christ had spoken to them, that they should be preserved through all difficulties unto the end. And he farther urges, —
Thirdly, Verse 14, from the certain opposition that they should meet withal, “ ‘The world hateth them,’ and will, without doubt, use all ways and means possible for their ruin and destruction;” giving also the reason why the world hateth them, and will oppose them, which is such an one as must needs engage the heart and good-will of 369God for their preservation, to wit, because they received the word of his dear Son, and upon that account left the world, separated from it, and became its enemies. And shall they now be left to the rage and fury of the world in this condition. “That be far from thee; ‘holy Father, keep them.’ ” Hereupon, —
Fourthly, Verse 15, he reneweth his prayer in their behalf, with a farther opening of his mind as to what he had last spoken of. “The world,” the world being vile, wretched, deceitful, and set upon opposition against them, a man would have thought that the Lord Jesus should have desired that his saints might be taken out from the midst of this world, and set in a quiet place by themselves, where they might no more be troubled with the baits and oppositions of it. But this is not that which he requests. He hath another work for them to do in the world. They are to bear witness to him and his truth by their faith and obedience, to convince the wicked, unbelieving world; they are to glorify his name by doing and suffering for him: so that this is no part of his request. “I pray not,” saith he, “that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that they may not be prevailed on nor conquered by the evil that is in the world; that they may be kept and preserved from the power of evil, which would separate them from me and my love.” This he presseth for, and this he is heard in; and that not only for his apostles and present followers, but as he tells you, verse 20, for all that should believe on him to the end of the world.
The things prayed for, the reason of his intercession, the opposition against the accomplishment of the things interceded for, the distinction put between them for whom he intercedes and the perishing world, — all delivered in plain and expressive terms, — evidently evince the intendment of Christ in his intercession to regard the safeguarding of believers in the love and favour of God, by their continuance in believing, and preservation from the power of temptations and oppositions arising against their perseverance in communion with God.
The result of what hath been spoken, as to its influence into the confirmation of the truth under demonstration, amounts unto thus much: That which the Lord Jesus, as mediator, requesteth and prayeth for continually of the Father, according to his mind, in order to the accomplishment of the promises made to him and covenant with him (all his desires being bottomed upon his exact, perfect performance of the whole will of God, both in doing and suffering), that shall certainly be accomplished and brought to pass; but thus, in this manner, upon these accounts, doth the Lord Jesus intercede for the perseverance of believers, and their preservation in the love of the Father unto the end: therefore, they shall undoubtedly be so preserved. It is confessed that the persons interceded for are believers, 370all believers that then were, or should be to the end of the world (the efficacy of this intercession having commenced from the foundation thereof); the thing prayed for is their preservation in the state of union with Christ and one another; the motives used for the obtaining this request in their behalf are taken from the work they have to do, and the opposition they were to meet withal. And all the saints being thus put into the hand of God, who shall take them from thence? On what account is it that they shall not be preserved? To say they shall be thus preserved in case themselves depart not wilfully from God, is to say they shall be preserved in case they preserve themselves, as will afterward be farther manifested.
This argument is proposed by the apostle in the most triumphant assurance of the truth and certainty of the inference contained in it that he anywhere useth, in any case whatsoever: Rom. viii. 33, 34, “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 hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” He lays the immunity of the elect and justified persons from just crimination or condemnation on the foundation of the oblation and intercession of Christ. The first part of this argument from the oblation of Christ (“Who shall condemn? It is Christ that died”), asserting the immunity of believers from condemnation, upon the account of the punishing of all their sins in Christ, and the perfect satisfaction made by his death for them, whence the justice of God in the issue will not have any thing to lay to their charge, we have formerly insisted on; the other, which the apostle induces emphatically and comparatively, though not in respect of procurement and purchase made, yet of assurance to be given, with μᾶλλον δέ, in respect of his oblation, is that now before us. To make the assurance of believers plentiful, that they may know both the truth of his first general assertion, that all things shall work together for good to them, and this particular conclusion, now laid down by way of interrogation, rejecting all evil opposed to their former enjoyments, “Who shall lay any thing to their charge? who shall condemn?” he gives them a threefold consideration of the state and actings of the Lord Christ, after the expiation of their sins by his blood, in reference to them:— 1. “He is risen;” 2. “He is at the right hand of God;” 3. “Maketh intercession for them:” — the first denoting his acquitment, and theirs in him (for he died in their stead), from all the sins that were charged on him; for he was declared to be the Son of God, accepted with him, and justified from all that debt which he undertook, in his resurrection. And if he be risen, who shall lay any thing to the charge of them whom he died for, and for all whose sins, in their stead, he was acquitted? The second is his exaltation and power; for “having purged our sins, he 371sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Heb. i. 3, receiving thereby a most plenary demonstration of his Father’s goodwill to him and his, in respect of the work that he had undertaken and gone through for them: for if he had not “made an end of sin,” when he was “obedient unto death, the death of the cross,” he could not expect that God should give him “a name above every name,” with fullness of power to give eternal life to all that the Father gave him. This to assure us that he will do, having power in his own hand, the apostle adds, “Who also intercedes for us;” hereby, thirdly, testifying abundantly his good-will and care for our salvation. Upon these considerations, the apostle leads the faith of the saints of God to make a conclusion, which is to be believed as a divine truth, that tenders to us the doctrine we have under demonstration triumphant against all objections and oppositions that can be made against it, And hence we thus argue: Those against whom no charge can be laid, who cannot by any means be separated from the love of God in Christ, cannot totally and finally fall away from faith, and fail out of God’s favour. But that this is the condition of all true believers is evident from the context. It is of all that are called according to the purpose of God, justified, and sanctified, — the proper description of all and only believers, — that the apostle affirms these things, and to whom he ascribes the condition mentioned. Now, that this is the state and condition of those persons, the apostle manifesteth from the causes of it, — namely, the oblation and intercession of Christ in their behalf; for those for whom he died and doth intercede are on that account exempted from any such charge as might be of prevalency to separate them from God.
Mr Goodwin attempts, indeed, once more to re-enforce the triumphed-over enemies of the saints, and to call them once more to make bead against the intercession of Christ; but with what ill success, the consideration of what arguments he useth with them and for them will demonstrate. Thus, then, he addresseth himself to his task, chap. xi. sect. 33, p. 248, “I answer, It is nowhere affirmed that Christ intercedes for the perseverance of the saints in their faith, or they who once believed should never cease believing, how sinful and wicked soever they should prove afterward; but Christ intercedes for his saints as such, and so continuing such, that no accusation from any hand whatsoever may be heard against them, that no afflictions or sufferings which they meet with in the world may cause any alienation or abatement in the love of God towards them, but that God will protect and preserve them under them, and consequently that they may be maintained at an excellent rate of consolation in every state and condition, and against all interposures of any creature to the contrary.”
This answer hath long since ceased to be new to us; it is that, indeed, 372which is the shield behind which Mr Goodwin lies, to avoid the force of all manner of arguments pointed against himself, though it be the most weak and frivolous that ever, I suppose, was used in so weighty a matter. It is here cast (as he hath many moulds and shapes to cast it in) into a denial of the assumption of our syllogism, and a reason of that denial. First, he denies that Christ intercedes for believers that they may persevere in their faith; he prays not for their perseverance.
His reason of this is twofold:— 1. A supposal that “they may prove so wicked as not to continue believing.” 2. A description of what Christ intercedes for in the behalf of believers, namely, “that they may continue in God’s love if they do continue to believe, notwithstanding all their afflictions.” “Homo homini quid interest?” Whether men will or no, these must pass for oracular dictates.
1. For the first, let what hath been spoken already be weighed, and see if there be not yet hope left for poor souls that Christ prays for them that their faith fail not. And, by the way, who will not embrace this comfortable doctrine, that will assure him, in his agonies, temptations, and failings, that all help and supplies are made out to him from and by the Lord Jesus, in whom is all his hope, and that he receives of his Father, upon his intercession, all the fruits of his death and blood-shedding in his behalf; but that he should believe, or, being tempted, should be preserved in believing, of that Christ takes no thought, nor did ever intercede with his Father for any such an end or purpose! Such consolation might befit Job’s friends: “Miserable comforters, physicians of no value.” But of this before.
2. For that supposal of his, of their proving wicked afterward to an inconsistency with believing, it hath often been corrected for a sturdy beggar, and sent away grumbling and hungry, and, were it not for pure necessity, would never once be owned any more by its master. Christ intercedes not for believers that they may persevere in the faith upon such foolish supposals, whose opposite is continuance in the faith, and so is coincident with the thing itself interceded for. To intercede that they may continue believing, is to intercede that they may never be so wicked as Mr Goodwin supposeth they may be. The end asserted of Christ’s intercession for the saints is, that they may never wickedly depart from God. Doth Mr Goodwin indeed take this to be the tenor of the doctrine he opposeth, and of the argument which he undertakes to answer, — namely, that the faith of believers, and the continuance of that, is interceded for without any reference to the work of faith in gospel obedience and communion with God in Christ? or if he thinks not so, why doth he so often insist on this calumnious evasion?
In giving the aim of Christ in his intercession for believers, we have this new cogent argument against our position, “Christ intercedes 373for the things here by me mentioned; therefore he doth not intercede for the perseverance of the saints.” But why so? Is there any inconsistency in these things, any repugnancy in terms, or contrariety of the things themselves? Christ intercedes that believers may enjoy the love of God; therefore he doth not intercede that they may be established in believing!
The sum of all that is here ascribed to the intercession of Christ at the best is, That God will confirm and ratify that everlasting law, that believers continuing so to the end shall be saved; which whether it be the sum of Christ’s intercession for his church or no, that church will judge. If there be any thing farther, or of more importance to them, in what is assigned to it by Mr Goodwin, it is wrapped up in the knot of “etc.,” which I am not able to untie.
These words of the apostle, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?” do not denote that this is the intercession of Christ for them, that no accusation be admitted against them whilst they believe, which is no more but the confirmation of that general proposition of the gospel before mentioned; but it is the conclusion which they make upon the account of the intercession of Christ, in the application of the promise of the gospel to their own souls. Neither is there any more weight in that which follows, “That there be no abatement or alienation of the love of God from them upon the account of their sufferings and afflictions;” which for the most part are for his sake. What saints of God were almost so much as once tempted with a conceit that God’s love should be abated or alienated from them because they suffered for him?
And this is the foundation of that “excellent rate of consolation at which the saints, upon the account of the intercession of Christ, may be maintained:” “Into afflictions, temptations, trials, they may fall; but if they continue in faith and love they shall not be rejected. No creature shall be heard against them; that Christ takes care for: but for the worst enemies they have, their own lusts, corruptions, and unbelief, the fiery darts of Satan fighting against their souls, with their continuance in believing, — the falling from whence is indeed all the danger they are exposed to, for whilst they continue so doing, all other things are lighter than vanity, — these Christ takes no care about” (though he prays that God would sanctify them and keep them), “but they must shift for themselves as well as they can; he will not, doth not intercede for them that from these they may he preserved.” Doubtless, he that shall think to be maintained long at any high rate of consolation, and lays in no other nor no better provision to live on than this mentioned, will quickly be reduced to a dry morsel.
But yet, some reasons of the foregoing interpretation of this place of the apostle, Rom. viii., are offered unto us:—
374[First], “This to be the tenor and effect of Christ’s intercession for his saints,” saith he, “is evident from the first of the three passages cited; and for that demand, ‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ it is not meant from the love wherewith we love Christ, but from the love wherewith Christ loveth us as we are saints, and abide in his love, and keep his commands. Neither is it so to be conceived as if sin, wickedness, looseness, profaneness, could not unsaint men, and thereby separate them from that love wherewith Christ some time loved them (for that iniquity will separate between men and their God is evident from Isa. lix. 2); but the clear meaning is, that nothing, no creature whatsoever, person or thing, can make Christ an enemy to those who shall in faith and love cleave fast unto him.”
Ans. All this respecteth only one expression in this one place of Scripture, and ariseth not with the least power against our argument, taken from many places in conjunction, explicatory one of another. It runs also upon the same mistake with the former, taking the exultation of believers upon the intercession of Christ in their behalf, which holds out the issue of it, to be expressive of the matter of his intercession, being only a demonstration of the event of it. But grant this to be the tenor and effect of Christ’s intercession, that believers may not be separated from his love, is he heard herein, or is he not? Whatsoever be the issue of the question, our procedure will be facile. But it is said that it is not “the love wherewith we love Christ, but that wherewith he loveth us, that we shall not be separated from.” Take this also for granted, that it is that, and that only, will this advantage your cause? If we be never separated from that love that Christ bears us, is it possible we should wholly be separated from that love that we bear him? Wherein consists our separation from that love that Christ bears us? How is it caused, or may it be procured? Is it not by the loss of our faith and love to him? or, at least, is it not an inseparable consequence thereof? or can it possibly come to pass any otherwise than on that account? If, then, he intercedes that we may not be separated from that love he bears us, and that love infers the continuance of ours, doth he not withal intercede that we may never lose that love wherewith we love him, by which we continue in his love? If the old shift be not at hand for a relief, this young part of the answer will instantly suffer loss. It is added therefore, “He loveth us as we are saints and abide in his love,” — that is (for so we must understand it), whilst we are so; for that he bears any effectual love to us to keep us up to saintship, that is denied. It is true, Christ loveth us as saints, and as abiding in his commandments; but it is also his love to keep us, and he intercedeth that we may abide, in that condition wherein alone it is possible for us so to do. Neither is the 375question whether sin, looseness, profaneness, do not separate between God and men, more or less; but whether believers shall not be preserved from such looseness and profaneness as would make a total separation between God and them? And if God [Christ?] intercedes, as is added in the close, that nothing may make him an enemy to us, certainly he must intercede that no sin may do it, — for indeed sin is something in this business, — and this must be as to the keeping us from it. I suppose no man thinks any thing in all this discourse of Mr Goodwin’s to look like the least attempt of proof that Christ doth not intercede for the perseverance of saints; neither hath he confidence enough positively to deny it, and therefore spends his whole discourse hereabout in evasions and diversions. Let it be directly denied that Christ doth not intend that the faith of believers may not fail, that his saints may be preserved and saved, and we know what we have to apply ourselves unto; and if the contrary cannot be proved, the saints know what they have to trust unto, that they may no longer lean on that which will yield them no supportment. If this will not be, let it on the other hand be granted that he doth so intercede; for “de unoquoque affirmare, aut negare, verum est.” As to this, then, he proceeds:—
Secondly, “Were it granted that part of Christ’s intercession for his saints is, that their faith may never fail, yet the intent thereof would not necessarily, nor indeed with any competent probability, be this, that no sin nor wickedness whatsoever that shall or can be perpetrated by them might cause them to make shipwreck of their faith, but rather that God would graciously vouchsafe such means and such a presence of his Spirit unto them as whereby they may be richly enabled to keep themselves in faith and good conscience to the end.”
Ans. Whether prejudiced men will grant it or no, it is clearly proved, if the words of Christ themselves may be taken for proof, that he intercedes for his saints that their faith may not fail, and that notwithstanding the interposition of any such sins as they can or may (“suppositis supponendis,” amongst which is his intercession) fall into. So he tells Peter, upon the prediction of his dreadful fall, that nevertheless he had prayed for him that his faith should not fail. That they may fall into such sins, and continue in such, as are inconsistent with their acceptation with God, according to the terms and tenor of the new covenant, is that which we have been disproving all this while, and which our author ought not, as he doth in all his reasonings, to suppose. In the not failing or dying of their faith, in their preservation therein, is included their deliverance from the perpetration of the sins intimated, or at least from such a manner of committing any sin as should utterly separate them from God. It is the continuance of a living faith that Christ prays for; and where 376that is, there will be works of new obedience, and there will be the work of that faith in purifying the heart and mortifying of the sins supposed. Farther; the way here prescribed and limited to the Lord Jesus how he shall intercede for his, and for what, — namely, not for actual perseverance and continuance in the faith to be wrought in them by the exceeding greatness of the power of God, but for means to enable them to preserve themselves, — we are persuaded he walks not in; and that much upon this account, that the way whereby God begins and carries on believers in the way of faith and obedience is not by such a supply of means as leaves them to themselves to work and effect the things for which they are so supplied, but he himself “works in them to will and to do of his own good pleasure, fulfilling in them all the good pleasure of his goodness and the work of faith with power,” giving them all their sufficiency, and preserving them by his power “through faith unto salvation.” To make faith, and perseverance therein, to follow such a supply of means as leaves the production of them to the power of the wills of men, so that after God hath done all that on his part is to be done or performed, — that is, quickened them being dead, giving them new hearts and spirits, shone into their minds, to give them the knowledge of his glory in the face of his Son, etc., — it is yet uncertain whether ever faith shall be wrought in their souls or no, or rather whether men so supplied with means will believe and persevere or no, is an assertion that will never be proved to eternity, nor, whilst truth is truth, is it capable of proof. “The granting of such means and such a presence of his Spirit, that men may be enabled to work for themselves,” is an expression exceedingly unsuited to all the promises of the new covenant. Whatever either of the Spirit of grace or the means of it is given out to believers, Christ intercedes that his Father would keep them, not that they should keep themselves. He was too well acquainted with our frame and our temptations to desire we might be our own keepers. God forbid we should be left to our own preservation, to the hand of our own counsel and power, though compassed with all the supposed sufficient means, that may be not eventually effectual! God creates a defence upon our glory, and doth not leave it to our own safeguarding. Our salvation is not in our own custody. That the Father doth not keep us or preserve us, that the Son doth not intercede that we may be so preserved, that the Spirit doth not make us meet for and keep us unto the inheritance of the saints in light, but that in the use of means we are, as Adam was, our own keepers, are some of the principles of that new way of administering consolation to believers which Mr Goodwin hath found out. This, then, is the utmost which Mr Goodwin will allow to be (for disputation’s sake, not that he really believes it) granted, that Christ intercedes for his saints as to their continuance and preservation 377in that condition, namely, that God would give them such means as; they may use or not use at their liberty, which may be effectual or not effectual, as their own wills shall choose to make use of them; which he also takes for granted to be common to all the world, and not to be peculiar unto believers.
But it is farther argued, “If Christ should simply and absolutely intercede that no sin or wickedness whatsoever may destroy the faith of any true believer, and consequently deprive him of salvation, should he not hereby become that which the apostle rejects with indignation as altogether unworthy of him, I mean, a minister of sin? ‘Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.’ Or whereby, or wherein, can it lightly be imagined that Christ should become a minister of sin, rather than by interceding with his Father that such and such men, how vile and abominable soever they shall become, may yet be precious in his sight, and receive a crown of righteousness from his hand? Or doth not such an intercession as some men put upon him, as they who make him to intercede simply and absolutely for the perseverance of believers in their faith, amount to an intercession of every whit as vile and unworthy import as this?”
Ans. 1. That this is the tenor of Christ’s intercession with his Father for men, “let them become as vile as they will, how vile and abominable soever, yet that they may be still precious in his sight, and that he would give them a crown of righteousness,” Mr Goodwin knoweth full well not to be the doctrine of them he opposeth. If he shall otherwise affirm, it will be incumbent on him to produce some one author that hath wrote about this doctrine, in what language soever, and so stated it. If he be ignorant that this is not their doctrine, he ought not to have engaged into an opposition thereof. If he argue that it is otherwise, this procedure is unworthy of him. That Christ intercedes for his saints that they may be kept from all such sins as would separate them from the love and favour of his Father, for which there is no remedy provided in the covenant of grace, and that their faith may not fail or perish under such sins as they may through temptation fall into, is the doctrine which he opposeth, or at least ought to oppose, to make good his undertaking. “Now, if this be so, then,” saith he, “is Christ the minister of sin.” Why so? He sees and foretells that Peter should deny him thrice, yet he prays that Peter’s faith may not fail under that sin and wickedness. Is he therefore a minister of sin? Because he intercedes that his saints may not be given up to the power of sin, nor every time they are assaulted lie conquered by sin, is he therefore a minister of sin? or rather a deliverer from sin? That very thing which Mr Goodwin affirms would make him a minister of sin, he affirms himself to do in the case of Peter. How he will free himself from this charge and imputation, ipse viderit.
3782. What it is to intercede simply and absolutely for believers, that they may continue believing, we are not so clear in. Christ intercedes that they may be preserved by the power of his Father, in and through the use of those means which he graciously affords them, and the powerful presence of the Spirit of God with them therein; and that not on any such absurd and foolish conditions as that they may be so preserved by his Father provided they preserve themselves, and continue believers on condition they continue to believe. And if this be of a “vile and unworthy import,” the gospel is so too, and one of the most eminent graces that are inwrapped in the new covenant is so too.
What there is farther in Mr Goodwin, sect. 34, pp. 249, 250, unto this argument, is either a mere repetition of what was spoken before, or a pressing of consequences upon such supposals as he is pleased to make concerning the doctrine that he doth oppose. As we cannot hinder any man from making what supposals they please, and suiting inferences to them, manifesting their skill in casting down what themselves set up, so we are not in the least concerned in such theatrical contests.
What it is that we teach of the intercession of Christ for believers hath been sufficiently explained: the end and aim of it is, that they may be kept, that they may not be lost, that the evil one may not touch them, that they may be saved to the uttermost, and kept by the power of God unto salvation; all that the Lord Jesus hath for his church, either by his oblation or his intercession, procured, or doth procure, being made out unto them by the holy and blessed Spirit, which he sent them from his Father as the first-fruits of his undertaking for them; by and in the use of such means and ways as he hath appointed for them to walk in in reference to the end proposed. He intercedes that, through supplies of that Spirit, their faith fail not, that no temptation prevail against them, that they may have suitable helps in time of need, and so be preserved, according to the tenor of that sanctification which he is pleased to give them in this life, which is imperfect, not from all sins, for it is the will of God to keep them and walk with them in a covenant of pardoning mercy; not absolutely from this or that great sin, as is evident in the case of David and Peter, whereof, under such sins, the one lost not the Spirit nor the other his faith; but from such sins, or such a course or way in and under sin, as would disappoint him, and make his desires frustrate as to the end first proposed, of bringing them to glory. So that, as the intendment of his oblation is meritoriously, and by way of procurement, to take away all our sins whatsoever, and yet in the application of it unto us, as to the taking of them away, by purifying us to be a holy people unto himself, it is not perfected and completed at once, nor the work thereof consummated 379but by degrees; so in his intercession, which respecteth the same persons and things with his oblation, he puts in for our deliverance from all sins and the power of them, but so and in such a manner as the nature of our present condition, whilst we are in via, and the condition of the covenant whereinto God hath graciously taken us, do require.
Through the goodness of God, we have now brought this first part to an end. They who are in any measure acquainted in what straits, under what pressing employments and urgent avocations, and in what space of time, this offering was provided for the sanctuary of God, will accept it in Him, whose it is, and from whom it was received.
|« Prev||Chapter IX. The intercession of Christ.||Next »|