|« Prev||Sermon LIX. Ephesians iii. 12.||Next »|
EPHESIANS iii. 12.
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
THE discussion of these words I shall manage in these two particulars.
I. I shall shew that the confidence becoming a Christian, in his access to God by prayer, is founded upon the mediation of Christ.
II. I shall inquire whether there be any other ground upon which this confidence may rationally found itself.
And first for the first of these, that the confidence becoming a Christian, in his access to God by prayer, is founded upon the mediation of Christ.
But now this dependence of our spiritual affairs upon Christ’s mediation will be yet more evidently set forth in the discussion of the third particular:
III. Which is, to shew the reason why Christ’s mediation ought to minister such confidence to us in our access to God.
He that is confident in any action grounds his confidence upon the great probability of the happy issue and success of that action, and that probability of success is grounded upon the fitness of the person intrusted with the management of it. In one word, therefore, the reason of grounding our confidence upon Christ’s mediation is the incomparable, singular 322fitness of Christ for the performance of that work; which fitness will appear by considering him under a threefold relation or respect.
1. In respect of God, the person with whom he is to mediate.
2. In respect of men, the persons for whom he mediates.
3. In respect of himself, who discharges this office.
1. And first we will consider him in relation to God, with whom he is to mediate; who also in this business may sustain a double capacity in relation to Christ.
(1.) Of a Father. (2.) Of a Judge.
(1.) And first if we consider him as his Father, there cannot be a more promising ground of success in all his pleas for us. For who should be heard and prevail, if not a son pleading before his father? where the very nearness of the relation is a more commanding rhetoric than words and speeches can bestow upon a cause. Nature itself takes the cause in hand, and declaims it with more power and insinuation than the highest and the most persuasive oratory. To have the judge’s ear is a great matter, but his son has his heart also. To be sure of an audience is a privilege that every advocate cannot attain to; but he may wait and wait, and at length go away unheard; and if perhaps he does obtain an hearing, yet he is not sure to carry it on without rubs and supercilious checks, that shall dishearten both his client and himself: he brings no advantage to the cause by his own person; so that if it succeeds, it must be upon the account of an invincible, prevailing evidence of merit. It must in a manner be its own 323pleader. It must argue and set off itself, and, without any assistances of favour, prevail entirely by the absolute victoriousness of truth.
But a good cause managed by an acceptable and a favoured person, it is like a sharp weapon wielded by a mighty arm, that enters deeper and further, being drove home by a double cause, its own keenness and the other’s strength. It is impossible indeed for the unchangeable rectitude of the divine nature to warp or deviate in the least manner from truth or justice, out of favour to persons. Yet where favour is consistent with justice, as oftentimes it may undoubtedly be, there the sonship of the advocate must needs facilitate and promote the cause. But however, admitting that favour can have no place in matters of this nature, yet it is a solid argument of comfort and encouragement to sinners, that their cause is in such hands as can reflect no prejudice or disadvantage upon it. Their advocate is not disgusted or obnoxious, and in need to plead for himself, before he can be in a capacity to be heard for his client. It is enough, that if there be any possibility of favour, they are sure of it; that they have an interest on their side, an interest founded upon the nearest and the dearest relation. They speak to a father by the mouth of his son, and, what is more, of his only son; so that they may hope with the highest reason and argument: and, to put an impossible supposition, though their cause should fall, yet their confidence is founded upon a rock.
(2.) We will consider God relating to Christ as a Judge. And here we will first represent to ourselves all that the office and severity of a judge can engage him to. We will consider him with all the rigours 324of justice, void of favour, inflexible, immovable, and exacting all by a strict rule, a rule that he will not in the least recede from; a rule admitting of no mitigation or dispensation; but awarding to all actions a recompence according to the most rigid and nice proportions of equality and merit. We will consider him as clothing himself with all the terrors of mount Sinai, uttering a fiery law that speaks nothing but death and a curse to the disobedient, and requires the forfeit of a soul for every transgression. Yet notwithstanding all this, we may with confidence rest ourselves upon the mediation of Christ with God for these two reasons.
1st. Because he appears for us not only as an advocate, but as a surety, paying down to God on our behalf the very utmost that his justice can exact. He suffered, he bled, he died for those for whom he intercedes; so that he brings satisfaction in one hand, while he presents a petition with another. He undertakes and pays the debt, and thereby cancels the bond; so that the law and justice itself have lost their hold of the sinner, and he is become a discharged and a justified person.
And surely such an one may pray with confidence and hope for all the blessings of divine mercy, when his surety has cleared off all scores with his justice. He may take up the apostle’s demand, Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies; and he may add further, It is Christ that intercedes; Christ, that brings a price for what he asks, that can plead a right, and, if need be, even appeal to God’s justice.
But secondly, we have yet another ground of building our confidence upon Christ’s mediation with 325God, though considered as a Judge; because he himself has appointed him to this work: It was he that laid help upon one that is mighty, as the Psalmist says, Psalm lxxxix. 19, and that made the man of his right hand, the Son of man, strong for himself, Psalm lxxx. 17. He prepared and endowed him with qualifications fit for so great an employment; upon which account he is called the Christ, that is, the Anointed of God: for with the Jews, kings, priests, and prophets, that is, persons designed to the highest offices and charges, were initiated into them by the ceremony of anointing: whereupon Christ, who was to sustain all these offices, is said to have been anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows.
But now, if God thus constitutes Christ a mediator between himself and sinners, certainly it is an evident demonstration that he will hear and accept him in the management of that very work that he called him to and put him upon. No judge commands an advocate to speak, and when he speaks presently shuts his ears. This would be to contradict himself, and to mock the other; which God’s truth and goodness will not suffer him to do. What Christ does in this matter he does upon the very account of obedience, and has a call and a command to vouch for the success of his appearance, and therefore cannot be rejected or kept off as an intruder. He that bids another ask a thing of him, tells him in effect that he is resolved to grant it. He that invites, promises an admittance.
And thus I have shewn Christ’s fitness for the work of mediation in respect of God, and that, considered either as a Father or as a Judge.326
2. In the next place we are to consider his fitness for this work in reference to men, for whom he mediates; which will appear from that fourfold relation that he bears to them.
1. Of a friend. 2. Of a brother. 3. Of a surety. 4. Of a lord and master.
1. And first let us look upon him as a friend; that is, as one that we may trust with our nearest concernments as freely as ourselves. And Christ has solemnly owned this relation to all believers; so that we may with the greatest cheerfulness and assurance commit the presenting of our petitions to him, whose care and solicitousness for the success of them will be the same with ours. Friendship is an active and a venturous thing, and, where it is real, it will make a man bolder and more importunate for his friend than for himself. Now Christ has all the perfections of human friendship without the flaws and weaknesses of it: and surely he will bestow a prayer for those for whom he would spend a life. Though the presence of God is terrible to behold, and his anger much more terrible to feel, yet Christ has declined neither of them, but made his way to the former by a resolute undergoing of the latter.
Many men will indeed profess themselves to be friends, and expect to be accounted so: but if at any time they are desired to speak a good word to a great person in the behalf of one to whom they have made all these professions, they will desire to be excused; they must not spend and lavish away an interest upon other people’s advantages, but reserve it fresh and entire for themselves.
Sad were the condition of sinners, should the friendship of Christ shew itself at this rate. A friend 327in the court of heaven would do them but little good, that would not so much as befriend them with a word. But Christ is interceding for us night and day, presenting our prayers to the Father, and making them effectual by his own.
2. Let us consider Christ as a brother, and so we have a further cause to repose a confidence in him, in point of his mediation for us. For although it does not always fall out that the nearest relations are the best friends, yet it is a fault that they are not so; and therefore we may be sure that Christ, who cannot commit a fault, cannot but equal the nearness of the relation he bears to us with a proportionable measure of affection. He is the Son of God by nature, and because we cannot be so too, he has made us so by adoption; John i. 12, To as many as received him, he gave power to become the sons of God. So that he has even united us into one family with himself: Ephes. iii. 15; By whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. Nay, and to advance the relation yet nearer, because it was impossible for dust and ashes to aspire to a participation of the divine nature, he was pleased to descend to the assumption of ours, and to become the Son of man not by adoption only, but really and naturally: to be bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; to own the same human affections, and, in a word, not to decline our very infirmities.
Which being so, we may very well own all that confidence of succeeding through the mediation of Christ, that the fidelity of a friend and the dearness of a brother may administer to us. For should a brother prevaricate and prove false, nature itself would seem to fly in his face, and upbraid his unhuman 328perfidiousness. Society would mark him out as a common enemy to mankind, and unfit for converse.
Brotherhood unites persons by a certain tie that is not only forcible, but sacred; and to violate it by any falseness or treachery of behaviour is to injure not only a man, but even humanity itself. And therefore whatsoever business any one puts into his brother’s hands, he counts as secure as if it were in his own. And we may be sure that Christ will be as much more concerned for our affairs than an earthly brother, as such a brother would be more than an ordinary acquaintance.
3. Let us consider Christ as our surety; and so we shall find the same, if not a greater cause of being confident of him as our mediator. It is not every friend nor every brother that will be a surety, since the love that must raise one to undertake this even amongst men, must be a love greater than he bears to himself: for he that ventures to be a surety for another, ventures an undoing for his sake; and there is not any thing less to be wondered at in common life, than to see such persons undone: so that nothing is more certain in human affairs, than that assertion of Solomon, that he that hateth suretyship is sure.
But the debt that Christ was our surety for, was as much greater than the greatest that befalls men in worldly matters, as eternity is greater than time, as heaven is above earth, and the executions of an infinite wrath above the slight, weak revenges of a mortal power. He bore our iniquities, Isaiah liii. and placed himself before the justice of his Father, as responsible for all that the law could charge us with: and being made thus obnoxious by his own 329free choice, wrath came upon him to the uttermost: he drank off the cup of God’s fury, and squeezed out the very dregs. All this he did in our stead, in our room, in our persons, whom he represented in all that great action.
And now, after such an experiment of his love to us, can we doubt that he will stick at the lesser and lower instances of kindness? that he will refuse to manage and enforce our petitions at the throne of grace, who did not refuse to make himself an offering to justice? We may rest assured that he will not be wanting to the prosecution of our interest, who, by the very office that he has undertook, has made our interest his own.
4thly and lastly, for the further confirmation of our confidence, in our addresses to God, we will consider Christ under a very different relation from all the former, and that is, as he is our lord and master. Majestas et amor, sovereignty and love, (as the poet observes,) do but ill cohabit in the same breast; and the truth is, love prompts to service, and sovereignty imports dominion, and so proceed in a very contrary strain. Yet Christ has united them both in himself: for as he is the most absolute of lords, so he is the best and the most faithful of friends, the kindest brother, and the ablest surety. Nay, and he has founded our friendship and our subjection to him, things very different, upon the same bottom, which is, obedience to his laws; John xv. 14, Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. And elsewhere he tells us of the homage we owe him, in John xiii. 13, Ye call me Lord and Master: and ye do well; for so I am. But this relation, though it speaks superiority and distance, yet it imports also kindness and protection. 330For what master is there, of a worthy and a generous spirit, that does not espouse the interest and good of his servant, and esteem himself answerable for it as for a trust, which all the principles of religion, humanity, and good-nature will call him to an account for?
Christ shews sufficiently how far he owns himself concerned for his servants, where he declares, that he looks upon every courtesy or injury done to the least of them as done to himself, in Matt. xxv. 45. And as he owns them before men, so he is not ashamed to acknowledge them before his Father in heaven; to further their prayers, to endear their persons, to recommend their services, and, in a word, to be their constant, indefatigable intercessor.
Now, under this relation of lord, I suppose we may consider that also by which Christ owns himself for our head; than which there cannot be one more peculiarly fitted to encourage us in the business of prayer. For when any of the members are aggrieved, or ill at ease, it is the head that must complain and cry out for relief. Nor needs it any intelligence from the afflicted part; but it feels it by a quick sympathy, and utters what it feels by a kind of necessity. And it is as impossible for an arm or a leg to be broke, and the head to be unconcerned, as for any member of the mystical body of Christ to be under a pressing calamity, and for Christ, the head, not to be sensible of that misery, and to vent his sense of it by a vigorous intercession with his Father for its removal.
And thus I have shewn those four relations that Christ bears to believers; every one of which is a pregnant and a forcible argument for us to depend 331upon his mediation for the success of our prayers and the acceptance of our persons, in all our addresses to the Father.
3. I come now, in the third and last place, to demonstrate the fitness of Christ to be a mediator for us, by considering him in respect of himself, and those qualifications inherent in him, which so particularly qualify and dispose him for this work: of which I shall mention and insist upon three.
1. That he is perfectly acquainted with all our wants and necessities.
2. That he is heartily sensible of and concerned about them.
3. That he is best able to express and set them forth to the Father.
1. And first for the first of these, his acquaintance with our condition. We need not spend much time or labour to inform our advocate of our case: for his omniscience is beforehand with us: he knows all our affairs, and, what is more, our hearts, better than we ourselves. And it is our happiness that he does so; for by this means he is able to supply the defects of our prayers, and to beg those things for us that our ignorance was not aware of. And what is yet a greater advantage, he is upon this account able also to correct our prayers. For such is the shortness of our understanding and the weakness of our affections, that we pray sometimes for those things that would prove our bane and our destruction: we beg heartily for a mischief, and importune God to be so favourable as to ruin us at our desire. In which case surely it concerns us to have somebody to counter-petition us, and to ask a fish while we are 332begging for a serpent; and to be so kind to us as to keep our prayers from being granted.
A man perhaps is visited with sickness, and passing his days in pain and languishing, puts up many an hearty prayer to God to restore him to health and ease; but all this time he is ignorant of the end and design of this visitation: for possibly the distemper of his body is every day ministering to the cure of his soul, to the mortification of his pride, his lust, and worldly-mindedness: and perhaps God, who foresees all accidents, and knows upon what little wheels and hinges the events of things move, understands assuredly that his sickness removes him out of harm’s way, and secures him from those peculiar occasions of sin, that, being well and healthful, he would inevitably fall into, and perhaps deplorably fall by. But now Christ has a full comprehension of all these possibilities, and knows what would promote and what would annoy every man in his spiritual estate: he knows when sickness will set a man nearer to heaven than health can do; when poverty, banishment, and affliction, subserve the purposes of grace, and the great interests of eternity, better than all the affluence of fortune, the highest preferments, and the most undisturbed prosperity.
As it is an happiness for some men not to be left to their own choice, but to resign themselves up to the guidance and disposal of one of greater experience; so it is the safest course for many not to be permitted to stand or fall according to their own prayers. For it is not always piety or discretion that indites them, but an impatience of some present 333grievance, or a passionate desire of some earthly enjoyment, affections that in many circumstances border too near upon sin: and therefore the prayers that proceed from them are never granted by God but in anger, and with an intent to punish and to blast the person that makes them.
Such prayers are never seconded or backed by Christ’s intercession, unless for the begging of their pardon, and excusing their folly and their unfitness; and then God may be said most graciously to hear them, when for the mediation of Christ he pardons and denies them: which mediation of his takes its measures of acting, not by our desires, but our wants; of which he is the most competent judge, as being more privy to them than our very consciences; for they may be deceived and deluded, but he cannot. And thus much for the first thing that qualifies Christ to be our mediator, that he knows every thing belonging to our spiritual estate certainly and infallibly.
2. The second is, that he is heartily sensible of, and concerned about whatsoever concerns us. Without which his knowledge would avail us but little. For the bare knowing of a thing engages no man to act in it. And therefore Christ is represented to us as one that is touched with the sense of our infirmities, as sharing our griefs, and bearing a part in our sorrows; which very thing renders him a merciful high priest, and ready to intercede for us with the same vehemence and importunity, that by a personal endurance of those miseries he might be prompted to for himself. He that would speak earnestly and forcibly of any thing, must work it into his heart by a lively and a keen sense of it, as 334well as into his head by a clear knowledge and apprehension. For where the heart is engaged, all the actions follow: no part or power of the soul can be unactive when that is stirred; and being once moved itself, it moves all the rest.
Now it is the heart of Christ that every believer has an interest in: and we know that he carries that in his breast that intercedes for us with him, as well as he with the Father. He does not only hear our sighs, but also feels the cause of them: and if we suffer by the direct impressions of pain, he also suffers by the movings and yearnings of his own compassion: so that in a manner our relief is his own ease; and that deliverance that disburdens our minds, does also by consequence discharge his.
When he was to leave the world, we read how sensible he was of the disconsolate condition of his disciples; and that he promised to send the Spirit to them for no cause more than to be their Comforter; and to allay those sorrows that upon his departure he foresaw would fill their hearts: he seemed actually to feel their grief, while it was yet but future, and to come: that is, before they could have any feeling of it themselves. This concernment therefore of his for us, is another thing that greatly fits him for the office of a mediator.
3. The third and last is, his transcendent and more than human ability to express and set forth every thing that may be pleaded in our behalf to the best advantage; which is the peculiar qualification of a good advocate, and that which makes the two former considerable. For admit that he both knows his client’s cause, and is heartily and warmly concerned for it, yet if his tongue and his eloquence 335doth not serve him to draw forth those thoughts and those affections in a suitable defence of it, he is rather a good man and a good friend, than a good advocate or mediator.
But now is there any one that may compare with Christ in respect of this faculty? to whom God has given the tongue of the wise; a tongue speaking with authority, commanding men, and persuading God: nay, and who himself was able to give his disciples such a tongue, as all their adversaries, though never so learned and eloquent, were not able to resist. That prayer that perhaps is by much ado sighed and sobbed out by the penitent, his grief interrupting his words, yet as it arrives to the throne of God from the mouth of our Mediator, it comes with a grace and a force superior to all human rhetoric; it enters the presence and pierces the ears of the Almighty; and, in a word, prevails in that manner, as if it were almighty itself.
And here I cannot but observe, how the qualities of Christ as our mediator pleading for us do particularly mate and confront those of the Devil our grand adversary pleading against us. For as Christ is most knowing of our spiritual estate, and every thing relating to it; so is the Devil most industrious and inquisitive to give himself an exact information of the same. As Christ is most tenderly concerned for us, so is the Devil most maliciously and inveterately set against us. And lastly, as Christ has all the strengths and treasures of elocution to employ in our defence, so is the Devil restless and artificial in drawing up our charge and accusation with all the heightening, aggravating language, that a great wit and a redundant malice can afford. But in all this 336he is outdone; even as much as the Creator can outdo a creature: so that we need not use any further elogy of Christ’s mediatorship than this, that he is a greater and a more potent advocate, than the Devil himself can be an accuser.
And thus I have at length demonstrated the eminent fitness of Christ for the office of mediator, upon a treble account or respect; namely, in respect of God, of us, and of himself: and so have finished the third particular proposed for the handling of the words; which was, to shew the reason why Christ’s mediation ought to minister such confidence to us in our access to God.337
|« Prev||Sermon LIX. Ephesians iii. 12.||Next »|