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[Preached at St. Peter’s, Cornhill, on the feast of the Annunciation, 1691.]
CHRIST JESUS THE ONLY MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN.
For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.—1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.
THESE words contain in them these four propositions; three of them express, and the fourth of them sufficiently implied in the text.
I. That “there is one God.”
II. That “there is one mediator between God and men; Christ Jesus.”
III. That he “gave himself a ransom for all.”
IV. That the mediation or intercession of Jesus Christ, is founded in the redemption of mankind. For this seems to be the reason why it is added, that he “gave himself a ransom for all,” to signify to us, that because he “gave himself a ransom for all,” therefore he intercedes for all. In virtue of that sacrifice which he offered to God for the salvation of men, he offers up our prayers to God; and therefore it is acceptable to him, that we should pray for all men. This seems to be the true connexion of the apostle’s discourse, and the force of his reasoning, about our putting up public prayers for all men.
I have in a former discourse handled the first of these. I proceed now, to the310
II. Second, That “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” “One11See Sermon XLVIII. concerning the Unity of the Divine Nature, Vol. iii. p. 409. mediator,” that is, but one; for the expression is the very same concerning one God, and one mediator; and therefore, if the apostle when he says, “there is one God,” certainly means that there is but one God; it is equally certain, that when he says, “there is one mediator between God and men,” he means, there is but one mediator, viz. Christ Jesus. He is the only mediator between God and men.
In the handling of this argument, I shall proceed in this method.
I. I shall endeavour to shew, that God hath appointed but one mediator, or advocate, or intercessor in heaven for us; in whose name, and by whose mediation and intercession, we are to offer up our prayers and services to God.
II. That this is most agreeable to one main end and design of the Christian religion, and of our Saviour’s coming into the world.
III. That it is likewise evident from the nature and reason of the thing itself, that there is but one mediator and intercessor in heaven for us, to offer up our prayers to God; and that there can be no more. And then,
IV. And lastly, I shall endeavour to shew, how contrary to the doctrine of the Christian religion, concerning one mediator and intercessor in heaven for us, the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome in this matter is, in their invocation of angels, and the blessed Virgin, and the saints, and making use of their mediation and intercession with God for sinners; as likewise how contrary it is to the 311doctrine and practice of the primitive Christian church: and then I shall answer their several pretences for this doctrine and practice; and shew that this practice is not only needless, but useless and unprofitable; and not only so, but very dangerous and impious.
First, I shall endeavour to shew, that God hath appointed but one mediator, or advocate, or intercessor in heaven for us, in whose name, and by whose intercession, we are to offer up all our prayers and services to God.
Besides that it is expressly said here in the text, “there is but one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” and that the Scripture no where mentions any other: I say, besides this, we are constantly directed to offer up our prayers and thanksgivings, and to perform all acts of worship in his name, and no other; and with a promise, that the prayers and services, which we offer up in his name, will be graciously answered and accepted: (John xiv. 13, 14.) “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do; that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” And chap. xvi. 23, 24. “And in that day ye shall ask me nothing: verily, verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name; ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” “In that day;” that is, when I have left the world, and am gone to my Father, as he explains it in the 28th verse, “In that day ye shall ask me nothing; but “whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.” That is, you shall not need to address your prayers to me, but to my Father in 312my name. And, (ver. 26, 27.) “At that day ye shall ask in my name;” that is, from the time that I am ascended into heaven, ye shall put up all your prayers and requests to God, in my name; “and I say unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you;” that is, I need not tell you (though I shall certainly do it) that I will intercede with the Father for you; for he of himself is kindly disposed and affected towards you, for my sake; the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me.
St. Paul likewise commands Christians to perform all acts of religions worship in the name of Christ: (Col. iii. 10, 17.) “Singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord, and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of our Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” And giving this precept of addressing all our prayers and thanksgivings to God, by Jesus Christ, as the only mediator between God and us, is the more remarkable, because it is given in opposition to the worshipping of God by any other mediators and intercessors in heaven for us; and to that superstition which had begun so early to prevail among some Christians at Colosse and Laodicea, of worshipping God by the mediation and intercession of angels, against which he had cautioned in the former chapter: (ver. 18, 19.) “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility, and worshipping of angels, not holding the head.” Intimating, that for Christians to address themselves to God, by any other mediator but Jesus Christ only, was a defection from Christ “the head, and high priest of our profession.” And that this is the apostle’s meaning, Theodoret assures us, in his comment 313upon this place, where he tells us, that some who maintained an observance of the law, together with the gospel, asserted also, that angels were to be worshipped, saying, that the law was given by them. And this custom, he tells us, remained a long time in Phrygia and Pisidia, and that upon this account it was, that the synod of Laodicea in Phrygia (about the middle of the fourth century) forbade Christians, by a law, to pray to angels. And yet more expressly in his comment upon those words, (chap. iii. ver. 17.) “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” For, “because (^says he) they (meaning those of whom St. Paul warns the Colossians to beware; because they) did command men to worship angels, he enjoins the contrary; that they should adorn both their words and actions with the memory (or mention) of the name of Christ their Lord: and send ye up (saith he) thanksgiving to God and the Father by him, and not by the angels.” And then he makes mention of the canon of the synod of Laodicea, “which (says he) in pursuance of this rule, and being desirous to cure that old disease, made it a law, that none should pray unto angels, nor forsake the Lord Jesus Christ.” It seems then that some relics of that impious custom, of praying to angels, which Theodoret here calls “that old disease,” had continued from St. Paul’s time, to the council of Laodicea, which was the occasion of that severe canon then made about that matter: the very words whereof I will set down, because they are remarkable; viz. “That Christians ought not to forsake the church of God, and go away from it, and to invocate angels, and to make conventicles, 314all which are forbidden. If any therefore be found giving himself to this secret idolatry, let him be anathema; because he hath forsaken our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and is gone over to idolatry.” What shall be said to them, who do not only secretly, and in their private devotions, but in the public assemblies of Christians, and in the most public offices of their church, invocate angels, and pray to them? So that it was praying to angels (or making use of them as mediators and intercessors with God for us) which St. Paul here reproves so severely in the Colossians, as a defection from Christ and the Christian religion.
And indeed, considering how frequently the Scripture speaks of Christ, as “our only way to God, and by whom alone we have access to the throne of grace,” we cannot doubt but that God hath constituted him our only mediator and intercessor, by whom we are to address all our requests to God. (John xiv. 6.) Jesus there saith unto Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life;” that is, the true and living way to the Father (which the apostle calls “a new and living way.” Heb. x. 19, 20. “Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way; which he hath consecrated for us.” ) “No man cometh to the Father but by me;” that is, we can have no access to God by prayer, or by any other acts of religious worship but by him. So St. Paul tells us, (Eph. ii. 18.) “For through him (speaking of Christ) we both have an access by one Spirit unto the Father.” “We both;” that is, both Jews and gentiles. Under the law the Jews had access to God by their high priest, 315who interceded with God, and offered up prayers in behalf of the people. The gentiles, they addressed themselves to God by innumerable mediators, by angels, and the souls of their departed heroes, which were the pagan saints. Instead of all these, God hath appointed one mediator and intercessor in heaven for us, Jesus the Son of God, and by him all mankind, both Jews and gentiles, have “access by one Spirit unto the Father.”
And we have no need of any other, as the apostle to the Hebrews reasons: (chap. vii. 24, 25.) “But this person (speaking of Christ) because he continueth for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood, ἀπαράβατον, a priesthood which doth not pass from one to another,” as the priesthood under the law did, when upon the death of one high priest, another succeeded in his place; but our high priest under the gospel, “since he abides for ever, is able to save to the uttermost all those that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us.” So that Jesus Christ is an all-sufficient mediator, and able to carry on and accomplish the work of our salvation from first to last: and as we do not find that God hath appointed any other; so we are sure that there needs no other, u since he is able to save to the uttermost all those that come to God by him, and that he lives for ever to make intercession for us.”
Secondly, I proceed now in the second place to shew, that this doctrine or principle of one mediator between God and man, is most agreeable to one main end and design of the Christian religion, and of our Saviour’s coming into the world, which was to destroy idolatry out of the world; which St. John calls “the works of the devil,” (1 John iii. 8.) 316“For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might ἵνα λύσῃ, that he might dissolve or demolish the works of the devil;” by which St. John does more especially mean the idolatrous worship of the heathen, which consisted in the multitude of their gods, and the bloody and barbarous rites and sacrifices, whereby they worshipped them; and likewise in the multitude of their mediators between the gods and men, who were also esteemed by them an inferior sort of deities. Both these kinds of idolatry had strangely prevailed, and overrun the world before the appearance of our Lord and Saviour, who came on purpose to deliver mankind from the horrible superstition and slavery of the worship of false gods, to pull down this kingdom of the devil, and to demolish that fabric which he had been so long a rearing, and to beat him out of those strong holds, which he thought had been impregnable.
God indeed gave some check to these many ages re, and not long after their first appearance, by the Jewish religion, which was on purpose introduced and confirmed and established by so many and such mighty miracles, to preserve and keep alive in the world the primitive tradition and belief of the one true God: and likewise to be (as it were) some shadow and rude draught of that more perfect dispensation of the Christian religion, which, by one sacrifice once offered, and by one mediator between God and men. was to put an end to the infinite superstitions of the heathen worship, and all the bloody and barbarous rites of it, and likewise to the idolatry they were guilty of, in the worship of their inferior deities, whom they looked upon as a middle sort of powers between the gods and men, and therefore 317addressed themselves to them, as mediators between the superior and heavenly gods, and men here on earth. This was plainly one of the great designs of the Christian religion, and therefore it concerns Christians to understand it, and to be very careful that they do not suffer themselves to be deluded by any specious pretences whatsoever, to bring these things back again into the Christian religion, for the ruin and extirpation whereof, it was purposely designed and intended.
And this seems plainly to be the meaning of that caution, wherewith St. John concludes his catholic or general epistle, namely, that Christians should be very careful that they were not carried back again into the heathen idolatry, by the confident pretences of the Gnostic heretics to higher decrees of knowledge and illumination than other Christians had; that is, by their pretending to be the infallible church, and the only true and genuine Christians. For it is against this sect, that this epistle is plainly designed, which St. John thus concludes, (chap. v. from verse the 18th to the end;) “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not;” meaning that he doth not commit “the sin unto death,” which he had spoken of just before (viz. apostacy from Christianity to the heathen idolatry, or that which was very like it); “whosoever is born of God doth not commit this sin, but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one teacheth him not;” that is, he preserveth himself from the contagion of idolatry, into which the devil was so busy to seduce mankind. “And we know that we are of God/ that is, do be long to the true God, and are worshippers of him: “And the whole world lieth in wickedness, ἐντῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται, is in the power, or under the dominion, of that 318wicked one;” that is, the greatest part of mankind was sunk into idolatry, and the worship of the devil. “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true.” “We know,” that is, we Christians are better taught by the Christian religion, to acknowledge and worship the only true God: “And we are in him that is true, in (or by) his Son Jesus Christ;” that is, we worship the only true God, by his Son Jesus Christ. And then he concludes, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols;” intimating hereby, that the worshipping of any other, besides this only true God, and by any other mediator than Jesus Christ, is idolatry.
There were, indeed, two very ancient and common notions, both amongst Jews and gentiles, of the original whereof it is hard to give any certain account; only this is certain, that they did prevail very early, and did very generally possess mankind: and they were these: First, That God was not to be appeased towards sinners, merely upon their repentance, with out the death and suffering of some other in their stead; and that God would accept of this vicarious punishment and suffering, instead of the death of the sinner himself. And this seems to have given the original to the sacrifices of living creatures, to appease the wrath of God towards sinners; which, in process of time, as the worship of false gods prevailed in the world, did proceed to that degree of superstition and barbarous inhumanity, that, by the instigation of the devil, men offered up the blood of their children, and sacrificed their sons and daughters to their idols and false gods. Secondly, Another common notion, which had likewise possessed mankind was, that God was not to be immediately 319approached by sinful men; but that their prayers were to be offered up to the Deity by certain mediators and intercessors, that were to procure for them the favour of the gods, and the gracious answer and acceptance of their prayers. And this was the original of that other sort of heathen idolatry, which consisted in the worship of their demons and heroes, that is, of angels and souls departed, viz. of such eminent persons as had been great benefactors to mankind, and, for their worthy deeds upon, earth, were canonized, and translated into the number of their inferior gods: by these, as the chief courtiers and favourites of heaven, they addressed their prayers and supplications to the superior gods.
Now with these notions, which had generally possessed mankind (how imperfect soever) God was pleased to comply so far, as, in the frame of the Jewish religion, (which was designed for a type of the more perfect institution of the Christian religion, and a preparation for it:) I say, God was pleased to comply so far with these notions, as to appoint sacrifices to be slain and offered up for the sinner; and likewise a high priest, that once a year should enter into the holy of holies, with the blood of sacrifices that were offered up for the people, to make expiation for them; and, in virtue of that blood, should intercede for the people, as the apostle to the Hebrews does declare at large. And when God sent his Son in the fulness of time, he was pleased likewise, in the dispensation of the gospel, (that perfect institution which was never to be altered) to have so much regard to these common notions and apprehensions of mankind, as to provide for the supply of those two great wants, which they seemed always to have laboured under, and 320concerning which they were at so great a loss; viz. an effectual expiatory sacrifice for sins upon earth, and a powerful mediator and intercessor with God in heaven: and both these by the same person, Jesus Christ, “who appeared in the end of the world, to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself;” and in the merit and virtue of that sacrifice, “appearing in heaven in the presence of God for us,” is become a perpetual advocate, and a most powerful intercessor with God in heaven for us. So that, instead of the endless sacrifices of the Jewish religion, which were ineffectual to the real expiation of sin, and only types and shadows of the true expiatory sacrifice, and instead of the bloody and inhuman sacrifices of the heathen idolatry; the Son of God hath “by one sacrifice for sin once offered, perfected for ever them that are sanctified, and obtained eternal redemption for us.” And instead of the mediation of angels, and the souls of their departed heroes, which the heathen made use of to offer up their prayers to the gods, we have “one mediator between God and men,” appointed by God himself, Jesus the Son of God, who in our nature is ascended into heaven, “to appear in the presence of God for us.” And who so fit to be our patron and advocate as he who was our sacrifice and propitiation?
Thus the method of our redemption, as it was by the wisdom of God admirably suited to the common apprehensions of mankind; concerning the necessity of a sacrifice to make expiation of sin, and of a mediator to intercede with God for sinners; so was it likewise excellently fitted, not only to put an end to the Jewish sacrifices, but likewise to abolish the barbarous sacrifices and rites of the heathen idolatry, 321and to cashier that infinite number of mediators and intercessors, by whom they addressed their prayers to the Deity; and, instead of all this, to introduce a more reasonable and spiritual worship, more agreeable to the nature and perfections of God and the reason of mankind; which was one of the main and principal designs of the Christian religion: and therefore, to bring in any other mediators, to intercede in heaven for us (whether angels or saints) and by them to offer up our prayers to God, is directly contrary to the design of the Christian religion.
Thirdly, It is likewise evident from the nature and reason of the thing itself, that there is but one mediator and intercessor in heaven, who offers up our prayers to God, and that there can be no more. Because under the gospel there being but one high priest, and but one sacrifice once offered for sin; and intercession for sinners being founded in the merit and virtue of the sacrifice, by which expiation for sin is made, there can be no other mediator of intercession, but he who hath made expiation of sin, by a sacrifice offered to God for that purpose; and this Jesus Christ only hath done. He is both our high priest and our sacrifice; and therefore he only, in the merit and virtue of that sacrifice, which he offered upon earth, can intercede in heaven for us, and offer up our prayers to God. Others may pray to God for us; as our brethren upon earth do, and perhaps the angels and saints in heaven; but none of these can offer up our prayers to God, and procure the acceptance of them; for that can only be done in virtue of a sacrifice first offered, and by him that offered it; this being the peculiar office and 322qualification of a mediator or intercessor, properly so called.
It is the plain design of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to prove that Christ is our only mediator in heaven, in virtue of that sacrifice for sin, which he offered upon earth: and that he alone appears in the presence of God for us, to present our requests to him, and obtain a gracious answer of them: and he shews at large how this was particularly typified by the Jewish high priest, who, upon the great day of expiation, after the sacrifice was slain without, entered alone into the holy of holies, with the blood of the sacrifices, in virtue whereof he made intercession for the people. Answerably to this, Jesus, the high priest of our profession, offered himself a sacrifice for the sins of men, and, in virtue of that sacrifice, “is entered into the high place not made with hands,” that is, into heaven itself, “there to appear in the presence of God for us, where he lives forever to make intercession for us,” in virtue of that eternal redemption which he hath obtained for us, by the price of his blood, as the apostle declares in several chapters of that Epistle. So that this intercession being founded in the merit of a sacrifice, which he alone offered, he is of necessity “the only mediator between God and men.”
And for this reason it is, that the mediation and intercession of Christ is so frequently in Scripture mentioned together with the expiation which he made for the sins of men, or (which is the same) with the price which he paid for the redemption of mankind; because the one is founded in the other, and depends upon it. So we find, 1 John ii. 1, 2. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, 323Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” And here likewise in the text, “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all;” therefore “the only mediator between God and men,” because he only gave himself a ransom for all men.” The efficacy and prevalency of his mediation, being founded in the merit and virtue of the ransom of his blood.
And the force of these texts, and this reasoning from them, is not to be avoided and turned off, by distinguishing between a mediator of redemption and of intercession, and by saying, that it is true, that Christ is the only mediator of redemption, but there may be many mediators of intercession: for if the force of his being advocate or intercessor be founded in the virtue of his ransom and propitiation (as I have plainly shewn, to the conviction of any that are not strongly prejudiced, and that will read and consider what the Scripture says in this matter without prepossession); then it is plain, that none can be a proper mediator of intercession, but he that paid the price of our redemption: so that the mediator of our redemption, and our mediator of intercession, must of necessity be one and the same person; and none can appear in the quality of our advocate with the Father, but he only who is “the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.”
I should now have proceeded to
The fourth thing I proposed in the handling of this argument; namely, to shew how contrary to this doctrine of the Christian religion, concerning one only mediator and intercessor in heaven for us, the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome is in 324this matter; namely, in their invocation of angels, and the blessed Virgin, and the saints, and flying to their help, and making use of their mediation and intercession with God for sinners: as likewise how contrary all this is to the doctrine and practice of the Christian church, for several of the first ages of it. And then I should have answered their chief pretences and excuses for these things, and shewed that this practice of theirs is not only needless (being no where commanded by God) but useless also, and unprofitable; and not only so, but very dangerous and impious, being contrary to the Christian religion, and highly derogating from the virtue and merit of Christ’s sacrifice, and from the honour of “the only mediator between God and men.” But of this another time.325
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