THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST.
THE first main design of the life and conversation of the Lord Jesus, was that thereby God, the Eternal Majesty, according to his promise, might be seen by, and dwell with, mortal men. For the Godhead being altogether in its own nature invisible, and yet desirous to be seen by and dwell with the children of men, therefore was the Son, who is the self-same substance with the Father, clothed with or tabernacled in our flesh, that in that flesh the nature and glory of the Godhead might be seen by and dwell with us. |The word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory;| what glory? |the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.| Again, |The life| -- that is, the life of God in the works and conversation of Christ -- |was manifest, and we have seen it and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us.| And hence he is called the image of the invisible God; or he by whom the invisible God is most perfectly presented to the sons of men.
Did I say before that the God of glory is desirous to be seen of us? Even so also have the pure in heart a desire that it should be so. |Lord,| say they, |show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.| And therefore the promise is for their comfort, that |they shall see God.| But how then must they see him? Why, in the person, and by the life and works of Jesus, When Philip, under a mistake, thought of seeing God some other way than in and by this Lord Jesus Christ, what is the answer? |Have I been so long time with you,| saith Christ, |and hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you, I speak not of myself; hut the Father, that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very work's sake.|
See, here, that both the words and works of the Lord Jesus were not to show you, and so to call you back to the holiness we had lost, but to give us visions of the perfections that are in the Father. |He hath given us the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.| And hence it is that the apostle, in that brief collection of the wonderful mystery of godliness, places this in the front thereof: |God was manifest in the flesh| -- was manifested in and by the person of Christ, when in the flesh he lived among us; manifest, I say, for this as one reason, that the pure in heart, who long after nothing more, might see him. |I beseech thee,| said Moses, |show me thy glory.| |And will God indeed dwell with men on the earth?| saith Solomon.
Though Adam be called the image or similitude of God, yet but so as that he was the shadow of a more excellent image. Adam was a type of Christ, who only is the express image of his Father's person, and the likeness of his excellent glory; for those things that were in Adam were but of a human, but of a created substance; but those things that were in Christ, of the same divine and eternal excellency with the Father.
Is Christ then the image of the Father, simply as considered of the same divine and eternal excellency with him? Certainly not; for an image is doubtless inferior to that of which it is a figure. Understand, then, that Christ is the image of the Father's glory, as born of the Virgin Mary, yet so as being very God also: not that his Godhead in itself was a shadow or image, but by the acts and doing of that man, every act being infinitely perfect by virtue of his Godhead, the Father's perfections were made manifest to flesh. An image is to be looked upon, and by being looked upon, another thing is seen; so by the person and doings of the Lord Jesus, they that indeed could see him as he was, discovered the perfection and glory of the Father. |Philip, he that hath seen me, hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?| Neither the Father nor the Son can by us at all be seen, as they are simply and entirely in their own essence. Therefore the person of the Father must be seen by us through the Son, as consisting of God and man; the Godhead, by working effectually in the manhood, showing clearly there through the infinite perfection and glory of the Father. |The word was made flesh, and| then |we beheld his glory, the glory of the only begotten of his Father| -- he being in his personal excellencies, infinitely and perfectly, what is recorded of his Father, |full of grace and truth.|
When Jesus Christ came down from glory, it was that he might bring us to glory; and that he might be sure not to fail, he clothed himself with our nature -- as if we should take a piece out of the whole lump instead of the whole, Heb.11:l4 -- and invested it with that glory which he was in before he came down from heaven. Eph.2:6.
THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST.
We perceive love, in that the human nature, the nature of man, not of angels, is taken into union with God. Whoso could consider this as it is possible for it to be considered, would stand amazed till he died with wonder. By this very act of the heavenly Wisdom we have an inconceivable pledge of the love of Christ to man; for in that he hath taken into union with himself our nature, what doth it signify but that he intends to take into union with himself our persons? For this very purpose did he assume our nature. Wherefore we read that in the flesh he took upon him, in that flesh he died for us, |the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.|
The psalmist saith of Christ, that |he was fairer than the children of men;| and that, as I believe in his outward man as well as in his inward part, he was the exactest, purest, completest, and beautifulest creature that ever God made, till his visage was so marred by his persecutions; for in all things he had, and shall have the preeminence.
THE HUMILIATION OF CHRIST
Christ did not only come into our flesh, but also into our condition, into the valley and shadow of death, where we were, and where we are, as we are sinners.
That which would have been death to some -- the laying aside of glory, and the King of princes becoming a servant of the meanest form -- this he of his own goodwill was heartily content to do. Wherefore he that was once the object of the fear of angels, is now become a little creature, a worm, an inferior one, born of a woman, brought forth in a stable, laid in a manger, scorned of men, tempted of devils, was beholden to his creatures for food, for raiment, for harbor, and a place wherein to lay his head when dead. In a word, he made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, that he might become capable to do this kindness for us, to give himself a ransom for us.
And it is worth your noting, that all the while that he was in the world, putting himself upon those other preparations which were to be antecedent to his being made a sacrifice for us, no man, though he told what he came about to many, had, as we read of, a heart once to thank him for what he came about. No; they railed on him they degraded him, they called him devil, they said he was mad and a deceiver, a blasphemer of God and a rebel against the state; they accused him to the governor; yea, one of his own disciples sold him, another denied him, and they all forsook him, and left him to shift for himself in the hands of his horrible enemies, who beat him with their fists, spat on him, mocked him, crowned him with thorns, scourged him, made a gazing-stock of him, and finally, hanged him up by the hands and feet alive, and gave him vinegar to increase his affliction, when he complained that his anguish had made him thirsty. And yet all this could not take his heart off the work of our redemption. To die he came, die he would, and die he did, before he made his return to the Father, for our sins, that we might live through him.
When Christ betook himself to his ministry, he lived upon the charity of the people; when other men went to their own houses, Jesus went to the mount of Olives.
THE GLORY OF CHRIST.
Christ is rich indeed, both in his blood, resurrection, intercession, and all his offices, together with his relations, and all his benefits; all which he bestoweth upon every one that receiveth him, and maketh them unspeakably wealthy.
The pearl, as it is rich, and so worth much, so again it is beautiful and amiable, even to take the eyes of all beholders; it hath, I say, a very sweet and sparkling light and glory in it, enough to take the eye and affect the heart of all those that look upon it. And thus is Christ to all that come to him, and by him to the Father. |My Beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest of ten thousand; his mouth is most sweet, he is altogether lovely.|
THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
Here is love, that God sent his Son, his darling, his Son that never offended, his Son that was always his delight. Herein is love, that he sent him to save sinners; to save them by bearing their sins, by bearing their curse, by dying their death, and by carrying their sorrows. Here is love, in that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us; yea, here is love, in that while we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly.
Oh, blessed Jesus, how didst thou discover thy love to man in thy thus suffering! And, O God the Father, how didst thou also declare the purity and exactness of thy justice, in that, though it was thine only, holy, innocent, harmless, and undefiled Son Jesus, that did take on him our nature and represent our persons, answering for our sins instead of ourselves; thou didst so wonderfully pour out thy wrath upon him, to the making of him cry out, |My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?| And, O Lord Jesus, what a glorious conquest hast thou made over the enemies of our souls -- even wrath, sin, death, hell, and devils -- in that thou didst wring thyself from under the power of them all. And not only so, but hast led them captive which would have led us captive; and also hast received for us that glorious and unspeakable inheritance that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.
The great Bringer of the gospel is the good Lord Jesus Christ himself; he came and preached peace to them that the law proclaimed war against. And to touch a little upon the dress in which, by the gospel, Christ presents himself unto us, while he offers unto sinful souls his peace by the tenders thereof:
He is set forth as born for us, to save our souls. Isa.9:6; Luke 2:9-12; 1 Cor.15:3; Gal.3:13; Rom 10:4; Dan.9:24.
He is set forth before us as bearing our sins for us, and suffering God's wrath for us.
He is set forth before us as fulfilling the law for us, and as bringing everlasting righteousness to us for our covering.
Again, as to the manner of his working out the salvation of sinners for them, that they might have peace and joy, and heaven and glory for ever:
He is set forth as sweating blood while he was in his agony, wrestling with the thoughts of death, while he was to suffer for our sins, that he might save the soul. Luke 22:24.
He is set forth as crying, weeping, and mourning under the lashes of justice that he put himself under, and was willing to bear for our sins.
He is set forth as betrayed, apprehended, condemned, spit on, scourged, buffeted, mocked, crowned with thorns, crucified, pierced with nails and a spear, to save the soul from being betrayed by the devil and sin; to save it from being apprehended by justice and condemned by the law; to save it from being spit on in a way of contempt by holiness; to save it from being scourged with guilt of sins as with scorpions; to save it from being continually buffeted by its own conscience; to save it from being mocked at by God; to save it from being crowned with ignominy and shame for ever; to save it from dying the second death; to save it from wounds and grief for ever.
Dost thou understand me, sinful soul? He wrestled with justice, that thou mightest have rest; he wept and mourned, that thou mightst laugh and rejoice; he was betrayed, that thou mightest go free; was apprehended, that thou mightst escape; he was condemned, that thou mightst be justified, and was killed, that thou mightest live; he wore a crown of thorns, that thou mightest wear a crown of glory; and was nailed to the cross with his arms wide open, to show with what freeness all his merits shall be bestowed on the coming soul, and how heartily he will receive it into his bosom.
All this he did of mere good-will, and offers the benefit thereof unto thee freely. Yea, he comes unto thee in the word of the gospel, with the blood running down from his head upon his face, with his tears abiding upon his cheeks, as with the holes fresh in his hands and his feet, and as with the blood still bubbling out of his side, to pray thee to accept of the benefit, and to be reconciled to God thereby.
By this we may see his love, in that as a forerunner he is gone into heaven to take possession thereof for us; there to make ready and prepare for us our summer-houses, our mansions and dwelling-places; as if we were the lords, and he the servant. Oh, this love!
Thou Son of the Blessed, what grace was manifest in thy condescension! Grace brought thee down from heaven; grace stripped thee of thy glory; grace made thee poor and despicable; grace made thee bear such burdens of sin, such burdens of sorrow, such burdens of God's curse as are unspeakable.
O Son of God, grace was in all thy tears; grace came bubbling out of thy side with thy blood; grace came forth with every word of thy sweet mouth; grace came out where the whip smote thee, where the thorns pricked thee, where the nails and spear pierced thee. O blessed Son of God, here is grace indeed! unsearchable riches of grace! unthought of riches of grace! grace to make angels wonder, grace to make sinners happy, grace to astonish devils!
And what will become of them that trample under foot this Son of God?
Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight of the Father. What solace then must that soul be filled with, that hath the possession of him to all eternity.
Who can tell how many heart-pleasing thoughts Christ had of us before the world began? Who can tell how much he then was delighted in that being we had in his affections, as also in the consideration of our beings, believings, and being with him afterwards?
Christ was never so joyful in all his life, that we read of, as when his sufferings grew near; then he takes the sacrament of his body and blood into his own hands, and with thanksgiving bestows it among his disciples; then he sings a hymn, then he rejoices, then he comes with a |Lo, I come.| O the heart, the great heart that Jesus had for us to do us good! He did it with all the desire of his soul.
When a man shall not only design me a purse of gold, but shall venture his life to bring it to me, this is grace indeed. But, alas, what are a thousand such short comparisons to the unsearchable love of Christ?
Christ Jesus has bags of mercy that were never yet broken up or unsealed. Hence it is said, he has goodness laid up; things reserved in heaven for his. And if he breaks up one of these bags, who can tell what he can do?
It is not exaltation, nor a crown, nor a kingdom, nor a throne that shall make Christ neglect his poor ones on earth; yea, because he is exalted and on the throne, therefore it is that such a river of life, with its golden streams, proceeds with us. And it shall proceed, to be far higher than ever were the swellings of Jordan. Rev.22:1.
How the brave sun doth peep up from beneath,
Shows us his golden face, doth on us breathe;
Yea, he doth compass us around with glories
Whilst he ascends up to his highest stories,
Where he his banner over us displays
And gives us light to see our works and ways.
Nor are we now, as at the peep of light,
To question is it day or is it night;
The night is gone, the shadow's fled away,
And now we are most certain that 'tis day.
And thus it is when Jesus shows his face,
And doth assure us of his love and grace.
This makes Christ precious, if I consider how he did deliver me: it was, I, with his life, his blood; it cost him tears, groans, agony, separation from God; to do it, he endured his Father's wrath, bare his Father's curse, and died thousands of deaths at once.
2. He did this while I was his enemy, without my desires, without my knowledge, without my deserts; he did it unawares to me.
3. He did it freely, cheerfully, yea, he longed to die for me; yea, heaven would not hold him for the love he had to my salvation, which also he has effectually accomplished for me at Jerusalem.
Honorable Jesus! precious Jesus! loving Jesus! Jonathan's kindness captivated David, and made him precious in his eyes for ever. |I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan,| said he; |very pleasant hast thou been to me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.| Why, what had Jonathan done? Oh, he had delivered David from the wrath of Saul. But how much more should He be precious to me, who hath saved me from death and hell -- who hath delivered me from the wrath of God? |The love of Christ constraineth us.| Nothing will so edge the spirit of a Christian as, |Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.| This makes the heavens themselves ring with joy and shouting.
THE DAY, BEFORE THE SUN-RISING.
But all this while, where's he whose golden rays
Drive night away, and beautify our days?
Where's he whose goodly face doth warm and heal,
And show us what the darksome nights conceal?
Where's he that thaws our ice, drives cold away?
Let's have him, or we care not for the day.
Thus 'tis with those who are possessed of grace;
There's naught to them like the Redeemer's face.
Oh thou loving one, Oh thou blessed one, thou descrvest to have me; thou hast bought me; thou deservest to have me all; thou hast paid for me ten thousand times more than I am worth!
O you that are upon this march [to hell,] I beseech you, consider a little. What, shall Christ become a servant for you, and will you be drudges for the devil? Shall Christ covenant with God for the salvation of sinners, and shall sinners covenant with hell, death, and the devil, for the damnation of their souls? Shall Christ come down from heaven to earth to declare this to sinners; and shall sinners stop their ears against these good tidings? Will you not hear the errand of Christ, although he telleth you tidings of peace and salvation? How if he had come, having taken a command from his Father to damn you and to send you to dwell with devils in hell? Sinners, hear this message, John 3: 16, 17, etc.; he speaketh no harm, his words are eternal life; all men that give ear unto them have eternal advantage by them-advantage, I say, that never hath an end.
Besides, do but consider these two things; they may have some sway upon thy soul.
1. When he came on his message, he came with tears in his eyes, and did even weepingly tender the terms of reconciliation to them -- I say, with tears in his eyes. And when he came near the city with the message of peace, beholding the hardness of their hearts, he wept over it, and took up a lamentation over it, because he saw they rejected his mercy, which was tidings of peace. I say, wilt thou then slight a weeping Jesus, one that so loveth the soul that rather than he will lose thee, he will with tears persuade thee?
2. Not only so, but also when he came, he came all on a gore of blood, to proffer mercy to thee, to show thee still how dearly he did love thee; as if he had said, |Sinner, here is mercy for thee; but behold my bloody sweat, my bloody wounds, my accursed death; behold, and see what danger I have gone through to come unto thy soul. I am come indeed unto thee, and do bring thee tidings of salvation, but it cost me my heart's blood before I could come at thee, to give thee the fruits of my everlasting love.|
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST.
Many there are who, in the day of grace and mercy, despise those things which are indeed the birthright to heaven, who yet when the declining days appear will cry as loud as Esau, |Lord, Lord, open to us;| but then, as Isaac would not repent, no more will God the Father, but will say, |I have blessed these, yea, and they shall be blessed; but as for you, Depart, you are workers of iniquity.|
When I had thus considered these scriptures and found that thus to understand them was not against, but according to the Scriptures, this still added further to my encouragement and comfort, and also gave a great blow to that objection -- to wit, that the Scriptures could not agree in the salvation of my soul.
And now remained only the hinder part of the tempest, for the thunder was gone beyond me, only some drops did still remain that now and then would fall upon me; but because my former frights and anguish were very sore and deep, therefore it oft befell me still, as it befalleth those that have been seared with the fire, I thought every voice was, |Fire, fire'!| Every little touch would hurt my tender conscience.
But one day, as I was passing into the field, and that too with some dashes on my conscience, fearing lest yet all was not right, suddenly this sentence fell upon my soul: |Thy righteousness is in heaven;| and methought withal I saw with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God's right hand -- there, I say, as my righteousness; so that wherever I was, or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, he wanted my righteousness, for that was just before him. I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, |the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.|
Now did my chains fall off my legs indeed; I was loosed frorn my afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that from that time those dreadful scriptures [Footnote: Numb.15:30; Jer.7:16; Heb.10:31; 12:27.] of God left off to trouble me: now went I also home rejoicing, for the grace and love of God. So when I came home, I looked to see if I could find that sentence, |Thy righteousness is in heaven,| but could not find such a saying; wherefore my heart began to sink again, only that was brought to my remembrance, |He is made unto us of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.| By this word I saw the other sentence true.
For by this scripture I saw that the man Christ Jesus, as he is distinct from us as touching his bodily presence, so he is our righteousness and sanctification before God. Here, therefore, I lived for some time very sweetly at peace with God through Christ. Oh, methought, Christ! Christ! there was nothing but Christ that was before my eyes. I was now not only for looking upon this and the other benefits of Christ apart, as of his blood; burial, or resurrection, but considering him as a whole Christ -- as he in whom all these, and all his other virtues, relations, offices, and operations met together, and that he sat on the right hand of God in heaven.
Further, the Lord did also lead me into the mystery of the union with the Son of God -- that I was joined to him, and that I was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone; and now was that a sweet word to me in Eph.5:30. By this also was my faith in him as my righteousness, the more confirmed in me; for if he and I were one, then his righteousness was mine, his merits mine, his victory also mine. Now, I could see myself in heaven and earth at once: in heaven, by my Christ, by my Head, by my Righteousness and Life, though on earth by body or person.
Let divine and infinite justice turn itself which way it will, it finds One that can tell how to match it. For if it say, |I will require the satisfaction of man,| there is a man to satisfy its cry; and if it say, |But I am an infinite God, and must and will have an infinite satisfaction,| here is One also that is infinite, even |fellow| with God; fellow in his essence and being; fellow in his power and strength; fellow in his wisdom; fellow in his mercy and grace, together with the rest of the attributes of God. So that, let justice turn itself which way it will, here is a complete person and a complete satisfaction.
|The law,| sayst thou, |must be obeyed.| I answer, |Christ Jesus has done that in his own person, and justified me thereby; and for my part, I will not labor now to fulfil the law for justification, lest I should undervalue the merits of the man Christ Jesus, and what he has done without me; and yet will I labor to fulfil, if it were possible, ten thousand laws, if there were so many. And Oh, let it be out of love to my sweet Lord Jesus; for the love of Christ constraineth me.|
Though no man can be justified by the works of the law, yet unless the righteousness and holiness by which they attempt to enter into this kingdom be justified by the law, it is in vain once to think of entering in at this strait gate. Now, the law justifieth not, but upon the account of Christ's righteousness; if therefore thou be not indeed found in that righteousness, thou wilt find the law lie just in the passage into heaven to keep thee out.
CHRIST A COMPLETE SAVIOUR.
|This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.| John 6:39.
The Father therefore, in giving them to him to save them, must needs declare unto us the following things:
1. That he is ABLE to answer this design of God to save them to the uttermost sin, the uttermost temptation. Hence he is said to |lay help on one that is mighty,| mighty to save. Sin is strong, Satan is also strong, death and the grave are strong, and so is the curse of the law; therefore it follows, that this Jesus must needs be by God the Father accounted almighty, in that he hath given his elect to him to save them from these, and that in despite of all their force and power. And he gave us testimony of this his might, when he was employed in that part of our deliverance that called for a declaration of it. He abolished death; he destroyed him that had the power of death; he was the destruction of the grave; he hath finished sin, and made an end of it; he hath vanquished the curse of the law, nailed it to his cross, triumphed over them upon his cross, and made a show of these things openly. Yea, and even now, as a sign of his triumph and conquest, he is alive from the dead, and hath the keys of death and hell in his own keeping.
2. The Father's giving them to him to save them, declares unto us that he is and will be FAITHFUL in his office of Mediator, and that therefore they shall be secured from the fruit and wages of their sins, which is eternal damnation. And of this the Son hath already given a proof; for when the time was come that his blood was by divine justice required for their redemption, washing, and cleansing, he as freely poured it out of his heart as if it had been water out of a vessel; not sticking to part with his own life, that the life which was laid up for his people in heaven might not fail to be bestowed upon them.
3. The Father's giving of them to him to save them, declares that he is and will be GENTLE AND PATIENT towards them under all their provocations and miscarriages. It is not to be imagined, the trials and provocations that the Son of God hath all along had with these people that have been given to him to save. Indeed, he is said to be A TRIED STONE; for he has been tried not only by the devil, guilt of sin, death, and the curse of the law, but also by his people's ignorance, unruliness, falls into sin, and declining to errors in life and doctrine. Were we but capable of seeing how this Lord Jesus has been tried, even by his people, ever since there was one of them in the world, we should be amazed at his patience and gentle carriages to them. It is said indeed, |The Lord is very pitiful, slow to anger, and of great mercy.| And indeed, if he had not been so, he could never have endured their manners as he has done, from Adam hitherto. Therefore are his pity and bowels towards his church preferred above the pity and bowels of a mother towards her child. |Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, saith the Lord.|
God did once give Moses, as Christ's servant, a handful of his people to carry them in his bosom, but no further than from Egypt to Canaan; and this Moses, as is said of him by the Holy Ghost, was the meekest man that was then to be found upon the earth. God gave them to Moses that he might carry them in his bosom, that he might show gentleness and patience towards them, under all the provocations wherewith they would provoke him from that time till he had brought them to their land. But he failed in the work; he could not exercise it, because he had not that sufficiency of patience towards them. But now it is said of the person speaking in the text, that |he shall gather his lambs with his arm, shall carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead them that are with young.|
4. The Father's giving them to him to save them, declares that he hath a SUFFICIENCY OF WISDOM to wage with all those difficulties that would attend him in his bringing his sons and daughters unto glory. He hath made him to us to be wisdom; yea, he is called Wisdom itself. And God saith, moreover, that he |shall deal prudently.| And indeed, he that shall take upon him to be the Saviour of the people, had need be wise, because their adversaries are subtle above any. Here they are to encounter the serpent, who for his subtlety outwitted our father and mother when their wisdom was at highest. But if we talk of wisdom, our Jesus is wise, wiser than Solomon, wiser than all men, wiser than all angels; he is even |the wisdom of God.| And hence it is that he turneth sins, temptations, persecutions, falls, and all things, for good unto his people.
I do not doubt but there is virtue enough in the blood of Christ, would God Almighty so apply it, to save the souls of the whole world. But it is the blood of Christ, his own blood, and he may do what he will with his own. It is also the blood of God, and he also may restrain its merits, or apply it as he sees good. But the coming soul, he shall find and feel the virtue thereof, even the soul that comes to God by Christ, for he is the man concerned in its worth.
There is sufficiency of merit in Christ to save a thousand times as many more as are like to be saved by him.
No man needs at all to go about to come at life and peace and rest: let him come directly from sin to grace, from Satan to Jesus Christ.
The cross, it stands and hath stood from the beginning as a way-mark to the kingdom of heaven. Art thou inquiring the way to heaven? Why, I tell thee Christ is the way; into him thou must get, into his righteousness to be justified; and if thou art in him, thou wilt presently see the cross: thou must go close by it, thou must touch it, nay, thou must take it up, or else thou wilt quickly go out of the way that leads to heaven, and turn up some of those crooked lanes that lead down to the chambers of death.
Many there be that begin with grace and end with works, and think that is the only way. Indeed, works will save from temporal punishments, when their imperfections are purged from them by the intercession of Christ; but to be saved and brought to glory, to be carried through this dangerous world from my first moving after Christ until I set foot within the gates of paradise, this is the work of my Mediator, of my High-priest and Intercessor. It is he that fetches us again when we are run away; it is he that lifts us up when the devil and sin have thrown us down; it is he that quickens us when we grow cold; it is he that comforts us when we despair; it is he that obtains fresh pardon when we have contracted sin, and that purges our consciences when they are laden with guilt. I know that rewards do wait for them in heaven, that believe in Christ, and shall do well on earth; but this is not a reward of merit, but of grace. We are saved by Christ, brought to glory by Christ, and all our works are no other ways made acceptable to God but by the person and personal excellencies and works of Christ; therefore, whatever the jewels are, and the bracelets and the pearls, that thou shalt be adorned with as a reward of service done for God in the world, for them thou must thank Christ, and before all confess that he was the meritorious cause thereof.
Christ must be helpful to thee every way, or he will be helpful to thee no way; thou must enter in by every whit of Christ, or thou shalt enter in by never a whit of him. Wherefore look not to have him thy Saviour, if thou take him not for King and Prophet; nay, thou shalt not have him in any one, if thou dost not take him in every one of these.
Christ shall bear the glory of our salvation from sin, preservation in the midst of all temptations, and of our going to glory; also he shall bear the glory of our labor in the gospel, of our gifts and abilities, of making our work and labor effectual to the saving of sinners, that in all things he might have the preeminence.
If you have indeed laid Christ, God-man, for your foundation, then you do lay the hope of your felicity and joy on this, that the Son of Mary is now absent from his children in his person and humanity, making intercession for them and for thee in the presence of his Father.2 Cor.5:6.
And the reason that thou canst rejoice hereat is, because thou hast not only heard of it with thine ear, but dost enjoy the sweet hope and faith of it in thy heart; which hope and faith are begotten by the Spirit of Christ, which Spirit dwelleth in thee if thou be a believer, and showeth those things to thee to be the only things.
And God having shown thee these things thus within thee, by the Spirit that dwells in thee, thou hast mighty encouragement to hope for the glory that shall be revealed at the coming again of the man Christ Jesus; of which glory thou hast also greater ground to hope for a share, because that Spirit which alone is able to discover to thee the truth of these things, is given to thee of God as the first fruits of that glory which is hereafter to be revealed -- -being obtained for thee by the man Christ Jesus' death on Calvary, and by his blood that was shed there, together with his resurrection from the dead out of the grave where they had laid him.
Also, thou believest that he is gone away from thee in the same body which was hanged on the cross, to take possession of that glory which thou, through his obedience, shalt at his the very same man's return from heaven the second time, have bestowed upon thee, he having all this while prepared and preserved it for thee; as he saith himself, |I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.|
Again, if thou hast laid Christ, God-man, for thy foundation, though thou hast the Spirit of this man Christ within thee, yet thou dost not look that justification should be wrought out for thee by that Spirit of Christ that dwells within thee; for thou knowest that salvation is already obtained for thee by the man Christ Jesus without thee, and is witnessed to thee by his Spirit which dwells within thee. And thus much doth this man Christ Jesus testify unto us, where he says, |He shall glorify me,| saith the Son of Mary. But how? Why, |he shall take of mine| -- -what I have done and am doing in the presence of the Father -- |and shall show it unto you.| John 16:14.
CHRIST NOT A SAVIOUR BY HIS EXAMPLE.
A third thing you mention is, that |the Son of God taught men their duty by his own example, and did himself perform what he required of them; and that himself did tread before us every step of that which he hath told us leadeth to eternal life.|
ANSWER. Now we are come to the point, namely, that |the way to eternal life is, first of all, to take Christ for our example, treading his steps.| And the reason, if it be true, is weighty; for |he hath trod every step before us which he hath told us leads to eternal life.|
|Every step.| Therefore he went to heaven by virtue of an imputative righteousness; for this is one of our steps thither.
|Every step.| Then he must go thither by faith in his own blood for pardon of sin; for this is another of our steps thither.
|Every step.| Then he must go thither by virtue of his own intercession at the right hand of God before he came thither; for this is one of our steps thither.
|Every step.| Then he must come to God and ask mercy for some great wickedness which he had committed; for this is also one of our steps thither.
But again, we will consider it the other way.
|Every step.| Then we cannot come to heaven before we first be made accursed of God; for so was he before he came thither.
|Every step.| Then we must first make our body and soul an offering for the sin of others; for this did he before he came thither.
|Every step.| Then we must go to heaven for the sake of our own righteousness; for that was one of his steps thither.
O, sir, what will thy gallant, generous mind do here? Indeed, you talk of his being an expiatory sacrifice for us, but you put no more trust to that than to baptism or the Lord's supper; counting that with the other two but things indifferent in themselves.
You add again, that |this Son of God being raised from the dead and ascended to heaven, is our high-priest there.| But you talk not at all of his sprinkling the mercy-seat with his blood, but clap upon him the heathens' demons, negotiating the affairs of men with the supreme God, and so wrap up [Footnote: That is, dismiss the subject.] with a testification that it is needless to enlarge on the point.
What man that ever had read or assented to the gospel, but would have spoken more honorably of Christ than you have done? His sacrifice must be stepped over; his intercession is needless to be enlarged upon. But when it falleth in your way to talk of your human nature, of the dictates of the first principles of morals within you, and of your generous mind to follow it, Oh what need there is now of amplifying, enlarging, and pressing it on men's consciences, as if that poor heathenish pagan principle was the very Spirit of God within us, and as if righteousness done by that was that and that only that would or could fling heaven's gates off the hinges.
Yea, a little after you tell us that |the doctrine of sending the Holy Ghost was to move and excite us to our duty, and to assist, cheer, and comfort us in the performance of it;| still meaning our close adhering, by the purity of our human nature, to the dictates of the law as written in our hearts as men; which is as false as God is true.
For the Holy Ghost is sent into our hearts, not to excite us to a compliance with our old and wind-shaken excellencies that came into the world with us, but to write new laws in our hearts, even the law of faith, the word of faith and of grace, and the doctrine of remission of sins through the blood of the Lamb of God, that holiness might flow from thence.
CHRIST A TEACHER.
At this time I sat under the ministry of holy Mr. Gifford. whose doctrine, by God's grace, was much for my stability. This man made it much his business to deliver the people of God from all those hard and unsound tests that by nature we are prone to. He would bid us take special heed that we took not up any truth upon trust, as from this or that or any other man or men; but cry mightily to God that he would convince us of the reality thereof, and set us down therein by his own Spirit in the holy word; |for,| said he, |if you do otherwise, when temptation comes strongly upon you, you not having received them with evidence from heaven, will find you want that help and strength now to resist, that once you thought you had.|
This was as seasonable to my soul as the former and latter rain in their season, for I had found, and that by sad experience, the truth of these his words; for I had felt that no man, especially when tempted by the devil, |can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.|
But O now, how was my soul led from truth to truth by God; even from the birth and cradle of the Son of God, to his ascension and second coming from heaven to judge the world.
Once I was troubled to know whether the Lord Jesus was a man as well as God, and God as well as man; and truly, in those days, let men say what they would, unless I had it with evidence from heaven, all was nothing to me. Well, I was much troubled about this point, and could not tell how to be resolved; at last, that in Rev.5:6 came into my mind: |And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne, and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb.| |In the midst of the throne| -- thought I, there is the godhead; |in the midst of the elders| -- there is his manhood: but Oh, methought this did glister; it was a goodly touch, and gave me sweet satisfaction. That other scripture also did help me much in this: |Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the ever lasting Father, the Prince of Peace.|
O friends, cry to God to reveal Jesus Christ unto you; there is none teacheth like him.
It would be long to tell you in particular how God did set me down in all the things of Christ, and how he did, that he might do so, lead me into his words; yea, and also how he did open them unto me, and make them shine before me, and cause them to dwell with me, talk with me, and comfort me over and over, both of his own being and the being of his Son and Spirit, and word and gospel.
THE DEATH OF CHRIST.
We never read that Jesus Christ was more cheerful in all his life on earth, than when he was going to lay down his life for his enemies; now he thanked God, now he sang.
Christ died and endured the wages of sin, and that without an intercessor, without one between God and him. He grappled immediately with the eternal justice of God, who inflicted on him death, the wages of sin; there was no man to hold off the hand of God; justice had his full blow at him, and made him a curse for sin.
A second thing that demonstrates that Christ died the cursed death for sin, is the frame of spirit that he was in at the time he was to be taken. Never was poor mortal so beset with the apprehensions of approaching death as was this Lord Jesus Christ; amazement beyond measure, sorrow that exceeded seized upon his soul: |My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. And he began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.| Add to this that Jesus Christ was better able to grapple with death, even alone, than the whole world joined all together.1. He was anointed with the Spirit without measure.2. He had all grace perfect in him.3. Never had any so much of his Father's love as he.4. Never one so harmless and without sin as he, and consequently never man had so good a conscience as he.5. Never one prepared such a stock of good works to bear him company at the hour of death as he.6. Never one had greater assurance of being with the Father eternally in the heavens than he. And yet, behold, when he comes to die, how weak is he, how amazed at death, how heavy, how exceeding sorrowful! and, I say, no cause assigned but the approach of death.
Alas, how often is it seen that we poor sinners can laugh at destruction when it cometh; yea, and rejoice exceedingly when we find the grave, looking upon death as a part of our portion, yea, as that which will be a means of our present relief and help.1 Cor.3:22.
This Jesus could not do, considered as dying for our sin; but the nearer death, the more heavy and oppressed with the thoughts of the revenging hand of God; wherefore he falls into an agony and sweats -- not after the common rate, as we do when death is severing body and soul: |His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.|
What should be the reason but that death assaulted him with his sting? If Jesus Christ had been to die for his virtues only, doubtless he would have borne it lightly.
How have the martyrs despised death, having peace with God by Jesus Christ, scorning the most cruel torments that men and hell could devise and invent! but Jesus Christ could not do so, as he was a sacrifice for sin; he died for us, he was made a curse for us. O, my brethren, Christ died many deaths at once; he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death.
It was because of sin, the sin that was put into the death he died, and the curse of God that was due to sin, that that death was so bitter to Jesus Christ; it is Christ that died. The apostle speaks as if never any died but Christ; nor indeed did there, so wonderful a death as he. Death, considered simply as a deprivation of natural life, could not have these effects in a person personally more righteous than an angel; yea, even carnal wicked men, not awakened in their conscience, how securely they can die! It must therefore he concluded that the sorrows and agony of Jesus Christ came from a higher cause, even from the curse of God that was now approaching for sin.
At last they condemn him to death, even to the death of the cross, where they hang him up by wounds made through his hands and feet, between the earth and the heavens; where he hanged for the space of six hours. No God yet appears for his help. While he hangs there some rail at him, others wag their heads, others tauntingly say, |He saved others, himself he cannot save.| Some divide his raiment, casting lots for his raiment before his face; others mockingly hid him come down from the cross; and when he desires succor, they give him vinegar to drink. No God yet appears for his help.
Now the earth quakes, the rocks are rent, the sun becomes black, and Jesus still cries out, that he was forsaken of God; and presently boweth his head and dies.
And for all this there is no cause assigned from God, but sin. |He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.|
THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
You shall have the testimony of the holy angels by the Scriptures, to the resurrection of the Son of God. And first, in Mark 16: 3-7, the words are these:
|And they said among themselves, Who shall roll away the stone?| They had a good mind to see their Lord; but they could not, as they thought, get away the stone which covered the mouth of the sepulchre. |And when they had looked,| that is, towards the sepulchre, |they saw the stone rolled away, for it was great; and entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man,| that is, an angel, |sitting on the right side, clothed with a long white garment; and they were affrighted. And he saith unto them, Be not afraid,| you have no cause for it; |you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; he is not here, he is risen: behold the place where they laid him.| What scripture can be plainer spoken than this? Here is an angel of the Lord ready to satisfy the disciples of Jesus that he was risen from the dead. And lest they should think it was not the right Jesus he spoke of, Yes, saith he, it is the same Jesus that you mean; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, do you not? Why, |he is risen, he is not here.| But do you speak seriously and in good earnest? Yea, surely; if you will not believe me, |behold the place where they laid him.| This scripture is very clear to our purpose.
But again, in Matt.28: 3-7, there is an angel as before bearing witness of the resurrection of Jesus. |His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto them,| the women who came to seek Jesus, |Fear you not; but let them that seek to keep the Lord in his grave fear if they will, for you have no ground of fear who seek the Jesus that was crucified: he is not here, he is risen; he cannot be here, in body, and risen too: if you will not believe me, come, see where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and behold, he goeth before you into Galilee, there shall you see him.| But shall we be sure of it? |Yea,| saith the angel; |lo, it is I that have told you.| See how plainly this scripture also doth testify of Christ's resurrection. |Here,| saith the angel, |you seek a Saviour, and none will content you but he, even the same that was crucified: well, you shall have him, but he is not here.| Why, where is he then? |He is risen from the dead.| But are you sure it is the same that we look for? |Yea, it is the same that was crucified.| But where shall we find him? Why, |he goeth before you into Galilee, where he used to be in his lifetime, before he was crucified. And that you might be sure of it there to find him, know that he is an angel of God that has told you.|
THE GLORIFICATION OF CHRIST.
For God to adorn his Son with all this glory in his ascension, thus to make him ride conqueror up into the clouds, thus to go up with sound of trumpet, with shout of angels and with songs of praises, and let me add, to be accompanied also with those that rose from the dead after his resurrection, who were the very price of his blood -- this does greatly demonstrate that Jesus Christ, by what he has done has paid a full price to God for the souls of sinners, and obtained eternal redemption for them: he had not else rode thus in triumph to heaven.
Consider those glorious circumstances that accompany his approach to the gates of the everlasting habitation. The everlasting gates are set, yea, bid stand open: |Be ye open, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.| The King of glory is Jesus Christ, and the words are a prophecy of his glorious ascending into the heavens, when he went up as the High-priest of the church, to carry the price of his blood into the holiest of all.
THE OFFICES OF CHRIST.
Christ as a Saviour is not divided. He that hath him not in all, shall have him in none at all of his offices in a saving manner.
CHRIST AN INTERCESSOR.
Study the priesthood, the high-priesthood of Jesus Christ, both the first and second part of it. The first part was that when he offered up himself without the gate, when he bore our sins in his own body on the tree.
The second part is that which he executes there whither he is now gone, even into heaven itself, where the throne of grace is. I say, study what Christ has done and is doing. Oh, what is he doing now? He is sprinkling his blood, with his priestly robes on, before the throne of grace. That is too little thought on by the saints of God: |We have such a High-priest, who is set down on the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched and not man.| Busy thyself, fellow-Christian, about this blessed office of Christ. It is full of good, it is full of sweet, it is full of heaven, it is full of relief and succor for the tempted and dejected.
The priestly office of Christ is the first and great thing that is presented to us in the gospel; namely, how he died for our sins, and gave himself to the cross, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us through him. But now because this priestly office of his is divided into two parts, and because one of them, to wit, this of his intercession, is to be accomplished for us within the veil, therefore -- as we say among men, out of sight, out of mind -- he is too much as to this forgotten by us. We satisfy ourselves with the slaying of the sacrifice; we look not after our Aaron as he goes into the holiest, there to sprinkle the mercy-seat with blood upon our account.
But since his dying is his laying down his price, and his intercession the urging and managing the worthiness of it in the presence of God against Satan, there is glory to be found therein, and we should look after him into the holy place. The second part of the work of the high-priests under the law, had great glory and sanctity put upon it. Forasmuch as the holy garments were provided for him to officiate in within the veil, also it was there that the altar stood on which he offered incense. Also there were the mercy-seat and the cherubim of glory, which were figures of the angels, that love to be continually looking and prying into the management of this second part of the priesthood of Christ in the presence of God. For although themselves are not the persons so immediately concerned therein as we, yet the management of it, I say, is with so much grace and glory, and wisdom and efiectualness, that it is a heaven to the angels to see it. O, to enjoy the odorous scent and sweet memorial, the heart-refreshing perfumes that ascend continually from the mercy-seat to the throne where God is, and also to behold how effectual it is to the end for which it is designed, is glorious; and he that is not somewhat let into this by the grace of God, there is a great thing lacking to his faith, and he misseth of many a sweet bit that he might otherwise enjoy. Wherefore, I say, be exhorted to the study of this part of Christ's work in the managing of our salvation for us.
They who are justified by the blood of Christ, should still look to him for the remaining part of their salvation; and let them look for it with confidence, for it is in a faithful hand. And for thy encouragement to look and hope for the completing of thy salvation in glory, let me present thee with a few things.
1. The hardest or worst part of the work of thy Saviour is over: his bloody work, his bearing thy sin and curse, his loss of the light of his Father's face for a time. His dying upon the cursed tree, that was the worst, the sorest, the hardest, and most difficult part of the work of redemption; and yet this he did willingly, cheerfully, and without thy desires; yea, this he did, as considering those for whom he did it in a state of rebellion and enmity to him.
2. Consider also that he has made a beginning with thy soul to reconcile thee to God, and to that end has bestowed his justice upon thee, put his Spirit within thee, and begun to make the unwieldable mountain and rock, thy heart, to turn towards him and desire after him, to believe in him and rejoice in him.
3. Consider also that some comfortable pledges of his love thou hast already received; namely, as to feel the sweetness of his love, as to see the light of his countenance, as to be made to know his power in raising thee when thou wast down, and how he has made thee to stand while hell has been pushing at thee utterly to overthrow thee.
4. Thou mayst consider also, that what remains behind of the work of thy salvation in his hands, as it is the most easy part, is so the most comfortable, and that part which will more immediately issue in his glory; and therefore he will mind it.
5. That which is behind is also more safe in his hand than if it was in thine own. He is wise, he is powerful, he is faithful, and therefore will manage that part that is lacking to our salvation well, until he has completed it. It is his love to thee has made him that he putteth no trust in thee: he knows that he can himself bring thee to his kingdom most surely, and therefore has not left that work to thee, no, not any part thereof.
Live in hope, then, in a lively hope, that since Christ is risen from the dead he lives to make intercession for thee; and that thou shalt reap the blessed benefit of this twofold salvation that is wrought and that is working out for thee by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Every believer may say, Christ did not only die and rise again, but he ascended into heaven to take possession thereof for me, to prepare a place for me. He standeth there in the second part of his suretyship to bring me safe thither, and to present me in a glorious manner, |not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.| He is therefore exercising his priestly office for me, pleading the perfection of his own righteousness and the virtue of his blood.
He is there ready to answer the accusations of the law, the devil, and sin, for me. Here a believer may through faith look the devil in the face and rejoice, saying, |O Satan, I have a precious Jesus, a soul-comforting Jesus, a sin-pardoning Jesus.| Here he may listen to the thunders of the law, and yet not be daunted. He may say, |O law, thou mayest roar against sin, but thou canst not reach me; thou mayest curse and condemn, but not my soul; for I have a righteous Jesus, a holy Jesus, a soul-saving Jesus; and he hath delivered me from thy threats, thy curses, and thy condemnation. I am brought into another covenant, under better promises of life and salvation, freely to comfort me without my merit, through the blood of Jesus; therefore though thou layest my sins to my charge and provest me guilty, yet so long as Christ hath brought in everlasting righteousness and given it to me, I shall not fear thy threats. My Christ is all, hath done all, and will deliver me from thine accusations.| Thus also thou mayest say, when death assaulteth thee, |O death, where is thy sting? Thou canst not devour; I have comfort through Jesus Christ, who hath taken thee captive and taken away thy strength; he hath pierced thy heart and let out all thy soul-destroying poison. Though I see thee, I am not afraid of thee; though I feel thee, I am not daunted; for thou hast lost thy sting in the side of the Lord Jesus, through whom I overcome thee. Also, O Satan, though I hear thee make a hellish noise, and though thou threaten me highly, yet my soul shall triumph over thee so long as Christ is alive and can be heard in heaven -- so long as he hath broken thy head and won the field -- so long as thou art in prison and canst not have thy desire. When I hear thy voice, my thoughts are turned to Christ my Saviour; I hearken to what he will say, for he will speak comfort: he hath gotten the victory and doth give me the crown, and causeth me to triumph through his most glorious conquest.
|And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne stood a Lamb as it had been slain.| Rev.5: 6. That in the midst of the throne is our sacrifice, with the very marks of his death upon him, showing to God that sitteth upon the throne the holes of the thorns, of the nails, of the spear; and how he was disfigured with blows and blood when at his command he gave himself a ransom for his people; for it cannot be imagined that either the exaltation or glorification of the body of Jesus Christ should make him forget the day in which he died the death for our sins; especially since that which puts worth into his whole intercession is the death he died, and the blood he shed upon, the cross for our trespasses.
Since Christ is an intercessor, I infer that believers should not rest at the cross for comfort: justification they should look for there; but being justified by his blood, they should ascend up after him to his throne. At the cross you will see him in his sorrows and humiliations, in his tears and blood; but follow him to where he is now, and then you shall see him in his robes, in his priestly robes, and with his golden girdle about him. There you shall see him wearing the breastplate of judgment, and with all your names written upon his heart. Then you shall perceive that the whole family in heaven and earth is named of him, and how he prevails with God the Father of mercies for you. Stand still awhile and listen, yea, enter with boldness unto the holiest, and see your Jesus as he now appears in the presence of God for you; what work he makes against the devil and sin, and death and hell, for you. Ah, it is brave following of Jesus Christ to the holiest: the veil is rent; you may see with open face as in a glass the glory of the Lord.
This then is our High-priest; this is intercession -- these the benefits of it. It lies in our part to improve it; and wisdom to do so -- THAT also comes from the mercy-seat or throne of grace where he, even our High-priest, ever liveth to make intercession for us. To whom he glory for ever and ever.
CHRIST AN ADVOCATE.
|We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.| This consideration will yield relief, when by Satan's abuse of some other of the offices of Christ, thy faith is discouraged and made afraid. Christ, as a prophet, pronounces many a dreadful sentence against sin; and Christ, as a king, is of power to execute them: and Satan, as an enemy, has subtlety enough to abuse both these to the almost utter overthrow of the faith of the children of God.
This consideration will help thee to put by that vizor [Footnote: That is, mask.] wherewith Christ by Satan is misrepresented to thee, to the weakening and affrighting thee. There is nothing more common among saints, than thus to be wronged by Satan; for he will labor to fetch fire out of the offices of Christ to burn us: so to present him to us with so dreadful and so ireful a countenance, that a man in temptation and under guilt shall hardly be able to lift up his face to God.
But now, to think really that he is my Advocate, this heals all. Put a vizor upon the face of a father, and it may perhaps for a while fright the child; but let the father speak, let him speak in his own fatherly dialect to the child, and the vizor is gone, if not from the father's face, yet from the child's mind; yea, the child, notwithstanding that vizor, will adventure to creep into its father's bosom.
Why, thus it is with the saints when Satan deludes and abuses them by disfiguring the countenance of Christ to their view: let them but hear their Lord speak in his own natural dialect -- and he doth so indeed when we hear him speak as an advocate -- and their minds are calmed, their thoughts settled, their guilt vanished, and their faith revived.
Is Christ Jesus the Lord my advocate with the Father? Then awake, my faith, and shake thyself like a giant; stir up thyself and be not faint: Christ is the advocate of his people; and as for sin, which is one great stumble to thy actings, O my faith, Christ has not only died for that as a sacrifice, nor only carried his sacrifice unto the Father into the holiest of all, but is there to manage that offering as an advocate, pleading the efficacy and worth thereof before God against the devil for us.
The modest saint is apt to be abashed, to think what a troublesome one he is, and what a make-work he has been in God's house all his days; and let him be filled with holy blushing, but let him not forsake his Advocate.
If thy foot slippeth, if it slippeth greatly, then know thou it will not be long before a bill be in heaven preferred against thee by the accuser of the brethren; wherefore then thou must have recourse to Christ as advocate, to plead before God thy Judge against the devil thine adversary for thee. And as to the badness of thy cause, let nothing move thee save to humility and self-abasement, for Christ is glorified by being concerned for thee; yea, the angels will shout aloud to see him bring thee off. For what greater glory can we conceive Christ to obtain as advocate, than to bring off his people when they have sinned, notwithstanding Satan's so charging of them as he doth?
He gloried when he was going to the cross to die; he went up with a shout and the sound of a trumpet to make intercession for us; and shall we think that by his being an advocate he receives no additional glory?
Christ, when he pleads as an advocate for his people in the presence of God against Satan, can plead those very weaknesses of his people for which Satan would have them damned, for their relief and advantage. |Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?| This is part of the plea of our Advocate against Satan, for his servant Joshua, when he said, |The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan.| Zech.13: 2. Now, to be a brand plucked out of the fire, is to be a saint -- impatient, weakened, defiled, and made imperfect by sin. This then is the next plea of our goodly Advocate for us: |O Satan, this is a brand plucked out of the fire.| As if he should say, |Thou objectest against my servant Joshua, that he is black like a coal, or that the fire of sin at times is still burning in him. And what then? The reason why he is not totally extinct as tow, is not thy pity but rny Father's mercy to him. I have plucked him out of the fire, yet not so out but that the smell thereof is yet upon him; and my Father and I, we consider his weakness and pity him; for since he is as a brand pulled out, can it be expected by my Father or me, that he should appear before us as clear and do our biddings as well as if he had never been there? This is a brand plucked out of the fire, and must be considered as such, and must be borne with as such.|
His righteousness Christ presents to God for us; and God, for this righteousness' sake, is well pleased that we should be saved, and for it can save us and secure his honor and preserve the law in its sanction.
For Christ, in pleading against Satan as an advocate with, the Father for us, appeals to the law itself if he has not done it justice; saying, |Most mighty law, what command of thine have I not fulfilled? What demand of thine have I not fully answered? Where is that jot or tittle of the law that is able to object against my doings for want of satisfaction?|
Here the law is mute; it speaks not one word by way of the least complaint, but rather testifies of this righteousness that it is good and holy. Rom.3:22,23; 5:15-19.
Now then, since Christ did this as a public person, it follows that others must be justified thereby; for that was the end and reason of Christ's taking on him to do the righteousness of the law. Nor can the law object against the equity of this dispensation of heaven; for why might not that God who gave the law its being and its sanction, dispose as he pleases of the righteousness which it commends? Besides, if men be made righteous, they are so; and if by a righteousness which the law commends, how can fault be found with them by the law? Nay, it is |witnessed by the law and the prophets,| who consent that it should be |unto all and upon all them that believe,| for their justification. Rom.3:20,21.
And that the mighty God suffereth the prince of the devils to do with the law what he can against this most wholesome and godly doctrine, it is to show the truth, goodness, and permanency thereof; for this is as if it were said, Devil, do thy worst.
When the law is in the hand of an easy pleader, though the cause that he pleads be good, a crafty opposer may overthrow the right; but here is the salvation of the children in debate, whether it can stand with law and justice: the opposer of this is the devil, his argument against it is the law; he that defends the doctrine is Christ the advocate, who in his plea must justify the justice of God, defend the holiness of the law, and save the sinner from all the arguments, pleas, stops, and demurs that Satan is able to put in against it. And this he must do fairly, righteously, simply, pleading the voice of the self-same law for the justification of the soul that he standeth for, which Satan leads against it; for though it is by the new law that our salvation comes, yet by the old law is the new law approved of, and the way of salvation thereby consented to.