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poses, in the Universal providence of God. Especially will this seem natural, and necessary, where the greatest blessings are to be obtained for those, who are unworthy of the least of all blessings.
3dly. In John 17th we have, if I mistake not, an example of this very intercession.
This chapter is the last communication of Christ to his Apostles before his death. In it he recites, briefly, his wonderful labours for the glory of his Father, and for the good of his children; declares, that he had finished the work allotted to him; and announces, that he was bidding adieu to the scene of his humiliation, and preparing to enter into his glory.
On these grounds, he prays his Father to sanctify, and perfect, his children; to keep them, while they were in the world, from the evil; to make them one in their spirit, their character, and their pursuits ; and to cause the love, which He exercised towards Christ, lo rest upon them. At the same time, he declares, that he had given to them his own glory; and that it was his will, that they should be where he was, and behold his glory for ever. All these illustrious things, also, he solicits, on the ground of his Father's love to him, and his own labours and sufferings in obedience to His will.
In this prayer of Christ we have probably a fair specimen of his intercession in the heavens. The same things are recited, and the same things requested, here, which we are taught to expect there; and all is asked of God, which can contribute to their safety, or their happiness.
If these observations be allowed to be just; it will be seen, that the great ends of Christ's intercession are to preserve his followers from final backsliding; an evil, to which, if left to themselves, they would certainly be exposed, notwithstanding all the virtuous principles which they possess : to obtain the forgiveness of those sins, which they commit after their Regeneration : and to secure their reception into the world of glory. These ends are of the highest importance to them, and in the highest degree declarative of the goodness of God.
This method of proceeding, on the part of God, is wholly accordant with the common dictates of the human mind. Similar means, as I have observed, are used, and efficaciously used, to procure the remission of punishment, and the enjoyment of good, for unworthy men in the present world. That which is done here, therefore, and has ever been done with the plainest propriety, and the most decisive efficacy, strongly illustrates the reasonableness and propriety of what is thus done in the heavens.
From these observations I infer, 1st. The perfect Safety of the Children of God. Christ, the Son of God, and the infinitely meritorious Redeemer of men, intercedes for their preservation in holiness, the forgiveness
of their backslidings, and their final acceptance into heaven. The Father always heareth the Son. It is impossible, that his intercession should fail, or that the purposes of it should not be accomplished. His followers, therefore, though exposed to ten thousand dangers, and to numberless temptations, enemies, and backslidings; though always in a state of peril
, and living only a doubtful and scarcely perceptible life; will pass safely through all these hazards, and finally arrive at the possession of perfect holiness and everlasting joy.
In the preceding discourse I evinced the truth of this doctrine by arguments, drawn from the Atonement of Christ. It is equally evident from his intercession. Christ, in his prayer at the tomb of Lazarus, says to the Father, I knew that thou hearest me always. In his Intercessory prayer, in the xvii. of John, he declares, that he intercedes, not only for his Apostles and their fellow-disciples then existing, but also for them, who should believe on him through their word; that is, the Gospel. Those then, who believe on him through the Gospel, are universally interested in that intercession of Christ, which the Father heareth always. Of course, their safety is complete, their interest in the divine favour indefeasible, and their title to endless life unalterably secure.
2dly. We have here a strong proof, ihat Christ is unchangeable.
In Proverbs 8th, after giving a variety of testimonies of his compassion for sinners, he informs us, that before the mountains were settled, or the earth was made, he rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth, in a glorious foresight of the good, which he intended to accomplish; and that his delights were from eternity with the sons of men. In the indulgence of this divine benignity, though infinitely rich in the possession of all good, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through him might become rich. The Word, who was in the beginning with God, and by whom all things were made, became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, (the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth. While he dwelt in this Apostate world, he underwent a course of extreme humiliation, labours, and sufferings, for the sake of mankind; and, in the end, purchased for them the regeneration of the soul, and a title to everlasting life, with the agonies of the cross.
To the heavens he has gone before, to prepare a place for them, and to receive them to himself. In that glorious world, amid all the splendours of his exaltation, he forgets not for a moment those worms of the dust, whom he came to redeem; those backsliding, frail, sinning apostates, for whom he poured out his blood on the accursed tree; but, in the strong language of the Apostle, ever lives to make intercession for them. By his intercession, as well as by his government, he secures their continuance in holiness; cleanses them from secret faults ; restrains them from presumptuous sins ; and thus keeps them innocent of the great transgression. Thus his love is, from everlasting to everlasting, the same boundless love to himself, divinely glorious; to them great beyond example, beneficial beyond degree.
3dly. The intercession of Christ most affectingly teaches us the Grace of God in the salvation of sinners.
Sinners are originally redeemed, forgiven, and sanctified, by the mere, sovereign goodness of God. After all these mighty works are accomplished, they are still guilty and undeserving; they need the intercession, as well as the atonement, of Christ; and without it could not, so far as we are informed, be with propriety blessed in the heavens. In consequence of this intercession, they are preserved from fatal declension; their sins, committed after their regeneration, are forgiven; and themselves admitted to the presence of God.
In heaven, this intercession is continued for ever. Throughout eternity, the children of God are thus furnished with the strongest evidence, that their everlasting happiness is the result of mere, sovereign goodness and mercy; and that all the glory of devising, accomplishing, and bestowing, this happiness is to be ascribed to Him. The praises of the heavenly world, and the gratitude whence they spring, will from this source derive a more exquisite rapture; their sense of dependence on God be more humble, intense, and lovely; and their perseverance in holiness find the most delightful, as well as the most powerful, motives.
4thly. How wonderful is the love of Christ to sinners!
It is beyond measure wonderful, that he should love them at all. What are they? Guilty, rebellious, odious creatures; opposed to his will, designs, and character; requiting his love with ingratitude, hatred, and contempt; crucifying him afresh by their unbelief ; and accounting the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing. Why did he love them? Not because they were rational beings. With a word he could have created millions of such beings, for one of them; and all more rational, and more exalted, than themselves. Not because of their moral excellence; for they had none. Not because he needed them; for
; he cannot need any thing; and they possessed nothing, which they did not receive from him.
On the contrary, all his conduct towards them sprang from his own boundless good-will: his disinterested love. They were not deserving; but he was pitiful ; they were not valuable; but he was bountiful; they were not necessary to him ; but he was infinitely necessary to them. Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us,
his Son to die for us. It was because Christ was superlatively good; and because we were poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked, and in want of all things that this glorious Person had compassion on us in our apostacy and ruin. He lived and died, he reigns and intercedes, that we might live, and not die. This great work he began to execute here; and he carries it on in the heavens throughout eternity.
In that world of glory, although elevated to the throne of the Universe, and beholding all things beneath his feet; although loved, obeyed, and worshipped, with supreme attachment and homage by the great kingdom of virtuous beings; he assumes, and executes, the office of an intercessor for the fallen children of Adam. In that world he is not ashamed to call them, however degraded by their apostacy, and however odious by their guilt, by the endearing names of friends and brethren. He is the
universal ruler ; but he is not ashamed to appear as the Elder Brother, the First-born of this human assembly ; nay, as a suppliant for those whom he rules. He is a person of infinite dignity and perfection; but he is not ashamed to appear as a companion to those, who could originally say to corruption, Thou art our father, and to the worm, Thou art our mother and our sister. Thus the character, which he exhibited on earth, he sustains in heaven. He is still in the same manner meek and lowly of heart ; and still feeds his disciples and leads them to fountains of living waters. To him they have been indebted for the atonement of their sins, and the salvation of their souls ; and to him they will be infinitely indebted for the communication of knowledge, holiness, and enjoyment, throughout the endless ages of their being.
What character can be compared with this? Before it, how does all other excellence fade! 'In it what exaltation and condescension are blended! What greatness and benignity united! What must be the Mind, in which these majestic, and these sweet and lovely, characteristics thus unchangeably and for ever harmonize : a mind supremely great and glorious in the lowly station of a man ; a child; a servant to a humble artisan; and divinely meek and condescending in the infinite splendour of universal dominion!
What dishonour is here reflected on the pride of Men and fallen Angels! Pride, unsatisfied with all present attainments, and making the greatest communications, from God, of distinction and glory, the mere foundations of claiming more, and of murmuring, because they are not elevated to higher honours, and replenished with more extensive enjoyments! How poor, how debased, how odious, how guilty, is that pride ! How contemptible does it appear, when compared with the Redeemer's condescension ! In heaven there is no pride ; on earth, and in hell, it is the prevailing character. Men are proud; fallen Angels are proud. Christ is meek and lowly of heart. What would become of the universe, were pride to find a place in the infinite Mind ?
5thly. How differently are Christians regarded by Christ, and by evil men ?
Christ descended from heaven, and left the glory, which he had with the Father before ever the world was, to befriend Christians. He became a man; he lived; he laboured through life; he hung upon
the cross, and was buried in the tomb; to redeem them from sin and death. He arose from the dead; ascended to heaven; sat
down on the right hand of the majesty on high; became head over all things, governs all things; and intercedes with his father for ever; for the benefit of Christians. To save and bless them is, in a sense, his professional employment throughout eternity.
How different is the conduct of evil men towards the very same persons! In the eyes of these men, Christians are objects of contempt and hatred ; and in their customary language are styled superstitious, enthusiasts, hypocrites, fanatics, and bigots. Men of the same character mocked and crucified Christ; their followers have ever since exhibited the same spirit; at times in the same, at other times in different manners; but in all its exhibitions the spirit has been the same.
Reason would naturally ask, when contemplating this subject, What evil have Christians done, to merit this treatment? Have they injured these enemies? Have they injured the public? Are they not as industrious, as peaceable, as just, as sincere, as kind, as useful, as other men? Do they not, as parents, children, friends, neighbours, magistrates, and citizens, perform the duties of life as faithfully, as those who are not Christians? Do they transgress the laws, oppose the government, or disturb the peace, of society, more than their enemies themselves? If they are guilty of such crimes, it can undoubtedly be proved; it ought to be proved; and they ought, accordingly, to be condemned and punished. To this no fair objection can be made even by Christians themselves.
But how far from these dictates of reason has been all the conduct of their adversaries? Have they even attempted any proof of this nature? Have not their accusations been general and indefinite, like the outcry raised against Paul and his companions : These, that have turned the world upside down, have come hither also: the mere exclamations of undiscriminating malevolence; not the specific charges of sober conviction.
To this malevolence what an endless train of men, women, and children ; of men, covered with the hoary locks of age, of children, scarcely escaped from the cradle; have been offered up on the altar of persecution! What multitudes by the ancient Heathen, what multitudes by the idolatrous Apostates from Christianity; what multitudes by the Infidels, of modern times!
Where law and government have prevented these atrocities, how many private and personal injuries, how many sneers, and taunts, how many stings of gall and bitterness, has Christianity been obliged to endure! How many aspersions have been cast on their doctrines, designs, and characters, merely to load them with shame! How frequently are their best intentions misconstrued, and their most benevolent labours perverted, in this very land, originally peopled by Christians, and consecrated to religion : this land converted by Christians from a wilderness into a habitation of industry, peace, civilization, and happiness : to change which from a howling wilderness into an asylum of persecuted piety, Christians