This is that for the sake of which all are made welcome, and embraced and kissed, forgiven and saved, that come unto God by him. This is that righteousness, that mantle spotless, that Paul so much desired to be found wrapt in; for he knew that being found in that he must be presented thereby to God a glorious man, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. This therefore is another of the Lord Jesus' legal qualifications, as preparatory to the executing of his high priest's office in heaven. But of this something has been spoken before; and therefore I shall not enlarge upon it here.
Third. When the high priest under the law was thus accomplished by a legal call, and a garment suitable to his office, then again there was another thing that must be done, in order to his regular execution of his office; and that was, he must be consecrated, and solemnly ushered thereunto by certain offerings, first presented to God for himself. This you have mention made of in the Levitical law; you have there first commanded, that, in order to the high priest's approaching the holiest for the people, there must first be an offering of consecration for himself, and this is to succeed his call, and the finishing of his holy garments (Exo 29:5-7,19-22). For this ceremony was not to be observed until his garments were made and put upon him; also the blood of the ram of consecration was to be sprinkled upon him, his garments, &c., that he might be hallowed, and rightly set apart for the high priest's office (Lev 8). The Holy Ghost, I think, thus signifying that Jesus the Son of God, our great high priest, was not only to sanctify the people with his blood; but first, by blood must to that work be sanctified himself; 'For their sakes,' saith he, 'I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth' (John 17:19).
But it may be asked, When was this done to Christ, or what sacrifice of consecration had he precedent to the offering up of himself for our sins? I answer, It was done in the garden when he was washed in his own blood, when his sweat was in great drops of blood, falling down to the ground. For there it was he was sprinkled with his blood, not only the tip of his ear, his thumb, and toe, but there he was washed all over; there therefore was his most solemn consecration to his office; at least, so I think. And this, as Aaron's was, was done by Moses; it was Moses that sprinkled Aaron's garments. It was by virtue of an agony also that his bloody sweat was produced; and what was the cause of that agony, but the apprehension of the justice and curse of Moses' law, which now he was to undergo for the sins of the people.
With this sacrifice he then subjoined another, which was also preparatory to the great acts of his high priest's office, which he was afterwards to perform for us. And that was his drink-offering, his tears, which were offered to God with strong cries (Exo 29:40; Num 28:7). For this was the place and time that in a special manner he caused his strong wine to be poured out, and that he drank his tears as water. This is called his offering, his offering for his own acceptance with God. After 'he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him,' he 'was heard' for his piety, for his acceptance as to this office, for he merited his office as well as his people (Heb 5:7). Wherefore it follows, 'and being made perfect,' that is, by a complete performance of all that was necessary for the orderly attaining of his office as high priest, 'he became the author of eternal salvation, unto all them that obey him' (Heb 5:9).
For your better understanding of me as to this, mind that I speak of a twofold perfection in Christ; one as to his person, the other as to his performances. In the perfection of his person, two things are to be considered; first, the perfection of his humanity, as to the nature of it; it was at first appearing, wholly without pollution of sin, and so completely perfect; but yet this humanity was to have joined to this another perfection; and that was a perfection of stature and age. Hence it is said that as to his humanity he increased, that is, grew more perfect. For this his increasing was, in order to a perfection, not of nature, simply as nature, but of stature. 'Jesus increased in wisdom and stature' (Luke 2:52). The paschal lamb was a lamb the first day it was yeaned; but it was not to be sacrificed until it attained such a perfection of age as by the law of God was appointed to it (Exo 12:5,6). It was necessary, therefore, that Christ as to his person should be perfect in both these senses. And indeed 'in due time Christ died for the ungodly' (Rom 5:6).
Again, as there was a perfection of person, or of nature and personage in Christ, so there was to be a perfection of performances in him also. Hence it is said, that Jesus increased in favour with God (Luke 2:52); that is, by perfecting of his obedience to him for us. Now, his performances were such as had a respect to his bringing in of righteousness for us in the general; or such as respected preparations for his sacrifice as a high priest. But let them be applied to both, or to this or that in particular; it cannot be, that while the most part of his performances were wanting, he should be as perfect as when he said, 'The things concerning me have an end' (Luke 22:37).
Not but that every act of his obedience was perfect, and carried in it a length and breadth proportionable to that law by which it was demanded. Nor was there at any time in his obedience that which made to interfere one commandment with another. He did all things well, and so stood in the favour of God. But yet one act was not actually all, though virtually any one of his actions might carry in it a merit sufficient to satisfy and quiet the law. Hence, as I said, it is told us, not only that he is the Son of God's love, but that he increased in favour with God; that is, by a going on in doing, by a continuing to do that always that pleased the God of heaven.
A man that pays money at the day appointed, beginning first at one shilling, or one pound, and so ceaseth not until he hath in current coin told over the whole sum to the creditor, does well at the beginning; but the first shilling, or first pound, not being the full debt, cannot be counted or reckoned the whole, but a part; yet is it not an imperfect part, nor doth the creditor find fault at all, because there is but so much now told; but concludes that all is at hand, and accepteth of this first, as a first-fruits: so Christ, when he came into the world, began to pay, and so continued to do, even until he had paid the whole debt, and so increased in favour with God. There was then a gradual performance of duties, as to the number of them, by our Lord when he was in the world, and consequently a time wherein it might be said that Christ had not, as to act, done all, as was appointed him to do, to do as preparatory to that great thing which he was to do for us. Wherefore, in conclusion, he is said to be made perfect, 'and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him' (Heb 5:9).
It will be objected, then, that at some time it might be said of Christ that he was imperfect in his obedience. Answ. There was a time wherein it might have been said, Christ had not done all that he was to do for us on earth. But it doth not follow thereupon, that he therefore was imperfect in his obedience; for that all his acts of obedience were done in their proper time, and when they should, according to the will of God. The timing of performances adds or diminishes as to the perfection of obedience, or the imperfection of it. Had these Jews killed the passover three days sooner than the time appointed, they had transgressed (Exo 12:6). Had the Jews done that on the fourth day to Jericho, which was to have been done on the seventh day, they had sinned (Josh 6:10-16). Duty is beautiful in its time, and the Son of God observed the time. 'I must,' saith he, 'work the works of him that sent me, while it is day,' that is, in their seasons. You must keep in mind that we speak all this while of that part of Christ's perfection, as to duties, which stood in the number of performances, and not in the nature or quality of acts. And I say, as to the thing in hand, Christ had duty to do, with respect to his office as high priest for us, which immediately concerned himself; such duties as gave him a legal admittance unto the execution thereof; such duties, the which, had they not orderly been done, the want of them would have made him an undue approacher of the presence of God, as to that. Wherefore, as I said afore, by what he did thereabout, he consecrated, or sanctified himself for that work, according to God, and was accepted for his piety, or in that he feared and did orderly do what he should do.
Fourth. The next thing preparatory to the execution of this office of high priest was the sacrifice itself. The sacrifice, you know, must, as to the being of it, needs precede the offering of it; it must be before it can be offered. Nor could Christ have been an high priest, had he not had a sacrifice to offer. 'For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices; wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer' (Heb 8:3). And I bring in the sacrifice as the last thing preparatory, not that it was last, as to being, for it was before he could be capable of doing any of the afore-named duties, being his body, in and by which he did them, but it was the last as to fitness; it was not to be a sacrifice before the time, the time appointed of the Father; for since he had prepared it to that end, it was fit as to the time of its being offered, that that should be when God thought best also (Heb 10:5).
Behold then, here is the high priest with his sacrifice; and behold again, how he comes to offer it. He comes to offer his burnt-offering at the call of God; he comes to do it in his priestly garments, consecrated and sanctified in his own blood; he comes with blood and tears, or by water and blood, and offereth his sacrifice, himself a sacrifice unto God for the sin of the world; and that too at a time when God began to be weary of the service and sacrifices of all the world. 'Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me,' thou hast fitted me; 'in burnt-offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure; then said I, Lo I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God' (Heb 10:5-7).
[Christ the sacrifice as well as the high priest, and how he offered it.]
Thus you see our high priest proceeded to the execution of his priestly office; and now we are come to his sacrifice, we will consider a little of the parts thereof, and how he offered, and pleads the same. The burnt-offering for sin had two parts, the flesh and the fat, which fat is called the fat of the inwards, of the kidneys, and the like (Lev 3:12-16). Answerable to this, the sacrifice of Christ had two parts, the body and the soul. The body is the flesh, and his soul the fat; that inward part that must not by any means be kept from the fire (Isa 53:10). For without the burning of the fat, the burnt-offering and sin-offering, both which was a figure of the sacrifice of our high priest, was counted imperfect, and so not acceptable.
And it is observable, that in these kind of offerings, when they were to be burned, the fat and the head must be laid and be burned together; and the priest 'shall cut it into his pieces with his head and his fat; and the priest shall lay them in order on the wood that is on the fire which is upon the altar' (Lev 1:12). To signify, methinks, the feeling sense that this sacrifice of his body and soul should have of the curse of God due to sin, all the while that it suffered for sin. And therefore it is from this that this sacrifice has the name of burnt-offering, it is the burnt-offering for the burning, because of the burning upon the altar all night, until the morning; and the fire of the altar shall be burning in it.
The fat made the flame to increase and to ascend; wherefore God speaks affectionately of the fat, saying, The fat of mine offerings. And again, 'He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied' (Isa 53:10-12). The soul-groans, the soul-cries, the soul-conflicts that the Son of God had, together with his soul-submission to his Father's will, when he was made a sacrifice for sin, did doubtless flame bright, ascend high, and cast out a sweet savour unto the nostrils of God, whose justice was now appeasing for the sin of men.
His flesh also was part of this sacrifice, and was made to feel that judgment of God for sin that it was capable of. And it was capable of feeling much, so long as natural life, and so, bodily sense, remained. It also began to feel with the soul, by reason of the union that was betwixt them both; the soul felt, and the body bled; the soul was in an agony, and the body sweat blood; the soul wrestled with the judgment and curse of the law, and the body, to show its sense and sympathy, sent out dolorous cries, and poured out rivers of tears before God. We will not here at large speak of the lashes, of the crown of thorns, of how his face was bluft with blows and blood; also how he was wounded, pierced, and what pains he felt while life lasted, as he suffered for our sins; though these things are also prefigured in the old law, by the nipping or wringing of the head, the cutting of the sacrifice in pieces, and burning it in the fire (Lev 1). Now, you must know, that as the high priest was to offer his sacrifice, so he was to bring the blood thereof to the mercy-seat or throne of grace, where now our Jesus is; he was to offer it at the door of the tabernacle, and to carry the blood within the veil; of both which a little.
[Christ a willing and an effectual sacrifice.]
1. He was to offer it, and how? Not grudgingly, nor as by compulsion, but of a voluntary will and cheerful mind: 'If his offering be a burnt-sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own voluntary will' (Lev 1:3). Thus did Christ when he offered up himself, as is manifest by that which follows. (1.) He offered a male, 'himself,' without blemish (Heb 7:27). (2.) He gave himself a ransom; he 'gave his life a ransom' (Matt 20;28). (3.) He laid down his life of himself (John 10:18; Luke 12:5). (4.) He longed for the day of his death, that he might die to redeem his people. (5.) Nor was he ever 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 an hymn, then he rejoices, then he comes with a 'Lo, I come.' O the heart, the great heart, that Jesus Christ had for us to do us good! He did it with all the desire of his soul.
2. He did it, not only voluntarily, and of a free will, but of love and affection to the life of his enemies. Had he done thus for the life of his friends, it had been much; but since he did it out of love to the life of his enemies, that is much more. 'Scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die; but God commended his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us' (Rom 5:7,8).
3. He did it without relinquishment of mind, when he was in: no discouragement disheartened him; cry and bleed he did, yea, roar by reason of the troubles of his soul, but his mind was fixed; his Father sware and did not repent, that he should be his priest; and he vowed, and said he would not repent that he had threatened to be the plague and death of death (Hosea 13:13,14).
4. He did it effectually and to purpose: he hath stopped the mouth of the law with blood; he hath so pacified justice, that it now can forgive; he hath carried sin away from before the face of God, and set us quit in his sight; he hath destroyed the devil, abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel; he hath wrought such a change in the world by what he has done for them that believe, that all things work together for their good, from thenceforward and for ever.
[Christ the altar.]
I should now come to the second part of the office of this high-priest, and speak to that; as also to those things that were preparatory unto his executing it; but first, I think convenient a little to treat of the altar also upon which this sacrifice was offered to God.
Some, I conceive, have thought the altar to be the cross on which the body of Christ was crucified, when he gave himself an offering for sin; but they are greatly deceived, for he also himself was the altar through which he offered himself; and this is one of the treasures of wisdom which are hid in him, and of which the world and Antichrist are utterly ignorant. I touched this in one hint before, but now a little more express. The altar is always greater than the gift; and since the gift was the body and soul of Christ—for so saith the text, 'He gave himself for our sins'—the altar must be something else than a sorry bit of wood, or than a cursed tree. Wherefore I will say to such, as one wiser than Solomon said to the Jews, when they superstitiated the gift, in counting it more honourable than the altar, 'Ye fools, and blind, for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?' (Matt 23:18,19).
If the altar be greater than the gift, and yet the gift so great a thing as the very humanity of Christ, can it—I will now direct my speech to the greatest fool—can that greater thing be the cross? Is, was the cross, the wooden cross, the cursed tree, that some worship, greater than the gift, to wit, than the sacrifice which Christ offered, when he gave himself for our sins! O idolatry, O blasphemy!
Quest. But what then was the altar? Answ. The divine nature of Christ, that Eternal Spirit, by and in the assistance of which he 'offered himself without spot to God'; he, through the Eternal Spirit 'offered himself' (Heb 9:14).
1. And it must be THAT, because, as was said, the altar is greater than the gift; but there is nothing but Christ's divine nature greater than his human; to be sure, a sorry bit of wood, a tree, the stock of a tree, is not.
2. It must be this, because the text says plainly 'the altar sanctifies the gift,' that is, puts worth and virtue into it; but was it the tree, or the Godhead of Christ, that put virtue and efficacy into this sacrifice that he offered to God for us? If thou canst but tell thy fingers, judge.
3. The altar was it of old that was to bear up the sacrifice until it was consumed; and with reference to the sacrifice under consideration, the tree could not bear up that; for our sacrifice being a man, consisting of soul and body, that which could bear him up in his suffering condition, must be that that could apply itself to his reasonable and sensible part for relief and succour, and that was of power to keep him even in his spirit, and in a complete submissiveness to God, in the present condition in which he was; and could the tree do this, think you? Had the tree that command and government of the soul and sense of Christ, of the reason and feeling of the Lord Jesus, as to keep him in this bitter suffering, in that evenness and spotlessness in his torment, as to cause that he should come off this great work, without the least smell or tang of imperfection? No, no; it was through the Eternal Spirit that he 'offered himself without spot to God.'
Quest. Wherefore then served the cross? Answ. I ask, and wherefore then served the wood by which the sacrifices were burned? The sacrifices were burned with wood upon the altar; the wood then was not that altar, the wood was that instrument by which the sacrifice was consumed, and the cross that by which Christ suffered his torment and affliction. The altar then was it that did bear both the wood and sacrifice, that did uphold the wood to burn, and the sacrifice to abide the burning. And with reference to the matter in hand, the tree on which Christ was hanged, and the sacrifice of his body, were both upheld by his divine power; yet the tree was no more a sacrifice, nor an altar, than was the wood upon the altar; nor was the wood, but the fire, holy, by which the sacrifice was consumed. Let the tree then be the tree, the sacrifice the sacrifice, and the altar the altar; and let men have a care how, in their worship, they make altars upon which, as they pretend, they offer the body of Christ; and let them leave off foolishly to dote upon wood, and the works of their hands: the altar is greater than the gift or sacrifice that was, or is, upon it.
[How Christ executes the office of high-priest.]
We come now to the second part of the office of this high-priest and to show how he performeth that. In order to which, I must, as I did with reference to the first, show you what things, as preparatory, were to precede the execution of it. We have here, as you see, 'our passover sacrificed for us,' for our encouragement to come to the throne of grace; and now let us look to it, as it is presented in the holiest of all, and to the order of its being so presented.
1. First, then, before there was anything further done, I mean by this high-priest, as to a further application of his offering, the judgment of God was waited for by him, with respect to his estimation of what was already done, to wit, how that was resented by him; the which he declared to the full by raising him from the dead. For in that he was raised from the dead, when yet he died for our sins, it is evident that his offering was accepted, or esteemed of value sufficient to effect that for the which it was made a sacrifice, which was for our sins; this, therefore, was in order to his being admitted into heaven. God, by raising him from the dead, justified his death, and counted it sufficient for the saving of the world. And this Christ knew would be the effect of his death, long before he gave himself a ransom; where he saith, 'This also shall please the Lord better than an ox, or bullock that hath horns and hoofs' (Psa 69:31). And again, 'For the Lord God will help me, therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? Let us stand together; who is mine adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment, the moth shall eat them up' (Isa 50:7-9). All this is the work of the Lord God, his Father, and he had faith therein, as I said before. And since it was God who was to be appeased, it was requisite that he should be heard in the matter, to wit, whether he was pacified or no: the which he has declared, I say, in raising him up from the dead. And this the apostles, both Paul and Peter, insinuate, when they ascribe his resurrection to the power of another, rather than to his raising of himself, saying, 'this Jesus hath God raised up' (Acts 2:32). 'God hath raised' him up 'from the dead' (3:15), 'whom God raised from the dead,' and the like (4:10, 5:30, 8:56, 13:30). I say, therefore, that God, by raising up Christ from the dead, hath said, that thus far his offering pleased him, and that he was content.
2. But lest the world, being besotted by sin, should not rightly interpret actions, therefore God added to his raising him up from the dead, a solemn exposing of him to view, not to all men, but to such as were faithful, and that might be trusted with the communicating of it to others: 'Him,' saith Peter, 'God raised' from the dead, 'and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him, after he rose from the dead' (Acts 10:40,41). And this was requisite, not for that it added anything to the value and worth of his sacrifice, but for the help of the faith of them that were to have eternal salvation by him. And it is for this cause that Paul so enlargeth upon this very thing, to wit, that there were them that could testify that God had raised him up from the dead, namely, that men might see that God was well pleased, and that they had encouragement to come boldly by him to the throne of grace for mercy (1 Cor 15:1-8). And this exposing of him to view, was not for the length of a surprising or dazzling moment, but days and nights, to the number of no less than forty; and that to the self-same persons, to wit, 'the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also,' says the text, 'he showed himself alive after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God' (Acts 1:2,3). Thus God therefore being willing more abundantly to show him unto the world, ordered this great season betwixt his resurrection and ascension, that the world might see that they had ground to believe an atonement was made for sin.
3. But again, a third thing that was to precede the execution of the second part of this his priestly office was, the manner and order of his going into the holiest; I say, the manner and order of his going. He was to go thither in that robe of which mention was made before, to wit, in the virtue of his obedience, for it was that which was to make his way for him as now sprinkled with his blood. He was to go thither with a noise which the Holy Ghost calls a shout, saying, 'God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet' (Psa 47:5). This was prefigured by the bells, as I said, which did hang on the border of Aaron's garments. This shout seems to signify the voice of men and angels; and this trumpet the voice and joy of God; for so it says, he shall descend: 'For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God' (1 Thess 4:16). Even as he ascended and went up; for Aaron's bells were to be heard when he went into, and when he came out of, the holy place (Exo 28:33-35). But what men were to ascend with him, but, as was said afore, the men that 'came out of the graves after his resurrection?' (Matt 27:53). And what angels but those that ministered to him here in the day of his humiliation? As for the evil ones, he then rode in triumph over their heads, and crushed them as captives with his chariot wheels. He is ascended on high, he has 'led captivity captive, he has received gifts for men' (Eph 4:8).
Thus then he ascended unto, into the holy paradise, where he was waited for of a multitude of the heavenly host, and of thousands of millions of the spirits of just men made perfect. So approaching the highest heavens, the place of the special presence of God, he was bid sit down at his right hand, in token that, for his sufferings' sake, God had made him the highest of every creature, and given him a name above every name, and commanded that at the name of Jesus now all things in heaven should bow, and promised, that at the day of judgment, all on earth, and under it, should bow too, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:6-11). Thus he presented himself on our behalf unto God, a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour, in which God resteth for ever, for that the blood of this sacrifice has always with him a pleasing and prevailing voice. It cannot be denied, it cannot be outweighed by the heaviness, circumstances, or aggravations of any sin whatsoever, of them that come unto God by him. He is always, as I said before, in the midst of the throne, and before the throne, 'a Lamb as it had been slain,' now appearing in the presence of God for us. Of the manner of his intercession, whether it was vocal or virtual, whether by voice of mouth, or merit of deed, or both, I will not determine; we know but little while here, how things are done in heaven, and we may soon be too carnal, or fantastical in our apprehensions. Intercession he makes, that is, he manages the efficacy and worth of his suffering with God for us, and is always prevalent in his thus managing of his merits on our behalf. And as to the manner, though it be in itself infinitely beyond what we can conceive while here, yet God hath stooped to our weakness, and so expressed himself in this matter, that we might somewhat, though but childishly, apprehend him (1 Cor 13:11,12). And we do not amiss if we conceive as the Word of God hath revealed; for the scriptures are the green poplar, hazel, and the chestnut rods that lie in the gutters where we should come to drink; all the difficulty is, in seeing the white strakes, the very mind of God there, that we may conceive by it.
But the text says he prayeth in heaven, he makes intercession there. Again, it saith his blood speaks, and, consequently, why may not his groans, his tears, his sighs, and strong cries, which he uttered here in the days of flesh? I believe they do, and have a strong voice with God for the salvation of his people. He may then intercede both vocally and virtually; virtually to be sure he does, and we are allowed so to apprehend, because the text suggesteth such a manner of intercession to us; and because our weakness will not admit us to understand fully the thing as it is, our belief that he maketh intercession for us has also the advantage of being purged from its faultiness by his intercession, and we shall be saved thereby, because we have relied upon his blood shed, and the prevalency of the worthiness of it with God for us; though as to this circumstance, the manner of his interceding, we should be something at a loss.
The Word says that we have yet but the image of heavenly things, or of things in the heavens. I do not at all doubt but that many of those that were saved before Christ came in the flesh, though they were, as to the main, right, and relied upon him to the saving of their souls, yet came far short of the knowledge of many of the circumstances of his suffering for them (Heb 10:1). Did they all know that he was to be betrayed of Judas? that he was to be scourged of the soldiers? that he was to be crowned with thorns? that he was to be crucified between two thieves, and to be pierced till blood and water came out of his side? or that he was to be buried in Joseph's sepulchre? I say, did all that were saved by faith that he was to come and die for them, understand these, with many more circumstances that were attendants of him to death? It would be rude to think so; because for it we have neither scripture nor reason. Even so, we now that believe that 'he ever liveth to make intercession for us,' are also very short of understanding of the manner or mode of his so interceding. Yet we believe that he died, and that his merits have a voice with God for us; yea, that he manages his own merits before God in way of intercession for us, far beyond what we, while here, are able to conceive.
The scripture saith that 'all the fulness of the Godhead' dwells in him 'bodily' (Col 2:9). It also saith that he is the throne of God, and yet again, that he sits 'on the right hand of the throne' (Isa 22:23; Heb 12:2). These things are so far from being comprehended by the weakest, that they strain the wits and parts of the strongest, yet there is a heavenly truth in all. Heavenly things are not easily believed, no not of believers themselves, while here on earth, and when they are, they are so but weakly and infirmly. I believe that the very appearing of Christ before God is an intercession as a priest, as well as a plea of an advocate; and I believe again, that his very life there is an intercession there, a continual intercession (Heb 9:24; Rom 5:10).
But there is yet something further to be said: Christ, the humanity of Christ, if in it dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, how then appears he before him to make intercession? or if Christ is the throne of grace and mercy-seat, how doth he appear before God as sitting there, to sprinkle that now with his blood? Again, if Christ be the altar of incense, how stands he as a priest by that altar to offer the prayers of all the saints thereon, before the throne?
[How these mysteries are to be learned.]
That all this is written is true; and that it is all truth, is as true: but that it is all understood by every one that is saved I do not believe is true. I mean, so understood as that they could all reconcile the seeming contradictions that are in these texts. There are therefore three lessons that God has set us as to the perfecting of our understanding in the mysteries of God. 1. Letters. 2. Words. 3. Meanings.
1. Letters. I call the ceremonial law so; for there all is set forth distinctly, everything by itself; as letters are to children: there you have a priest, a sacrifice, an altar, a holy place a mercy-seat: and all distinct.
2. Words. Now in the gospel these letters are put all in a word, and Christ is that word, that word of God's mind; and therefore the gospel makes Christ that priest, Christ that sacrifice, Christ that altar, Christ that holy place, Christ that throne of grace, and all; for Christ is all: all these meet in him as several letters meet in one word.
3. Meanings. Next to the word you have the meaning, and the meaning is more difficult to be learned than either the letters or the word; and therefore the perfect understanding of that is reserved till we arrive to a higher form, till we arrive to a perfect man; 'But when that which is perfect is come, then that' knowledge 'which is in part, shall be done away' (1 Cor 13:10). Meantime our business is to learn to bring the letters into a word, to bring the ceremonies to Christ, and to make them terminate in him; I mean, to find the priesthood in Christ, the sacrifice in Christ, the altar in Christ, the throne of grace in Christ, and also God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself by him. And if we can learn this well, while here, we shall not at all be blamed! for this is the utmost lesson set us, to wit, to learn Christ as we find him revealed in the gospel: 'I determined,' saith Paul, 'not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified' (1 Cor 2:2). And Christians, after some time, I mean those that pray and pry into the Word well, do attain to some good measure of knowledge of him. It is life eternal to know him, as he is to be known here, as he is to be known by the Holy Scriptures (James 17:3). Keep then close to the Scriptures, and let thy faith obey the authority of them, and thou wilt be sure to increase in faith; 'for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith' (Rom 1:17, 16:25-27).
Believe then that Christ died, was buried, rose again, ascended, and ever liveth to make intercession for thee: and take heed of prying too far, for in mysteries men soon lose their way. It is good therefore that thou rest in this, to wit, that he doth so, though thou canst not tell how he doth it. A man at court gets by his intercession a pardon for a man in the country; and the party concerned, after he had intelligence of it, knows that such an one hath obtained his pardon, and that by his interceding, but for all that he may be ignorant of his methods of intercession, and so are we, at least in part, of Christ. The meaning then is that I should believe, that for Christ's sake God will save me since he has justified me with his blood; 'being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him' (Rom 5:9). Through his intercession, or through his coming between the God whom I have offended and me, a poor sinner: through his coming between with the voice of his blood and merits, which speaketh on my behalf to God, because that blood was shed for me, and because those merits, in the benefit of them, are made over to me by an act of the grace of God, according to his eternal covenant made with Christ. This is what I know of his intercession; I mean with reference to the act itself; to wit, HOW he makes intercession. And since all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in him bodily, and sine he also, as to his humanity, is the throne of grace; yea, and since he also is the holiest of all, and the rest of God for ever, it has been some scruple to me, whether it be not too carnal to imagine as if Christ stood distinct in his humanity; distinct, I say, as to space, from the Father as sitting upon a throne, and as so presenting his merits, and making vocal prayers for the life and salvation of his people. The more true meaning in my apprehension is, that the presence and worth of the human nature, being with the divine, yea, taken into union with God for ever, for the service that was done by God for it, in the world, in reconciling his elect unto him, is still, and ever will be, so deserving in his sight as to prevail—I know not how else to express it—with the divine nature, in whom alone is a power to subdue all impossibilities to itself, to preserve those so reconciled to eternal life.
When I speak of the human nature, I mean the man Christ, not bereft of sense and reasons, nor of the power of willing and affecting; but thus I mean, that the human nature so terminates in the will of the divine; and again, the will of the divine so terminates, as to saving of sinners, in the merit and will of the human, that what the Father would the Son wills, and what the Son wills the Father acquiesces in for ever. And this the Son wills, and his will is backed with infinite merit, in which also the Father rests, that those, all those whom the Father hath given him, be with him where he is, that they may behold his glory (John 17:24). And now I am come to the will and affections of the high-priest.
II. NATURAL. [The natural qualifications of Jesus Christ to be our high priest.]
This leads me to the second head, namely, to the natural qualifications of him. And,
First. This is one thing that I would urge, he is not of a nature foreign to that of man; the angels love us well, but they are not so capable of sympathising with us in our distresses, because they are not partakers of our nature. Nature hath a peculiar sympathy in it; now he is naturally one with us, sin only excepted, and that is our advantage too. He is man as we are, flesh and blood as we are: born of a woman, and in all points made like unto us, that excepted which the Holy Ghost excepteth. 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham' (Heb 2:14,16). This doth qualify him much; for, as I said before, there is a sympathy in nature. A man will not be so affected with the hurt that comes to a beast, as he naturally will with the hurt that comes to a man: a beast will be more affected with those attempts that are made upon its own kind to hurt it, than it will be with those that are made upon man. Wherefore? Why, there is a sympathy in nature. Now that Christ, the high priest of the house of God, is naturally one with us, you see the Scriptures plainly affirm. 'God sent forth his Son, made of a woman' (Gal 4:4); he was 'made of the seed of David, according to the flesh' (Rom 1:3); from the fathers of whom, 'as concerning the flesh Christ came,' &c. (Rom 9:5; 2 Tim 2:8). And this must needs then to make him a well-qualified high priest (Heb 2:14,15). We will not now speak of the necessity of his taking upon him the human nature, to wit, that he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver his people; for that would be here too much beside our matter, and be a diversion to the reader. We are now upon his High Priest's office, and of those natural qualifications that attend him, as to that; and I say, nature is a great qualification, because in nature there is sympathy; and where there is sympathy, there will be a provocation to help, a provocation to help with jealousy and indignation against those that afflict. A bear robbed of her whelps is not more provoked than is the Lord Jesus when there are means used to make them miss of life eternal, for whom he hath died, and for whom he ever lives to make intercession. But,
Second. As there is natural sympathy in Christ to those for whom he is an High Priest, so there is relative sympathy; he has not only taken to or upon him our nature, but he is become one brotherhood with us; now you know brotherhood will carry a man further than nature; so then, when nature and relation meet, there is a double obligation. 'For both he that sanctifieth,' which is Christ, 'and they who are sanctified,' his saints, 'are all of one,' which is God; and they are all of God, as children of a Father; 'for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee' (Heb 2:11,12). Now a relation is much, and a natural relation most of all. Why, here is a natural relation betwixt Christ the High Priest, and those for whom 'he ever liveth to make intercession'; a natural relation, I say, and that with respect to the humanity which is the nature subject to affliction and distress; 'Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same' (Heb 2:14). So then it is for a brother that he is engaged, for a brother that he doth make intercession. When Gideon knew by the confession of Zeba and Zalmunna, that the men that they slew at Tabor were his brethren, his fury came into his face, and he sware they should therefore die (Judg 8:18-21). Relation is a great matter. And therefore it is said again, 'In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful High Priest' (Heb 2:17). A brother is born for adversity; and a brother will go far. This therefore is a second thing or another qualification, with which Christ Jesus is furnished to be an High Priest; he is a brother, there is a brotherly relation betwixt him and us; therefore by virtue of this relation he maketh intercession for us more affectionately.
Third. There are other things in Christ Jesus that makes him naturally of an excellent qualification with reference to his priesthood for us, and they are the temptations and infirmities wherewith he was exercised in the days of his humiliation. It is true, temptations and infirmities, strictly considered, are none of our nature, no more are they of his; but yet, if it be proper to say temptations and afflictions have a nature, his and ours were naturally the same; and that in all points too; for so says the text, 'He was tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin' (Heb 4:15). Are we tempted to distrust God? so was he: are we tempted to murder ourselves? so was he: are we tempted with the bewitching vanities of this world? so was he: are we tempted to commit idolatry, and to worship the devil? so was he (Matt 4:3-10; Luke 4:1-13). So that herein we also were alike; yea, from his cradle to his cross he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, a man of affliction throughout the whole course of his life.
And observe it, He was made so, or subjected thereto by the ordinance of God; nay, further, it behoved him to be made so, that is, to be made like unto us in all things, the better to capacitate him to the work of his priesthood, with the more bowels and compassion. We will read to you the text; 'Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be,' qualified to be, 'a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted' (Heb 2:17,18). See here how he is qualified, and to what end; he was tempted as we are, suffered by temptations as we do, in all points and things as we are; that he might be bowels, that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in things pertaining to God, to make up the difference that is made by sin between God and his people, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. Yea, he by being tempted, and by suffering as he did, he is prepared and enabled so to do; 'for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.' Wherefore, I also call this qualification both natural and necessary; natural, because in kind the same with ours; that is, his temptations were the same with ours; the same in nature, the same in design, the same as to their own natural tendency; for their natural tendency was to have ruined both him and us, but God prevented. They also were necessary, though not of themselves, yet made so by him that can bring good out of evil, and light out of darkness; made so, I say, to us, for whose sakes they were suffered to assault and afflict him, namely, that he might be able to be merciful, faithful, and succouring to us.
Fourth. Another qualification with which our High Priest is furnished, for the better fitting of him to make intercession for us, is, that we are his members; to be a member is more than to be of the same nature, or the nearest of relations, that excepted. So, then, now he makes intercession for his own self, for his own body, and for the several members of his body. The High Priest under the law did use to offer up sacrifice for himself; first 'for himself,' for his own sins, and then 'for the errors of the people.' I will not say that Christ had any sin that was personally, or by his act, his own; for that would be to blaspheme the name of that Holy One; but yet I will say, he made the sins of the people his own (Psa 69:5). Yea, God the Father made them his; those also for whom he ever liveth to make intercession, are united to him, made members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones; and so are any part of himself (2 Cor 5:21).
But we are now about his natural qualifications, and this is one; that they for whom he ever liveth to make intercession are his members, the members of his body; 'we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones,' so saith the Word (Eph 5:30). Wherefore here is a near concern, for that his church is part of himself; it is his own concern, it is for our own flesh. 'No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it' (Eph 5:29).—Things are thus spoken, because of the infirmity of our flesh.—So that had Christ no love to us as we are sinners, yet because we are part of himself, he cannot but care for us, nature puts him upon it; yea, and the more infirm and weak we are, the more he is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, the more he is afflicted for us: 'For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities' (Heb 4:15). He at no time loseth this his fellow-feeling, because he always is our head, and we the members of his. I will add, the infirm member is most cared for, most pitied, most watched over to be kept from harms, and most consulted for.
I love to play the child with little children, and have learned something by so doing; I have met with a child that has had a sore finger; yea, so sore as to be altogether at present useless; and not only so, but by reason of its infirmity, has been a let or hindrance to the use of all the fingers that have been upon that hand, then have I began to bemoan the child, and said, Alas! my poor boy, or girl, hast got a sore finger! Ah! quoth the child, with water in its eyes, and hath come to me to be bemoaned. Then I have begun to offer to touch the sore finger. O! saith the child, pray do not hurt me: I then have replied, Canst thou do nothing with this finger? No, saith the child, nor with this hand either; then have I said, Shall we cut off this finger, and buy my child a better, a brave golden finger? At this the child has started, stared in my face, gone back from me, and entertained a kind of indignation against me, and has no more cared to be intimate with me. Then have I begun to make some use of that good sermon which this little child has preached unto me; and thus have I gone on. If membership be so dear, if this child has such tenderness to the most infirm, the most useless of its members; if it counts me its friend no longer than when I have a mouth to bemoan and carriages that show tenderness to this useless finger; what an interest doth membership give on in the body, and what compassions hath the soul for such an useless thing, because it is a member! and turning all this over to Jesus Christ, then instead of matter and corruption, there presently comes honey to me out of this child's sore finger; I take leave to tell you now how I use to play. And though I have told this tale upon so grave a truth, as is the membership of Christians with their head, yet bear with me; no child can be so tender of its sore finger as is the Son of God of his afflicted members; he cannot but be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.
Ah! who would not make many supplications, prayers, and intercessions, for a leg, for an eye, for a foot, for a hand, for a finger, rather than they will lose it? And can it be imagined that Christ alone shall be like the foolish ostrich, hardened against his young, yea, against his members? It cannot be.
Should he lose a member, he would be disfigured, maimed, dismembered, imperfect, next to monstrous. For his body is called his fulness, yea, the fulness of him that fills all in all. This has naturally a respect for those for whom he ever liveth to make intercession; yea, an unfathomable respect for them, because they are his members.
Fifth. But again, when nature, relation, and membership is urged to show the fit qualifications wherewith Christ is endued, I intend not to intimate, as if the bottom of all lay here; for then it might be urged that one imperfect has all these; for who knows not that sinful man has all these qualifications in him towards his nature, relations, and members? I have therefore, as I said, thus discoursed, only for demonstration-sake, and to suit myself with the infirmity of your flesh. I might come, also, in the next place, to tell you, that Jesus Christ our High Priest is thus, with reference to other designs. We are his purchase and he counts us so; his jewels, and he counts us so; his estate real, and he counts us so (Psa 16:5,6). And you know a man will do much, speak much, intercede much and long, for that which he thus is interested in. But we will come to speak more particularly of the exceeding excellency of his natural qualifications, and show you that he hath such as are peculiar to himself alone, and that we are concerned in them.
[The peculiar natural qualifications of Christ as our High Priest.]
1. He is holy, and so a suitable High Priest. There is a holiness that sets further from, and a holiness that brings one nearer to, and to be concerned the more with the condition of those in affliction; and that holiness is that which is entailed unto office. When a man is put into an office, the more unholy he is, the worse he performs his office; and the more holy, the better he performs his office. For his holiness obliges him to be faithful unto men, wherein he is concerned by his office. Hence you read, that he is 'a faithful High Priest,' because he is a holy one, and 'such an High Priest became us, who is holy,' &c. (Heb 2:17, 7:26). 'Good and upright is the Lord' Jehovah, Christ Jesus, 'therefore will he teach sinners in the way' (Psa 25:8). 'He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God' (2 Sam 23:3). I mention these texts to show you, that holiness, when entailed to office, makes a man do that office the better. Now then, Christ is holy, and he is made, called, and made of God an High Priest, after the order of Melchisedec, and is to manage that his office for thee with God; that is to say, to continue to make reconciliation for iniquity; for that iniquity that cleaveth unto thee, and that spuriously breaketh, or issueth from thy flesh after thou art called and converted. For we are now upon the second part of the execution of the priesthood of Christ; that which he executeth, I say; and by executing takes away the iniquity of our holy things and of our life, after our turning to God by him. Now he that is to do this is holy, and so one that will make conscience of performing that office for us, with which he is intrusted of God. Hence he is set in opposition to those high priests that had infirmities, that were not holy, and upon this very account preferred above them. 'For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated,' perfected, or holy 'for evermore' (Heb 7:28). This therefore is a great thing, to wit, that we have an High Priest that is holy, and so one that will not fail to perform to the utmost the trust committed to him in our behalf, to wit, 'to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins' (Heb 5:1). This is one thing.
2. There is added to this of his holiness another; and that is harmless. 'For such an High Priest became us who is holy, harmless' (Heb 7:26). A harmful man, when he is in office, O how much mischief may he do! Such an one is partial in doing his office, such an one will put the poor by his right, such an one will buy and sell a cause, a man, an interest, will do or not do, as his harmfulness prompts him to it; 'so is a wicked ruler over the poor people' (Prov 28:15). But now our Jesus, our High Priest, is holy, harmless; he will wrong no man, he will deprive no man, he will contemn no man, he will deny to no man that comes to God by him, the benefit and advantage of his blessed intercession; he respecteth not persons, nor taketh reward. A harmful man will stomach, and hate, and prejudice a man; will wait for an opportunity to do him a mischief; will take the advantage, if he can, to deny him his right, and keep from him his due, when yet it is in the power of his hand to help him. O! but Christ is harmless, harmless as a dove, he thinks no ill, intends no ill, doth no ill; but graciously, innocently, harmlessly, makes intercession for thee; nor will he be prevailed with to prejudice thy person, or to forbear to take up thy name into his lips, be thy infirmities, and weaknesses, and provocations never so many, if thou indeed comest to God by him. He is holy, and harmless, and so the more fit to become our High Priest and to make intercession for us.
3. But again, this is not all, he also is undefiled; 'For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled.' This term is put in to show, that he neither is, nor can be found, neither now, nor at any time, faulty in his office. A man that is holy may yet be defiled; a man that is harmless may yet be defiled. We are bid to be holy and harmless; and in a gospel sense so every Christian is. O! but Christ is so in a legal sense; in the eye of the law, perfectly so. This is a great matter, for it shows, that as nothing done by us can tempt him to be hurtful to us; so there is nothing in himself that can tempt him so to be. A man that is defiled has that within him that will put him upon using of his office unfaithfully, though he should have no provocation from those for whose good he is to execute his office; but he that is undefiled—undefiled in a law sense—as our Lord Jesus is, is such an one as doth not only not do hurt, and not act falsely in his office, but one that cannot, one that knoweth not, how to be unfaithful to his trust. He is holy, harmless, undefiled, this therefore is a great thing. He has not the original of hurtfulness in him, there is no such root there; there is a root of bitterness, springing up in us, by which not only ourselves, but ofttimes others are defiled (Heb 12:15). O! but our High Priest is undefiled, he is not corrupt, nor corrupteth; he doth his office fairly, faithfully, holily, justly, according to, or answering, our necessities, and the trust reposed in him, and committed to him. But,
4. This is not all; as he is holy, harmless, and undefiled; so he is separate from sinners, both in his conception, in his composition, and the place ordained for him to execute this part of his High Priest's office in. He was not conceived in the womb by carnal generation; he was not made up of polluted and defiled nature; he officiateth not with those materials that are corrupt, stained, or imperfect; but with those that are unspotted, even with the spotless sacrifice of his own unblemished offering. He, nor his offering, has any such tang, as had the priests, and their sacrifices under the law, to wit, sin and imperfection; he is separate from them in this respect, further than is an angel from a beast. He has none of the qualities, actions, or inclinations of sinners; his ways are only his own; he never saw them, nor learned them, but of the Father; the none upright among men, wherefore he is separated from them to be a priest. Again,
5. As he is thus, so again, he is said to be 'higher than the heavens.' For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens. The text saith, that neither saint, nor heavens, are clean in God's sight. 'Behold he puts no trust in his servants,' he chargeth his angels with folly; and again, 'Behold he putteth no trust in his saints, yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight' (Job 4:18, 15:15). Wherefore, by this expression, he shows us that our High Priest is more noble than either heaven or angel: yea, more clean and perfect than any. It shows us also that all the heavenly host are at his command, to do as his intercession shall prevail with the Father for us. All angels worship him, and at his word they become, they all become ministering spirits for them who shall be heirs of salvation.
Besides, by this word he shows, that it is impossible that our High Priest should degenerate or decay; for that he is made 'higher than the heavens'; the spirits sometimes in the heavens have decayed (2 Peter 2:4). The heavens themselves decay and wax old; and that is the farthest that by the Word we are admitted to go (Heb 1:10-12). But as for him that is above the heavens, that is made higher than the heavens, that is ascended up far above all heavens; he is the same, and 'his years fail not' (Heb 1:12). 'The same yesterday, today, and for ever' (Heb 13:8). This therefore is added, to show that Christ is neither as the angels, nor heavens, subject to decay, or degenerate, or to flag and grow cold in the execution of his office; but that he will be found even at the last, when he is come to the end of this work, and is about to come out of the holy place, as affectionate, as full of love, as willing, and desirous after our salvation, as he was the first moment that he was made High Priest, and took upon him to execute that his blessed office for us. Wherefore our High Priest is no such one as you read of in the law (Lev 21:18). He is no dwarf, hath no blemish, nor any imperfection; therefore is not subject to flag or fail in due execution of his office, but is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him, 'seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' And it is well worth our consideration, that it is said he is made thus; that is, appointed, instituted, called, and qualified thus of God; this shows the Father's heart as well as the Son's, to usward, to wit, that this priesthood was of him, and the glorious effects thereof by him. 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.'
[The second motive, we are sure to speed.]
SECOND. I come now to the second motive, to wit, that we may find grace and mercy to help in time of need; or we shall find grace and mercy to help, if we come as we should, to the throne of grace. In this motive we have these three things considerable. First, That saints are like to meet with needy times while they are in this world. Second, That nothing can carry us through our needy times but more, or a continual supply of mercy and grace. Third, That mercy and grace is to be had at the throne of grace, and we must fetch it from thence by prayer, if we would, as we should, go through these needy times.
First. For the first of these, that saints are like to meet with needy times, or with such times as will show them that they need a continual assistance of the grace of God, that they may go rightly through this world. This is therefore a motive, that weareth a spur in the heel of it, a spur to prick us forward to supplicate at the throne of grace. This needy time is in other places called the perilous time, the evil day, the hour and power of darkness, the day of temptation, the cloudy and dark day (2 Tim 3:1; Eph 6:13; Luke 22:53; Heb 3:8; Eze 34:12; Gen 47:9; Matt 6:34). And indeed, in the general, all the days of our pilgrimage here are evil, yea, every day has a sufficiency of evil in it to destroy the best saint that breatheth, were it not for the grace of God. But there are also, as I have hinted, particular special times, times more eminently dangerous and hazardous unto saints. As,
[Ten special times of need.]
There are their young days, the days of their youth, and childhood in grace. This day is usually attended with much evil towards him or them that are asking the way to Zion with their faces thitherward. Now the devil has lost a sinner; there is a captive has broke prison, and one run away from his master: now hell seems to be awakened from sleep, the devils are come out, they roar, and roaring they seek to recover their runaway. Now tempt him, threaten him, flatter him, stigmatise him, throw dust into his eyes, poison him with error, spoil him while he is upon the potter's wheel; any thing to keep him from coming to Jesus Christ. And is not this a needy time; doth not such an one want abundance of grace? is it not of absolute necessity that thou, if thou art the man thus beset, shouldst ply it at the throne of grace, for mercy and grace to help thee in such a time of need as this? To want a spirit of prayer now, is as much as thy life is worth. O, therefore, you that know what I say, you that are broke loose from hell, that are fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you, and that do hear the lion roar after you, and that are kept awake with the continual voice of his chinking chain, cry as you fly; yea, the promise is, that they that come to God with weeping, with supplication, he will lead them. Well, this is one needy time, now thy hedge is low, now thy branch is tender, now thou art but in the bud. Pray that thou beest not marred in the potter's hand.
2. The time of prosperity is also a time of need, I mean of thy spiritual prosperity. For as Satan can tell how to suit temptations for thee in the day of thy want, so he has those that can entangle thee in the day of thy fulness. He has his spiritual wickednesses in the high and heavenly places (Eph 6:12). He can tell how to lay a snare for thee in the land of Canaan, as well as in the wilderness; in thy time of receiving good things, as well as in thy hungry and empty hours. Nay, such times seem to be the most dangerous, not in themselves, but through the deceits of our heart. Hence Moses gives this caution to the children of Israel, that when God had given them the promised land, and vineyards, and wells, and olive trees, and when they had eaten and were full, 'Then,' says he, 'beware lest thou forget the Lord which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage' (Deut 6:10-13). And again, he doubleth this caution, saying, 'When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God, for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day; lest when thou hast eaten and art full,' and thou in all good things art increased, 'then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage'; all this may be applied spiritually (Deut 8:10-14). For there are, as I said, snares laid for us in our best things; and he that has great enjoyments, and forgets to pray for grace to keep him humble then, shall quickly be where Peter was, after his knowledge of the Lord Jesus by the revelation of the Father.
3. Another needy time is a time when men are low and empty, as to worldly good; this time is full of temptations and snares. At this time, men will, if they look not well to their doings and goings, be tempted to strain curtesies both with conscience and with God's Word, and adventure to do things that are dangerous, and that have a tendency to make all their religion and profession vain. This holy Agur was aware of; so he prayed, Let me not be rich and full, lest I deny thee; let me not be poor, lest I steal, and take the name of my God in vain (Prov 30:7-9). There are many inconveniences that attend him that is fallen into decay in this world. It is an evil day with him, and the devils will be as busy with him, as the flies are with a lean and scabbed sheep. It shall go hard but such a man shall be full of maggots; full of silly, foolish, idle inventions, to get up, and to abound with fulness again. It is not a time now, will Satan say, to retain a tender conscience, to regard thy word or promise, to pay for what thou buyest, or to stick at pilfering, and filch from thy neighbour. This Agur was afraid of; therefore he prayed that God would keep him from that which would be to him a temptation to do it. How many in our day have, on these very accounts, brought religion to a very ill savour, and themselves unto the snare of the devil, and all because they have not addicted themselves to pray to God for grace to help in this time of need, but rather have left off the thing that is good, and given up themselves to the temptations of the devil, and the subtle and ensnaring motions of the flesh.
4. Another needy time is the day of persecution; this is called, as was hinted before, 'the hour of darkness,' 'the cloudy and dark day.' This day, therefore, is full of snares, and of evils of every kind. Here is the fear of man, the terrors of a prison, of loss of goods and life. Now all things look black, now the fiery trial is come. He that cannot now pray; he that now applieth not himself to God on the throne of grace, by the priesthood of Jesus Christ, is like to take a fall before all men upon the stage; a foul fall, a fall that will not only break his own bones, but also the hearts of those that fear God and behold it: 'Come therefore boldly unto the throne of grace, that ye may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.'
5. Another time of need is that time wherein thou changest thy condition, and enterest into a new relation. For here also the snares and traps lie waiting for thee. There is a hopeful child goes to service, or to be an apprentice; there is a young man, a young maid, entereth into a married condition, and though they pray before, yet they leave off to pray then. Why, these people are oftentimes ruined and undone; the reason is, this change is attended with new snares, with new cares, and with new temptations, of the which, because through unwatchfulness they are not aware, they are taken, drawn to perdition and destruction by them. Many in my short day have gone, I doubt, down to the pit, THIS way, that have sometimes been to appearance the very foremost and hopefulest in the place where they have lived. O how soon has their fire gone out; has their lamps forborne to burn! How quickly have they lost their love to their ministers, by whom they were illuminated, and to the warmest Christians, through communion with whom they used to be kept awake and savoury! How quickly have they found them out new friends, new companions, new ways and methods of life, and new delights to feed their foolish minds withal! Wherefore, O thou that art in this fifth head concerned, 'Come boldly unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.'
6. Another time of need is, when the generality of professors are decayed; when the custom of fancies and fooleries have taken away all gravity and modesty from among the children of men. Now pray, or thou diest; yea, pray against those decays, those vain customs, those foolish fancies, those light and vain carriages that have overtaken others, else they will assuredly knock at thy door, and obtain favour at thy hand, the which if they do, they will quickly bring thee down into the dirt with others, and put thee in peril of damnation as well as they.
7. Another time of need is, the time of guilt contracted, and of the hiding of God's face. This is a dangerous time. If thou now shalt forbear to pray, thou art undone, for the natural tendency of guilt is to drive a man from God. So it served our first father; and ofttimes when God hides his face, men run into desperation, and so throw up all duties, and say as he of old, 'What should I wait for the Lord any longer?' (2 Kings 6:33). Now thy great help against this is prayer, continuing in prayer. Prayer wrestleth with the devil, and will overthrow him: prayer wrestleth with God, and will overcome him: prayer wrestleth with all temptations, and makes them fly. Great things have been done by prayer, even by the prayer of those that have contracted guilt, and that have by their sins lost the smiles and sense of the favour of God. Wherefore, when this needy, this evil time has overtaken thee, pray: 'Come boldly unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.'
8. The day of reproach and slander is another time of need, or a day in which thou wilt want supplies of grace. Sometimes we meet with such days wherein we are loaden with reproaches, slanders, scandals, and lies. Christ found the day of reproach a burdensome day unto him; and there is many a professor driven quite away from all conscience towards God, and open profession of his name, by such things as these (Psa 69:7). Reproach is, when cast at a man, as if he was stoning to death with stones. Now ply it hard at the throne of grace, for mercy and grace to bear thee up, or thou wilt either miscarry or sink under ground by the weight of reproach that may fall upon thee.
9. Another time of need is that wherein a man's friends desert and forsake him, because of his gospel principles, or of those temptations that attend his profession. This is a time that often happeneth to those that are good. Thus it was with Christ, with Paul, with Job, with Heman, and so has been with many other of God's servants in the day of their temptations in this world; and a sore time it is. Job complained under it, so did Heman, Paul, and Christ (John 6:66; 2 Tim 1:15; Job 19:13-19). Now a man is as forlorn as a pelican in the wilderness, as an owl in the desert, or as a sparrow upon the house-top. If a man cannot now go to the throne of grace by prayer, through Christ, and so fetch grace for his support from thence, what can he do? He cannot live of himself (John 15:4). Wherefore this is a sore evil.
10. Another time of need is the day of death, when I am to pack up and to be gone from hence, the way of all the earth. Now the greatest trial is come, excepting that of the day of judgment. Now a man is to be stripped of all, but that which cannot be shaken. Now a man grows near the borders of eternity. Now he begins to see into the skirts of the next world. Now death is death, and the grave the grave indeed! Now he begins to see what it is for body and soul to part, and what to go and appear before God (Eccl 12:5). Now the dark entry, and the thoughts of what is in the way from a deathbed to the gate of the holy heaven, comes nearer the heart than when health and prosperity do compass a man about. Wherefore this is like to be a trying time, a time of need indeed. A prudent man will make it one of the great concerns of his whole life to get, and lay up a stock of grace for this day, though the fool will rage and be confident: for he knows all will be little enough to keep him warm in his soul, while cold death strokes his hand over his face, and over his heart, and is turning his blood into jelly; while strong death is loosing his silver cord, and breaking his golden bowl! (Eccl 12:6). Wherefore, I say, this motive weareth a spur on his heel, a spur to prick us on to the throne of grace for mercy, and grace to help in time of need. But,
[Continual supplies of grace essential to our welfare.]
Second. I come now to the next thing, which is, to show that nothing can carry us through our needy times, but more or a continual supply of mercy and grace. This the text fully implies, because it directeth us to the throne of grace, for mercy and grace for that very end. And had there been any thing else that could have done it, the apostle would have made mention of it, and would also have directed the saints unto it. But forasmuch as he here makes mention of the needy time, and directs them to the throne of grace for mercy and grace to help, it followeth that mercy and grace, and that only, can help us in the evil time. Now mercy and grace are to be distinctly considered. 1. Mercy, for that by it we have through Christ the continuation and multiplication of forgivenesses, without which there is no salvation. 2. Grace, for that by it we are upheld, supported, and enabled to go through our needy times, as Christians, without which there is no salvation neither. The first all will grant, the second is clear: 'If any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him; but we are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul' (Heb 10:38,39).
1. Mercy is that by which we are pardoned, even all the falls, faults, failings, and weaknesses, that attend us, and that we are incident to, in this our day of temptation; and for this mercy we should pray, and say, 'Our Father, forgive us our trespasses' (Matt 6:9-12). For though mercy is free in the exercise of it to usward, yet God will have us ask, that we may have; as he also saith in the text, 'Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy.' Here then we have one help, and that is, the mercy of God is to be extended to us from his throne through Jesus Christ, for our pardon and forgiveness in all those weaknesses that we are attended with in the needy or evil times; and we should come to God for this very thing. This is that which David means, when he says, 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever' (Psa 23:6). And again, 'When I said my foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up' (Psa 94:18). Set me clear and free from guilt, and from the imputation of sin unto death, by Christ.
Nor can any thing help where this is wanting; for our parts, our knowledge, our attainments, nor our graces, cannot so carry us through this world, but that we shall be guilty of that that will sink us down to hell, without God's pardoning mercy. It is not the grace that we have received can do it, nor the grace that is to be received that can do it; nothing can do it but the pardoning mercy of God: for because all our graces are here imperfect, they cannot produce a spotless obedience. But where there is not a spotless obedience, there must of necessity follow a continuation of pardon and forgiveness by mercy, or I know what will become of the soul. Here, therefore, the apostle lays an obligation upon thee to the throne of grace, to wit, that thou mayest obtain mercy, a continuation of mercy, mercy as long as thou art like to live this vain life on the earth; mercy that will reach through all thy days. For there is not a day, nor a duty; not a day that thou livest, nor a duty that thou dost, but will need that mercy should come after to take away thy iniquity. Nay, thou canst not receive mercy so clearly, as not to stand in need of another act of mercy to pardon weakness in thy no better receiving the last. We receive not our mercies so humbly, so readily, so gladly, and with that thankfulness as we should: and therefore, for the want of these, have the need of another, and another act of God's sin-pardoning mercy, and need shall have thereof, as long as evil time shall last with us.
But is not this great grace, that we should thus be called upon to come to God for mercy? Yea, is not God unspeakably good, in providing such a throne of grace, such a sacrifice, such a high priest, and so much mercy for us, and then to invite us to come with boldness to him for it? Nay, doth not his kindness yet further appear, by giving of us items and intimations of needy times, and evil days, on purpose to provoke us to come to him for mercy? This then shows us, as also we have hinted before, that the throne of grace, and Christ Jesus our High Priest, are both provided upon the account of our imperfections, namely, that we who are called might not be, by remaining weaknesses, hindered of, but obtain eternal inheritance. Weaknesses, such weaknesses remain in the justified, and such slips and failings are found in and upon them, that call for a course of mercy and forgiveness to attend them. Farther, this also intimates, that God's people should not be dejected at the apprehensions of their imperfections; I say, not so dejected, as therefore to cast off faith, and hope, and prayer; for a throne of grace is provided for them, to the which they may, they must, they ought continually to resort for mercy, sin-pardoning mercy.
2. As we are here to obtain mercy, so we are here to find grace. They that obtain mercy, shall find grace, therefore they are put together. That they may obtain mercy and find grace; only they must find mercy first; for as forgiveness at first goes before sanctification in the general, so forgiveness afterwards goes before particular acts of grace for further sanctification. God giveth not the spirit of grace to those that he has not first forgiven by mercy, for the sake of Christ. Also so long as he as a Father forbears to forgive us as his adopted, so long we go without those further additions of grace that are here suggested in the text. But when we have obtained mercy to forgive, then we also find grace to our renewing. Therefore he saith, First obtain mercy, and then find grace.
Grace here I take to be that grace which God has appointed for us, to dwell in us; and that by and through the continual supply of which we are to be enabled to do and suffer, and to manage ourselves in doing and suffering according to the will of God. 'Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear' (Heb 12:28). So again, 'he giveth more grace; wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble' (James 4:6; Prov 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5). The grace, therefore, that this text intends, is grace given or to be given; grace received or to be received; grace a root, a principle of grace, with its continual supplies for the perfecting of that salvation that God has designed for us. This was that which comforted Paul, when the messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him, it was said unto him by Christ, 'My grace is sufficient for thee' (2 Cor 12:9). As who should say, Paul, be not utterly cast down, I have wherewith all to make thee stand, and overcome, and that is my grace, by which thou shalt be supported, strengthened, comforted, and made to live a triumphant life, notwithstanding all that oppress thee. But this came to him upon his praying; for this I prayed to God thrice, saith he. So again, 'God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye always have all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work' (2 Cor 9:8). Thus you see, that by grace in these places is meant that spirit, and those principles of grace, by the increase and continual supply of which we are inwardly strengthened, and made to abound to every good work.
This then is the conclusion, That as there is mercy to be obtained by us at the throne of grace, for the pardon of all our weaknesses; so there is also grace there to be found that will yet strengthen us more, to all good walking and living before him. He giveth more grace, and they receive one time or another abundance of grace that shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ. This then teaches us several things, some of which I will mention. As,
[What this should teach us.]
1. That nature, as nature, is not capable of serving of God: no, not nature where grace dwells, as considered abstract from that grace that dwells in it. Nothing can be done aright without grace, I mean no part nor piece of gospel-duty. 'Let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably.' Nature, managed by grace, seasoned with grace, and held up with grace, can serve God acceptably. Let us have grace, seek for and find grace to do so; for we cannot do so but by grace: 'By the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me, was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me' (1 Cor 15:10). What can be more plain than this beautiful text? For the apostle doth here quite shut out nature, sanctified nature, for he indeed was a sanctified man, and concludes that even he, as of himself, did nothing of all the great works that he did; but they were done, he did them by the grace of God that was in him. Wherefore nature, sanctified nature, as nature, can of itself do nothing to the pleasing of God the Father.
Is not this the experience of all the godly? Can they do that at all times which they can do at some times? Can they pray, believe, love, fear, repent, and bow before God always alike? No. Why so? they are the same men, the same human nature, the same saints. Aye, but the same grace, in the same degree, operation, and life of grace, doth not so now work on that man, that nature, that saint; therefore, notwithstanding he is what he is, he cannot do at all times alike. Thus therefore it is manifest, that nature, simply as such, is a great way off of doing that which is acceptable with God. Refined, purified, sanctified nature, cannot do but by the immediate supplies, lifts, and helps of that spirit and principle of grace by the which it is so sanctified.
2. As nature, even where grace is, cannot, without the assistance of that grace, do anything acceptably before God; so grace received, if it be not also supplied with more grace, cannot cause that we continue to do acceptable service to God. This also is clear by the text, For he speaketh there to them that had received grace; yea, puts himself into the number, saying, 'Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may find grace to help in time of need.' If grace received would do, what need for more? What need we pray for more? What need we go to the throne of grace for more? This very exhortation saith it will not: present supplies of grace are proportioned to our present need, and to help us to do a present work or duty. But is our present need all the need that we are like to have, and the present work all the work that we have to do in the world? Even so the grace that we have received at present, though it can help us to do a present work, it cannot, without a further supply, help us to do what is to be done hereafter. Wherefore, the apostle saith, that his continuing to do was through his obtaining help, continual help of God: 'Having, therefore,' saith he, 'obtained help of God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great,' &c. (Acts 26:22). There must be a daily imploring of God for daily supplies from him, if we will do our daily business as we should.
A present dispensation of grace is like a good meal, a seasonable shower, or a penny in one's pocket, all which will serve for the present necessity. But will that good meal that I ate last week, enable me, without supply, to do a good day's work in this? or will that seasonable shower which fell last year, be, without supplies, a seasonable help to the grain and grass that is growing now? or will that penny that supplied my want the other day, I say, will the same penny also, without a supply, supply my wants today? The same may, I say, be said of grace received; it is like the oil in the lamp, it must be fed, it must be added to. And there, there shall be a supply, 'wherefore he giveth more grace.' Grace is the sap, which from the root maintaineth the branches: stop the sap, and the branch will wither. Not that the sap shall be stopped where there is union, not stopped for altogether; for as from the root the branch is supplied, so from Christ is every member furnished with a continual supply of grace, if it doth as it should; 'of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace' (John 1:16).
The day of grace is the day of expense: this is our spending time. Hence we are called pilgrims and strangers in the earth, that is, travellers from place to place, from state to state, from trial to trial (Heb 11:13). Now, as the traveller at a fresh inn is made to spend fresh money; so Christians, at a fresh temptation, at a new temptation, are made to spend afresh, and a new supply of grace. Great men, when and while their sons are travellers, appoint that their bags of money be lodged ready, or conveniently paid in at such and such a place, for the suitable relief of them; and so they meet with supplies. Why, so are the sons of the Great One, and he has allotted that we should travel beyond sea, or at a great distance from our Father's house: wherefore he has appointed that grace shall be provided for us, to supply at such a place, such a state or temptation, as need requires: but withal, as my lord expecteth his son should acquaint him with the present emptiness of his purse, and with the difficulty he hath now to grapple with; so God our Father expects that we should plead by Christ our need at the throne of grace, in order to a supply of grace: 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.'
Now then, this shows the reason why many Christians that are indeed possessed with the grace of God, do yet walk so oddly, act so poorly, and live such ordinary lives in the world. They are like to those gentlemen's sons that are of the more extravagant sort, that walk in their lousy hue, when they might be maintained better. Such young men care not, perhaps scorn to acquaint their fathers with their wants, and therefore walk in their threadbare jackets, with hose and shoes out at heels! a right emblem of the uncircumspect child of God. This also shows the reason of all those dreadful falls and miscarriages that many of the saints sustain, they made it not their business to watch to see what is coming, and to pray for a supply of grace to uphold them; they, with David, are too careless, or, with Peter, too confident, or, with the disciples, too sleepy, and so the temptation comes upon them; and their want like an armed man. This also shows the reason why some that, to one's thinking, would fall every day; for that their want of parts, their small experience, their little knowledge of God's matters, do seem to bespeak it; yet stand, walk better, and keep their garments more white than those that have, when compared with them, twice as much as they. They are praying saints, they are often at the throne of grace, they are sensible of their weakness, keep a sight of their danger before their faces, and will not be contented without more grace.
Third. And this leads me, in the third place, to show you, that were we wise, and did we ply it at the throne of grace for grace, as we should, O what spotless lives might we live! We should then have always help in time of need; for so the text insinuates, 'That we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.' This is that which Peter means, when he says, 'And besides this,' that is, besides your faith in Christ, and besides your happy state of justification, 'giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you and abound,' and be continually supplied with a supply from the throne of grace, 'they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ' (2 Peter 1:5-11).
The greatest part of professors now-a-days take up their time in contracting of guilt, and asking for pardon, and yet are not much the better. Whereas, if they had but the grace to add to their faith, virtue, &c., they might have more peace, live better lives, and not have their heads so often in a bag as they have. 'To him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I show the salvation of God' (Psa 50:23). To him that disposeth his way aright; now this cannot be done without a constant supplicating at the throne of grace for more grace. This then is the reason why every new temptation that comes upon thee, so foils, so overcomes thee, that thou wilt need a new conversion to be recovered from under the power and guilt that cleaves to thee by its overshadowing of thee. A new temptation, a sudden temptation, an unexpected temptation, usually foils those that are not upon their watch; and that have not been before with God to be inlaid with grace proportionable to what may come upon them.
'That ye may find grace to help in time of need'! There is grace to be found at the throne of grace that will help us under the greatest straits. 'Seek and ye shall find'; it is there, and it is to be found there; it is to be found there of the seeking soul, of the soul that seeketh him. Wherefore I will conclude as I did begin; 'Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.'
[CONCLUSION. Some lessons to be learned from this text.]
We will now speak something by way of conclusion, and so wind up the whole.
First. You must remember that we have been hitherto speaking of the throne of grace, and showing what it is. That we have also been speaking of Christ's sacrifice, and how he manages his high priest's office before the throne of grace. We have also here, as you see, been speaking of the mercy and grace that is to be obtained and found at this throne of grace, and of what advantage it is to us in this our pilgrimage. Now, from all this it follows, that sin is a fearful thing: for all this ado is, that men might be saved from sin! What a devil then is sin? it is the worst of devils; it is worse than all devils; those that are devils sin hath made them so; nor could anything else have made them devils but sin. Now, I pray, what is it to be a devil, but to be under, for ever, the power and dominion of sin, an implacable spirit against God? Such an one, from which implacableness all the power in heaven and earth cannot release them, because God of his justice has bound them over to judgment. These spirits are by sin carried quite away from themselves, as well as from God that made them; they cannot design their own good; they cannot leave that which yet they know will be everlasting mischievous to themselves. Sin has bound them to itself so fast, that there can be no deliverance for them, but by the Son of God, who also has refused them, and left them to themselves, and to the judgment which they have deserved. Sin also has got a victory over man, has made him an enemy to God and to his own salvation; has caught him, captivated him, carried away his mind, and will, and heart, from God; and made him choose to be vain, and to run the hazard of eternal damnation, with rejoicing and delight. But God left not man where he left those wicked spirits, to wit, under the everlasting chains of darkness, reserved unto judgment; but devised means for their ransom and reconciliation to himself; which is the thing that has been discoursed of in the foregoing part of this book (2 Sam 15:15). But, I say, what a thing is sin, what a devil and master of devils is it, that it should, where it takes hold, so hang that nothing can unclinch its hold but the mercy of God and the heart-blood of his dear Son! O the fretting, eating, infecting, defiling, and poisonous nature of sin, that it should so eat into our flesh and spirit, body and soul, and so stain us with its vile and stinking nature: yea, it has almost turned man into the nature of itself; insomuch as that sometimes, when nature is mentioned, sin is meant; and when sin is mentioned, nature is meant (Eph 2:3, 5:8). Wherefore sin is a fearful thing; a thing to be lamented, a thing to be abhorred, a thing to be fled from with more astonishment and trembling than one would fly from any devil, because it is the worst of things; and that without which nothing can be bad, and because where it takes hold it so fasteneth that nothing, as I have said, can release whom it has made a captive, but the mercy of God and the heart-blood of his dear Son. O what a thing is sin!
Second. As by what hath been said sin appears to be exceeding sinful; so, from hence it also follows, that the soul is a precious thing. For you must know all this is for the redemption of the soul. The redemption of the soul is precious (Psa 49:8,20). I say, it is for the redemption of the soul; it was for this that Christ was made a priest, a sacrifice, an altar, a throne of grace; yea, sin, a curse, and what not, that was necessary for our deliverance from sin, and death, and everlasting damnation. He that would know what a soul is, let him read in letters of blood the price and purchase of the soul. It was not for a light, a little, an inconsiderable thing, that Christ Jesus underwent what he suffered when he was in the world, and gave himself a ransom for souls. No, no! The soul is a great, a vast great thing, notwithstanding it is so little set by of some. Some prefer anything that they fancy, above the soul; a slut, a lie, a pot, an act of fraudulency, the swing of a prevailing passion, anything shall be preferred when the occasion offereth itself. If Christ had set as little by souls as some men do, he had never left his Father's bosom, and the glory that he had with him; he had never so humbled himself, so gave himself to punishment, affliction, and sorrow; and made himself so the object of scorn, and contempt, and reproach, as he did, and all that the souls of sinners might live a life in glory with him.
But methinks this is the mystery of all as to this, that the soul should take that pains, contrive such ways, and take such advantages against itself! For it is the soul that sins, that the soul might die! O! sin, what art thou? What hast thou done? and what still wilt thou further do, if mercy, and blood and grace doth not prevent thee? O silly soul! what a fool has sin made of thee? what an ass art thou become to sin? that ever an immortal soul, at first made in the image of God, for God, and for his delight, should so degenerate from its first station, and so abase itself that it might serve sin, as to become the devil's ape, and to play like a Jack Pudding for him upon any stage or theatre in the world! But I recall myself; for if sin can make one who was sometimes a glorious angel in heaven, now so to abuse himself as to become, to appearance, as a filthy frog, a toad, a rat, a cat, a fly, a mouse, a dog, or bitch's whelp, to serve its ends upon a poor mortal, that it might gull them of everlasting life, no marvel if the soul is so beguiled as to sell itself from God, and all good, for so poor a nothing as a momentary pleasure is. But,
Third. If sin and the soul are such great things, then behold the love and care of God; the love to souls, the care he hath taken to deliver them from sin. Sin, as I have said, is such a thing as from which no man can deliver himself; the soul is such a thing, so rich and valuable in the nature of it, that scarce one in twenty thousand counts of it as they should. But God, the lover of mankind, and the greatest enemy to sin, has provided means effectually to overthrow the one, and to save and secure the other. Behold, therefore, the love of God, the care of God for us; for when we neither loved nor cared for ourselves, God both loved us and cared for us. God commended his love towards us in sending his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.