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hood; wherefore he is able also to save, &c. and then it immedidiately follows, For such an High-priest became us. And a very few verses after, the apostle observes, that the sum of what he had here spoken was this; We have such an High-priest who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens*. So that seeing Christ's intercession in our text is so evidently a sacerdotal or priestly act, we may, no doubt, be assisted in our conceptions of it, by considering that of the Jewish priests, to which it is compared. Now you know, it was their office, to present their prayers to God in the name of the people, both in their daily, and their yearly ministration. In their daily ministration, they went into the holy place, to burn incense before the Lord on the golden altar; and this incense is often referred to in scripture, as an emblem of the acceptable prayers of pious worshipperst. And it is observable, that at the very time when the priest was thus employed, the people stood praying without‡; and no doubt, it was a part of his duty to concur in the devotions, which in their name he presented before God. But this intercession was most solemnly made once a year, i. e. on the great day of atonement, when the High-priest entered into the most holy place, with the blood of the victims, the incense at the same time fuming, with a grateful odour, before the mercy-seat §. This was the grand act of intercession; by attending to which, we may be more particularly informed of the nature of that, which Christ as our high-priest is making in our favour: And we particularly learn,
3. That "the appearance of Christ above, in that body in which he suffered on earth, is virtually a continual intercession with the Father."
We are told, that the high-priest carried the blood of the burnt-offering, and of the sin-offering, into the most holy place, and sprinkled it before the Lord there; and by this action he is said to make the atonement, the other sacrificial circumstances being only preparatory to this. And thus our Lord Jesus Christ has taken into heaven the human body, in which he bare our sins on the accursed tree; and appearing thus in the divine presence, he does thereby present his own blood before the mercy-seat: As the apostle expresseth it, in a most evident allusion, to the preceding passage in the Mosaic institution**, Not with the blood of goats and calves, which were the sacrifices
Heb. viii. 1. +Psal. cxli. 2. Rev. viii. 4. Luke i. 10. || Lev. xvi. 14-19. ¶ 1 Pet. ii. 24. ** Heb. ix. 12.
§ Lev. xvi. 12, 13.
appointed on the day of expiation, but by his own blood, he hath entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us: And by this one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified; so that nothing farther should be requisite, for the complete expiation of their guilt. And it is accordingly declared, that Ifter he had offered one sacrifice for sin, he for ever sat down at the right hand of God +.
Now this appearance of Christ in heaven, which is expressed by his Standing in the midst of the throne, as a lamb that had been slain, may properly be called a virtual intercession. There is a language in that circumstance, more forcible than in any words that we can imagine. This is happily illustrated by the pious Mr. Flavel§, by the story of Amyntas and Eschylus, as Ælian relates it. Eschylus was condemned to death by the Athenians, and was just going to be led to execution. His brother Amyntas had signalized himself in the service of his country; and on the day of a most illustrious victory, in a great measure obtained by his means, had lost his hand. He came into the court just as his brother was condemned, and without saying any thing, drew the stump of his arm from under his garment, and held it up in their sight; and the historian tells us, "that when the judges saw this mark of his sufferings, they remembered what he had done, and discharged his brother, though he had forfeited his life ." Thus does Christ, our dear elder brother, silently, but powerfully, plead for our forfeited lives: And such is the happy consequence. His Father looks on the marks of his sufferings, and remembers what he has done; and in this sense His blood is continually speaking better things than the blood of Abel¶. We have an advocate with the Father, who is also the propitiation for our sins**.
4. "Our Lord always intends, that his appearance before his Father in heaven should be interpreted as a plea for his people."
He does not only perform an action, which may be so understood; but it is his habitual and constant desire and intention, that it may be considered in that view. He entered into heaven, not merely that he might in his glorious human nature be
* Heb. x. 14. † Heb. x. 12. ‡ Rev. v. 6. § Flavel's Fountain of Life, p. 142. | Ælian. Var. Hist. v. 19. είδον οι δικαςαι τε ανδρθε το παθώ, υπεμνήσθησαν των έργων αυτέ, και αφηκαν τον Αισχύλον.
honoured with exalted dignity, and be delighted with that fulness of joy which is in the presence of God there; but that as their Forerunner, he might prepare a place for them*. Still he remembers, that he is made Head over all things to his church, which is his bodyt, and which, with constant tenderness, he Nourisheth and cherisheth. This is the language of his compassionate heart: "Behold me, Oh my heavenly Father, behold me in a form thus different from that, in which I originally was. Behold me, now dwelling in human flesh; and remember where this flesh was assumed; and remember how it was once treated. When thou saidst, Sacrifice and offering I will not ;I said, lo, I come§; I delighted then to do thy will, and I still delight to recollect that I did it. Thou wast a witness to that awful scene; nor canst thou forget this blood, that was once offered to thee on the cross, to assert the honours of thy law, and to appease the terrors of thy wrath. Thou didst once own it, as An offering of a sweet-smelling savour||; and wilt thou not still own it? I have performed my part of the covenant; and I cheerfully put in my claim to the performance of thy part, in favour of those for whom I descended and died. Father, I will, that those whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; and that nothing be wanting to begin, to carry on, and to complete the salvation of every one of them." Thus does our Lord even now own his people in the presence of his Father, and of his holy angels; and in the administration of his mediatorial kingdom, he does all things for the elect's sake, for whom he once endured all.
5. This gracious intention and care of Christ respects, not only his church in general, but " every particular believer, in all the variety of his personal circumstances."
When the jewish high-priest Stood before the Lord, he bore in his heart the names of the twelve tribes of Israel**: But Christ our great High-priest bears on his heart, not only the names of the various nations, and tribes, and families of his people, but the name of every individual person amongst them, even of All the children of God who are scattered abroad++. So that "he is mindful of me," may every humble believer say, "and each of my concerns, as if I were the only happy creature under his care." Thus, as The good shepherd, he is
*Heb. vi. 20.
+ Eph. i. 22, 23.
Eph. v. 29.
John xvii, 24
said to know all his sheep by their names*; and is described as accommodating himself with a proper care to the necessities of each, as Seeking that which was lost, and bringing again that which was driven away, and binding up that which was broken, and strengthening that which was sick↑; as gathering the lambs in his bosom, and gently leading those that are with young. His eye is still upon each of them, and his heart is tenderly affected toward each. And while, as a Mediator, he presents the prayers of each unto the Father, he intermingles his own intercession, not only that an answer of peace may be returned to them, but that other necessary blessings may be given in, and that they may be preserved from danger by them unseen: As in the days of his flesh, he foresaw the trials of Peter and his brethren, and Prayed for them that their faith might not fail§; when they were under no apprehensions for themselves.
6. "The scripture does not expressly determine, whether there be, or be not some verbal address of Christ to the Father, in favour of his people."
Some very eminent divines have indeed positively concluded, that there is none. But I cannot think that so certain, as they have supposed it. It is true, we know but very little of the heavenly world, of the methods of converse, or worship there. We know not in what accents its blessed inhabitants address their songs of praise to God, or Cry to each other, saying, holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty¶. But this we assuredly know, that our Redeemer is gone into heaven in his human body, though now, in an admirable and inconceivable manner, refined and beautified, invigorated and adorned. And we know, that since his entrance into his glory, he has not only appeared in a visible form to some of his servants on earth, but spoken to them with an audible voice. And must we say, that he still dwells in everlasting silence above; or that, if he speaks, it is only the language of authority to his celestial subjects? Is it absolutely certain that his sacred voice is never employed in any of the triumphant songs of heaven; or that it is never addressed to his
John x. 3, 14. + Ezek. xxxiv. 16.
Isa. xl. 11. § Luke xxii. 32.
The great Dr. Owen expressly asserts, "He interceedeth not orally in heaven at all." Owen on the Spirit, p. 445. So Scott's Christian Life, vol. 3. p. 763. and many others.
Isa. vi. 3. Rev. iv. 8,
Father in the language of prayer! On earth, he importunately asked those blessings for his people, which he knew that his Father had, by the covenant of redemption, expressly stipulated to bestow: And when he was returning to the regions of glory, he said, I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter*. Now can we say, there is any thing in a vocal, more than in a mental prayer, unworthy the character of the Son of God, and the Lord of all?
We cannot indeed imagine, that our Lord is always thus employed. We know he has other business in the world of glory, with which a continued address to the Father would be inconsistent. But how are we confident, that nothing of this kind passed, when he first ascended to The right hand of the Majesty on high; or that such an intercession has never since been repeated? I would stand at the remotest distance from a bold intrusion into these unseen things; but I must presume so far as to say, that I see no absurdity in granting, that some scripture passages we have just referred to, may be taken in a more literal sense, than many have allowed. Nor can I imagine, that the supposed silence of the high-priest, when he entered into the most holy place, can have much weight in the present question: For not now to urge, how possible it is, that he might then use some words of prayer, though no form be prescribed for this, or any other peculiar service of the day; it is certain, that he was then alone in the divine presence: Whereas Jesus, The great High-priest of our profession, is surrounded with An innumerable company of angels, and with the spirits of just men made perfect. But after all, I will assert nothing positively here; and to prevent the mistake of what I have already said, I think it proper to add,
7. That in whatever manner this intercession may be carried on, we may depend upon it, that it is always congruous to that dignity and authority, in which our Lord appears in the world above."
When our Redeemer was on earth in the days of his humiliation, He poured out strong cryings and tears §; when addressing his Father, he fell on his knees, and sometimes prostrated himself on his face : But now sorrow and abasement are no more. He is described, as Sitting on the right hand of God ¶; and to raise the idea, is represented by the prophet, as a Priest
* John xiv. 16. Comp. John xvii. 9, 20, and xvi. 26.
Heb. xii. 22, 23.