CHRIST A COMPLETE SAVIOUR:
THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST, AND WHO ARE PRIVILEGED IN IT.
BY JOHN BUNYAN
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However strange it may appear, it is a solemn fact, that the heart of man, unless prepared by a sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, rejects Christ as a complete Saviour. The pride of human nature will not suffer it to fall, as helpless and utterly undone, into the arms of Divine mercy. Man prefers a partial Saviour; one who had done so much, that, with the sinner's aid, the work might be completed. No such were the opinions of John Bunyan; the furnace of sharp conviction had burnt up this proud dross; he believed the testimony of Scripture, that from the crown of the head to the soles of the feet all nature is corrupted; so that out of the unsanctified heart of man proceed evil thoughts, murders, and the sad catalogue of crimes which our Lord enumerates, and which defile our best efforts after purity of heart and life. No sinner will ever totally rely upon the Saviour until he is sensible of his own perishing state; hanging by the brittle thread of life over the yawning gulf of perdition; sinking in that sin which will swallow him up in those awful torments which await the transgressor; feeling that sin has fitted him as stubble for the fire; then it is that the cry proceeds from his heart, Lord, save, I perish; and then, and not till then, are we made willing to receive 'Christ as a complete Saviour' to the uttermost, not of his ability, but of our necessity. This was the subject of all Mr. Bunyan's writings, and, doubtless, of all his preaching. It was to direct sinners to the Lamb of God, who alone can take away sin. This little treatise was one of those ten 'excellent manuscripts' which, at Bunyan's decease, were found prepared for the press. It was first published in 1692, by his friends E. Chandler, J. Wilson, and C. Doe.
It is limited to a subject which is too often lost sight of, because it is within the veil—the intercession of Christ as the finishing work of a sinner's salvation. Many persons limit the 'looking unto Jesus' to beholding him upon the cross, a common popish error; but this is not enough; we must, in our minds, follow him to the unseen world, and thus ascend to a risen Saviour, at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for our daily sins. And he is our ONLY Intercessor, and it is a rejection of him, for us to seek the aid of another. Who ever was mad enough to ask Moses to intercede for him, and surely he is as able as Mary or any other saint? To atone for sin calls for the amazing price of the blood of Christ, who was 'God manifest in the flesh.' He undertook the work by covenant; and all the 'saved' form part of his mystical body; thus perfectly obeying the law in him. He poured out his life to open a fountain for sin and uncleanness; and as they are liable to pollution in their passage through the world, he only is able, and he ever liveth, to make intercession for their transgressions. Thus he becomes a complete Saviour, and will crown, with an eternal weight of glory, all those that put their trust in him. Beautiful, and soul-softening, and heart-warming thoughts abound in this little work, which cannot fail to make a lasting impression upon the reader. Bunyan disclaims 'the beggarly art of complimenting' in things of such solemnity. He describes the heart as unweldable, a remarkable expression, drawn from his father's trade of a blacksmith; nothing but grace can so heat it as to enable the hammer of conviction to weld it to Christ; and when thus welded, it becomes one with him. There is hope for a returning backslider in a complete Saviour; he combines the evidence of two men, the coming and the returning sinner; he has been, like Jonah, in the belly of hell; his sins, like talking devils, have driven him back to the Saviour. Sin brings its own punishment, from which we escape by keeping in the narrow path. Good works save us from temporal miseries, which ever follow an indulgence in sin; but if we fall, we have an Advocate and Intercessor to lift us up; still, if thou lovest thy soul, slight not the knowledge of hell, for that, with the law, are the spurs which Christ useth to prick souls forward to himself. O gather up thy heels and mend thy pace, or those spurs will be in thy sides. Take heed, O persecutor; like Saul, thou art exceeding mad, and hell is thy bedlam. Take heed of a false faith; none is true but that which is acquired by a kneeling, searching, seeking for truth as for hid treasure. Death is God's bailiff, he will seize thee without warning; but with the saints, the grave's mouth is the final parting place between grace and sin. Forget not that a good improvement will make your little grace to thrive. Reader, may Divine grace indelibly fix these wholesome truths upon our minds.
CHRIST A COMPLETE SAVIOUR.
'WHEREFORE HE IS ABLE ALSO TO SAVE THEM TO THE UTTERMOST THAT COME UNTO GOD BY HIM, SEEING HE EVER LIVETH TO MAKE INTERCESSION FOR THEM.'—HEBREWS 7:25.
The apostle, in this chapter, presenteth us with two things; that is, with the greatness of the person and of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus.
First, He presenteth us with the greatness of his person, in that he preferreth him before Abraham, who is the father of us all; yea, in that he preferreth him before Melchisedec, who was above Abraham, and blessed him who had the promises.
Second, As to his priesthood, he showeth the greatness of that, in that he was made a priest, not by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life. Not without, but with an oath, by him that said, 'The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec'; wherefore, 'this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.' Now my text is drawn from this conclusion, namely, that Christ abideth a priest continually. 'Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.'
In the words, I take notice of four things: FIRST, Of the intercession of Christ—He maketh intercession. SECOND, Of the benefit of his intercession—'Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost,' &c. THIRD, We have also here set before us the persons interested in this intercession of Christ—And they are those 'that come unto God by him.' FOURTH, We have also here the certainty of their reaping this benefit by him; to wit, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them—'Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' 1
[I. OF THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST.]
FIRST, We will begin with HIS INTERCESSION, and will show you, First, What that is; Second, For what he intercedes; and, Third, What is also to be inferred from Christ's making intercession for us.
First, I begin, then, with the first; that is, to show you what intercession is. Intercession is prayer; but all prayer is not intercession. Intercession, then, is that prayer that is made by a third person about the concerns that are between two. And it may be made either to set them at further difference, or to make them friends; for intercession may be made against, as well as for, a person or people. 'Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel.' (Rom 11:2) But the intercession that we are now to speak of is not an intercession of this kind, not an intercession against, but an intercession for a people. 'He ever liveth to make intercession for them.' The high priest is ordained for, but not to be against the people. 'Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,' to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; or 'that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.' (Heb 5:1) This, then, is intercession; and the intercession of Christ is to be between two, between God and man, for man's good. And it extendeth itself unto these: 1. To pray that the elect may be brought all home to him; that is, to God. 2. To pray that their sins committed after conversion may be forgiven them. 3. To pray that their graces which they receive at conversion may be maintained and supplied. 4. To pray that their persons may be preserved unto his heavenly kingdom.
Second, This is the intercession of Christ, or that for which he doth make intercession.
1. He prays for all the elect, that they may be brought home to God, and so into the unity of the faith, &c. this is clear, for that he saith, 'Neither pray I for these alone'; that is, for those only that are converted; 'but for them also which shall believe on me through their word'; for all them that shall, that are appointed to believe; or, as you have it a little above, 'for them which thou hast given me.' (John 17:9,20, Isa 53:12) And the reason is, for that he hath paid a ransom for them. Christ, therefore, when he maketh intercession for the ungodly, and all the unconverted elect are such, doth but petitionarily ask for his own, his purchased ones, those for whom he died before, that they might be saved by his blood.
2. When any of them are brought home to God, he yet prays for them; namely, that the sins which through infirmity they, after conversion, may commit, may also be forgiven them.
This is showed us by the intercession of the high priest under the law, that was to bear away the iniquities of the holy things of the children of Israel; yea, and also by his atonement for them that sinned; for that it saith, 'And the priest shall make an atonement for him, for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.' (Lev 5:10) This also is intimated even where our Lord doth make intercession, saying, 'I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.' (John 17:15) That Christ prayed that the converted should be kept from all manner of commission of sin, must not be supposed, for that is the way to make his intercession, at least in some things, invalid, and to contradict himself; for, saith he, 'I know that thou hearest me always.' (John 11:42) But the meaning is, I pray that thou wouldest keep them from soul-damning delusions, such as are unavoidably such; also that thou wouldest keep them from the soul-destroying evil of every sin, of ever temptation. Now this he doth by his prevailing and by his pardoning grace.
3. In his intercession he prayeth also that those graces which we receive at conversion may be maintained and supplied. This is clear where he saith, 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.' (Luke 22:31,32) Ay, may some say, he is said to pray here for the support and supply of faith, but doth it therefore follow that he prayed for the maintaining and supply of all our graces? Yes, in that he prayed for the preservation of our faith, he prayed for the preservation of all our graces; for faith is the mother grace, the root grace, the grace that hath all others in the bowels of it, and that from the which all others flow; yea, it is that which gives being to all our other graces, and that by which all the rest do live. Let, then, faith be preserved, and all graces continue and live—that is, according to the present state, health, and degree of faith. So, then, Christ prayed for the preservation of every grace when he prayed for the preservation of faith. That text also is of the same tendency where he saith, 'Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given men.' (John 17:11) Keep them in thy fear, in the faith, in the true religion, in the way of life by thy grace, by thy power, by thy wisdom, &c. This must be much of the meaning of this place, and he that excludes this sense will make but poor work of another exposition.
4. He also in his intercession prayeth that our persons be preserved, and brought safe unto his heavenly kingdom. And this he doth, (1.) By pleading interest in them. (2.) By pleading that he had given, by promise, glory to them. (3.) By pleading his own resolution to have it so. (4.) By pleading the reason why it must be so.
(1.) He prays that their persons may come to glory, for that they are his, and that by the best of titles: 'Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.' (John 17:6) Father, I will have them; Father, I will have them, for they are mine: 'Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.' What is mine, my wife, or my child, or my jewel, or my joy, sure I may have it with me. Thus, therefore, he pleads or cries in his intercession, that our persons might be preserved to glory: They are mine, 'and thou gavest them me.'2
(2.) He also pleads that he had given—given already, that is, in the promise—glory to them, and therefore they must not go without it. 'And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.' (John 17:22) Righteous men, when they give a good thing by promise, they design the performance of that promise; nay, they more than design it, they purpose, they determine it. As the mad prophet also saith of God, in another case, 'Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?' (Num 23:19) Hath Christ given us glory, and shall we not have it? Yea, hath the truth itself bestowed it upon us, and shall those to whom it is given, even given by Scripture of truth, be yet deprived thereof?
(3.) He pleads in his interceding that they might have glory; his own resolution to have it so. 'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.' (John 17:24) Behold ye here, he is resolved to have it so. It must be so. It shall be so. I will have it so. We read of Adonijah, that his father never denied him in anything. He never said to him, 'Why hast thou done so?' (1 Kings 1:6) Indeed, he denied him the kingdom; for his brother was heir of that from the Lord. How much more will our Father let our Lord Jesus have his mind and will in this, since he also is as willing to have it so as is the Son himself. 'Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' (Luke 12:32) Resolution will drive things far, especially resolution to do that which none but they that cannot hinder shall oppose. Why this is the case, the resolution of our Intercessor is, that we be preserved to glory; yea, and this resolution he pleads in his intercession: 'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am,' &c. (John 17:24) Must it not, therefore, now be so?
(4.) He also, in the last place, in this his intercession, urges a reason why he will have it so, namely, 'That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.' (verse 24) And this is a reason to the purpose; it is as if he had said, Father, these have continued with me in my temptations; these have seen me under all my disadvantages; these have seen me in my poor, low, contemptible condition; these have seen what scorn, reproach, slanders, and disgrace I have borne for thy sake in the world; and now I will have them also be where they shall see me in my glory. I have told them that I am thy Son, and they have believed that; I have told them that thou lovest me, and they have believed that; I have also told them that thou wouldest take me again to glory, and they have believed that; but they have not seen my glory, nor can they but be like the Queen of Sheba, they will but believe by the halves unless their own eyes do behold it. Besides, Father, these are they that love me, and it will be an increase of their joy if they may but see me in glory; it will be as a heaven to their hearts to see their Saviour in glory. I will, therefore, that those which 'thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.' This, therefore, is a reason why Christ Jesus our Lord intercedes to have his people with him in glory.
Third, I come now to the third thing, namely, to show you what is to be inferred from Christ's making intercession for us.
1. This is to be inferred from hence, that saints—for I will here say nothing of those of the elect uncalled—do ofttimes give occasion of offence to God, even they that have received grace; for intercession is made to continue one in the favour of another, and to make up those breaches that, at any time, shall happen to be made by one to the alienating of the affections of the other. And thus he makes reconciliation for iniquity; for reconciliation may be made for iniquity two ways: first, by paying of a price; secondly, by insisting upon the price paid for the offender by way of intercession. Therefore you read that as the goat was to be killed, so his blood was, by the priest, to be brought within the veil, and, in a way of intercession, to be sprinkled before and upon the mercy-seat: 'Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering, that is, for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat; and he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation that remaineth among them, in the midst of their uncleanness.' (Lev 16:15,16) This was to be done, as you see, that the tabernacle, which was the place of God's presence and graces, might yet remain among the children of Israel, notwithstanding their uncleannesses and transgressions. This, also, is the effect of Christ's intercession; it is that the signs of God's presence and his grace might remain among his people, notwithstanding they have, by their transgressions, so often provoked God to depart from them.
2. By Christ's intercession I gather, that awakened men and women, such as the godly are, dare not, after offence given, come in their own names to make unto God an application for mercy. God, in himself, is a consuming fire, and sin has made the best of us as stubble is to fire; wherefore, they may not, they cannot, they dare not approach God's presence for help but by and through a mediator and intercessor. When Israel saw the fire, the blackness and darkness, and heard the thunder, and lightning, and the terrible sound of the trumpet, 'they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.' (Exo 20:19, Deut 18:16) Guilt, and sense of the disparity that is betwixt God and us, will make us look out for a man that may lay his hand upon us both, and that may set us right in the eyes of our Father again. This, I say, I infer from the intercession of Christ; for, if there had been a possibility of our ability to have approached God with advantage without, what need had there been of the intercession of Christ?
Absalom durst not approach—no, not the presence of his father—by himself, without a mediator and intercessor; wherefore, he sends to Joab to go to the king and make intercession for him. (2 Sam 13, 14:32,33) Also, Joab durst not go upon that errand himself, but by the mediation of another. Sin is a fearful thing, it will quash and quail the courage of a man, and make him afraid to approach the presence of him whom he has offended, though the offended is but a man. How much more, then, shall it discourage a man, when once loaden with guilt and shame, from attempting to approach the presence of a holy and a sin-avenging God, unless he can come to him through, and in the name of, an intercessor? But here now is the help and comfort of the people of God—there is to help them under all their infirmities an intercessor prepared, and at work. 'He ever liveth to make intercession.'
3. I also infer from hence, that should we, out of an ignorant boldness and presumption, attempt, when we have offended, by ourselves to approach the presence of God, God would not accept us. He told Eliphaz so. What Eliphaz thought, or was about to do, I know not; but God said unto him, 'My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks, and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves [that is, by him] a burnt-offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.' See here, an offence is a bar and an obstruction to acceptance with God, but by a mediator, but by an intercessor. He that comes to God by himself, God will answer him by himself—that is, without an intercessor; and I will tell you, such are not like to get any pleasant or comfortable answer-I will answer him that so cometh according to the multitude of his idols. 'And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.' (Eze 14:7,8)
He that intercedes for another with a holy and just God had need be clean himself, lest he with whom he so busieth himself say to him, First clear thyself, and then come and speak for thy friend. Wherefore, this is the very description and qualification of this our High Priest and blessed Intercessor, 'For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins,' &c. (Heb 7:26,27) Had we not had such an Intercessor, we had been but in a very poor case; but we have one that becomes us; one that fits us to the purpose; one against whom our God hath nothing, can object nothing; one in whose mouth no guile could be found.3
4. Since Christ is an Intercessor, I infer that he has wherewithal in readiness to answer to any demands that may be propounded by him that hath been by us offended, in order to a renewing of peace and letting out of that grace to us that we have sinned away, and yet have need of. Ofttimes the offended saith to the intercessor, Well, thou comest to me about this man; what interest he has in thee is one thing, what offence he has committed against me is another. I speak now after the manner of men. Now, what can an intercessor do, if he is not able to answer this question? But now, if he be able to answer this question—that is, according to law and justice, no question but he may prevail with the offended, for him for whom he makes intercession.
Why, this is our case; to be sure, thus far it is, we have offended a just and a holy God, and Jesus Christ is become Intercessor. He also knows full well, that for our parts, if it would save us from hell, we cannot produce towards a peace with God so much as poor two farthings; that is, not anything that can by law and justice be esteemed worth a halfpenny; yet he makes intercession. It follows, therefore, that he has wherewith of his own, if that question afore is propounded, to answer to every reasonable demand. Hence, it is said, that he has gifts as well as sacrifice for sin. '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, observe it, the apostle speaks here of Christ as in heaven, there ministering in the second part of his office; 'For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest.' (verse 4) These gifts, therefore, and this sacrifice, he now offereth in heaven by way of intercession, urging and pleading as an Intercessor, the valuableness of his gifts for the pacifying of that wrath that our Father hath conceived against us for the disobediences that we are guilty of. 'A gift in secret pacifieth anger; and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.' (Prov 21:14)
What gifts these are the Scripture everywhere testifies. He gave himself, he gave his life, he gave his all for us. (John 6, Gal 1:4, 1 Tim 2:6, Matt 20:28) These gifts, as he offered them up at the demand of justice on Mount Calvary for us, so now he is in heaven he presenteth them continually before God, as gifts and sacrifice valuable for the sins, for all the sins that we, through infirmity, do commit, from the day of our conversion to the day of our death. And these gifts are so satisfactory, so prevalent with God, that they always prevail for a continual remission of our sins with him. Yea, they prevail with him for more than for the remission of sins; we have, through their procurement, our graces often renewed, the devil often rebuked, the snare often broken, guilt often taken away from the conscience, and many a blessed smile from God, and love-look from his life-creating countenance. (Eph 3:12)
5. Since Christ is an Intercessor, I infer that believers should not rest at the cross for comfort; justification they should look for there; but, being justified by his blood, they should ascend up after him to the throne. At the cross you will see him in his sorrows and humiliations, in his tears and blood; but follow him to where he is now, and then you shall see him in his robes, in his priestly robes, and with his golden girdle about his paps. Then you shall see him wearing the breastplate of judgment, and with all your names written upon his heart. Then you shall perceive that the whole family in heaven and earth is named by him, and how he prevaileth with God the Father of mercies, for you. Stand still awhile and listen; yea, enter with boldness into the holiest, and see your Jesus as he now appears in the presence of God for you; what work he makes against the devil and sin, and death and hell, for you. (Heb 10:9) Ah! it is brave following of Jesus Christ to the holiest, the veil is rent, you may see with open face as in a glass, the glory of the Lord. This, then, is our High Priest, this his intercession, these the benefits of it! It lieth on our part to improve it; and wisdom to do that also comes from the mercy-seat, or throne of grace, where he, even our High Priest, ever liveth to make intercession for us; to whom be glory for ever and ever.
[II. OF THE BENEFITS OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION.]
[SECOND.] And thus have I spoken to the first thing—to wit, of the intercession of Christ; and now I come more particularly to speak to the second, THE BENEFITS OF HIS INTERCESSION; namely, that we are saved thereby. Wherefore he is able also to save them, seeing he maketh intercession for them. 'He is able to save them to the uttermost.'
In my handling of this head, I must show you, First, What the apostle means here by 'save'—'Wherefore he is able to save.' Second, What he means here by saving to the 'uttermost'—'He is able to save to the uttermost.' Third, And then, thirdly, we shall do as we did in the foregoing—to wit, gather some inferences from the whole, and speak to them.
First, What doth the apostle mean here by 'save'—'He is able to save them.'
To 'save' may be taken two ways. In the general, I know it may be taken many ways, for there are many salvations that we enjoy; yea, that we never knew of, nor can know, until we come thither, where all secret things shall be seen, and where that which has been done in darkness shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. But I say there are two ways that this word may be taken—1. To save in a way of justification. 2. Or to save in a way of preservation. Now, Christ saves both these ways. But which of these, or whether both of them are intended in this place, of that I shall tell you my thoughts anon; meanwhile, I will show you,
1. What it is to be saved in the first sense, [namely, in a way of justification,] and also how that is brought to pass.
To be saved is to be delivered from guilt of sin that is by the law, as it is the ministration of death and condemnation; or, to be set free therefrom before God. This is to be saved; for he that is not set free therefrom, whatever he may think of himself, or whatever others may think concerning him, he is a condemned man. It saith not, he shall be, but, he is condemned already. (John 3:18) The reason is, for that he has deserved the sentence of the ministration of condemnation, which is the law. Yea, that law has already arraigned, accused, and condemned him before God, for that it hath found him guilty of sin. Now he that is set free from this, or, as the phrase is, 'being made free from sin,' (Rom 6:22); that is, from the imputation of guilt, there can, to him, be no condemnation, no condemnation to hell fire; but the person thus made free may properly be said to be saved. Wherefore, as sometimes it saith, we shall be saved, respecting saving in the second sense, or the utmost completing of salvation; so sometimes it saith, we are saved, as respecting our being already secured from guilt, and so from condemnation to hell for sin, and so set safe, and quit from the second death before God. (1 Cor 1:18, Eph 2:5)
Now, saving thus comes to us by what Christ did for us in this world, by what Christ did for us as suffering for us. I say, it comes to us thus; that is, it comes to us by grace through the redemption that is in Christ. And thus to be saved is called justification, justification to life, because one thus saved is, as I said, acquitted from guilt, and that everlasting damnation to which for sin he had made himself obnoxious by the law. (1 Cor 15:1-4, Rom 5:8-10)
Hence we are said to be saved by his death, justified by his blood, and reconciled to God by the death of his Son; all which must respect his offering of himself on the day he died, and not his improving of his so dying in a way of intercession, because in the same place the apostle reserveth a second, or an additional salvation, and applieth that to his intercession, 'Much more then, being now,' or already, 'justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him'; that is, through what he will further do for us. 'For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, much more, being reconciled,' that is, by his death, 'we shall be saved by his life,' his intercession, which he ever liveth to complete. (verse 9,10)
See here, we are said to be justified, reconciled already, and therefore we shall be saved, justified by his blood and death, and saved through him by his life.
2. Now the saving intended in the text is saving in this second sense; that is, a saving of us by preserving us, by delivering of us from all those hazards that we run betwixt our state of justification and our state of glorification. Yea, such a saving of us as we that are justified need to bring us into glory. Therefore,
When he saith he is able to save, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession, he addeth saving to saving; saving by his life to saving by his death; saving by his improving of his blood to saving by his spilling of his blood. He gave himself a ransom for us, and now improves that gift in the presence of God by way of intercession. For, as I have hinted already, the high priests under the law took the blood of the sacrifices that were offered for sin, and brought it within the veil, and there sprinkled it before and upon the mercy-seat, and by it made intercession for the people to an additional way of saving them; the sum of which Paul thus applies to Christ when he saith, 'He can save, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession.'
That also in the Romans is clear to this purpose, 'Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.' (Rom 8:31-39) That is, who is he that shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect to condemnation to hell, since Christ has taken away the curse by his death from before God? Then he adds, that there is nothing that shall yet happen to us, shall destroy us, since Christ also liveth to make intercession for us. 'Who shall condemn? It is Christ that died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.'
Christ, then, by his death saveth us as we are sinners, enemies, and in a state of condemnation by sin; and Christ by his life saveth us as considered justified, and reconciled to God by his blood. So, then, we have salvation from that condemnation that sin had brought us unto, and salvation from those ruins that all the enemies of our souls would yet bring us unto, but cannot; for the intercession of Christ preventeth. 4 (Rom 6:7-10)
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law. Whatever the law can take hold of to curse us for, that Christ has redeemed us from, by being made a curse for us. But this curse that Christ was made for us, must be confined to his sufferings, not to his exaltation, and, consequently, not to his intercession, for Christ is made no curse but when he suffered; not in his intercession: so then, as he died he took away the curse, and sin that was the cause thereof, by the sacrifice of himself, (Gal 3:13), and by his life, his intercession, he saveth us from all those things that attempt to bring us into that condemnation again.
The salvation, then, that we have by the intercession of Christ, as was said—I speak now of them that are capable of receiving comfort and relief by this doctrine—is salvation that follows upon, or that comes after, justification. We that are saved as to justification of life, need yet to be saved with that that preserveth to glory; for though by the death of Christ we are saved from the curse of the law, yet attempts are made by many that we may be kept from the glory that justified persons are designed for; and from these we are saved by his intercession.
A man, then, that must be eternally saved is to be considered, (a.) As an heir of wrath. (b.) As an heir of God. An heir of wrath he is in himself by sin; an heir of God he is by grace through Christ. (Eph 2:3, Gal 4:7) Now, as an heir of wrath he is redeemed, and as an heir of God he is preserved; as an heir of wrath he is redeemed by blood, and as an heir of God he is preserved by this intercession. Christ by his death, then, puts me, I being reconciled to God thereby, into a justified state, and God accepts me to grace and favour through him. But this doth not hinder but that, all this notwithstanding, there re, that would frustrate me of the end to which I am designed by this reconciliation to God, by redemption through grace; and from the accomplishing of this design I am saved by the blessed intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Object. 1. Perhaps some may say, we are not saved from all punishment of sin by the death of Christ; and if so, so not from all danger of damnation by the intercession of Christ.
Answ. We are saved from all punishment in hell fire by the death of Christ. Jesus has 'delivered us from the wrath to come.' (1 Thess 1:10) So that as to this great punishment, God for his sake has forgiven us all trespasses. (Col 2:13) But we being translated from being slaves to Satan to be sons of God, God reserveth yet this liberty in his hand to chastise us if we offend, as a father chastiseth his son. (Deut 8:5) But this chastisement is not in legal wrath, but in fatherly affection; not to destroy us, but that still we might be made to get advantage thereby, even be made partakers of his holiness. This is, that we might 'not be condemned with the world.' (Heb 12:5-11, 1 Cor 11:32) As to the second part of the objection; there do, as we say, many things happen betwixt or between the cup and the lip; many things attempt to overthrow the work of God, and to cause that we should perish through our weakness, notwithstanding the price that hath by Christ been paid for us. But what saith the Scripture? 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.' (Rom 8:35-39)
Thus the apostle reckoneth up all the disadvantages that a justified person is incident to in this life, and by way of challenge declares, that not any one of them, nor all together, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, that is towards us by Christ, his death, and his intercession.
Object. 2. It may be further objected, that the apostle doth here leave out sin, unto which we know the saints are subject, after justification. And sin of itself, we need no other enemies, is of that nature as to destroy the whole world.
Answ. Sin is sin, in the nature of sin, wherever it is found. But sin as to the damning effects thereof is taken away from them unto whom righteousness is imputed for justification. Nor shall any or all the things aforementioned, though there is a tendency in every one of them to drive us unto sin, drown us, through it, in perdition and destruction. I am persuaded, says Paul, they shall never be able to do that. The apostle, therefore, doth implicitly, though to expressly, challenge sin, yea, sin by all its advantages; and then glorieth in the love of God in Christ Jesus, from which he concludeth it shall never separate the justified. Besides, it would now have been needless to have expressly here put in sin by itself, seeing before, he had argued that those he speaks of were freely justified therefrom.
One word more before I go to the second head. The Father, as I told you, has reserved to himself a liberty to chastise his sons, to wit, with temporal chastisements, if they offend. This still abideth to us, notwithstanding God's grace, Christ's death, or blessed intercession. And this punishment is so surely entailed to the transgressions that we who believe shall commit, that it is impossible that we should be utterly freed therefrom; insomuch that the apostle positively concludeth them to be bastards, what pretences to sonship soever they have, that are not, for sin, partakers of fatherly chastisements.
For the reversing of this punishment it is that we should pray, if perhaps God will remit it, when we are taught to say, 'Our Father, forgive us our trespasses.' And he that admits of any other sense as to this petition, derogates from the death of Christ, or faith, or both. For either he concludes that for some of his sins Christ did not die, or that he is bound to believe that God, though he did, has not yet, nor will forgive them, till from the petitioner some legal work be done; forgive us, as we forgive them that trespass against us. (Matt 6:14,15) But now, apply this to temporal punishments, and then it is true that God has reserved a liberty in his hand to punish even the sins of his people upon them; yea, and will not pardon their sin, as to the remitting of such punishment, unless some good work by them be done; 'If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' (Matt 6:15, 18:28-35)
And this is the cause why some that belong to God are yet so under the afflicting hand of God; they have sinned, and God, who is their Father, punisheth; yea, and this is the reason why some who are dear to God have this kind of punishment never forgiven, but it abides with them to their lives' end, goes with them to the day of their death, yea, is the very cause of their death. By this punishment they are cut off out of the land of the living. But all this is that they might 'not be condemned with the world.' (1 Cor 11:32)
Christ died not to save from this punishment; Christ intercedes not to save from this punishment. Nothing but a good life will save from this punishment; nor always that either.
The hidings of God's face, the harshness of his providences, the severe and sharp chastisements that ofttimes overtake the very spirits of his people, plainly show that Christ died not to save from temporal punishments, prays not to save from temporal punishments—that is, absolutely. God has reserved a power to punish, with temporal punishments, the best and dearest of his people, if need be.5 And sometimes he remits them, sometimes not, even as it pleases him. I come now to the second thing.
[Christ saves to the uttermost.]
Second, I shall now show you something of what it is for Christ, by his intercession, to save to the 'uttermost.' 'He is able to save them to the uttermost.'
This is a great expression, and carrrieth with it much. 'Uttermost' signifieth to the outside, to the end, to the last, to the furthest part. And it hath respect both to persons and things. (Gen 49:26, Deut 30:4, Matt 5:26, Mark 13:27, Luke 15)
1. To persons. Some persons are in their own apprehensions even further from Christ than anybody else; afar off, a great way off, yet a-coming, as the prodigal was. Now, these many times are exceedingly afraid; the sight of that distance that they think is betwixt Christ and them makes them afraid. As it is said in another case, 'They that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens.' (Psa 65:8) So these are afraid they shall not speed, not obtain that for which they come to God. But the text says, He is able to save to the uttermost, to the very hindermost, them that come to God by him.
Two sorts of men seem to be far, very far from God. (1.) The town sinner. (2.) The great backslider. (Neh 1:9) But both these, if they come, he is able to save to the uttermost. He is able to save them from all those dangers that they fear will prevent their obtaining of that grace and mercy they would have to help them in time of need. The publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom of heaven.
2. As this text respecteth persons, so it respecteth things. There are some things with which some are attended that are coming to God, by Christ, that make their coming hard and very difficult.
(1.) There is a more than ordinary breaking up of the corruptions of their nature. It seems as if all their lusts and vile passions of the flesh were become masters, and might now do what they will with the soul. Yea, they take this man and toss and tumble him like a ball in a large place. This man is not master of himself, of his thoughts, nor of his passions—'His iniquities, like the wind, do carry him away.' (Isa 64:6) He thinks to go forward, but this wind blows him backward; he laboureth against this wind, but cannot find that he getteth ground; he takes what advantage opportunity doth minister to him, but all he gets is to be beat out of heart, out of breath, out of courage. He stands still, and pants, and gapeth as for life. 'I opened my mouth, and panted,' said David, 'for I longed for thy commandments.' (Psa 119:131) He sets forward again, but has nothing but labour and sorrow.
(2.) Nay, to help forward his calamity, Satan [and his] angels will not be wanting, both to trouble his head with the fumes of their stinking breath, nor to throw up his heels in their dirty places—'And as he was yet a-coming, the devil threw him down and tare him.' (Luke 9:42) How many strange, hideous, and amazing blasphemies have those, some of those, that are coming to Christ, had injected and fixed upon their spirits against him. Nothing so common to such, as to have some hellish wish or other against God they are coming to, and against Christ, by whom they would come to him. These blasphemies are like those frogs that I have heard of, that will leap up, and catch hold of, and hang by their claws. Now help, Lord; now, Lord Jesus, what shall I do? Now, Son of David, have mercy upon me! I say, to say these words is hard work for such an one. But he is able to save to the uttermost this comer to God by him.
(3.) There are also the oppositions of sense and reason hard at work for the devil, against the soul; the men of his own house are risen up against him. One's sense and reason, one would think, should not fall in with the devil against ourselves, and yet nothing more common, nothing more natural, than for our own sense and reason to turn the unnatural, and are both against our God and us. And now it is hard coming to God. Better can a man hear and deal with any objections against himself, than with those that himself doth make against himself. They lie close, stick fast, speak aloud, and will be heard; yea, will haunt and hunt him, as the devil doth some, in every hole and corner. But come, man, come; for he is able to save to the uttermost!
(4.) Now guilt is the consequence and fruit of all this; and what so intolerable a burden as guilt! They talk of the stones, and of the sands of the sea; but it is guilt that breaks the heart with its burden. And Satan has the art of making the uttermost of every sin; he can blow it up, make it swell, make every hair of its head as big as a cedar. He can tell how to make it a heinous offence, and unpardonable offence, an offence of that continuance, and committed against so much light, that, says he, it is impossible it should ever be forgiven. But, soul, Christ is able to save to the uttermost, he can 'do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.' (Eph 3:20)
(5.) Join to all this the rage and terror of men, which thing of itself is sufficient to quash and break to pieces all desires to come to God by Christ; yea, and it doth do so to thousands that are not willing to go to hell. Yet thou art kept, and made to go panting on; a whole world of men, and devils, and sin, are not able to keep thee from coming. But how comes it to pass that thou art so hearty, that thou settest thy face against so much wind and weather? I dare say it arises not from thyself, nor from any of thine enemies. This comes from God, though thou art not aware thereof; and is obtained for thee by the intercession of the blessed Son of God, who is also able to save thee to the uttermost, that comest to God by him.
(6.) And for a conclusion as to this, I will add, that there is much of the honour of the Lord Jesus engaged as to the saving of the coming man to the uttermost: 'I am glorified in them,' saith he. (John 17:10) He is exalted to be a Saviour. (Acts 5:31) And if the blessed One doth count it an exaltation to be a Saviour, surely it is an exaltation to be a Saviour, and a great one. 'They shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and he shall send them a Saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.' (Isa 19:20) If it is a glory to be a Saviour, a great Saviour, then it is a glory for a Saviour, a great one, to save, and save, and save to the uttermost—to the uttermost man, to the uttermost sin, to the uttermost temptation. And hence it is that he saith again, speaking of the transgressions, sins, and iniquities that he would pardon, that it should turn to him for 'a name of joy, a praise, and an honour before all nations.' (Jer 33:9) He therefore counts it an honour to be a great Saviour, to save men to the uttermost.
When Moses said, 'I beseech thee, show me thy glory,' the answer was, 'I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee.' (Exo 33:18,19) And when he came indeed to make proclamation, then he proclaimed, 'The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.' (Exo 34:6,7) That will by no means clear them that will not come to me that they may be saved.
See here, if it is not by himself accounted his glory to make his goodness, all his goodness, pass before us. And how can that be, if he saveth not to the uttermost them that come unto God by him? For goodness is by us noways seen but by those acts by which it expresseth itself to be so. And, I am sure, to save, to save to the uttermost, is one of the most eminent expressions by which we understand it is great goodness. I know goodness has many ways to express itself to be what it is to the world; but then it expresseth its greatness when it pardons and saves, when it pardons and saves to the uttermost. My goodness, says Christ, extends not itself to my Father, but to my saints. (Psa 16:2,3) My Father has no need of my goodness, but my saints have, and therefore it shall reach forth itself for their help, in whom is all my delight. And, 'Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men'! (Psa 31:19) It is therefore that which tendeth to get Christ a name, a fame, and glory, to be able to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him.
[In Christ's ability to save, lieth our safety.]
But some may say, What is the meaning of this word able? 'Wherefore he is able to save.' He is able to save the uttermost. How comes it to pass that his power to save is rather put in than his willingness; for willingness, saith the soul, would better have pleased me. I will speak two or three words to this question. And,
First, By this word able is suggested to us the sufficiency of his merit, the great worthiness of his merit; for, as Intercessor, he sticks fast by his merit; all his petitions, prayers, or supplications are grounded upon the worthiness of his person as Mediator, and on the validity of his offering as priest. This is the more clear, if you consider the reason why those priests and sacrifices under the law could not make the worshippers perfect. It was, I say, because there wanted in them worthiness and merit in their sacrifices. But this man, when he came and offered his sacrifice, he did by that one act 'perfect for ever them that are sanctified,' or set apart for glory. 'But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God.' (Heb 10:1-12)
When Moses prayed for the people of Israel, thus he said, 'And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken.' But what had he spoken? 'The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty—Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.' (Num 14:17-19)
Second, Has he but power, we know he is willing, else he would not have promised; it is also his glory to pardon and save. So, then, in his ability lies our safety. What if he were never so willing, if he were not of ability sufficient, what would his willingness do? But he has showed, as I said, his willingness by promising: 'Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.' (John 6:37) So that now our comfort lies in his power, in that he is able to make good his word. (Rom 4:20,21) And this also will then be seen, when he hath saved them that come to God by him, when he hath saved them to the uttermost; not to the uttermost of his ability, but to the uttermost of our necessity; for to the uttermost of his ability I believe he will never be put to it to save his church; not for that he is loath so to save, but because there is no need so to save; he shall not need to put out all his power, and to press the utmost of his merit for the saving of his church. Alas! there is sufficiency of merit in him to save a thousand times as many more as are like to be saved by him; 'he is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.'
Measure not, therefore, what he can do by what he has, doth, or will do; neither do thou interpret this word, to the uttermost, as if it related to the uttermost of his ability, but rather as it relateth, for so it doth indeed, to the greatness of thy necessity. For as he is able to save thee, though thy condition be, as it may be supposed to be, the worst that ever man was in that was saved, so he is able to save thee, though thy condition were ten times worse than it is.
What! shall not the worthiness of the Son of God be sufficient to save from the sin of man? or shall the sin of the world be of that weight to destroy, that it shall put Christ Jesus to the uttermost of the worth of his person and merit to save therefrom? I believe it is blasphemy to think so. We can easily imagine that he can save all the world—that is, that he is of ability to do it; but we cannot imagine that he can do no more than we can think he can. But our imagination and thoughts set no bound to his ability. 'He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.' But what that is, I say, no man can think, no man can imagine. So, then, Jesus Christ can do more than ever any man thought he could do as to saving; he can do we know not what. This, therefore, should encourage comers to come to him; and them that come, to hope. This, I say, should encourage them to let out, to lengthen, and heighten their thoughts by the word, to the uttermost, seeing he can 'save to the uttermost them that come to God by him.'6
[Inferences from the benefits of Christ's intercession.]
Third. And now I come to the third thing that I told you I should speak to, and that is, to those inferences that may be gathered from these words.
1. Are they that are justified by Christ's blood such as have need yet to be saved by his intercession? Then from hence it follows that justification will stand with imperfection. It doth not therefore follow that a justified man is without infirmity; for he that is without infirmity—that is, perfect with absolute perfection, has no need to be yet saved by an act yet to be performed by a mediator and his mediation.
When I say, justification will stand with imperfection, I do not mean that it will allow, countenance, or approve thereof; but I mean there is no necessity of our perfection, of our personal perfection, as to our justification, and that we are justified without it; yea, that that, in justified persons, remains. Again; when I say that justification will stand with imperfection, I do not mean that in our justification we are imperfect; for in that we are complete; 'we are complete in him' who is our justice. (Col 2:10) If otherwise, the imperfection is in the matter that justifieth us, which is the righteousness of Christ. Yea, and to say so would conclude that wrong judgment proceedeth from him that imputeth that righteousness to us to justification, since an imperfect thing is imputed to us for justification. But far be it from any that believe that God is true to imagine such a thing; all his works are perfect, there is nothing wanting in them as to the present design.
[Quest.] But what then do we mean when we say, justification will stand with a state of imperfection?
Answ. Why, I mean that justified men are yet sinners in themselves, are yet full of imperfections; yea, sinful imperfections. Justified Paul said, 'I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.' (Rom 7:18) While we are yet sinners, we are justified by the blood of Christ. Hence, again, it is said, 'he justifieth the ungodly.' (Rom 4:5, 5:8,9) Justification, then, only covereth our sin from the sight of God; it maketh us not perfect with inherent perfection. But God, for the sake of that righteousness which by his grace is imputed to us, declareth us quit and discharged from the curse, and sees sin in us no more to condemnation.
[WHY THE JUSTIFIED NEED AN INTERCESSOR.]
And this is the reason, or one reason, why they that are justified have need of an intercessor—to wit, to save us from the evil of the sin that remains in our flesh after we are justified by grace through Christ, and set free from the law as to condemnation. Therefore, as it is said, we are saved; so it is said, 'He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.' The godly, for now we will call them the godly, though there is yet abundance of sin in them, feel in themselves many things even after justification by which they are convinced they are still attended with personal, sinful imperfections.
[Imperfect in their feelings and inclinations.]—(1.) They feel unbelief, fear, mistrust, doubting, despondings, murmurings, blasphemies, pride, lightness, foolishness, avarice, fleshly lusts, heartlessness to good, wicked desires, low thoughts of Christ, too good thoughts of sin, and, at times, too great an itching after the worst of immoralities.
(2.) They feel in themselves an aptness to incline to errors, as to lean to the works of the law for justification; to question the truth of the resurrection and judgment to come; to dissemble and play the hypocrite in profession and in performance of duties; to do religious duties rather to please man than God, who trieth the heart.
(3.) They feel an inclination in them, in times of trial, to faint under the cross, to seek too much to save themselves, to dissemble the known truth for the obtaining a little favour with men, and to speak things that they ought not, that they may sleep in a whole skin.
(4.) They feel wearisomeness in religious duties, but a natural propensity to things of the flesh. They feel a desire to go beyond bounds both at board, and bed, and bodily exercise, and in all lawful recreation.
(5.) They feel in themselves an aptness to take the advantage of using of things that are lawful, as food, raiment, sleep, talk, estates, relations, beauty, wit, parts, and graces, to unlawful ends. These things, with many more of the like kind, the justified man finds and feels in himself, to his humbling and often casting down; and to save him from the destroying evil of these, Christ ever liveth to make intercession for him.
[Imperfect in their graces.]—Again; the justified man is imperfect in his graces, and therefore needeth to be saved by the intercession of Christ from the bad fruit that that imperfection yields.
Justifying righteousness is accompanied with graces—the graces of the Spirit. Though these graces are not that matter by and through which we are justified, nor any part thereof, that being only the obedience of Christ imputed to us of mere pleasure and good will; but, I say, they come when justification comes. (Rom 9) And though they are not so easily discerned at the first, they show forth themselves afterwards. But I say, how many soever they are, and how fast soever they grow, their utmost arrivement here is but a state short of perfection. None of the graces of God's Spirit in our hearts can do their work in us without shortness, and that because of their own imperfections, and also because of the oppositions that they meet with from our flesh.
(1.) Faith, which is the root-grace, the grand grace, its shortness is sufficiently manifest by its shortness of apprehension of things pertaining to the person, offices, relations, and works of Christ, now in the heavenly place for us. It is also very defective in its fetching of comfort from the Word to us, and in continuing of it with us, when at any time we attain unto it; in its receiving of strength to subdue sin, and in its purifyings of the heart, though indeed it doth what it doth in reality, yet how short is it of doing of it thoroughly? Oftentimes, were it not for supplies by virtue of the intercession of Christ, faith would fail of performing its office in any measure. (Luke 22:31,32)
(2.) There is hope, another grace of the Spirit bestowed upon us; and how often is that also, as to the excellency of working, made to flag? 'I shall perish,' saith David; 'I am cut off from before thine eyes,' said he. (Psa 31:22) And now where was his hope, in the right gospel discovery of it? Also all our fear of men, and fears of death, and fears of judgment, they arise from the imperfections of hope. But from all those faults Christ saves us by his intercessions.
(3.) There is love, that should be in us as hot as fire. It is compared to fire, to fire of the hottest sort; yea, it is said to be hotter than the coals of juniper. (Cant 8:6,7) But who finds this heat in love so much as for one poor quarter of an hour together? Some little flashes, perhaps, some at some times may feel, but where is that constant burning of affection that the Word, the love of God, and the love of Christ call for? yea, and that the necessities of the poor and afflicted members of Christ call for also. Ah! love is cold in these frozen days, and short when it is at the highest.
(4.) The grace of humility, when is it? who has a thimbleful thereof? Where is he that is 'clothed with humility,' and that does what he is commanded 'with all humility of mind'? (1 Peter 5:5, Acts 20:19)
(5.) For zeal, where is that also? Zeal for God against sin, profaneness, superstition, and idolatry. I speak now to the godly, who have this zeal in the root and habit; but oh, how little of it puts forth itself into actions in such a day as this is!
(6.) There is reverence, fear, and standing in awe of God's Word and judgments, where are the excellent workings thereof to be found? And where it is most, how far short of perfect acts is it?
(7.) Simplicity and godly sincerity also, with how much dirt is it mixed in the best; especially among those of the saints that are rich, who have got the poor and beggarly art of complimenting? For the more compliment, the less sincerity. Many words will not fill a bushel. But 'in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin.' (Prov 10:19) Plain men are thin come up in this day; to find a mouth without fraud and deceit now is a rare thing. Thus might one count up all the graces of the Spirit, and show wherein every one of them are scanty and wanting of perfection. Now look, what they want of perfection is supplied with sin and vanity; for there is a fullness of sin and flesh at hand to make up all the vacant places in our souls. There is no place in the souls of the godly but it is filled up with darkness when the light is wanting, and with sin so far forth as grace is wanting. Satan, also, diligently waiteth to come in at the door, if Careless has left it a little achare.7 But, oh! the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who ever liveth to make intercession for us, and that, by so doing, saves us from all the imperfect acts and workings of our graces, and from all the advantages that flesh, and sin, and Satan getteth upon us thereby.
[Imperfect in their Duties.]—Further, as Christ Jesus our Lord doth save us, by his intercession, from that hurt that would unavoidably come upon us by these, so also, by that we are saved from the evil that is at any time found in any or all our holy duties and performances that is our duty daily to be found in. That our duties are imperfect, follows upon what was discoursed before; for if our graces be imperfect, how can our duties but be so too?
(1.) Our prayers, how imperfect are they! With how much unbelief are they mixed! How apt is our tongue to run, in prayer, before our hearts! With how much earnestness do our lips move, while our hearts lie within as cold as a clod! Yea, and ofttimes, it is to be feared, we ask for that with out mouth that we care not whether we have or no. Where is the man that pursues with all his might what but now he seemed to ask for with all his heart? Prayer is become a shell, a piece of formality, a very empty thing, as to the spirit and life of prayer at this day. I speak now of the prayers of the godly. I once met with a poor woman that, in the greatest of her distresses, told me she did use to rise in the night, in cold weather, and pray to God, while she sweat with fears of the loss of her prayers and desires that her soul might be saved. I have heard of many that have played, but of few that have prayed, till they have sweat, by reason of their wrestling with God for mercy in that duty.
(2.) There is the duty of almsgiving, another gospel performance; but how poorly is it done in our days! We have so many foolish ways to lay out money, in toys and fools' baubles for our children, that we can spare none, or very little, for the relief of the poor. Also, do not many give that to their dogs, yea, let it lie in their houses until it stinks so vilely that neither dog nor cat will eat it; which, had it been bestowed well in time, might have been a succour and nourishment to some poor member of Christ?
(3.) There is hearing of the Word; but, alas! the place of hearing is the place of sleeping with many a fine professor. I have often observed that those that keep shops can briskly attend upon a twopenny customer; but when they come themselves to God's market, they spend their time too much in letting their thoughts to wander from God's commandments, or in a nasty drowsy way. The heads, also, and hearts of most hearers are to the Word as the sieve is to water; they can hold no sermons, remember no texts, bring home no proofs, produce none of the sermon to the edification and profit of others. And do not the best take up too much in hearing, and mind too little what, by the Word, God calls for at their hands, to perform it with a good conscience?
(4.) There is faithfulness in callings, faithfulness to brethren, faithfulness to the world, faithfulness to children, to servants, to all, according to our place and capacity. Oh! how little of it is there found in the mouths and lives, to speak nothing of the hearts, of professors.
I will proceed no further in this kind of repetition of things; only thus much give me leave to say over again, even many of the truly godly are very faulty here. But what would they do if there were not one always at the right hand of God, by intercession, taking away these kind of iniquities?
2. Are those that are justified by the blood of Christ such, after that, as have need also of saving by Christ's intercession? From hence, then, we may infer, that as sin, so Satan will not give over from assaulting the best of the saints.
It is not justification that can secure us from being assaulted by Satan: 'Simon, Simon, Satan has desired to have you.' (Luke 22:31,32) There are two things that do encourage the devil to set upon the people of God:—
(1.) He knows not who are elect; for all that profess are not, and, therefore, he will make trial, if he can get them into his sieve, whether he can cause them to perish. And great success he hath had this way. Many a brave professor has he overcome; he has cast some of the stars from heaven to earth; he picked one out from among the apostles, and one, as it is thought, from among the seven deacons,8 and many from among Christ's disciples; but how many, think you, nowadays, doth he utterly destroy with his net?
(2.) If it so happeneth that he cannot destroy, because Christ, by his intercession, prevaileth, yet will he set upon the church to defile and afflict it. For (a), If he can but get us to fall, with Peter, then he has obtained that dishonour be brought to God, the weak to be stumbled, the world offended, and the gospel vilified and reproached. Or (b), If he cannot throw up our heels, yet, by buffeting of us, he can grieve us, afflict us, put us to pain, fright us, drive us to many doubts, and make our life very uncomfortable unto us, and make us go groaning to our Father's house. But blessed be God for his Christ, and for that 'he ever liveth to make intercession for us.'
3. Are those that are justified by the blood of Christ such as, after that, have need to be saved by Christ's intercession? Then, hence I infer that it is dangerous going about anything in our own name and strength. If we would have helps from the intercession of Christ, let us have a care that we do what we do according to the word of Christ. Do what he bids us as well as we can, as he bids us, and then we need not doubt to have help and salvation in those duties by the intercession of Christ. 'Do all,' says the apostle, 'in the name of the Lord Jesus.' (Col 3:17) Oh, but then the devil and the world will be most of all offended! Well, well, but if you do nothing but as in his fear, by his Word, in his name, you may be sure of what help his intercession can afford you, and that can afford you much help, not only to begin, but to go through with your work in some good measure, as you should; and by that also you shall be secured from those dangers, if not temptations to dangers, that those that go out about business in their own names and strength shall be sure to meet withal.
4. Are those that are justified by the blood of Christ such as, after that, have need of being saved by Christ's intercession? Then, hence I infer again, that God has a great dislike of the sins of his own people, and would fall upon them in judgment and anger much more severely than he doth, were it not for Christ's intercession. The gospel is not, as some think, a loose and licentious doctrine, nor God's discipline of his church a negligent and careless discipline; for, though those that believe already have also an intercessor, yet God, to show his detestation against sin, doth often make them feel to purpose the weight of his fingers. The sincere, that fain would walk oft with God, have felt what I say, and that to the breaking of their bones full oft. The loose ones, and those that God loves not, may be utter strangers as to this; but those that are his own indeed do know it is otherwise.9
'You only have I known' above all others, says God, 'therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.' (Amos 3:2) God keeps a very strict house among his children. David found it so, Haman found it so, Job found it so, and the church of God found it so; and I know not that his mind is ever the less against sin, notwithstanding we have an Intercessor. True, our Intercessor saves us from damning evils, from damning judgments; but he neither doth nor will secure us from temporal punishment, from spiritual punishment, unless we watch, deny ourselves, and walk in his fear. I would to God that those who are otherwise minded did but feel, for three or four months, something of what I have felt for several years together for base sinful thoughts! I wish it, I say, if it might be for their good, and for the better regulating of their understandings. But whether they obtain my wish or no, sure I am that God is no countenancer of sin; no, not in his own people; nay, he will bear it least of all in them. And as for others, however he may for a while have patience towards them, if, perhaps, his goodness may lead them to repentance; yet the day is coming when he will pay the carnal and hypocrites' home with devouring fire for their offences.
But if our holy God will not let us go altogether unpunished, though we have so able and blessed an Intercessor, that has always to present God with, on our behalf, so valuable a price of his own blood, now before the throne of grace, what should we have done if there had been no day's-man, none to plead for us, or to make intercession on our behalf? Read that text, 'For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee; though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.' (Jer 30:11) If it be so, I say, what had become of us, if we had had no Intercessor? And what will become of them concerning whom the Lord has said already, 'I will not take up their names into my lips'? (Psa 16:4) 'I pray not for the world.' (John 17:9)
5. Are those that are already justified by the blood of Christ yet such as have need of being saved by his intercession? Then, hence, I infer that Christ is not only the beginner, but the completer of our salvation; or, as the Holy Ghost calls him, 'the author and finisher of our faith,' (Heb 12:2); or, as it calls him again, 'the author of eternal salvation.' (Heb 5:9) Of salvation throughout, from the beginning to the end, from first to last. His hands have laid the foundation of it in his own blood, and his hands shall finish it by his intercession. (Zech 4:9) As he has laid the beginning fastly, so he shall bring forth the headstones with shoutings, and we shall cry, Grace, grace, at the last, salvation only belongeth to the Lord. (Zech 4:7, Psa 3:8, Isa 43:11)
Many there be that begin with grace, and end with works, and think THAT is the only way. Indeed works will save from temporal punishments, when their imperfections are purged from them by the intercession of Christ; but to be saved and brought to glory, to be carried through this dangerous world, from my first moving after Christ till I set my foot within the gates of paradise, this is the work of my Mediator, of my high priest and intercessor; it is he that fetches us again when we are run away; it is he that lifteth us up when the devil and sin has thrown us down; it is he that quickeneth us when we grow cold; it is he that comforteth us when we despair; it is he that obtains fresh pardon when we have contracted sin; and he that purges our consciences when they are loaden with guilt. (Eze 34:16, Psa 145:14)
I know also, that rewards do wait for them in heaven that do believe in Christ, and shall do well on earth; but this is not a reward of merit, but of grace. We are saved by Christ; brought to glory by Christ; and all our works are no otherwise made acceptable to God but by the person and personal excellencies and works of Christ; therefore, whatever the jewels are, and the bracelets, and the pearls, that thou shalt be adorned with as a reward of service done to God in the world, for them thou must thank Christ, and, before all, confess that he was the meritorious cause thereof. (1 Peter 2:5, Heb 13:15) He saves us, and saves our services too. (Rev 5:9-14) They would be all cast back as dung in our faces, were they not rinsed and washed in the blood, were they not sweetened and perfumed in the incense, and conveyed to God himself through the white hand of Jesus Christ; for that is his golden-censer; from thence ascends the smoke that is in the nostrils of God of such a sweet savour. (Rev 7:12-14, 8:3,4)
6. Are those that are already justified by the blood of Christ, such as do still stand in need of being saved by his intercession? Then hence I infer again, that we that have been saved hitherto, and preserved from the dangers that we have met with since our first conversion to this moment, should ascribe the glory to Jesus Christ, to God by Jesus Christ. 'I have prayed that thy faith fail not: I pray that thou wouldest keep them from the evil,' is the true cause of our standing, and of our continuing in the faith and holy profession of the gospel to this very day. Wherefore we must give the glory of all to God by Christ: 'I will not trust in my bow,' said David, 'neither shall my sword save me. But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah'! 'He always causeth us to triumph in Christ.' 'We rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.' (Psa 44:6-8, 2 Cor 2:14, Phil 3:3) Thus you see that, both in the Old and New Testament, all the glory is given to the Lord, as well for preservation to heaven as for justification of life. And he that is well acquainted with himself will do this readily; though light heads, and such as are not acquainted with the desperate evil that is in their natures, will sacrifice to their own net. But such will so sacrifice but a while. Sir Death is coming, and he will put them into the view of what they see not now, and will feed sweetly upon them, because they made not the Lord their trust. And therefore, ascribe thou the glory of the preservation of thy soul in the faith hitherto, to that salvation which Christ Jesus our Lord obtaineth for thee by his intercession.
7. Are those that are already justified by the blood of Christ such as do still stand in need of being saved by his intercession? Then is this also to be inferred from hence, that saints should look to him for that saving that they shall yet have need of betwixt this and the day of their dissolution; yea, from henceforward, even to the day of judgment. I say, they should still look to him for the remaining part of their salvation, or for that of their salvation which is yet behind; and let them look for it with confidence, for that it is in a faithful hand; and for thy encouragement to look and hope for the completing of thy salvation in glory, let me present thee with a few things—
(1.) The hardest or worst part of the work of thy Saviour is over; his bloody work, his bearing of thy sin and curse, his loss of the light of his Father's face for a time; his dying upon the cursed tree, that was the worst, the sorest, the hardest, and most difficult part of the work of redemption; and yet this he did willingly, cheerfully, and without thy desires; yea, this he did, as considering those for whom he did it in a state of rebellion and enmity to him.
(2.) Consider, also, that he has made a beginning with thy soul to reconcile thee to God, and to that end has bestowed his justice upon thee, put his Spirit within thee, and began to make the unweldable mountain and rock,10 thy heart, to turn towards him, and desire after him; to believe in him, and rejoice in him.
(3.) Consider, also, that some comfortable pledges of his love thou hast already received, namely, as to feel the sweetness of his love, as to see the light of his countenance, as to be made to know his power in raising of thee when thou wast down, and how he has made thee stand, while hell has been pushing at thee, utterly to overthrow thee.
(4.) Thou mayest consider, also, that what remains behind of the work of thy salvation in his hands, as it is the most easy part, so the most comfortable, and that part which will more immediately issue in his glory, and therefore he will mind it.
(5.) That which is behind is also more safe in his hand than if it were in thine own; he is wise, he is powerful, he is faithful, and therefore will manage that part that is lacking to our salvation well, until he has completed it. It is his love to thee that has made him that 'he putteth no trust in thee'; he knows that he can himself bring thee to his kingdom most surely; and therefore has not left that work to thee, no, not any part thereof. (Job 5:18, 15:15)
Live in hope, then, in a lively hope, that since Christ is risen from the dead, he lives to make intercession for thee, and that thou shalt reap the blessed benefit of this twofold salvation that is wrought, and that is working out for thee, by Jesus Christ our Lord. And thus have we treated of the benefit of his intercession, in that he is able to save to the uttermost. And this leads me to the third particular.
[III. THE PERSONS INTERESTED IN THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST.]
THIRD, The third particular is to show WHO ARE THE PERSONS INTERESTED IN THIS INTERCESSION OF CHRIST; and they are those that come to God by him. The words are very concise, and distinctly laid down; they are they that come, that come to God, that come to God by him. 'Wherefore he is able also to save them, to save to the uttermost them that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.'
[Of coming to God by Christ.]—A little, first, to comment upon the order of the words, 'that come unto God by him.'
There are that come unto God, but not 'by him'; and these are not included in this text, have not a share in this privilege. Thus the Jews came to God, the unbelieving Jews, 'who had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.' (Rom 9:30-34, 10:1-4) These submitted not to Christ, the righteousness of God, but thought to come to him by works of their own, or at least, as it were, by them, and so came short of salvation by grace, for that reigns to salvation only in Christ. To these Christ's person and undertaking were a stumbling stone; for at him they stumbled, and did split themselves to pieces, though they indeed were such as came to God for life.
As there are that come to God, but not by Christ, so there are that come to Christ, but not to God by him:11 of this sort are they, who hearing that Christ is Saviour, therefore come to him for pardon, but cannot abide to come to God by him, for that he is holy, and so will snub their lusts, and will change their hearts and natures. Mind me what I say. There are a great many that would be saved by Christ, but love not to be sanctified by God through him. These make a stop at Christ, and will go no further. Might such have pardon, they care not whether ever they went to heaven or no. Of this kind of coming to Christ I think it is, of which he warneth his disciples when he saith, 'In that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.' (John 16:23) As who should say, when you ask for anything, make not a stop at me, but come to my Father by me; for they that come to me, and not to my Father, through me, will have nothing of what they come for. Righteousness shall be imputed to us, 'if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.' (Rom 4:24,25) To come to Christ for a benefit, and stop there, and not come to God by him, prevaileth nothing. Here the mother of Zebedee's children erred; and about this it was that the Lord Jesus cautioned her. Lord, saith she, 'Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.' But what is the answer of Christ? 'To sit on my right hand and on my left, is not mine to give, but for whom it is prepared of my Father.' (Matt 20:21-23) As who should say, Woman, of myself I do nothing, my Father worketh with me. Go therefore to him by me, for I am the way to him; what thou canst obtain of him by me thou shalt have; that is to say, what of the things that pertain to eternal life, whether pardon or glory.
It is true, the Son has power to give pardon and glory, but he gives it not by himself, but by and according to the will of his Father. (Matt 9:6, John 17:22) They, therefore, that come to him for an eternal good, and look not to the Father by him, come short thereof; I mean, now, pardon and glory. And hence, though it be said the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins—to wit, to show the certainty of his Godhead, and of the excellency of his mediation; yet forgiveness of sin is said to lie more particularly in the hand of the Father, and that God for Christ's sake forgiveth us. (Eph 4:32)
The Father, as we see, will not forgive unless we come to him by the Son. Why, then, should we conceit that the Son will forgive these that come not to the Father by him?
So then, justifying righteousness is in the Son, and with him also is intercession; but forgiveness is with the Father; yea, the gift of the Holy Ghost, yea, and the power of imputing of the righteousness of Christ is yet in the hand of the Father. Hence Christ prays to the Father to forgive, prays to the Father to send the Spirit, and it is God that imputeth righteousness to justification to us. (Luke 23:34, John 14:16, Rom 4:6) The Father, then, doth nothing but for the sake of and through the Son; the Son also doth nothing derogating from the glory of the Father. But it would be a derogation to the glory of the Father if the Son should grant to save them that come not to the Father by him; wherefore you that cry Christ, Christ, delighting yourselves in the thoughts of forgiveness, but care not to come by Christ to the Father for it, you are not at all concerned in this blessed text, for he only saves by his intercession them that come to God by him.
There are three sorts of people that may be said to come to Christ, but not to God by him.
1. They whose utmost design in coming is only that guilt and fear of damning may be removed from them. And there are three signs of such an one—(1.) He that takes up in a belief of pardon, and so goes on in his course of carnality as he did before. (2.) He whose comfort in the belief of pardon standeth alone, without other fruits of the Holy Ghost. (3.) He that, having been washed, can be content to tumble in the mire, as the sow again, or as the dog that did spue to lick up his vomit again.
2. They may be said to come to Christ, but not to God by him, who do pick and choose doctrines, itching only after that which sounds of grace,12 but secretly abhorring of that which presseth to moral goodness. These did never see God, what notions soever they may have of the Lord Jesus, and of forgiveness from him. (Matt 5:8)
3. They surely did never come to God by Christ, however they may boast of the grace of Christ, that will from the freeness of gospel grace plead an indulgence for sin.
[Manner of coming to God.]—And now to speak a few words of coming to God, or coming as the text intends. And in speaking to this, I must touch upon two things—1. Concerning God. 2. Concerning the frame of the heart of him that comes to him.
1. Of God. God is the chief good. Good so as nothing is but himself. He is in himself most happy; yea, all good; and all true happiness is only to be found in God, as that which is essential to his nature; nor is there any good or any happiness in or with any creature or thing but what is communicated to it by God. God is the only desirable good, nothing without him is worthy of our hearts. Right thoughts of God are able to ravish the heart; how much more happy is the man that has interest in God. God alone is able by himself to put the soul into a more blessed, comfortable, and happy condition than can the whole world; yea, and more than if all the created happiness of all the angels of heaven did dwell in one man's bosom. God is the upholder of all creatures, and whatever they have that is a suitable good to their kind, it is from God; by God all things have their subsistence, and all the good that they enjoy. I cannot tell what to say; I am drowned! The life, the glory, the blessedness, the soul-satisfying goodness that is in God is beyond all expression.
2. Now there must be in us something of a suitableness of spirit to this God before we can be willing to come to him.
Before, therefore, God has been with a man, and has left some impression of his glory upon him, that man cannot be willing to come to him aright. Hence it is said concerning Abraham, that, in order to his coming to God, and following of him aright, the Lord himself did show himself unto him—'Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee.' (Acts 7:2,3, Gen 12:1)
It was this God of glory, the sight and visions of this God of glory, that provoked Abraham to leave his country and kindred to come after God. The reason why men are so careless of, and so indifferent about, their coming to God, is because they have their eyes blinded, because they do not perceive his glory. God is so blessed a one, that did he not hide himself and his glory, the whole world would be ravished with him. But he has, I will not say reasons of state, but reasons of glory, glorious reasons why he hideth himself from the world, and appeareth but to particular ones. Now by his thus appearing to Abraham, down fell Abraham's vanity, and his idolatrous fancies and affections, and his heart began to turn unto God, for that there was in this appearance an alluring and soul-instructing voice. Hence that which Moses calls here an appearing, Christ calls a hearing, and a teaching, and a learning—'It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me,' that is, to God by me. But, I say, what must they hear and learn of the Father but that Christ is the way to glory, the way to the God of glory. This is a drawing doctrine; wherefore that which in this verse is called teaching and learning, is called, in the verse before, the drawing of the Father—'No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him'; that is, with powerful proposals, and alluring conclusions, and heart-subduing influences. (John 6:44,45)
Having thus touched upon this, we will now proceed to show you what kind of people they are that come to God by Christ; and then shall draw some inferences from this also.
[Who are the people that come to Christ.]
There are, therefore, three sorts of people that come to God by Christ. First, Men newly awakened. Second, Men turned from backsliding. Third, The sincere and upright man.
[Of the newly awakened coming to Christ.]
First, Men newly awakened. By awakened, I mean awakened thoroughly. So awakened as to be made to see themselves, what they are; the world, what it is; the law, what it is; hell, what it is; death, what it is; Christ, what he is; and God, what he is; and also what judgment is.
A man that will come to God by Christ aright must needs, precedent to his so coming, have a competent knowledge of things of this kind.
1. He must know himself, what a wretched and miserable sinner he is, before he will take one step forward in order to his coming to God by Christ. This is plain from a great many scriptures; as that of the parable of the prodigal, (Luke 15); that of the three thousand, (Acts 2); that of the jailer, (Acts 16), and those of many more besides. The whole have no need of the physician. They were not the sound and whole, but the lame and diseased that came to him to be cured of their infirmities; and it is not the righteous, but the sinners that do well know themselves to be such, that come to God by Christ.
It is not in the power of all the men on earth to make one man come to God by Christ, because it is not in their power to make men see their state by nature. And what should a man come to God for, that can live in the world without him? Reason says so, experience says so, the Scripture beareth witness that so it is of a truth. It is a sight of what I am that must unroost me, that must shake my soul, and make me leave my present rest. No man comes to God by Christ but he that knows himself, and what sin hath done to him; that is the first. (Job 21:7-15)
2. As he must know himself, and what a wretch he is, so he must know the world, and what an empty thing it is. Cain did see himself, but saw not the emptiness of this world; and therefore instead of going to God by Christ, he went to the world, and there did take up to his dying day. (Gen 4:16) The world is a great snare to the soul, even to the souls of awakened sinners, by reason of its big looks, and the fair promises that it makes to those that will please to entertain it. It will also make as though it could do as much to the quieting of the spirit as either sermon, Bible, or preacher. Yea, and it has its followers ready at its heels continually to blow its applause abroad, saying, 'Who will show us any [other] good?' (Psa 4:6) and though 'this their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings.' (Psa 49:13) So that unless a man, under some awakenings, sees the emptiness of the world, he will take up in the good things thereof, and not come to God by Christ. Many there be now in hell that can seal to this for truth. It was the world that took awakened Cain, awakened Judas, awakened Demas. Yea, Balaam, though he had some kind of visions of God, yet was kept by the world from coming to him aright. See with what earnestness the young man in the gospel came to Jesus Christ, and that for eternal life. He ran to him, he kneeled down to him, and asked, and that before a multitude, 'Good master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' (Mark 10:17-24) And yet when he was told he could not come, the world soon stepped betwixt that life and him, and persuaded him to take up in itself; and so, for aught we know, he never looked after life more.
There are four things in the world that have a tendency to lull an awakened man asleep, if God also makes him not afraid of the world.
(1.) There is the bustle and cumber of the world, that will call a man off from looking after the salvation of his soul. This is intimated by the parable of the thorny ground. (Luke 8:14) Worldly cumber is a devilish thing; it will hurry a man from his bed without prayer; to a sermon, and from it again, without prayer; it will choke prayer, it will choke the Word, it will choke convictions, it will choke the soul, and cause that awakening shall be to no saving purpose.
(2.) There is the friendship of this world, to which, if a man is not mortified, there is no coming for him to God by Christ. And a man can never be mortified to it unless he shall see the emptiness and vanity of it. Whosoever makes himself a friend of this world is the enemy of God. And how, then, can he come to him by Christ? (James 4:4)
(3.) There are the terrors of the world, if a man stands in fear of them, he also will not come to God by Christ. The fear of man brings a snare. How many have, in all ages, been kept from coming to God aright by the terrors of the world? Yea, how many are there to one's thinking have almost got to the gates of heaven, and have been scared and driven quite back again by nothing but the terrors of this world? This is that which Christ so cautioneth his disciples about, for he knew it was a deadly thing. Peter also bids the saints beware of this as of a thing very destructive. (Luke 12:4-6, 1 Peter 3:14,15)
(4.) There is also the glory of the world, an absolute hindrance to convictions and awakenings, to wit, honours, and greatness, and preferments: 'How can ye believe,' said Christ, 'which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only.' (John 5:44) If therefore a man is not in his affections crucified to these, it will keep him from coming to God aright.
3. As a man must know himself, how vile he is, and know the world, how empty it is, so he must know the law, how severe it is; else he will not come to God by Jesus Christ our Lord.
A man that is under awakenings, is under a double danger of falling short of coming to God by Christ. If he knows not the severity of the law, he is either in danger of slighting its penalty, or of seeking to make amends to it by doing of good works; and nothing can keep him from splitting his soul upon one of these two rocks, but a sound knowledge of the severity of the law.
(1.) He is in danger of slighting the penalty. This is seen by the practice of all the profane in the world. Do they not know the law? Verily, many of them can say the Ten Commandments without book. But they do not know the severity of the law; and therefore when at any time awakenings come upon their consciences, they strive to drive away the guilt of one sin, by wallowing in the filth of another.