CHRIST SET FORTH
Section Five :: Chapter Three
The second; the special peculiar influence that intercession has into our salvation and justification, and the reasons why God appointed it to be added to the former.
2. To come now more particularly to show that proper and special influence that intercession has into our salvation, and what it adds to the oblation of Christ’s death, though in its kind perfect, in order to the effecting our salvation; and to show the more inward reasons why God ordained—for upon his ordination alone this is to be put—this work of intercession in heaven to be joined with his death. And both these I shall put promiscuously together; for in laying down the reasons why God thus ordered our salvation to be brought about by it, that influence also which intercession has into our salvation, will together therewith appear.
The reasons either respect (1.) God himself, who will have us so saved as himself may be most glorified; or (2.) respect us and our salvation; God ordering all the links of this golden chain of the causes of our salvation, as should make our salvation most sure and steadfast, (as David in his last song speaks, 2 Samuel 23:5). Or (3.) respect Christ himself, whose glory is to be held up, and throughout continued as the author and finisher of our salvation, beginner and ender of our faith and justification.
(1.) The first sort of reasons respect God himself.
[1.] In general, God will be dealt with like himself, in and throughout the whole way of our salvation, from first to last, and carry it all along as a superior wronged, and so keep a distance between himself and sinners; who still are to come to him by a priest, and a mediator (as Hebrews 7:25 has it) upon whose mediation and intercession “forever,” as there, at least until the day of judgment, their salvation does depend. And therefore though Christ, in his dispensation of all to us downward, does carry it as a king, as one having all power to justify and condemn (as has been shown); yet upward towards God, he carries it as a priest, who must still intercede to do all that which he has power to do as a king. Therefore after that God had set him up as “King upon his holy hill,” Psalm 2:6, namely in heaven, and so had committed all power in heaven
and earth to him. Then he must yet “ask” all that he would have done, “Ask of me, and I will give thee…” Psalm 2:8, says God to him. For though he be a king, yet he is God’s king, “I have set my king,” and by asking him, God will be acknowledged to be above him. But more of this hereafter. But
[2.] More particularly, God has two attributes which he would have most eminently appear in their highest glory by Christ’s effecting our salvation, namely, justice and free grace. And therefore has so ordered the bringing about of our salvation, as that Christ must apply himself in a more especial manner unto each of these, by way of satisfaction to the one, of entreaty to the other. Justice will be known to be justice, and dealt with upon its own terms; and grace will be acknowledged to be free grace, throughout the accomplishment of our salvation. You have both these joined in Romans 3:24, 26, “Being justified freely through his grace, by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; that he might be just, and the justifier of him that believes.” Here is highest justice and the freest grace both met to save us, and both ordained by God to be
“declared” and “set forth,” as Romans 3:25-26 have it.
I said before, that God justifies and saves us through free grace, so absolutely freely, as if his justice had had no satisfaction. Now therefore our salvation depending and being carried on, even in the application of it, by a continuation of grace in a free way, notwithstanding satisfaction unto justice. Therefore this free grace must be sought to, and treated with like itself, and applied upon in all, and the sovereignty and freeness of it acknowledged in all, even as well as God’s justice had the honor to be satisfied by a price paid upon it, that so the severity of it might appear and be held forth in our salvation. Thus God having two attributes eminently to be dealt with, his justice and his free grace. It was meet that there should be two eminent actions of Christ’s priesthood, wherein he should apply himself to each according to their kind, and as the nature and glory of each does require. Accordingly in his death he deals with justice, by laying down a sufficient
price. And in his intercession, he entreats free grace and thus both come to be alike acknowledged. In Hebrews 4:16, we are encouraged to “come boldly to the throne of grace,” because “we have a high priest entered into the heavens.” Observe how it is called a throne of grace, which our high priest now in heaven officiates at; so called because his priesthood there deals with free grace chiefly, it is a throne of grace, and so to be sued unto; therefore he treats with God by way of intercession.
Of this throne of grace in heaven, the mercy-seat in the holy of holies was the type. And as there the high priest was to bring the blood and mercy-seat together, he was to sprinkle the blood upon it, so Christ. And as the high priest was to go into the holy of holies by blood, so with incense also, (that is prayer), to show that heaven is not opened by mere justice, or bringing only a price in hand for it, but by grace also, and that must be entreated. And therefore when the priest was within that holy place, he was to make a cloud over the mercy-seat, which cloud of incense is prayer, whereof incense was the type, in Revelation 8:3. And thence it is, that Christ has as much work of it still in heaven as ever, though of another kind. He dealt with justice here below, to satisfy it, and here got money enough to pay the debt; but in heaven he deals with mercy. Therefore all the grace he bestows on us, he is said first to receive it,
even now when in heaven. In Acts 2:33, it is said of him, after his going to heaven and that he was exalted, that he “received the promise of the Spirit,” which in John 14:16, he told them he would “pray for.” And this is part of the meaning of that in Psalm 68:18, “He ascended up on high, and received gifts for men,” says the Psalmist. The apostle renders it in Ephesians 4, “gave,” but you see it was by “receiving” them first, as fruits of his intercession and asking after his ascending. He is said both to give, as being all of his own purchase, and as having power as a king also both to do and bestow all he does. And yet further he is said to receive all that he gives, because as a priest he
intercedes for it, and asks it. Free grace requires this. This is the first thing.
Yes secondly, justice itself might stand a little upon it, though there was enough in Christ his death to satisfy it; yet having been wronged, it stood thus far upon it, as those to whom a debt is due use to do, namely, to have the money brought home to God’s dwelling-house, and laid down there. God is resolved not to stoop one bit unto man, no nor to Christ his surety. Justice will not only be satisfied, and have a sufficient ransom collected and paid, as at Christ’s death, but he must come and bring his bags up to heaven. Justice will be paid it upon the mercy-seat; for so in the type the blood was to be carried into the holy of holies, and sprinkled upon the mercy-seat. And therefore his resurrection and ascension were but as the breaking through all enemies, and subduing them, to the end to bring this price or satisfaction to the mercy-seat; and so God having his money by him, might not want wherewithal to pardon sinners. So as the blood of Christ is current money, not
only on earth, but in heaven too, whither all is brought, which is for our comfort, that all the treasure which should satisfy God is safely conveyed thither, and our surety with it.
(2.) The second sort of reasons why God ordained Christ’s intercession to be joined to his death are taken from what was the best way to effect and make sure our salvation, and secure our hearts therein; and these reasons will show the peculiar influence that intercession has into our salvation, and therein as in the former.
[1.] First in general, God would have our salvation made sure, and us saved all manner of ways, over and over. First, by ransom and price, (as captives are redeemed) which was done by his death, which of itself was enough. For it is said in Hebrews 10 to “perfect us forever.” Secondly, by power and rescue; so in his resurrection, and ascension, and sitting at God’s right hand, which also was sufficient. Then, thirdly, again by intercession, a way of favour and entreaty; and this likewise would have been enough, but God would have all ways concur in it, whereof notwithstanding not one could fail; a threefold cord, whereof each twine were strong enough, but all together must of necessity hold.
[2.] Secondly, the whole application of his remedy, both in justifying and saving of us first and last, has a special dependence upon this his intercession. This all divines on all sides do attribute unto it, while they put this difference between the influence of his death, and that of his intercession into our salvation: calling his death medium impetrationis that is, the means of procurement or obtaining it for us; but his intercession medium applicationis, the means of applying all unto us. Christ purchased salvation by the one, but possessed us of it by the other.
Some have attributed the application of justification to his resurrection; but it is much more proper to ascribe it to his intercession, (and what causal influence his resurrection has into our justification, has been afore in the third section declared). But that his eternal priesthood in heaven, and the work of its intercession, is the applying cause of our eternal salvation, in all the parts of it first and last seems to me to be the result of the connection of Hebrews 5:8-10. For having spoken of his obedience and sufferings unto death, Hebrews 5:8, and how he thereby was made perfect, Hebrews 5:9, he says, “and being” thus first “made perfect, he became the author” or applying cause, ἄιτιος, “of eternal salvation, unto all them that obey him.”
And this by his being becomes an eternal priest in heaven, after he was thus perfected by sufferings; for so it follows in Hebrews 5:10, “called of God a high priest, after the order of Melchisedec.” And Melchisedec’s priesthood was principally the type of his priesthood in heaven, as was before declared.
One leading instance to show that his intercession was to be the applying cause of salvation was given by Christ while he was on earth, thereby manifesting what much more was to be done by him in heaven, through his intercession there. When he was on the cross and as then offering that great sacrifice for sin, he at that time also joined prayers for the justification of those that crucified him: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” So, fulfilling that in Isaiah 53:12, “He bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” And the efficacy of that prayer then put up was the cause of the conversion of those three thousand in Acts 2:23, whom the apostle had expressly charged with the crucifying of Christ, “whom you by wicked hands have taken, crucified, and slain.” These were the first-fruits of his
intercession, whose prayers still do reap and bring in the rest of the crop, which in all ages is to grow up unto God on earth.
[3.] And more particularly, as the whole application in general, so our justification, in the whole progress of it, depends upon Christ’s intercession. As,
First, our first actual or initial justification, which is given us at our first conversion, depends upon Christ’s intercession. Therefore in the fore-mentioned prayer on the cross, the thing he prayed for was forgiveness, “Father, forgive them.” You heard before that Christ’s death affords the matter of our justification, as being that which is imputed, the ransom, the price, the thing itself that satisfies. And that his resurrection was the original act of God’s justifying us in Christ. We were virtually justified then in Christ his being justified, as in a common person.
But besides all this, there is a personal or an actual justification to be bestowed upon us that is an accounting and bestowing it upon us in our own persons, which is done when we believe, and it is called (Romans 5:1) a being “justified by faith,” and (Romans 5:10) “received the atonement.” Now this depends on Christ’s intercession and it was typified out by Moses his sprinkling the people with blood, mentioned in Hebrews 9:19, which thing Jesus Christ as a Mediator and Priest does now from heaven. For in Hebrews 12:24, it is said, “You are come to heaven, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant,” and as it is next subjoined, “to the blood of sprinkling.” He shed his blood on the cross on
earth, but he sprinkles it now as a priest from heaven. For it is upon Mount Zion, to which (he had said first in the former verse) you are come; and so to Christ as a mediator standing on that mount, and sprinkling from thence his blood. And so therein there is an allusion unto Moses, Christ’s type, who sprinkled the people with the blood of that ceremonial covenant, the type of the covenant of grace.
Now, in 1 Peter 1:2, “The sprinkling of his blood,” as it is there made the more proper work of Christ himself, in distinction from the other persons, and therefore was done by Moses, who was his type, so is it also put for our first justification. And this sprinkling, as it is there mentioned, is from the virtue of his intercession. And therefore in that place of the Hebrews fore-cited, he attributes an intercession unto it, as the phrase that follows “which speaks better things,” does imply, of which more hereafter. Yet concerning this first head, let me add this by way of caution (which I shall presently have occasion to observe) that though this our first justification is to be ascribed to his intercession, yet more eminently intercession is ordained for the accomplishing our salvation, and this other more rarely in the Scripture attributed thereunto.
Secondly, the continuation of our justification depends upon it. And as his intercession is the virtual continuation of his sacrifice, so is it the continuing cause of our justification; which though it be an act done once, as fully as ever, yet is it done over every moment, for it is continued by acts of free grace, and so renewed actually every moment. There is a “standing in grace” by Christ, spoken of in Romans 5:2, as well as a first “access by Christ,” and that standing in grace, and continuing in it, is afterwards in Romans 5:10, attributed to his life, that is as it is interpreted in Hebrews 7:25, his “living ever to intercede.” We owe our standing in grace every moment to his sitting in heaven and interceding every moment. There is no fresh act of justification goes
forth, but there is a fresh act of intercession. And as though God created the world once for all, yet every moment he is said to create, every new act of providence being a new creation. So likewise to justify continually, through his continuing out free grace to justify as at first, and this Christ does by continuing his intercession; he continues “a priest forever,” and so we continue to be justified forever.
Thirdly, there is hereby a full security given us of justification to be continued forever. The danger either must lie in old sins coming into remembrance, or else from sins newly to be committed. Now first, God hereby takes order that no old sins shall come up into remembrance, to trouble his thought; as in the old law, after the priest’s going into the holy of holies, their sins are said yet to have done in Hebrews 10:3. And to that end it was that he placed Christ as his remembrancer for us, so near him to take up his thoughts so with his obedience, that our sins might not come into mind. Not that God needed this help to put himself in mind, but only for a formality sake, that things being thus really carried between God and Christ for us, according to a way suiting with our apprehensions, our faith might be strengthened against all suppositions, and fears of after reviving our guilts.
Look therefore as God ordained the rainbow in the heavens, that when he looked on it, he might remember his covenant, never to destroy the world again by water; so he has set Christ as the rainbow about his throne. And look as the bread and wine in the Lord’s supper are appointed on earth to “show forth Christ’s death,” as a remembrancer to us; so is Christ himself appointed in heaven to show forth his death really as a remembrancer thereof to his Father; and indeed, the one is correspondent to the other. Only the papists have perverted the use of the Lord’s Supper, by making it on earth a commemorative sacrifice to God, when as it is but a remembrancer thereof to men. And besides their priests therein do take upon themselves this very office of presenting this sacrifice to God, which is proper only to Christ in heaven. But God, when he would make sure not to be tempted to remember our sins any more, nor trouble himself with them, has set his Christ
by him to put him in mind of his so pleasing an offering. So the high priest going into the holy of holies was for a memorial, and therein the type of Christ. And this is plainly and expressly made the use of this execution of his priestly office in heaven in Hebrews 8, where the apostle having discoursed of that part of his office, as the chief thing he aimed at in this epistle in Hebrews 8:1; and of the necessity of it in Hebrews 8:3-5; and excellency of it in this respect in Hebrews 8:6. He then shows how from thence the new covenant of pardon came to be sure and steadfast that God “will remember our sins no more,” Hebrews 8:12, which he there brings in as the proper use of this doctrine,
and of this part of his priesthood.
Secondly, as by reason of intercession God remembers not old sins, so likewise he is not provoked by new. For though God, when he justifies us, should forgive all old sins past forever, so as never to remember them more, yet new ones would break forth, and he could not but take notice of them. And so long as sin continues, there is need of a continuing intercession. Therefore for the securing us in this, it is said in Romans 5:10 that “If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Where we see that his death is in some more special manner said to procure reconciliation at first for sins of unregeneracy, and to bring us to Christ; but then his life and intercession, or living to intercede, is said to keep God and us friends, that we may never fall out more. What Christ did on earth, does more especially procure
reconciliation for sins which we do in the state of nature; so as notwithstanding them, God resolves to turn us from that state and draw us to Christ. But sins which we commit after conversion, though pardoned also by his death, yet the pardon of them is more especially attributed to his life and intercession, as a daily preservative, a continual plaster (as some call it) to heal such sins.
So that it would seem that God out of his eternal love does bring us to Christ, and draws us to him through the beholding the reconciliation wrought by his death, and so gives us at first conversion unto Christ. And we being brought to him, he sprinkles us with his blood; and then God says to him, Now do you look to them, that they and I fall out no more. And to that end Christ takes our cause in hand by that eternal priesthood of his, and from that time begins more especially to intercede for us. And thus sins after the state of grace may be said more eminently to be taken away by that part of his priesthood which he now in heaven performs.
That place also in 1 John 2:1-2 seems to make this the great end of intercession, “If any man sin” (that is, if any of the company of believers, to whom alone he wrote), “we have an advocate with the Father;” so as intercession principally serves for sins to come, or committed after grace received. Thus also in his prayer in John 17:20, which was left as a pattern of his intercession in heaven, he prays for his elect as believers, “I pray for them that shall believe through their word.” Not but that sins after conversion are taken away by his death and sins before it by his intercession also, for Christ interceded for those who crucified him, and by virtue of that intercession, those three thousand were converted (as was observed). But the meaning only is that yet more eminently the work of reconciliation for sins before conversion
is attributed to his death, and for sins after conversion to his intercession. Even as the persons of the Trinity, though they have all a like hand in all the work of our salvation, yet we see that one part is attributed more to one person, and another to another.
(3.) A third sort of reasons why God ordained this work of intercession to accomplish our salvation by, does respect Christ himself, whose honor and glory and the perpetuation of it in our hearts, God had as well in his eye in the ordering all the workings of our salvation, as much as his own, “that all might honor the Son as well as the Father,” as Christ himself speaks. Now, therefore, for the maintaining and upholding his glory, and the comings in thereof, did God ordain, after all that he had done for us here below, this work of intercession in heaven to be added to all the rest, for the perfecting of our salvation. As,
First, it became him, and was for his honor, that none of his offices should be vacant or lie idle, and he want employment in them. All offices have work to accompany them, and all work has honor, as its reward to arise out of it. And therefore when he had done all that was to be done on earth, as appertaining unto the merit of our salvation, he appoints this full and perpetual work in heaven, for the applying and possessing us of salvation. And that as a priest, by praying and interceding in the merit of that one oblation of himself, God would have Christ never to be out of office, nor out of work. And this very reason is more than intimated in Hebrews 7:24. “This man, because he continues ever, has an unchangeable priesthood,” (or, as Hebrews 7:21 expounds it) forever. And the work of his priesthood is interpreted in Hebrews 7:25, to be “ever to make intercession.” The meaning is, that God would not have him continue to be a priest in title only, or in respect only of a service past. And so to have only the honor of priesthood perpetuated to him out of the remembrance of what he once had done, as great generals have, even in time of peace, the glory of some great battle fought, continued to them in their titles, or rewards forever. But God would have him have, as the renown of the old, so a perpetual spring of honor by new work, and employment in that office which he is continually doing, so to preserve the verdure of his glory ever fresh and green, and therefore ordained a continual work for him. And the sum of the apostle’s reasoning is this, that seeing himself was to be forever, so should his work and priesthood be, that so his honor might be forever. So Hebrews 7:28 concludes it, “consecrated or
perfected for evermore.”
Secondly, for the same reason also, it became him that the whole work of our salvation, first and last, and every part of it, every step and degree of accomplishment of it, should be so ordered as he should continue still to have as great and continual a hand in every part, even to the laying of the top stone thereof, as he had in laying the first foundation and corner stone thereof. And this you have expressed in Hebrews 12:2, “Looking to Jesus the beginner and perfecter of our faith.” Two things had been said of him, as two causes of two effects; and we must look to him in both. [1.] He is to be looked at as dying, “enduring the cross,” as there he is set forth. [2.] As “sitting at God’s right hand and interceding,” as that whole Epistle had represented him. We are to look at these two as causes of a double effect, to look at his dying as that which is the “beginning of our
faith,” (so according to the Greek, and the margin of our translation), and at his sitting at God’s right hand as an intercessor, for the “finishing of our faith” thereby, and so of our final salvation. For as Christ’s work began in his life and death, which is put for all his obedience here below, so our first believing (as was said) begins by virtue of his death at first. And as his work ends in his intercession, and sitting at God’s right hand, so answerably is our faith and salvation perfected by it, that thus he might be left out in nothing, but be “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, to whom be glory forever.” So that we are to look upon our Mediator Christ, as doing as much work for us in heaven at this instant, as ever he did on earth; here suffering, but there praying and presenting his sufferings. All his work was not done, when he had done here; that work here was indeed the harder piece of the two, yet soon
dispatched. But his work in heaven, though sweeter far, yet lies on his hands forever; therefore let us leave out none of these in our believing on him.