THE HEART OF CHRIST IN HEAVEN
TOWARDS SINNERS ON EARTH
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.—Hebrews 4:15.
A second sort of demonstrations, from several engagements now, lying upon Christ in heaven.
II. There is a second sort of demonstrations, which may be drawn from many other several engagements continuing and lying upon Christ now he is in heaven, which must necessarily incline his heart towards us as much, yea more, than ever. As:
1. The continuance of all those near and intimate relations and alliances unto us of all sorts, which no glory of his can make any alteration in, and therefore not in his heart and love, nor a declining any respects and offices of love, which such relations do call for at his hands. All relations that are natural, such as between father and child, husband and wife, brother and brother, look what world they are made for, in that world they forever hold, and can never be dissolved. These fleshly relations, indeed, do cease in that other world, because they were made only for this world; as, “the wife is bound to her husband but so long as he lives,” Romans 7:2. But these relations of Christ unto us were made in order to “the world to come,” as the Epistle to the Hebrews calls it; and therefore are in their full vigour and strength, and receive their completion therein. Wherefore it is that Christ is said to be “the
same today, yesterday, and forever,” Hebrews 13:8. To illustrate this by the constant and indissoluble tie of those relations of this world, to which no difference of condition, whether of advancement or abasement, can give any discharge, we see in Joseph, when advanced, how as his relations continued, so his affections remained the same to his poor brethren, who yet had injured him, and also to his father. So Genesis 45 where in the same speech he mentions both his own greatest dignities and advancement: “God hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt;” so Genesis 45:8, and yet further he forgets not his relations, “I am Joseph, your brother,” Genesis 45:4, even the same man
still. And his affections appeared also to be the same; for he “wept over them, and could not refrain himself,” as you have it, Genesis 45:1-2. And the like he expresses to his father, “Go to my father, and say, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord over all Egypt,” Genesis 45:9 (and yet thy son Joseph still).
Take another instance, wherein there was but the relation of being of the same country and alliance, in Esther, when advanced to be queen of an hundred, twenty, and seven provinces; who when she was in the arms of the greatest monarch on earth, and enjoyed highest favour with him, yet then she cries out, “How can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people, or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred!” So Esther 8:6. She considered but her relation, and how does it work in her veins by a sympathy of blood! Now much more does this hold good of husband and wife, for they are in a nearer relation yet. Let the wife have been one that was poor and mean, fallen into sickness, and let the husband be as great and glorious as Solomon in all his royalty, all mankind would cry shame on such a man, if he should not now own his wife, and be a husband in all love and respect to her still. But beyond all these relations,
the relation of head and members, as it is most natural, so it obliges most; “No man ever yet hated his own flesh,” says the apostle, though diseased and leprous, “but loveth and cherishes it.” Ephesians 5:29. And it is the law of nature, that “if one member be honoured, all the members are to rejoice with it,” 1 Corinthians 12:26; “and if one member suffer, all the rest are to suffer with it.” “Even so is Christ,” as 1 Corinthians 12:12. And these relations are they that do move Christ to continue his love unto us. “Jesus knowing that he was to depart out of this world, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end,” John 13:1. And the reason thereof is put upon his
relation to them: they were “his own,” and his own by virtue of all relations whatsoever, his own brethren, his own spouse, his own flesh; and “the very world will love its own,” as himself speaks, much more will he himself love his own. “He that provides not for his own family is worse than an infidel,” 1 Timothy 5:8. says the apostle. Now though Christ be in heaven, yet his people are his family still; they are retainers to him, though they be on earth, and this as truly as those that stand about his person now he is in his glory. So that speech evidently declares, “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named;” Ephesians 3:15. they all together make up but one and the same family to him as their Lord. Christ is the founder, the subject and the most perfect exemplar and pattern to us, of the relations that are found on
(1.) First, he is the founder of all relations and affections that accompany them both in nature and grace. As therefore the Psalmist argues—“Shall he not see who made the eye?”—so do I. Shall not he who put all these affections into parents and brothers, suitable to their relations, shall not he have them much more in himself? Though our father Abraham, being in heaven, “be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not, yet, O Lord, thou art our Father, and our Redeemer,” Isaiah 63:16. The prophet speaks it of Christ, as appears by Isaiah 63:1-2, and in a prophecy of the Jews’ call; and he speaks it of Christ, as supposed in heaven, for he adds, “Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and thy glory.” Isaiah 63:15.
There are but two things that should make him to neglect sinners: his holiness, as they are sinners, and his glory, as they are mean and low creatures. Now he there mentions both, to show that notwithstanding either as they are sinners he rejects them not, and as they are base and mean, he despises them not.
(2.) He is the subject of all relations, which no creature is. If a man be a husband, yet not a father or a brother, but Christ is all, no one relation being sufficient to express his love, by which he loves and owns us. And therefore he calls his church both sister and spouse, Song of Songs 5:1.
(3.) He is the pattern and exemplar of all these our relations, and they all are but the copies of his. Thus, in Ephesians 5, Christ is made the pattern of the relation and love of husbands. “Husbands,” says the apostle, “love your wives, as Christ loved his church,” so Ephesians 5:25. Indeed, Ephesians 5:31-33, the marriage of Adam, and the very words he then spoke of cleaving to a wife, are made but the types and shadows of Christ’s marriage to his church. Herein I speak, says he, “concerning Christ and the church, and this is a great mystery.” First, a mystery; that is, this marriage of Adam was ordained hiddenly, to represent and signify Christ’s marriage with his church. And secondly, it is a great mystery, because the thing thereby signified is
in itself so great, that this is but a shadow of it. And therefore all those relations, and the affections of them, and the effects of those affections, which you see and read to have been in men, are all, and were ordained to be, as all things else in this world are, but shadows of what is in Christ, who alone is the truth and substance of all similitudes in nature, as well as the ceremonial types.
If therefore, no advancement does or ought to alter such relations in men, then not in Christ. “He is not ashamed to call us brethren,” as in Hebrews 2:11. And yet the apostle had just before said of him, Hebrews 2:10, “We see Jesus crowned with glory and honour.” Indeed, and as when one member suffers the rest are touched with a sympathy, so is it with Christ. Paul persecuted the saints, the members, and “Why persecutest thou me?” Acts 9:4. cries the Head in heaven; the foot was trodden on, but the Head felt it, though “crowned with glory and honour.” “We are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone,” Ephesians 5:30; and therefore as Esther said, so says Christ, “How can I endure to see the evil that
befalls my people?” If a husband has a wife that is mean, and he becomes a king, it were his glory, and not his shame, to advance her; yea, it were his shame to neglect her, especially if, when the betrothal was first made, she was then rich and glorious, and a king’s daughter, but since that fallen into poverty and misery. Now, Christ’s spouse, though now she be fallen into sin and misery, yet when she was first given to Christ by God the Father, who from all eternity made the match, she was looked upon as all glorious; for in election at first both Christ and we were by God considered in that glory which he means to bring him and us unto at last, that being first in God’s intention, which is last in execution.
For God at the beginning does look at the end of his works, and at what he means to make them; and so he then, primitively intending to make us thus glorious, as we shall be, he brought and presented us to his Son in that glass of his decrees under that face of glory by which at last he meant to endow us. He showed us to him as appareled with all those jewels of grace and glory which we shall wear in heaven. He did this then, even as he brought Eve unto Adam, whose marriage was in all the type of this; so that as this was the first idea that God took us up in, and that we appeared in before him, so also wherein he presented us then to Christ, and as it were said, such a wife will I give thee; and as such did the second person marry us, and undertook to bring us to that estate. And that God ordained us thus to fall into sin and misery was but to illustrate the story of Christ’s love, and thereby to render this our lover and husband the more glorious in his love to us, and to make this
primitive condition whereunto God meant again to bring us the more eminently illustrious; and, therefore, we being married unto him, when we were thus glorious in God’s first intention, although in his decrees about the execution of this, or the bringing us to this glory, we fall into meanness and misery before we attain to it, yet the marriage still holds.
Christ took us to run the same fortune with us, and that we should do the like with him; and hence it was, that we being fallen into sin, and so our flesh become frail and subject to infirmities, that he therefore “took part of the same,” as Hebrews 2:14. And answerably on the other side, he being now advanced to the glory ordained for him, he can never rest till he has restored us to that beauty wherein at first we were presented to him, and till he has purged and “cleansed us, that so he may present us to himself a glorious church,” as you have it, Ephesians 5:26-27, even such as in God’s first intention we were shown to him to become, having that native and original beauty, and possessing that estate, wherein he looked upon us when he first took liking to us and married us. This is argued there from this very relation of his being our husband,
Ephesians 5:25-26; and therefore, though Christ be now in glory, yet let not that discourage you, for he has the heart of a husband towards you, being “betrothed unto you forever in faithfulness and in lovingkindness,” as Hosea 2:19, and the idea of that beauty is so imprinted on his heart, which from everlasting was ordained you, that he will never cease to sanctify and to cleanse you till he has restored you to that beauty which once he took such a liking of.
A second engagement. This love of his unto us is yet further increased by what he both did and suffered for us here on earth before he went to heaven. “Having loved his own” so far as to die for them, he will certainly “love them unto the end,” John 13:1, even to eternity. We shall find in all sorts of relations, both spiritual and natural, that the having done much for any beloved of us does beget a further care and love towards them; and the like effect those eminent sufferings of Christ for us have certainly produced in him. We may see this in parents, for besides that natural affection planted in mothers towards their children, as they are theirs, the very pains, hard labour, and travail they were at in bringing them forth, increases their affections towards them, and that in a greater degree than fathers bear; and therefore, the eminency of affection is attributed unto that of the mother towards her child, and put
upon this, that it is “the son of her womb,” Isaiah 49:15. And then the performing of that office and work of nursing them themselves, which yet it is done with much trouble and disquiet, does in experience yet more endear those their children unto them, which they so nurse to an apparent difference of bowels and love, in comparison of that which they put forth to others of their own children which they nursed not; and, therefore, in the same place of Isaiah, as the mother’s affection to “the son of her womb,” so to her “sucking child” is mentioned as being the highest instance of such love. And as thus in paternal affection, so also in conjugal, in such mutual loves in the pursuing of which there have any difficulties or hardships been encountered; and the more those lovers have suffered the one for the other, the more is the edge of their desires whetted and their love increased, and the party for
whom they suffered is thereby rendered the more dear unto them.
And it is thus in these natural relations, so also in spiritual. We may see it in holy men, as in Moses, who was a mediator for the Jews, as Christ is for us, Moses therein being but Christ’s type and shadow, and therefore I the rather instance in him. He under God had been the deliverer of the people of Israel out of Egypt with the hazard of his own life, and had led them in the wilderness, and given them that good law that was their wisdom in the sight of all the nations, and by his prayers kept off God’s wrath from them. And who ever, of all those heroes we read of, did so much for any nation, who yet were continually murmuring at him, and had like once to have stoned him? And yet what he had done for them did so mightily engage his heart, and so immovably point and fix it unto their good, that although God in his wrath against them offered to make of him alone a greater and mightier nation than they were, yet Moses refused that offer, the greatest that ever any son of Adam was tempted
with, and still went on to intercede for them, and, among other, used this very argument to God, even the consideration of what he had already done for them, as “with what great might and power he had brought them out of Egypt,” thereby to move God to continue his goodness unto them; so Exodus 32:11, and elsewhere. And this overcame God, as you may read in the Exodus 32:14. Yea, so set was Moses his heart upon them, that he not only refused that former offer which God made him, but he made an offer unto God of himself to sacrifice his portion in life for their good: “Rather,” says he, “blot me out of the book of life,” so Exodus 32:32.
And we may observe the like zealous love in holy Paul, towards all those converts of his whom in his epistles he wrote unto; towards whom that which so much endeared his affections was the pains, the cost, the travail, the care, and the sufferings that he had had in bringing them unto Christ. Thus, towards the Galatians how solicitous was he! How afraid to lose his labour on them! “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain:” so he expresses himself, Galatians 4:11 and Galatians 4:19, he utters himself yet more deeply, “My little children (says he), of whom I again travail in birth, until Christ be formed in you.” He professes himself content to be in travail again for them, rather than lose that about which he had been in travail for them once before.
Now from both these examples, whereof the one was Christ’s type, and the other the very copy and pattern of Christ’s heart, we may raise up our hearts to the persuasion of that love and affection which must necessarily be in the heart of Christ, from that which he has done and suffered for us.
First, for Moses; did Moses ever do that for that people which Christ has done and suffered for you? He acknowledged that he had “not borne that people in his womb;” but Christ bore us all, and we were the “travail of his soul,” and for us he endured the birth-throes of death (as Peter calls them in Acts 2:24). And then for Paul, “Was Paul crucified for you?” (says Paul likewise of himself). But Christ was, and he speaks it the more to enhance the love of Christ. Or if Paul had been crucified, would or could it have profited us? No. If therefore Paul was contented to have been in travail again for the Galatians, when he feared their falling away, then how does Christ’s heart work much more toward sinners! He having put in so infinite a stock of sufferings for us already, which he is loath to lose, and has so much love to us besides, that if we could suppose that otherwise we could not be saved, he
could be content to be in travail again, and to suffer for us afresh. But he needed to do this but once, as the apostle to the Hebrews speaks, so perfect was his priesthood. Be assured then, that his love was not spent or worn out at his death, but increased by it. His love it was that caused him to die, and to “lay down his life for his sheep” John 10:15; and “greater love than this hath no man,” John 15:13, said himself before he did it. But now, having died, this must necessarily cause him from his soul to cleave the more unto them.
A cause or a person that a man has suffered much for, according to the proportion of his sufferings, is one’s love and zeal thereunto; for these do lay a strong engagement upon a man, because otherwise he loses the thanks and the honour of all that is already done and passed by him. “Have you suffered so many things in vain?” says the apostle to the Galatians 3:4, where he makes a motive and an incitement of it, that seeing they had endured so much for Christ, and the profession of him, they would not now lose all for want of doing a little more. And does not the same disposition remain in Christ? Especially seeing the hard work is over and dispatched which he was to do on earth; and that which now remains for him to do in heaven is far more sweet and full of glory, and as the “reaping in joy,” of what he had here “sown in tears.” If his love was so great, as to hold out the enduring so much; then
now when that brunt is over, and his love is become a tried love, will it not continue? If when tried in adversity (and that is the surest and strongest love), and the greatest adversity that ever was; if it then held, will it not still do so in his prosperity much more? Did his heart stick to us and by us in the greatest temptation that ever was; and will his glorious and prosperous estate take it off, or abate his love unto us? Certainly not! “Jesus the same today, yesterday, and forever,” Hebrews 13:8. When he was in the midst of his pains, one for whom he was then a-suffering, said unto him, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom;” and could Christ mind him then? As you know he did, telling him, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:42-43. Then surely when Christ came to paradise he would do it much more; and
remember him too, by the surest token that ever was, and which he can never forget, namely, the pains which he was then enduring for him. He remembers both them and us still, as the prophet speaks of God. And if he would have us “remember his death till he comes,” 1 Corinthians 11:24-26, so to cause our hearts to love him, then certainly himself does it in heaven much more. No question but he remembers us, as he promised to do that good thief, now he is in his kingdom. And so much for this second engagement.
A third engagement is the engagement of an office which still lies upon him, and requires of him all mercifulness and graciousness towards sinners that do come unto him. And therefore while he continues, in that place, and invested with that office, as he forever does, his heart must necessarily continue full of tenderness and bowels. Now that office is the office of his priesthood, which this text mentions as the foundation of our encouragement to “come boldly to the throne of grace, for grace and mercy…seeing we have a great high priest entered into the heavens” Hebrews 4:15-16.
Two things I am to show to make up this demonstration.
First, that this office of high priesthood is an office erected wholly for the showing of grace and mercy.
And secondly, that this office does therefore lay upon Christ a duty to be in all his dispensations full of grace and mercy, and therefore his heart remains most certainly suited and framed thereunto.
For the first, the office of high priesthood is altogether an office of grace. And I may call it the pardon-office, set up and erected by God in heaven; and Christ he is appointed the lord and master of it. And as his kingly office is an office of power and dominion, and his prophetical office an office of knowledge and wisdom, so his priestly office is an office of grace and mercy. The high priest’s office did properly deal in nothing else. If there had not been a mercy-seat in the holy of holies, the high priest had not at all been appointed to have gone into it. It was mercy, and reconciliation, and atonement for sinners that he was to treat about, and so to officiate for at the mercy-seat. He had had otherwise no work, nor anything to do when he should come into the most holy place.
Now this was but a typical allusion unto this office of Christ’s in heaven. And therefore the apostle (in the text), when he speaks of this our high priest’s being entered into heaven, he makes mention of a throne of grace, and this in answer to that in the type both of the high priest of old, and of the mercy-seat in the holy of holies. And further to confirm this, the apostle goes on to open that very type, and to apply it unto Christ, unto this very purpose which we have now in hand. And this in the very next words to my text, Hebrews 5:1-3, in which he gives a full description of a high priest, and all the properties and essential requirements that were to be in him, together with the eminent and principal end that that office was ordained for. Now the great and essential qualifications there specified, that were to be in a high priest, are mercy and grace, and the ends for which he is there said to be ordained are works of
mercy and grace. And besides what the words in their single standing do hold forth to this purpose, observe that they come in to back and confirm that exhortation in the text, wherein he had set forth Christ as a “high priest touched with the feeling of infirmities.” And that therefore we should “come with boldness for grace and mercy…for every high priest (says he) taken from among men, is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sin” Hebrews 5:1 (One who can have compassion.) So that these words are a confirmation of what he had before said, and do set out Christ the substance, in his grace and mercifulness, under Aaron and his sons the shadows; and all this for the comfort of believers.
Now for the ends for which those high priests were appointed, they speak all nothing but grace and mercy unto sinners; it is said, he was one “ordained for men, to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.” There is both the finis cujus, the end for whom, and the finis cui, the end for which, he was ordained.
(1.) For whom. He was ordained for men that is, for men’s cause, and for their good. Had it not been for the salvation of men, God had never made Christ a priest. So that he is wholly to employ all his interest and power for them for whose cause he was ordained a priest, and that in all things that are between God and them. He is to transact τὰ πρὸς τὸν ϴεὸν, all things that are to be done by us towards God, or for us with God, he is to take up all our quarrels with God, and to mediate a reconciliation between us and him. He is to procure us all favour from God, and to do all that which God would have done for our salvation. And that he might do this willingly, kindly, and naturally for us, as every high priest was “taken from among men,” so was Christ, that he might be a priest of our own kind, and so be more kind unto us, than the nature of an angel could have been. And how much
this conduces to his being a merciful high priest, I shall show shortly.
(2.) The end for which every high priest was ordained, shows this: he was to “offer gifts and sacrifices for sins:” sacrifices for sins, to pacify God’s wrath against sin, and gifts to procure his favour. You know the apostle, in the foregoing words, had mentioned grace and mercy, and encouraged us to come with boldness unto this high priest for both; and answerably to encourage us the more, he says, the high priest by his office was to offer for both: gifts for to procure all grace, and sacrifices to procure all mercy for us, in respect of our sins. Thus you see the ends which he is ordained for all matter of grace and mercy, and so of encouragement unto men for the obtaining of both, Hebrews 5:1.
(3.) The qualification that was required in a high priest was, that he should be “one that could have compassion,” and this is set forth in Hebrews 5:2. He that was high priest was not chosen into that office for his deep wisdom, great power, or exact holiness; but for the mercy and compassion that was in him. That is it which is here made the special, and therefore the only mentioned, property in a high priest as such; and the special essential qualification that was inwardly and internally to constitute him and fit him for that office, as God’s appointment did outwardly and externally, as Hebrews 5:4 has it. And the word δυνάμενος, “that can” or “is able,” imports an inward faculty, a spirit, a disposition, a heart that knows how to be compassionate. And it is the same word that the
apostle had before used to express Christ’s heart by, even in the words of the text, δυνάμενον συμπαθῆσαι, that is, “who can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” And he had also used it of him afore that, in the point of mercy in Hebrews 2:18, δύναται, “he is able” to succor, which is not meant of any external power (which we usually call ability), but of an internal touch in his will; he has a heart able to forgive, and to afford help.
Now, therefore, if this be so essential a property to a high priest as such, then it is in Christ most eminently. And as Christ had not been fit to have been God’s king, if he had not had all power and strength in him, which is essential to constitute him a king, so not to have been God’s high priest, if he had not had such an heart for mercifulness; yea, and no longer to have been a priest than he should continue to have such a heart. Even as that which internally qualifies a minister for the ministry is his gifts, which if he loses, he is no longer to be in that office; or as reason makes a man a man, which if he loses he becomes a beast; thus no longer should Christ continue to be a priest than he hath a heart that “can have compassion,” as this second verse has it. And the word which we translate “to have compassion,” is exceedingly emphasized, and the force of it observable; it is in the original
μετριοπαθεῖν, and signifies “to have compassion according to every one’s measure and proportion.” He had said of Christ in the words of my text, that he was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” or that “he had a suffering with us in all our evils;” and this word also here used imports a suffering.
But then, some greatly distressed souls might question thus: Though he pities me, and is affected, yet my misery and sins being great, will he take them in to the full, lay them to heart, to pity me according to the greatness of them? To meet with this thought therefore, and to prevent even this objection about Christ’s pity, the apostle sets him out by what was the duty of the high priest, who was his shadow; that he is one that “can have compassion according to the measure of every one’s distress;” and one that considers every circumstance in it, and will accordingly afford his pity and help, and if it be great, he has a great fellow-feeling of it, for he is a great high priest. Your misery can never exceed his mercy. The word here used comes from μετρὸν, a measure, and παθεῖν, to suffer. And that it is the apostle’s scope to hold this forth in this word, is evident by what
follows, for he on purpose makes mention of those several degrees, proportions, and ranks of sinners under the old law, who were capable of mercy and compassion, “who can have compassion” (says he) “on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way.” In the old law you may read of several degrees and kinds of sinners, for which God appointed or measured out differing and proportional sacrifices, Leviticus 4:2, 5 and another for sins against knowledge, or such as were wittingly committed, Leviticus 6:2-3, compared with Leviticus 6:6.
Now when any sinner came to the high priest to make atonement for him, the priest was wise to consider the kind and proportion of his sin; as whether it were a sin of mere ignorance, or whether it was against knowledge; and accordingly he was to proportion a sacrifice, and to mediate for him. And so he did μετριοπαθεῖν, “pity him according to measure,” or according to reason or discretion, as in the margin it is varied. And therefore the apostle here mentions both the ignorant, those that sin out of mere ignorance, and them that are gone out of the way, namely, by willful and witting iniquity. And so by this property that was to be in the high priest, does he here set forth Christ. As the measure of any man’s need and distress is from sin and misery, accordingly is he affected towards him. And as we have sins of several sizes, accordingly has he mercies, and puts forth a mediation proportional; whether they be
ignorances, or sins of daily incursion, or else sins more gross and presumptuous. And therefore let neither of them discourage any from coming unto Christ for grace and mercy.
So that (for the closure of this) here is both the qualification disposing him for this office, merciful compassionateness; and here are the ends of this office, even to deal mercifully with all sorts of sinners, according to the proportion and measure of their sins and miseries. From each of which do arise these corollaries, which make up the demonstration in hand, as the conclusion: 1. That he is no longer fit for this place, unless he continues to be of a gracious disposition, and one that can have compassion. 2. That he can no longer be faithful in the discharge of this office, according to the ends for which it was appointed, unless he shows all grace and mercy unto them that come unto his throne of grace for it.
And that is the second thing which I at first propounded: that this office did lay a duty upon him to have compassion; and it necessarily follows from the former. And answerably to confirm this, we have both these two brought to our hands in one place together, and which is a parallel place to this last interpreted. It is Hebrews 2:17, “That he might be a merciful and a faithful high priest.” He is at once here said to be both merciful and faithful; and both are attributed to him, in respect of this high priest’s office, “faithful high priest;” and that, as it is to be executed in heaven, after the days of his flesh ended. For the apostle giving the reason of it, and showing what it is that fits him to be such a high priest, adds Hebrews 2:18, “in that himself hathsuffered;” so that it relates to the time after his sufferings ended. Now
in that he is said to be merciful, this relates to that internal disposition of his heart, before spoken of, qualifying him for this office; and in that he is said to be faithful, that respects his execution of it; he is faithful in the discharge of the duty which that place lays on him.
So then this goes further than the former, for it shows, that to exercise mercy is the duty of his place, and that if he will be faithful, he must be merciful. For faithfulness in any office, imports an exact performance of something appointed by him, who designs one to that office, and that as a duty; and that this is a true description of faithfulness, and also that this faithfulness so described is in Christ, we have at once implied, in that which immediately follows in the beginning of Hebrews 3:2, “Who was” (says the apostle, going on to speak of Christ) “faithful to him that appointed him, as Moses also was faithful in all his house;” we have the same thing as expressly spoken in that fore-quoted place, Hebrews 5, in the next words to those we even now opened, Hebrews 5:3, “And by reason hereof he
ought to offer for sins.” He speaks it of Christ’s type, the high priest (as the former also he had done), but thereby to show that it is Christ’s duty also to mediate for all that come to him, “He ought to do it.” Now then, to enforce this consideration for the help of our faith herein: If this office does by God’s appointment thus bind him to it, and if it be the duty of his place, then certainly he will perform it most exactly, for else he does not do his duty. And our comfort may be that his faithfulness lies in being merciful; therefore, you see, they are both here joined together. Everyone is to do the proper duty of his place, and exactly to see to that. And therefore the apostle, Romans 12 exhorting to the discharge of the duties of each office in the church, Romans 12:7, he says, “Let him that hath a ministry,” committed to him,
“wait on his ministry;” and, among others, if his place of ministration be to “shew mercy,” as Romans 12:8 (which was an office in the church, upon which lay the care of the poor and sick) he is to “do it with cheerfulness.” And so says Christ of himself, Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to bind up the brokenhearted, to open the prison doors to them that are bound,” to visit and relieve them, and “to preach good tidings to the meek.” Such kind of souls are they that he has the charge of. He is the great shepherd and bishop of souls, 1 Peter 2:25, and the sick, and the broken, they are his sheep, his charge, his diocese, as Ezekiel 34:16 has it. And to tend such as these, he looks forever upon
it as his duty, as his own expression upon the like occasion imports, in John 10:16, “Other sheep I have” (says Christ), “them I must bring.” Observe how he puts a με δεῖ, an I must upon it; looking at it as his duty, strictly laid upon him by his place of being a shepherd. And the proper duty of his place being to show mercy, he does it with cheerfulness, as the apostle speaks. For mercy makes one do what they do with cheerfulness. And Christ, as he is the bishop, so the διάϰονος, the deacon also (for he bears all offices to his church), as of the circumcision, so of the uncircumcision also; so he is called, in Romans 15:8. And these offices of high priest, shepherd, bishop, he has still in heaven; for“he continues a priest forever,” Hebrews 7:24.
Now, therefore, to conclude this head: Never fear that Christ’s great advancement in heaven should in any way alter his disposition, for this his very advancement engages him the more. For although he is “entered into the heavens,” yet consider further that it is here added, to be a high priest there; and so long; fear not, for his place itself will call for mercy from him unto them that treat with him about it. And although in the heavens he is “advanced far above all principalities and powers,” yet still his high priesthood goes with him, and accompanies him; for “such an high priest became us, as was higher than the heavens,” Hebrews 7:26. And further, though he sits at God’s right hand, and on his Father’s throne, yet that throne it is a “throne of grace,” as the text has it, upon which he sits. And as the mercy-seat in the type was the farthest and highest thing in the holy
of holies, so the throne of grace (which is an infinite encouragement unto us) is the highest seat in heaven. So that if Christ will have and keep the greatest place in heaven, the highest preferment that heaven itself can bestow upon him, it engages him unto grace and mercy. The highest honour there has this attribute of grace annexed to it in its very title, “A throne of grace;” and as Solomon says, “A king’s throne is established by righteousness,” Proverbs 25:5, it continues firm by it, so is Christ’s throne by grace. Grace was both the first founder of his throne, or his raiser to it, and also it is the establisher of it.
First, it is the founder of it; for the reason why God did set him up in that place was, because he had more grace and mercy in his heart than all the creatures had, or could be capable of. All favorites are usually raised for something that is eminent in them, either beauty, pleasantness of wit, state policy, or the like. Now if you ask what moved God to advance Christ to this high throne, it was his grace. So Psalm 45:2, “Grace is poured into thy lips,” and so dwells much more in his heart; “therefore God hath blessed thee,” so it follows, namely, with all those glories in heaven, which are God’s blessings to his Son.
And then, secondly, grace is the upholder of his throne; so Psalm 45:4, “In thy majesty…prosper thou,” as well “because of meekness” as of “righteousness,” and also because of “truth;” that is the word of truth, “the gospel of our salvation,” as Paul exegetically expounds it, Ephesians 1:13. These are the pillars and supporters of his throne and majesty. And there are two of them, you see, that are of grace (meekness, and the gospel of our salvation), unto one of justice, or righteousness, and yet that one is for us too. And these establish Christ’s throne. So it follows in Psalm 45:6, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever,” and you know who applies this unto Christ, Hebrews 1:8.
Fear not then, when as meekness supports his majesty, and grace his throne, and when as he holds his place by showing these. Thus, much from that office that is laid upon Christ as he is a priest.
A fourth engagement, which added to the former may mightily help our faith in this is his own interest, both in that our salvation is the purchase of his blood, and also that his own joy, comfort, happiness, and glory are increased and enlarged by his showing grace and mercy, in pardoning, relieving, and comforting his members here on earth, under all their infirmities. So that, besides the obligation of an office undertaken by him for us, there is the addition of a mighty interest of his own, coincident therewith, to fix his heart unto faithfulness for us, in all that does concern us. We see that advocates and attorneys who plead for others, although that they have no share in the estate for which they plead, no title to, or interest therein, yet when they have undertaken a client’s cause (if honest), how diligent will they be to promote and carry it for that their client, simply because it is their office, and the duty of their place; and yet they have but a very small fee given them, in
comparison to that estate which often they follow suit about. How much more would their diligence be whetted, if the lands and estates they sue for were their own, or a purchase of theirs for their wives’ jointure, or children’s portions!
Now such is the pardoning of our sins, the salvation of our souls, and the conforming of our hearts unto Christ; these are the purchase of Christ’s blood, and while he is exercised in promoting these, he does good to his own child and spouse, which is in effect a doing good unto himself. Yes, to do these, brings in to himself more comfort and glory than it procures to them. And therefore the apostle, in the beginning of the following chapter (namely, Hebrews 3), says, that Christ is engaged to faithfulness in the execution of his office, not as a mere servant only, who is trusted by his master, but as an owner, who has an interest of possession in the things committed to his care, and a revenue from these. So Hebrews 3:5, “Moses verily” (says he) “was faithful as a servant in God’s house, but Christ as a Son over his own house,” that is, as an heir of
all, “whose house (or family) are we,” says the apostle, Hebrews 3:6. If a physician for his fee will be faithful, although he be a stranger, much more will he be so if he is father to the patient, so as his own life and comfort are bound up in that of the child’s, or when much of his estate and comings in are from the life of the party unto whom he ministers physic. In such a case they shall be sure to want for no care and cost, and to lack no cordials that will comfort them, lack no means that will cure them and keep them healthful, and lack no fit diet that may nourish and strengthen them as the care of that prince of the eunuchs, in the first of Daniel was to have those children committed to his charge, to eat and drink of the best, because that on their looks and good liking his place depended. Now so God has ordered it, even for an everlasting obligation of Christ’s heart unto us, that his giving grace, mercy, and
comfort to us, is one great part of his glory, and on the revenue of his happiness in heaven, and of his inheritance there.
First, to explain how this may be, consider, that the human nature of Christ in heaven has a double capacity of glory, happiness and delight; one on that mere fellowship and communion with his Father and the other persons, through his personal union with the Godhead. Which joy of his in this fellowship, Christ himself speaks of in Psalm 16:11, as to be enjoyed by him, “In thy presence is fullness of joy, and at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.” And this is a constant and settled fullness of pleasure, such as admits not any addition or diminution, but is always one and the same, and absolute and entire in itself; and of itself alone sufficient for the Son of God, and heir of all things to live upon, though he should have had no other comings in of joy and delight from any creature. And this is his natural inheritance.
But God has bestowed upon him another capacity of glory, and a revenue of pleasure to come in another way, and answerably another fullness, namely, from his church and spouse, which is his body. Thus Ephesians 1, when the apostle had spoken the highest things of Christ’s personal advancement in heaven that could be uttered, as of his “sitting down at God’s right hand, far above all principalities and powers,” Ephesians 1:20-21. Yet, Ephesians 1:22, he adds this unto all, “and gave him to be a head to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” So that although he of himself personally be so full, the fullness of the Godhead dwelling in him, that he overflows to the filling all things; yet he is pleased to account—and it is so in the reality—his
church, and the salvation of it, to be another fullness unto him, super-added unto the former. As Son of God he is complete, and that of himself; but as a head, he yet has another additional fullness of joy from the good and happiness of his members. And as all pleasure is the companion, and the result of action, so this arises unto him, from his exercising acts of grace, and from his continual doing good unto, and for those his members; or as the apostle expresses it, from his filling them with all mercy, grace, comfort, and felicity, himself becoming yet more full, by filling them; and this is his inheritance also, as that other was.
So as a double inheritance Christ has to live upon: one personal, and due unto him, as he is the Son of God, the first moment of his incarnation, before he had wrought any one piece of work towards our salvation; another acquired, purchased, and merited by his having performed that great service and obedience; and certainly, besides the glory of his person, there is the glory of his office of mediator, and of headship to his church. And though he is never so full of himself, yet he despises not this part of his revenue that comes in from below. Thus much for explication.
Now, secondly for the confirmation and making up the demonstration in hand. This super-added glory and happiness of Christ is enlarged and increased still, as his members come to have the purchase of his death more and more laid forth upon them; so as when their sins are pardoned, their hearts more sanctified, and their spirits comforted, then comes he to see the fruit of his labour, and is comforted thereby, for he is the more glorified by it, yes, he is much more pleased and rejoiced in this than themselves can be. And this must necessarily keep up in his heart his care and love unto his children here below, to water and refresh them every moment (as Isaiah 27:3). For in thus putting forth acts of grace and favour, and in doing good unto them, he does but good unto himself, which is the surest engagement in the world. And therefore the apostle exhorts men to love their wives upon this ground, that in so doing they love themselves:
“So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies: he that loveth his wife loveth himself,” Ephesians 5:28, so strict and near is that relation. Now, the same holds true of Christ in his loving his church. And therefore in the same place the love of Christ unto his church is held forth as the pattern and exemplar of ours; so Ephesians 5:25, “Even as Christ also loved the church.” And so it may well be argued, by comparing the one speech with the other, that Christ in loving his church does but love himself; and then the more love and grace he shows unto the members of his body, the more he shows love unto himself. And accordingly it is further added there, Ephesians 5:27, that he daily “washes and cleanses his church,” that is, both from the guilt and power of sin, “that he might
present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle.” Observe, it is to himself. So that all that he does for his members is for himself, as truly, yes more fully, than for them; and his share of glory out of theirs is greater than theirs, by how much the glory of the cause is greater than that of the effect. And thus indeed the Scripture speaks of it, as while it calls the saints the “glory of Christ,” in 2 Corinthians 8:23. And Christ, in John 17:13, 22-23, says that he is “glorified in them.” And Psalm 45, where Christ is set forth as Solomon in all his royalty and majesty; yet, Psalm 45:11, he is said “greatly to desire or delight in the
beauty” of his queen, that is, the graces of the saints; and that not with an ordinary delight, but he “greatly desires;” his desire is increased as her beauty is. For that is there brought in as a motive unto her to be more holy and conformed unto him, “to incline her ear, and forsake her father’s house,” Psalm 45:10. “So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty.” Christ has a beauty that pleases him as well as we have, though of another kind; and therefore ceases not till he has got out every spot and wrinkle out of his spouse’s face, as we heard the apostle speak even now, “so to present her glorious unto himself,” that is, delightful and pleasing in his eye.
And suitably unto this, to confirm us yet more in it, Christ in that sermon which was his solemn farewell before his going to heaven, assures his disciples that his heart would be so far from being weaned from them, that his joy would still be in them, to see them prosper and bring forth fruit in John 15:9-11, where his scope is to assure them of the continuance of his love unto them when he should be gone; so John 15:9-10, “As my Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue in my love.” As if he had said, Fear not you my love, nor the continuance of it in my absence; but look you to do your duty. And to give them assurance of this, he further tells them, that even when he is in heaven, in the greatest fullness of pleasure at God’s right hand, yet even then his joy will be in them, and in their well doing; so John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” He speaks just like a father that is taking his leave of his children, and comforting them at his departure, and giving them good counsel to take good courses when he is gone from them, to keep his commandments, and to love one another; so John 15:10, 12, and backs it with this motive, “so shall my joy remain in you.” It is as fathers used to speak, and it will be for your good too, your joy will be also full.
To open which words a little, the word remain, used concerning their abiding in his love, and his joy abiding in them, is used in reference to the continuing of both these towards them in heaven. And when Christ says, “that my joy may remain in you,” it is as if he had said, that I may even in heaven have cause to rejoice in you when I shall hear and know of you, that you agree and are loving each to other, and keep my commandments. The joy which he there calls his joy, “my joy,” is not to be understood objectivè, of their joy in him, as the object of it; but subjectivè, of the joy that should be in himself, and which he should have in them. So Augustine long since interpreted it. Quidnam, says he, est illud gaudium Christi in nobis, nisi quod ille dignatur gaudere de nobis?What is Christ’s joy in us, but that which he vouchsafes to have of and for us? And it is evident by this, that otherwise, if it were their joy
which he meant in that first sentence, then that other that follows, “and your joy shall be full,” were a tautology. He speaks therefore of his joy and theirs, as of two distinct things; and both together were the greatest motives that could be given to encourage and quicken his disciples in obedience. Now, take an estimate of Christ’s heart herein, from those two holy apostles Paul and John, who were smaller resemblances of this in Christ. What, next to immediate communion with Christ himself, was the greatest joy they had to live upon in this world, but only the fruit of their ministry, appearing in the graces both of the lives and hearts of such as they had begotten unto Christ?
See how Paul utters himself, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, “What is our hope,” says he, “or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Ye are our glory and our joy,” 1 Thessalonians 2:20. And in the 3 John 1:3, John says the like, that he greatly rejoiced of that good testimony he had heard of Gaius; for says he, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth,” 3 John 1:4. Now what were Paul and John but instruments by whom they believed and were begotten? and not on whom. Neither of these were crucified for them; nor were these children of theirs the travail of their souls. How much more then unto Christ, whose interest in us and our welfare is so infinitely much greater, must his members be his joy and his crown? And to see them to
come in to him for grace and mercy, and to walk in truth, rejoices him much more; for he thereby sees of the travail of his soul, and so is satisfied. Certainly what Solomon says of parents, Proverbs 10:1, that “a wise son maketh a glad father,” is much more true of Christ. Holiness, and fruitfulness, and comfortableness in our spirits while we are here below, do make glad the heart of Christ, our “everlasting Father.” Himself has said it, I beseech you believe him, and carry yourselves accordingly. And if part of his joy arise from hence, that we thrive and do well, then doubt not of the continuance of his affections; for love unto himself will continue them towards us, and readiness to embrace and receive them when they come for grace and mercy.
There is a fifth engagement, which his having our very nature, which he still wears in heaven, and which the end or intention which God had ordained Christ’s assuming it, does put upon him forever. For one great end and project of that personal union of our nature unto the Godhead in the second Person forever was that he might be a merciful high priest. So that as his office lays it as a duty upon him, so his becoming a man qualifies him for that office and the performance of it, and so may afford a further demonstration of the point in hand. This we find both to have been an essential requirement in our high priest, to qualify him the better for mercy and bowels; and also one of those great ends which God had in the assumption of our nature.
First, an essential requirement, on purpose to make him the more merciful. So, Hebrews 5:1, the place even now insisted on, when yet this primary qualification I then passed over, and reserved unto this mention, it is said, “Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men,” and that to this end, “that so he might be one that can have compassion,” namely with a pity that is natural and kindly, such as a man bears to one of his own kind. For otherwise the angels would have made higher and greater high priests than one of our nature; but then they would not have pitied men, as men do their brethren, of the same kind and nature with them.
And secondly, this was also God’s end and intention in ordaining Christ’s assumption of our nature, which that other place before cited, namely Hebrews 2:16-17 holds forth, “Verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham,” that is a human nature and that made of the same stuff that ours is of, and “it behooved him to be made like us in all things, that he might be a merciful high priest,” ἴνα ὲλεήμων γένηται, “to the end he might become,” or “be made merciful.”
But was not the Son of God as merciful (may some say) without the taking of our nature, as afterwards, when he had assumed it? Or is his mercy thereby made larger than of itself it should have been, had he not took the human nature on him?
I answer, Yes. He is as merciful, but yet:
[1.] Hereby is held forth an evident demonstration (and the greatest one that could have been given unto men) of the everlasting continuance of God’s mercies unto men, by this, that God is for everlasting become a man; and so we thereby assured that he will be merciful unto men, who are of his own nature, and that forever. For as his union with our nature is for everlasting, so thereby is sealed up to us the continuation of these his mercies, to be for everlasting; so that he can and will no more cease to be merciful unto men, than himself can now cease to be a man; which can never be. And this was the end of that assumption.
[2.] But, secondly, that was not all. His taking our nature not only adds unto our faith, but in some way or other adds even to his being merciful. Therefore it is said, “that he might be made merciful.” That is, merciful in such a way as otherwise God of himself had never been; namely, even as a man. So this union of both natures, God and man, was projected by God to make up the rarest compound of grace and mercy in the result of it that ever could have been, and thereby was fully fitted and accommodated to the healing and saving of our souls. The greatest of that mercy that was in God, that contributes the stock and treasury of those mercies to be bestowed on us, and unto the greatness of these mercies, nothing is or could be added by the human nature assumed; but rather Christ’s manhood had all his largeness of mercy from the Deity. So that, had he not had the mercies of God to enlarge his heart towards us, he could never have held out to have forever been merciful
unto us. But then, this human nature assumed, that adds a new way of being merciful. It assimilates all these mercies, and makes them the mercies of a man; it makes them human mercies, and so gives a naturalness and kindness unto them to our capacities. So that God does now in as kindly and as natural a way pity us, who are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, as a man pities a man, thereby to encourage us to come to him, and to be familiar with God, and treat with him for grace and mercy, as a man would do with a man; as knowing that in that man Christ Jesus (whom we believe upon) God dwells, and his mercies work in and through his heart in a human way.
I will no longer insist upon this notion now, because I shall have occasion to touch upon it again, and add unto it under that next third general head, of showing the way how Christ’s heart is affected towards sinners. Only take we notice what comfort this may afford unto our faith, that Christ must cease to be a man if he continue not to be merciful; seeing the very plot of his becoming a man was, that he might be merciful unto us, and that in a way so familiar to our apprehensions, as our own hearts give the experience of the like, and which otherwise, as God, he was not capable of. And add but this bold word to it, though a true one, that he may now as soon cease to be God as cease to be a man. The human nature, after he had once assumed it, being raised up to all the natural rights of the Son of God; whereof one (and that now made natural unto him) is to continue forever united. And he may as soon cease to be either as cease to be ready to show mercy. So that not only the scope
of Christ’s office, but also the intention of his assuming our nature, lays a further engagement upon him, and that more strong than any or than all the former.