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ON THE OBJECTS OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION
A SECOND inquiry is, who are those that Christ makes intercession for?
The text saith they are transgressors, sinful men, that are fallen from God.
Quest. Doth not Christ make intercession for the holy angels, that keep their standing ?
Answ. The scripture saith of Christ, that verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham, Heb. ii. 16.
It is a disputable point, whether Christ intercede for any except those that he redeemed; but the angels that never fell need no redemption, and the fallen angels are in a hopeless state—“ They are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness.”* As for the good angels, though they be perfect creatures, yet they are but creatures, and therefore mutable; and the language of scripture is, “ His angels he chargeth with folly," + that is, comparatively, with respect to himself, who only hath immortality. † The angels, though not actually yet potentially, may be charged with folly : they might possibly fall, but now they stand. Mr. Perkins saith,|| it cannot, however, be proved that they stand by the virtue of Christ's redemption, but they are under him as he is their Lord and King, and by the power of Christ, as he is God and their God, they are confirmed. Yet we may truly say that the angels are confirmed by Christ's mediation. Look on * Jude, 6.
+ John iv. 18. Vid. Caryl. in loc. + 1 Tim. vi. 16,
ll Perk. on Creed, 202.
the angels in their creation, and they were naturally blessed, and from that they might fall, and many of them did; but now look upon them in a supernatural blessedness, which consists in the vision of God, which they have obtained by Christ; from this they cannot fall, and so are by grace become immutable. Thus Christ is a confirmer and supporter of the angels, which is by his intercession, so some understand, Col. i. 20.
But the persons for whom Christ particularly makes intercession are men, and transgressing men; "he made intercession for the transgressors.” Now, there are two sorts of transgressors among men: graceless, unconverted sinners-real saints.
1. Unconverted souls, strangers to God, that are still unsanctified, in their natural state, never yet in covenant with God. Now, it is a great question whether Christ makes intercession for these, because he saith, John xvii. 9, “I pray for them, I pray not for the world, but for them that thou hast given me, for they are thine.” By " the world,” may be meant those that are at present unbelievers as the rest of the world are, for these he prayeth that they should believe, as he had before prayed for those that actually did believe: but he did not pray for the finally impenitent, or those that should die unbelievers.
Yet there are two cases wherein Christ is said to pray for wicked transgressors.
(1.) For sparing them and giving them time and means of repentance, and many outward mercies ; so it is said of the dresser of the vineyard, when justice bids him cut down the fig-tree, Luke xiii. 7, 8, he answers,
Lord, let it alone this year also.” The worst of men are indebted to Christ for their lives, seasons of grace, and calls to repent. O that men thought of this !
(2.) Christ prayed for his murderers and worst of
persecutors : “ Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”—Luke xxiii. 34. Not that Jesus prayed for pardon absolutely, without respect to their repentance, but this is included, and his prayer was answered in the many thousands converted after his ascension. * Christ in heaven intercedes with his Father for the application of his work of redemption : his purchase prepares a plaster, his intercession applies it.
2. Another class of transgressors are those that are truly godly; it is for them that he properly and directly makes intercession, as members of his body, purchased by him. This he doth for them in a peculiar manner.
You will say, Are sanctified souls transgressors ?
I answer, Yes. The best daily sin, and transgress God's law in thought, word, and deed : “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us ;” and “ sin is a transgression of the law:"t only there are sins of wilfulness and sins of weakness. Sin hath not dominion over a child of God. Every child of God is conscious to himself of great offences, and may sadly lament with the church, Psalm lxv. 3, “Iniquities prevail against us; as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away:” this is through Christ's merits and intercession. This is a mystery.
Quest. How shall we know what our Lord prays for now, in the highest heavens, on the behalf of believers ?
Answ. We must be regulated by scripture line in this matter ; and the best way to ascertain it is, to observe what was Christ's prayer for his church when he was on earth, and no doubt he pursues the same design now he is in heaven.
* Acts ii. 41, 47. + 1 John i. 8. ii. 4. #Rom. vi. 14.
Now we may form some conjecture respecting it, by observing these few particulars :
1. He says plainly, John xiv. 16, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” O blessed legacy! It is true, the influences of the Spirit came down in an extraordinary manner upon the blessed apostles and primitive saints; but all God's children may expect the effusion thereof according to their measure, a spirit of conviction, illumination, and sanctification, of prayer and supplication, of assurance and satisfaction : you may expect this blessed Spirit to descend into your hearts as a precious fruit of Christ's intercession.*
2. Audience of our prayers: “Whatsoever ye ask in my name, that will I do,” John xiv. 13, 14. This he doubles for greater security. Yea, there are two extraordinary expressions in John xvi. 23, “In that day you shall ask me nothing ;" which some take for resolution in case of doubting, after the Spirit is poured down, which shall teach all things.t Hitherto they had asked nothing comparatively, ver. 24. Nay, he saith, “ I say not unto you that I will pray the Father for you, for the Father himself loveth you,” ver. 26, 27. There is a mighty inclination in God's heart to hear you of himself, besides my intercession, so that you need not fear audience.
3. Clear discoveries of God. John xiv. 20, “At that day you shall know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.” This is in answer to the good Philip's request, ver. 8, “ Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.” It is true, Christ himself upon earth was the most lively image and portraiture of the Father, I but the Spirit makes further and fulier discoveries of God and Christ, ver. 21, “I will manifest • Rom. viii. 9. Gal. iv. 6. + 1 John ii. 27. * John xvi. 15.
myself to him ;” yea, ver. 23, “ we will come unto him,” that is, the Father and Son, “and make our abode with him.”
4. A spirit of remembrance. John xiv. 26, “ He," that is, the Spirit, “shall teach you all things;" namely, all things necessary to salvation, edification, or consolation; "and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” O what a privilege is this to fortify our slippery memories, and bring up truths, as seed sown in the earth, to a blessed harvest ! Thus Paul recollects a passage that our Saviour spake, no where else recorded, Acts xx. 35. Doubtless his disciples reflected on many things that Christ did and spake, which were not written.* And thus a seasonable remembrance is a fruit of Christ's intercession, which is a very great mercy.
5. Sweet peace and contentment in the spirits of believers. John xiv. 27, “ Peace I leave with you.” This is Christ's legacy, and no doubt but he will take care for having it dispensed to all his people. In the world they must have tribulation,t but in him they shall have peace, that peace which passeth all understanding. O what a calm doth Christ make in the conscience of a perplexed sinner-centering the soul upon the Rock of Ages! You can have no solid peace but by this method, “ being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. v. 1.
6. Preservation from infection in the world, or prejudice by it. John xvii. 11, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those that thou hast given me;" ver. 15, “ I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil.” O blessed word! Alas, we daily walk among snares and traps, allurements of a sinning world, oppo* John xx. 30.
John xvi. 33.