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That I may clear up this mysterious truth, I shall deliver myself these four ways; by opening,
First, Wherein the intercession of Christ consisteth: and what he doth when we say he intercedes in heaven for us.
Secondly, How powerful, and prevailing his intercessions are with God the Father.
Thirdly, That he doth now intercede as our great High Priest and in a more transcendent and eminent way
manner, than ever any high priest did before.
Fourthly, This does conduce to our comfort, and to our holiness.
First, if it be demanded, Wherein consisteth this intercession of Jesus Christ.
I answer. First it consists in this: His appearing for us in heaven, his owning of our cause, and of our souls to God the Father : it is the word that is used in that ixth chapter of the Hebrews, the 24th verse, “ Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands, but into heaven, now to appear in the presence of God for us." He does not in an ordinary way and manner appear for us in heaven; but with an emphasis, he does openly, and publicly, before all the saints and angels, appear for us in the presence of God the Father. It is a comfort unto a man, sometimes to have a good friend at court, at the king's elbow, that may own him, and appear for him : but though a man have a friend at court, sometimes if there be any danger, he will not appear and own a man;
be he will own him, and countenance his cause as long as there is no danger, but no longer. But now, here, we have a friend in heaven, that will appear for us,
and own our causes, and our souls, and in all conditions appear
That is the first. Secondly, He doth not only appear for us; but by virtue of his priestly office, he does carry the power, merit, and virtue of his blood into the presence of God the Father in heaven, and sprinkles the mercy-seat with it seven times. Seven is a note of perfection. Those that Christ suffered for, he does intercede for. He takes all their bonds, and he carries them in unto God the Father, and he says, Father, I have paid these bonds, I have paid this debt, 1 have satisfied thy justice for these poor sinners, and now my desire is, that they may be acquitted from these bonds, and from these debts.
This also is remarkable in that ixth chapter of the Hebrews, 11th and 12th verses.
Thirdly, He doth not only carry the power, and virtue of his blood, and present it to God the Father for our discharge: but he does also plead our cause in heaven, answering unto all those accusations that are brought against us. And therefore we may read what the apostle says in the viiith of Romans 33rd verse. “ Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? it is God that justifies, who is he that condemneth? 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." Upon this ground the apostle speaks thus; Who shall condemn them? Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father, to take off all accusations that shall be brought against them. Let the world condemn, let Moses condemn, let Satan condemn; Jesus Christ is at the right hand of God the Father, to take off all accusations that shall be raised against them. Concerning this there is a clear and full instance in that notable scripture the iiird chapter of Zechariah, and the 1st verse, we find Satan standing at the right hand of Joshua to resist him. “ He shewed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” It was the custom of the accuser, to stand at the right hand of the accused : Psalm cixth verse 6th,“ Set thou a wicked man over him, and let Satan stand at his right hand :” take the wall of him in his accusation, condemning of him. Now here Satan standing at Joshua's right hand, notes his accusing of him. Well what was the matter that he accused him of? Ye shall find that there was matter, verse the 3rd.
“ Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel." Satan came and accused him that he had filthy garments : and so he had: for the priests had defiled themselves in Babylon, in marrying of strange wives, as Joshua and his children are charged, in the xth chapter of Ezra, and the 18th verse. Give me leave a little to open this charge of Satan, that we may see Satan had matter of charge, and accusation against Joshua. “ And among the sons of the priests, that were found that had taken strange wives : namely the sons of Joshua." He was high priest. So that now, Joshua had defiled his garments :
there was then matter of accusation for Satan to work upon. But now, our Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest steps in, and takes off this accusation: the Lord said (at the iïird of Zechariah, 3rd verse) unto Satan, “ The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee.” The word used by the Septuagint, is the same that is used for excommunication. And it is here twice repeated, “ The Lord rebuke thee, even the Lord rebuke thee:” not only to show the fulness of Satan's rebuke: but to show the fulness of the intercession of Jesus Christ. Now would we see the fulness of Christ's apology for Joshua ? says the Lord unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, even the Lord rebuke thee: and (says he at the latter end of the 2nd verse) “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” Thus it is true Lord, that Joshua hath filthy garments: but yet not withstanding, Joshua is but as a brand plucked newly out of the burning. Take a brand, and pull it newly out of the fire, and there will be dust, ashes, and dirt about it. Lord (says he) Joshua is but newly pulled out of the burning, and therefore, Lord, he must needs have some ashes, and some dirt, and some filth about him: O Lord, (says Christ) although that Joshua be clothed with filthy garments, I will take away those filthy garments : verse the 4th, “ He answered and spake unto those that stood before him saying, Take away the filthy garments from him: and unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.' This can be none but Christ. Thus Christ takes off the accusation that was brought against Joshua by Satan, for his filthy garments. And so does the Lord Christ now; if a poor soul fall into any sin, defile his garments, Satan, he comes in, and takes the right hand of him, stands at the right hand and accuses, by reason of this filthy garment: but our Lord Jesus Christ our great High Priest, he being at the right hand of the Father, takes up
the cause, and answers to the accusation : True Lord, this poor soul, indeed hath filthy garments; but he is but as a firebrand plucked newly out of the burning: he was in his natural, and sinful condition the other day, in his burning, and he is but newly changed, and therefore he must needs have some dirt, and some filth upon him, as a fire-brand plucked out of the burning; and therefore consider him in that respect, and though he have filthy garments now upon him; yet I will give him change of raiments, and take away his filthy garments. Thus the Lord Christ steps in to God the Father, and answers to all those accusations that are brought against him to God the Father. This is the third thing that he does by way of his intercession.
Again, he doth not only plead our cause, and take off accusations that are brought against us: but he does also call for absolution, and pardon of poor sinners, at the hand of God the Father, in a way of justice and equity : and therefore he is called, our Advocate: “ If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,"1 Johnii. I. The work of an advocate differs from the work of a petitioner; an advocate does not petition the judge, but an advocate, he tells the judge what is law, what is right, and what ought to be done. So the Lord Jesus Christ being in heaven, and making intercession, is there as our Advocate : Lord (says he) this man, he hath sinned indeed, but I have satisfied for his sins, I have paid for them to the full, I have satisfied thy wrath to the full : now therefore, in a way of equity, and in a way of justice, I do here call for this man's pardon; thus Christ intercedes. And thus we see, briefly, wherein the intercession of Christ consisteth, and what he does when we say, That he intercedes for us in heaven.
Well, but suppose he does intercede, can he prevail in his intercession, hath he any potency, power or prevalency with God the Father in his intercession? Yes very
much : and therefore we find in that same iïird of Zechariah, that Joshua goes away with a fair mitre upon his head; verse 5, “ And I said, Let them set a fair mitre (or a crown) upon his head: so they set a fair mitre (or a crown) upon his head, and clothed him with garments, and the angel of the Lord stood by.” Satan at the beginning stood at his right-hand to accuse him; but this accuser of the brethren goes away with a double rebuke, and Joshua goes away with a crown: through the intercession of Jesus Christ he goes away with a crown upon his head.
All which will appear to you if we consider three things.
First, what great interest our Lord and Saviour Christ hath in the bosom of God the Father. Paul prevailed with Philemon for Onesimus, through the great interest that Paul
had in the bosom of Philemon. Our Lord and Saviour Christ, he hath lien in the bosom of God the Father from all eternity: he is his Son, his natural Son, his beloved Son, his Son that did never offend him: and therefore surely when he comes and intercedes for a man, he is most like to speed, to prevail. We know that David going out against Nabal and his house, Abigail comes forth, meets with David, and intercedes for Nabal; and Abigail did so powerfully intercede even for Nabal, that she turned David's heart quite round about. David swore he would not leave one of the house, and after Abigail had interceded a little for Nabal, in 1 Sam. xxv. 32, David said unto Abigail, “ Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me: and blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood.” Pray what did Abigail say, that she turned David thus about, that her intercession was thus powerful ? Says Abigail, “ As for Nabal he is according to his name. And it shall come to pass (at the 30th verse) when the Lord shall have done to my lord according to all the good that he hath spoken concerning thee, and shall have appointed thee ruler over Israel, that this shall be no grief unto thee, nor offence of heart to my lord, either that thou hast shed blood causeless, or that my lord hath avenged himself.” This shall be no grief at all unto thine heart, says she, and other words that she used, by which she prevailed here with David. But Abigail was a stranger to David: and Abigail she prays and intercedes for Nabal, a wicked, vile, foolish man. Shall Abigail, a woman, a stranger prevail thus with David for a Nabal ? and shall not the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, not a stranger, nor a stranger to his bosom, but beloved from everlasting, shall not he prevail much more, when he comes and pleads the cause of the elect, and of the children of God, in the presence of God the Father, whom the Father loves also ? Great is the rhetoric of a child: if a child do but cry Father, especially if the child be a wise child, he may prevail much with a tender-hearted father. The Lord Jesus Christ he is the Son of the Father, and he is the wisdom of the Father too; and God the Father is a tenderhearted Father. Oh! surely therefore, powerful are the intercessions of Jesus Christ with God the Father.