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ROMA S viii. S4. Who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. WHE by his resurrection from the gates of the grave, our blessed Saviour had declared his victory over the powers of darkness, and had proclaimed himself the first fruits of them that slept ; the redemption of man was complete, his pardon was for ever sealed, and he became the heir of life and immortality. One thing still re mained, that the same mighty Conqueror, who had risen triumphant from the regions of cor ruption, should ascend into the highest heavens, from thence to impart the promised gifts of the Spirit of God unto the sons of men. Accord ingly, as on the day set apart by our Church for the commemoration of this glorious event, when he had spoken unto the disciples, and blessed them, " he was parted from them, and a cloud received him out of their sight," and so " he
326 SERMO XXVI. was carried up into heaven/* while they looked towards heaven, he went up. Thus then was there a visible departure ; not a figurative, but a real ascent. An ascent, in the presence and sight of the Apostles, for a confirmation of its reality, and an assurance of its certainty. or have we the evidence of sense alone in the de claration of the Apostles, but the testimony also
of angels, those holy spirits who minister before the face of God. " Behold, two men stood be fore them in white apparel ; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven ? This sarne Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like man ner as ye have seen him go up into heaven." Thus then have we the evidence both of angels and men, for the reality of that event, which is the seal of our belief, and the confirmation of our hope. Christ ascended, is not only the glory but the ground of our faith. The blessed Apos tles could not have preached the Gospel had they not been endued with a Spirit from above ; and that Spirit could not have descended, had not our Lord ascended first. " If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you ; but if I depart, I will send him to you/ In reference then to the ascension of our blessed Lord, the words of my text divide them selves into two distinct propositions. First, that
SERMO XXVI. 327 he is seated at the right hand of God ; and se condly, that he there maketh intercession for us. After his departure from the regions of this lower world, he entered into Jthe kingdom of bliss and immortality ; into the holy place, into heaven itself; there to be seated in the presence of the Almighty, above all angels, and principa lities, and powers, even at the right hand of God. " Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in ;" he cometh into his ever lasting kingdom; he cometh triumphant over the powers of darkness, he cometh leading cap
tivity captive, and is glorified with that glory which he had with the Father before the world was. He is seated at the right hand of God, not in point of actual place or position, as ubi quity can have no parts ; he who filleth all things can have no position; but in reference, accord ing to our weak and limited ideas, to absolute power and uncontroulable sway, which he is pos sessed of in heaven ; in reference to the majesty and dominion which he hath there obtained. " Him/ saith the Apostle, " hath God raised from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come ; and hath put all
328 SERMO XxVl. things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church." Thus then in this exaltation, is founded the adoration and worship paid, throughout every age, to the Redeemer of the world. We believe that the blessed Jesus, who died for our sins, did indeed rise again, and now sits arrayed in majesty, at the right hand of God, and without this belief Christianity is but a barren speculation, and a vain delusion. If, Christ be not exalted into glory, " our preach ing is vain, and your faith also is vain." But if he now reigns in power at the right hand of the Almighty, who shall deny him that adoration, which is due to him in consequence of his power, and flows naturally from the relation we bear to him, as the redeemed to a Redeemer ? When then we honour Christ in consequence of this power, and in virtue of a positive command, " that all men should honour the Son even as
they honour the Father, 5 then the honour we pay to Christ is part of the service we owe to God. Again, " Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, from henceforth expecting till his ene mies be made his footstool." Those spiritual enemies, though vanquished, not subdued ; that dominion of sin and Satan, which though once subdued, is again set up on high, against the kingdom of God and his Christ. " The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." " The
SERMO XXVI. 329 trumpet shall sound," the barriers of the tomb shall be burst, the dead shall live. The bodies of the faithful shall be framed again out of dust, and re-united to their souls. Then shall the righteous appear in glory, full and incorruptible, and the powers of darkness being destroyed, shall enjoy one perpetual and everlasting day, a day commensurate to the unlimited eternity of God himself, the great Sun of righteousness, who is always rising, and never sets. Then shall the last enemy be destroyed, which is Death. Thus then is Christ set down at the right hand of God, " that he might subdue all things unto himself." When then with the eye of faith, after the glorious example of the first martyr, we " see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man stand ing at the right hand of God;" we view with humble confidence " the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world;" where our nature hath gone before, thither may we ex pect to follow. The first fruits of nature have entered, and the rest is sanctified. Thither are we to aspire on the wings not of an idle and ad
venturous fancy, but of holy and purified affec tions. Then may we rest secure that in the day of our trouble, in the season of affliction, in the hour of death, like the blessed martyr, we shall see our Redeemer at the right hand of power, a
330 SERMO XXVI. Comforter, a Saviour, and a God. But this leads me to the consideration of the second proposi tion in my text, that he maketh intercession for us. The more we contemplate the stupendous work of our salvation through Christ, the more are we struck with awe and astonishment at the overflowing measures of divine compassion, which at every stage of it stand recorded in the most vivid and glowing colours. In the mercy of infinite goodness was the scheme of our re demption conceived ; in the wisdom of infinite power was it executed. Wonderful is it, not only in its approximation to the reason of the enquiring philosopher, but in its adaptation to the weakness and infirmity of a sinful and de graded creation. By the sacrifice of the incar nate Son of God was the arm of divine ven geance stayed, by the immolation of such a vic tim, and such a victim alone, could reason teach her sons to rest secure. By the resurrection, and ascension, was she assured of his power and divinity : by his sacrifice was she made the heir of immortality : by the promulgation of the will of God was she taught the paths of life ; by the blessed influence of a Spirit from above, was she enabled to pursue them. Christ was her hope, Heaven her reward.
Could philosophy point out a defect, or reason
SERMO XXVI. 331 find a flaw in this glorious scheme ? Could na ture ask for more than the bounty of God had poured down upon her ? What reason could not devise, and what nature dare not ask, the mercy of the Almighty freely gave. He gave us a great High Priest, who, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, " for ever sat down at the right hand of God," " v/ho is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them." Man, though redeemed by the blood of Christ from the bondage of original sin, and the curse of the law, is still a weak and frail being, subject to all the pollutions of sin, ex posed to all the contagion of the world, the creature still of terror and of guilt. To whom can he flee for refuge and consolation ? Man, who is ever wavering and unsettled in his pur poses, ever loaded with the burthen of new and unrepented sins, ever polluted with the stain of increasing guilt, can scarcely presume to offer himself at the throne of that Being, " who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity." How shall he hope that a covenant so often trampled on and despised, shall be again renewed ? How shall that reconciliation between God and man, so often broken, be at last revived ? Here then has the mercy of God, in a peculiar manner, descended to the infirmities of man. The Son 15
332 SERMO XXVI. of God is not only our Redeemer from the domi nion of darkness and the powers of sin; he is our Intercessor and High Priest, he is at the right hand of the Majesty on high, there to he our Advocate, there to intercede for us, there to receive and offer up our prayers, and sanctify the sorrows of a hroken heart. To bring down spiritual strength, joy, and comfort, to the re pentant sinner, and to perfect the word begun in us, by his grace and assistance. To reconcile God to man is the perpetual work of our High Priest, who lives in the glory of God, making continual " intercession for us." Let no man therefore sink under the terrors of a guilty mind. Let him approach the throne of grace, in no confidence of himself, but in a steady and un abated reliance on the promises of God, through Christ, by whom, and through whom, every sin ner who returns to God shall be saved. There are those tremendous moments, when man cannot pray for himself; when temptation, when despair may block up the access to the throne of grace : who then shall succour us ? Even the same In tercessor, who can offer a prayer for us, when we cannot offer one for ourselves ; who can shower down upon us anew the influence of his Holy Spirit, enabling us to return to the Almighty, and to subdue those unruly passions which were a partition-wall between ourselves and our God.
SERMO XXVI. 333 When we farther consider the infinite distance between the eternal God and man, the frail crea ture of a moment, even the most innocent among us, may justly tremhle to intrude into his pre
sence, and to offer up our troubled prayers, and perplexed desires, before his awful throne. Yet in prayer are we commanded to place all our hopes, to rest all our confidence, and to ground all our strength. But never has the Almighty issued a command without imparting to us the means of performance. Between God and man there is placed a medium of communication, lest our minds should be dismayed, and our petitions falter, from the infinite distance between the creature and the Creator, and from the fearful thought of entering into the presence of the living God. When then we consider man as a frail creature of mortality, when we further view him as the slave of passion, and the servant of sin, lost often to God and to himself, and equally unable to govern himself or to serve his Maker, who is there that will say there needed not a continual Intercessor to offer up our prayers, and to pray for us a Mediator to be the am bassador of our peace, and to reconcile us to God ? Who then shall be our Mediator ? Who shall be found worthy to take the charge of a perpetuarl intercession between God and man ? God
334 SERMO XXVI, cannot intercede with himself, and shall man in tercede with God even for himself, much less for his fellow -creatures ? The glorious army of saints and martyrs were men even as we are, and equally need the blood of Christ to wash them from the pollution of their human nature, and to present them a pure and living sacrifice before the throne of God. Shall we flee to the host of angelic beings as our mediators and advocates ?
We know not by revelation, nor can we be in formed by reason, whether they are capable of even hearing our prayers. " It is God that justifieth, 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." By partaking equally of the divine and human nature; he is, according to reason, the most appropriate and unexcep tionable Mediator that can be devised between God and man. Being related equally to both, the balance of justice and mercy is poised with an equal hand. He therefore is the true medium and centre of communication, to pour down from God to man all the mercies and blessings, spiritual and temporal, from his kingdom above ; and again, to receive, convey, and recommend to God, all the prayers and thanksgivings, all the sorrows and sufferings, of his kingdom upon earth. Again, who is so fit to appreciate the
SERMO XXVI. 335 strength of our temptations, who can be so sen sibly touched with our sorrows, as that High Priest who was tempted as we are, and " yet without sin ?" Through suffering he was conse crated " the Author and Finisher of our faith ;" in our suffering therefore he will ever experience the tenderest regard, for our afflictions he will feel the liveliest concern. What temptation has befallen us, the weight of which he did not sus tain ? What power of Satan has he not struggled with, in his glorious conquest over sin and death ? Who then shall intercede for our sins and our infirmities, but He who hath encountered their strength ? Who shall be our succour and refuge in our struggles with the world, but He the
great Captain of our salvation, who hath sub dued the world, and led on to the paths of vic tory ? When, then, the infirmities of our nature, the power and virulence of our ghostly enemies, the sinkings of our hearts, evince the necessity of an Intercessor and an Advocate ; when Christ, "who sitteth at the right hand of God," is alone, be cause he alone can be, that Intercessor for us ; an Intercessor, who by previous humiliation and subsequent exaltation, proclaims himself alone, the worthy Advocate of his redeemed people . what remains for us, but to approach in humble confidence to the throne of grace, and having a
336 SERMO XXVI. free access to God, cheerfully to present our ob lation of devotion and duty, with the full per suasion that it shall be accepted ; and amidst all the sins and sorrows of this frail state, to join in the triumphant exclamation of the Apostle, " It is Christ that justifieth, who is he that condemneth ? It is Christ who died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." How shall we stand excused in the sight of God for the neglect of means so gracious, of an Advocate so powerful : our cause is in the hand, not of man but of God. How can we answer for the omis sion of a duty, so sanctified in its very perform ance ? Whether in our private devotions we pour out the sorrows of a penitent heart before our Redeemer, whether we offer on the altar of our God the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in the congregation of the faithful, by Scripture we know that our offerings are purified by faith ;
we are assured they are accepted : and to the hopes of accepted prayer, the soul of every suf fering Christian, even though afflictions gather round, though the fear of death may come upon him, may, as on " the wings of a dove, flee away and be at rest." One awful consideration still remains, how short a time it will be to every one of us, before the mediatorial kingdom of Christ shall be no
SERMO XXVI. 337 more, and he shall appear at the last day to be our Judge ? When the end shall come, and the last enemy, Death, shall be put under his feet, then the cause of mediation ceasing, the king dom will cease with it. He will then be no longer entreated. He will appear at the last tremendous day to render unto every man ac cording to his due. Let not the intercession of our Redeemer and Advocate be passed unnoticed, unregarded by us. The hour will come, when the gates of mercy will be closed upon us for ever. Then will it be a fearful thing to answer for ourselves before the Searcher of all hearts, to answer to him who loved, for contempt of the love he shewed us, to answer to our Intercessor and Advocate, for scorning the mercies of such a mediation. While then we have time, let us prostrate ourselves at the throne of grace, cast ing all our care on the Lord, " for he careth for us ;" offering ourselves before him as the re deemed of his hand, as the sanctified of his Holy Spirit, as the pardoned creatures of his continual mediation for us, knowing that if we partake not of his intercession here, neither shall we partake of his glory hereafter.
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