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their lusts; and God, in righteous judgment, often suffers them to find it; but it is not the gospel: the language of the gospel is, These things are written to you, that ye sin not!
The scriptures guard the doctrine of grace, not indeed by limiting its operations to lesser sinners, but by insisting on its mortifying and sanctifying effects. The Apostle Paul, notwithstanding all that be had written on justification by faith, exempts none from condemnation, but those that were in Christ Jesus; and admits none to be in Christ Jesus, but those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. He still declared, If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die. There is a universality pertaining to true holiness, which distinguishes it from all that is spurious. We must be holy in all manner OF CONVERSATION, or there is no real holiness in us. A single wicked way will lead to destruction. The certain perseverance of the saints is not, that a person, having once believed, whether he depart from God or not, shall be finally saved but, that God having put his fear in his heart, he shall not be suffered wholly to depart from him. If any man, therefore, depart utterly from God, he ought to conclude, that the fear of God was not in him. If the blossom go up as the dust, the root was rottenness. If, in times of temptation, we fall away, it is because we have no root in ourselves. If, says the Apostle John, they had been of us. they would no doubt have continued with us; but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Even our partial departures from God must render our state doubtful. When the Galatians doubted the gospel, the Apostle stood in doubt of them; declaring he was afraid of them, lest he had bestowed upon them labour in vain. And had they judged according to evidence, as he did, they must have stood in doubt of themselves, To represent, as some do, that doubts and fears of this kind are the temptations of Satan, or the workings of unbelief, and require to be resisted, as that which is dishonourable to God, is to promote the most dangerous delusion, and to bring the blood of souls apon their own heads. The things which they call the temptations of Satan may be found to be the dictates of an awakened conscience, which they endeavour to lull asleep. Doubts of the goodness or veracity of God, or of the all-sufficiency or willingness
of the Saviour to receive those that come to him are, indeed, dishonourable to God; but doubts of our own sincerity, founded upon our departures in heart and conduct from him, are so far from being sinful, that they are necessary to awaken us to self-examination. Thus the Corinthians, who had sunk into many and great evils, were called upon, not to hold fast the persuasion that, notwithstanding this, their state was safe; but to examine themselves whether they were in the faith, and to prove their ownselves; and assured that, except indeed they were reprobates, or disapproved of God, Jesus Christ was in them—that is, by his word and Spirit, bringing forth fruit.
We proceed to observe,
II. THE SPECIFIC PROVISION FOR THEIR FAULTS AND FAILINGS: And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. This is to prevent despair.
It is here supposed, that though it is the habitual aim of true Christians not to sin, yet, in this world, they are not free from it. Some have fallen into grievous sins, as we too well know, from scripture, observation, and, in many instances, from painful expe rience. Others, who have not fallen so as either to disgrace themselves or the name of Christ, yet have much sin wherewith to reproach themselves, in deeds, or words, or unlawful desires. The petition in the Lord's prayer, forgive us our trespasses, shows that we sin, and need forgiveness, as often as we need our daily bread. If any man imagine himself to have arrived to sinless perfection, he must be wofully blind to the spirituality of the divine law, and to the extent of his obligations. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Farther: It is here suggested, that, whatever be our sin, yet, if we confess it with a contrite heart, and believe in Jesus who died for sinners, and rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father, he will be our advocate, and our sins shall be forgiven for his sake. It was in this way that David was forgiven. It is true, Christ had not then died, nor risen, nor ascended to be the advocate with the Father; but, in his penitential prayer, he believed in him according to the light that he possessed, and which might be much greater than we imagine. His prayer to be purged with hyssop,
doubtless, alluded to the purgations under the law, by dipping a bunch of hyssop in blood, and sprinkling it upon the unclean: but, as none of these ceremonial cleansings were admissible in cases of adultery or murder, he cannot be understood as speaking literally. He must, therefore, have believed in a purgation of which this was only a shadow.
It was in this way that the Israelites were forgiven, when praying with their hands spread towards the temple. It was not to the building that they directed their prayer, but to Him who dwelt therein, between the cherubim, upon the mercy-seat. It was to the Lord God of Israel, as thus dwelling upon the mercy-seat, that Jonah, at the last extremity, looked and lived: Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.
In this way, whatever sins we have committed, we must seek for mercy; and, for our encouragement, we are assured of an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
But here we must be a little more particular. Here are three parties concerned; the Father, the criminal who has sinned against him, and the Advocate who undertakes his cause. The Father, in this case, sustains the character of a Judge: God the Judge of all. The criminal is supposed to stand before the judgment-seat; not, however, in an impenitent state of mind, but like Job, when he said, Behold I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken, but I will not answer; yea, twice, but I will proceed no further.I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes! Or like David, when he said, I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me. Against THEE, THEE ONLY, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight; that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest! Here comes in the Advocate. The sinner could not be heard for himself, nor pardoned in his own name but, believing in Christ, HE undertakes to plead his cause. He had said himself, in effect, Do not condemn me!' To this the Advocate adds, ' Do not condemn him!' !
On this part of the subject, we must be still more particular. An Advocate, especially one that undertakes the cause of sinners,
requires to have an interest with the Judge; to be interested for the sinner; while pleading for him, not to palliate, but condemn his sin; to be fully acquainted with his case; and to have something to plead that shall effectually overbalance his unworthiness. Let us inquire, whether all these qualifications be not found in our Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1. He has the highest interest in the favour of the Judge. For why? He is the only begotten Son, who dwelleth in his bosom, and who never offended him at any time, but always did that which was pleasing in his sight. So well pleased was the Father with his obedience unto death, that he highly exalted him, giving him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand. Well might he say, when on earth,
I knew that thou hearest me always; for he had, in prophecy, invi
ted him to prefer his request: Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Who can doubt the success of a cause in the
hands of such an advocate?
2. He is deeply interested in favour of the sinner. If we had to be tried before an earthly tribunal, and wished to engage an advocate, we should certainly prefer one that would so identify himself with us as to be deeply interested in the issue. When, at Horeb, Moses pleaded for Israel to be forgiven, he requested to die rather than not succeed: Oh, said he, this people have sinned a great sin,-yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written! This was the true spirit of an advocate; and he succeeded. But our Advocate has gone farther than requesting to die: he actually died for us; and his death is the propitiation for our sins, on which his advocateship is founded.
3. While pleading for sinners, he does not palliate, but condemns their sin. If Moses had attempted to apologize for Israel's idolatry, his interposition must have been rejected. And if it had been possible for Christ himself to have been an advocate for sin, he
could not have been heard. But he was no less averse from sin than the Judge himself. If he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet was there no participation of it. Though he descended and lived among sinners, yet, in respect of character, he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from them. While advocating their cause, it was in his own proper character of Jesus Christ THE RIGHTEOUS. It was because of his proceeding on these just and honourable principles, that the Father approved and honoured him: Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
4. He is perfectly acquainted with the case of those whose causc he undertakes. There are cases, which, if the advocate had known all, he would not have undertaken; and which, for want of his being in possession of the whole truth, fail in his hands. But our advocate knows the worst of us. He needs not that any should testify of man; for he knows what is in man. When Simon the Pharisee saw a woman that was a sinner standing at the feet of Jesus, washing them with her tears, wiping them with the hairs of her head, kissing them, and anointing them with the ointment, and all this without receiving any repulse from him; he suspected that he was deceived, and concluded in bis own mind, that he could not be that prophet that should come into the world. Had he known her true character, he supposed he would not have permitted her to touch him! To convince Simon that he was not ignorant of her character, he, by answering his private thoughts, proved himself to be fully his; and proceeded to plead the cause of the penitent sinner, though her sins were many, and to justify himself in receiving and forgiving her.
Our Advocate not only knows all our sins, but all our wants; and therefore knows how to provide for them. If previous to the prayer for Peter, it had been referred to him what should be asked on his behalf, having no suspicion of any peculiar temptation being at hand, he might not have been able to say what it was that he most needed. But his Advocate knowing the temptation that awaited him, framed his plan on his behalf accordingly: I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.