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sin; verse 3. for we are, by nature, the children of his wrath, we are strangers and enemies in our minds, and by wicked works; Col. i. 21. We are afar off from God, without God, and without hope in the world; Eph. ii. 12. Though this be spoken particularly of the Ephesian idolaters, yet, in a sense, it is true of every man, in a state of nature.
2. God appears willing to be reconciled, ready to receive us upon our return to him, in this chapter. In other places of scripture, he is represented sitting on a throne of grace, approachable by sinful creatures; and this is sufficiently implied in verse 4. He is rich in mercy, and has loved us with great love.
3. He has appointed his own beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be the Reconciler. We are utterly unworthy of his favour or love; nor will a holy God suffer guilty creatures to come near him, without a proper and honourable Mediator; and since we could not provide ourselves of such a friend, he has appointed his own Son to that office. God has set him forth to be a propitiation.
4. He makes us willing to be reconciled: He saves us by free grace, and when he has ordained faith to be the way of our return to him, he works that faith in us, by his own Spirit. Verse 8. By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Let us consider now, what are our duties, according to this representation of the character, which God the Father sustains here. From all these things it plainly follows, that in our religious transactions, we are eminently to look to God the Father, as the person who is our original Maker, Lord and Sovereign; whose laws we have broken, whose anger we have incurred, and from whom we have separated ourselves by sin: We are to seek peace with him, and reconciliation to him. We must return to him as our rightful Lord, and address ourselves to him by humble repentance, as sitting on the throne of Majesty, and vindicating the rights of godhead: To him we must pray, and apply ourselves, eminently to him as the first Spring of mercy, the Author of all grace, and ascribe to him the glory of his condescending wisdom and love; we must offer him our thanks and praises, that he is willing to be reconciled, that he has sent his Son to be the Reconciler, and appointed a way of reconciliation. This is the general current of scripture language, both in precept and in example; and the chapter, where my text is, as well as the whole epistle, plainly leads us to this practice.
II. We come next to enquire more particularly, how Christ the Son of God, is represented as the medium, through whom we have access to the Father, for our reconciliation is attributed to him, he is our peace; verse 14. Now
Christ becomes our Mediator of reconciliation, eminently, these five ways:
1. By his incarnation, that is, by taking our flesh and blood upon him: And thus he became a man amongst men: The Son of God, who is one with the Father in godhead, became one with us in human nature. The word, who was God, and who was with God, the same word was made flesh, and dwelt with us; John i. 14. When he became Emmanuel, God with us, he did not only unite God and man in his own person, but since he came in the likeness of sinful flesh; Rom. viii. 3. he did, as it were, exemplify an union of peace and reconciliation between a holy God and sinful man. His very incarnation gave us a pledge of that friendship, which he came to restore between God the Creator and his guilty creatures, who were before at enmity, and strangers, both by the apostacy of our first parents, and our own continued rebellions.
2. Christ came to reconcile us to God, by fulfilling perfect obedience to the law, which we had broken, and by sustaining the punishment and death, which was due to our sins. This we could never suffer, and outlive the suffering; for the broken law threatened death, but provided no resurrection. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, taking flesh and blood upon him, took our sins also, and became a sacrifice for sin; he bare our sins in his body on the cursed tree; 1 Pet. ii. 24. and, by his blood, has made complete atonement for sin, has repaired the honour of the law, and government of God, which we had highly dishonoured; and thus he has made a way for the exercise of the mercy and forgiveness of God, without any disgrace to his governing justice; and has laid a happy foundation for our approach to God the Father, though we are, by nature, strangers and rebels, guilty and condemned.
3. Christ ascended to heaven, to present his own sacrifice before the throne of God, even as the high-priest, under the Jewish dispensation, went into the holy of holies, to present the blood of the sacrifice of atonement, and sprinkle it before the mercy-seat. This was the chief glory and perfection of the priesthood of Aaron, and according to the apostle's reasonings, in the epistle to the Hebrews, chapters vii. viii. ix. This seems to be the ultimate glory and perfection of the priesthood of Christ, viz. his entrance into heaven with his own blood, there to appear in the presence of God for us; Heb. ix. 11, 12-24. There he presents himself, not only as the Lamb that has been slain, but he appears, in his own pure and perfect mediatorial righteousness, before God, in the name of sinful man; as Aaron the high-priest, in the name of the people of Israel, appeared in the most holy place before God; not only with the blood of atone
tment in his hand, but with holiness to the Lord, inscribed on the mitre, on his forehead; Ex. xxviii. 36. God the Father beholds his only begotten Son there, as the great Representative of all his children: He beholds his own law satisfied and fulfilled, in his perfect obedience, even to death: and this is an everlasting foundation for reconciliation and peace between God and sinners.
4. Christ lives for ever to intercede for sinful man, to plead with God for mercy to his guilty creatures. Perhaps, in the nature of things, this is not much different from the former particular; for his presenting of his sacrifice, as for ever fresh in the virtues of it before the Father, is a sort of intercession. His blood has a voice in it, and his very appearance there is a powerful pleading. But however, since the high-priest of old, not only presented the atoning blood, but also offered incense in the holy of holies, which is a type of intercession, we may preperly enough make some distinction between them, and represent these two transactions of Christ, as our high-priest, in a distinct light. He is able to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him, since he lives for ever to make intercession for them; Heb. vii. 25.
5. He is represented as dwelling in heaven, as our great High-priest, not only to present our services, our prayers and our praises to God, and make them acceptable to the Father, through his infinite merit, notwithstanding all their imperfections, but also to introduce our departing souls into the presence of God, without spot or blemish; Eph. v. 27. and to present his whole church, at the great day, before his own and his Father's glory, with exceeding joy; Jude 24. This is the last great act of his mediatorial office, and by this we obtain a full and complete access to God, to dwell with him for ever, in the regions of light and joy.
Now let us consider, how we ought to regulate our practice in our return from sin, and our approaches to God, in a correspondency with these instances of the mediation of Christ.
From this account of things, it follows, that whensoever we sinful and guilty creatures, address ourselves to God the Father, it must be done in, and by the name and interest of Jesus Christ, as our only Mediator. We must humbly ask forgiveness of our sins, for the sake of the sufferings of the Son of God; we must depend entirely for our acceptance with the Father, on the virtue of his perfect obedience even to death; and entreat of the Father, that he would be reconciled to us, upon the account of his own Son Jesus, utterly disclaiming all merit and worthiness of our own, renouncing all other Saviours and all other hopes, for VOL. II,
Christ alone is the way to God; No man cometh to the Father but by me; John xiv. 6.
We must give thanks to the Son of God, for his amazing condescension to take our nature on him, and dwell in flesh and blood; and for his voluntary submission to death, to redeem such guilty creatures as we are. We must trust in him for complete salvation, both from sin and hell, and resign ourselves, as guilty, sinful and perishing creatures, into his hands, and to his methods of relief. All our prayers, and acts of worship and obedience, must be recommended to the Father by his name, and through his intercession.
After every fresh instance of sin, we must fly to him as our faithful advocate in heaven, and have daily recourse to him, as our great Sacrifice and our Mediator; because our sins are daily renewed in this imperfect state. In short we must surrender ourselves up to him, that he may bring us as near to God, as this present state of things will admit; and when we are dying, we must commit our departing spirits to him as Stephen did, that he may present us to his Father, when we leave this sinful and wretched world. Thus we have access to God the Father, by his Son Jesus Christ, who is our great Peace-maker.
I grant, that several other necessary duties, which we owe to Christ our Lord, might be mentioned in a more distinct and explicit manner, viz. the acknowledging him as our great Prophet, receiving his divine instructions with an humble faith, and imitating his sacred example with holy care; the submission to him as our Lord and King, yielding a ready and chearful obedience to his commands, and a humble subjection to his providential dispensations; to which I may add, depending on him for daily grace, and the promised aids of his blessed Spirit, as being appointed of the Father to bestow them; for he is exalted to be a Prince, as well as a Saviour; and indeed, Christ doth promote this great work of the salvation of men, by his universal government of the visible and invisible worlds, with this view and design by giving and continuing his gospel, to particular nations, by sending forth his ministers and messengers to invite sinnners to be reconciled to God, and by the communications of his Spirit to men. But these things do not appear directly to be the present view of the apostle in my text, while he is describing Christ as a medium of our access and reconciliation to God, chiefly by his death and its influences. And as for the work of the Spirit, that comes next in course to be mentioned.
III. Having shewn the glorious service, which the second person in the Holy Trinity performs for our salvation, according to my text, we come now to speak of the third, that is, the blessed
Spirit of God, who is here represented as one who helps our retarn or access to God the Father, through Jesus Christ; and this he does eminently, in the ways following:
1. He convinces us of sin. He makes is see and feel our dreadful state of wretchedness, because of our guilt in the sight of God. Mankind, by nature, are insensible of their own misery, till the Spirit of God is sent to awaken them, out of their dead sleep, and make them look after a reconciliation to the infinite Majesty of God, whom they have offended. It is the powerful and inward operation of the Spirit, that makes sinners cry out, What shall I do to be saved.
2. The Spirit discovers the mercy of God the Father to us, and assures us that he is willing to be reconciled. This he has done in the word of the gospel, and the promises of grace, which are written and recorded in the bible by the holy men whom he' inspired; and this he reveals also with power and pleasure to the mind of an awakened sinner. Then the guilty soul rejoices, that there is forgiveness with God, and conceives some glimmerings of hope.
3. It is the Spirit, who effectually reveals Christ Jésus to the soul, as the great Reconciler. He discovers who Christ is, and what he has done for us, and sets him before us in all the glories of his mediation. He makes the soul see the all-sufficency of his sacrifice to atone for sin, the efficacy of his interces sion to prevail with God, and his power to save to the uttermost. And all this is according to the promise of Christ;' John xvi. 14. He shall glorify me, for he shall take the things that are mine, and shew them unto you: All the teachings of men, and all the words in the bible, cannot make a sinful creature see such glory in Christ, such grace, and so desirable a salvation, as is done by the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit.
4. It is the Holy Spirit, that makes us willing to return to God, in this way of his own appointment. It is he that powerfully persuades, and inclines us to part with every sin. He works in the heart of a sinner, holy repentance for his past follies; and renews, and changes the corrupt nature of man. It is he forms us after the image of God, and gives us a new and divine spirit and temper. That which is born of the spirit is spirit; John iii. 6. He works faith in us with power, even that living faith, whereby we are interested in Christ the Reconciler, and which is the spring of all holiness. It is through the divine operation of the Spirit of God on our hearts, that we are taught to resign ourselves up to Christ, and to commit all our concerns of salvation into his hands. Hereby we become partakers of the benefits of the life and death of Christ on earth, and