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These observations concerning the office of a Mediator, as well known among men, may enable us to understand more clearly the doctrine of scr:pture respecting the Mediatorial Office of Emmanuel : and we may very properly argue from them, in something of the same manner that Paul did from the office of high-priest among the Jews, when he wrote to them concerning the high-priesthood of Christ. This, indeed, was a divinely-appointed type and shadow of the subject that the apostle illustrated and confirmed by it; whereas our arguments, from the office of a Mediator among men, derive their force from analogy, or the particulars in which the cases coincide: yet as the Lord himself has represented the office of Christ under the idea of a Mediator, it is manifest that he intended to assist, and not to mislead or confuse our apprehensions, by this allusion; and this authorizes us to make what use we can, with caution and sobriety, of the case alluded to, in order to explain more clearly the subject which is illustrated by, it.
We must, therefore, in the next place, reflect on the need there was for “ a Mediator between God and man.” Had the human species never forfeited the favour, or incurred the displeasure of their bountiful Creator, a Mediator could neve have been wanted, for he was of himself suffieiently disposed to favour and bless the work of his own hands. Had not man been brought into a state of alienation from God, and had he not been exposed to his just indignation, no reconciliation, and consequently no peace-maker could have been required. The angels in heaven approach their God and Father without the intervention of a Mediator; and so doubtless did man, before sin had made a breach between God and him. When the first Adam had broken the commandment, and forfeited the covenant of his Creator; and so sin and death had entered into the world, to pass upon the whole race that was about to descend from him ; then was “the second Adam, the Lord from heaven," promised, to be the Mediator of a new covenant, under the title of « the seed of the woman, who should bruise the serpent's head.” Thus the entrance of sin gave rise to the whole plan of a Mediator; and the malignity or desert of sin alone required such an exalted Mediator, and such a meritorious mediation, as the scripture reveals and proposes to us. For if a righteous and holy God had not viewed sin as so evil in its nature and effects, that it would be utterly inconsistent with his glory to show mercy to transgressors, unless some constitution of this kind were previously formed ; that love, which provided the Mediator, would have sufficed (so to speak) to induce him to pardon them without one. We must not, therefore, imagine, that the Mediation of Christ is needful, in order to prevail with God to pity, love, and save sinners : on the contrary, we should consider it as the grand effect of his compassion and good will, and as intended to render the exercise of his plenteous mercy consistent with the honour of his justice, and conducive to the harmonious display of all his perfections.
Men had forfeited their Creator's favour, and deserved his anger, by transgression ; they had also lost his holy image, and become vile and miserable,
“ vessels of wrath fitted for destruction:" but it pleased their offended Sovereign, to the praise of his glory," and the discovery of his infinite and everlasting mercy and bounty (for God is Love), to purpose the reconciliation, recovery, and eternal felicity of an innumerable multitude of the fallen
It did not, however, become him, as the infinitely righteous and holy governor of the universe, to show such favour to the guilty and unholy, without adopting some decisive method of showing his judgment concerning their crimes and deserts : otherwise it might have been supposed, that he did not wholly abhor sin; that he meant to desist from the demands of his violated law; that it needed not to have been made so strict ; that it was not requisite for his rational creatures on all occasions to obey it, or that transgressors should be punished according to its sanction; and that it was owing to some other cause, than his perfect justice and holy abhorrence of evil, that he so severely executed vengeance on some of his rebellious subjects. To obviate such conclusions, it became the God of glory to devise
some plan, according to which, the largest exercise of his pardoning mercy and saving grace might consist with the most affecting display of his avenging justice and hatred of iniquity. For this purpose, as is manifest from the Scriptures, his infinite wisdom and love had formed, and then revealed the plan of a Mediator, through whom a new covenant was arranged and proposed to sinners; according to which, all things pertaining to eternal life are freely bestowed for his sake, on all who apply for them in the appointed way. “ Thus the riches of God's mercy have abounded towards us, in all wisdom and prudence,” (Eph. i. 7, 8). Through the intervention of a Mediator sinners are saved, and yet the Lord does not so much as seem to favour sin; nay, he in the most decisive manner shows his judgment of what punishment it deserves, his holy abhorrence of it, and his determination in all possible cases, " to magnify his law and make it honourable.”
If, in discoursing on such subjects, we are constrained to accommodate our language and reasonings to the conceptions and usages of men, we do no more than imitate the sacred writers, and can aptly express our meaning in the words which they have used before us: whereas they who object to such explanations, are obliged to represent the style of Scripture as highly (if not absurdly) figurative, and frequently to caution their disciples against a too literal explanation of it: nay, it costs them much labour, as well as great ingenuity, to furnish such interpretations as accord with their rational systems, and which common readers could never have thought of: and what is this but an insinuation that the sacred writers have used a language extremely suited to mislead and confuse the unlearned and simple part of mankind? But indeed the apostle has shown at large, (Rom. iii), that the mediation of Christ was intended especially for this end, " that God might be just and the justifier of the believer," " a just God and a Saviour.”
If we examine the subject more minutely, we shall find, that the mediation of Christ is of that kind, which required such a person to sustain and perform it as the Scriptures testify him to be. If any one should interpose between an offended sovereign and his rebellious subjects, in order that, for his sake, exemption from punishment, and the grant of valuable privileges should be conferred on them; he must stand high in the estimation of the prince, and be a person of known worth and dignity among all who are acquainted with the transaction, otherwise there would be no ground to expect that his requests would be attended to, or any care taken, if they were to manifest the demerit of the pardoned offenders, or the clemency and bounty of their reconciled sovereign. But what man, or mere creature, could thus interpose between the infinite God and the apostate children of men ? Who could have thought of requesting, that for his sake, and at his instance, all the crimes of those who came in his name, should be pardoned, all their wants supplied, and all spiritual and eternal blessings conferred upon them? Would not such an intrusion have been considered as an act of rebellion, or at least a preference given to the happiness of rebels above the glory of God? Who, among the angels of heaven, or any of the creatures that God'has made, could pretend to personal dignity, excellency, merit, or services, sufficient to authorize such a requisition?' Or how could it have been imagined, that if the Lord did not see good to spare and bless sinners for his own name's sake, he would be induced to do it for the sake of a derived, dependent being, who lived, moved, and existed in and by him alone? Had it been consistent with, or conducive to the display of his glory, to have saved sinners without an atonement, he would not have wanted any external inducement to do it: if it were not, could any one possibly prevail with him to dishonour himself? Or could any mere created being have undertaken to render the exercise of mercy and grace to sinners consistent with his perfect justice, and the honour of his law ? Alas! their best services must all be due for themselves, and on account of benefits already conferred: even their own felicity, strictly speaking, must be gratuitous, not merited: nor hath one of them power to endure the punishment of a single transgression, without fia nally sinking under it, for the wages of sin is death. So that it cannot be conceived, that the office of a Mediator between God and man, which Christ performs, could possibly have been sustained by any mere creature; or that any of them had sufficient love to have induced him to undertake it for the benefit of the unholy and rebellious. But when the eternal Son of the Father, when he who created and upholds all worlds, for whom all things were made, and whom all angels worship, voluntarily engaged himself to mediate a peace between the offended Sovereign of the universe and his sinful creatures : “ to the principalities and powers in heavenly places was known—the mani. fold wisdom of God:” and all the holy intelligences that ever have been, or shall be made acquainted with this grand design, must perceive, that his personal dignity and excellence, his ineffable union with, and relation to the Father, as well as his boundless power, love, and holiness, rendered him in all respects the proper person to accomplish it, and bring it to a happy and glorious event; and that he only was competent for such an undertaking.
If a Mediator was to be constituted for such ends as have been stated, it must be proper that the Lord should choose and appoint him to this important office. “ No one taketh this honour to himself, but he that is called of God.” A self-appointed Mediator must have been deemed an intruder: the criminals could not reasonably expect to have the nomination of him; they had no just ground of complaint: the whole design must be formed for their relief and advantage; the rights and glory of God must be first considered and secured in the execution of it; and he alone could know whom it became him to entrust with so vast a concern, as involved in it not only the interests of his universal kingdom, but the eternal honour of his own great name. We know to whom he hath committed this office; and we are sure from the event, that he saw none else in heaven or earth whom he could so properly have appointed to it; for he does nothing in vain, and would not have sent his only begotten Son on a design which one of his servants could have executed with the same success and advantage. But we may understand enough in this matter to perceive that it would have been highly improper for the infinite God to have appointed a mere creature to such an office, and to have entrusted his own glory, the salvation of innumerable souls, and the interests of his everlasting kingdom into such hands : in such a causė," he puts no trust in his servants, and charges even his angels with folly," (Job iv. 18). Yet, at the same time, this Mediator is, in all respects, suited to our case, and worthy of our confidence. If it had been revealed, that God would deal with us through a Mediator, and we had been required to look out for one on whom we could most entirely and unreservedly depend, even when eternal happiness or misery was at stake, what could we have done? We could never have entrusted such an important cause in the hands of any mere man: the more we had considered the matter in all its difficulties and consequences, the greater hesitation should we have felt to confide it to the hands of a mere creature, as all are changeable ; and we should have been apprehensive, lest some want of power, love, truth, wisdom, or constancy should induce a failure, when our eternal all was at stake. But we could never have thought of such a Mediator as our offended God hath himself provided, appointed, and revealed, “ who is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever,” and who is “ the true and the holy One,” Emmanuel, “ God over all, blessed for evermore.” Here, then, we can have no ground for fear : unbelief alone can hesitate. He whose power sustains the universe, is able to save our souls in all possible cases. He who is worthy to be entrusted with the rights of God, and the eternal glory of his name, must also be worthy to be entrusted with our immortal interests (for our rights in this respect are all forfeited): and he who, perfect in justice and purity himself, could so pity and condescend to guilty, polluted creatures, as to undertake such an office wholly for their benefit, cannot want love to accomplish whatever is wanting for the eternal salvation of all who accept of his mediation.
But the appointed method in which this great Mediator performs his most gracious design, hath laid a still more firm foundation for our unshaken confidence. It was proper that the terms of our reconciliation should be proposed by the Lord himself; and as these related to the Mediator, they required him to assume our nature into personal union with his Deity, that, as "God manifest in the flesh,” he might stand related to us also, in the most intimate manner, as our brother, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh; that so he might properly represent us, undertake our cause as interested in it by the ties of one common nature, and encourage our most unlimited confidence in his compassion and love. Thus hath he humbled, emptied, and impoverished himself; as they, in behalf of whom he mediated,
were partakers of flesh and blood, he also took part of the same:" "he is not ashamed to call them brethren:” and now, as his union with the Father, in the divine nature, renders him a proper person to vindicate his rights, and display his glory ; so, in virtue of his union with us in the human nature, we may most cheerfully rely on him to take care of our immortal souls. This also shows the propriety of his interposing in our behalf; for some connection or relation is supposed to subsist between the Mediator and those for whom he acts; else, why does he solicit favour for them, rather than for others in similar circumstances ? And even if the plea be supported by some payment or satisfaction made, it seems proper that there should be a ground on which to determine for whom this should be done, and to whom the benefit of it should belong. When, therefore, the Son of Gud undertook the office of Mediator between God and man, he took not on him the nature of angels, as he meant not to mediate on their behalf; but he assumed the human nature: and this renders it very obvious and natural for us to conclude, that all he did and suffered on earth, and all he now performs in heaven, in the character of Mediator, was exclusively intended for the benefit of men, whose nature he bears, for whom he mediates, and to whose account the whole will be imputed, that is, to such of them as accede to, and avail themselves of his mediation. For this also must be taken into the account, as if men who have this divine constitution stated to them, with suitable evidence, do not approve of the Mediator, but reject his mediation, they of course exclude themselves from the benefit of it. We shall, in the two following Essays, consider more particularly the righteousness and atonement of our great Mediator, and his continual intercession in heaven for us. It is indeed almost impossible to discourse in general concerning his mediation, without in some degree adverting to these subjects, but it would be improper any farther to anticipate them in this place.
It does not seem necessary to attempt a laboured proof, that our Lord's mediation is of that nature, and instituted for the purposes which have been stated. The general language of Scripture conveys this idea of it, to those who understand and believe it in its obvious and literal import. In particular, the scope of St Paul's reasoning in the epistle to the Hebrews, establishes the doctrine under consideration. Was Moses a typical mediator, at the giving of the law, that through his intervention the national covenant might be ratified between God and the people? This only shadowed forth a better covenant, founded on better promises, which Christ hath mediated between the Lord and his spiritual Israel: and “ this person was counted worthy of more honour than Moses, being a Son over his own house, which he had builded; whereas Moses was no more than a servant," or even a part of the house itself (Heb. iii. 1–6). Were the high priests, of the order of Aaron, typical mediators between God and the people, in virtue of their perpetual sacrifices, and burning of incense ? The insufficiency and unprofitableness of such mediators, and all their sacrifices and services, must be shown, to make it manifest that another priest must arise, after another order, whose dignity, excellency, and invaluable ministrations might really effect those ends which the other merely prefigured and represented as in a picture, or rather as an indistinct and feeble shadow. So that through “ Through
Him, access was given to believers, to the mercy-seat of God, in the holy places not made with hands; whereas, before, the very shadow of this blessing was concealed by the veil ; and none might approach to it on pain of death, but the high priest alone ; nor he more than one day in a year, with the blood of the sacrifices, and the burning of incense. What do all these arguments (which fill up more than half this epistle) signify, but that Jesus is such a Mediator as hath been described ? The apostle says, « that there is one Mediator between God and man; even the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.) No doubt he is truly man, and performs his mediation in human nature; for he assumed our Hesh for this very purpose ; but the apostle, by declaring him to be the one Mediator, excludes all other mediators. Moses, and the priests of Aaron's line were, in a certain sense, mediators between God and man; and every believer, when he prays for others, in some degree interposes his requests between God and them, to seek merev in their behalf. Yet Christ is the only Mediator; because he alone is capable of, and appointed to perform such a mediation as hath been described, in virtue of his personal dignity and the ransom he hath made. him we have access to the Father.” He “ is our Peace-maker;" our Advocate with the Father.” He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father but by me,” (John xiv. 6.) So that no man ever did, or ever will, find acceptance with God, who rejects Christ's mediation. We must come to God in his name, asking all blessings for his sake, and presenting all our services by his hands, and through his intercession, even giving thanks to God and the Father through him.”
In this view of the subject, we may consider Christ as the Mediator be-, tween God and man, in such a sense, that no sinner on earth can be found to whom we may not propose all the benefits of his mediation, provided he truly “come to God by faith in Christ;" whereas fallen angels, and those men who have died in their sins, are wholly excluded from this benefit by the very constitution of the covenant which he mediated. On the other hand, all other mediators, and all attempts to approach God without a Mediator, are an affront both to the Father and the Son; even as the sacrifices which Israelites offered contrary to the law were an abomination to the Lord. As, therefore, we must shortly meet our offended Sovereign at his awful tribunal, let us now avail ourselves of this inestimable appointment; and constantly approach his throne of grace, through our faithful and merciful “ High-priest and Mediator; that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in every time of need.”
On the Merits and Atonement of Christ.
The opinion, that the Deity might be appeased by expiatory sacrifices, has been very widely diffused among the human race; and the attempt has generally been made by shedding the blood, and burning a part of the body of some useful animal. This notion and practice seem very remote from the dictates of our natural reason: and it is extremely improbable, that they should have been the result of man's invention. We may, therefore, most rationally conclude, that it is wholly the doctrine of revelation, and the appointment of God, handed down by tradition from the progenitors of our race, to the several branches of their posterity; and it is certain that we meet with it in the Bible, immediately after the entrance of sin. When Cain's oblation of the first fruits of the earth was rejected, and Abel's sacrifice of the firstlings of the flock was accepted; we may naturally conclude, that the latter was presented according to the Divine appointment, and that