C H R I S T
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
Published by E. Chandler, J. Wilson,
and C. Doe, 1692.
Published four years after John Bunyan's death.
[I. OF THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST.]
IRST, We will begin with HIS INTERCESSION, and will show you, First, What that is; Second, For what he intercedes; and, Third, What is also to be inferred from Christ's making intercession for us.
First, I begin, then, with the first; that is, to show you what intercession is. Intercession is prayer; but all prayer is not intercession. Intercession, then, is that prayer that is made by a third person about the concerns that are between two. And it may be made either to set them at further difference, or to make them friends; for intercession may be made against, as well as for, a person or people. 'Wot ye not what the Scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel.' (Rom 11:2) But the intercession that we are now to speak of is not an intercession of this kind, not an intercession against, but an intercession for a people. 'He ever liveth to make intercession for them.' The high priest is ordained for, but not to be against the people. 'Every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God,' to make reconciliation for the sins of the people; or 'that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins.' (Heb 5:1) This, then, is intercession; and the intercession of Christ is to be between two, between God and man, for man's good. And it extendeth itself unto these: 1. To pray that the elect may be brought all home to him; that is, to God. 2. To pray that their sins committed after conversion may be forgiven them. 3. To pray that their graces which they receive at conversion may be maintained and supplied. 4. To pray that their persons may be preserved unto his heavenly kingdom.
Second, This is the intercession of Christ, or that for which he doth make intercession.
1. He prays for all the elect, that they may be brought home to God, and so into the unity of the faith, &c. this is clear, for that he saith, 'Neither pray I for these alone'; that is, for those only that are converted; 'but for them also which shall believe on me through their word'; for all them that shall, that are appointed to believe; or, as you have it a little above, 'for them which thou hast given me.' (John 17:9,20, Isa 53:12) And the reason is, for that he hath paid a ransom for them. Christ, therefore, when he maketh intercession for the ungodly, and all the unconverted elect are such, doth but petitionarily ask for his own, his purchased ones, those for whom he died before, that they might be saved by his blood.
2. When any of them are brought home to God, he yet prays for them; namely, that the sins which through infirmity they, after conversion, may commit, may also be forgiven them.
This is showed us by the intercession of the high priest under the law, that was to bear away the iniquities of the holy things of the children of Israel; yea, and also by his atonement for them that sinned; for that it saith, 'And the priest shall make an atonement for him, for his sin which he hath sinned, and it shall be forgiven him.' (Lev 5:10) This also is intimated even where our Lord doth make intercession, saying, 'I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.' (John 17:15) That Christ prayed that the converted should be kept from all manner of commission of sin, must not be supposed, for that is the way to make his intercession, at least in some things, invalid, and to contradict himself; for, saith he, 'I know that thou hearest me always.' (John 11:42) But the meaning is, I pray that thou wouldest keep them from soul-damning delusions, such as are unavoidably such; also that thou wouldest keep them from the soul-destroying evil of every sin, of ever temptation. Now this he doth by his prevailing and by his pardoning grace.
3. In his intercession he prayeth also that those graces which we receive at conversion may be maintained and supplied. This is clear where he saith, 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.' (Luke 22:31,32) Ay, may some say, he is said to pray here for the support and supply of faith, but doth it therefore follow that he prayed for the maintaining and supply of all our graces? Yes, in that he prayed for the preservation of our faith, he prayed for the preservation of all our graces; for faith is the mother grace, the root grace, the grace that hath all others in the bowels of it, and that from the which all others flow; yea, it is that which gives being to all our other graces, and that by which all the rest do live. Let, then, faith be preserved, and all graces continue and live—that is, according to the present state, health, and degree of faith. So, then, Christ prayed for the preservation of every grace when he prayed for the preservation of faith. That text also is of the same tendency where he saith, 'Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given men.' (John 17:11) Keep them in thy fear, in the faith, in the true religion, in the way of life by thy grace, by thy power, by thy wisdom, &c. This must be much of the meaning of this place, and he that excludes this sense will make but poor work of another exposition.
4. He also in his intercession prayeth that our persons be preserved, and brought safe unto his heavenly kingdom. And this he doth, (1.) By pleading interest in them. (2.) By pleading that he had given, by promise, glory to them. (3.) By pleading his own resolution to have it so. (4.) By pleading the reason why it must be so.
(1.) He prays that their persons may come to glory, for that they are his, and that by the best of titles: 'Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.' (John 17:6) Father, I will have them; Father, I will have them, for they are mine: 'Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.' What is mine, my wife, or my child, or my jewel, or my joy, sure I may have it with me. Thus, therefore, he pleads or cries in his intercession, that our persons might be preserved to glory: They are mine, 'and thou gavest them me.'
(2.) He also pleads that he had given—given already, that is, in the promise—glory to them, and therefore they must not go without it. 'And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.' (John 17:22) Righteous men, when they give a good thing by promise, they design the performance of that promise; nay, they more than design it, they purpose, they determine it. As the mad prophet also saith of God, in another case, 'Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?' (Num 23:19) Hath Christ given us glory, and shall we not have it? Yea, hath the truth itself bestowed it upon us, and shall those to whom it is given, even given by Scripture of truth, be yet deprived thereof?
(3.) He pleads in his interceding that they might have glory; his own resolution to have it so. 'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.' (John 17:24) Behold ye here, he is resolved to have it so. It must be so. It shall be so. I will have it so. We read of Adonijah, that his father never denied him in anything. He never said to him, 'Why hast thou done so?' (1 Kings 1:6) Indeed, he denied him the kingdom; for his brother was heir of that from the Lord. How much more will our Father let our Lord Jesus have his mind and will in this, since he also is as willing to have it so as is the Son himself. 'Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.' (Luke 12:32) Resolution will drive things far, especially resolution to do that which none but they that cannot hinder shall oppose. Why this is the case, the resolution of our Intercessor is, that we be preserved to glory; yea, and this resolution he pleads in his intercession: 'Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am,' &c. (John 17:24) Must it not, therefore, now be so?
(4.) He also, in the last place, in this his intercession, urges a reason why he will have it so, namely, 'That they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me; for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.' (verse 24) And this is a reason to the purpose; it is as if he had said, Father, these have continued with me in my temptations; these have seen me under all my disadvantages; these have seen me in my poor, low, contemptible condition; these have seen what scorn, reproach, slanders, and disgrace I have borne for thy sake in the world; and now I will have them also be where they shall see me in my glory. I have told them that I am thy Son, and they have believed that; I have told them that thou lovest me, and they have believed that; I have also told them that thou wouldest take me again to glory, and they have believed that; but they have not seen my glory, nor can they but be like the Queen of Sheba, they will but believe by the halves unless their own eyes do behold it. Besides, Father, these are they that love me, and it will be an increase of their joy if they may but see me in glory; it will be as a heaven to their hearts to see their Saviour in glory. I will, therefore, that those which 'thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory.' This, therefore, is a reason why Christ Jesus our Lord intercedes to have his people with him in glory.
Third, I come now to the third thing, namely, to show you what is to be inferred from Christ's making intercession for us.
1. This is to be inferred from hence, that saints—for I will here say nothing of those of the elect uncalled—do ofttimes give occasion of offence to God, even they that have received grace; for intercession is made to continue one in the favour of another, and to make up those breaches that, at any time, shall happen to be made by one to the alienating of the affections of the other. And thus he makes reconciliation for iniquity; for reconciliation may be made for iniquity two ways: first, by paying of a price; secondly, by insisting upon the price paid for the offender by way of intercession. Therefore you read that as the goat was to be killed, so his blood was, by the priest, to be brought within the veil, and, in a way of intercession, to be sprinkled before and upon the mercy-seat: 'Then shall he kill the goat of the sin-offering, that is, for the people, and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy-seat, and before the mercy-seat; and he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation that remaineth among them, in the midst of their uncleanness.' (Lev 16:15,16) This was to be done, as you see, that the tabernacle, which was the place of God's presence and graces, might yet remain among the children of Israel, notwithstanding their uncleannesses and transgressions. This, also, is the effect of Christ's intercession; it is that the signs of God's presence and his grace might remain among his people, notwithstanding they have, by their transgressions, so often provoked God to depart from them.
2. By Christ's intercession I gather, that awakened men and women, such as the godly are, dare not, after offence given, come in their own names to make unto God an application for mercy. God, in himself, is a consuming fire, and sin has made the best of us as stubble is to fire; wherefore, they may not, they cannot, they dare not approach God's presence for help but by and through a mediator and intercessor. When Israel saw the fire, the blackness and darkness, and heard the thunder, and lightning, and the terrible sound of the trumpet, 'they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.' (Exo 20:19, Deut 18:16) Guilt, and sense of the disparity that is betwixt God and us, will make us look out for a man that may lay his hand upon us both, and that may set us right in the eyes of our Father again. This, I say, I infer from the intercession of Christ; for, if there had been a possibility of our ability to have approached God with advantage without, what need had there been of the intercession of Christ?
Absalom durst not approach—no, not the presence of his father— by himself, without a mediator and intercessor; wherefore, he sends to Joab to go to the king and make intercession for him. (2 Sam 13, 14:32,33) Also, Joab durst not go upon that errand himself, but by the mediation of another. Sin is a fearful thing, it will quash and quail the courage of a man, and make him afraid to approach the presence of him whom he has offended, though the offended is but a man. How much more, then, shall it discourage a man, when once loaden with guilt and shame, from attempting to approach the presence of a holy and a sin-avenging God, unless he can come to him through, and in the name of, an intercessor? But here now is the help and comfort of the people of God—there is to help them under all their infirmities an intercessor prepared, and at work. 'He ever liveth to make intercession.'
3. I also infer from hence, that should we, out of an ignorant boldness and presumption, attempt, when we have offended, by ourselves to approach the presence of God, God would not accept us. He told Eliphaz so. What Eliphaz thought, or was about to do, I know not; but God said unto him, 'My wrath is kindled against thee, and against thy two friends; for ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Therefore take unto you now seven bullocks, and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves [that is, by him] a burnt-offering, and my servant Job shall pray for you; for him will I accept; lest I deal with you after your folly, in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job.' See here, an offence is a bar and an obstruction to acceptance with God, but by a mediator, but by an intercessor. He that comes to God by himself, God will answer him by himself—that is, without an intercessor; and I will tell you, such are not like to get any pleasant or comfortable answer-I will answer him that so cometh according to the multitude of his idols. 'And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.' (Eze 14:7,8)
He that intercedes for another with a holy and just God had need be clean himself, lest he with whom he so busieth himself say to him, First clear thyself, and then come and speak for thy friend. Wherefore, this is the very description and qualification of this our High Priest and blessed Intercessor, 'For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins,' &c. (Heb 7:26,27) Had we not had such an Intercessor, we had been but in a very poor case; but we have one that becomes us; one that fits us to the purpose; one against whom our God hath nothing, can object nothing; one in whose mouth no guile could be found.
4. Since Christ is an Intercessor, I infer that he has wherewithal in readiness to answer to any demands that may be propounded by him that hath been by us offended, in order to a renewing of peace and letting out of that grace to us that we have sinned away, and yet have need of. Ofttimes the offended saith to the intercessor, Well, thou comest to me about this man; what interest he has in thee is one thing, what offence he has committed against me is another. I speak now after the manner of men. Now, what can an intercessor do, if he is not able to answer this question? But now, if he be able to answer this question—that is, according to law and justice, no question but he may prevail with the offended, for him for whom he makes intercession.
Why, this is our case; to be sure, thus far it is, we have offended a just and a holy God, and Jesus Christ is become Intercessor. He also knows full well, that for our parts, if it would save us from hell, we cannot produce towards a peace with God so much as poor two farthings; that is, not anything that can by law and justice be esteemed worth a halfpenny; yet he makes intercession. It follows, therefore, that he has wherewith of his own, if that question afore is propounded, to answer to every reasonable demand. Hence, it is said, that he has gifts as well as sacrifice for sin. 'Every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer.' (Heb 8:3) And, observe it, the apostle speaks here of Christ as in heaven, there ministering in the second part of his office; 'For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest.' (verse 4) These gifts, therefore, and this sacrifice, he now offereth in heaven by way of intercession, urging and pleading as an Intercessor, the valuableness of his gifts for the pacifying of that wrath that our Father hath conceived against us for the disobediences that we are guilty of. 'A gift in secret pacifieth anger; and a reward in the bosom strong wrath.' (Prov 21:14)
What gifts these are the Scripture everywhere testifies. He gave himself, he gave his life, he gave his all for us. (John 6, Gal 1:4, 1 Tim 2:6, Matt 20:28) These gifts, as he offered them up at the demand of justice on Mount Calvary for us, so now he is in heaven he presenteth them continually before God, as gifts and sacrifice valuable for the sins, for all the sins that we, through infirmity, do commit, from the day of our conversion to the day of our death. And these gifts are so satisfactory, so prevalent with God, that they always prevail for a continual remission of our sins with him. Yea, they prevail with him for more than for the remission of sins; we have, through their procurement, our graces often renewed, the devil often rebuked, the snare often broken, guilt often taken away from the conscience, and many a blessed smile from God, and love-look from his life-creating countenance. (Eph 3:12)
5. Since Christ is an Intercessor, I infer that believers should not rest at the cross for comfort; justification they should look for there; but, being justified by his blood, they should ascend up after him to the throne. At the cross you will see him in his sorrows and humiliations, in his tears and blood; but follow him to where he is now, and then you shall see him in his robes, in his priestly robes, and with his golden girdle about his paps. Then you shall see him wearing the breastplate of judgment, and with all your names written upon his heart. Then you shall perceive that the whole family in heaven and earth is named by him, and how he prevaileth with God the Father of mercies, for you. Stand still awhile and listen; yea, enter with boldness into the holiest, and see your Jesus as he now appears in the presence of God for you; what work he makes against the devil and sin, and death and hell, for you. (Heb 10:9) Ah! it is brave following of Jesus Christ to the holiest, the veil is rent, you may see with open face as in a glass, the glory of the Lord. This, then, is our High Priest, this his intercession, these the benefits of it! It lieth on our part to improve it; and wisdom to do that also comes from the mercy-seat, or throne of grace, where he, even our High Priest, ever liveth to make intercession for us; to whom be glory for ever and ever.