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and hence it is that the pardoning of a believing sinner united to Christ, is declared to be an act of God's righteousness; Rom. iii. 25, 26, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” It is an excellent text, and repeated for greater emphasis. Christ offers this propitiation to God, and assures us, that as certainly as the believer hath saving faith, so certainly shall he be justified. This plea our Lord makes good.
4. But is there nothing to be said against all this? are there no accusers? Yes, and therefore our advocate and intercessor stands up to oppose the adversaries in this court, and to answer all objections. Now, there
. are four that bring in their pleas against the justifying of the sinner: justice, the law, Satan, and conscience. But our advocate nonsuits all these.
(1.) Justice pleads against the poor sinner, and saith I am injured, and all the attributes of God are violated by this man's sinning-holiness opposed, faithfulness questioned, mercy abused, wisdom and omniscience are slighted, and omnipotence provoked; while justice stands engaged to be revenged on the transgressor. This is the flaming sword in the cherubim's hand,
turning every way to keep the way of the tree of life," * so that the sinner cannot be pardoned and saved till that be removed : but Christ our advocate is fully equal to his office, by his blood he quencheth divine wrath, and so delivers the sinner from the wrath to come.f “God,” saith the apostle, Rom. v. 8, 9, “ commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were * Gen. iii. 24.
+ 1 Thess. i. 10.
yet sinners, Christ died for us : much more being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” “ He drunk of the brook in the way, and so lift up his head.” * This wrath is an insupportable burden, and would press the creature to the lowest hell; but Christ hath borne it, and it was the heaviest burden in all his sufferings—this made him cry out, “ My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death;” † and put him to a non-plus,“ What shall I
“ say? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?” Thus God's wrath lay hard upon him for our sakes, but he hath fully answered the demands of justice, and now pleads what he has done on the behalf of those that do retain him as their advocate, and he is able to answer even infinite justice itself.
(2.) A righteous law pleads against the sinner. The law worketh wrath ;" || it comes out thundering against the sinner, saying, he hath contradicted my just commands, and incurred the penalty of my threatenings, and the severest malediction; it tells the sinner, with aggravating circumstances, all his offences of omission and commission, and fastens a curse upon him, saying, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”S Oh how formidable is this! But behold suddenly after comes a relief by Christ, “who hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a
“ His own self bare our sins, in his own body on the tree.”** O bitter tree to Christ, O blessed tree to us! Thus our intercessor stopped the mouth of the law, answered all its demands; it cannot now pronounce
* Psalm cx. 7.
John xii. 27. Matt. xxvii. 46. § Gal. ii. 10.
| Gal. iii. 13. VOL. III.
+ Matt. xxvi. 38.
the final sentence of condemnation upon the true believer: he perfectly answered its demands by his active obedience, and satisfied for our breach of it by his passive obedience. That is an excellent text, Rom. viii, 3, 4, “ For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,” that is, through our inability to comply with it, “ God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,” not that he was a sinner, but in the likeness of a sinner, “ and for sin condemned
, sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” that is, as if we had personally obeyed it ourselves, “ who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” namely, who live with uprightness in the general course of our lives, notwithstanding our many slips and failings. But Jesus Christ doth cancel this bond of the law, as to the malediction, though not as to the obligation of it, to believers. And as to its condemning power, Christians may give that bold challenge, 1 Cor. xv. 55, “ O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law: but thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(3.) The next accuser is Satan, who is called “the accuser of the brethren."* Sometimes he accuseth them to God, and oft to themselves. He is a subtle sophister that casts his fiery darts into our stubble souls, sometimes to kindle innate lust in our hearts into a flame, and then to terrify our consciences for sins committed. Sometimes Satan accuseth God to saints as formidable. and unapproachable, and unappeasable, otherwhiles he represents God to be all made up of mercy, to draw them either to despair or presumption. Often he accuseth poor sinning souls to God, as graceless and im
* Rev. xii. 10.
penitent; but most usually he accuseth Christians to themselves as hopeless and irrecoverable. What shall a Christian do in all these difficult cases ? He must have recourse to his advocate or intercessor, to rectify his mistakes, and nonsuit Satan.' We have a notable text for this in Zech. iii. 1-4, in which observe,
[i.] Satan's action against Joshua the high priest, he stands at his right hand to resist him, that is, to be a Satan, an adversary to him. [ii.] The ground of this accusation,“ he was clothed
“ with filthy garments,” some guilt upon him, this gave the devil too much advantage for challenging him. But,
[iii.] Observe the angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ our advocate deals with him, first, By words, “ the Lord rebuke thee," and by an excuse, “ Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?” As if he had said, Alas, he is but newly come from Babylon, and smells of the burning. Secondly, He confutes the devil by deeds, ordering his filthy garments to be taken from him, by remission of his sins; and then to be clothed with change of raiment, by putting on him the pure robe of Christ's perfect righteousness; and lastly, setting a fair mitre on his head, that he may boldly execute his priestly office.
And now, Satan, what hast thou to say against my servant Joshua ? His pardon is thy confutation, thy bills of indictment are all answered; begone, thou infernal fiend, I have work for my servant to do, I have privileges to load him with. And thus doth our Lord take from Satan all the armour wherein he trusted and thus he destroys the works of the devil—and thus the accuser of the brethren is cast down.* This doth our Lord for all his saints, and the like doth he against the devil's agents, wicked men, that are the saints' im* Luke xi. 22. 1 John iü. 8. Rev. xii. 10.
placable enemies : at present he will confound them, and at last “ consume them with the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming,” 2 Thess. ii. 8.
(4.) The last accuser is a man's own guilty conscience. This is as a thousand witnesses—this is the bailiff to arrest him, the witness to accuse him, the under-judge to sentence him, the executioner to torment him—this, this is the poor sinner's hell upon earth. O what nips
( and gripes hath the convinced sinner! It makes him tremble with Cain, and endangers him to lay violent hands on himself with Judas; for “ a wounded spirit who can bear?"* Yea, the guilty sinner hath “a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”+ His guilt constantly attends him as an infernal fury, he can no more flee from it than from himself; and if his “heart condemn him, God is greater than his heart, and knoweth all things." | Well, but our Lord Jesus, the blessed Ad
” vocate, knows how to silence and to satisfy conscience, by his mediation and Spirit. The blood of Christ speaks better things to the conscience than the blood of Abel, Heb. xii. 24. The Apostle also says, Heb. ix. 14, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Nothing but a plaster made of the blood of Christ can pacify conscience; and by this blood of Jesus we have boldness to enter into the holiest, Heb. x. 19, 22. Christ by his merit and intercession pacifies his Father, and then by the influences of his Spirit pacifies the conscience of the sinner; when the sinner's conscience is like the troubled raging sea, Christ saith, “ Peace, be still;" this only makes a calm within. Thus our Lord Jesus is an advocate to purify
* Prov. xviii. 14. + Heb. x. 27. # 1 John iii. 20.