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(131.) ACCESS TO GOD BY THE PRIESTHOOD, 1 11
that which Balak put to Balaam, “Wherewith shall I
come before the most high God?” Many are the expe
dients which have been devised for obtaining acceptance with God: but there has been only one true way from the beginning, namely, through the sacrifice of Christ. This has been gradually revealed to man with increasing clearness; but was never fully manifested till the days of the apostles. The sacrifices of the Mosaic law threw considerablelight upon this interesting subject: yet, while they revealed, they tended also to obscure it: for the Gentiles were forbidden to enter into the sanctuary; and had a court assigned them, called the court of the Gentiles." If they become proselytes to the Jewish religion, they were, together with the Jews, received into the Sanctuary, or outer court of the temple. The priests and Levites were admitted into the inner court; and the high priest into the holy of holies; but that only on one day in the year. Now the apostle tells us, that by these distinctions “the Holy Ghost signified, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest.” But in due time Christ himself appeared; and by his death, both fulfilled and abrogated the ceremonial law: since which period the difference between Jew and Gentile has no longer subsisted; the partition wall was thrown down; and the vail of the temple was rent in twain, in token that all, whether Jews or Gentiles, were henceforth to have an equal access to God through Christ.
It is our present intention to shew
I. The way of access to the Father
The text contains a brief summary of all that God has revealed upon this subject: it informs us that the way to the Father is
1. Through the Son [The high priest under the law was the mediator through whom the people drew nigh to God: and by his typical mediation we see how we are to approach our God. He entered into the holy place with the blood of the sacrifices, and afterwards burnt incense before the mercy-seat; representing, by the former, the sacrifice of Christ; and, by the latter, his prevailing intercession. Without the blood of Christ offered in sacrifice for us, no man could ever have found acceptance with God. (131.) Access to cop by the PRI esthood. 113
a Ezek. xlii. 20. \ .
Nor would that have availed, if he had not also gone within
the vail to be “our advocate with the Father, as well as the propitiation for our sins.” Even if we had been pardoned in consideration of his death, our reconciliation with God would not have continued long; we should soon have renewed our transgressions, and have provoked God utterly to destroy us. But, by this twofold mediation of Christ, divine Justice is satisfied for the offences we have already committed, and the peace that has been effected is maintained inviolate. Now our Lord himself declares that there is no other way to the Father but this:" and St. Paul assures us, that, in this way, we may all draw nigh to God with boldness and confidence."]
2. By the Spirit
[We know not how to pray to God aright, unless the Holy Spirit help our infirmities and teach us.” We have no will to approach him, unless the Holy Spirit incline our hearts." Even in the regenerate there still remains so strong a disinclination to prayer, that unless God draw them by the influences of his Spirit, they find an almost insuperable reluctance to that duty. Moreover, we have no power to exercise spiritual affections at a throne of grace, unless the Spirit, as “a spirit of grace and of supplication,” give us a broken and a contrite heart." Without his aid, we are only like a ship, whose sails are spread in vain, unless there be a wind to fill them. Even Paul, it should seem, had never prayed aright till his conversion; and then it was said, “Behold he prayeth.” Lastly, without the Spirit, we have no confidence to address the Majesty of heaven. We are deterred by a sense of guilt; and are ready to think that it would be presumption in us to ask any thing at his hands. The Holy Ghost must be in us as “a spirit of adoption, before we can cry, Abba, Father.” Yea, to such a degree are the mouths of God's dearest children sometimes shut by a sense of guilt, that the Holy Spirit himself maketh intercession in them no other way than by sighs and groans.” Thus, as there is a necessity for the mediation of Christ to remove our guilt, so is there also of the Spirit's influence on account of our weakness; since, without his assitance, we have no knowledge of our wants, no will to seek a supply of them, no power to spread them before God, nor any confidence to plead with importunity and faith.]
b John xiv. 6. e Heb. x. 19–22. * Rom. viii. 26. * Cant. i. 4. f Zech. xii. 10. - & Rom. viii. 15.
* Rom. viii. 26, latter part.
The path being thus clearly marked, let us consider
II. The excellency of this way
Waving many things whereby this topic might be illustrated, we shall content ourselves with observing, that this way of access to God
1. Gives us a wonderful discovery of God himself
[What an astonishing view does this give us of the divine Nature! Here we see manifestly the existence of three persons in the Godhead. Here we see the Father, to whom we are to draw nigh, together with the Son, through whom, and the Spirit, by whom, we are to approach him. These are evidently distinct, though subsisting in one undivided essence. Moreover the of fices of the three persons in the Trinity are so appropriate, that we cannot speak of them otherwise than they are here declared: we cannot say, that through the Spirit, and by the Father, we have access to Christ; or that through the Father, and by Christ, we have access to the Spirit: this would be to confound what the scripture keeps perfectly distinct. The Father is the Original Fountain of the Deity: Christ is the Mediator, through whom we approach him: and the Spirit is the Agent, by whom we are enabled to approach him. That each of these divine persons is God, is as plainly revealed, as that there is a God: and yet we are sure that there is but one God. It is not for us to unravel this mystery; but with humility and gratitude to adore that God, who has so mysteriously revealed his slature to us. While we are led thus to view God as he exists in himself, we cannot but contemplate also his goodness to us. What greater mark of it can be conceived, than that the sacred Three should so interest themselves in our salvation? That the Father should devise such a way for our acceptance with him; that the Son should open the way by his meritorious death, and his prevailing intercession; and that the Holy Spirit should con- descend to guide us into it, and to keep us in it even to the end! That these offices should be sustained and executed for the salvation of such insignificant and worthless, yea, such guilty, and rebellious creatures, may well excite our wonder, and furnish us with matter of endless praise and thanksgiving.]
2. Is calculated to produce the most salutary effects on the minds of men
[What consideration can be more awakening than that which necessarily arises from the subject before us? Was such a dispensation necessary in order to our restoration to the divine favour? Must the Father send his only Son to die for us? Must the Son atone and intercede for us? Must the Holy Ghost descend and dwell in our hearts? Gan none of us be
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[Our Lord told the Jews that “if he had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin; but that now they had no cloke for their sin.” How truly may this be said to those, who refuse to come to God in the way pointed out for them! Surely they must be without excuse, and, if they continue in their sin, without hope also: for in no other way than this can we draw nigh to God; nor will God in any other way draw nigh to us...]
2. Those who fear that they shall not find acceptance with God
[There can be no ground for such fears, provided we really desire to go to God in his appointed way. The more we consider the condescension and grace of God in providing such means for our recovery, the more must we be persuaded that God will cast out none that come unto him. Only let us “open our mouths wide, and he will fill them.” We may “ask what we will in the name of Jesus, and it shall be done unto us.”] * 3. Those who enjoy sweet communion with God [This is the highest of all privileges, and the richest of all enjoyments. To have access to the Father with boldness and confidence is a foretaste even of heaven itself. Let us then abound more and more in the duty of prayer; for when we can say with the apostle, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ,” we may also add with a full assurance, “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”]
CXXXII. THE JEw Is H sacRIFICES TYP1c AL of c HRIST’s.
Heb. ix. 13, 14. If the blood of bulls, and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, 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?
THE peculiar benefits of Christianity are usually displayed by contrasting our state with that of the heathen world: but they will be seen nearly to the same advantage, if we compare our privileges with those that were enjoyed under the Jewish dispensation. The Jews indeed had much that distinguished them above other nations: but we possess in substance what they enjoyed only in the shadow. One great object in the Epistle to the Hebrews is, to set this matter in a just point of view. This has been done with great perspicuity and strength of argument in the preceding context: and the author, having shewn that we have a true, and etermal redemption obtained for us, while that accomplished by the Jewish ordinances was only typical and temporal, states afresh, in few words, the grounds of his conclusion; and appeals to every intelligent reader for the justness of it.
In discoursing on his words we shall shew I. The excellence of the type
The Jewish ordinances were altogether typical of Christ's sacrifice
[The ordinances mentioned in the text, though similar, as means of purifying from pollution, were very different from each other as to the kind of pollution which they were intended to remove. The blood of bullocks and goats was of fered annually on the great day of expiation, to atone for the thoral guilt both of the priests and people." The ashes of the heifer, which, together with cedar, hyssop, and scarlet, had been burnt without the camp, were to be mixed with running
water, and sprinkled upon a person who had contracted any
ceremonial uncleanness (as from the touch of a grave, a corpse,
* Lev. xvi. 6, 15.