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ON THE INTERCESSION OF CHRIST. (229
plications. It is, at one time, plainly declared; at another virtually implied; and again, figuratively illustrated. It is a principle, which communicates amiable ideas of God, and exalted conceptions of Christ; which endears the universal Father, without derogating from his dignity, and magnifies the influence of his Son, without encroaching on the Supreme Majesty. When a doctrine comes recommended to my mind with such a character, and by such authority, I cannot withhold my assent. If I cannot completely remove all the objections, with which it may be encumbered, I content myself with supposing, that the difficulty is rather apparent than real; rather a proof of my ignorance, than of any absurdity in the doctrine. I find myself rather disposed to acknowledge my own weakness, and even to confess the insufficiency of all human ability, than to constitute myself the arbiter of Divine Truth and Wisdom.
I believe, therefore, that our gracious and glorified Redeemer acts as our friend in his present state; that, when he dispensed the Holy Spirit to guide and assist his Church upon earth, he himself continued, and still continues, to make intercession for us with his heavenly Father. "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous."* I do not pretend to de
* 1 John ii. 1.
scribe the manner, nor to point out the particulars of his intercession; because it is folly to pretend to be wise in such things, beyond what is written. Nor am I at all disconcerted at my incapacity to solve every difficulty, by which ingenious men may be able to embarass this subject; because it is notorious, that the most evident truths are liable to be thus perplexed. Yet, as you may expect, that it shall not be forced upon you by overbearing authority merely, but also recommended to your understandings, and reconciled to other principles of religion, I shall proceed, first, to consider two objections that have been started against it, and then lay before you the reasonableness and tendency of this doctrine.
I shall not enter into all the questions, metaphysical and critical, that may have been agitated on this subject; because I am far from thinking, that such disquisitions tend to edification. I am satisfied with laying before you the doctrines of Scripture; and I think myself happy if, in so doing, I can, by any plain illustrations, make them intelligible, support their authority, and impress them upon your hearts. But to launch upon the sea of abstract speculation, or subtile disputation, (a sea without a shore) is an imprudent enterprise for the generality of Christians. By such a procedure they will gain no new knowledge; but their faith will lose some of its stability; their understandings will be confounded, and their pious affections and virtuous principles deprived
of their best support, and highest authority. I say, their faith will lose some of its stability; for after all that scepticism can do, a well instructed Christian will never be convinced. He will some
times feel his confidence shaken, and his reason overpowered: but this instability and perplexity are all the benefit, that he will derive from indulging a sceptical disposition. He will never arrive at a perfect assurance of the falsehood of the Gospel: this is impossible. He will lose its comforts, without getting clear of its terrors: he will be robbed of the happy composure of steadfast faith, and will not gain even the dreary satisfaction of obstinate and inflexible infidelity. Even when his mind is in its strongest state, it will be distracted by distrust in those arguments, which have seduced him from religion. He will see, that while he adhered to the Gospel, he was, at least, safe; that the sincere profession of a holy and righteous faith, though it were erroneous, must be pleasing to a holy and righteous God. He can feel no such confidence in infidelity: he must confess, that it is dangerous and uncertain. But when the strength of his faculties is impaired; when his heart faints within him, and he totters on the brink of eternity; how bitterly will he la ment, that he ever suffered his belief in Christ to be shaken; that he parted from the anchor of hope, and gave himself up to the ever-veering winds of capricious speculation, to be tossed to and fro on the troubled waters of scepticism!
. The first objection to be considered, is founded on the efficacy of repentance. St. John says, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Fa-. ther, Jesus Christ, the righteous." But the objectors say, that this is unnecessary; for God is essentially merciful and forgiving; and pardon on repentance is essential to mercy. God will therefore forgive the penitent; and Christ will not be the advocate of the impenitent. Hence they argue, that penitence has a just claim to pardon; and that, in either case, the intercession of Christ is unnecessary.
In this argument three points are assumed: first, that the person is immaculate, prior to that sin of which he repents; or else, that he can repent, at once, of all the sins, which he has ever, committed; secondly, that he can repent, so as to return to a state of perfect innocence; thirdly, that, being now innocent, he has a right to favour, at least to forgiveness. Now, none of these can be granted.
1. We do not require the authority of Scripture for saying, that all men have sinned. It is the sorrowful confession of every man, that at no period of his rational life was he free from sin. How then is he to attain this immaculate state? Not by repenting of one transgression, surely. He must repent of all the sins, he ever committed from infancy; but we know that this is impossible. How can we repent of sins, which we have forgotten; which have not only escaped
our memory, but of which we were unconscious, and which we did not recognize as sins at the time? Some, indeed, have held, that we may repent of all our sins at once; that it is needless trouble to be sorry for them, one by one; and a great interruption to pleasure and worldly pursuits; and that it is much more prudent and économical, to allow them to accumulate, and wipe them off by one act of contrition; but this is justly deemed the height of superstition.
2. The next assumption is, that we may repent, so as to return to a state of perfect innocence. The falsehood of this must appear from what has just been said; for, if a man cannot repent of all his guilt, he cannot be free from it all. But let any man consider what true repentance is, and how seldom, if ever, he has been able effectually to repent of even one sin. How seldom has he been even sorry for having sinned! not sorry on account of any inconvéniences that have resulted from it; nor from apprehension of future evils,` or of eternal punishment; but sorry, on account of the vileness of sin itself; and for having displeased Almighty God, though no punishment should follow! How seldom has he repented of a favourite vice, or darling sin, to such a degree, that if the same opportunity, with all its attendant allurements, should recur, he would be able to resist the temptation! Can he, on the recollection of any instance of criminal indulgence, say,