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advancement of the gospel, the glory of his Lord, and the salvation of souls: And as he could not but know, that it was highlyprobable, that this, rather than any of his other epistles, would fall into the hands of many, as yet, unconverted Jews, he not only conceals his name, against which he knew they were strongly prejudiced; but in a very wise and happy manner, makes use of such sentiments, and such language here, as might be very proper to awaken and convince the unconverted, as well as to assist the faith and the joy of them who had Believed in Christ, that they might be justified by him, and not by the works of the law. And if any have not made this remark, I apprehend they have lost much of the strength and beauty of this excellent epistle.
In pursuit of these great and very harmonious designs, the sacred writer insists largely on the dignity of the person, and offices of our great Redeemer. He represents him, as far superior to the most exalted angels+, and therefore much more to the most excellent of the children of men; superior to Moses, that most honourable servant of the Lord, who was faithful in all his house; superior to Abraham, The friend of God, and father of the faithfuls; superior to Aaron, the priest of the Lord, and all the holy family descended from his loins. And it is on this branch of the argument that he is now insisting. He labours at large, by a chain of reasoning, which I have not time to trace, to shew that our Lord was made after the order of Melchizedec, in many glorious and important circumstances, in which the priesthood of Melchizedec was superior to that of Aaron, and his sons: And amongst other instances, this is one of the most considerable, that whereas in the family of Aaron there were successively many high-priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death, this illustrious person, the Lord Jesus Christ, because he continues ever, in immortal life and glory, hath an unchangeable priesthood¶, or, as the word ** most exactly signifies, a priesthood which does not pass from one successor to another. Now, from hence the apostle draws that important inference, in the words of my text, Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost, completely and perpetually to save, all that, in the remotest ages and nations of the world, desire to come unto God by him, or to make use of his mediation, when they approach the throne of God as humble worshippers, seeing
Gal, ii. 16.
Heb. iii. 2-6. § Heb. vii. 4-7.
he ever lives to make a most prevalent intercession for them; of which, as the apostle elsewhere more largely states it*, the intercession of the high-priest before the mercy-seat, on the solemn day of atonement, was but a very imperfect type.
It will be the business of several succeeding discourses on these words,
I. To consider what we are to understand by Christ's being able to save to the uttermost.
II. To prove that he is really so,
III. To consider the particular argument for it, which the apostle draws from his ever living to make intercession for them, And
IV. To state the character of those who may expect salvation from him, which is here expressed by their coming to God by him.
You see the copiousness of the subject we are entering upon. I shall endeavour in the prosecution of it, to lay before you the genuine doctrine of the gospel on these various and important heads, with plainness and seriousness. And I humbly implore the influence of the divine spirit, to Open mine eyes, that I may behold the wonders contained in his word †; and to open your ears so to hear them, and your heart so to embrace them, that every soul here present may be an eternal monument of Christ's being able to save to the uttermost, and may for ever live to receive the fruits of that intercession, which our blessed High-priest is ever living to make. Amen,
First, I am to consider what we are to understand by Christ's being able to save to the uttermost.
For clearing up this matter, I would only offer these three remarks. It implies the danger and calamity of those, to whom Christ is proposed as a Saviour;-it expresses a power of working out complete deliverance for them; and it farther imports the continuance of that saving power without diminution or decay throughout all succeeding generations.
1. When Christ is spoken of as able to save, it strongly implies, "That those, to whom he is proposed as a Saviour, are, without him, in a state of danger and calamity.”
It would be a foolish mispending of time to attempt to prove
† Psal. cxix. 18.
*Heb. ix. 7. & seq.
at large, that in scripture, as well as in ordinary speech, to save and to deliver, are words of the same import. Jesus shall save his people from their sins *; and he Delivers us from the wrath to comet.
It is a most obvious remark, but so necessary, as not to be lightly dismissed, that The whole have no need of a physician, but they who are sick; and the secure have no need of a Saviour, but they who are in danger. And as the apostle argues, that If Christ died for all; then were all dead§, all were in a state of death, or they would not have needed such an expiatory sacrifice; so we may assure ourselves, that if Christ is to be offered to all as a Saviour, then were all in a state of ruin. And if he is Of God to be made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, then are we without him destitute of all these, foolish and guilty, polluted and inslaved, condemned and perishing.
This is expressly asserted in a variety of scriptures, largely and laboriously proved in the three first chapters of St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, and generally acknowledged by all who pretend to believe the gospel; as indeed it must be, if they would not in the most notorious manner contradict themselves. Yet, alas, how little is it felt! We see it in the indolence of men's lives; we see it in the air of indifference with which the tidings of salvation are commonly received. The greater part of mankind are soothed into an insensibility of their danger; they are amused with the dreams of sensual pleasure, with the vain rovings of a gay imagination, and the fond expectation of a thousand satisfactions, which they never have found, and never will find in life. And hence it comes to pass, that they hear not the thunder of God's law, loud and dreadful as it is ; nor see the flaming sword of his vengeance, stretched out against them, and just ready to give them the mortal blow. And probably it is the case of several among you. Perhaps many of you may find, even on the most transient reflection, that you were never alarmed with a sense of your danger, nor saw yourselves perishing without a Saviour: But if it be so, give me leave to proclaim it aloud, with all the earnestness which is suited to a matter of life and death, that it is time, High time for you, immediately to awake out of sleep; for you nod on the brink of a precipice, and there is but a hand's-breadth between you and eternal ruin. In the name of God, Sirs, and as you love your own souls,
* Mat. i. 21.
$2 Cor. v. 14.
+1 Thess. i. 10.
1 Cor. i. 30.
Mat. ix. 12.
rouse up your stupified senses, and open those drowsy eyes. Look into the holy law of God, and read over the records of conscience; and see the agreement, or rather the dreadful disagreement, and contrariety between them: Such a contrariety, that one would almost think, you imagined that the commands of God were given to tell you, what you should not do, rather than what you should; and dare you imagine, that the eternal God, with all his almighty power, and all his unspotted holiness, will look with indifference on the violation of his law, merely because you have the boldness to violate it with indifference? Do you think he had no meaning, or that it was not a meaning full of terror, when he told the Israelites of old, that if they presumed thus to walk contrary to him, they should Be cursed in the city, and cursed in the field, cursed in the fruit of their body, and in the fruit of their ground, cursed in their coming in, and cursed in their going out *; nay, that A fire should be kindled in his anger, that should burn even unto the lowest hell; that should consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains+? Think you The scripture speaks in vain, when it says such terrible things as these? Or will you say, these things were only spoken to the Jews of old? Can you imagine, that sins committed in the land of Canaan, some thousands of years ago, should provoke the eyes of God's holiness, and kindle the flames of his wrath; and that he should wink at crimes committed in the present age, and in Britain; while we have higher advantages to know our duty, and stronger engagements to perform it, than even that favourite nation of Israel had? I appeal to your consciences, sinners, whether this thought has even the lightest degree of probability in it. And if it has not, then surely here is danger and horror, in all their most frightful forms. To see the drawn sword of an inexorable enemy, waved round your defenceless head or pointed at your naked breast; or to see this building all in flames, and yourselves surrounded beyond a possibility of escape, were the prospect to terminate there, were a danger at which a man might justly smile, and stand collected and composed, when compared with that into which sin has brought you, and in which the gospel finds you.
And it is a terrible aggravation, that without divine assistance this danger is inevitable. We can neither vindicate our conduct, nor atone for our offences; we can neither avoid, nor endure the punishment, should God lay Justice to the line, and
Deut. xxviii. 16-19. + Deut. xxxii. 22.
Jam. iv. 5.
righteousness to the plummet*. All our soul is enfeebled, and all our nature corrupted; and he must be a great stranger to himself as well as to the rest of mankind, who will not acknowledge with the apostle, that When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for ust. This is apparently the doctrine of the gospel and as the fore-runner of Christ made way for him, by declaring that men were by their sin in danger of the Wrath to come, and that the are of divine judgment was laid to the root of the treest; so I think it is our duty, as we tender the honour of our Redeemer, and the salvation of your souls, often to be reminding you of these things; and the words of the text so naturally imply them, that I am persuaded you cannot think them a digression. But I add,
2. When it is said, that Christ is able to save to the uttermost, it must express" a power of working out complete deliverance for his people."
So some judicious commentators descant upon these words, and I think with a great deal of reason," he is able to save in the most perfect manner, so that nothing shall be wanting to complete the salvation§." And this is a thought of so great importance to our joy and peace in believing, that I will farther illustrate it by the mention of various particulars, which are evidently comprehended in complete salvation. But I shall only touch on them now, because some of them are to be resumed at large under the second general.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is able "completely to answer the demands of justice, and thereby to save us from the curse of the law."-It was indeed impossible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin, but we may easily believe, that The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself a spotless sacrifice to God, should avail to that blessed purpose, and be accepted as an infinitely valuable and adequate satisfaction. Justly may we conclude, that the offended Deity is now rendered propitious, and that by faith in the Redeemer we may be Justified from all things, from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses**. Here is a door of hope opened, not only to those, who have escaped the grosser pol
* Isa xxviii. 17.
+ Rom. v. 6.
Mat. iii. 7, 10.
§ES TO Waleλes- Perfectè sive ad perfectam æternamque fælicitatem adducere. Estius. Prorsus, vel absolutissimè, ita ut nihil ad eam salutem possit amplius desiderari. Beza, in loc.
|| Heb. x. 4.
Heb. ix, 14.
**Acts xiii. 39.