I. THE DUTY ENJOINED in the words of our text — namely, "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men; for kings, and all that are in authority."
I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications.
I. THE DUTY OF PRAYER FOR OTHERS, AND MORE ESPECIALLY FOR PERSONS IN AUTHORITY, Intercessory prayer is here stated to be a duty; for when the apostle says "I exhort," he speaks by Divine command. If we recognize the authority of revelation, we must admit the act of intercession for others to be an act in precise conformity with the revealed will of God. But there are two results of the most beneficial kind which necessarily arise from intercessory prayer.
1. In every case in which we implore God on behalf of others, we recognize Him as the source of power, authority, mercy and grace. The address we make to Him implies our conviction that He is the Preserver and the Benefactor from whom all succour is derived.
2. But prayer forgathers is, besides this, an act of charity. We cannot voluntarily exercise this duty but in the spirit of charity. Prayer for others implies, by its very act, our participation in their wants, our sympathy in their sorrows, our general interest in their welfare.
II. But the nature and importance of this duty will be rendered more evident as we consider THE DESIGN FOR WHICH PRAYER FOR OTHERS IS TO BE OFFERED — "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." There are two ways in which public prayer may be supposed to be the direct channel of benefit to the community.
1. In the first place, there is nothing which so tends to allay irritation, to excite compassion, to restrain envy and revenge, to calm the turbulent passions of every kind, as social prayer. Were large bodies of men honestly and frequently united in prayer to God for a blessing upon the community; were they to connect earthly government with God's kind purposes to the world of social order and of mutual good will, these united prayers would be found to be the strongest cement of the various parts of the social fabric, by bringing out before the minds of all the highest and the noblest motives by which intelligent beings, and at the same time capable of affection, can be influenced. Imagine the rich unfeignedly imploring God's blessing upon the poor — and where could be found room for the exercise of injustice and oppression? Imagine the poor praying for the rich — and where would be found room for the exercise of envy, of violence, of revenge, and of robbery? Imagine the rich praying for the rich — and where would be room for the display of rivalry, contention, and selfish ambition? Imagine the poor praying for the poor — how much kindness and mutual affection would be immediately drawn out into active operation! Imagine those in authority imploring God for a blessing on every measure they undertake, and upon all their national policy — and where would be any scope for individual and selfish aggrandizement? where would be any disunion of the interests of the ruler and the ruled? Or imagine the minds of the community united in prayer for those whom God has set over them — and where would be the wish for riot, for outrage, for insubordination, or violence?
2. But a second method in which prayer will powerfully act upon a nation is through the direct blessings which God, the righteous and the Almighty Governor, will certainly bestow. It is evident that God designs to bestow these blessings through this very channel. How easily can He send healthful seasons and external peace! How easily can He enlighten the minds, and prompt the measures of those by whom the affairs of the State are administered!
1. The constituent parts of this important duty. The several parts of public worship are comprehended in the text, in what the apostle denominates "supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks." By supplications we understand the deprecation of those calamities to which we are exposed in common with all men. The apostle next speaks of "prayers" — by which we understand petitions — which it is our privilege to present to the throne of the heavenly grace, through Jesus Christ, for the supply of our various wants. The apostle, in connection with prayer, speaks of "intercessions" — that is, prayer — for others; those petitions which we are called to offer for all sorts and conditions of men, according to their several necessities. To supplications, prayers, and intercessions, the apostle adds "giving of thanks," as an expression of our gratitude for all the benefits vouchsafed to us by the great Author of our being.
2. The extent of our Christian obligations in regard to this duty. The apostle teaches us that in our acts of public devotion we are "to pray for all men." Here is nothing partial, exclusive, or sectarian. But we are not only taught to pray for all men in general, but for our rulers in particular, whether supreme or subordinate. And as it is the Lord "that giveth salvation unto kings," to Him we ought to pray on their behalf, that He may bless them in their royal persons, families, and government. The honour, welfare, and happiness of nations depend much on the wisdom, piety, and government of those who reign. But in praying for all that are in authority, we should not only pray for kings and for ministers, but also for magistrates, who may either be a great blessing or a great curse. It becomes us to pray, from a consideration of the importance of their office.
3. The order in which this is presented by the holy apostle. "I exhort, therefore, that, first of all, supplications and prayers be made for all men." This is not a secondary duty, a thing merely optional; no; it is a duty of paramount importance, which ought to take the precedency of every other in the public assemblies of the Church of God. The prayers of the people of God are more to be depended on than all the strength of our fleets or armies.
II. THE ARGUMENTS BY WHICH THIS IMPORTANT DUTY IS ENFORCED.
1. That as professing Christians we may give no just cause of offence to the government under which we live; "that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty"; that we may be preserved "from all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion"; so live as the gospel may not be blamed; but that we who, by the principles of our Divine religion, are taught to abhor everything that would be injurious to others, conduct ourselves so as to prove that we are the friends of all and the enemies of none. If the State be not in safety, the subjects cannot be secure; self-preservation, therefore, ought to lead men to pray for the government under which they live. The psalmist, a true patriot, inspired with the love of his country, a holy zeal for the glory of God, and an ardent desire for the prosperity of both Church and State, says, when speaking of the people of God, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek thy good." Let us, then, cultivate the spirit of true loyalty, patriotism, and religion, as that which is best calculated to promote our individual interest, the Church's good, and the commonwealth of the nation.
2. That we may secure the Divine approbation of our conduct, which is done by sincerely, faithfully, and affectionately praying for all men; "for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God and our Saviour," and therefore has the highest possible sanction. It is not said that it is good and acceptable in the sight of God to speak evil of dignitaries, by railing against those who are higher in rank, power, or authority than ourselves, whether in Church or State. The evil is prohibited; "it is written, thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people"; and, therefore, to indulge in it were a crime in the sight of God, as well as contrary to the rules of that society by which many of us profess to be governed, which says, that "We shall neither speak evil of magistrates nor of ministers." It is not said that it is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour to treat the office of rightful governors with contempt.
3. That the will of God, in reference to the salvation of our guilty race, may be accomplished. If we ask, what is the will of God our Saviour concerning the human race? we are taught to believe that it is gracious and merciful. He "would have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." Many have been saved in answer to prayer; and we, have good reason to believe that more would if we had prayed more.
III. THE INFERENCES which may be deduced from the subject.
1. That we are not good subjects unless we pray for all our constituted authorities. In early times, the members of the Jewish Church were called to pray for heathen princes, even for those who carried them away captive into Babylon, "unto the God of heaven, for the life of the king and of his sons," and in obedience to the command of God Himself, by the prophet Jeremiah, as a means of securing their own interests "that ye may be increased therein and not diminished; seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."
2. If we are not praying subjects, we are not good Christians; for all good Christians are men of prayer, and no Christian can be satisfied with merely praying for himself, his family, or the Church of God.
3. We conclude, from the nature of this duty, that if we are not good Christians we shall never yield a conscientious obedience to the apostolic exhortation recorded in our text.
I. ON THE OBJECT OF GOVERNMENT. I leave it to men of another taste and profession to enter minutely into the inferior objects of government, as well as into the means by which those objects may be obtained; and, keeping within the boundary of the text, shall observe that government is intended to promote security, happiness, piety, and religious influence. It has often been stated that a large portion of all codes of law, as of all history, is a proof of human depravity. Men have fallen from God; and, corrupted in their social propensities, they envy, injure, and destroy each other. All communities, therefore, have found it necessary to agree to some restraint, and to lodge in some hands a controlling power; the individual is to be blended with the general good, that the general may return individual advantage. Security, then, is one great object of government. And it is the glory of government to hold the shield over all — to defend the poor, the fatherless, and the widow, as well as the men of might, and the great, and the noble. Now, though under God, men's personal and social happiness greatly depends on their own industry and carefulness, yet has it some connection with the government under which we live. There are numerous ways in which religion and piety may be aided by the men who are in authority, and especially by kings becoming nursing fathers, and their queens nursing mothers. The word we render honesty is of rather questionable meaning; some translate it "gravity"; its general import is to behave decorously and worthily. As connected with godliness, it implies a desire that Christians may be allowed to conduct religious worship, and the whole of their profession, in a way suitable to religion itself; and that, being delivered from the evils of persecution, they may be exempt from temptation to act inconsistently with their high vocation. The gravity and dignity here mentioned convey, however, to me the idea of Christian influence — influence of character, of benevolent exertion.
II. THE BEST WAY OF SECURING THIS OBJECT. There are numerous ways in which some good may be done, and in which, therefore, it is our duty to act. Home, and its immediate vicinity, and the nearest relations, are the great sphere of our influence; and here the Christian must act in promoting the morals, the intelligence, and the spirituality of all around him. The Christian, too, has political privileges; and in votes, and in petitions, and in every peaceful and constitutional way, it is his duty to act for the public good in the fear of the Lord. The laws, too, must be supported in their majesty by all — even by the humblest in society; as, without the countenance of the many, the few who have to enforce them, however elevated their rank and unbroken their integrity, will be too feeble, and the object of government will not be obtained. Nor must it be forgotten that well-directed charity is a most efficient way of promoting the security and happiness, as well as the godliness, of the community. The way, however, of securing this object marked out in the text is prayer. I attach importance to prayer, for the following reasons: —
1. God generally deals with nations according to their moral character and piety. From the times in which the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, the Roman Powers were punished, to the days of revolutionary and sanguinary France, Providence has preached this awful doctrine. Hear Isaiah: "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land."
2. That a nation's morals and piety will be in the degree of its prayerfulness.
3. I urge prayer, because the hearts of kings, and of nobles, and of senators — of all in authority — are at the disposal of Him who hears His people when they call. He can turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness; He bringeth to nothing the devices of the wise; He inspired Solomon with wisdom; by Him kings reign and princes decree righteousness.
III. OUR PRESENT INDUCEMENT TO SEEK THIS OBJECT IN THIS WAY ESPECIALLY.
1. You will see the necessity of prayer for the nation when I remind you of the hazard which always attends measures which have not been tried.
2. You will see the necessity of prayer for the nation when I remind you of the important business which its parliament has to transact.
3. The delicate position of the nations, and our connection with them, will further show the need of grace to enlighten all who take a lead in our public affairs.
4. There is another reason why, at this time, we should be earnest in prayer of a more religious kind — viz., the near approach of the latter-day glory in the Church.
(J. K. Foster.)
I. INTERCESSION FOR OTHERS MAY BE CONSIDERED AS THE MEANS OF EXCITING BENEVOLENT AFFECTIONS IN OURSELVES. Ask me, What is the glory of an angel above a devil? I answer, It is the spirit of love which animates the one, of which the other is destitute. It is not the absence of external splendour, it is not the suffering and misery, it is the want of benevolence, by which a fallen spirit is degraded, and which makes him odious. Ask me, What is the peculiar glory of the gospel above every other religion? I reply, It is the spirit of love which breathes in it. The providence of God seems purposely to have placed the Christian in a scene where the exercise of love is needed, and his benevolent affections continually called forth; where wants and miseries present themselves on every side amongst his fellow-creatures and his friends. What can he do for them? His own means are insufficient to relieve them; but he can pray; he can implore God to supply what he cannot do. Have you a dear relation sick or afflicted? Are you indebted to a generous benefactor to whom you cannot repay the debt of gratitude? O what a just and noble return may you render him by your prayers!
II. Intercession for others will also produce the spirit of love in those for whom we pray. Love creates love. You cannot meet your friend after your heart has been engaged in fervent supplication for him, without expressing that genuine tenderness which will produce a reciprocal regard in him. Intercession enlarges the exercise of friendship: it opens a new source of love. Let not a Christian say, I am forsaken — I meet with no acts of kindness. Has he then no Christian friends? Let him think of them as interceding for him. Intercession for our friends refines our friendship and redeems it from those debasing feelings by which the attachments of worldly men are so often degraded.
III. THE THIRD ADVANTAGE ON INTERCESSION FOE OUR FRIENDS CONSISTS IN ITS EXCITING OUR LOVE TOWARDS GOD. This is its direct influence. Can you go to the Father of Mercies day by day imploring blessings upon all you love? can you diversify these petitions, adapting them to the various necessities, sorrows, and circumstances of your friends? and do you not exclaim, How infinite the riches, how boundless the power, how vast the bounty of the Being I address? He is the Giver of all good things to my children, to my friend, to my neighbour, to my country, to the whole world, to the universe!
IV. THE LAST ADVANTAGE WHICH I SHALL MENTION IN INTERCESSION FOR OUR FRIENDS IS THAT IT IS THE DIRECT MEANS OF PROMOTING THEIR WELFARE. Why, when He intends to bless, may He not do so through the medium of prayer and intercession? Can anything be more consonant to the general analogy and constitution of the world? Even the great benefits of redemption are conveyed to us through the intercession of the Redeemer. What an example did He exhibit of the performance of this duty!
V. LET US LEARN WHO HAS BEEN OUR TRUEST FRIEND, TO WHOM WE HAVE BEEN MOST INDEBTED. Think often of Him who has laboured the most for your welfare, who has most watched over your soul, and prayed the most effectually for you. Think of Him who now liveth to make intercession for you. That Friend is Christ.
Methodist, were walking in Speaker Foster's grounds one day, when Barber, who was instant in season and out of season, asked the gardener to engage in prayer. They both knelt down, and Barber was praying aloud, when Lord Cornwallis and Speaker Foster, who were out walking, heard voices, drew near, and listened. Among the requests made to God were appeals for assistance to the Government, who were placed in such trying circumstances, and that God would bless and direct the counsels of the Lord-Lieutenant — Lord Cornwallis. Barber in his prayer breathed the deepest loyal devotion, and concluded by imploring a blessing upon the Methodists, and that they should be saved from the devil and Squire Ruxton of Ardee. "Who is this squire?" asked Lord Cornwallis, and Mr. Foster replied that he was a neighbouring squire, who persecuted the Methodists. "And what does this praying mean?" asked Lord Cornwallis. "Oh," replied Mr. Foster, "this gardener of mine is one of those Methodist fellows, and I must dismiss him." "You will do no such thing," said the other. "Did you hear how he prayed for me, for the Council, for the King, and for the Government? Indeed, these Methodists must be a loyal people; and as for Squire Ruxton, just take my compliments to him, and tell him that I think these Methodists are very good people, and that he must leave them alone." That prayer of poor Barber's put a stop to the worst persecution ever endured in that neighbourhood, and, while passes were required of others, free permission was given to the Methodist preacher to go where he liked and do what he liked.
I. WE OUGHT TO PRAY FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN AUTHORITY MORE FREQUENTLY AND EARNESTLY THAN FOR OTHER MEN, BECAUSE THEY MORE THAN OTHER MEN NEED OUR PRAYERS. In other words, they need a more than ordinary share of that wisdom and grace which God alone can bestow; and which He seldom or never bestows, except in answer to prayer.
1. This is evident from the fact that they have a more than ordinary share of duties to perform. All the duties which God requires of other men, considered as sinful, immortal, and accountable creatures, He requires of rulers. It is incumbent on them, as it is on other men, to possess personal religion; to exercise repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; to love and fear and serve their Creator; and to prepare for death and judgment. In addition to the various personal duties of a moral and religious nature which are required of them as men, they have many official duties which are peculiar to themselves — duties which it is by no means easy to perform in a manner acceptable to God and approved of men.
2. They are appointed and they are required to be ministers of God for good to those over whom they are placed. There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Since, then, legislators, rulers, and magistrates are the ministers and vicegerents of God for good, they are sacredly bound to imitate Him whom they represent; to be such on earth as He is in heaven; to fake care of His rights and see that they are not trampled upon with impunity; to be a terror to evil-doers and a praise and encouragement to such as do well.
3. As the influence of their example must be great, it is their indispensable duty to take care that this influence be ever exerted in favour of truth and goodness; and to remember that they are like a city set upon a hill which cannot be hid. Now consider a moment how exceedingly difficult it must be for a weak, short-sighted, imperfect creature like man to perform these various duties in a proper manner, and how large a share of prudence and wisdom and firmness and goodness is necessary to enable him to do it. Surely, then, they who are called to perform such duties in a peculiar manner need our prayers.
II. THOSE WHO ARE INVESTED WITH AUTHORITY NEED MORE THAN OTHER MEN OUR PRAYERS, BECAUSE THEY ARE EXPOSED MORE THAN OTHER MEN TO TEMPTATION AND DANGER. While they have a more than ordinary share of duties to perform, they are urged by temptations more than ordinarily numerous and powerful to neglect their duty. They have, for instance, peculiarly strong temptations to neglect those personal, private duties which God requires of them as men, as immortal and accountable creatures; and a performance of which is indispensably necessary to their salvation. They are exposed to the innumerable temptations and dangers which ever attend prosperity. How powerfully, then, must they be tempted to irreligion, to pride, to ambition, to every form of what the Scriptures call worldly-mindedness? It can scarcely be necessary to add that persons who are exposed to temptations so numerous and powerful need our prayers.
III. This will appear still more evident if we consider that, SHOULD THOSE WHO ARE CLOTHED WITH AUTHORITY YIELD TO THESE TEMPTATIONS AND NEGLECT EITHER THEIR PERSONAL OR OFFICIAL DUTIES, THE CONSEQUENCES WILL TO THEE BE PECULIARLY DREADFUL. They will, like Jeroboam, make their people to sin. We are informed by an inspired writer that one sinner destroyeth much good. This remark is true of every sinner, but it is most emphatically true of sinners who are placed in authority.
IV. We ought to pray with peculiar earnestness for all who are in authority, BECAUSE OUR OWN INTEREST AND THE GREAT INTERESTS OF THE COMMUNITY REQUIRE IT. This motive the apostle urges in our text. Pray, says he, for all in authority, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty. These expressions plainly intimate that if we wish to enjoy peace and quiet — if we wish godliness and honesty, or, in other words, religion and morality, to prevail among us, we must pray for our rulers. Farther, the peace and prosperity of a nation evidently depend much upon the measures which its rulers adopt in their intercourse with other nations. Once more, the peace and prosperity of a nation depends entirely on securing the favour of God.
I. In the first place, with respect to THE DUTY ITSELF.
1. The nature of it stands very distinctly expressed and announced in the text. Observe, however, that you are not to suppose from this, that kings, princes and senators, and "all that are in authority," are always to be considered as ungodly, unconverted men; not, it may be, a part of God's Church themselves.
2. As to the external circumstances, in which the duty is contemplated as being discharged, I would just remark that the apostle is giving direction to Timothy for regulating the actings and order of the Church as a society; and is, therefore, in the text, more especially contemplating the Church as such.
3. The internal feeling and state of mind with which the duty is to be discharged. There is emphatically demanded from us, in this duty, earnestness and warmth, sincerity and faith. Try to call into exercise a calm, resolute, honest sentiment of hearty faith in this agency which you exercise.
4. And consider, again, that in relation to this duty, every heart and every lip has its importance. It is the sum and amount of faith in the mass of the people, which is represented in the Scripture as prevailing with God.
II. TO MENTION SOME CONSIDERATIONS, WHICH SHOULD BE FELT TO ENFORCE AND URGE UPON US ITS DISCHARGE.
1. In the first place, to go to the highest at once, we have the Divine command as it stands in the text, and as that text is corroborated and sustained by other passages of the Divine Word. The will of God is the supreme source of moral obligation.
2. A consideration enforcing the discharge of this duty on Christians arises from the fact, that the possession of any power whatever involves an obligation to its proper and efficient employment. If, therefore, it be true that Christian men are contemplated as having the privilege of offering intercession for others, if they are possessed of this amazing power of presenting supplications which shall actually exercise a real agency with God and a beneficial influence upon man, the very possession of that power, that spiritual function, involves an obligation to its conscientious exercise.
3. But we go on to observe that there are these special considerations. You may put them to yourselves in some such way as this. The important position and aspect which these parties sustain in relation to God's government of the world. For kings and rulers, and men in authority, are represented as God's ministers. Because of this, we are called upon, both for their sake and our own, to commend them to God, that they may indeed be His ministers, by intelligently falling in with His will, and seeking voluntarily to accomplish His purposes.
4. Another consideration is the influence which the character, conduct, and determinations of those in authority must have upon the rest of mankind for evil or for good.
5. Another consideration which specially commends. persons in authority to the intercessions of God's Church, is the view which Christians may perhaps feel themselves compelled to take of their condition and character. It may be, that Christians may be compelled to feel that a king is necessarily surrounded by circumstances dangerous to his religion, perilous to his soul. It may be, that Christians may think that the circumstances connected with distinguished rank are unfavourable to the proper exercise and culture of those principles and sentiments, which it becomes man as a sinner to entertain, and therefore to that state of mind which is a necessary preparation for the reception of the Gospel of God. It may be, that Christians may sometimes be compelled to think that persons in these high stations are not surrounded by the best, the most enlightened and scriptural, spiritual guides.
III. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS. I think this subject should be felt to present to us the primitive Church in an interesting aspect, and in various ways to illustrate the greatness of our religion. This little society of Christian men — despised, persecuted, contemned — they had prayers for their persecutors; they had love for them. Let me observe, that the important Christian duty which I have been enforcing upon you tonight, must not be made a substitute for all other duties, which as Christian Englishmen you are called to perform. By being Christians, you ceased not to be citizens; as citizens, all your political duties remain the same; the only thing is, that you are to discharge them under religious motives, and with a conscientious desire in them to be "accepted of God," whether or not you are approved of men.
I. THE APOSTLE EXHORTETH CHRISTIANS TO "PRAY FOR KINGS" WITH ALL SORTS OF PRAYER; with δεήσεις, or "deprecations," for averting evils from them; with προσευχαὶ, or "petitions," for obtaining good things to them; with ἐντεύξεις, or "occasional intercessions," for needful gifts and graces to be collated on them.
1. Common charity should dispose us to pray for kings.
2. To impress which consideration, we may reflect that commonly we have only this way granted us of exercising our charity toward princes; they being situated aloft above the reach of private beneficence.
3. We are bound to pray for kings out of charity to the public; because their good is a general good, and the communities of men (both Church and State) are greatly concerned in the blessings by prayer derived on them. The prosperity of a prince is inseparable from the prosperity of his people; they ever partaking of his fortunes, and thriving or suffering with him. For as when the sun shineth brightly, there is a clear day, and fair weather over the world; so when a prince is not overclouded with adversity or disastrous occurrences, the public state must be serene, and a pleasant state of things will appear. Then is the ship in a good condition when, the pilot in open sea, with full sails and a brisk gale, cheerfully steereth on toward his designed port. Especially the piety and goodness of a prince is of vast consequence, and yieldeth infinite benefit to his country. So, for instance, how did piety flourish in the times of David, who loved, favoured, and practised it! and what abundance of prosperity did attend it! What showers of blessings (what peace, what wealth, what credit and glory) did God then pour down on Israel! How did the goodness of that prince transmit favours and mercies on his country till a long time after his decease! How often did God profess "for His servant David's sake" to preserve Judah from destruction; so that even in the days of Hezekiah, when the king of Assyria did invade that country, God by the mouth of Isaiah declared, "I will defend this city to save it for Mine own sake, and for My servant David's sake." We may indeed observe that, according to the representation of things in Holy Scripture, there is a kind of moral connection, or a communication of merit and guilt, between prince and people; so that mutually each of them is rewarded for the virtues, each is punished for the vices of the other.
4. Wherefore consequently our own interest and charity to ourselves should dispose us to pray for our prince. We being nearly concerned in his welfare, as parts of the public, and as enjoying many private advantages thereby; we cannot but partake of His good, we cannot but suffer with him. We cannot live quietly if our prince is disturbed; we cannot live happily if he be unfortunate; we can hardly live virtuously if Divine grace do not incline him to favour us therein, or at least restrain him from hindering us.
5. Let us consider that subjects are obliged in gratitude and ingenuity, yea in equity and justice, to pray for their princes. They are most nearly related to us, and allied by the most sacred bands; being constituted by God, in his own room, the parents and guardians of their country. To their industry and vigilancy under God we owe the fair administration of justice, the protection of right and innocence, the preservation of order and peace, the encouragement of goodness, and correction of wickedness.
6. Whereas we are by Divine command frequently enjoined to fear and reverence, to honour, to obey kings; we should look on prayer for them as a principal branch, and the neglect thereof as a notable breach of those duties.
7. The praying for princes is a service peculiarly honourable, and very acceptable to God; which He will interpret as a great respect done to Himself; for that thereby we honour His image and character in them, yielding in His presence this special respect to them as His representatives.
8. Let us consider that whereas wisdom, guiding our piety and charity, will especially incline us to place our devotion there where it will be most needful and useful; we therefore chiefly must pray for kings because they do most need our prayers.
II. THE OTHER (THANKSGIVING) I SHALL BUT TOUCH, AND NEED NOT PERHAPS TO DO MORE. For —
1. As to general inducements, they are the same, or very like to those which are for prayer; it being plain that whatever we are concerned to pray for, when we want it, that we are bound to thank God for, when He vouchsafeth to bestow it.
2. As for particular motives, suiting the present occasion, you cannot be ignorant or insensible of the grand benefits by the Divine goodness bestowed on our king, and on ourselves, which this day we are bound with all grateful acknowledgment to commemorate.
I. It recommends a great duty to us, the duty of MAKING SUPPLICATIONS, PRAYERS, AND INTERCESSIONS, AND OF GIVING THANKS FOR KINGS, AND ALL THAT ARE IN AUTHORITY. II. FOR THIS IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF GOD OUR SAVIOUR.
1. Our applications to God in behalf of the princes and rulers of this world are highly reasonable, as they are proper expressions of our good-will to mankind, whose fate is in their hands, and whose welfare in great measure depends upon their actions and conduct.
2. As the virtues and vices of those who govern, operate on all inferior ranks of men in the way of natural causes, so have they another and a more extraordinary effect; inasmuch as God doth often take occasion to reward or punish a people, not only by the means of good or ill princes, but even for the sake of them.
3. The cares of empire are great, and the burthen which lies upon the shoulders of princes very weighty; and on this account, therefore, they challenge, because they particularly want our prayers, that they may "have an understanding heart to discern between good and bad, and to go out and in before a great people." With what difficulties is their administration often clogged by the perverseness, folly, or wickedness of those they govern! How hard a thing do they find it to inform themselves truly of the state of affairs; where fraud and flattery surround and take such pains to mislead them!
4. That the providence of God doth, in a very particular manner, interpose towards swaying the will and affections, directing, or overruling the intentions of those who sit at the helm; for the king's heart is in the hand of God, as the rivers of waters; He turneth it whithersoever He listeth (Proverbs 21:1). He gives a bent to it this way or that, which it takes as certainly and easily as a stream is derived into the channels, which the hand of the workman prepares for it. These prayers are never so becomingly and forcibly addressed to God as in the great congregation. Blessings of a public nature and influence require as public and solemn acknowledgments; and the proper way of obtaining mercies, which affect many, is by pouring out the joint requests of many in behalf of them; for in the spiritual, as well as the carnal warfare, numbers are most likely to prevail.
III. I proceed to consider THE SPECIAL MOTIVE THERE PROPOSED, TO QUICKEN US INTO THE EXERCISE OF IT, that so we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. I shall briefly show in what respects the devotions recommended by the apostle contribute to this end; and how far, therefore, our own ease, advantage, and happiness are concerned in paying them. And —
1. They have a plain tendency this way, as they are a prevailing argument with God so to dispose and incline the minds of princes that they may study to promote the quiet, good, and prosperity of their kingdoms.
2. Such prayers facilitate our leading a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty; inasmuch as they express, in the most significant manner, our love, and zeal, and reverence towards the persons of princes; and by such instances of duty invite them to make us suitable returns. They effectually prevent those jealousies, which men clothed with sovereign power are too apt to entertain of their inferiors, and promote that good understanding between them, which is the common interest, and should be the common aim of both, and wherein the security and happiness of all well-ordered states chiefly consist.
3. A quiet and peaceable life is the fruit of these public devotions, as we ourselves derive from thence a spirit of meekness, submission, and respect to our superiors, and are led into an habitual love and practice of those mild graces and virtues which we, at such times, solemnly exercise and pray God to inspire us with; and which, when generally practised, make crowns sit easy on the heads of princes, and render them and their subjects equally a blessing to each other.
IV. PRESS ON CHRISTIANS THIS DUTY.
1. The princes for whom the apostle pleads were infidels, without Christ, aliens from His commonwealth and strangers from the covenants of His promise (Ephesians 2:12); and such also they were, by the permission of God, to continue for three hundred years after the coming of our Saviour, that so His gospel might not owe its first establishment, in any degree, to the secular powers, but might spread and fix itself everywhere without their help and against their will, and manifest to all the world its Divine original by the miraculous manner in which it should be propagated. If then the tribute of supplications and thanksgivings was due to those heathen princes, is it not much more due to those who are Christians, who are ingrafted as principal members into that mystical body, of which Jesus Christ is the head?
2. That the Roman emperors, for whom the apostle here directs that prayers should be made, were usurpers and tyrants, who acquired dominion by invading the liberties of a free people, and were arbitrary and lawless in the exercise of it. Their will and pleasure was the sole standard of justice; fear was the foundation of their government, and their throne was upheld only by the legions which surrounded it. Even for such rulers the first Christians were exhorted to supplicate and give thanks. How much more reasonably and cheerfully do we, who are met here this day, now offer up that sacrifice for a Queen, who wears the crown of her forefathers, to which she is entitled by blood, and which was placed on her royal head, not only with the free consent but with the universal joy and acclamations of her subjects.
3. Those who governed the world at or near the time of St. Paul's writing this epistle, had no personal merits or virtues to recommend them to the prayers of the faithful. Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, under whom the Christian faith was disseminated, and for all whom, we may presume, the faithful equally made their supplications were not only bad princes but bad men, infamous for their lust, cruelty, and other vices; but they were in authority, and that gave them a right to be mentioned in the sacred offices of the Church. How different from their case is ours, whose eyes behold on the throne a Queen who deserves to sit there, as well by her virtue as by her birth.
4. The emperors of Rome, for whom the primitive Christians were obliged to pray and to give thanks, were their avowed enemies and persecutors, who did what they could to hinder the establishment of the Church of Christ, and to suppress those very assemblies wherein these devotions were offered up to God in their behalf. Whereas she, for whom we now adore and bless the good providence of God, is, by her office and by her inclination the defender and friend, the patroness and nursing-mother of His Church established among us.
(F. Atterbury, D. D.)
1. A habit of praying for others, keeps our minds on a higher plane than does always thinking about our own selves. Praying for others increases in you those compassions and kindnesses toward men which society needs in every part. There is yet much rude and savage nature left among men. There is much of the forest and the wilderness left in society. We speak of them as "the mass," "the rabble," or "the common people." We think of them as we do of flocks of birds, without individualizing them; without specializing their wants, and temptations, and trials; without bringing ourselves into personal relations with them. They are mere animated facts before us. It is a bad thing for men to live, and grow up, and call themselves Christians, and form the habit of looking at the great mass of men and seeing nothing in them but their physical constitution and external relations. And the habit of praying for men brings back the manhood to your thought, and sympathy, and heart in such a way as to lead you to imagine their history, and to feel for them with a true-hearted interest. As we look at men without individualizing them, we are apt to think of them as so many forces without attributes. We see them working, delving, earning, achieving. They are to us very much like rains, like winds, like laws of nature. And the sight is a bad one because it hardens the heart. It is dangerous to look upon the weak side of men. Anything is dangerous to your manhood which takes your sympathy away from your fellow-men, and makes your heart hard toward them. What we need is to have such sympathy with men that every day we shall carry their cases before God, and look at their vulgarities in the light of God's pity, and not in the light of our own contempt and cynical criticism.
2. The habit of praying for men tends, also, to increase our patience and our tender helpfulness towards them, and prepares us for just thoughts concerning them. There is many a man who would not smite his neighbour with his fist, but who smites him unmercifully with his thoughts. There is many a man who would not pierce a fellow man with an instrument in his hand for all the world, but who does not hesitate to pierce him and wound him to the very quick with his thoughts. In the court-room of our own secret souls, we condemn men unheard. We argue their case, and they have no chance to make plea in return. And if we are Christian men, we shall see to it that that inside, silent hall of judgment, the soul, is regulated according to the most scrupulous honour, and conscience, and manhood, and sympathy.Nor do I know of any other way in which this can be so well done as by the habit of praying for others. Having, then, considered the duty, more particularly, of praying for all men, let us specialize.
1. We naturally pray for our children first. We remember them in our family prayer. And how much better it is, in praying for them, to follow out the line of their disposition, and, as it were, to bathe our affection for them in the heavenly atmosphere! How much more beautiful they will be to us!
2. Then I think we ought to pray for our associates and our friends, not in the general way alone. General good wishes are not without their use; but special prayers are needful. I do not think that we sufficiently search out and know our friends. We are to pray for all that are despised. It is wholesome that from day to day we should send our mercies out, as it were. It is wholesome that we should have something to compare our lot with. As sweet is better to our taste when we have taken something sour, so joy is better for having the touch of sorrow near to it.
3. We are to pray for all those who are in peril and distress; for all those who are shut up in various ways. Prayer for such people keeps alive pity. It deepens humanity.
4. Then we are to pray for our enemies. That duty is made special. It is made one of the fundamental evidences of the relationship of God Himself. Once more.
5. We cannot fulfil the spirit nor the letter of this command if we pray only for our own sect.
(H. W. Beecher.)
(A. Plummer, D. D.)
I. GOVERNMENT IS OF GOD. It has its germ and root in the fatherly relationship. The early patriarch was monarch of his own house, lord of his own castle and flocks, and of the keeper thereof.
II. GOVERNMENT AS OF GOD IS TO BE OBEYED. Conscience, which binds us by direct ties to the throne of God, must, of course, always be obeyed.
III. GOVERNMENT AS OF GOD IS TO OCCUPY A FOREMOST PLACE IN OUR PETITIONS. First of all — too often, indeed, it is last of all, and sometimes seldom at all.
IV. GOVERNMENT BLESSED BY GOD WILL THUS ENSURE THE WEAL OF MAN.
(W. M. Statham.)
I. THE VARIETY OF PRAYER is indicated by the use of these differing phrases, " supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks." We may think of these phrases separately in order to get a clearer notion of the meaning of each; but one shades off into another; and you can no more exactly define each than you can say of the colours of a sea at sunset, "the blue begins just here, and the glow of crimson and the sheen of the gold just there." The more you pray the more you will discover the variety of soul-utterances to God; the calm contemplation; the agonizing supplication; the childlike talk with the heavenly. Father; and the seraphic praisefulness. These are only known through experience. When the untaught, unmusical lad takes up a violin, it is as much as he can do to produce one steady tone, but in the trained hands of the accomplished musician that same instrument wails, and pleads, and sings. Much more varied are the utterances of the human soul, when a full answer is given to the prayer of the disciples, "Lord, teach us to pray."
II. THE SUBJECTS OF PRAYER specially referred to in this passage are not the necessities of the saints themselves, but the wants of other men, and especially of all those who had authority and who exercised influence over society. Listen to what says in his apology respecting the practice of these early Christians. "We Christians, looking up to heaven with outspread hands, because they are free from stain; with uncovered heads, because there is nothing to make us blush; without a prompter, because we pray from our hearts; do intercede for all emperors, that their lives may be prolonged, their government be secured to them, that their families may be preserved in safety, their senates faithful to them, their armies brave, the people honest, and the whole empire at peace, and for whatever other things are desired by the people or the Caesar." If that was the custom under heathen rule, how much more is it our duty under a Christian government! Therefore let us pray that our national affairs may be guided with wisdom; that amidst the tortuous channels of foreign policy, where so many cross currents and hidden rocks abound, the ship of state may be firmly anal safely steered; that questions likely to provoke anger and suspicion may be settled on fair principles of justice; and that in all home legislation inequalities and injustices of every kind may be swept away, the needs of a chronic pauperism met, temptations to drunkenness and profligacy lessened where they cannot be removed; and thus" God, even our own God, 'will bless us, and all the ends of the earth shall fear Him." We may fairly widen the application of these words still further. Some of our truest "kings" are uncrowned. A man who directs and rules the thought of a nation has more power than one who gives expression to it; and we have seen instances in which a man has lost far more than he has gained by exchanging the position of an editor for that of a legislator.
III. THE ISSUE OF SUCH PRAYERS is thus described — "That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty," or rather "in all godliness and gravity," as those who are not perturbed by earthly strifes, but see in the state of society around them the germs of the righteousness and peace which are of heaven.
IV. THE ACCEPTABILITY OF SUCH PRAYERS in the sight of God is expressly asserted.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
(H. W. Sheppard.)
In the sight of God our Saviour.
I. Let us think, by way of preparing our minds for this broad truth, of THE TITLE CHOSEN BY OUR APOSTLE — "God our Saviour," or "our Saviour God." It is the good pleasure of God as the Saviour, that is uppermost in his mind. The intercessions of the Church as well as the intercessions of the Christ, are but the outgrowth of a Divine purpose, a saving purpose. Surely here is abundant proof, that whatever may be said of mediation, it cannot be an intervention by a third party between a guilty world and a holy Creator. Surely, also, we ought to look upon redemption as having its spring and source in an unsolicited love of the Divine heart. It would have been well had there been more use made of this beautiful phrase, "God our Saviour," and less of "God the Sovereign," which is not a Scriptural one. When the lost are found, they are found through the mercy of God our Saviour.
II. Then let us observe, that if there be any meaning in words, HERE IS ALSO A DIVINE PREFERENCE DISCLOSED TO US; yes, and more than a preference, an energy going forth in order to attain the object of that preference "who willeth that all men should be saved." It is not that, of the two, He would rather men should be saved than that they should be lost. This would be a poor and pitiful rendering of the teaching here conveyed to us. Nor is it that there is a sentimental preference; this again might be very unpractical in its results. Many people are conscious of decided preferences, but the preferences are not thrown into their wills. "God willeth." Oh that is a strong will of God. He willeth, and lo, the creation became a fact. Are you afraid to allow that there is a strong will — the will of God our Saviour, behind all the acts and processes of Redemption? You say that a purpose may be thwarted and a preference crossed. Yes, yes, but don't let this beguile you into any loss of comfort which these words ought to bring you. Especially let them not rob you of any conviction about the absolute and irreversible favourableness of God to your personal, your present, and your future salvation.
III. THE BREADTH AND GRANDEUR OF THIS STATEMENT MY STARTLE US. But what will familiarity with it do for us? "Oh," says one, "it will not do to speak it out too boldly. Men will grow daring in their sins; and they will come to believe that if love be indeed almighty and all-embracing, they may do just as they like, and all will be right at last." Do you not see, however, that, though our apostle entertained this conviction, he saw that all men needed to be prayed for and laboured for? He who is our Saviour God wills that all should be saved; therefore it is good and acceptable in His sight that we should pray for all without distinction, h true prayer becomes a purpose. He who prays for what God loves and wishes, must come to love what God loves; else his prayer is not a true prayer. Why was the Cross planted? Not that the good might be strengthened in their goodness, but that the bad might be assured there was a means whereby they might be recovered. The salvation of Christ is not simply a protection of virtuous men, but a recovery of the vicious; not simply an incentive to continuance in well-doing, but a restoration from evil-doing. What that salvation is, at which our apostle glances, you must look elsewhere to find. If he says, "knowledge of the truth," do not think that this requires a vast deal of learning to reach. Do not suppose that mere opinion, or Scripture knowledge even, is what he means. He means, that associated with salvation is a true knowledge, a true recognition of God as the Saviour. The false lie gives place to the true knowledge: there is nothing more than this in the phrase. You have believed Satan's lie, now believe God's truth. Salvation, again — do you ask what it is? It is a renewed moral energy — the power to do right, the strength to overcome evil. It is safety when the enemy may tempt or taunt. It is eternal life in Christ. It is to have God dwelling with, in us — the assurance of victory.
(G. J. Proctor.)
I. The apostle remarks, that THERE IS ONE GOD. It has been said that the idea of eternity and the idea of a God are too much for us to meddle with. It is not too much to meddle with, but too much fully to understand. One God, one eternal Jehovah, who is above all, and over all, and in all, the only One depending upon none, and derived nor proceeding from none.
II. The second thing in the text is, that THERE IS ONE MEDIATOR. Here an interesting scene presents itself to our view. Three parties, God on the one hand, man on the other, and a Mediator, coming, mediating and acting between these two parties at difference, to bring them into union. Now, in order to be qualified to act between both, he must be acquainted with the nature, sentiments, and feelings of both. Agreeably to this, Jesus is revealed as truly and properly God, and therefore He has the same names given to Him, the same attributes ascribed to Him. Nor are we to confine His mediation to the days after His appearance in the flesh; He was the one Mediator from the beginning of the Creation. It was through faith in the seed of the woman who was to appear in the fulness of time to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself that Adam and Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and all the fathers, entered into glory. He, as the alone Mediator, does and will continue to mediate until the whole scheme of mercy be completed. There is one God and one Mediator, the man Christ Jesus. "Who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth" This implies that the truth must be revealed, or made known. But how is the truth to be made known for its acknowledgment and belief? God does not, as it is asserted in the Apocrypha, take a prophet by the hair of the head, and place him where his work awaits him; the truth is made known by the use of ordinary means. Now, let us consider the present state of human means. The progress of science and the perfection of navigation have opened up the possibility of sending the truth to every land to be acknowledged and received. Many motives might be urged. What Christ has done for you calls upon you to do something for promoting His interest in the world. The value that you yourselves put upon the salvation of your souls should induce you to send the truth to others.
(A. Clarke, D. D.)
1. He is a seeking Saviour. Were a king to enter a city he would expect and receive honour and applause. But the world would be astonished if instead of asking to be shown the principal buildings of the city, the king were to say to the mayor, "Now let me go to your poor men and women who need my kingly help and sympathy: it gives me no pleasure to look on your splendour while I know your back slums are crowded with the miserable and degraded." Ah, no king ever did this except the One who was crowned with thorns, and whose throne was a cross.
2. God is a gracious Saviour. He not only loves His friends, but He dies to save His enemies.
3. God is a truthful Saviour. His word may be relied on. No man yet, so far as I have been able to learn, ever trusted God and was lost.
4. He is a loving Saviour. A mother who has a crippled child, from whom all other people draw away and shudder because of its distorted face, will hug her babe to her breast and rejoice because she has love for it. Now, like a mother, God is our loving Saviour, not because there is anything good in us, but because His heart contains love for us.
5. The Lord is a powerful Saviour.
6. God is our present Saviour. He saves now.
7. God is our everlasting Saviour. If He were not able to "keep us" I should doubt, and you would fear; but we rejoice to know that God is our ever lasting Saviour.
Who will have all men to be saved
I. TO THE APPELLATION GIVEN BY THE APOSTLE TO GOSPEL — it is "the truth." The unhesitating manner in which the founders of Christianity apply this epithet to the religious system they were charged to unfold to the world is a circumstance not to be passed over in silence. Had they been conscious of the absence of inspiration, and that the Christian code of doctrine had been an invention of their own, it would have been insufferable arrogance in them to have dignified it with the appellation of "the truth." They knew that this system was "the truth," because they knew that it came from God. The heathen sages had reason which was dark and beclouded, because it was only the reason of fallen creatures. The apostles had revelation, the mind of the Spirit, who searches the deep things of God. The gospel which they preached had the evidence of the old revelation of the law; for its principles were seen pictured in the hieroglyphics of the tabernacle. It had the evidence of the prophets; for they had jointly testified of Christ, His sufferings, His glory, His doctrines, in language of easy interpretation. They had the evidence of miracles wrought by Jesus Himself, in confirmation of His mission, and which they themselves had seen. But by designating the gospel "the truth," the apostle not only proclaims its divinity, and consequent in fallibility, but also calls the attention of men to it as a system of the utmost importance to them, and bound up with their best interests. It is represented in the text as truth which relates to salvation. God willeth all men to be saved by coming to the knowledge of the truth. It is this circumstance which strikes so deep an interest to our religion, and distinguishes it as "the truth," by way of eminence. All truth is not interesting to man; or, at least, every other truth is but partially so. It shows us the true propitiation — the blood of a divine sacrifice. It exhibits the terms of man's acceptance — his deep humiliation of soul, and his faith in the merits and intercession of the appointed Redeemer. It has promises for man's encouragement, warnings for his caution, precepts for his direction. It proclaims him immortal; teaches him that he is on his trial; sets before him the solemnities of the general judgment; and carries his hopes and fears into their highest exercise, and renders them of the best possible service to him, by opening to him the penalties of eternal destruction, and the glories of endless felicity. H. We observe in the text, THAT THE KNOWLEDGE OF THIS TRUTH IS CONNECTED WITH SALVATION, AS A MEANS TO AN END; and connected, too, by no less an authority than the will of God. He that willeth "all men to be saved" willeth them also "to come to the knowledge of the truth"; and from this the inference is irresistible, that the knowledge of the truth is essential to salvation. This subject deserves our serious attention; and there are two questions which arise out of it — What degree of that truth is necessary to be known in order to salvation; and how it must be known. The first question presents a point of necessary discussion; because if it were meant that, before a person could be saved, he should have a complete and accurate knowledge of all the truths of the gospel, every one would be excluded from the benefit. The truths revealed are the revelations of an infinite mind, and partake of its infinity. They relate to spiritual operations, of which we know little; and to a future state, of which we practically know nothing. For this reason the gospel must ever present something more to be known, as well as to be experienced; and it is to be the subject of development for ever. This is its perfection. But there are considerations which prove that a perfect knowledge of every part of the truth is not essential to mere salvation. Hence it is that divines have divided the truths of the gospel into two classes — those which are essential, and those which are nonessential. The distinction is just. There are truths which it is necessary we should know in order that we may be saved. The best way of determining what is essential for us to know, is to consider what is essential to faith. It is said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Whatever, therefore, is essential for us to know, in order that we may believe, must be essential for us to know, in order that we may be saved. In order to faith we must know the purity of the Divine law in such a degree as shall convince us that we have violated it, and incurred the penalty of its maledictory sanction. We must know our inability to make atonement; for without this the undertaking of Christ is vain in respect to us. We must know so much of the evidence of Christ's mission as to receive Him as the divinely appointed Redeemer. We must know His meritorious death to be so satisfactory to the offended Deity, that for the sake of that He will impute our faith for justification. We must know the provisions made in the promises for supplying us with the help of the Holy Spirit for the renewing of our nature, and the support and comfort of our minds; and we must know the precepts of the gospel law, by which our minds and lives may be regulated according to the will of God. This knowledge is necessary for mere salvation: but we are far from saying that a higher degree of knowledge is useless. A higher degree of knowledge is, indeed, necessary in order to a confirmed faith; to enable us to meet and answer the objections by which we may be assailed; to qualify us to instruct the ignorant; to be a means of carrying us up to high attainments in religion; and to prepare us for extensive usefulness in the Church. The second question, how the truth must be known, in order that we may be saved, seems to be answered in the phrase, "come to the knowledge of the truth." This knowledge supposes curiosity to know the truth. It is lamentable that there is so little of this amongst men. In many instances truth is never thought of. This knowledge supposes the admission of truth into the understanding, and its influence upon the practice. Some men shrink back from this knowledge. They will not come to the light lest their deeds should be reproved. Whatever it cost us, we must know the truth, that we may walk by it, and be saved by its instrumentality.
III. The text presents us with an interesting view of THE CONNECTION OF THE DIVINE WILL WITH THE SALVATION OF MAN. "Who will have all men to be saved."
1. The object of this will is the salvation of man. This has already been alluded to, but deserves a more distinct consideration. It is this which so gloriously displays the benevolence of God by the gospel.
2. That in the same sense He willeth all men to be saved. That this is Scripture doctrine, and that the word "all" is to be taken in its most extensive sense, scarcely any other argument is necessary to prove than that of the apostle in the context. It is a feeble criticism to say that the apostle meant by the expression, "all men," all ranks of men; for that is the same thing. "All ranks of men" are "all men" (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15). Here the remedy is declared to be as extensive as the disease.
3. The mode in which the Divine will is connected with human salvation remains to be considered. It is a natural question, "If God willeth all men to be saved, why is it that any perish?" The answer is, If God willeth to save men by overcoming their wills by His omnipotent influence, all men must be saved; but He wills to save them according to the nature which He has given them; and we have the evidence of His Word, and of our own consciousness, that His will is a resistible will, and that His willing us to be saved does not effect our salvation without a corresponding determination of our own will. The principal opinions on this subject are these. Some persons have considered man, when under the gracious influence of God exerted upon him in order to his salvation, as wholly passive, and carried by irresistible force into a new condition. But if this be the case, then man is a machine. Another opinion therefore is, that the will is necessarily influenced in its determinations by motives of good and evil discovered to the understanding; and that in the case of those who are saved, such motives as must command the assent of the will are impressed by God upon the mind; and thus it is supposed that the person so operated upon is infallibly brought into a state of salvation without any violence to his free agency. If, however, God willeth all men to be saved, and proceeded in this way to the execution of His purpose, their salvation would be as certain as if they were machines. The doctrine is the same, though cloaked with a metaphysical garb. The opposite extreme to these opinions is, that man has a natural power to discern the right, and to choose it, independent of a Divine agency exerted upon his mind. Had man been left without any supernatural aids, he must have been as blind to discern what is good as he was unable to choose it. The plain facts before us, then, are, God willeth our salvation; He has appointed effectual means to this end; He has given us all the power to use these means; and to the use of them lie has promised His blessing. Whether we will actually "come to the knowledge of the truth," or not, is left ultimately with ourselves; but whether we will hear the voice of God, or whether we will forbear, we have motives, exhortations, promises; all that can move upon our fear, our love, our interest. To apply these motives is a part of our ministry. We are made ambassadors for Christ to persuade you to be reconciled to God.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
I. Now it can scarcely have escaped your attention that there is in our text AN ACCUMULATION OF PHRASE WHICH MUST PREVENT OUR THINKING THAT ANY PRAYER, EXCEPT THE LARGEST AND MOST URGENT, WILL COME UP TO THE SCOPE OF THE APOSTLE'S EXHORTATION. These words forbid our thinking that St. Paul simply requires that we should be, in general terms, the well-wishers of mankind. Had his discourse referred exclusively to the household of faith, he could not have used more unrestricted language, nor sent us to our knees with a broader view of the blessings to be sought for in our wrestlings with God. We just wish by these means to show at the outset the wrongness of the opinion that we are only bidden to solicit for the mass of our fellow-men the common mercies of existence, that we may reserve petitions which have to do with God's nobler gifts for our pleadings on behalf of a select company of mankind. If you consider prayer attentively, whether it be for ourselves or for others, you must regard it as the most wonderful act which can ever be attempted by a fallen creature. We shall not hesitate to say that so long as the scheme of our redemption is kept out of sight, prayer is nothing but a great proof of human ignorance. There is a great deal taken for granted in prayer. When I pray, I assume that an access has been opened for me to the Father; I assume, that in spite of my apostasy, born though I have been in sin and cradled in corruption, God's compassions towards me may not be shut up nor alienated. I assume that some amazing corrective, as it were, must have been applied to human guiltiness, so that the pollution which naturally and necessarily clings to the fallen, is no hindrance to free admission to an audience of Him who is of purer eyes than to look unmoved upon iniquity. And how can I assume all this, unless I bring within my contemplations the mysteries of redemption, and, making my appeal to the wondrous achievement which Christ hath effected on my behalf, fetch from that an assurance that there lies no barrier between myself and the Lord? The whole work of human reconciliation is gathered into God's permitting prayer. The globe was convulsed and shaken to its very centre before it could become a platform on which man might kneel. It is a truth sufficiently simple to commend itself to every capacity, that if prayer is literally based upon redemption, then all who can be rightly the subjects of prayer must be strictly the subjects of redemption. I cannot pray for a man whom I know to have never been redeemed — a man for whom Christ Jesus did not die. Can I ask God to have mercy on that man's soul? Such is the use that we would make of the exhortation of our text. We infer from it the grand doctrine of Christianity, even that of Christ's having died for the whole world; and lest it should be thought that this inference is in any degree far fetched, we will just show you how St. Paul supports or authorizes his exhortation. You observe that the announced reason that all should be prayed for is that God is willing that all should be saved; and if God wills that all should be saved, assuredly all must have been put into a salvable state; in other words, all must have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. It does not fall within the scope of our argument to examine into the mystery of God's willing the salvation of all, when it is certain that nothing more than a remnant shall be saved. The character given to the living God — and who doubts that at the root of true religion lies the character of God? — the character given by St. Paul of the living God is that He is the Saviour of all men, especially of those who believe. In this same sense — for He is not spoken of as a different kind of Saviour, in the different senses, but as the same in kind though different in degree — in the same sense that God is especially the Saviour of believers, He is generally the Saviour of all men. This is St. Paul's statement; and if the living God is the Saviour generally of all in that very sense in which He is especially the Saviour of believers, then beyond question all must have been redeemed by Him; for redemption is that incipient form of salvation which may be common to all, and yet applied effectually only to some, O blessed Saviour, Thou didst take upon Thyself our nature, and didst ransom that nature, and therefore didst place within the reach of all who are born of this nature the choice things of forgiveness and acceptance; therefore is it that our prayers may, and must, go up to the mercy-seat on behalf of all; all shall be the subjects of our petition, for all are the objects of redemption; and we may now acknowledge and appreciate the justice of the ample terms in which the text is expressed: "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men."
II. We turn now to the second question — WHAT IS PRE-SUPPOSED IN REGARD OF ALL MEN, WHEN WE ARE BIDDEN, AS WE FURTHER ARE, TO GIVE THANKS FOR ALL MEN? You will observe at once that thanksgiving must assume the existence of benefit. If I am to give thanks for all men, it is clear that I must be acquainted with some manifestation of kindness towards all, which may justly summon forth my praise on their account. But if we were guilty of an exaggeration in designating prayer as a giant act, we fall into no over-wrought statement if we apply such an epithet to the thanking God for our creation. Conscious to myself of the struggles within me of a principle which can never be extinguished, never be mastered by any process of decay, knowing that the present scene, whatever its cares or its joys, is but the first stage of an unlimited career along which I am appointed to pass — shall I praise God for having endowed me with existence, unless I have assurance that it is not impossible for me to secure myself happiness throughout the infinity of my being? Shall I thank God for the capacity of being miserable, unspeakably miserable, throughout unnumbered ages? I cannot do this. I cannot praise God for the bright sunshine that must light me to the dungeon; I cannot praise God for the breeze that must waft me to the whirlpool; I cannot praise God for the food that must nourish me for the rack! Life, the present life, that single throb, that lonely beat — can I praise God for this, if it must unavoidably usher me into a sphere of wretchedness whose circumference cannot be reached, or turn me adrift on an ocean of fire without a shore, or consign me to that mysterious death which consists in the being for ever dying, that wondrous immortality of being restored as fast as consumed and consumed as fast as restored? Better, oh! infinitely better for me if I had never been born, I cannot praise God for this. Creation can be no more a blessing than annihilation if I am not a redeemed man; it is this, and this alone, for which you require me to praise God. If I am a redeemed man it is possible that I may be saved; if I am not a redeemed man, then, so far as is revealed, it is impossible. As far as we know from the Bible it is impossible that any man shall be saved for whom Christ did not die. And how then can I give God thanks for all men, unless I believe that Christ died for all men? Shall I praise Him for the creation of others though I cannot praise Him for my own? Shall I sweep the harp strings, and bring out the melodies of gratitude, because God has so dealt with tens of thousands of my fellow-men; that if He had dealt" in like manner with myself, I should have worn sackcloth and gone all my days in inconsolable mourning? No! I cannot thank God for all men except on the noble principle that Christ has redeemed all men. Creation is a blessing if connected with redemption, but not dissociated from it. Thus, as we trust, we have sufficiently shown you that the universal redemption of mankind is pre-supposed when we are bidden to pray for all, and when we are bidden to give thanks for all. Our two topics may, therefore, be considered as sufficiently discussed, and it only remains to bid you strive to obey in your practice the exhortation of which we have shown you the propriety.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Knowledge of the truthI. IT IS BY A KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH THAT MEN ARE SAVED. Observe that stress is laid upon the article: it is the truth and not every truth. Though it is a good thing to know the truth about anything, and we ought not to be satisfied to take up with a falsehood upon any point, yet it is not every truth that will save us. We are not saved by knowing any one theological truth we may choose to think of, for there are some theological truths which are comparatively of inferior value. They are not vital or essential, and a man may know them and yet may not be saved. It is the truth which saves. Jesus Christ is the Truth: the whole testimony of God about Christ is the truth. This knowledge of the grand facts which are here called the truth saves men, and we will notice its mode of operation.
1. Very often it begins its work in a man by arousing him, and thus it saves him from carelessness. Perhaps he heard a sermon, or read a tract, or had a practical word addressed to him by some Christian friend, and he found out enough to know that "he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God." That startled him. "God is angry with the wicked every day" — that amazed him. He had not thought of it, perhaps had not known it, but when he did know it, he could rest no longer.
2. The truth is useful to a man in another way: it saves him from prejudice. Often when men are awakened to know something about the wrath of God, they begin to plunge about to discover divers methods by which they may escape from that wrath. Consulting, first of all, with themselves, they think that if they reform — give up their grosser sins, and if they can join with religious people, they will make it all right. They have done all that they judged right and attended to all that they were told, Suddenly, by God s grace, they come to a knowledge of another truth, and that is that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God. They discover that salvation is not by works of the law or by ceremonies, and that if any man be under the law he is also under the curse.
3. Moreover, it often happens that a knowledge of the truth stands a man in good stead for another purpose: it saves him from despair.
4. A knowledge of the truth shows a man his personal need of being saved.
5. A knowledge of the truth reveals the atonement by which we are saved: a knowledge of the truth shows us what that faith is by which the atonement becomes avail able for us: a knowledge of the truth teaches us that faith is the simple act of trusting, that it is not an action of which man may boast.
II. A MERE NOTIONAL KNOWLEDGE OR A DRY DOCTRINAL KNOWLEDGE IS OF NO AVAIL. We must know the truth in a very different way from that. How are we to know it, then?
1. Well, we are to know it by a believing knowledge. You do not know a thing unless you believe it to be really so.
2. In addition to this, your knowledge, if it becomes believing knowledge, must be a personal knowledge — a persuasion that it is true in reference to yourself.
3. But this must be a powerful knowledge, by which I mean that it must operate in and upon your mind. A man is told that his house is on fire. I will suppose that standing here I held up a telegram, and said, "My friend, is your name so-and-so?" "Yes." "Well, your house is on fire." He knows the fact, does he not? Yes, but he sits quite still. Now, my impression is about that good brother, that he does not know, for he does not believe it.
4. This know. ledge when it comes really to save the soul is what we call experimental knowledge — knowledge acquired according to the exhortation of the Psalmist, "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good" — acquired by tasting. I am now going to draw two inferences which are to be practical. The first one is this: in regard to you that are seeking salvation. Does not the text show you that it is very possible that the reason why you have not found salvation is because you do not know the truth? Hence, I do most earnestly entreat the many of you young people who cannot get rest to be very diligent searchers of your Bibles. The last inference is for you who desire to save sinners. You must bring the truth before them when you want to bring them to Jesus Christ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
One Mediator between God and man.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE IDEA OF A MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN? The fact of a mediation between one man and another implies a difficulty which it is not easy to reconcile. This is equally implied in the employment of a government to mediate between two other nations. Such measures are never adopted in the times of peace and of mutual friendship. So of our attitude to God. The fact that there is a Mediator between God and man unquestionably proves that there is an alienation which it is exceedingly difficult to reconcile.
II. ALIENATION DOES NOT IMPLY CRIMINALITY IN BOTH THE PARTIES WHICH ARE THUS BROUGHT INTO CONFLICT. On this subject a proverb seems to have obtained among men, that in cases of alienation there is transgression in both the conflicting parties. "Both are to blame" is a maxim which has prevailed. It may perhaps be important to show the fallacy of the principle itself against which I am here contending. We are often asked, with a confidence amounting almost to the authority of inspiration, "Do you not believe that in all cases of alienation there is blame on both sides?" To this we reply, "We do not, we cannot believe it." If the question still be pressed, we ask our inquirer, "Do you not know that there is an eternal alienation between sheep and wolves; and have the sheep ever committed any aggression on the wolves?" You have all heard of the warfare which goes forward between the angels which kept their first estate and those spirits which have revolted from God. And is it not to be assumed that in this controversy the angels, who have always been spotless in the eyes of Jehovah, were free from the imputation of guilt? Pre-eminently is this principle applicable to Jehovah. Of what wrong, respecting us, has He ever been guilty? Who amongst those that have in former alines charged Him with injury or injustice has ever been able to sustain it? "Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God," etc. The objects around us were never created and never designed to be the cause of our transgressions. Our sins are not the result either of the example of those individuals or circumstances which God has placed around us. They are the fruit of our own hearts. There is an alienation from Him in the sons of men, and the causes of this alienation are not mutual: the criminality is altogether with us.
III. BUT WHO IS THERE THAT IS ADEQUATE TO UNDERTAKE THE MEDIATORIAL WORK? In human affairs there are many individuals who are equally competent to settle a difficulty and remove the causes of alienation which exist between a man and his neighbour. And in a great share of the instances which occur, any individual of a multitude that can be mentioned is equally as well qualified to undertake the work as any other individual that can be selected. Not so in the work of human redemption. Here there is but one Being in the universe who is competent to be a Days-man, a Mediator between Jehovah and His offending subjects (Isaiah 63:5).
IV. TO INQUIRE WHY NO OTHER BEING BUT CHRIST IS QUALIFIED FOR THIS WORK. And here I must frankly confess that of my own unaided reason I am incompetent to tell. And I apprehend that had the family of man been left to ascertain by their own intellectual powers what Mediator is suited to their circumstances, no one of them would have been able to discover the truth. His agony for reconciliation burst forth in the affecting question, "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings and calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression; the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Let us go to the Scriptures to ascertain what Christ is; and having thence derived a knowledge of His character, let us draw the only safe conclusion, that on account of the respects in which He differs from every other being in existence, He is chosen to be the Mediator between God and man.
V. WHAT, THEN, ARE THE RESPECTS IN WHICH HE DIFFERS FROM EVERY OTHER BEING? It must here be remembered that in certain respects He is God. I here refer to His original nature. Of Him, John in his Gospel says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Nor was He God only. In some respects He differed in His mediatorial office from the Father. He assumed into immediate connection with Himself a human body and a rational soul. This was done in accordance with the prophets. Isaiah in prophetic vision declared, "Unto us a Child is born," etc. These expressions show the union of divinity with humanity in our Lord Jesus Christ, and indicate His wonderful adaptedness to the work of redeeming men from their sins and reconciling them to God. Are we, then, asked in what respects Christ differs from every other being? Is it demanded in what respect He differs from the Father? We reply, by the addition unto His own glorious nature of all the powers and faculties of man. He is at once Divine and human. Is it again demanded in what respects He differs from men? I reply, He is human and Divine. In these respects He is altogether diverse from any other being in the universe. And viewed in this attitude, we may wonder, and say in the language of the prophet, "There is none like unto Thee, O God!" Having now learned from the Scriptures the qualifications of Him who undertook to be the Mediator for us, we can see His wonderful adaptations to the work which He has undertaken. Human salvation requires a thorough acquaintance with all the wants, perplexities, and temptations of man. In this respect, such a Mediator as He who has become flesh is wonderfully suited to our condition. He did not undertake to help the angels. The work of human salvation also requires a thorough knowledge of all the causes and a complete control of all the beings who have power either to advance or retard it. And what eyes but those which run to and fro through the universe are competent to see all the wants, and all the exposures, and all the means of relief which pertain to the condition of ruined man? What hands but those which formed the universe are competent so to direct all the influences of the material and the spiritual worlds in such a manner as to subserve the welfare of His people and cause them to conspire together for the promotion of their salvation? What other Presence, except that which pervades the universe, can be co-extensive with all the wants of His people who dwell in every part of the earth, who call upon Him for aid at every hour of the day and of the night What other knowledge but that which transcends all limitation, and is strictly infinite, can be adequate to an acquaintance with the condition, the thoughts, the emotions, the feelings, and the actions of all the immortal beings who inhabit the vast regions of His Mediatorship? And what memory short of that to which all past, present, and future things are equally known is competent to bring together all the particulars of thought, of feeling, and of action, which constitute the life of a human being; and accurately to weigh in the balances the gold and the dross of his character; and not only this, but to extend the process to all the sons of men, all the apostate, and all the holy angels? Yet all this knowledge must be possessed by the Son of Man; and all the powers to which we have referred must be held by Him who undertakes the work of a Mediator between God and man. This work has commonly been regarded and taught under three separate heads. The first is His office as a Prophet. This portion of His work was referred to by Moses when he said, "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me. Him shall ye hear in all things, whatsoever He shall say unto you." In this office it pertained to Him to reveal the character, the law, and the gospel of God to the children of men, and cause it to be written and preached unto them. It also pertained to His work to open the understandings of His people, that they might know the excellency of the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ. The next particular in the work of a Mediator is that of a Priest. He was a Priest, not indeed according to the order of Aaron, but of Melchizedek. As in the Mosaic history no priest is named as the predecessor of Melchizedek, so in human redemption there is no other priest but Jesus Christ. And in this Priesthood His work differed widely from that of other priests. They first offered sacrifices for their own sins, and afterwards for those of the people; but He had no occasion to offer sacrifices for Himself. "He was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." He is able to save to the uttermost those that come unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. A third particular in this work is His office as the Ruler and Defender of the people of God. This is called His kingly office. In this respect the apostle declares that God "hath put all things under His feet, and given Him to be Head over all things to the Church" (Ephesians 1:22). Such is the Mediator between a ruined world and the Holy One of Israel. A Mediator in some respects Divine, in other respects human. A Mediator who in the Scriptures is sometimes denominated God, at other times He is called Man. A Mediator who is set apart by Jehovah Himself to be the Prophet, the Priest, and the King of your souls; a Mediator whom, if you accept, on whom, if you rely, to whom, if you commit your immortal interests, you shall yet stand on Mount Zion with songs and eternal joy. This subject calls loudly on us to admire the wisdom and goodness of God. What could He have seen in us or any of our depraved race that induced Him to confer on us such an immense favour as this? All, He saw nothing but evil in our hearts, nothing but vice in our deeds. It was not owing to any righteousness in us, but of His mercy, that saved us. The subject calls on us to consider what our condition would have been had not Jesus undertaken to be Mediator between God and man.
(J. Feet, D. D.)
(R. H. Storey, D. D.)
I. THE NECESSITY OF A MEDIATOR. But there are difficulties existing — a mighty gulf separating God and man. He cannot cross to us; we cannot cross to Him. His holiness is one obstacle. "He is of purer eyes than to behold evil." Guilty and polluted as we are, we cannot approach that Holy Being without being at once consumed as were Korah and his companions. We at once see the necessity of a mediator. His justice is another obstacle. "Justice and judgment are the habitation of His throne." Maintaining the honour and dignity of His government was another obstacle. The great Legislator of heaven has enacted a law that sin must be punished, that death must be the penalty of disobedience. That peace on earth and glory to God may harmonize, there must be a mediator. Thus we have noticed the need of a mediator on the part of Jehovah. The mediator is equally necessary on the part of man. Man needed One who would descend into the depths of ruin, place underneath him the arms of omnipotent love, and raise him up — One who could enter into his dungeon, strike off his fetters, and throw open the prison door for his release — One who can reveal the Most High as a God of mercy, compassion, and love, yearning over the wandering prodigal, and anxiously watching for the first sight of a trembling penitent returning home.
II. CHRIST JESUS THROUGH "THE COMBINATION OF THE TWO NATURES IS ADAPTED TO ACT AS MEDIATOR.
1. He is equal with God; He is "the mighty God."
2. He is acquainted with the mind of God.Christ being human possesses three qualifications to act as mediator: —
1. An affinity to our nature.
2. A sympathy with our infirmities.
3. An interest in our cause.From this subject we learn —
1. To admire the wisdom of God in providing such a mediator.
2. The love of Christ in occupying such a position.
3. The folly of sinners in rejecting this mediator.
I. THE ONLY WAY OF FRIENDLY INTERCOURSE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. It is through a mediator; that is implied. Whether man in the state of innocency needed a mediator, is disputed among persons learned and sober; but in his lapsed state, this need is acknowledged by all. God cannot now look upon men out of a mediator but as rebels, traitor, as fit objects for His vindictive wrath; nor can men now look up to God but as a provoked Majesty, an angry Judge, a consuming fire.
II. THE ONLY MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN. "One mediator," that is, but one. Some acknowledge one mediator of reconciliation, but contend for many of intercession. So is Christ said here to be "one mediator," that is, but one. This mediator is here described partly by His nature — "the Man"; and partly by His names — "Christ Jesus."
1. His nature — the man"; that is, "That eminent man," so some; "He that was made man," so others. "But why is this mediator mentioned in this nature only?"(1) Negatively: not by way of diminution, as if He were not God as well as man, as the Arians argue from this Scripture; nor as if the execution of his mediatorship were either only, or chiefly, in His human nature, as some affirm.(2) Positively: to prove that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah whom the prophets foretold, the fathers expected, and who had in that nature been so frequently promised: as in the first gospel that ever was preached (Genesis 3:15), He is promised as the Seed of the woman.
2. His names — "Christ Jesus." Jesus, this was His proper name; Christ, this was His appellative name. Jesus: that denotes the work and business for which He came into the world. Christ: that denotes the several offices, in the exercise whereof He executes this work of salvation.
III. THAT THERE IS NOW NO OTHER WAY OF FRIENDLY COMMUNION BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, BUT THROUGH A MEDIATOR. And, indeed, considering what God is, and withal what man is; how vastly disproportionable, how unspeakably unsuitable our very natures are to His; how is it possible there should be any sweet communion betwixt them, who are not only so infinitely distant, but so extremely contrary? God is holy, but we are sinful. In a word: He an infinitely and incomprehensibly glorious majesty, and we poor sinful dust and ashes, who have sunk and debased ourselves by sin below the meanest rank of creatures, and made ourselves the burden of the whole creation. If ever God be reconciled to us, it must be through a mediator; because of that indispensible necessity of satisfaction, and our inability to make it (Romans 8:7). If ever we be reconciled to God, it must be through a mediator; because of that radicated enmity that is in our natures to everything of God, and our impotency to it.
IV. THAT THERE IS NO OTHER MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, BUT JESUS CHRIST. "And one mediator"; that is, but one. And indeed there is none else fit for so high a work as this but only He.
1. The singular suitableness of His person to this eminent employment. To interpose as a mediator betwixt God and men, was an employment above the capacity of men, angels, or any other creature; but Jesus Christ, in respect of the dignity of His person, was every way suited for this work. Which you may take in these four particulars.(1) That He was truly God, equal with the Father, of the same nature and substance. For the further confirmation, take these arguments —(a) He whom Scripture honours with all those names which are peculiar unto God, must needs be God. That Christ hath these names ascribed to Him appears from these instances: He is not only styled God — "the Word was God" (John 1:1).(b) He in whom are those high and eminent perfections, those glorious attributes, of which no creature is capable, must needs be more than a creature, and consequently God.(2) As He is truly God, so is He complete and perfect man; having not only a human body, but a rational soul; and in all things was like to us, sin only excepted. That He had a real, not an imaginary, body, appears from the whole story of the gospel.(3) He is God and man in one person.
V. THE SINGULAR FITNESS OF CHRIST FOR THIS WORK OF MEDIATION ARISES FROM HIS BEING GOD-MAN IN TWO NATURES, UNITED IN ONE PERSON WITHOUT CONFUSION OR TRANSMUTATION.
1. Had He not been truly God, He had been too mean a person for so high an employment. It was God that had been offended, an infinite Majesty that had been despised; the person therefore interposing must have some equality with him to whom he interposes. Had the whole society of persevering angels interposed on man's behalf, it had been to little purpose; one Christ was infinitely more than all, and that because He was truly God.
2. Had He not been completely man, He had been no way capable of performing that indispensably-necessary condition, upon which God was willing to be reconciled; namely, the satisfying of that righteous sentence which God had pronounced: "In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
3. Had He not been God and man in one person, the sufferings of His human nature could not have derived that infinite value from the Divine nature. We could not have called His blood "the blood of God," as it is called (Acts 20:28): it would have been no more than the blood of a creature, and consequently as unavailable as the blood of bulls, etc. (Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 10:4).
4. Had He not been God-man without confusion of natures, His Deity might either have advanced His humanity above the capacity of suffering; or His. humanity might have debased His Deity below the capability of meriting, which is no less than blasphemy to imagine. And this is the first reason, the singular fitness of Christ for this work, because of the dignity of His person. The singular fitness of Christ for this employment in respect of the suitableness of His offices. There is a threefold misery upon all men, or a threefold bar to communion with God.(1) The guilt of their sins, which themselves are never able to expiate, or satisfy for.(2) The blindness of their minds, the cure whereof is too difficult for any creature-physician.(3) Their bondage and captivity to sin and Satan, which are enemies too strong for man to deal with. Suitably to these three great necessities, Jesus Christ is anointed of God to a threefold office, of a Priest, a Prophet, a King: the former of which offices he exercises on our behalf to God, and the last two from God to us.(a) The priestly office of Christ is the great, the only relief we have against the guilt of sin. The work of the priesthood consisted, under the law, chiefly of these two parts.(1) Satisfaction for the sins of the people (Leviticus 4:15-19, etc.).(2) Intercession unto God on their behalf (Leviticus 16:15-17). Both which were verified in Christ our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14). His satisfaction, in discharging those debts which His people had run into with Divine Justice to the utmost farthing.(3) His intercession; this is the other part of His priestly office. His satisfaction — that was performed on earth; His intercession is per formed chiefly in heaven. By the former He purchased pardon and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19, compared with verse 21), by the latter He applies the benefits He hath purchased.(b) The prophetical office of Christ is the great, the only relief we have against the blindness and ignorance of our minds. He is that great Prophet of His Church whom Moses foretold, the Jews expected, and all men needed (Deuteronomy 18:15; John 1:24, 25, 45; John 6:14); that Sun of Righteousness, who by His glorious beams dispels those mists of ignorance and error which darken the minds of men; and is therefore styled, byway of eminency, "that Light" (John 1:8), and "the true Light" (John 1:9). The execution of this prophetical office is partly by revealing so much of the will of God as was necessary to our salvation; partly by making those revelations powerful and effectual.(1) In revealing the will of God.(2) In enlightening effectually the souls of His people. In causing the blind to see, and making them who were once darkness to be "light in the Lord (Ephesians 5:8) Thus He instructs by His word and by His Spirit (1 Peter 1:12).(c) The kingly office of Christ is the great, the only relief we have against our bondage to sin and Satan. He to whom "all power is given in heaven, and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).
(W. Whitaker, M. A.)
I. THAT GOD HATH APPOINTED BUT ONE MEDIATOR, OR ADVOCATE, OR INTERCESSOR IN HEAVEN FOR US, in whose name, and by whose intercession, we are to offer up all our prayers and services to God. Besides that it is expressly said here in the text, "there is but one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," and that the Scripture nowhere mentions any other: I say, besides this, we are constantly directed offer up our prayers and thanksgivings, and to perform all acts of worship in His name, and no other; and with a promise, that the prayers and services which we offer up in His name will be graciously answered and accepted (John 14:13, 14; John 16:23; 24). St. Paul likewise commands Christians to perform all acts of religious worship in the name of Christ (Colossians 3:16, 17). And indeed, considering how frequently the Scripture speaks of Christ as "our only way to God, and by whom alone we have access to the throne of grace," we cannot doubt but that God hath constituted Him our only mediator and intercessor, by whom we are to address all our requests to God (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). And we have no need of any other, as the apostle to the Hebrews reasons (Hebrews 7:24, 25). "But this person (speaking of Christ) because He continueth for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood," "since He abides for ever, is able to save to the uttermost all those that come to God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
II. I proceed to show THAT THIS DOCTRINE OR PRINCIPLE OF ONE MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MAN, IS MOST AGREEABLE TO ONE MAIN END AND DESIGN OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, AND OF OUR SAVIOUR'S COMING INTO THE WORLD, which was to destroy idolatry out of the world; which St. John calls "the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).
III. IT IS LIKEWISE EVIDENT FROM THE NATURE AND REASON OF THE THING ITSELF, THAT THERE IS BUT ONE MEDIATOR AND INTERCESSOR IN HEAVEN, WHO OFFERS UP OUR PRAYERS TO GOD, AND THAT THERE CAN BE NO MORE. Because under the gospel there being but one high priest, and but one sacrifice once offered for sin; and intercession for sinners being founded in the merit and virtue of the sacrifice, by which expiation for sin is made, there can be no other mediator of intercession, but He who hath made expiation of sin, by a sacrifice offered to God for that purpose; and this Jesus Christ only hath done. He is both our high priest and our sacrifice; and therefore He only, in the merit and virtue of that sacrifice, which He offered upon earth, can intercede in heaven for us, and offer up our prayers to God.
(J. Tillotson, D. D.)
(Sunday at Home.)
I. THE NECESSITY FOR A MEDIATOR is distinctly implied. Christ is a true mediator, because He blends two natures in His own, the Divine and the human. When a man is down in a horrible pit, a rope dangling above him would be a mockery if it were far out of his reach; and a ladder set in the miry clay beside him would be equally useless, if the ground above were at an unreachable distance from its highest rung. The only means of communication, which can bring him salvation, must reach the sunlit plain above him, and yet be within his grasp. So is it with the "one Mediator." As the God-man He reigns in the highest, yet reaches the lowest, and as the Son of man rather than the Son of David or the Son of Abraham, He touches every man, whatever his race or condition.
II. THE ESSENCE OF THE ATONEMENT appears in the statement that He, the mediator, Christ Jesus, "gave Himself a ransom for all." The idea of substitution, however little it commends itself to the judgment of some who have often very imperfectly considered it, is unquestionably involved in this. The Greek word translated here "ransom," means the redemption price paid for the deliverance of a slave or captive, and when Jesus "gave Himself" (not money or power) a ransom for all, He was like one who takes the place of a prisoner that the prisoner may go free. If the captive refuses freedom he perishes, but the love of his would-be deliverer is none the less. Most of those who have rejected this great doctrine have done so because they have had pressed home upon them only one phase of it — as if that were in itself a complete and satisfactory account of a profound mystery. The atonement has sometimes been spoken of as a sort of legal transaction, having no essential bearing upon moral character, which will procure acquittal for the sinner at the bar of judgment without setting him free from the usurpation of sin.
1. The God-ward side of the atonement is as important as it is mysterious, but it is not to be insisted upon as it it were all. The Scripture asserts again and again in types and in texts that it is in virtue of the death of Christ that God can justly forgive; that except for His sacrifice the Divine love could not reach us; that by Him satisfaction was made to the law of God, and that pardon was not, and could not be, a bare act of grace. These statements are beyond proof. They concern a sphere of existence about which we know absolutely nothing except what is revealed in Scripture. They have to do with the relations between the Eternal Father and the Only Begotten Son, about which the wisest of us are profoundly ignorant. We do not understand how the law of the Father required the sacrifice of the Son, nor how the death of the God-man affected the purpose of the Father; but are we to say, therefore, that there is no connection between them? Is that the only mystery in life? Why, what do you know of your own existence in its deeper relations? Yet it has been a frequent and grievous mistake of popular theology to dwell upon this aspect of the atonement only as if it contained the whole truth. But we must also remember that Christ's giving of Himself as a ransom for all was meant to have its influence on human hearts. This leads us to contemplate —
2. The man-ward side of the atonement. The Cross of Calvary assured the world that the Divine love, even for sinners, was capable of the utmost self-sacrifice, which taught many to say, "We love Him because He first loved us." But there is yet another phase of Christ's atoning work which must not be lost sight of. We have seen that it vindicated Divine law, and revealed Divine love so as to touch the hearts of those who saw it, but it was meant also to exert an ethical. influence over men.
3. The moral power of the atonement. Many sneer at professing Christians as men who persuade themselves that they are relieved from the punishment of sin, but who show no signs whatever of being redeemed from its power. But love such as God calls for, and the sacrifice of Calvary demands, is really a strong and active affection; indeed, we are told that "love is the fulfilling of the law."
III. THE PROPAGATION OF THIS FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH through the world is to depend upon testimony. Paul says that he himself was a living witness of it. This is our duty too. It may be that we have not any remarkable gifts like Paul's, but we may reveal to others the power of Christ to save from sin, if only we ourselves experience that power.
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
Acts 7:26). His interference was rejected, when he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler or judge over us?" It is not such a mediator that the text speaks of. It is not presumption, not unauthorized good intention in Christ when He mediates. But, again: the meaning of the term is modified by the relative condition of the parties to be brought together. These may be equal; and then each is privileged to commit his own part in the matter in hand to the care of the common arbitrator. A mediator, under such circumstances, becomes an umpire, a judge, a referee, to whom the interest of each party is committed, and by whose decision each party is bound. But this does not come up to the idea of Christ's mediation. A further notion of a mediator is that of one interposing between unequals: one that has been appointed by a superior, who has a right to make his own terms with an offending inferior, and to depute to whomsoever he may see fit the regulation of the manner in which intercourse is to be carried on between him and those with whom he may be willing to communicate. Moses, when called of God to the direction of Israel, is an instance of this authorized mediation between unequals; and, as such, was representative of the one great Mediator of whom our text speaks. By the term "mediator," then, we are here to understand one duly commissioned by God, with whom the power rests, to negotiate between Himself and man, in order, as God's vicegerent, to receive man's submission and obedience; and, as man's representative and advocate, to propitiate God's justice, and to procure and communicate God's blessing.
I. THE PARTIES TO BE RECONCILED ARE "God and man"; the Creator and the creature; the rightful Sovereign and the rebellious subject; the kind Father and the ungrateful child. Strange, it may be said, that there should be variance between such: was it always thus? No: once all was harmony and peace and love. Whence, then, did the estrangement arise? From God? No: the profusion and magnificence and beauty of Eden forbid the entertainment of such a thought. It was in man that the alienation began. But how is the estrangement perpetuated? "The carnal mind is enmity against God": here is the sinner's having learned to hate what he feels he has abused, and manifesting the identity of interest and feeling between himself and that evil one whose cause he now maintains. The very purity of the Being he has injured makes his hatred but the more malignant: the very lack of palliation for his disobedience confirms him in his settled purpose still to sin with a high hand. Thus, what folly and pride began, folly and pride perpetuate.
II. THE PERSON MEDIATING — "the man Christ Jesus."
1. As to His nature, we may remark, that the expression, "the man Christ Jesus," must not be considered as declarative of His humanity to the denial of His divinity. He is "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God"; "God over all, blessed for evermore." But the Mediator is still the "man Christ Jesus." Our high notions of His Divinity must not cause us to overlook or deny His humanity. As His Divinity fits Him to act with God for man, so His humanity fits Him to act with man for God. But He must be sinless man. The slightest flaw in His moral character would make Him a criminal, and not an Advocate — would make His mediation offensive. The circumstance of having a tendency to sin would imply partiality: He would be prone to palliate rather than to condemn, and have a tendency to lower the standard of the Creator's requirements, in order to make easier terms for the creature.
2. Again, as to His commission. He is authorized and empowered by Him with whom alone the power rests.
3. His work is threefold: His atonement, intercession, and mission of the Spirit.
III. THE DESIGN OR END OF THIS MEDIATION, Now, we must bear in mind that a mediator is required to consider the interests of both parties in behalf of whom he acts, and to make terms by which the honour of the superior, and the restoration to favour of the inferior, may be most effectually secured. With regard to the Almighty Ruler, His honour and sovereignty must be maintained, and His glory acknowledged and admired. Man's position is naturally now one of rebellion; but he must be brought to lay down his arms. Christ, in the person and place of man, has tendered and paid the penalty incurred, met the demands of offended justice, and now He tenders the submission of each individual child of man that receives Him as his Mediator by faith. The construction of man in his original form was a wonder of Divine skill: the formation of his spirit in knowledge, holiness, and happiness, bespoke a master hand; but, when all the beauty of this wondrous production had been marred by the fall, to re-construct, re-adorn, re-glorify the whole, was the act only of Him whose thoughts are not as our thoughts. Yet such is the effect of Christ's mediation. Intelligence continually enlarging and expanding in the unclouded presence of the very Source of truth; holiness everlastingly increasing in those regions where nothing entereth that defileth; love for ever glowing with increasing intensity before Him who is its very essence; happiness continually accumulating in the presence of Him who supplies it in inexhaustible abundance — these are the prospects of the redeemed soul: this is the high perfection to which the wisdom and power and love of Jehovah will bring the frail fragile thing that Satan shivered, and sin defiled. The glory of the perfections of Jehovah, then, are acknowledged and illustrated. But another end of this mediation was the good of man. Christ came to procure the outpouring of the blessing which sin had checked and intercepted. God now can visit those who had loved Him in Christ Jesus. We would now proceed to offer a few general observations which seem to be suggested by the whole subject.
1. And, first, how great is the unfairness of those who affirm, and the folly of those who can be persuaded, that the tendency of the doctrine of justification by faith only, is to engender a careless and an antinomian spirit.
2. But another observation is this: How great are the injury and injustice done to Christ by the addition of other mediators! To endeavour to make out a necessity for the interposition of the virgin, of saints, or of any priestly mediator on earth, in order to our availing ourselves of the mediation of the Redeemer, is grounded on no warranty of Scripture, and reflects injuriously on the character of the blessed Jesus.
(John Richardson, B. A.)
The Man Christ
I. He is the man all through; OUT AND OUT THE MAN. In soul, body, spirit; in look, voice, carriage, walk; in mind, heart, feeling, affection. In Him — in all about Him, all He is, and all He does, you see the man; not the man of honour, the man of piety, the man of patience, the man of patriotism, the man of philanthropy, but the man. The manhood in Christ Jesus is very noble, but it is very simple. And it is because it is so simple that it is so noble. None have ever succeeded in drawing His character since. Do you ever think of Him but just as the man? Other men you think of as distinguished by their features. You remember other men by their peculiarities of manner. But by what peculiarity do you remember the man Christ Jesus? Oh! it is a blessed thing to know that Jesus Christ is the man. The man for you, brother, whoever you are — and the man also, I thank God, for me! The man for the strong — the man for the weak I The man for heroes, for who so heroic as the man Christ Jesus? The man for you who toil in the carpenter's shop; in the like of which once He toiled, like you — the man Christ Jesus I
II. He is simply man throughout; IN EVERY EXIGENCY, in every trial, simply man — the man Christ Jesus! In all His earthly and human experience, you never find Him other than man; you never find Him less than man; and you never find Him more than man. He is the Son of God, you know; the Father's fellow. But you never think of His being the Son of God as making His manhood at all different from yours. No! For you never find Him taking shelter from the ills to which flesh is heir in any power, or privilege, or prerogative of His Divine nature and heavenly rank. Thus, as the man Christ Jesus, He lies in His mother's bosom, and works at her husband's trade, He is subject, all His youth, to His parents, He is weary, hungry, thirsty, He is vexed, grieved, pained, provoked, His soul is exceedingly sorrowful, and at times His anger is stirred, He cries, and groans, and weeps, He bleeds, and quivers, and dies. Man's capacity of attainment, man's power of endurance — what man is fit for, what man can stand, with the help of God, you learn from the human history of the man Christ Jesus!
III. He is the man exclusively, pre-eminently, PAR EXCELLENCE, to the absolute exclusion of all others, He is the man, the only man, complete and perfect. He stands alone as man. Manhood, in its integrity, belongs to Him alone. Not otherwise, Oh, my brother sinner, could He be the man for you; the man for me. Let one gather up in himself all the fragments of the manhood which you and I share together. Let him collect in one heap, as it were, every particle of glory and beauty to be found anywhere among the ruins of humanity. Let him take every great man's quality of greatness, every good man's element of goodness. Take all the good, of all sorts, you can possibly discover in the records of good men of all the ages. Mix, compound, combine as you may please, you cannot get the man! For the man to meet my case, and satisfy the craving of my soul — must be no thing of shreds and patches; but complete, perfect, an Unbroken round, in himself one whole. No composite will do. He must be a single and simple unity; one, like the seamless coat, woven from the top through. out. But humanity, manhood, has never been thus one, inwardly and intensely one, since the fall. Men there have been, good and great. But they have been fragmentary; a bit of manhood in each; often a very beautiful bit of manhood; but set, alas! and often well-nigh lost, in a confused, chaotic jumble of inconsistencies and incoherences! And here is the man; the man Christ Jesus. All manhood is His; manhood such as yours and mine; but untainted, incorrupt, one and indivisible, which yours and mine is not. He is holy, harmless, undefiled; and separate from sinners. Nay, even if we could fancy a man more complete still, more completely uniting in himself the excellences of all other men, and more completely excluding their infirmities and faults; we cannot reach the idea of one who would not be more to some than he might be to others; who might be everything to you, and little, if anything at all, to me. No! If we would find one who is to be the man for me, for you, for all; we must ascend the stream of time, and fetch his manhood from beyond the flood, from beyond the fall! Then, in the unbroken image of God, manhood, human nature, the very self of man, was truly and- indeed one. Since then the manhood among men has been manifold and broken and fragmentary. The man who is to gather up the fragments must himself be whole. The only one who can be the head of all, because He can be the same to all, is He who takes our human nature — not as it is now, rent and torn by sin — but as it once was; one in unbroken, pure, and holy innocence, one in immaculate likeness to the Holy One. And who is this but the man Christ Jesus?
IV. HE IS THE MAN TO MEDIATE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. To be the one Mediator, He must be pre-eminently and distinctively the man; the representative man; the one man. If mediation is a reality; if it is a real transaction outside of us; not an internal process, but the adjustment of an external relation, as all Scripture teaches us that it is; the mediator must be a third party, distinct from both the parties between whom He mediates. He may and must represent both. But He is to be confounded with neither, He is to be merged in neither. A man cannot have a mediator within himself; nor can he mentally create a mediator out of himself. He cannot be his own mediator. Every man is not a mediator, nor is it any man indiscriminately who can be a mediator. Nor will an ideal man, springing, as it were, fully grown, from the thoughtful head or fond heart, the living ideal outcome and expression of those human instincts that are opposed to evil, and yearn for good, suffice. No. Not though we give it a local habitation and a name, and call it the man Christ Jesus of Nazareth. If there is to be real and actual mediation in the fair and honest sense of the term, the man who is to be mediator must be found for me, not found by me, least of all found by me in myself. He must be born, not from among us, but from above. He mush be the man, not by assent or consent on the part of earth merely, but by the decree of heaven, or rather by the creative act of heaven's Lord, doing a new thing on the earth, bringing in anew the man, the second Adam! Thus three conditions come together and coalesce as identifying the man who is to be the mediator. First, He must be the man, not as manhood exists and appears, marred and broken, among the children of the fall, but as it was in its original oneness and perfection, when man really bore the image of his Maker. Secondly, He must be the man, not as suggested by men's own instincts, and impulses, and cravings, but as directly chosen, appointed, introduced by God Himself. And, thirdly, He must be the man, as being, in His wondrous person, one with God in the same true and real sense in which He is one with men. All these three conditions meet in the man Christ Jesus. And they meet in Him as the man who sounded the utmost depths of human experience, and in the strength of His pure and simple manhood, aided only by prayer and by the Spirit, withstood evil, mastered pain, and by suffering overcame the wicked one. Truly there is and can be but one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. The man —(1) Made, as to His human nature, by special miracle, in the unbroken image and likeness of God. The man(2) Who comes forth from God, bearing His commission to negotiate peace. The man(3) Who in respect of His Divine nature, unchanged, unchangeable, is one with God — the Son dwelling evermore in the Father's bosom.
V. HE IS THE MAN TO GIVE HIMSELF A RANSOM FOR ALL. He who would do this — must be one who is willing to take your place, and be your substitute; and fulfil all your obligations, and meet all your responsibilities. But more than that, He must be Himself free, under no obligations, under no responsibilities of His own. He must be one who owes nothing to God on His own account; no service, or righteousness, or obedience; and one also who lies under no penalty on His own account; against whom no charge can be brought. In whom are these qualifications found combined but in the man Christ Jesus? For His willingness who can doubt it? "Lo, I come," He says (Psalm 40:7). But willingness alone will not suffice. He who is to be your surety, your ransom, must be no common man. If He is one who, as a mere creature, is made under the law, as all intelligent creatures are made under the law, He cannot answer for others; He can but answer for Himself. Not even if He were the highest of the angelic host could He do more. Brother, thou needest a ransom, an infinite ransom, a perfect ransom, a ransom sufficient for the cancelling of all thy guilt and the perfecting of thy peace with God. No such ransom canst thou find in thyself, in me, in any angel. But God has found it.
VI. HE IS THE MAN TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME. A testimony for fitting seasons, a great truth to be attested as a fact at the right crisis of the world's history, to be ever afterwards preached and taught as the source of life to men doomed to die — is this marvellous constitution of the manhood of Christ Jesus; fitting Him for being the one Mediator, the one Ransom. It is the testimony for which I am ordained a preacher, an ambassador for Christ.
1. It is my ordained and appointed testimony, or rather the Lord's by me, to thee, O sleeper — to thee, O doubter — to thee, whosoever thou art, who art living a godless, unholy life, unrenewed, unreconciled, unsanctified. It is a testimony in due time to thee.
2. It is the testimony with which I am charged to thee also, O downcast soul, who art afflicted, tossed with tempest and not comforted, sin-laden, sorrow-laden, unable to see thy warrant for having peace and life with thy God. I testify to thee, the Lord testifies by me to thee, that all thou needest is in the man Christ Jesus, the Mediator, the Ransom, and in Him for thee.
3. It is a timely, seasonable testimony to thee also, O man of God, my son Timothy, O child of God, who hast quiet peace in believing, and art walking at liberty, having respect to all God's commandments. The testimony to thee this day is of the man Christ Jesus, the Mediator, the Ransom. And it is for every due time, every fitting season. For thyself, I urge thy recognition always of Him of whom I testify, the man Christ Jesus. For, whatever the time, whatever the season, it is a due time, a fitting season, for His being testified to thee, by the Spirit, as being present with thee. As thou walkest the streets, or journeyest along the road, He talks with thee by the way, and opens to thee the Scriptures concerning Himself; the man Christ Jesus, who taught thus of old in Galilee and Jewry, speaking as never man spoke. As thou sittest at meat, He breaks bread with thee, the man Christ Jesus, in whose living, personal, human, and Divine fellowship, the first disciples at Jerusalem did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. As thou visitest the fatherless and widows in their affliction, He goes with thee, the man Christ Jesus, who in all their affliction is Himself afflicted. As thou art wearied among the workers of iniquity whom thou art seeking to turn to righteousness, ready to complain, "Who hath believed our report?" see, ever near thee, at thy side, the man Christ Jesus, who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, and whose prayer on the cross was," Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
Pray everywhere.I. Let us consider THE SUBJECT OF ATTENTION. This is prayer. And what is prayer? Prayer is the breathing of desire towards God. Words are not essential to it. As words may be used without the heart, so the heart may be engaged where words are wanting. Words are not always necessary to inform a fellow-creature, and they are never necessary to inform God, who "searcheth the heart," and knoweth what is in the mind. What interesting looks will the hunger of the beggar at the door display! How is it in the family? You have several children: the first can come and ask for what he wants in proper language, and the second can only ask in broken terms, but here is a third who cannot speak at all: but he can point, he can look, and stretch out his little hand; he can cry, and shall he plead in vain? "No! no!" says the mother, refuse him? his dimpled cheeks, his speaking .eye, his big round tears, plead for him. Refuse him? Further, we notice the kinds of prayer. Prayer may be considered as public. There is also domestic prayer, by which we mean the prayer that is offered every morning and every evening at the family altar. Mr. Henry observes, "A house without this has no roof." Prayer may be considered as private. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father which seeth in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly." Prayer may be considered as ejaculatory, a darting up of the mind to God, as the word signifies. This may be done at any time, and under any circumstance. Nehemiah was the king's cup-bearer, and while he was in the room attending upon his office, he prayed to the God of heaven.
II. Observe THE INJUNCTION. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
III. WHERE IT IS TO BE OFFERED. "Everywhere." Now, this is opposed to restriction or respect. Let us see what we can make of it in either of these views. You remember the Assyrians thought that the God of Israel was the God of the hills, and not of the valleys. And when Balaam was baffled in one of his endeavours to curse Israel, he went to another place to see if he could be more prosperous, and to try if he could curse them from thence. You see how the devotions of the heathens always depended upon times, and places, or pilgrimages. Among the Jews, who were for a time under a Theocracy, God chose a place where He might reside, and where were the symbols of His presence, and there all the males resorted thrice in the year; but even then God said to Moses, "In all places where I record My name, I will come unto thee and bless thee." What think you of those sons and daughters of superstition and bigotry who would confine God to particular places and stations? Where was Jacob when he said, "This is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven"? Where did Paul take leave of his friends? "He kneeled down on the seashore." Where did the Saviour pray? "He went out into a private place," "He went into a desert place," "He went up into a mountain to pray." When Jones, a famous Welsh preacher, was commanded to appear before the Bishop of St. David's, the bishop said to him, "I must insist upon it that you never preach upon unconsecrated ground." "My lord," said he, " I never do; I never did; for 'the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof'; and when Immanuel came down to set His foot upon our earth, the whole was sanctified by it." God is no more a respecter of places than of persons. This should also encourage you when you are under disadvantageous circumstances. For instance, if you are called to assemble in a very poor place, or in a very small place, He Himself hath said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name" —let it be where it will — "there am I in the midst of them." But now, further, as men may pray everywhere, so they ought to pray everywhere. The injunction not only allows, but enjoins, universal prayer. The duty is more opposed to neglect than even restriction. Men should pray everywhere, because they may die everywhere. They have died in all places: they have died in a bath, they have died in a tavern, they have died upon the road, they have died in the temple of God. You are therefore to pray everywhere. But what are we to say of those who, instead of praying "everywhere," pray nowhere?
IV. Let us notice HOW THIS DUTY IS TO BE DISCHARGED. It is to be offered up under three attributes.
1. The first implies purity, "lifting up holy hands." Solomon says, "The prayer of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord." David says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." You have heard the Dutch proverb, "Sinning will make a man leave off praying, or praying will make a man leave off sinning." These will not do well together, therefore they must be separated. It would be better for a man to neglect his benefactor than to call at his house to spit in his face, or to smite him on the cheek. James says, "Can a fountain bring forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?"
2. The second attribute is kindness. This is expressed by the opposite extreme. "Without wrath." There are those whose lives may be far from egregious vices, but whose tempers do not partake of the meekness and gentleness of Christ; they bring their rancorous spirit into their worship, and think to appease the anger of God for their uncharitableness by offering it up on the altar of devotion. "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
3. The third attribute is confidence. This is expressed negatively: "I will that men pray everywhere," not only "without wrath," but "without doubting." Our Lord says in the Gospel by St. Matthew, "Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive." This confidence includes a persuasion in the lawfulness of the things we pray for. Then it takes in confidence in the power of God. "Believe ye that I am able to do this"? This confidence takes in the disposition of God towards you; you are not only to "believe that He is," but that "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him." Especially you must have confidence in the mediation of Christ.
I. THE EMPLOYMENT WHICH IS HERE COMMENDED.
1. That prayer must be addressed exclusively to God. This grand truth is introduced, and ought to be solemnly and uniformly affirmed, in direct contradiction to those mistaken propensities and systems by which men have addressed invocations to idols — mere imaginary beings, or beings really existing but created and inferior.
2. Prayer must be offered to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an established and a cardinal principle in all revealed religion that man as a guilty sinner can have no access to God but through a Mediator — One whose merits, as having offered a sacrifice for sin, must be alleged as constituting a satisfactory ground for favour and acceptance.
3. Prayer offered to God through the Lord Jesus Christ must be presented by all mankind. The statement of our text is, that men are to " pray everywhere"; wherever men exist, men are to pray. The universal call to prayer arises from the fact that men are universally in precisely the same relationship to God. They are everywhere characterized by the same guilt, the same wants, the same responsibility.
II. THE SPIRIT WITH WHICH THIS EMPLOYMENT IS TO BE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED. "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
1. First the apostle recommends importunity. Importunity is symbolized by the figure of the "lifting up of hands" — an attitude which was practised in prayer in ancient times, as externally indicating the place from whence man expected blessing, even heaven the dwelling-place of God, and the spirit with which they desired to receive blessing, laying hold (as it were) by eagerness and by strength of what they desired to receive from Him. Who, for example, can pray for pardon, for sanctification, for knowledge, for love, for protection, for comfort, for victory over death and hell, and for the final enjoyment of a happy immortality in heaven — without importunity? It is palpable that coldness to a rightly regulated mind must be utterly and finally impracticable.
2. But again; the expressions of the apostle, when they recommend importunity, also recommend purity. "Lifting up holy hands" — these expressions, or the epithets with which the expressions we have noticed already are connected, referring to a custom, frequent or universal among the Jews as well as other Oriental nations, of carefully washing the hands before they engaged in the performance of any act of devotion, this being intended to be the sign and symbol of moral rectitude and of the preparation of the heart. Hence it is that in the Old Testament Scriptures you find a connection established between the cleanness of the hands and the purification or holiness of the heart. For instance, in the Book of Job we have this statement — "The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger" — there being of course an identification between the two expressions. In the twenty-fourth Psalm David inquires thus — "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." This being the import of the expression, we might refer it to the state, which must be rendered judicially pure or holy by the imputation of Christ's righteousness, dependence on whom we have already advocated and required; but we must especially regard it as referring to the heart, which must undergo the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, so as to be morally conformed to the character and the law of God. In all ages, God demands to be worshipped in "the beauties of holiness."
3. The apostle also recommends benevolence. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath." The expression "wrath" of course must be regarded as having respect to other men; we are to be careful against indulging towards them resentment or dislike, arising from whatever source, and we are to cultivate towards them the spirit of benevolence and of good-will, these prompting on their behalf intercession for their interests before the throne and in the presence of God. The apostle well knew that there is a great disposition to the indulgence of selfishness in prayer; and hence it was that he bore in the present instance his solemn protest against it.
4. The apostle at the same time recommends faith. "I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting"; the term "doubting" is placed as the converse of faith. Faith in regard to the exercise of prayer, must not merely have respect to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Mediator through whom prayer is to be presented, but must have respect to the entire testimony of God regarding prayer — in its mode, matter, and results. There may perhaps be stated certain limitations to the exercise of faith, as connected with the employment of prayer. Those limitations may justly have respect to the desires we are accustomed to present before the Divine footstool, for the impartation of what we deem temporal blessings.
III. THE REASONS BY WHICH THIS EMPLOYMENT IN THIS SPIRIT MAY ESPECIALLY BE ENFORCED.
1. First, this employment in this spirit is directly commanded by God.
2. Again; this employment in this spirit is connected with numerous and invaluable blessings. Is it not associated with blessing to ourselves, and have we not been distinctly informed that the great instrument of the continuance of spiritual blessings to us, when converted by Divine grace, has been the agency of prayer?
3. And then it must be observed that the neglect of this employment in this spirit is attended and succeeded by numerous and by fatal evils. No man is a converted man who does not pray. No man can be a happy man who does not pray. No man can possess the slightest indication of the spiritual favour of God who does not pray.
(A. Vinet, D. D.)
That women adorn themselves in modest apparel.
I. He speaks of it first NEGATIVELY, declaring that her dignity does not depend upon outward adornment; and this is always and everywhere true. It is probable that the women who came to the Christian assemblies in Ephesus arrayed them selves in costly attire, and sometimes made unbecoming display of their personal charms till the custom was becoming the sensation, if not the scandal, of the city. No one professing godliness ought to spend time, and taste, and money to the extent many do on mere personal adornment, as if the body was everything and the mind nothing, or as if the chief end of a woman's life was to win admiration not respect, to please man and not God. Even from a lower standpoint it is a mistake, and I venture to think that many a marriage has been prevented, and many a possibly happy home is fraught with anxiety, because of an expenditure on dress, which cannot be reasonably or rightly met. There are lives which might have been unspeakably happier if only they had been united, if the two young people had been content to face the world together with plain fare and simple habits. Listen to John Ruskin, "I say further, that as long as there are cold and nakedness in the land around you, so long can there be no question at all but that splendour of dress is a crime."
II. WOMAN'S DIGNITY IS NEXT SET FORTH POSITIVELY. "I will," says Paul, "that women adorn themselves in —
1. Modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety." Society owes its tone more to women than to men. What they frown upon will be tabooed; what they thoughtlessly tolerate will grow in evil influence.
2. But in addition to this influence, which may be almost unconsciously exercised, the Christian woman is to adorn herself with "good works." She often does this behind the veil which is drawn over every home. There are those whose "good works" are noble in their self-sacrifice and far-reaching in their issues of whom the Church hears little. Many a man can sympathize with that soldier who said, "I can stand before the enemy, but I cannot stand before my sister's prayers." And who does not know of more public work done by Christian women — such as that of our visitors and Sunday-school teachers; of saintly pleaders with the drunkards and the profligate; — of noble women whose writings have purged the atmosphere of moral corruption; of heroines like Florence Nightingale and Sister Dora, who have trodden closely in the footsteps of the Lord. These have been clothed with "good works."
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
I. A BOLD DECLARATION on the part of the apostle. "Let the woman learn in silence (or rather in quietness) with all subjection, for I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in quietness"; but the course he followed in this matter was wise, in the condition of life then prevailing. In our days there is no doubt a change of those conditions, which would make the rigorous application of such a rule unwise and unjust. Women, in larger numbers now than then, are of necessity independent, and are compelled to earn their own livelihood, and make their own homes; and being, in some respects, the weaker, they should have no artificial barriers put in the way of their doing so. There are disabilities, the relics of feudal times, which slowly, yet surely, are being swept away, though much still remains to be done. Under our English laws, for example, a woman may be compelled to pay taxes, though she has no right to influence the election of those who impose them — as her gardener or coachman may do. But the general law laid down by Paul still holds good. The public work of life, whether in the world or in the Church, is, broadly speaking, not woman's but man's. His is the life of turmoil, hers of quietude. She is receptive; he is aggressive: and it is not so much in her conspicuous activity as in her yielding affectionateness that her true strength is found.
II. BY A SCRIPTURAL ARGUMENT. He goes back to Eden for justification of his teaching — for he was accustomed to regard the facts of the Old Testament as symbolical and parabolical sources of perpetual instruction. "Adam was first formed," says he, "then Eve." Man's priority in creation, standing as he did alone and in immediate relation to God, was an indication of his place and power, as having the headship over her whom God made to be his helpmeet. But if the helpmeet becomes the head, and the head weakly yields, there comes an overthrow of the Divine order, as there did come in Paradise. Practical shrewdness and discernment; the firm and regulative judgment which should characterize the ruler, are less hers than man's. Her very excellencies, connected as they are with the finer sensibilities and the stronger impulses of a noble and loving nature, disqualify her for the headship, whereas the balance in man's nature is the other way; in the direction of the intellectual and the governing. But it is here asserted that "Adam was not deceived," and was therefore more guilty, because with his eyes open to the wrong he yielded to conjugal love. In other words, the will and the judgment were sacrificed to the affections — the essence of moral fall. Paul closes his remarks on woman by alluding to —
III. A BLESSED ASSURANCE. "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing"; or, as the R.V. has it, "through the childbearing." Perhaps there was some hint here of the blessing that comes through pain and travail, of whatsoever kind it be; and also of the great and noble work possible only to motherhood. But the more correct translation gives us rather the thought of what may be called pre-eminently "the childbearing " — when Jesus Christ, the world's Saviour, was born of a woman, and appeared in the likeness of sinful flesh — for it was thus that the great promise was fulfilled which brought a gleam of hope into the darkness of Eve's despair, "the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head."
(A. Rowland, LL. B.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(J. Stoughton, D. D.)
(Stoleford A. Brooke, M. A.)
(J. Slade, M. A.)
For Adam was first formed.
(C. Stanford, D. D.)
1. The punishment of the woman — "in child-bearing."
2. The comfort of the woman — "she shall be saved."
3. The condition of the salvation — "if they continue." Wherein is implied an exhortation to continue in faith, etc.Many observations might be raised.
1. The pain in childbearing is a punishment inflicted upon the woman for the first sin.
2. The continuance of this punishment after redemption by Christ, doth not hinder the salvation of the woman, if there be the gospel-conditions requisite.
3. The exercise of faith, with other Christian graces, is a peculiar means for the preservation of believers under God's afflicting hand. I shall sum them up into this one. The continuance of the punishment inflicted upon the woman for the first sin doth not prejudice her eternal salvation, nor her preservation in child-bearing, where there are the conditions of faith and other graces.
I. CONCERNING THE PUNISHMENT. Child-bearing itself is not the punishment, but the pain in it. For the blessing, Increase and multiply, was given in innocency. And because this punishment is the greater, it is disputed in the schools whether Adam's or Eve's sin were the greater. We may, I think, safely make these conclusions.
1. In regard of the kind of sin, it was equal in both. They both had an equal pride, an equal aspiring to be like God.
2. In regard of the first motion to this sin, Eve's sin was the greater. She was the seducer of Adam, which the apostle expresseth in the verse before the text.
3. In regard of the woman's condition, the sin was greater on Adam's part.(1) Because he, being the man, had more power to resist, more strength to argue the case.(2) Eve had a stronger and craftier adversary to deal with, the subtlest of all the beasts of the field (Genesis 3:1), animated and inspired by a craftier devil. The stronger the tempter, the more excusable the sin.(3) Eve had the command of not eating immediately from her husband, which laid not altogether so strong a tie upon her as it did upon him, who had it immediately from the mouth of God, and therefore was more certain of the verity of the precept.
II. OF WHAT NATURE IS THIS PUNISHMENT?
1. It is not a punishment in a rigid sense, nor continued as such.(1) Because it is not commensurate to the nature of the sin, neither is it that penalty which the law required. Death was due, and death immediately upon the offence; but death was kept off by the interposition of the mediator, and this which is less than death inflicted at present. Where death is deserved, and a lighter punishment inflicted, it is rather an act of clemency than strict justice, and may be called by the name of a partial pardon or reprieve, as well as a punishment.(2) It is not a reparation of the injury done to God. One reason of the institution of punishment is to repair the damage the person offended sustains by the malefactor, as far as he is capable.(3) It is not continued as a part of satisfaction to the justice of God; as though Christ needed the sufferings of the creature to make up the sum which He was to pay for us, and which He hath already paid. These punishments are to awaken men to a sight of their first sin.(4) The proper impulsive cause of punishment is wrath. In inflicting it He preserves the authority of a Judge; in preserving under it, and pardoning the sin for which it was inflicted, He evidenceth the affection of a Father.
2. Yet it is in some sort a punishment, and something more than an affliction.(1) In respect of the meritorious cause, sin. This is not inflicted as an act of absolute sovereignty, but a judicial legal act upon the demerit of sin.(2) Because if man had stood in innocency, neither this grief, nor indeed any other, had been.
III. THIS PUNISHMENT DOTH NOT HINDER SALVATION THOUGH IT BE CONTINUED.
1. God intended not in the acceptance of Christ's mediation to remove in this life all the punishments denounced after the Fall. God takes away the eternal, but not the temporal. Some parts of Christ's purchase are only payable in another life, and some fruits of redemption God intends for growth only in another soil; such are freedom from pain, diseases, death, and sin. But the full value of Christ's satisfaction will appear when there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, when the day of redemption shall dawn, and all tears be wiped from believers' eyes. But God never promised the total removal of them in this life to any saint; no, though he should have all the faith and holiness of all the catalogue of saints in the Book of Life centred in him.
2. Christ never intended, in the payment of the price of our redemption, the present removal of them. He sent, after His ascension, the Spirit to be our Comforter, which supposeth a state wherein we should need comfort; and when are we under a greater necessity of comfort than when the punishment of sin is actually inflicted on us?
3. Christ intended, and did actually take away the curse of those punishments from every believer.
4. Hence it will follow that to a believer the very nature of these punishments is altered. In the one the sting remains; in the other it is pulled out. The cord that binds a malefactor and a patient may be made of the same hemp, and a knife only go between; but it binds the malefactor to execution, the other to a cure.
5. Therefore all temporal punishments of original sin, though they remain, do not prejudice a believer's present interest.(1) They cut not off his relation to God.(2) They debar not from the presence of God. God may be and is as near to us in supporting as He is in punishing.(3) They break not the covenant. His rod and His stripes, though they seem to break ore, backs, make no breaches in His covenant (Psalm 89:32-34).
6. Add to all this, that the first promise secures a believer under the sufferings of those punishments. God's affection in the promise of bruising the serpent's head was more illustrious in His wrath than the threatening. There are the bowels of a father in the promise before there was the voice of a judge in the sentence. But it may be asked, What is the reason these punishments are continued since the redemption wrought by Christ? There are reasons —(1) On God's part.(a) It is congruous to the wisdom of God to leave them upon us while we are in the world.(b) It is congruous to the holiness of God. God keeps up those punishments as the Rector and Governor of the world, to show His detestation of that sin which brought a disorder and deformity upon the creation, and was the first act of dishonour to God, and the first pollution of the creature.(c) It is a declaration of His justice.(d) It is useful to magnify His love. We should not be sensible of what our Saviour suffered, nor how transcendently He loved us if the punishment of sin had been presently removed upon the first promise.(2) On our parts. It is useful to us(a) To make us abhor our first defection and sin.(b) To make us fear to sin and to purge it out. Sin hath riveted itself so deep that easy medicines will not displace it. It hath so much of our affections that gentle means will not divorce us from it. We shall hate it most when we reap the punishment of it.(c) To exercise grace.
1. Faith and trust — "She that is desolate trusts in God" (1 Timothy 5:5). The lower the state, the greater necessity and greater obligation to trust; such exercises manifest that the condition we are in is sanctified to us.
2. Obedience in a believer hath a greater lustre by them. It was the glory of Job that he preserved his integrity under the smartest troubles.
3. Humility. These punishments are left upon us to allay our pride, and be our remembrancers of our deplorable miscarriage.
4. Patience. Were there no punishments there would be but little occasion for patience.