"We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous. "
1 John ii.1. -- "We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."

There is no settlement to the spirit of a sinner that is once touched with the sense of his sins, and apprehension of the justice and wrath of God, but in some clear and distinct understanding of the grounds of consolation in the gospel, and the method of salvation revealed in it. There is no solid peace giving answer to the challenges of the law and thy own conscience, but in the advocation of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners. And therefore the apostle propones it here for the comfort of believers who are incident to be surprised through the suddenness of sin, and often deceived by the subtlety of Satan, whose souls' desires and sincere endeavours are to be kept from iniquity, and therefore they are made to groan within themselves, and sometimes sadly to conclude against themselves, upon the prevailing of sin. Here is the cordial, I say. He presents to them Jesus Christ standing before the bar of heaven, and pleading his satisfaction in the name of such souls, and so suiting forth an exemption and discharge for them from their sins. So he presents us with the most comfortable aspect, Christ standing between us and justice, the Mediator interposed between us and the Father, so there can come no harm to such poor sinners, except it come through his sides first, and no sentence can pass against them, unless he succumb in his righteous cause in heaven.

The strength of Christ's advocation for believers consists partly in his qualification for the office, partly in the ground and foundation of his cause. His qualification we have in this verse, the ground and foundation of his pleading in the next verse, in that "he is the propitiation for our sins," and upon this very ground his advocation is both just and effectual.

Every word holds out some fitness, and therefore every word drops out consolation to a troubled soul. "With the Father," speaks out the relation he and we stand in to the Judge. He hath not to do with an austere and rigid Judge, that is implacable and unsatisfiable, who will needs adhere peremptorily to the letter of the law, for then we should be all undone. If there were not some paternal affection, and fatherly clemency and moderation in the Judge, if he were not so disposed, as to make some candid interpretation upon it, and in some manner to relax the sentence, as to our personal suffering, we could never stand before him, nor needed any advocate appear for us. But here is the great comfort, -- he is Christ's Father and our Father, so himself told us, (John xx.17,) "I go to my Father and your Father, and my God and your God." And therefore we may be persuaded that he will not take advantage, even in that which he hath in justice, of us, and though we be apprehensive of his anger, in our failings and offences, and this makes us often to be both afraid and ashamed to come to him, measuring him after the manner of men, who are soon angry, and often implacably angry. We imagine that he cannot but repel and put back our petitions, and therefore we have not the boldness to offer them, yet he ceaseth not to be our Father and Christ's Father. And if ye would have the character of a father, look (Jer. xxxi.18,) how he stands affected towards ashamed and confounded Ephraim, how his bowels move, and his compassions yearn towards him as his pleasant child. The truth is, in such a case, in which we are captives against our will, and stumble against our purpose, he pities us as a father doth his children, knowing that we are but dust and grass, Psal. ciii.13-17. See the excellent and sweet application of this relation by the Psalmist -- if it stir him, it stirs up rather the affection of pity, than the passion of anger. He pities his poor child, when he cries out of violence and oppression; and therefore, there are great hopes that our advocate Jesus Christ shall prevail in his suits for us, because he, with whom he deals, -- the Father, -- loves him, and loves us, and will not stand upon strict terms of justice, but rather attemper all with mercy and love. He will certainly hear his well beloved Son, for in him he is well pleased, his soul rests and takes complacency in him, and for his sake he adopts us to be his children, and therefore he will both hear him in our behalf, and our prayers too, for his name's sake.

But this is superadded to qualify our advocate, -- he is the Christ of God, anointed for this very purpose, and so hath a fair and lawful calling to this office. He takes not this honour to himself, but was called thereto of his Father, Heb. v.4. As he did not make himself a priest, so he did not intrude upon the advocateship, "but he that said, Thou art my Son called him to it." If a man had never so great ability to plead in the law, yet, except he be licentiate and graduate, he may not take upon him to plead a cause. But our Lord Jesus hath both skill and authority, he hath both the ability and the office, was not a self intruder or usurper, but the council of heaven did licentiate him, and graduate him for the whole office of mediatorship: in which there is the greatest stay and support for a sinking soul, to know that all this frame and fabric of the gospel was contrived by God the Father, and that he is master builder in it. Since it is so, there can nothing control it or shake it, since it is the very will of God, "with whom we have to do," that a mediator should stand between him and us, and since he hath such a mind to clear poor souls, that he freely chooseth and giveth them an able Advocate, it is a great token that he hath a mind to save as many as come and submit to him and that he is ready to pardon, when he prepares so fit an Advocate for us, and hath not left us alone to plead our own cause.

But the anointing of Christ for it, implies both {GREEK SMALL LETTER DELTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER MU}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU} and {GREEK SMALL LETTER EPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER XI}{GREEK SMALL LETTER OMICRON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER UPSILON}{GREEK SMALL LETTER SIGMA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER IOTA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER ALPHA}{GREEK SMALL LETTER NU} potentiam et potestatem, the gifts for it as well as the authority, and the ability as well as the office, for God hath singularly qualified him for it, -- given him the Spirit above measure, Isa. lxi.1. He received gifts not only to distribute to men, but to exercise for men, and their advantage, Psal. lxviii.18. And therefore the Father seems to interest himself in the cause as it were his own. He furnisheth our Advocate as if it were to plead the cause of his own justice against us, he upholds and strengthens Christ in our cause, as really as if it were his own, Isa. xlii.1, 6, which expresseth to us the admirable harmony and consent of heaven to the salvation of as many as make Christ their refuge, and desire not to live in sin. Though they be often foiled, yet there is no hazard of the failing of their cause above, because our Advocate hath both excellent skill, and undoubtable authority.

Yea, he is so fully qualified for this that he is called Jesus the Saviour, he is such an Advocate that he saves all he pleads for. The best advocate may lose the cause, either through the weakness of itself, or the iniquity of the judge, but he is the Advocate and the Saviour, that never succumbed in his undertaking for any soul. Be their sins never so heinous -- their accusation never so just and true -- their accuser never so powerful, yet they who put their cause in his hand, who flee in hither for refuge being wearied of the bondage of sin and Satan, he hath such a prevalency with the Father, that their cause cannot miscarry. Even when justice itself seems to be the opposite party, yet he hath such marvellous success in his office, that justice shall rather meet amicably with mercy and peace, and salute them kindly, (Psal. lxxxv.10, 11,) as being satisfied by him, that he come short in his undertaking.

But there is another personal qualification needful, or all should be in vain, -- "Jesus the righteous." If he were not righteous in himself, he had need of an advocate for himself, and might not plead for sinners, but he is righteous and holy, no guile found in his mouth, without sin, an unblameable and unspotted High Priest, else he could not mediate for others, and such an Advocate too, else he could not plead for others, Heb. vii.26. As this perfected his sacrifice, that he offered not for his own sins, neither needed he, so this completes his advocateship, and gives it a mighty influence for his poor clients, that he needs not plead for himself. If, then, the law cannot attach our Lord and Saviour, can lay no claim to him, or charge against him, then certainly, all that he did behoved to be for others, and so he stands in a good capacity to plead for us before the Father, and to sue out a pardon to us, though guilty, for if the just was delivered for the unjust, and the righteous suffered for the unrighteous, much more is it consistent with the justice of the Father, to deliver and save the unrighteous and unjust sinner for the righteous Advocate's sake. "If ye seek me, then let these go free," saith he, John xviii.8. So he in effect pleads with God his Father, O Father, if thou deal with me, the righteous One, as with an unrighteous man, then, in all reason and justice, thou must deal with my poor clients, though unrighteous, as with righteous men. If justice thought she did me no wrong to punish me, the righteous, then let it not be thought a wrong to justice to pardon, absolve, and justify the unrighteous.

Now, if he be so righteous a person, it follows necessarily, that he hath a righteous cause, for an honest man will not advocate an unjust cause. But how can the cause of believers be said to be righteous, when justice itself, and the law, indicts the accusation against them? Can they plead not guilty, or he for them? There is a twofold righteousness, in relation to a twofold rule, a righteousness of strict justice, in relation to the first covenant, and this cannot be pleaded, that our cause is exactly conformable to the covenant of works. We cannot, nor Christ in our name, plead any thing from that, which holds forth nothing but personal obedience, or else personal satisfaction. But yet our cause may be found to be righteous, in relation to the second covenant, and the rule and terms of it, in as far as God hath revealed his acceptance of a surety in our stead and hath dispensed with the rigour of the law, according to that new law of grace and righteousness contempered together. The cause of a desperate lost sinner may be sustained before the righteous Judge, and it is upon this new account that he pleads for us because he hath satisfied in our stead, and now it is as righteous and equitable with God, to show mercy and forgiveness to believing sinners, as it is to reveal wrath and anger against impenitent sinners.

I know there will be some secret whisperings in your hearts upon the hearing of this. Oh! it is true, it is a most comfortable thing for them whose advocate he is. There is no fear of the miscarrying of their cause above, but as for me, I know not if he be an advocate for me, whether I may come into that sentence, "We have an advocate," &c. I confess it is true, he is not an advocate for every one, for while he was here, he prayed not for the world, but them that were given him out of the world, (John xvii.), much more will he not plead for the world, when he is above. He is rather witnessing against the unbelieving world. But yet, I believe his advocation is not restrained only to those who actually believe, as neither his supplication was, John xvii. But as he prayed for those who should hereafter believe, so he still pleads for all the elect not only to procure remission to the penitent, but repentance to the impenitent. There is one notable effect of the advocation and intercession of Christ, which indeed is common to the world, but particularly intended for the elect, that is, the present suspension of the execution of the curse of the law, by virtue whereof there is liberty to offer the gospel, and call sinners to repentance. No question, the sparing of the world, the forbearance and long suffering of God towards sinners, is the result and fruit of our Lord's intercession and advocation in heaven, and so, even the elect have the benefit of it before they believe, but it is so provided, that they shall never sensibly know this, nor have any special comfort from it, till they believe, and so Christ doth not plead for pardon to their sins till they repent. He pleads even before we repent, but we cannot know it; yet he pleads not that pardon be bestowed before they repent, and so the saving efficacy of his advocation is peculiar and proper in the application to believing souls.

Now, consider, I say, whether or not thou be one that finds the power of that persuasion, -- "My little children, I write unto you that ye sin not," &c. Canst thou unfeignedly say, that it is the desire and endeavour of thy soul not to sin, and that thou art persuaded to this, not only from the fear and terror of God, but especially from his mercy and goodness in the gospel? This is one part of the character of such as Christ's advocation is actually extended to. Moreover, being surprised with sin, and overcome beside thy purpose, and against thy desire, dost thou apprehend sin as thy greatest misery, and arraign thyself before the tribunal of God, or art thou attached in thy own conscience, and the law pleaded against thee, before the bar of thy own conscience? Then, I say, according to this scripture, thou art the soul unto whom this comfort belongs, thou art called of God to decide the controversy in thy own conscience. By flying up, and appealing to that higher tribunal, where Christ is advocate, thou mayest safely give over, and trust thy cause to him.

But, on the other hand, O how deplorable and remediless is the condition of those souls who have no cause of this kind stated within their own consciences, who are not pursued by Satan and sin, but rather at peace with them, amicably agreeing with them, acting their lusts and will! You who have no bonds upon you, to restrain you from sin, neither the terror of the Lord persuadeth yon, nor the love of Christ constrains you, you can be kept from no beloved sin, nor pressed to any serious and spiritual labour in God's service; and then when you sin, you have no accuser within, or such an one as you suppress, and suffer not to plead it out against you or cite you before God's tribunal. I say unto you, (and, alas! many of you are such) you do not, you cannot know, that you have an interest in this Advocate. You can have no benefit or saving advantage from Christ's pleading, while you remain thus in your sins. Alas! poor souls, what will ye do? Can you manage your own cause alone? Though you defraud and deceive your own consciences now, though ye offer violence to them, do ye think so to carry it above? Nay, persuade yourselves you must one day appear, and none to speak for you, God your Judge, your conscience your accuser, and Satan, your tormentor, standing by, and then woe to him that is alone, when the Advocate becomes Judge. In that day blessed are all those that have trusted in him, and used him formerly as an Advocate against sin and Satan, but woe to those for ever, who would never suffer this cause to be pleaded, while there was an Advocate!

sermon xxv and if any
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