In the rich and ample variety of spiritual things which are embraced in and revealed by the gospel of the grace of God, the doctrine of Intercession is very prominently set forth as most vitally important to be understood, and implicitly relied upon by all the children of God; not only because it sustains and bears them up under all the pressing weight of trials, conflicts, temptations and tribulations to which they are exposed while here in the house of their pilgrimage, but also for their protection from the false and pernicious errors which abound in our sin-smitten world. The prevalent notion among will-worshipers and Arminians is that after the resurrection of the Savior, he ascended up into heaven, which place they regard as a locality somewhere very remote from the church, and that he there at the right hand of the Father labors continually to prevail upon the Father to lay aside his vengeful thunderbolts of wrath, and allow grace and salvation to flow down to penitent sinners. And that he is ready and willing to be employed to intercede for any sinner, however vile, who may choose to employ him to do so, and when so employed will use all the influence he has to prevail on the Father to forego his burning wrath, lay aside his purpose, and allow sinners to be saved. This theory, with but little enlargement held by papists, is so extended to include with Christ the holy virgin and departed saints, with priests and others on earth in the same intercession. The people are taught to believe that their priests and patron saints can be induced to bring an influence to bear, directly or indirectly, upon the immutable God, and prevail on him to do what he had never designed to do for them. While the various Protestant orders are very little, if any, less extravagant in making their deluded millions believe that their prayers and the prayers of their expert revivalists, at their anxious benches, or monthly concerts, can make efficient intercession for sinners, and prevail on God himself to lay aside his purpose and adopt theirs. Hence they boastfully proclaim that prayer in their hands is a lever by which they can move the power that moves the world.
The positive declaration of the Scriptures of truth is that "God is of one mind, and none can turn him." That he is the Lord and he changes not. That with him there is no variation nor shadow of turning; and that he worketh all things after the counsel of his own will; these solemn and emphatic declarations from the throne of God in tones of peeling thunder, have no weight with them, for they do not believe what God the Lord has spoken. They fear not God, nor do they tremble at his word. Some of the modern revivalists, as they are called, and as they profess to be, have been heard to preach to sinners that Christ has been interceding a long time for them, and the Holy Ghost has as long been unsuccessfully wooing, striving and entreating them to yield their opposition and consent to be saved, but all in vain. And yet they assure them that if they will come up to their altar and be prayed for, they shall be saved; thus presumptuously and blasphemously assuming that they can do what Christ and the Holy Ghost has tried but failed to do. This delusion is greedily received by the world generally; for infatuated mortals love dearly to be deceived. We have not the faintest expectation that any thing we can write or say will make the slightest impression on them to convince them of their delusion. Our exposition may make them angry, or mad; but nothing less than the power of God can turn them from the error of their ways, as the rivers of water are turned.
Our labor is not with them, we leave them where we find them, in the hands of that God whom we trust has translated us from the power of the same darkness, into his marvelous light. Our object is to elucidate the subject of divine intercession, so far as the God of truth may enable us, to the understanding of all who have ears to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.
The great object of divine intercession for the saints cannot be regarded, consistently with divine revelation, as intended to produce any change in the immutable God, in his purpose, love, grace, or any other fixed purpose or counsel of his will. To suppose that God could change, would unavoidably involve the absurdity, that such a change must either be for the better or the worse. If we say for the better, then we imply that before the change he was not absolutely perfect; if we say it is for the worse, then we take the other horn of the dilemma, and conclude that subsequently to such a change he is not as perfect as before.
Nor can we understand that there is, or ever was, the slightest disagreement between the will, design or desire of the Father and the Son. In the Godhead they are One, and in his Mediatorial Sonship, as the Head of the church, his work is not to reconcile the Father to sinners, but to reconcile us unto God. Hence in his advent to our world, he himself declares that he came by his Father's will; and that he came to do the will of the Father, and to finish the work which the Father gave him to do. And so far from any discord or discrepancy between his will and the will of his Father, it was his meat and his drink to do the will of the Father, for their will was identically the same. "And this is the will of the Father, that of all that he hath given me I should lose nothing, but raise them up at the last day." Does the will of our adorable Redeemer differ from this? Hear him. "Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am," etc. So far is our adorable Intercessor from desiring any change in his Father, or in his will; he has instructed all his saints to pray, saying, "Thy will be done." How could we rely on him to reconcile us unto God, if he were himself unreconciled, and desirous for a change?
So far is he from importuning the Father to save more than the Father has eternally designed to save, he says expressly that he prays not for the world, but for those whom the Father has given him out of the world, embracing precisely those of whom Paul assures us that God hath saved and called with an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. And we are also told that "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
The intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ for and in behalf of his people pertains to, and is performed under, his priestly office, and is therefore restricted to those of his priesthood, and to them exclusively. As the names of all the tribes of Israel for whom Aaron and his sons officiated, were borne upon their breastplate when they made intercession by sacrifice at the Jewish altars, so the "Great High Priest of our profession" has carried and borne all his people all the days of old, and in his one offering he was delivered for their offences, and raised from the dead for their justification. They are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a peculiar people." But of the work of intercession, we may speak in a two fold sense.
First, his priestly intervention between his people and God; and secondly, that intercession which he by the indwelling of his Spirit makes unto God in them.
As their Advocate with the Father, and the Propitiation for their sins, he has met all the demands of the law and justice of God, which no other could have done, "And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled, in the body of his flesh, through death to present you holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in his sight (Colossians 1:20-22)." Having put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified, he has entered into heaven itself, having obtained eternal redemption for us. The Father is well pleased for his righteousness' sake, in which he has magnified and honored the divine law, and brought in everlasting righteousness for us. Now, not to overcome or obviate an unwillingness on the part of the Father, but in perfect accordance with the eternal and immutable will of the Father, as all his prayers and intercessions have always been; on our behalf, he says, "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I have manifested thy name unto them which thou gayest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gayest them me; and they have kept thy word, now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee; for I have given unto them the words which thou gayest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mind; and I am glorified in them (John 18:4-10)." The nature and extent of his priestly intercession is clearly expressed in Isaiah 53:10-12. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."
The infallible success of his intercession rests on this, that it is always according to the will of the Father; whereas, if we were compelled to believe that his intercession was intended to overcome any opposition on the part of the Father, we should not only despair of its success, but the thought would fill our mind with horror.
But secondly, we may contemplate the intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ, as carried on in the hearts of all his children. He is our High Priest, not by the law of a carnal commandment, but by the power of an endless life. "Thou art a Priest forever, after the order of Melchisedec." The power of an endless life is the power of that immortality which is brought to light through the gospel, by his resurrection from the dead, and in this immortality all his people are made partakers; for he says, "I give unto them eternal life." And again, I am the Resurrection and the Life, the way, the truth and the life. He dwells in them, and they in him, and by his Spirit which dwells in them, he makes intercession in, as well as for, them. What would our prayers amount to, if they were not inspired by the Spirit of Christ, by which he dwells in us? "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." But, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." It is only by this Spirit we can worship God in the beauty of holiness. If left to express our desires without the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ, we would only ask for carnal or fleshly gratifications, for things to be consumed on our carnal lusts. Christians may indeed, and sometimes do, "ask and receive not, because they ask amiss." And we would always ask amiss if the Spirit were withheld from us. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit; because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God (Romans 8:26,27)." Every holy aspiration that arises from the saints of God is inspired by the Spirit of Christ in them. All their prayers and songs, their confessions, thanksgivings and supplications, uttered or unuttered, to be acceptable to God must be led, indited and directed by the spirit of our Intercessor, and then they cannot fail to be according to the will of God. This Spirit searcheth all things; even the deep things of God. And it is by this Spirit of Christ in us that God worketh in us, both to will and to do his good pleasure. How often have the children of God, in their experience, felt this unutterable groaning within them, while their lips were sealed with a death-like silence, when no language at their command could express the emotions which were felt within. Such groanings do not arise within us from any desire that the will of God should yield to our gratification; but it is rather a struggle for language to express in prayer and praise what we are feeling at the time of the blessed Spirit's work in our hearts.
It is thus by the power of an endless life our great High Priest, our risen and glorified Savior, our dear Redeemer, Advocate with the Father, and divine Intercessor, ever lives to make intercession for us, and in us. He not only lives for us, but he lives in us, and living in us, by his Spirit (for we know him no more after the flesh) carries on this intercession in all his children. "No man can come unto the Father but by me." No intercession can prevail with God, but that which he makes continually for and in the saints. Forms of prayer may be poured forth in flowing eloquence, with fluent utterance, and may even be expressed in unobjectionable words, and yet being uttered in empty sounds, with cringing formality, are rejected by taking the sacred name of God in vain; while the heart burdened, humble sinner, like the poor publican, with downcast eyes feels the power of the divine intercession within him, which maketh the intercession, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
How vitally important then is the intercession of Christ, by his Spirit, for and in us; not a desire can go up from us to God with acceptance without it. No heavenly blessing can come down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, but through it. Since the world began no man has ever uttered without hypocrisy the words, "Thy will be done," unless prompted thereto by the intercessory Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
While writing this article, our mind has reverted to our early experience, and the traditional views we entertained of the intercession of Christ. More than fifty-six years ago, when we were a child, a deep sense of guilt and condemnation pressed us down with crushing weight, and while in this condition imagination described to us an offended Father, incensed against us, and ready to hurl his fiery vengeance upon our guilty head, in an everlasting storm, and truly we felt a consciousness that we deserved his wrath; but in our thoughts the Father was austere and exacting; we imagined the Intercessor, as pleading anxiously in our behalf, trying to prevail with the Father to spare us at least a little longer. There seemed to us to be a wide difference between them in regard to us. But when it pleased God to reveal his Son in us, we beheld the light of the glory of God in the face of our dear Redeemer, and we were amazed to find that it was the love of God to us, when we were dead in sins that provided a Savior for us. And we shall never be able fully to express what was our transport and joy to know that God was in Christ reconciling us to himself, and that the salvation of all the redeemed people of God is according to God's own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ before the world began.
January 15, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7