“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews iv. 16.
This is a conclusion drawn from preceding reflections in which Christ is brought to view in a sense peculiarly encouraging to a poor, afflicted, and persecuted believer. The sympathy of a common friend is very desirable to us under trials; but how much more so to have the sympathy of him who is God over all! for though Christ is verily God, yet by the assumption of our nature he has subjected himself to the trials and afflictions which qualify him not only to pity, but to sympathise with his people. It is not necessary for us to be placed in like circumstances with others to enable us to pity, but without it we cannot properly sympathise. The rich man may pit the poor, but let him become poor, and he can sympathise, because he now knows by experience what it is to be poor. This appears to be the idea in the 15th verse: “For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Though Christ was not a sinner, yet, as a substitute for the elect, he suffered all that was consequent on their becoming sinners, and is therefore fully qualified to sympathise with them.
“He knows what sore temptations mean,
For he has felt the same.”
Seeing then that we have such a High Priest at the right hand of God, we are encouraged to come boldly to a throne of grace.
Here we have a throne without a parallel in the history of thrones. We have heard of pardons issued from earthly thrones, but never of one erected exclusively for that purpose; but here is one erected exclusively for that purpose, a throne of grace!
God is brought to view as connected with different thrones: as Psalm xix. 7, 8, “But the Lord shall endure forever; he hath prepared a throne for judgment: and he shall judge the world in righteousness; and shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.” Let us suppose him confined to this throne exclusively and we must all perish: for who of all the guilty sons of Adam could stand? Not one. Again, we find him on a throne of glory: Isa. vi, “In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw the Lord on a throne high and lifted up,” &c. &c. Let us view him confined to this throne, and like Isaiah we must all be confounded before him, and so remain to all eternity. “Wo is me for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” And in this confounded condition must he and all of us continue to all eternity, were God confined alone to a throne of glory. But viewed on a throne of grace, it is calculated at once to dispel all their fears, arising from a sense of guilt: and to banish that confusion arising from a sense of our deep pollution. In a word, to remove every obstacle out of the way, and to open a free communication, through which a poor, fallen, guilty sinner may approach the divine Majesty without the least fear of being rejected.
A throne connects with it at least two ideas: 1st, A Sovereign. 2d, An established order. The occupant of the throne is God himself. Not, however, clad int eh garments of vengeance, denouncing the penalty of the law against the guilty culprit, but in the soft robe of mercy, welcoming his approach, and pronouncing his free and full pardon. This throne connects with it an order peculiar in its nature, exempt from every thing of a penal kind. It is an order altogether of grace, involving the sole principle on which the salvation of a poor guilty sinner rests; that of free and unmerited favor. This throne is not needed if salvation is conditional. The Pharisee, in the 18th of Luke, needed it not; his plea was founded altogether on a different principle, on that of claims: a claim supported (or at least pretended to be) by a catalogue of good deeds. The very ground on which the arminians rest the hope of acceptance; a hope which will as certainly prove delusive, as that God occupies a throne of grace. But let us not run into a very popular error of the day, an error which goes to subvert the divine government, by destroying the great principle on which it, and indeed all correctly organized human governments are based. I mean that of justice. They with one excellence another wound; bid mercy triumph over God himself, and thus delude thousands by representing God as bound by his mercy to accept of their prayers, repentance, &c. &c. 7c., as a pass-port to heaven, even while their fulsome eulogies on the mercy of God are at open war with his justice. Not so with this throne of grace; it is not erected on the ruins of a throne of justice and judgment, for justice and judgment are still the habitation of his throne. I cannot receive the idea of Doct. Watts, when he speaks of
“Sprinkling o’er the burning throne,
And turning wrath to grace.”
No: God is still on a throne of judgment, securing the rights of justice inviolate, and that even in dispensing pardon to the guilty.
After giving directions to Moses in reference to the mercy seat, God said: “And there will I meet with thee, and will commune with thee from off the mercy seat, from between the cherubims,” &c. Exodus xxv. 22. In this beautiful type, we have a view of Christ as the medium of communication between God and sinners; and through this medium alone are the rights of Justice secured, and mercy extended to the guilty. But how is it that Christ has secured the rights of justice, and at the same the salvation of the sinner? Let Calvary answer this important question. It is there we see the demands of justice against the elect fully answered: when Jesus cried It is finished, and gave up the ghost. There is no way in which we can reconcile the death of Christ with the justice of God, but on the principle of substitution. He was as an individual perfectly innocent, to which innocency God had borne repeated testimony; and yet put him into the hand of sinners, to be put to death; and how can we possibly reconcile this act on the part of God in any other way than by viewing Christ as a substitute, and his death vicarious?
But we are not left to the obscure light of reason to find out this important truth; the Bible is full on the subject. The sacrifices under the Jewish economy all conspire to proclaim it in the most plain and forcible manner; there we see Jesus typically suffering, as a substitute for the elect: but we have it asserted, both in the Old and New Testaments, in language too plain to be misunderstood, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isa. liii. 4, compared with Romans iv. 25, Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. And 1 Peter ii. 24, Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed. Here we have the testimony of the three inspired witnesses, given in the most plain and unequivocal manner; and when they fail in producing conviction, ten thousand would not answer.
The throne of grace being thus thrown open, we may come to it with boldness: not, however with that daring presumption, that commanding tone so often discovered in arminians, in which God is addressed as if he were a subordinate being, and bound to succor to their dictations. Now are we required to cringe as a trembling vassal at the foot of a haughty tyrant; but to come with a humble confidence, as a child to a kind and tender parent. This confidence is warranted by the fact that the way is opened by the vicarious suffering of Christ, and by the many invitations we have to do so in the word of God: Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened. Ask and it shall be given you, &c &c. Now if we believe these invitations to be given in sincerity, then we have the strongest encouragement to come with boldness to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. To help in time of need: and that is constantly the case with us poor worms. We daily, yea, hourly, need power from on high to sustain us, wisdom to direct, and mercy to bear with our infirmities. And therefore the propriety of a continual resorting to this throne. Not, however, in that formal manner so common among nominal professors.
“Their lifted eyes salute the skies,
Their bended knees the ground:
But God abhors the sacrifice,
Where not the heart is found.”
The present age is famous for that kind of religion so frequently reproved by Christ when on earth, which consists in outward appearance. They make long prayers, standing at the corners of the streets, to be heard of men; verily I say unto you, they have their reward. That is, they are heard of men, and by men are flattered with high sounding encomiums. These act as if God were like unto themselves; and to be governed – not by his own immutable will, but by their fulsome flattery, and hypocritical importunities. Thus we find them adopting the same measures to act upon God, as are resorted to by citizens to act upon the minds of their Presidents, Governors, and Legislators; concert and numbers. Thus, when citizens wish a particular act passed, we find petitions pouring in from every quarter, swelled with numbers to the highest possible extent. Why all this effort, but to work on the minds or feelings of the bodies petitioned? and not unfrequently lead them to act contrary to their own judgment. And we find the same kind of efficacy attributed to the Monthly Concert, and the vast number of prayers sent up on such occasions, as if the idea of concert and number was to act on the mind of God and influence him to act otherwise than he would have done, had not these measures been resorted to. But our God is of one mind, and none can turn him, declaring the end from the beginning; whose counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure; and while these gaudy appearances and human inventions are a stink in his nostrils, he hears the groaining of the prisoner, and the sighings of the needy come up before him, and as he is continually on a throne of grace, he is ever ready to hear and answer the sincere and humble petitions of his children, though their petitions should not be formed into words. Not that I design to exclude vocal praise on suitable occasions; of this we have examples, both in the Old and New Testaments, examples sufficient to satisfy me at least, that it is a duty, not only in public assemblies, bu tin our families to use vocal prayer.
But though we are always needy, yet there are seasons which both individuals and churches are under circumstances of special need, in consequence of peculiar trials, and such appears to be the case with the church at this time. She truly appears to be a beseiged city, and as a cottage in a wilderness. Humanly speaking, every thing is against her; wealth, numbers, and influence; and not only is she assailed on one point, but on every point, and her very existence is threatened; her enemies, like the Edomites in the days of Jerusalem, are saying, raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.
In my views there never was a more artful weapon formed against the church, than the present one. Fire and fagot are nothing to compare with it. They were calculated to draw the church together and strengthen it; this to scatter and weaken it. That is, speaking after the manner of men, and we always speak thus, when we speak either of the church or an individual believer being in a more safe or a more dangerous condition, for in reality these terms have no meaning relative to them; for the church is no more safe at one time than another. No: this little barque will be no safer when moored in the port of glory, then she is now while tossed to and fro by storms and tempests. But to return: There is something in the nature of man that revolts of the idea of coercion, thus we hear of men hazarding life and every thing dear to them, in maintaining a position against an open enemy, who have nevertheless fallen victims to the allurements of case, wealth, or popularity. This is the mode of attack made at the present time; all the interests of flesh and blood are enlisted, and thus has a most powerful influence upon us; and indeed it is hard work for a man to be always fighting against his own interests, particularly when by throwing a little incense on their altars he might share with them in their spoils, or at least screen himself from the shots of calumny and reproach so freely hurled at him. But we have the consolation that there is a throne of grace to which we may repair, and find grace to help in time of need; and without continual supplies of grace we must fall. But I have gone far beyond my original design, and must stop by saying that while we have a throne of grace we have nothing to fear. Though our sins are like the stars for multitudes, and our guilt like mountains for magnitude, we need not despair while we have a throne of grace open to us. And though our own corruptions unite with our outward enemies, we need not dread the final issue, a throne of grace will sustain us in the contest, and bring us off more than conquerors. And while we have this throne let us not offend the one part by neglecting the exalted privilege of approaching it, and thus act as if our own resources were sufficient to carry us through without continual supplies from his bountiful hand.
I leave these lines at your disposal, and remain yours as ever in the joys and afflictions of the gospel,
Strikersville, Chester co., Pa., Jan. 31, 1844.
Signs of the Times
Volume 12, No. 4.
February 15, 1844