"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16
Jesus—our great High Priest—dying for us on the Cross—living for us now in heaven—this, this is the inspiring motive, made use of by the apostle, in urging to diligence and steadfastness, in our Christian profession—this is the encouragement to "come boldly to the throne of grace."
Without this blessed truth, there could be no hope for the guilty and hell-deserving, no efficacy in prayer, and no encouragement to draw near to God. Efforts at obedience could never avail. God's violated law could never be satisfied, and the penalty of eternal death denounced against every transgressor, could in no other way be removed.
But, seeing that Christ has died for sin, we are to labor to die unto sin. Seeing that He has opened the gates which were barred against us, we are to seek to enter in. Seeing that He has purchased blessings, for time and eternity, which otherwise could never have been ours, we are to pray earnestly for their bestowal upon us. Seeing that He is now exalted to God's right hand, to give repentance and remission of sins, we are to draw near to obtain the pardon of our sins. Seeing that He pleads for us, we are to be fervent in pleading for ourselves.
Christ's death does not leave us inactive—indifferent—as some of the enemies of our religion would maintain. True, our best deeds are still of no value as regards our salvation. We cannot merit eternal life. Jesus has done all. But, for this very reason, we are to "hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering," rejoicing in the belief that He has borne our sins—that He has suffered for them—that He has carried them into the land of forgetfulness—that He has washed us in His own most precious blood, and has clothed us with the robe of His imputed righteousness. Oh! then it is we have a motive powerful and all-constraining, to "live not unto ourselves, but to Him who died for us and rose again," "to follow His footsteps and walk even as He also walked"—to seek to have fellowship with Him in His sufferings, and to be conformed more and more to His image—to be "crucified with Christ, and to die daily unto sin"—to "present our bodies and spirits as living sacrifices unto Him" who "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
And, to animate us in thus "holding fast our profession," the apostle declares, that "we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
The Savior—when He burst the bonds of death and ascended to the right hand of God—neither resigned His priestly office nor laid aside His humanity. He was, and still is, both God and man. He was, and still is, a merciful and faithful High Priest—never weary of his office—never forgetting or abandoning it—never overlooking the wants and necessities of those whom He has loved, and for whom He intercedes. "It is finished," is gloriously inscribed on the Priest's work below; "it never ceases," is as gloriously written on the work above. Christ—as our Intercessor with the Father—is continually presenting the merits of His one, all-sufficient oblation, sprinkling the mercy-seat with blood, and burning incense before the Lord. He appears at the right hand of the Majesty on high, clothed in priestly vesture. The names of the true Israel are on His shoulders—a token that all His strength is theirs to protect them. The names are on His bosom—a token that while His heart beats, it beats for them. The voice of His pleading ever sounds and ever prevails, "Father, forgive them," and they are forgiven; "Father, have mercy on them," and mercies speed on rapid wing. The incense of His intercession ever rise, "Father, bless them," and they are blessed; "Father, smile on them," and it is light around their path. With loving interest He takes their every offering of prayer, and praise, and service. He perfumes all with the rich fragrance of His merits. He makes all worthy in His own worthiness, and thus our nothingness gains great reward.
Oh, precious thought! that we have a Friend above who can sympathize as no other can—that we have an Intercessor who can plead more powerfully than we are even able to conceive—and whose eye of love is on each one of His followers, to support, sustain, and comfort, amid daily trials, vicissitudes, and conflicts.
"He can be touched"—yes, He has learned sympathy by suffering. The incidents and the feelings of His earthly existence have not passed away. They have left impressions and results, which are deeply entwined with His present being. In the midst of His glory, He is still mindful of His anguish. Upon His "spiritual" body, He yet bears the print of the nails; and upon His side, the scar of the wound inflicted by the Roman spear. These memorials of the past—of His earthly pains and sufferings, will never be effaced—no, nor will the crown of universal glory ever obliterate the record of the crown of thorns. "Passed into the heavens," He is still as keenly "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," as when He stood weeping beside the grave of Lazarus; or, as when He hung upon the cross, committing His bereaved mother to the care of His beloved disciple.
And, He is able still to sympathize with all the sorrows and infirmities, to which His people are exposed. "In that He himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to support those who are tempted." As He was, and is, and always will be, the very and eternal God, so is He, and so will He ever be, "the Man Christ Jesus," very God and very Man. Such is our great High Priest—divine in His ability, human in His sympathy—and, amid earth's painful trials and temptations—amid its changes and vicissitudes—amid dangers and duties, it is such a High Priest that we stand in need of. Who is the man you would desire to visit you in the house of mourning, when your agony was deep, and your perplexity overwhelming? Who is the friend to whom you would betake yourself, when the world frowned upon you, and the dark cloud gathered round you? Who is the guide you would consult, when you had lost your path, and wandered on in the mazes of uncertainty? Surely, one who had traveled the same road—one who had encountered the same perils—one who had drunk the same cup of woe, and endured the same fiery furnace. It is to a heart thus tried and experienced—to one who had thus suffered, that "the bruised reed, the smoking flax," the bent and bowed down spirit, would desire to come—to mourn with it, to raise it, to sustain it.
Such a one would be welcome to you, in the hour of sore anguish. The very look of his furrowed face, worn with grief—the very look of his expressive eye, telling that he could enter deeply into all the peculiarities of your conflict, would be balm to your wounded spirit. There would be something in his voice—in the accents he would employ, revealing to you, that he could be "touched with the feeling of your infirmities," because he had undergone those infirmities himself. And, thus it is, that the humanity of our glorious High Priest—the susceptibility that He has of sympathy with us in all the varieties of our trials and temptations, brings Him down to our hearts—brings Him into our secret sympathies—enables us to feel that He is one with us, and we with Him, and that we may come to God through His gracious interposition, in all our weaknesses and in all our woes, with all our burdens and all our infirmities, for the path is thus made plain and simple—"He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."
"Let us then," says the apostle—because we have a High Priest above—One who can and does feel for us—One who knows all our cares, and troubles, and trials—One who has Himself deeply suffered, and is therefore able to sympathize with us in all our sorrows, "let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Reader! Christ Jesus—the High Priest and Intercessor—the sympathizing Brother—is the only medium of prayer. There is no access to God but through Him. And, if there be not an honoring of Christ—in His person, blood, righteousness, intercession—in prayer; we can expect no answer to prayer. The great encouragement to draw near to God is—Jesus, at the right hand of God. He is our interceding High Priest—He is our Advocate with the Father—our Kinsman-Redeemer within the veil. Coming through Him, the poorest, the vilest, the most abject, may approach the throne of grace with lowly boldness. The all-powerful—all-helpful—all-loving—all-tender Savior and High Priest, is waiting to present the petition, and urge its acceptance, and plead for its answer, on the basis of His own infinite and atoning merits.
Come, then, you poor, you disconsolate—come, you tried and afflicted—come, you wounded—come, you needy—come, and welcome, to the mercy-seat. Ask nothing in your own name, but ask everything in the name of Jesus. "Ask and you shall receive, that your joy maybe full." "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh—and, having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near."
Reader! whatever be your need, your weakness, your trial or infirmity, do not brood over it--but bring it to the throne of grace. The longer you bear about with you the burden under which you groan, the more hopeless and wretched you will become. But if you take it to the foot of the Cross, you will assuredly obtain relief. The very act of taking it will inspire hope; and, casting it on the tenderness and sympathy of your compassionate High Priest, you will be able to say, "I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Plead earnestly as David did, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; according unto the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions." "Withhold not your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let your loving-kindness and your truth continually preserve me." "Because your mercy is good, deliver me." "Let your tender mercies come unto me, that I may live."
Surely, it is a comforting thought, that you are bringing your wishes, and cares, and anxieties to One, who knows how to pity and support—who longs to show "mercy," and to impart "grace to help in every time of need." The Savior's heart is a human heart—a tender heart—a sinless heart—a heart, once the home of sorrow—once an aching, bleeding, mournful heart. And He is still unchanged. He loves to chase grief from the troubled spirit, and to bind up the broken heart; to stanch the bleeding wound, and to dry the weeping eye; "to comfort all that mourn." Yes, Christian, if you would disclose your sorrow, to One who sorrowed as none ever sorrowed—if you would weep upon the bosom of One, who wept as none ever wept—if you would bare your wound to One, who was wounded as none ever was wounded—then, in your affliction, turn from all creature sympathy and support, to your "merciful and faithful High Priest."
He is prepared to embosom Himself in your deepest grief, and to make your circumstances all His own. He "can be touched with the feeling of your infirmity," and your sorrow. So completely—so truly—is He one with you, that nothing can affect you, that does not instantly touch Him. Your temptations from Satan—your persecutions from man, your struggles with an evil heart—your tribulations and dangers, and fears—all are known to Him, and He feels for you. Tender, to Him, are you, as the apple of His eye. Your happiness, your peace, your necessities, your discouragements—all are to Him, subjects of deepest interest, and of incessant care. If, only, you would but lift the eye of faith, you might discover that He is with you now; and—of His faithfulness that never falters—of His love that never changes—of His tenderness that never lessens—of His patience that never wearies—of His grace that never decays—you may sing—in the storm-night of your grief. It is ever His delight, to prove Himself the strength of your fainting heart, and the support of your sinking soul—to visit you in the hour of sorrow and calamity, breathing music, and diffusing calmness, over your scene of sadness and gloom. Trust in Him, and He will be with you, in life, in death and in eternity; for His word is—"No man shall pluck them out of my hand."
Almighty Savior, in whom all fullness dwells, and who, as our merciful and faithful High Priest, have a fellow-feeling with us in all our infirmities, we humbly beseech You to grant us out of Your fullness, grace sufficient for us. We are weak and helpless. Oh! strengthen our faith, enliven our hope, increase our love, perfect our repentance. Blessed be Your name, You have encouraged us to come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Lord of all power and might, we come, trusting in Your almighty strength, Your infinite goodness, and Your gracious promises. We come to ask of You, whatever is lacking in ourselves, and to be enriched by You, with all spiritual blessings. Whatever of sin or of infirmity You see in us, O Lord, forgive it, and help us to overcome it. Whatever of good Your grace may have wrought in us, be pleased to confirm and complete it, and make all that we think, and speak, and do, acceptable in Your sight. Be with us, O Savior, everywhere, and at all times; in health and in sickness, in prosperity and trouble, and in all the events and circumstances of our lives. Let Your presence sanctify and sweeten whatever may befall us. Never leave nor forsake us in our earthly pilgrimage, but abide with us, until You have brought us through all trials and dangers to Your heavenly kingdom, that we may there dwell in Your sight, and enjoy Your love, and inherit Your glory for evermore. Amen.