Some very short notes on the first few sermons from a series preached by Robert Traill (1642-1716).
Text: Heb 4:16
Q. Where is God to be found (cf Job 23:3)? Ans. On a throne of grace: this the antitype of the mercy seat, Heb 4:4ff, which was characterised by (a) limited access; (b) solemn atonement, Lev 16:12ff; (c) communion with God, Ex 25:17ff.
Doctrine: God in the gospel sits on a throne of grace, and from it calls and invites sinners to come to him.
This throne of grace is, (a) not his throne of glory, 1 Tim 6:16; (b) not his throne of government, Psa 9:4,7; (c) not his throne of justice, Psa 143:2; (d) not his throne of final judgement, 2 Cor 5:10; but, (e) it is God in Christ dealing with men according to the grace of the gospel, 2 Cor 5:19; Rom 3:25; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:10.
Q. Why is it called a throne of grace? Ans. (a) God’s glory and majesty are manifested there, in the greatness of the gifts, and the manner of the giving, 2 Sam 24:23; (b) grace reigns and is enthroned there; (c) grace erected it; (d) grace has there its pre-eminent display; (e) all acts and sentences passed there are acts of grace, Jn 1:17; Rom 8:29f; (f) the glory of grace is its highest end, Eph 1:4ff; 2:4,7.
Q. What is it to come to this throne of grace? Ans. (a) this implies a state of distance, Eph 2:13, God’s provision for removing this distance, and man’s duty to use this provision; (b) it is believing in Jesus Christ, 1Jn 4:10, performing acts of gospel-worship, and using gospel-ordinances, as prayer, reading the word, praising God, receiving the Lord’s Supper.
Application: see (a) the deep condescendance of grace; (b) the infinite wisdom of God, Eph 3:10; (c) the cost of erecting this throne; (d) the rich provisions for sinners at the throne of grace.
Who will be especially welcome at the throne of grace? – (a) the young, Prov 8:17; (b) those who come to get, not give, Lk 18:11ff.
We are exhorted to ‘come’ to the throne of grace.
All should come, because, (a) there is no other way to God, Jn 14:6; (b) all need the blessings dispensed there; (c) the command is universal, 1 Jn 3:23. Objections: (i) I am too wicked. Ans. Are you the worst to be commanded? Jer 3:1ff; Rev 3:17f. (ii) I do not feel my need sufficiently, Mt 11:28; Isa 55:1. Ans 1. The very sense of need is to be gained at the throne. Ans 2. Christ calls men as he finds them, and then changes them, Phil 1:6; (d) the promise of welcome is universal and indefinite.
Who will come? (a) Those who are given by the Father to the Son, Jn 6:37; (b) Those who are drawn by the Father, Jn 6:44f.
Who will be specially welcome? (a) Those who are desperate, 2 Chron 20:12; Heb 6:18; (b) those who come most often, asking for the greatest things, Jn 16:24; (c) those who come to stay.
Now consider: (a) the greatness of this privilege: (i) the angels do not have it, 2 Pet 2:4; (ii) it is not revealed to the greatest part of the world; (b) the great advantages of this privilege, Eph 1:3; (c) it is of short continuance, Heb 4:7: (i) man’s day is limited, Job 14:5; (ii) the gospel-day is limited; (iii) the world’s day is limited; (iv) the Spirit’s day is limited, Gen 6:3; 1 Pet 3:19f.
(d) the sinfulness of not coming, and the wrath it draws on: (i) it is committed by men’s despising the throne of grace, Heb 2:3, by delaying to come, Heb 3:7f, by refusing to come, either through security or discouragement; (ii) God’s wrath is revealed by taking away his gospel, Rom 11:20, by fearful outward judgements, Lk 19:42ff; by spiritual judgements (eg hardness of heart, blindness of mind, searedness of conscience, vileness of affections), Isa 6:9f; and by eternal ruin, Heb 2:3; 10:29. ‘The Lord sends despisers of saving grace to a special hell,’ Mt 11:22,24.
Application: (a) Have you come? You hear, and talk, and dispute of this throne, but have you come? You are in the outer court, but have you come to the throne? If you have come, then, (i) you have seen the King; cf 2 Sam 14:24,28; Gal 1:15f; 2 Cor 4:6; Jn 6:40; Rev 3:18; (ii) what made you come? did you see your nakedness, emptiness and poverty, and Christ’s ability to clothe you, to fill you, to make you rich? (iii) what did you get? all who truly come, receive; and have you not received at times that which you would not trade the world for? (b) Will you come? All is ready: come, Mt 22:4. If you have never come, come now. If you have come, come oftener, come closer, come better. Come for pardon: many are the pardons drawn up at this court, sealed with the blood of Jesus.
II WE SHOULD COME BOLDLY TO THIS THRONE OF GRACE
1. What this boldness is. Negatively, it is not the boldness of (a) ignorance and irreverence, Eccl 5:1f; Psa 2:11; 89:7; (b) over-familiarity: Abraham was a ‘friend of God’, 2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; Jas 2:23, cf Jn 15:14f, but never forgot God’s majesty or his own meanness; (c) presumption: this looks like faith, but is very different, for it does not have in view either human sin or divine mercy, Psa 130:3f.
But, positively, this boldness is the boldness of faith, Eph 3:12; Heb 10:19: it does not consist in praying well, or pleading hard, but is founded on the person and work of Christ.
So then, (a) believe that the throne of grace is erected for sinners such as you; (b) believe that coming to the throne is allowed and commanded by God; (c) believe with confidence, expecting success: the expectation is not that ‘may be’ we will get a blessing, but that we will.
Faith is a lowly grace. ‘Love brings a flaming heart, repentance brings a bleeding heart, obedience brings a working hand, patience brings a broad back for the smiter; but faith brings only an empty heart and hand, to be filled with borrowed and gifted blessings.’ Yet faith is also a lofty grace. When it looks at itself, it sees no good thing, 2 Co 3:5; but when it looks at Christ, it sits high, Eph 2:5-6, and enters boldly, Heb 10:19.
This boldness acts, (a) at all times and in all circumstances, Ps 62:8; Phil 4:6. Every care may be turned into prayer; (b) in speaking freely to God, Ps 62:8; 142:2; (c) in holy familiarity with God, Eph 2:19; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6; (d) in importunity at the throne of grace, for importunity is nothing but the tenacity of faith, Lk 11:5-8; 18:1-8.
What grounds are there for this boldness? (a) The gracious discovery made to us of God in Christ, Jn 17:25f. (b) The mediation of Christ. (c) The intercession of the Holy Spirit, Rom 8:26f. (d) The covenant of grace, the promises of which are (i) great, 2 Pet 1:4; (ii) unconditional; (iii) sure, Isa 55:3. (e) The privileges of believers, such as (i) election, (ii) the gift of Christ, Rom 8:32, (iii) the fact of reconciliation, Rom 5:9f. (f) The experiences of believers, Rom 5:4, including (i) the first visit of grace; (ii) the experience of the Spirit in prayer, and in answered prayer, Psa 116:1f; (iii) the experience of communion with God, 1 Jn 1:1-4.
Application. We are allowed boldness in coming to the throne of grace; let us use this boldness. Unbelief permits a guilty conscience to mar this boldness, Psa 66:18; 1 Jn 3:20. But if through the gospel I have peace with God, then I may have boldness at his throne,