T H E
1 John 2:1 - "And if any man sin, we have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
Written By J O H N.B U N Y A N,
Author of "THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS."
L O N D O N,
Printed for Dorman Newman, at the
King's Arms, in the Poultry, 1689.
Published one year after John Bunyan's death.
[WHEREIN CHRIST'S OFFICE AS ADVOCATE DOTH LIE.]
IRST, To begin with the first of these-namely, to show you more particularly of Christ's office as an Advocate, and wherein it lieth; the which I shall do these three ways-First, Touch again upon the nature of this office; and then, Second, Treat of the order and place that it hath among the rest of his offices; and, Third, Treat of the occasion of the execution of this office.
First, To touch upon the nature of this office. It is that which empowereth a man to plead for a man, or one man to plead for another; not in common discourses, and upon common occasions, as any man may do, but at a bar, or before a court of judicature, where a man is accused or impleaded by his enemy; I say, this Advocate's office is such, both here, and in the kingdom of heaven. An advocate is as one of our attorneys, at least in the general, who pleads according to law and justice for one or other that is in trouble by reason of some miscarriage, or of the naughty temper of some that are about him, who trouble and vex, and labour to bring him into danger of the law. This is the nature of this office, as I said, on earth; and this is the office that Christ executeth in heaven. Wherefore he saith, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate"; one to stand up for him, and to plead for his deliverance before the bar of God. (Joel 3:2. Isa 66:16. Eze 38:22. Jer 2.)
For though in some places of Scripture Christ is said to plead for his with men, and that by terrible arguments, as by fire, and sword, and famine, and pestilence, yet this is not that which is intended by this text; for the apostle here saith, he is an Advocate with the Father, or before the Father, to plead for those that there, or that to the Father's face, shall be accused for their transgressions: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." So, then, this is the employ of Jesus Christ as he is for us, an Advocate. He has undertaken to stand up for his people at God's bar, and before that great court, there to plead, by the law and justice of heaven, for their deliverance; when, for their faults, they are accused, indicted, or impleaded by their adversary.
Second. And now to treat of the order or place that this office of Christ hath among the rest of his offices, which he doth execute for us while we are here in a state of imperfection; and I think it is an office that is to come behind as a reserve, or for a help at last, when all other means shall seem to fail. Men do not use to go to law upon every occasion; or if they do, the wisdom of the judge, the jury, and the court will not admit that every brangle and foolish quarrel shall come before them; but an Advocate doth then come into place, and then to the exercise of his office, when a cause is counted worthy to be taken notice of by the judge and by the court. Wherefore he, I say, comes in the last place, as a reserve, or help at last, to plead; and, by pleading, to set that right by law which would otherwise have caused an increase to more doubts, and to further dangers.
Christ, as priest, doth always works of service for us, because in our most spiritual things there may faults and spots be found, and these he taketh away of course, by the exercise of that office; for he always wears that plate of gold upon his forehead before the Father, whereon is written, "Holiness to the Lord." But now, besides these common infirmities, there are faults that are highly gross and foul, that oft are found in the skirts of the children of God. Now, there are they that Satan taketh hold on; these are they that Satan draweth up a charge against us for; and to save us from these, it is, that the Lord Jesus is made an Advocate. When Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, then Satan stood at his right hand to resist him; then the angel of the covenant, the Lord Jesus, pleaded for his help (Zech 3). By all which it appears, that this office comes behind, is provided as a reserve, that we may have help at a pinch, and then be lifted out, when we sink in mire, where there is no standing.
This is yet further hinted at by the several postures that Christ is said to be in, as he exerciseth his priestly and advocate's office. As a Priest, he sits; as an Advocate, he stands (Isa 3:13). The Lord stands up when he pleads; his sitting is more constant and of course (Sit thou, Psa 110:1,4), but his standing is occasional, when Joshua is indicted, or when hell and earth are broken loose against his servant Stephen. For as Joshua was accused by the devil, and as then the angel of the Lord stood by, so when Stephen was accused by men on earth, and that charge seconded by the fallen angels before the face of God, it is said, "the Lord Jesus stood on the right hand of God," (Acts 7:55)-to wit, to plead; for so I take it, because standing is his posture as an Advocate, not as a Priest; for, as a Priest, he must sit down; but he standeth as an Advocate, as has been showed afore (Heb 10:12). Wherefore,
Third. The occasion of his exercising of this office of advocate is, as hath been hinted already, when a child of God shall be found guilty before God of some heinous sin, of some grievous thing in his life and conversation. For as for those infirmities that attend the best, in their most spiritual sacrifices; if a child of God were guilty of ten thousand of them, they are of course purged, through the much incense that is always mixed with those sacrifices in the golden censer that is in the hand of Christ; and so he is kept clean, and counted upright, notwithstanding those infirmities; and, therefore, you shall find that, notwithstanding those common faults, the children of God are counted good and upright in conversation, and not charged as offenders. "David," saith the text, "did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him, all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (I Kings 15:5). But was David, in a strict sense, without fault in all things else? No, verily; but that was foul in a higher degree than the rest, and therefore there God sets a blot; ay, and doubtless for that he was accused by Satan before the throne of God; for here is adultery, and murder, and hypocrisy, in David's doings; here is notorious matter, a great sin, and so a great ground for Satan to draw up an indictment against the king; and a thundering one, to be sure, shall be preferred against him. This is the time, then, for Christ to stand up to plead; for now there is room for such a question-Can David's sin stand with grace? Or, Is it possible that a man that has done as he has, should yet be found a saint, and so in a saved state? Or, Can God repute him so, and yet be holy and just? or, Can the merits of the Lord Jesus reach, according to the law of heaven, a man in this condition? Here is a case dubious; here is a man whose salvation, by his foul offences, is made doubtful; now we must to law and judgment, wherefore now let Christ stand up to plead! I say, now was David's case dubious; he was afraid that God would cast him away, and the devil hoped he would, and to that end charged him before God's face, if, perhaps, he might get sentence of damnation to pass upon his soul (Psa 51). But this was David's mercy, he had an Advocate to plead his cause, by whose wisdom and skill in matters of law and judgment he was brought off of those heavy charges, from those gross sins, and delivered from that eternal condemnation, that by the law of sin and death, was due thereto.
This is then the occasion that Christ taketh to plead, as Advocate, for the salvation of his people-to wit, the cause: He "pleadeth the cause of his people" (Is 51:22). Not every cause, but such and such a cause; the cause that is very bad, and by the which they are involved, not only in guilt and shame, but also in danger of death and hell. I say, the cause is bad, if the text be true, if sin can make it bad, yea, if sin itself be bad-"If any man sin, we have an Advocate"; an Advocate to plead for him; for him as considered guilty, and so, consequently, as considered in a bad condition. It is true, we must distinguish between the person and the sin; and Christ pleads for the person, not the sin; but yet He cannot be concerned with the person, but he must be with the sin; for though the person and the sin may be distinguished, yet they cannot be separated. He must plead, then, not for a person only, but for a guilty person, for a person under the worst of circumstances-"If any man sin, we have an Advocate" for him as so considered.
When a man's cause is good, it will sufficiently plead for itself, yea, and for it's master too, especially when it is made appear so to be, before a just and righteous judge. Here, therefore, needs no advocate; the judge himself will pronounce him righteous. This is evidently seen in Job-"Thou movedst me against him (this said God to Satan), to destroy him without cause" (Job 2:3). Thus far Job's cause was good, wherefore he did not need an advocate; his cause pleaded for itself, and for it's owner also. But if it was to plead good causes for which Christ is appointed Advocate, then the apostle should have written thus: If any man be righteous, we have an Advocate with the Father. Indeed, I never heard but one in all my life preach from this text, and he, when he came to handle the cause for which he was to plead, pretended it must be good, and therefore said to the people, See that your cause be good, else Christ will not undertake it. But when I heard it, Lord, thought I, if this be true, what shall I do, and what will become of all this people, yea, and of this preacher too? Besides, I saw by the text, the apostle supposeth another cause, a cause bad, exceeding bad, if sin can make it so. And this was one cause why I undertook this work.
When we speak of a cause, we speak not of a person simply as so considered; for, as I said before, person and cause must be distinguished; nor can the person make the cause good but as he regulates his action by the Word of God. If, then, a good, a righteous, man doth what the law condemns, that thing is bad; and if he be indicted for so doing, he is indicted for a bad cause; and he that will be his advocate, must be concerned in and about a bad matter; and how he will bring his client off, therein doth lie the mystery.
I know that a bad man may have a good cause depending before the judge, and so also good men have (Job 31). But then they are bold in their own cause, and fear not to make mention of it, and in Christ to plead their innocency before the God of heaven, as well as before men (Psa 71:3-5. II Cor 1:23. Gal 1:10. Phil 1:8). But we have in the text a cause that all men are afraid of-a cause that the apostle concludes so bad that none but Jesus Christ himself can save a Christian from it. It is not only sinful, but sin itself-"If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father."
Wherefore there is in this place handled by the apostle, one of the greatest mysteries under heaven-to wit, that an innocent and holy Jesus should take in hand to plead for one before a just and righteous God, that has defiled himself with sin; yea, that he should take in hand to plead for such an one against the fallen angels, and that he should also by his plea effectually rescue, and bring them off from the crimes and curse whereof they were verily guilty by the verdict of the law, and approbation of the Judge.
This, I say, is a great mystery, and deserves to be pried into by all the godly, both because much of the wisdom of heaven is discovered in it, and because the best saint is, or may be, concerned with it. Nor must we by any means let this truth be lost, because it is the truth; the text has declared it so, and to say otherwise is to belie the Word of God, to thwart the apostle, to soothe up hypocrites, to rob Christians of their privilege, and to take the glory from the head of Jesus Christ (Luke 18:11,12).
The best saints are most sensible of their sins, and most apt to make mountains of their mole hills. Satan also, as has been already hinted, doth labour greatly to prevail with them to sin, and to provoke their God against them, by pleading what is true, or by surmising evilly of them, to the end they may be accused by him (Job 2:9). Great is his malice toward them, great is his diligence in seeking their destruction; wherefore greatly doth he desire to sift, to try, and winnow them, if perhaps he may work in their flesh to answer his design-that is, to break out in sinful acts, that he may have by law to accuse them to their God and Father. Wherefore, for their sakes this text abides, that they may see that, when they have sinned, "they have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." And thus have I showed you the nature, the order, and occasion of this office of our blessed Lord Jesus.