An advocate, especially one that undertakes the cause of sinners, requires to have an interest with the Judge; to be interested for the sinner; while pleading for him, not to palliate, but condemn his sin; to be fully acquainted with his case; and to have something to plead that shall effectually overbalance his unworthiness. Let us inquire, whether all these qualifications be not found in our “Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
1. He has the highest interest in the favour of the Judge. For why? He is his only begotten Son, who dwelleth in his bosom, and who never offended him at any time, but always did that which was pleasing in his sight. So well pleased was the Father with his obedience unto death, that he highly exalted him, giving him “a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” “The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.” Well might he say, when on earth, “I knew that thou hearest me always;” for he had, in prophecy, invited him to prefer his request: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” Who can doubt the success of a cause in the hands of such an Advocate?
2. He is deeply interested in favour of the sinner. If we had to be tried before an earthly tribunal, and wished to engage an advocate, we should certainly prefer one that would so identify himself with us as to be deeply interested in the issue. When, at Horeb, Moses pleaded for Israel to be forgiven, he requested to die rather than not succeed: “Oh,” said he, “this people have sinned a great sin,—yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written!” This was the true spirit of an advocate; and he succeeded. But our Advocate has gone further than requesting to die; he actually died for us; and his death “is the propitiation for our sins,” on which his advocateship is founded.
3. While pleading for sinners, he does not palliate, but condemns their sin. If Moses had attempted to apologize for Israel’s idolatry, his interposition must have been rejected. And if it had been possible for Christ himself to have been an Advocate for sin, he could not have been heard. But he was no less averse from sin than the Judge himself. If he was made “in the likeness” of sinful flesh, yet was there no participation of it. Though he descended, and lived among sinners, yet, in respect of character, he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate” from them. While advocating their cause, it was in his own proper character of “Jesus Christ the righteous.” It was because of his proceeding on these just and honourable principles that the Father approved and honoured him: “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest iniquity; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
4. He is perfectly acquainted with the case of those whose cause he undertakes. There are cases which, if the advocate had known all, he would not have undertaken; and which, for want of his being in possession of the whole truth, fail in his hands. But our Advocate knows the worst of us. He needs not that any should testify of man; for he knows what is in man. When Simon the Pharisee saw a woman that was a sinner standing at the feet of Jesus, washing them with her tears, wiping them with the hairs of her head, kissing them, and anointing them with ointment, and all this without receiving any repulse from him, he suspected that he was deceived, and concluded in his own mind that he could not be that prophet that should come into the world. Had he known her true character, he supposed, he would not have permitted her to touch him! To convince Simon that he was not ignorant of her character, he, by answering his private thoughts, proved himself to be fully acquainted with his; and proceeded to plead the cause of the penitent sinner, though her sins were many, and to justify himself in receiving and forgiving her.
Our Advocate not only knows all our sins, but all our wants; and therefore knows how to provide for them. If previous to the prayer for Peter, it had been referred to him what should be asked on his behalf, having no suspicion of any peculiar temptation being at hand, he might not have been able to say what it was that he most needed. But his Advocate, knowing the temptation that awaited him, framed his plea on his behalf accordingly: “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
5. Though he finds no worthiness in the sinner, on which to ground his pleas, but the greatest unworthiness, yet he has that to plead which effectually overbalances it. It is remarkable that, in that admirable speech of Judah on behalf of Benjamin, he did not fetch his pleas from the innocence of the young man, nor from the possibility of the cup being in his sack without his knowledge, nor from the smallness of his offence; but from his father’s love to him, and his own engagement to bring him back, and set him before him! I need not say that on this principle our Advocate has proceeded. The charges against Benjamin were mysterious and doubtful, yet as Judah could not prove his innocence, he admitted his guilt. But our guilt is beyond doubt; in pleading our cause, the Advocate is supposed to rest it on the propitiation in consideration of which our unworthiness is passed over, and our sins are forgiven. The connexion of things is often signified by the order of time in which they occur. Thus the outpouring of the Spirit, that it might appear to be what it was, a fruit of the death of Christ, followed immediately after it; and thus, on his having died, and risen from the dead, his followers are directed to pray in his name. His directing us to pray in his name conveys the same idea, as to the meritorious cause of forgiveness, as his being our Advocate with the Father on the ground of his propitiation.
From the whole, We are directed to commit our cause to Christ. We have a cause pending, which, if lost, all is lost with us, and that for ever. We shall not be able to plead it ourselves; for every mouth will be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Nor can any one in heaven or earth, besides the Saviour, be heard on our behalf. If we believe in him, we have everlasting life; but if not, we shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on us.
We are also directed, by this subject, how to obtain relief under the distress to which our numerous sins subject us as we pass through life. We all have recourse to some expedient or other to relieve our consciences, when oppressed with guilt. Some endeavour to lose the recollection of it among the cares, company, or amusements of the world; others have recourse to ceremonial observances, and are very strict in some things, hoping thereby to obtain forgiveness for others; on some the death and advocateship of Christ have the effect to render them unconcerned, and even to embolden them in their sins. Painful as our burdens are, we had better retain them than get relief in any of these methods. The only way is to come unto God in the spirit of Job, or of David, before referred to, seeking mercy through the propitiation. Thus, while we plead, Do not condemn me, our Advocate will take it up, and add, Do not condemn him!
Finally, From the all-sufficiency of the propitiation there is no room for despair. When Jonah was cast into the sea, and swallowed by the fish, still retaining his consciousness, he concluded that all was over with him: “I said I am cast out of thy sight; yet,” even in this condition the thought occurred, “I will look again toward thy holy temple.” His body was confined, but his mind could glance a thought toward the mercy-seat, whence he had heretofore received relief. He looked and lived. Let this be our determination, whatever be our circumstances or condition. Jesus is “able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
Excerpt from: “Christianity the Antidote to Presumption and Despair,” Sermon XXIV in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 325–327). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.