The Several Thrones of God, with Particular Attention Paid to the Throne of Grace, which is the Mercy-Seat in the Old Testament.

Excerpts and passages adapted, modernized, and condensed from, “The Works of the Late Reverend Robert Traill Minister of the Gospel in London”
Written by Robert Traill, March 25, 1696.

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The most sacred of all the objects in the Jewish Old Testament worship, was called the Mercy-Seat…

…the same of which the apostle Paul calls the “Throne of Grace”; from which he teaches us, that whatever of divine grace was revealed and tendered to, perceived, and received by the faith by the Old Testament believers, and was employed in the right use of this sacred old institution of God to his church, –the same, with greater advantages, the New Testament believers enjoy under the New Covenant in Jesus Christ; who is the body, antitype, and substance of all of them.

But we find three most solemn things in the Old Testament, which the Mercy-Seat (the type of the Throne of Grace in the New Testament) was applied to.

  1. The most solemn approach was made unto God, which was effectuated when the high priest going in once a-year to the holiest of all, where the Mercy-Seat was located, made atonement for the people. This approach was made, not by the common people in their own persons; nor by any ordinary Levite, who were even privileged with a greater nearness to God than the people –Numbers 16:9, nor by any of the inferior priests of the house of Aaron, to which family the office of priesthood was by divine appointment confined; nor by the high priest himself, except only once a-year, and that at a specific, determinate time, and carried out with many appointed ceremonies of preparation and performance. Some accounts tell us of a custom in their Worship, that music, performed by singing and instruments, were used by the people, to express their joy and praise, when the high priest returned safely out from that sacred and awful place, the holy of holies.
  2. The most solemn atonement for the sins of Israel was made at the Mercy-Seat. This was done in that yearly entrance of the high priest into the holiest of all, Leviticus 16:12-14, especially verse 14. – “And he (Aaron, the first of that order of priests) shall take of the blood of the bullock, and shall sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy-seat eastward: and before the mercy-seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Verse 30. On that day, shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be cleansed from all your sins before the Lord.
  3. The most solemn answers were given by God to the high priest, Exodus 25:17-22, where we have the institution of the Mercy-Seat, and/or the form of it: And there ( says the Lord) I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee”; and again, ” Exodus 30:6. What the Old Testament Urim and Thummim was, and what their Shechinah was, neither Jew now nor Christian know, –though they guess; only that these were some special manifestations of the grace, and favor, and mind of God, which expired with some of them it is thought, before the end of that ministration. But all these three glories, and dignities, and advantages of their mercy-seat, are all to be found in Christ Jesus. For it is Jesus who represents his people before God, and presents them to the Father; since he has made the perfect atonement for all his Israel, and declares to his church all the saving will of God, which he heard and received of his Father.

The apostle here in this epistle, and in this text, would have all believers in Christ to know, that the New Testament Throne of Grace is the same in substance with, and above the Old Testament Mercy-Seat. –See Hebrews 10:4. [See also, Hebrews 9:12, “He did not enter by the blood of goats and calves, but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.”]

  1. The truth I would speak to is this: That the God in the gospel, sits on a Throne of Grace, and from it calls and invites sinners to come to him. “Let us come to the Throne of Grace”, certainly means, “Let us now come to God sitting on the throne of grace”; let us take both the direction and encouragement to come to God, because he is on a throne of grace.

    We find a throne of glory much spoke of, for it is a throne of the essential, incomprehensible glory of God.

    This no man can approach. Of this the apostle spoke of in, 1 Tim. 6:16. He dwells in light that no man can approach to, whom no man hath seen, nor can see. Marvelous is this light. We find the more light there be in or about a person or thing, the more easily and clearly it is perceived as the sun is such a glorious body, that though it be at a vast distance from the earth we dwell on, we yet can see it with our eyes immediately. As soon as it shines, we can see it, because of its light. It is its own light, and nothing else, that exists is like it. If the sun did withdraw its own light, all the eyes of men, and all the artificial fire and light men can make, would ever help us to replace or match it. But such is the majesty of God, that he is clothed with it, Psalm 93.Men are dazzled and confounded by a little ray of his glory; but with God is terrible majesty, Job 37:22.  This is not the throne we are called to come unto. And they are but dabblers in religion, that know not in their experience how overwhelming the views and thoughts of God’s majesty and glory are, when he is not seen as on a Throne of Grace. ‘I remembered God, and was troubled, says one saint, Psalm 77:3. I am troubled at his presence when I consider, I am afraid of him, said another, Job 23:15. No wonder Manoah said unto his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God.”  Judges 13:22. when a view of the heavenly glory of Jesus Christ makes John, who was often to lean on his bosom in his humbled state, to fall down at his feet as dead, Revelation 1:17.

  2. There is a throne of God’s Government of the World often spoke about, Psalms 9:4, 7. On this throne God sits, and rules all things at his pleasure, and infinite wisdom. This throne is to be believingly regarded by us; but it is nor the throne of grace that sinners are called to come unto for grace and mercy.
  3. There is a throne of God’s justice spoken of. This is that throne David deprecates his being brought before, Psalms 143:2. Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified. If a man be wronged and oppressed by men stronger than he, he may appeal to this throne of justice, and expect redress. BUT if a man’s business be with God, he should be afraid of this throne of justice. Men are often proud and vain in their thoughts, and before others: but if the Lord call them before this high court of justice, they will surely be cast Job 9:2, 3. How should a man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one in a thousand. When God sits on a throne of justice, to judge men according to his law and their works, nothing but condemnation can justly be pronounced on sinners. Whoever he be of sinful Adam’s seed that expects the saving favor from God’s throne of justice, will find himself woefully deceived.
  4. We find the throne of the last judgment. Before this all must appear, 2 Cor. 5: 10. Rev. 20:12. This is not the throne of grace in the text. No grace nor mercy is shown to any from this throne, especially to them that have despised and spit at the throne of grace before. And when our Lord comes, and sits on the throne of his glory, Matthew 25:31; no sinner that hath despised his grace now, will find any quarter then, Luke 19:27.

What then is this throne of grace? It is God in Christ dealing with men according to the grace of the gospel.

It is God in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not importing to them their trespasses 2 Cor. 5:19.  It is Christ set forth by God to be a propitiation, Romans 3:25. This is the true mercy-seat, or throne of grace, or propitiation, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. This is the new court or throne erected by God, and declared in the gospel, to which sinful man is invited to come.

Why the “Throne of Grace” called a throne, and why specifically is it called a “Throne of Grace?”

Continuing on from what is said by the apostle’s alluding to the mercy-seat in the tabernacle and temple of old. It is called a throne, because of the glory and majesty of God is manifested there. God’s condescending to display and to dispense his grace and mercy to sinners. This dispensing of Grace is not debasing to God, but is an advancement of his glory. When he gives grace, he acts royally, and as a King, with majesty. Araunah’s offering to David, is said to be like a king, 2 Sam. 24:23. But Araunah was no king, he was only a subject; however, he had a free, and noble heart.

The Lord on his throne of grace, dispenses all acts of grace with great majesty, and as a King; and not as a King, Judge, and Ruler, but as a King, Benefactor, and Giver. This royalty of grace shines, in the greatness of his gifts, especially in the greatness of his gifts of grace and mercy. These gifts are vastly above all that creation can give. And in its manner of giving; it is free, sovereignly free. Grace and mercy is God’s own and he does with them as he will.

When Moses prays, Exodus 33:18. I beseech thee, shew me thy glory, we cannot conceive what was in his holy, and heavenly heart. He was now just come down from the mount for the first time; he is going up again to spend another forty days there, in such communion with God as never mere man enjoyed before or since out of heaven; he has prevailed with God for Israel, and has received a most gracious answer, ver. 17. And the Lord said unto Moses, I will do this thing also that you have spoken; for you have found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name. What means Moses then by his prayer ver. 18. Whatever he meant, the Lord’s answer is much to be observed, ver. 19. And he said, I will make all my goodness (or beauty) pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the before thee.  (What is in this name that hath so much of glory and goodness in it, as should satisfy such a mighty hungerer for more of God, as Moses was. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. God’s glory shines highly, in his being the sovereign disposer of his own grace and mercy, and happy is the believer that adores this glorious sovereignty. Paul in Romans 10:15, makes a deep improvement of it.

Jeremiah 17: 12 A glorious high throne from the beginning, is the place of our high sanctuary. See then that you, in all your pleadings for grace and mercy, remember that you are before a high stately throne. Approaches to God on the throne of grace, should be managed with the deepest reverence and humility. So did the publican, when he came to it, Luke 18:13. God be merciful (propitious) to me a sinner, (or me the sinner, the great singular sinner. So the Greek runs, as Luke: 7:37, 39. The deepest, profoundest adoration of the glorious majesty of God, is performed by a self-condemned sinner, pleading at this throne for the obtaining of the sovereign free grace of God.

Lastly; It is called a throne, because grace reigns and is enthroned there: Romans 5:21. Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessed reign! And blessed are all that are under the reign and dominion of the grace of God. Sin reigns through the unrighteousness of the first Adam unto eternal death, if men be left alone, and if grace do not break this reign of sin. And grace reigns through the righteousness of the second Adam unto eternal life. And nothing can dethrone grace; it will prevail, and reach its end, eternal life, in all it falls upon. ‘0 that captives to Satan, and slaves to sin and to the law, would long to be under the reign of this stately power, –the grace of God! And that believers themselves would give a more free and large subjection to it!

 

The Differing States of Sanctification, and the Unique Perfection of Justification

Taken and adapted from the, “Works of the Late Reverend Robert Traill”,
Volume III. Sermon VI

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“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” 

 –Galatians 2:16 (ESV)

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Justification, I say, is perfect…

…and admits of no degrees, admits of no decays, admits of no intermission, nor of any intercession but sanctification admits of all these.  When I say justification is perfect, I mean, that every justified believer is equally and perfectly justified.  The poorest believer that is this day in the world, is justified as much as ever the apostle Paul was.  Every true believer is as much justified now, as he will be a thousand years hence.

Justification is perfect in all them that are partakers of it, and to all eternity; it admits of no degrees; and the plain reason of it is this— the ground of it is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the entitling us to it is by an act of God the gracious Judge, and that act stands for ever.  If God justifies, who is he that shall condemn (Romans 8:33)?  Sanctification is an imperfect, incomplete, changeable, thing.  One believer is more sanctified than another.  I am apt to believe that the apostle Paul was more sanctified the first hours of his conversion than any man this day in the world.  Sanctification differs greatly as to the persons that are partakers of it and differs greatly too as to the same man.

A true believer, a truly sanctified man, may be more holy and sanctified at one time than at another.  There is a work required of us, to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1), but we are nowhere required to be perfecting righteousness in the sight of God.  God hath brought in a perfect righteousness, in which we stand, but we are to take care and to give diligence to perfect holiness in the fear of God.  A saint in glory is more sanctified than ever he was; for he is perfectly so, but he is not more justified than he was.  No, a saint in heaven is not more justified than a believer on earth is, only they know it better, and the glory of that light in which they see it, discovers it more brightly and more clearly to them.

The Charge of Antinomianism Misapplied

Written by Robert Traill
This article is taken from Justification Vindicated, 1692
This adaptations is from the Protestant Pulpit, by Timothy Williams

But if our brethren will not forbear their charge of Antinomianism, we intreat them that they will give it in justly.

As,

  1. On them that say, that the sanction of the holy law of God is repealed; so that no man is now under it, either to be condemned for breaking it, or to be saved by keeping it; which to us is rank Antinomianism and Arminianism both: yea, that it doth not now require perfect holiness. But indeed what can it require? for it is no law, if its sanction be repealed.
  2. On them let the charge lie, that are ungodly under the name of Christianity. And both they and we know where to find such true Antinomians in great abundance, who yet are never called by that name. And is it not somewhat strange, that men who have so much zeal against an Antinomian principle, have so much kindness for true Antinomians in practice?
  3. Let him be called by this ugly name, that judgeth not the holy law and word of God written in the Old and New Testament to be a perfect rule of life to all believers, and saith not that all such should study conformity thereunto, Rom. 12:2.
  4. That encourageth himself in sin, and hardeneth himself in impenitence, by the doctrine of the gospel. No man that knows and believes the gospel, can do so. What some hypocrites may do, is nothing to us, who disown all such persons and practices: and own no principle that can really encourage the one, or influence the other.
  5. That thinketh holiness is not necessary to all that would be saved. We maintain, not only that it is necessary to, but that it is a great part of salvation.
  6. Whoever thinks, that when a believer comes short in obeying God’s law, he sins not; and that he ought not to mourn because of it as provoking to God, and hurtful to the new creation in him; and that he needs not renew the exercise of faith and repentance for repeated washing and pardoning.

Lastly, That say, that a sinner is actually justified before he be united to Christ by faith. It is strange, that such that are charged with this, of all men do most press on sinners to believe on Jesus Christ, and urge the damnation threatened in the gospel upon all unbelievers. That there is a decreed justification from eternity, particular and fixed as to all the elect, and a virtual perfect justification of all the redeemed, in and by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Isaiah 53:11, Rom. 4:25, Heb. 9:26 28 and 10:14 is not yet called in question by any amongst us; and more is not craved, but that a sinner, for his actual justification, must lay hold on and plead this redemption in Christ’s blood by faith.

Unjustly Charged with Antinomianism

But, on the other hand, we glory in any name of reproach (as the honourable reproach of Christ) that is cast upon us for asserting the absolute boundless freedom of the grace of God, which excludes all merit, and every thing like it; the absoluteness of the covenant of grace, (for the covenant of redemption was plainly and strictly a conditional one, and the noblest of all conditions was in it. The Son of God’s taking on him man’s nature, and offering it in sacrifice, was the strict condition of all the glory and reward promised to Christ and his seed Isaiah 53:10, 11.), wherein all things are freely promised, and that faith that is required for sealing a man’s interest in the covenant is promised in it, and wrought by the grace of it, Eph. 2:8.

That faith at first is wrought by, and acts upon a full and absolute offer of Christ, and of all his fulness; an offer that hath no condition in it, but that native one to all offers, acceptance; and in the very act of this acceptance, the accepter doth expressly disclaim all things in himself, but sinfulness and misery.

That faith in Jesus Christ doth justify (although by the way it is to be noted, that it is never written in the word, that faith justifieth actively, but always passively: that a man is justified by faith, and that God justifieth men by, and through faith; yet admitting the phrase) only as a mere instrument receiving that imputed righteousness of Christ, for which we are justified; and that this faith, in the office of justification, is neither condition nor qualification, nor our gospel-righteousness, but in its very act a renouncing of all such pretences.

We proclaim the market of grace to be free, Isa. 55:1, 2, 3. It is Christ’s last offer and lowest, Rev. 22:17. If there be any price or money spoke of, it is no price, no money. And where such are the terms and conditions, if we be forced to call them so, we must say, that they look liker a renouncing, than a boasting of any qualifications or conditions. Surely the terms of the gospel-bargain are, God’s free giving and our free taking and receiving.

We are not ashamed of teaching…

  1. The ineffectualness of the law, and all the works of it, to give life; either that of justification, or of regeneration and sanctification, or of eternal life.                                                                                                                                          
  2. That the law of God can only damn all sinners; that it only rebukes, and thereby irritates and increases sin; and that it can never subdue sin, till gospel grace comes with power upon the heart; and then when the law is written in the heart it is copied out in the life;                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
  3. That we call men to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, in that condition the first Adam brought them to and left them in; in that condition that the law finds and leaves them in, guilty filthy, condemned; out of which condition they can only be delivered by Christ, and by believing on him;
  4. That we tell sinners that Jesus Christ will surely welcome all that come to him; and, as he will not cast them out for their sinfulness, in their nature and past life, so neither will he do so for their misery, in the want of such qualifications and graces as he alone can give;
  5. That we hold forth the propitiation in Christ’s blood, as the only thing to be in the eye of a man that would believe on Christ unto justification of life; and that by this faith alone a sinner is justified, and God is justified in doing so;
  6. That God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5), neither by making him godly before he justifies him, nor by leaving him ungodly after he has justified him; but that the same grace that justifies him does immediately sanctify him;

If for such doctrine we are called Antinomians we are bold to say that there is some ignorance of, or prejudice against, the known Protestant doctrine in the hearts of the reproachers.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Robert Traill (1642-1716): Friend of William Guthrie of Fenwick, attendant of James Guthrie of Stirling on the scaffold, son of the Greyfriars Church manse where the 1638 Covenant was signed, Scot ordained in England, exile in Holland, prisoner on the Bass Rock, scholar, preacher and saint — Robert Traill lived to span the ripest period of the Puritan age. Distinguished in the classes at Edinburgh University, Traill early felt the inner constraint to preach Christ. Too intimate an association with the younger John Welsh drew the swift displeasure of the civil arm upon him. Denounced as a ‘Pentland Rebel’ he fled to join the bright galaxy of British divines weathering the storm of Stuart Absolutism in the Low Countries (1667).

Traill’s literary output began there. As assistant to Nethenus, professor at Utrecht, he prepared Samuel Rutherford’s Examination of Arminianism for the press. Back in London in 1692 he took up his pen, as Isaac Chancy (Owen’s successor) and the younger Thomas Goodwin were having to do, to defend the doctrine of Justification against the new Legalism. After serving Presbyterian charges in Kent and London he died at the age of 74.