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!