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[Here we continue a series on Prayer. This study is self-described as, “A declaration what true prayer is, how we should pray, and for what we should pray. Set forth by John Knox, Preacher of God’s Holy Word.”]—Ed.
The True Nature of Prayer, pt. 3
by John Knox (1505-1572)
Observation in Godly Prayer - The Fifth Observation which godly prayer requires, is knowledge of the Advocate, Intercessor, and Mediator.
Of Necessity we must have a Mediator - For, seeing no man is of himself worthy to appear in God’s presence, by reason that in all men continually rests sin, raising all debate, strife, hatred, and division betwixt His inviolable justice and us: For the while, unless satisfaction be made by another than by ourselves, so little hope rests in anything from Him we can attain, that no surety with Him may we have at all. To exempt us from this horrible confusion, our most merciful Father has given unto us His only beloved Son to be unto us justice, wisdom, sanctification, and holiness. If in Him we faithfully believe, we are so clad that we may with boldness compare and appear before the throne of God’s mercy; doubting nothing but whatsoever we ask, by our Mediator, that same we shall obtain most assuredly.
Note diligently, by whom we must pray. – Here is most diligently to be observed, that without our Mediator and Peace-Maker, we enter not into prayer; for the incalling of such as pray without Jesus Christ are not only vain, but also they are odious and abominable before God. Which thing to us, in the Levitical Priesthood, most evidently was prefigured and declared: for as within the Sanctum Sanctorum (that is the most Holy Place), enters no man but the High Priest alone; and as all sacrifices offered by any other than by priests only, provokes the wrath of God upon the sacrifice made; so who does intend to enter into God’s presence, without Jesus Christ, shall find nothing but fearful judgment, and horrible damnation.
When we be not heard. – For as the Law is a statute that we shall call upon God, and as the promise is made that He shall hear us, so are we commanded only to call by Jesus Christ, by whom alone our petitions we obtain; for in Him alone are all the promises of God confirmed and completed; whereof, without all controversy it is plain, that such as have called, or call presently unto God by any other name than by Jesus Christ alone, does nothing in regard to God’s will, but obstinately prevaricates, and does against His commandments. And therefore, obtain not they their petitions, neither yet half entrance to His mercy. For no man comes to the Father (says Jesus Christ) but by Me (see John 14:6). He is the right way; who declined from him erring, and going wrong; He is our Leader, whom without we shall walk in darkness; and He alone is our Captain, without whom neither praise nor victory ever shall we obtain.
Intercession to Saints – Against such as depend upon the intercession of Saints no other ways will I contend, but shortly touch the properties of a perfect Mediator. First, are the words most sure of Paul, “A mediator is not the mediator of one” (see Gal. 3:20), that is, where so ever is required mediator, there are also two parties; to wit, a party offending, and the other party which is offended; which parties by themselves may in no wise be reconciled. Secondly, the mediator which takes upon him the reconciling of these two parties must be such a one as having trust and favor of both parties, yet in some things must differ from both, and must be clear and innocent also of the crime committed against the party offended. Let this be more plain by this subsequent declaration: The Eternal God standing upon the one part, and all natural men descending of Adam on the other part. The infinite justice of God is so offended with the transgression of men, that in no wise can amity be made, except such a one be found as fully may make satisfaction for man’s offenses. Among the sons of men none was found able: for all they were found criminal in the fall of one. And God, infinite in justice, must abhor the society ad sacrifice of sinners.
Angels cannot be mediators - And unto the Angels what prevailed the prevarication of man, who (albeit they would have designated themselves mediators), yet they had not the justice infinite. Who then shall here be found the Peace-maker? Surely the infinite goodness and mercy of God might not suffer the perpetual loss and repudiation of His creatures; and therefore His eternal wisdom provides such a mediator, having wherewith to satisfy the justice of God; differing also from the Godhead; His only Son, clad in the nature of man, who designated Himself a mediator, not as man only.
Jesus Christ, God and Man, our Mediator. - For the pure humanity of Christ (of itself) might neither make intercession nor satisfaction for us, but God and Man: In that He is God, He might complete the will of the Father, and in that He is Man, pure and clean without spot or sin, He might offer sacrifice for the purgation of our sins and satisfaction of God’s Justice. So, without Saints have these two, Godhead equal with the Father, and humanity without sin, the office of mediators Saints may not usurp.
Who makes other Mediators than Jesus Christ Takes Honor from Him. – Do such men respectfully treat Jesus Christ, detracting from Him such portion of His honor? Otherwise speaking the Scriptures of God, testifying Him to have been made man, and to have proved our infirmities; to have suffered death willingly; to have overcome the same; and all to this end, that He might be our perpetual High Sovereign Priest, in who’s place or dignity none other might enter. As John says, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ the just” (I John 2:1).
Mark well these words: John says, We have presently a sufficient advocate, whom Paul affirms that our advocate sits at the right hand of God the Father, to be the only Mediator between God and Man. “For He alone,” (says Ambrose), “is our mouth, by whom we speak to God; He is our eyes, by whom we see God, and also our right hand, by whom we offer anything unto the Father;” who, unless He makes intercession, neither we, neither any of the Saints, may have any society or fellowship with God. What creature may say to God the Father, “Let mankind be reserved into Thy favor, for the pain of his transgression that have I sustained in my own body. For His cause was I compassed with all infirmities, and so became the most despised of all men; and yet in my mouth was found no guile or deceit, but always obedient to Thy will, suffering most grievous death for mankind: And, therefore, behold not the sinner but me, who, be my infinite Justice, has perfectly satisfied for his offences.” May any other (Jesus Christ excepted) in these words make intercession for sinners! If they may not, than are they neither mediators not yet intercessors. “For albeit,” says Augustine, “Christians do commend one another unto God in their prayers, yet make they not intercession, neither dare they usurp the office of a Mediator; no not Paul, albeit under the Head He was a principal member, because He commends Himself to the prayers of faithful men.” But if any do object, such is not the condition of the Saints departed, who now have put off mortality, and bear no longer the fragility of the flesh: Which albeit I grant to be most true, yet are they all compelled to cast their crowns before Him that does sit on the throne, acknowledging themselves to have been delivered from great affliction, to have been purged by the blood of the Lamb; and therefore none of them do attempt to be a Mediator, seeing they neither have being, nor justice, of themselves.
But in so great light of the Gospel which now is beginning, (praise be to the Omnipotent!) it is not necessary upon such matter long to remain. Some say, we will use but one Mediator, Jesus Christ, to God the Father; but we must have Saints, and chiefly the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, to pray for us to Him.
Against such as would have Mediators to Jesus Christ. – Alas! Whosoever thinks this way, shows plainly themselves to know nothing of Jesus Christ rightly. Is He who descended from heaven and condescended to be conversant with sinners, commanding all sorely vexed and seek to come to Him, (who, hanging upon the Cross, prays first for His enemies) become now so untractable that He will not hear us without a person between! O Lord! Open the eyes of such, that they may clearly perceive Your infinite kindness, gentleness, and love toward mankind.