Augustus Toplady, who penned “Rock of Ages”, wrote that it “pleased God to deliver me from the Arminian snare” by reading Zanchius’s “Confessions of the Christian Religion” and sermons on John 17 by Thomas Manton.
“I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me;for they are thine.” John 17:9
A quote from one of Manton’s sermons:
The substance of that prayer is for the elect not yet converted, for Christ prayeth for “all that shall believe through their word,” (v. 20). And then, “that they may be all one,” &c., “that the world may believe that thou hast sent me;” so that the unregenerate elect are not intended. Well, but then doth Christ pray for the reprobate world, that they may believe? I answer—No; faith or believing is there taken for a more full conviction, that they may be convinced and rendered more inexcusable. It is not taken in a strict sense, for a saving comprehension and receiving of Christ, but for a conviction and acknowledgment. Divisions in the church usually breed atheism in the world; all is false when so many ways and differences. So think they Christ is an impostor, the word a fable. Now this kind of conviction is not only termed believing in scripture, but explained, “That the world may know that thou hast sent me,” (v. 23). Nay, let us grant that faith is taken in the highest and strictest sense; yet there is a difference between praying for such a thing as may be a likely means of working faith, and praying that they may believe. Christ only prayeth “that his people may be one,” that the world may not plead prejudice; at most, he doth but obliquely reflect upon the world in that prayer, that they may have means of conviction, but not grace. Christ denieth that the world either hath, or ever shall have, the grace of faith: “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me,” (v. 25). And the special reason why the elect have known, though the world have not known, is rendered, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it,” (v. 26); by which is meant the special manifestation of his grace given to believers of all ages, which was given to the disciples of that present age, and will be given to all future believers. A serious consideration of the context will refute all these sophisms. Thus I have taken off the objections.
It is a part of his priestly office, of which there were two acts—oblation and intercession. Oblation was made once on the altar of the cross, and intercession is the continuation of his sacrifice, or the presenting it in heaven. It must be explained by analogy to the priests of the law. The sacrifice was slain without the camp, and then the priests were to enter with the blood within the veil, into the holy of holies, with sweet incense, and so to cause a cloud to arise over the mercy-seat. “But Christ being come, an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands; that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us,” (Heb. 9:11,12). Jesus Christ having offered up himself upon the cross, where he was both priest and sacrifice, he is gone within the veil, “Not into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear before the presence of God for us,” (Heb. 9:24). It is not a vocal, but a real intercession. Christ is gone into heaven, and there presents his person, both in our nature and his own, together with his merits, lifting up desires which are as a cloud of incense before the mercy-seat, for our comfort and salvation: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar, which was before the throne,” (Rev. 8:3). The high priest entered not for himself, but for the people, having the names of the twelve tribes upon his breast and shoulders; so Christ is entered on the behalf of us all, bearing the particular memorial of every saint graven upon his heart The high priest staid within the sanctuary for a short time, and so came out to bless the people; Christ entered within the veil at his ascension, and we must wait till his coming out to bless us, which will be at the day of judgment. All this while he hath his residence in heaven, and then he will open to us and give us entrance. So that Christ’s intercession is “A constant representation of his merit for the pardon of our sins, and for our acceptance; together with strong desires conceived in the human nature for the good of the creature, for all their exigencies and employments! that so his whole purchase may be applied to us, and we may receive grace to help in time of need.” It is a representing of his own merit, the worthiness of his person. As God-man, he is the Son of God, yet the creature’s advocate; and the merit of his obedience and passion: “I have glorified thee upon the earth;” as one that was to plead for his life showed cubitum sine manu, his hand lost in the service of the state. All this is to the Father, who being appeased, all the rest of the persons are appeased; for they are one, and agree in one. He pleads with God for the application of good things procured by his oblation, especially in deep exigencies and conflicts. Christ hath knowledge at other times, but then he hath a fellow-feeling: “We have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Heb. 4:15). His heart is entendered by his own experience.