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.“ the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, ac“cording to the good pleasure of his will.” Eph. iii. 11. “ According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in “ Christ Jefus our Lord.” For this reason it is, amongst others, that Christ is called, Rev. xiii. 8, “the Lamb “ Alain from the foundation of the world."
I confefs, my brethren, we are but ill able to understand, or at least to measure, the import of this truth, That the love of Christ to sinners, or of God in him, was from eternity. All our conceptions are foon loft, and swal. lowed up, in what is infinite and boundless. But surely it affords matter for the deepest and humblest adoration, as well as for the highest gratitude and joy. Does it not afford matter for adoring wonder, that the plan for redeeming lost sinners, and restoring them to the obedience and enjoyinent of God, was the object of the divine purpose from eternity? It appears to be a very conspicuous part, or rather perhaps we are warranted to say, from the scripture revelation, that it is the chief part of our Creator's will, to which every other part of his providence is subordinate and subservient. Accordingly, in the very pasfage where my test lies, the Redeemer says, ver. 8. “I “ am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, « faith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is “ to come, the Almighty.” Does not this lead us to contemplate the glory of an infinite God, as it shines in this everlasting love? Does it not also afford matter of gratitude to the believing soul, while he considers every vessel of mercy as concerned in this eternal purpose ?
I am sensible, my brethren, there may be an abuse and perversion of the doctrine of election, if we think of it as independent of its fruits, and apply it so as to produce either security or despair. But I despise the wisdom of those persons who would conceal this truth as dangerous, which it hath pleased God distinctly to reveal. It is the root which produceth the plant; but it is the plant which discovers the root. It is the fountain which produceth the streams; but the streams lead us to the fountain. Muft not the finner who by faith has laid hold on a crucified Saviour, and given credit to the word of God in a preach.
ed gospel, consider, with admiration, his name written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world? What delight will it give him! What honor does it reflect upon him, at the same time that it destroys the very foundation of arrogance and pride? This is the first, and yet it is but one of many parts of the doctrine of salvation, which at once exalts and abafes us; raises our hopes, and forbids us to glory; clothes us with infinite honor, and yet discovers us to be less than nothing: so that we may say with the apostle Paul, after a view of the same subject, Rom. xi. 33. “O the depth of “ the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! “ how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past
, finding out!” This leads me to observe,
2. That the love of Christ is free and unmerited love. This is a circumstance that is scarcely ever separated from the account given of the love of Christ in fcripture. It may be founded even on the infinite disproportion between uncreated excellence and created weakness: Pf. viii. 4.
What is man, that thou art mindful of hiin? and the “ fon of man, that thou visitest him ? Ps. cxliv. 3. “Lord, , " what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him? or the * son of man, that thou makest account of him ?” Nay, as if this were a truth of the utmost moment, we have it repeated a third time in almott the same words; Job vii. 17. " What is man, that thou shouldst magnify him? and that “ thou shouldst set thine heart upon him ?” But this is not all, nor indeed the main thing to be attended to ; for the love of Christ hath for its object those who were in actual rebellion against God, transgressors of his holy law, and liable to the stroke of his justice. It was not only to exalt those who were low, or to supply those who were needy, that Christ çame, but to deliver those who were appointed to death : John iii. 16. " God so loved the “the world, that he gave his only begotten Sọn that who“ foever believeth on hinį, should not perish, but have
everlasting life. Rom. v. 8. “ But God commendeth “his love towards us, in that while we were yet firmers, “ Christ died for us.” Eph. ii. 4, 5.
" But God who is "rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
“ even when we were dead in fins, hath quickened us to:
gether with Christ, (by grace ye are faved.)” The fame thing indeed is clearly intimated in the words of our text, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. It is on this account in particular that salvation, according to the gospel, is said to be free, and of grace, that is to say, an act of unmerited and voluntary kindness, which the finner had no title to demand : Rom, iii. 23, 24, 25: “ For all have finned, and come short © of the glory of God; being justified freely by his
grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Chrift: for whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through “ faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the re
mission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God."
Believe it, Christians, this is the proper exercise of mercy; and here the divine mercy shines and reigns. Without this, it is not obscured only, but annihilated or destroy. ed. But, oh! what a view does this give us of the love of Christ! What an impression will his love make on all those who are truly convinced of their guilt and wretchedness! This is the very hinge upon which the whole doctrine of falvation turns. I hope you are not dis. posed to make any opposition to it. But, alas ! it is not sufficient to have learned it as a science, to have been taught it as making a part of the Christian faith; it is another matter to have a real and personal conviction of it upon the heart. Why is the love of Christ fo cold a fub ject to the generality of the world, but because they have no sense of their guilt and misery? I am even afraid, that many of the zealous advocates for this truth have but little experience of its power, and live but little under the in: fuence of it in their practice. Where indeed is the person to be found, who does full justice to the Saviour, and confiders his love as wholly unmerited and free? The most evangelical expressions do often consist with the most legal and self-righteous affections. Let me try, however, before I leave this particular, if I can make you understand it, even though you Mould not feel it. Suppose any of you
were upon the most deliberate and composed reflection, upon the most particular and close examination, sensible that you justly deserved to be banished from the divine presence, and cast into everlasting fire; and that your blelled Saviour, when there was no other way to prevent it, did fave you by the sacrifice of himself; tell me, what would you not owe to him ? what words would you find to express your love to him, or your sense of his love to you? There have been some convinced sinners so rivetted, if I may speak fo, to this circumstance, that they could find little other way of measuring the love of Christ, but by looking into themselves; and to whom indeed it has been enough to illustrate the greatness of his mercy that they were not consumed.
were not consumed. To this add, 3. The love of Christ is unsolicited love. It took its rise, not from those who stood in need of it, but froin him who bestowed it. It was not the effect of our earnest im- . portunity, but of his own infinite mercy. This is a circumstance which we ought by no means to omit, as we find it particularly taken notice of in Scripture : 1 John iy. 19.“ Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that " he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for ss our sins ;” and in the fame chapter, verse 19. ... " love him because he first loved us." It is natural to expect, that those who are in misery should implore the aflistance of those who are able to relieve them, or that those who have been in the offence should humble themselves before those who have it in their power to punish, or to forgive them. But it was quite otherwise here. The love of Christ discovered itself, when we were in open rebellion against him; or, in the words of the apostle Paul, Rom. v. 10. " While we were enemies, we were reconciled to “ God by the death of his Son."
This affords us at once an illustration of the love of Christ, and a moving picture of our own deplorable and guilty state. There is something infinitely more noble and generous in extending mercy to the miserable, without waiting for their request, than when it is hardly procured, or as it were extorted, by importunity and solicitation. And does it not present us with a melancholy
prospect of our natural state, that we are not only unwor. thy to receive, but unwilling to ask for mercy? I desire, my brethren, that you may not consider this as only relating to mankind in general, and the voluntary purpose of grace and mercy from above in their favor, but as what makes a part of the experience of every particular convert. As the offer of mercy is made to him freely, so he will and must be fenfible how cold and unthankful a reception he hath often given to the proposal. He will be sensible what resistance he hath often made to the design of the gospel ; what exception he hath taken at the terms of it; and with how much difficulty he was at last induced to comply with it. I am persuaded there are few circumstances in the love of Christ that are more affecting to a believer, than to remember his own obstinacy, when a sinner, and his backwardness to accept of the invitations of the Saviour. After he hath rested his hope on the dyine mercy, after he hath been made willing in a day of divine power, and hath obtained some comfortable evidence of the divine favor, how does he tremble at the thoughts of his former resistance! how does he wonder at the patience of God, and adore that victorious love, which stormed his heart, as well as paid the price of his redemption !
We find this particularly the case with those who having been for a season remarkably profligate, are faved as brands from the burning. They cannot help recol. lecting their former condition, their profane madness; and wondering, with a mixture of gratitude and fear, that they were not cut off in their wickedness, and made monuments of divine vengeance. Far from defiring a fhare in the love of Christ, they were perhaps doing their utmost in contempt of his name, and in opposition to his interest, Yet, Rom. x. 20.“ was he found of them that fought him “not, and made manifest to them that aiked not after him;"> they were powerfully though sweetly constrained to return to God through him.
4. The love of Christ is a distinguishing love, which must necessarily and greatly inhance the obligation of those who are the objects of it. When one person is palled by, and another is chosen, either to be delivered from