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"the adoption of children by Jefus Chrift to himself, ac"cording to the good pleasure of his will." Eph. iii. 11. "According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in "Chrift Jefus our Lord." For this reafon it is, amongst others, that Chrift is called, Rev. xiii. 8, "the Lamb "flain from the foundation of the world."
I confefs, my brethren, we are but ill able to underftand, or at least to measure, the import of this truth, That the love of Chrift to finners, or of God in him, was from eternity. All our conceptions are foon loft, and swallowed up, in what is infinite and boundlefs. But furely. it affords matter for the deepeft and humblest adoration, as well as for the higheft gratitude and joy. Does it not afford matter for adoring wonder, that the plan for redeeming loft finners, and reftoring them to the obedience and enjoyinent of God, was the object of the divine purpose from eternity? It appears to be a very confpicuous part, or rather perhaps we are warranted to fay, from the fcripture revelation, that it is the chief part of our Creator's will, to which every other part of his providence is fubordinate and fubfervient. Accordingly, in the very paffage where my text lies, the Redeemer fays, 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 fhines in this everlasting love? Does it not alfo afford matter of gratitude to the believing foul, while he confiders every veffel of mercy as concerned in this eternal purpose?
I am fenfible, my brethren, there may be an abuse and perverfion of the doctrine of election, if we think of it as independent of its fruits, and apply it fo as to produce either fecurity or defpair. But I defpife the wifdom of those persons who would conceal this truth as dangerous, which it hath pleafed God diftinctly to reveal. It is the root which produceth the plant; but it is the plant which difcovers the root. It is the fountain which produceth the ftreams; but the ftreams 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, confider, 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 fame time that it deftroys the very foundation of arrogance and pride? This is the firft, and yet it is but one of many parts of the doctrine of falvation, which at once exalts and abafes us; raifes our hopes, and forbids us to glory; clothes us with infinite honor, and yet difcovers us to be lefs than nothing: fo that we may fay with the apoftle Paul, after a view of the fame fubject, Rom. xi. 33. "O the depth of "the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! "how unfearchable are his judgments, and his ways past
finding out!" This leads me to obferve,
2. That the love of Chrift is free and unmerited love. This is a circumftance that is fcarcely ever feparated from the account given of the love of Chrift in fcripture. It may be founded even on the infinite difproportion between uncreated excellence and created weaknefs: Pf. viii. 4. "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the "fon of man, that thou vifiteft him?" Pf. cxliv. 3. "Lord, "what is man, that thou takeft knowledge of him? or the "fon of man, that thou makeft account of him?" Nay, as if this were a truth of the utmoft moment, we have it repeated a third time in almoft the fame words; Job vii. 17. "What is man, that thou shouldft magnify him? and that "thou shouldst fet thine heart upon him?" But this is not all, nor indeed the main thing to be attended to; for the love of Chrift hath for its object those who were in actual rebellion against God, tranfgreffors of his holy law, and liable to the ftroke of his juftice. It was not only to exalt those who were low, or to fupply those who were needy, that Chrift came, but to deliver thofe who were appointed to death: John iii. 16. "God fo loved the "the world, that he gave his only begotten Son that who"foever believeth on him, fhould not perish, but have everlafting life." Rom. v. 8. " But God commendeth "his love towards us, in that while we were yet firmers, "Chrift 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 Chrift, (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 falvation, according to the gospel, is faid 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 juftified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jefus Chrift: "whom God hath fet forth to be a propitiation through "faith in his blood, to declare his righteoufnefs for the re"miffion of fins that are paft, through the forbearance of "God."
Believe it, Chriftians, this is the proper exercife of mercy; and here the divine mercy fhines and reigns. Without this, it is not obfcured only, but annihilated or destroyed. But, oh! what a view does this give us of the love of Chrift! What an impreffion will his love make on all those who are truly convinced of their guilt and wretchednefs! This is the very hinge upon which the whole doctrine of falvation turns. I hope you are not dif pofed to make any oppofition to it. But, alas! it is not fufficient to have learned it as a fcience, to have been taught it as making a part of the Chriftian faith; it is another matter to have a real and perfonal conviction of it upon the heart. Why is the love of Chrift fo cold a fubject to the generality of the world, but because they have no fenfe of their guilt and mifery? 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 influence of it in their practice. Where indeed is the person to be found, who does full juftice to the Saviour, and confiders his love as wholly unmerited and free? The most evangelical expreffions do often confift with the most legal and felf-righteous affections. Let me try, however, before I leave this particular, if I can make you understand it, even though you fhould not feel it. Suppose any of you
were upon the most deliberate and compofed reflection, upon the most particular and close examination, fenfible that you juflly deferved to be banished from the divine prefence, and caft into everlafling fire; and that your bleffed Saviour, when there was no other way to prevent it, did fave you by the facrifice of himfelf; tell me, what would you not owe to him? what words would you find to express your love to him, or your fenfe of his love to you? There have been fome convinced finners fo rivetted, if I may fpeak fo, to this circumftance, that they could find little other way of measuring the love of Chrift, but by looking into themselves; and to whom indeed it has been enough to illuftrate the greatnefs of his mercy that they were not confumed. To this add,
3. The love of Chrift is unsolicited love. It took its rife, not from those who flood in need of it, but from him who bestowed it. It was not the effect of our earneft importunity, but of his own infinite mercy. This is a circumftance which we ought by no means to omit, as we find it particularly taken notice of in Scripture: 1 John iv. 10." Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that “he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for "our fins ;" and in the fame chapter, verfe 19. "We "love him because he first loved us." It is natural to expect, that those who are in mifery fhould implore the affiftance of thofe who are able to relieve them, or that thofe who have been in the offence fhould humble themfelves before thofe who have it in their power to punifh, or to forgive them. But it was quite otherwife here. The love of Chrift 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 illuftration of the love of Christ, and a moving picture of our own deplorable and guilty ftate. There is fomething infinitely more noble and generous in extending mercy to the miferable, without waiting for their requeft, than when it is hardly procured, or as it were extorted, by importunity and folicitation. And does it not prefent us with a melancholy
profpect of our natural state, that we are not only unworthy to receive, but unwilling to afk for mercy? I defire, my brethren, that you may not confider 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, fo he will and must be fenfible how cold and unthankful a reception he hath often given to the propofal. He will be fenfible what refiftance he hath often made to the defign of the gospel; what exception he hath taken at the terms of it; and with how much difficulty he was at laft induced to comply with it. I am perfuaded there are few circumftances in the love of Chrift that are more affecting to a Believer, than to remember his own obftinacy, when a finner, and his backwardness to accept of the invitations of the Saviour. After he hath refted his hope on the divine mercy, after he hath been made willing in a day of divine power, and hath obtained fome comfortable evidence of the divine favor, how does he tremble at the thoughts of his former refiftance! how does he wonder at the patience of God, and adore that victorious love, which formed his heart, as well as paid the price of his redemption !
We find this particularly the cafe with those who having been for a feafon remarkably profligate, are faved as brands from the burning. They cannot help recollecting 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 Chrift, they were perhaps doing their utmost in contempt of his name, and in oppofition to his intereft, Yet, Rom. x. 20. " was he found of them that fought him not, and made manifeft to them that asked not after him:" they were powerfully though fweetly constrained to return to God through him.
4. The love of Chrift is a distinguishing love, which mult neceffarily and greatly inhance the obligation of those who are the objects of it. When one perfon is paffed by, and another is chofen, either to be delivered from