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I then observed, that the love exercised towards his children in every age is equally intense, and endeavoured to illustrate this position from his declarations in the Scriptures, and from his conduct towards individual Christians and towards the church.
I shall now derive from this interesting subject several remarks, intended to be means of improvement in the Christian character.
I. How wonderful is the love of Christ.
This subject may be advantageously illustrated under the following heads :
First, The love of Christ was disinterested.
“ Jehovah,” said he,“ possessed me in the beginning of his 56 way, before his works of old; while as yet he had not made “ the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of “ the world. When he prepared the heavens I was there ; “ when he set a compass upon the face of the deep. When he gave to the sea his decree that the waters should not
his “ commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the “ earth ; then was I by him, as one brought up with him, and “ I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” “ For “ by him," saith St. Paul, “ were all things created, that are “ in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible; whe“ther they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or
powers ; all things were created by him and for him. And " he is before all things; and by him all things consist. And " he is the head of the body, the church; who is in the be
ginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he “ might have the pre-eminence. For it pleased the Father " that in him should all fulness dwell.”
It is impossible that he of whom these things are said should need any thing at the hands of any being whatever. If he wished to add worlds to his possessions he could create them with a word. If he wished to fill them with inhabitants, they would spring up in endless myriads at his bidding. Heaven is his throne, the universe is his empire; and all its virtuous inhabitants have from the beginning ascribed blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and power, and might, and thanksgiving to Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever. At the same time he rejoiced alway before his Father, and was supremely happy in his boundless and eternal complacency. How evidently must he, of whom these things can be said, be removed far beyond the existence and the possibility of wanting any thing which could contribute to his glory and happiness from the hands of any creature whatever ?
But, whoever might be of importance to him, certainly men were not. As we have nothing but what we receive from him, it is evident, that if we should give him whatever we possess, we should barely return what he daily gives to us. Should we add ourselves to the oblation, we should only add one more gift, of exactly the same nature; for ourselves also are abso lutely his. This, however, is far from being all. We are not only his, but we are of no value to him unless as mere objects of his beneficence; not beings which can do good to him, but objects to which he may do good; not as things valuable in themselves, but things which he is able to make valuable by bestowing on them worth foreign to their nature. Think how humble is our original and our end. From the dust we sprang, to the dust we return. Worms, and mites, and minims claim the same origin, and are destined to the same end.
Remember, beyond this, the whole race of man were sinners, vile, polluted, and abominable in his sight. Cast your eyes over the great world which we inherit, and mark what an appearance its surface has exhibited, from the apostacy to the present time. See a great proportion of it covered with idolatry, and the inhabitants worshipping demons and brutes, stocks and stones, and absolutely forgetting that there is such a being as Jehovah. See them rendering all their religious homage, and all their gratitude to these infernal, or to these stupid objects. See their worship, a compound of fraud and falsehood, of lewdness and blood. See their doctrines, a mass of folly and stupidity, at the appearance of which virtue sickens and reason stands amazed. Mark their treatment of each other. Whạt a train of unfilial, unparental, unfraternal injuries, of frauds and thefts, of gross and monstrous impurities, of lies, slanders,
and perjuries, of quarrels and murders it has regularly involved from the beginning. From these private scenes of guilt turn your eyes to scenes of a more public and general nature. Observe how great a part of the public business of man has been formed of the mere repression of crimes. How many jails and gibbets frown over the face of every civilized country, and what a multitude of wretches are doomed to drag out life in the one or end it on the other. Ascend a degree higher, and see sceptred avarice snatching on the right hand, and devouring on the left, spreading want and woe through cities, provinces, and countries, and wrenching from the hand of poverty its last mite. To finish the prospect, behold ambition laying waste the world, and with fire and sword emptying earth of its inhabitants to secure the privilege, the birthright of his kindred tigers, of roaming and ruling in a desert, and to acquire the glory of having his name indelibly written in characters of blood.
From such beings what advantage could this divine agent expect? In what manner could they contribute to his pleasure or his praise.? Could such hands ever be employed in promoting his pleasure ? Could such tongues ever become vocal with his praise ? Had they all been blotted out of existence, what chasm would have been made in his empire? what loss would he have experienced in his enjoyments ? When, therefore, we find, that in the full possession of the glory which he had with the Father before ever the world was, he rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth, and that his delights were with the sons of men, we are irresistibly forced to the conclusion, that he was drawn to this object solely by his own good will. here a vast multitude of immortal beings, who were poor, and wretched, and miserable, and blind, and naked. He saw them lost in hopeless ruin, outcasts from the divine kingdom, and candidates only for perdition. He saw that there was no man to stand between them and destruction, and wondered that there was no intercessor to plead for them. Then his own arm brought salvation to him, and the time was indeed a time of his love. To these guilty, wretched beings, with a divine prescience, he looked down the immeasurable vale of futurity, and
with a boundless compassion, awakened by their guilt and woe, determined to rescue them from these illimitable evils. In this prescience and this determination he became the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; and the language of the church, in the 63d chapter of Isaiah, addressed to him with exact propriety, was, “ Our Redeemer from everlasting was
To accomplish this salvation an immense sacrifice was indispensable, the sacrifice of his own life, at the close of a train of singular sufferings. These sufferings he voluntarily took upon himself. This life he gave up in agonies. His soul was made an offering for sin, and his body was carried to the grave. Scarcely for a righteous man will one die; but Christ com mended his love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, he died for us.
We are so accustomed to consider this subject, with reference to mankind at large, that our conceptions are prone to be habitually general, cold, and unimpressive. My brethren, Christ died for just such beings as you and me. For just such souls as ours he became a ransom. He died for the very beings who have done all the wickedness which I have summarily described above. The first trophy of his sacrifice after his death was a thief. To this wretched, polluted being he gave the wings of immortality; and on the same day in which he entered the world of departed spirits, conducted him, as his own companion, to the paradise of God. What could this miserable wretch do for the Saviour of men, to prompt this glorious person to lay down his life upon the cross, that such a polluted creature might live? In this very transaction he lighted up a beacon on the mountains of the Lord's house, established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, to announce to all nations that the path to heaven was that day opened to all men, and that guilt and shame would henceforth shut out none, not even those whom the voice of penal justice had solemnly and truly declared to be unfit to live in the present world. What, I ask again, could such beings as these do for the
Isaiah kxiii. 16.
Son of God, his elect in whom his soul delighteth ? Nay, what, my brethren, could we ourselves do for this possessor of heaven and earth? What have we, that we have not received from him ? Nay, what are we, that is even in your own view of any value, beside what he hath made us ? Had he permitted us to return to our original nothing, or to go down to the regions of despair, how easily might he have filled our places with beings in greater numbers, and possessed of minds unspeakably more pure, excellent, and amiable ? beings, fitted to breathe the air, enjoy the life, and mingle in the praises of immortality ? But such beings could not be rescued from endless ruin. Over them his benevolence could not yearn for their deliverance from guilt, for they would not be guilty ; nor weep at the sight of their approaching misery, for they would not be destined to be miserable. It was his glory, as it was his delight, to be the friend of the friendless, and the helper of the helpless; to pardon the sinful, and cleanse the polluted ; to open the door of heaven to faith, and hold out the golden sceptre to penitence; to relume with hope the
eye of despair, and open a passage from the grave to the world of Jvd glory.
Second, The love of Christ is universal.
The love of Christ extends through all lands and ages. It reaches persons in every condition of life. The monarch is not above, the beggar is not below it. The infant, expiring in the cradle, is not without its grasp ; nor the hoary sinner tottering on the brink of the tomb. It descended, like the dew, of Eden, upon our first parents, speedily after their apostacy. It travelled down through the antediluvian ages, until it enditered the ark with Noah and his family, and accompanied them over the ocean of destruction to the mountains of Ararat. It wandered as a pilgrim with Abraham, and followed him from Chaldea to the land of promise. It went down with Jacob and Joseph into Egypt, and returned again with Moses through the Red Sea and the wilderness to the same sequestered ground. It dwelt with the church in the Sheckinah, until the Babylonish captivity. With Daniel it entered the lion's den ; and to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the caverns of the burn