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that you justly deserved to be banished from the divine presence, and cast into everlasting fire ; and that your blessed Saviour, when there was no other way to prevent it, did save you by the facrifice 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 finners so rivet. ted, 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. 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 from him who bestowed it. It was not the effect of our earnest importunity, 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 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 sins ;” and in the same chapter, verse 19, “ We “ love him because he first loved us.” It is natural to expect, that those who are in misery should implore the affistance 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, with. out 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 unworthy to receive, but unwilling to -1. fir 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 inercy from above in their favor, but as what makes a part of the experience of every particular con. vert. As the offer of mercy is made to bim freely, so he will and must be sensible how cold and unthankful a reception he hath often given to the proposal. He will be fensible 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 dificulty he was at last induced to comply with it. I am persuaded there are few circum). stances in the love of Christ that are more affecting to a believer, than to remember his own obstinacy, when a finner, and his backwardness to accept of the invitations of the Saviour. After he hath rested his hope on the divine 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 relliance ! 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 saved 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 share in the love of Christ, they were perliaps 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 asked not after “ hiin:” they were powerfully though sweetly constrain. ed to return to God through him.
4. The love of Christ is a distinguishing love, which must necessarily and greatly enhance the obligation of those who are the objects of it. When one person is passa ed by, and another is chosen, either to be delivered from impending danger, or to be made partaker of extraordina. ry blessings, the loss or suffering of the one, seems to set off the superior happiness of, or the favor bestowed upon the other. To apply this to the subject we are now upon, there is a double distinction pointed out in scripture ; one of our nature, in opposition to the fallen angels; and the other, of particular persons, as the vessels of mercy,
(1.) There is an evident distinction between our na. ture and that of the fallen angels : Heb. ii. 16. “ For ve. “ rily he took not on him the nature of angels; he took “ on himn the feed of Abraham.” 2 Pet. ii. 4. “ God
spared not the angels that finned, but cast them down to "hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be "relerved unto judgment.” I am sensible, that upon this subject we may be sometimes in danger of speaking with impropriety, especially if we pretend to assign the reafons of God's procedure, any further than he hath been ple.fed himself explicitly to reveal them. There can be no doubt that the Lord of all, God infinitely wise, had the belt reasons for his conduct, the most noble and excellent purposes in view in every thing that he ordained ; but they are not discovered to us, and perhaps they are above our comprehension. The single point we are called to attend to, is the distinction, infinitely gracious, which is made in our favor. A Saviour is provided for us, a mercy infinite in itself, and the more highly to be prized, that (Jude, verfe 6) the angels, our fellow-creatures, “ who
kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, " he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, " unto the judgment of the great day.” If we should at. tempt a coin parison between ourselves and these spirits of higher order, we could find no ground of preference in our owi favor ; perhaps we should find many things that might seem to operate a contrary way; but it is safest, in humility and gratitude to say with the Pfulmist, Psal. cxv. 3, “ Our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever “ he pleased.”
(2.) But this is not all; there is also a distinction of particular persons as the vessels of mercy. Since I am in. troducing this subject, to prevent mistakes, I must observe, that every finner of the race of Adam who shall perish eternally, shall also perilh most juftly; his blood shall lie
at his own door, and he shall be found guilty of rejecting the counsel of God against himself. At the same time, all who are effectually brought to the saving knowledge of God through Christ, Mall be obliged to confess, that they were brought in by almighty power, or, in the language of the Holy Ghoft, 1 Pet. i. 2. that they are “ elect accor“ ding to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through “ fanctification of the Spirit unto obedience, and sprink. “ ling of the blood of Jesus Christ.”
On this, as on the former branch of this head, it may be observed, that we must not presume to penetrate into the unsearchable depth of the divine counsels; but at the same time it must be remembered, that we are not permitted, and cannot pretend, to find the reasons of preference in ourselves; for no flesh may glory in his presence. God in many passages asserts his own sovereignty and perfect liberty in the distribution of his grace: Rom. ix. 15, 16. “ For he faith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I 66 will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I “ will have compassion. So then it is not of him that “ willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that shew" eth mercy.” And again, in the 18th verse, “ There“ fore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and " whom he will he hardeneth.” Nothing can be harder, indeed, than for the proud and carnal mind to bow before the sovereignty of God; yet nothing is more evident, than that the destination of the vessels of mercy.doth not proceed upon theordinary grounds of human estimation. Nay, there seems to be an express design to stain the pride of all human glory : 1 Cor. i. 26, 27. “ For you see your calling 66 brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, " not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God “ hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound " the wise ; and God hath chosen the weak things of the “ world, to confound the things which are mighty.” Experience daily illustrates this ; for while we see some brought to an entire submission to the gospel, and an obedient conformity to the will of God, we see many of equal, or of greater rank, of equal or of greater ability and endowments of mind, and favored with equal or superior ad
.vantages and opportunities of instruction, who yet con. tinue to bear the marks of reprobation. The fame mercies dispose one to thankfulness, and inspire another with pride. The same trials will foften one heart, and harden another. All this our Redeemer makes the subject of a folemn thanksgiving to God, Luke x. 21. “ In that hour Jesus “ rejoiced in fpirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord “ of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from " the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: “ even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy fight,” Who that believes, in this assembly, will presume to take the least part of the honor of it to himself, or will refuse to adore the distinguishing love of God? And how often must those who bare the message of peace be obliged to seek the cause of an unsuccessful gospel in the counsels of the Most High? 2 Cor. iv, 3. “ But if our gospel be hid, it is hid “ to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world " hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest " the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the im“ age of God, should shine unto them.”
5. The love of Christ was an expensive love. So great a deliverance would have called for the most humble and thankful acknowledgment, though it had been as much without price to the Saviour as to the finner. But oh! my brethren, how far was it otherwise! and what shall we think or say of the love of Christ, when we consider how much it cost him to procure salvation for us! when we consider the depth of his humiliation, the variety, the continuance, and the greatness of his sufferings ! You can. not but be sensible how frequent mention is made of this in scripture, or rather how seldom it is omitted when the love of Christ is introduced at all. It is the circumftance particularly pointed at in the text, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. The fame thing appears from the other daxologies, or acts of worship to the Saviour, which are contained in this book, as Rev. v. 9. " And they sang a new song, saying, Thou “ art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals there. “ of; for thou wast flain, and hast redeemed us to God “ by thy blood," It appears also, from the frequent men.