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« We have known and believed the love that God hath to us: God
is love."-1 John iv. 16.
There is a Being by whom we are surrounded in every place; his eye is on us in solitude, and selects us amidst the crowd; it has been fixed upon us without interruption, since we began to exist; and it is looking at us with keen and sleepless attention now. Wherever we go, he is there when we slumber, he is awake—when we forget him, he is watching us—he reads each thought, and listens to each word
- he detects each hidden motive, and judges every rising desire-and thus penetrating all that is hidden even from ourselves, and remembering all that we have ever done, as though it were now taking place, he knows us far better than we know ourselves. Day and night,-in all places, and through every moment of our being, -we are living beneath the gaze of that Omnipresent eye, and the scrutiny of that Omniscient mind. We are, moreover, in his power. When he was the only inhabitant of infinite space, he willed the existence of a universe; and unnumbered suns began to flame in their several places, and attendant worlds to roll in their appointed spheres. Such a Being can do what he will with the creatures whom he has formed; none being able to stay his hand, or to alter his purpose, or, without presumption, to say to him, “What doest thou?”
He is further so holy, that sin is beyond all measure displeasing to him; and he has shown on various occasions how much he hates it. When angels sinned he cast them out of heaven; and, dooming them to that horrible despair which has now lasted without abatement through 6000 years, sentenced them to the pain of everlasting fire, without the opportunity of repentance, and without the hope of pardon. When Adam sinned, he drove him from Eden, and entailed on him and his posterity a misery which was to poison all the springs of human happiness, to last through many centuries, and to be co-extensive with the globe. When men continued still to sin, he poured over the earth an avenging flood, which huried the whole race, with the exception of one tamily, in an unfathomable grave. For sin, he overwhelmed Pharaoh in the sea; for sin, he made the earth swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; for sin, he exterminated the nations of Canaan; for sin, he gave up Israel to slavery, and laid Jerusalem in ruins;
sin, he struck dead 185,000 Assyrians in one night; for sin, he sentenced Nebuchadnezzar to insanity; and for sin,
he traced on the wall of Belshazzar's palace those words of doom, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin."
From this awful God, who is so near to every one of us and so well acquainted with our habits, from whose presence we can never escape, whose power we are unable to resist, and who hates our sins with a perfect hatred, what must we expect? On occasions without number, we have transgressed his laws in thought, word, and deed; and if we have frequently done wrong, we have still more frequently omitted to do right. For all which disobedience we might expect from him instant and entire destruction. Will he then destroy us? He can, for he is Almighty; and he knows that we deserve destruction, for he is Omniscient; but he is as good as he is great, as merciful as he is holy; and, by no dream of fancy, but by his own voice, by his word, and by his works, we are assured that “ He is love."
Were he not benevolent, he would not have made his creatures so capable of enjoying happiness, nor have made nature so capable of imparting it. He has not only ordained that both the animate and inanimate creatures should support our lives, and supply our wants, but he has endowed many of them with attributes designed exclusively to please us. For this end the ground is carpetted with flowers; the rocks offer us their gems; the forest glows with the gorgeous plumage of its birds, or rings with their merry songs: for this end the stream sparkles and foams on the mountain side, and the blue lake reflects the heavens on its calm clear surface: for this the day is so beautiful with its sunny splendours; and for this the night enchants us with its gentler ray, when the moon throws its trembling beam upon the waters, or travels among the broken clouds, or, sinking beneath the horizon, leaves the silent stars to watch over our sleeping world. Thus all the objects of nature, whether vast or insignificant, whether fulfilling their important functions from century to century, or exhibiting their beauty for a transient summer hour, proclaim in the ear of reason, with one loud hosanna, that “God is love."
Nor less if we think of the course of our lives, may we find cause to adore the Almighty for his goodness. Although, for the sins of men, he has righteously visited the earth with his judgments, still these seem only sufficient to make us admire the compassion, patience, and goodness which are manifested in the general course of his providence. Every hour he sees the alienation, ingratitude, and self-will of millions of creatures whom he has formed and cherished; all their innumerable acts of selfishness and pride, of fraud and falsehood, of malice and envy, of oppression and cruelty, of gross superstition and of reckless sensuality, rise up before him continually-not one escapes him; yet the sun does not cease to shine, the rain does not fail to water the thirsty earth, and the harvests ripen in our fields; plague, pestilence, and famine do not hurry us to untimely graves; the
vengeance which overtook the antediluvians and the men of Sodom, now seems to slumber; and the mercy of God has put up his sword into its scabbard.
But it is when we recall the course of our own lives, that we most sensibly feel his goodness. So far from inflicting on us the death which we had deserved, he has followed us all our days with mercy. He has supplied our wants, though we have been but little grateful for his bounty; and he has given us a peaceful home on earth, though we have been so unmindful of our home in heaven. Having formed us capable of deriving pleasure from knowledge, his providence has given us the opportunity of acquiring it. While private wrongs or public enmities distract the
of society, he has permitted some of us to make for ourselves a paradise in the wilderness, where, sheltered from these tempests, we may enjoy the sunshine of domestic affection. Here, like a lowly flower in the protected vale, untouched by the icy winds which howl among the granite peaks and eternal glaciers of loftier regions, how many years of contentment and of cheerfulness we have been permitted to enjoy! Men do not thus bless their enemies. And if, notwithstanding our corrupt alienation from him, God has thus loaded us with his blessings, and crowned our years with his goodness, it is that we may see, and feel, and with adoring gratitude confess, that “ He is love."
Yet great as are the proofs of his goodness, derived from our consideration of the constitution of nature, and of the course of providence, he has afforded us greater still in that stupendous event to which his gospel directs us : “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John iii. 16. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." • Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John iv. 9, 10. Since the eternal Son of God left heaven to save us from perishing, it is evident that we deserved to perish: since he died in our stead, we deserved to die; and since it was necessary that he should make an atonement for us, we could make none for ourselves. Our condition therefore is, that, being corrupt and turned away from God, we deserved his anger, and being “ dead in trespasses and sins, we were by nature the children of wrath.” Eph. ii. 1-3. Instead, however, of sentencing us to destruction as we deserved, he sent down his well-beloved Son, “ the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,” to suffer and to die in our stead." Determined to manifest his hatred of sin, he has punished it, not in the person of the sinner who deserved to perish, but in the person of his only begotten Son, “ in whom his soul delighted :” and by this unexampled mercy has opened a way to glory for those who were excluded from it by impassable barriers.
To all, without exception of the worst and the most hardened, has the Almighty offered a free, full, instant, and everlasting pardon, on their renouncing their sin, and believing in his Son. To all he has addressed this word: “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye
die?" Ezek. xxxiii. 11.
But great as his compassion has been to sinners in general, its most wonderful manifestations have been reserved for those who become his people: who, having been led by his grace to believe in Christ, and to spend their lives in cheerful and filial obedience to the will of God, are at length admitted to heaven. These, without one exception, had all the characters of the rest of mankind; and all of them required that entire change in their views, affections, and wills, which is termed in Scripture to be “born from above,” to be “born of the Spirit,” to be “born of God,"to be" quickened," to be “raised from the dead," and to be “renewed;" because, like others, they were worldly, disobedient, self-righteous, ungodly, and obdurate. Yet the Almighty, who might, with perfect justice, have shut them up in impenitence, and left them to despair, by his providence directed their attention to the truth, and by his Spirit accomplished the whole work of their sanctification. He convinced them of their sin and danger; he removed their indifference and sloth; and he awakened in their minds an earnest desire to be saved. To accomplish that desire, which he had himself imparted, he enlightened their minds to know the truth, and softened their hearts to receive it: he gave them “a new heart,” and put “a new spirit within them;" and took away the “s
“stony heart," and gave them a heart of Aesh.” As he provided for them a Redeemer, so he drew them to believe in him. They renounced all dependence on their own righteousness, to depend absolutely on the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ for their pardon; they renounced all dependence on their own strength, to expect sanctification from his grace alone; and they gave up their self-will, to place themselves wholly under his dominion: but he alone inclined their hearts to do all this; and of his own good pleasure wrought in them to will and to do. Having given them this faith, he justified them freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and at once pardoning their sin, admitted them to his love and favour. Thus made his beloved children, they are placed under the shield of his power and grace, so that all things must work together for their good. Life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth, friendship or enmity, are compelled to do them service. He sanctifies them daily; and he will at length bring them to perfection; he will never leave them, nor forsake them; and will render death, which is to others the greatest of misfortunes, a gain to them: angels, commissioned by him, will guide their departed spirits to glory; and when they are summoned to leave their peaceful employments in this W ld, it is “to be with Christ, which is far better.” Blessed in the present life, and cheerful in the anticipation of the future, well may they all, responding with one voice to the affectionate hosannas of the redeemed in heaven, exclaim, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We have known and believed the love that God hath to us God is love." 1 John iv. 10, 16.
For all this goodness manifested in nature, providence, redemption, and grace, how much does the Almighty deserve the love of his creatures ? If we should, in the highest possible degree, delight in his divine perfections, and feel the most intense gratitude for his kindness, would these feelings be excessive ? When he says, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” Matt. xxii. 37, we cannot but pronounce the command to be most reasonable. As much as we can possibly love any one, we ought to love him, for there is no one so worthy of being loved ; and he gave us the power of loving chiefly that we might love him., As long as