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2. A word of advice

[You know, that in natural substances there are a great variety of component parts, which are hidden from the natural eye; but which, as we have before hinted, may, by a chemical process, be brought to view. By the application of certain tests, the parts may be separated, and new combinations of them be formed. In like manner, by the application of tests to your souls, you may discover the hidden principles of your hearts. See what it is to which your mind has an affinity: mark what it embraces; and what, on coming into contact with some other thing, it is disposed to relinquish. There are both “flesh and spirit” in the renewed man; and, by diligent observation of the way in which they are called into action, and of the degree in which they operate, you may ascertain your real character before God. If the world drives out spiritual considerations, and more tenaciously occupies the mind, you will see reason for self-abasement before God. If, on the contrary, the blessed truths of the Gospel readily fill your mind, and exclude the world, then have you reason for gratitude and thanksgiving. We are assured that "they who are after the flesh, do mind, and savour, the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Try then yourselves" by these tests, and "examine" carefully your state before Godb: for, “ if your own heart condemn you, God is greater than your heart, and knoweth all things; but if your heart condemn you not, then have you confidence towards God."]

dokipásete, 2 Cor. xiii. 5. and again 1 Thess. v. 20.




1 John iv. 9, 10. 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.

OF all the endearing characters that are given us of God, that by which he is designated in the words immediately preceding our text, is the most comprehensive and most glorious; “God is love." It might seem indeed that this appellation but ill-accorded with the sterner attribute of justice: but in the execution

of his wrath against impenitent transgressors, his love to the whole creation appears, no less than in his dispensations of grace and mercy to the penitent: even as the love of a judge towards the whole community appears in condemning a murderer, as much as in protecting the weak, or acquitting the innocent. There is however one exercise of his love which infinitely exceeds all others; and that is, the gift of his only-begotten Son to die for us.

This is the subject set before us in the text, and which the return of this daya calls more especially to our remembrance.

Let us consider,
I. The love of God as it is here exhibited-

Instead of entering at large into the subject of our Saviour's incarnation, we shall confine ourselves strictly to the consideration of the Father's love in the different steps of it, as mentioned in the text. How astonishing is it,

1. That he should desire the restoration of our souls to life!

[Why should he ever entertain such a thought as this? Could we profit him at all? or would he suffer any loss by leaving us to perish? If he chose to have human beings to behold and participate his glory, could he not in an instant call forth millions into existence, and communicate to them the blessings we had forfeited ? Had he determined that we should never fall, and that he would impose on us a necessity to continue in our primeval state, we should have the less wondered at his love: but that he should foresee our fall, and yet determine to restore us; that he should behold us actually fallen, and yet pity us; that, when our first parents fled from him, he should follow them with invitations to accept of mercy; and that, when they shifted off all blame from themselves, and cast it eventually even upon God himself, he should still retain his desire to save them; how amazing was this love! Had he proposed only to remit their punishment, and to blot out their existence, this had been a wonderful act of love: but to desire the restoration of such creatures to his favour, that they might live with him in glory for evermore, is truly such an exhibition of love, as far surpasses the utmost stretch of our conceptions. How differently did he act towards the angels, when they fell! He never entertained a thought of restoring themb: but, when man fell, then, as if he himself could not be happy without us, he concerted with his eternal Son to deliver us, and to save us with an everlasting salvation]

a Christmas-day.

2. That he should send his only-begotten Son into the world to effect this!

(What ways of accomplishing this object God might have found, it is not for us to say: but it is reasonable to believe, that nothing less than the incarnation of his onlybegotten Son could effect it. And how wonderful it was that he should ever adopt such a measure as that! that he should spare his only dear Son from his bosom, and send him into a world that was already cursed by sin! that he should send him to assume our very nature; to be “ made in the likeness of sinful flesh;" yea, to be made in all points like as we are, sin only excepted! However he might desire our recovery, it seems absolutely incredible that he should ever condescend to use such means to effect it: yet we are told that he actually did so; and that he sent, not an angel, not all the hosts of angels, but even “ his only-begotten Son, into the world, that we might live through him."]

3. That, in order to the effecting of it, he should make Him a propitiation for our sins !

[For the honour of God's moral government, it was necessary that his hatred against sin should be made manifest, and that, if mercy were exercised towards fallen man, it should be only in a way that would consist with the rights of justice, and preserve the honour of God's broken law. This could only be done by a vicarious sacrifice, a sacrifice of equal value with the souls of all mankind. Such a sacrifice could be made by none but our incarnate God; who therefore assumed our nature, that he might expiate sin by the sacrifice of himself, and make himself" a propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” What love then was here ; that God should send his only-begotten Son into the world for such an end as this! Had he sent him to instruct us by his doctrine and example, it had been a stupendous act of love: but to send him on purpose that he might bear our sins in his own body on tree," and die in our stead, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God;" this is a love that is utterly incomprehensible: it has heights and depths that can never be explored.]

To confirm this view of our subject, we need only call your attention to that assertion of St. Paul, that

- the

d John ii. 16.

b Heb. ii. 16. VOL. XX.

c Zech. vi. 13.


“ in this God commendeth his love to us;" and to that pious reflection of his, “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all thingse ?” These passages abundantly prove, that, as the gift of Christ to us was the fruit of the Father's love, so it was an instance of his love, that infinitely outweighs all else that he ever has done, or ever can do, for sinful man.

Let us now consider, II. Our love to God as put in competition with it

It is evidently supposed in our text that some might be blind and impious enough to ascribe their salvation rather to the love which they bore to God, than to that which, of his own free and sovereign grace, he bore to them. Hence the Apostle says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us." It is indeed surprising that any child of man should ever entertain such an idea as this which the Apostle explodes: but experience proves, that there is no merit so great, but man will arrogate it to himself; and no tribute so just, but he will refuse it to his God. We proceed then to notice this sentiment in a two-fold view: 1. The erroneousness of it

(Let us for a moment inquire, What is the state of fallen man? Has he of himself any love to God? So far from it, we are told, that “the carnal mind is enmity against God; and that it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” There is not any one thing relating to God, which the natural man loves : not his perfections; not his word; not his ordinances; not his people; not his ways: he is in his heart adverse to them all. But it may be said, that many are brought to love God at last. True: but how is this effected? by any power in man? or by any previous good inclination in man? No: “It is God that gives us both to will and to do, of his own good pleasures:" it is “he, and he alone, that makes us to differ," either from others, or from our former selves: we neither have any thing, nor can have any thing, but what we receive from him". How then can that which we receive from God be the cause or ground of his conferring it upon us ?

e Rom. v. 8. and viii. 32. 8 Phil. ii. 13.

r Rom. viii. 7. h 1 Cor. iv. 7.

The text, it is true, speaks of God's sending his Son into the world to die for us: and it may be thought, that no one would ascribe that gift to any merit of his own. We grant it: but, if men do not ascribe to their own merits the gift of a Saviour, they ascribe to their own merits the gift of salvation itself: yea, exceeding vehemently do they arrogate to themselves this honour: and when they are constrained to acknowledge, that in their unregenerate state they have done no good works to deserve salvation, they will maintain, that God has respect to some good which he has foreseen in them, and makes some natural or acquired excellence in them the reason and the measure of his favour towards them. But we can scarcely conceive any expressions more strong than those by which God cautions his people against this vain conceit. Hear what he said respecting it to his chosen people the Jews Hear also what Jesus said to his own immediate Disciples, who had certainly as good ground for boasting as any of us can havek

Hear further what St. John says in a few verses after our text, and which is applicable, not to one age or people, but to the saints of God in every age; “We love him, because he first loved us!.” But indeed it is the voice of Scripture from one end to the otherm, that “God has mercy on whom he will have mercyn," and that “ there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” To be making this truth a constant subject of our ministrations, as some do, is highly injudicious; but, when it comes fairly in our way, we must maintain it, as necessary for the abasing of man's pride, and for the exalting of God's honour and glory.] 2. The impiety of it,

(God is a jealous God: his very "name is Jealous ?," and “his glory he will not give to another. Now the great end for which he has redeemed man, was the advancement of his own glory. St. Paul, in the space of a few verses, repeats this almost to satiety, if we may so speak'-. But to ascribe the gift of a Saviour, or of salvation, either in whole or in part, to our love to him, is to rob him of his glory; and to establish a ground for glorying in ourselves, when he has declared, “ that no flesh shall glory in his presences.” Now, in reference to ourselves, we are backward to acknowledge that there

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i Deut. vii. 7, 8. and ix. 4-6. and Ezek. xxxvi. 22, 32. k John xv. 16.

ver. 19. m Jer. xxxi. 3. Eph. ii. 8, 9. 2 Tim. 1, 9. n Rom. ix. 11, 15, 16. 0 Rom, xi. 5. p Exod. xxxiv, 14. 9 Isai. xlii. 8. * Eph. i. 5—-7, 9, 11, 12, 14. and iii. 10, 11. s 1 Cor. i. 27-29.

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