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that time, be crying out for the domination and government of equal laws ?
I say then, that, as the law of God was made equally for all, and all may receive equal benefit from it, all ought to regard it as the fruit of love; and to honour it in their hearts,
holy, and just, and good.” It is possible that because, in the present state of the world, far more are lost than saved, some may object that God has loved the few at the expense of the many. But though this is the case at present, there will, at no distant period, be multitudes far more numerous than all that have already existed; and "they will all be righteous," from the least to the greatest of them. If Israel, in the space of about two hundred years, multiplied from seventy-six to two millions, when so many efforts were made to destroy them; how shall they not multiply during the millennium, when the command " Increase and multiply," shall meet with no impediments; and when life will be so prolonged, that a “person dying an hundred years old will appear to have been cut off under “a judicial curse ?" Carry on this annual augmentation, not for ten or twenty years, but for a thousand years; and you will clearly see, that the numbers who have lived previous to that day will bear no proportion to those who shall then come upon the earth; and, consequently, that the number of those who will perish will bear no proportion to that of those who shall be ultimately saved. But, if the objection were true as to the comparative numbers of those who shall be saved, and of those who shall perish, I would still say, that this would not at all invalidate the declaration in my text. The law is equally good, even though every transgressor of it should perish; and the loss of every soul must be ascribed, not to any want of love in God, but to the wicked obstinacy of man, who will not avail himself of the salvation which God has offered him. Before there existed a creature in the universe, God was love: and after he had created both angels and men, he still continued love: and love he will be, when he shall judge the world: and one of the most painful considerations, which will corrode the minds of those in hell, will be, that it is love that condemns them, love that punishes them, and love that consigns them to the fate they have deserved; yea, that love to the whole universe demands their ruin. For supposing only that God should from this moment promise impunity to the transgressors of his law, where is there one who would not find a speedy relaxation in his efforts to obey it, and a consequent diminution of his happiness ? But sinners cannot be so received. If God could admit to his bosom the violators of his law, the enemies of his Son, and the contemners of his grace, heaven itself would cease to be a place of happiness;
and God himself (I speak it with reverence) would cease to be an object worthy of our esteem. But these things, I say, cannot be ; and therefore cannot be, because “ God is love."] Let us then learn, from this exalted subject,
1. What should be the disposition of our minds towards God
[Is he love ; and that too in all his diversified perfections, and in all his mysterious dispensations ? Surely then we should love him, and see nothing but love in all his ways. No commandment of his should ever be accounted grievous; but we should fly, like the angels themselves, to obey the very first intimation of his will. As for any difficulties or dangers that may lie in our way, they should only be regarded as opportunities afforded us to shew our love to God, and our zeal in his service. When trials of the most afflictive nature arise (for “we are all born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards"), we must bear in remembrance, that they are sent by a God of love, and that they are nothing but blessings in disguise. We must remember, that " whom he loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth : and that, if we be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are we bastards, and not sons : for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not ?" We know that our own children do not exactly appreciate our motives, whilst they are suffering under our displeasure, or when restraints are imposed upon them for their good. We must be content, therefore, to consider the darkest of God's dispensations as fruits of cis love; and must feel assured, that, however “ clouds and darkness may be round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne.” In a word, we must ever bear in mind, that God is deserving of all our love; and we must endeavour to love, and serve, and glorify him, with every faculty we possess.)
2. What should be the disposition of our minds towards each other ?
[This is the point particularly insisted upon in the former part of this chapter; and, indeed, it is founded upon the very truth before us: Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; FOR God is loved." And in another place, the Apostle yet more expressly deduces from it the lesson I am inculcating: “ Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." Let me then call you, brethren, to be " imitators of God as
d ver. 7, 8.
e ver. 11.
dear children?" And in what would ye so much wish to resemble him as this? To have your every act, your every disposition love, what could more tend to the perfection of your nature, and the happiness of your souls, thân this? In truth, love, if carried to a due extent, would make a heaven upon earth. O! cultivate it, my brethren, from your inmost souls; and, to whatever extent you have carried it, learn to " abound more and more." Yet mistake not the
offices of love. It is not necessary that love should always be exercised in a way of approbation, or in a way that shall be pleasing to those who are the objects of it. God corrects his children, and is displeased with them when they act amiss : and you also may manifest your displeasure in a way of correction towards those who are under your authority, when the occasion fairly calls for it. But love must be your governing principle in all things; and its influence must regulate your whole life. It must shew itself in the suppression of every thing that is selfish, and in the exercise of every thing that is amiable and endearing: you must shew it, by "bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, and enduring all things." O that I knew what to say, that should prove effectual for this blessed end! This I will say, that by this disposition you must be known as God's children : for, if you possess it not, whatever else you may possess, you are in heart no better than murderers : “ He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death: whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." On the other hand, “ if you dwell in love, God dwelleth in you, and you in him.” And, when you have this evidence of a transformation into God's image, then may you “ bave boldness in reference to the day of judgment.” Let it only be said, that “ as He is, so are ye in this world;” and we will predict, without fear of disappointment, that, as He is, so shall
be also in the world to come h.] Eph. v. 1. the Greek. 8 1 John iii. 14, 15. ver. 16, 17.
THE BELIEVER'S RESEMBLANCE TO GOD IN LOVE. 1 John iv. 16, 17. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God,
and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment : because as he is, so are we in this world.
THAT “ God is love," is a truth that can admit of no doubt. The proper improvement to be made of this truth is also obvious: if he be love, we should love him, trust in him, serve him, submit to him. But there is one improvement of this subject which does not readily occur to the mind : it is this : If God be love, we should be careful to imitate and resemble him. Now this, though less obvious than the other deductions, is the point on which St. John principally dwells : “Beloved, let us love one another : for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God : FOR God is love.” The same line of argument he pursues in the words before us; shewing that our conformity to God, in this great character of love, will be the measure of our nearness to him, and of our confidence before him.
The words before us will lead me to mark, 1. The resemblance which the believer bears to God
in loveThe Apostle having said that “ God is love,” adds, “ As he is, so are we in this world.” Now, in his nature we cannot resemble the Supreme Being ; but in his operations we may. We must therefore mark, 1. The operations of God's love
[Love, though a simple idea, may be profitably considered under a threefold distinction: a love of benevolence, a love of beneficence, and a love of complacency. This distinction will lead us to make some discriminations which are of great importance to a full understanding of the subject. We say then of God, that his benevolence is universal. There is not a creature in the universe which he did not originally form for happiness; and to which he does not wish happiness, so far as it is capable of enjoying it. The fallen angels are gone beyond the reach of happiness; as are all those also who have brought upon themselves the final sentence of God's righteous indignation. But there is not a sinner whom he is not willing to save; and whom he would not save, provided he repented of his sins, and sought for mercy in God's appointed way: God has sworn to this ; saying, “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner; but rather that he turn from his wickedness, and live. Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?” So far is God from desiring the death of a sinner, that “ he willeth that all should come to repentance, and live:” and when any will not repent, he takes up a lamentation over them; saying, “O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways b!" Our blessed Lord's weeping over Jerusalem, even after that it was given up to final desolation, gives us a just picture of Jehovah's mind towards the most abandoned of the human race
a ver. 7, 8.
As God's benevolence is universal, so is his beneficence unbounded : “ He opens his hand, and fills all things living with plenteousness." Of his common bounties all partake, in rich abundance: “ He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good; and sends his rain upon the just and upon the unjust.” That greatest of all mercies, the gift of his only dear Son, was bestowed on all, as is the gift also of his Holy Spirit: for, as Christ died for all“, so does the Holy Spirit strive with alle ; there not being a good desire in the heart of any man, which has not been formed there by his all-powerful agency; and formed there in order to the bestowment of still greater good, if those first motions had been duly improved. Nor should all the glory and blessedness of heaven itself be withheld from a human being, if only he would humble himself before God, and seek for mercy, and grace, and strength, in God's appointed way.
In respect of complacency, however, God's love is personal and partial. It is not possible that a holy God should find delight in unholy creatures: for, he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," without the utmost abhorrence. “ He is angry with the wicked every day” and, though he would still have compassion on them if they would turn unto him, he contemplates with satisfaction the judgments which their impenitence will bring upon them : “ I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faithr" — It is his faithful and obedient people alone in whom he can take any pleasure. On them he does look with sweet complacency; as the prophet says : “ The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: he will save: he will rejoice over thee with joy: he will rest in his love: he will joy over thee with singing :" " As a bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so will thy God rejoice over thee b.” In a word, he esteems them as " his peculiar treasure above all the people upon earth," and as composing the brightest jewels of his crown.
b Ps. lxxxi. 13.
c Luke xix. 41, 42. d 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.
e Gen. vi. 3. f Deut. xxxii. 20, 22, 23, 40–42. See also Isai. i. 24. & Zeph. iii. 17.
h Isai. lxii. 3.