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Accursed spirits, from hell beneath, may attempt to hurl their blasphemies against his throne. Yet these shall but redound to the praise of that justice, which consigned their authors to the everlasting chains of darkness.-If it was not, then, the fear of enmity or reproach, the desire of favour or reward, (and surely it was not previous agreement,) that moved God to bestow "his unspeakable gift ;" it must have been goodness free and pure; a desire to relieve our misery, and to secure our happiness. And how much ought these views of his absolute independence to enhance, in our esteem, the value of his gifts! You prize the approbation of a man of independent principle and character; because you know he does not flatter, in order to gain you. You value a gift from one who is altogether independent of you, for his support, reputation, and happiness; because you view it as a token of pure benevolence, uninfluenced by selfish motives. Ought we not, then, with all our hearts, and souls, and strength, to render thanks to God, for "his un"speakable gift!" to Him, who needed not to oblige us, for his own advantage; whose essential felicity would have remained unalterably the same, had we never been formed; and will remain, should we relapse into non-existence ;-should we resound his praises before the throne, or howl out blasphemies in the regions of endless night. A gift prompted by the authority of a superior, or even by the gentle influence of soft affections, by the dread of pain in withholding, or by the expectation of pleasure in bestowing it, must lose much of its value to the reflecting mind. But that which brings profit only to the receiver, and which is given ex
This is the
pressly for that end, is a gift indeed. And how free, how untainted by every interested motive, is the bounty of Jehovah? His is the gift; ours the advantage, if we will but receive it. And let us receive it with willingness and joy. end for which it is offered. Let us receive it with gratitude. This is the feeling which it ought to produce. And with our hearts and lips let us again join the apostle, "Thanks be unto God for his un"speakable gift!"
2. As a consideration, which ought still farther to enhance, in our esteem, the Father's unspeakable gift, let us reflect on the meanness and unworthiness of those, on whom it is bestowed.
We are creatures: and, standing in this relation to God, it was condescension in him to regard us at all; and the least of his gifts must be great. We are sinful creatures; and the negative kindness of long-suffering, is more than we are entitled to expect. How ineffably great, then, our obligation, in the enjoyment of positive blessings!
As creatures, we could deserve no gift from God: for we ourselves, with all that we possess, are his unalienable property; and in our best services, we but serve him with his own. He was free to give, or to withhold, as to himself seemed meet. would have been laying us under eternal obligations, had he promised to love us, if we should first love him; to requite us with honours and rewards, if we should first offer ourselves to serve and to obey him. But gracious as this would have been, it is far exceeded by the gift of Christ. For here, our God has been beforehand with us in kindness; has made the first tenders of love; and though,
from the condition of our nature, he could owe us nothing, has bestowed upon us the gift of his Son : a gift, which, in this view, displays unspeakable goodness, as in itself it is unspeakably great. That God should thus condescend to creatures, and manifest such kindness before, nay, where it never could be earned, surely merits all our praise. Reflect, too, that we are creatures, between whom and God there is a chasm immeasurably wide; and to whom, therefore, it may be matter of everlasting astonishment, that such a gift, as the gift of his only Son, our Saviour, should have been ever given. Nay, it was given to us, given in decree, before we were creatures, on foreseeing our fatal fall: for thus, under the name of Wisdom, speaks our Immanuel; "I was set up from everlasting, or ever "the earth was.-When the Lord gave the sea his "decree-when he appointed the foundations of "the earth; then was I with him, as one brought up by him; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable
part of his earth; and my delights were with the 66 sons of men."* With every affection of our hearts, then, with every power of our nature, let us love, and magnify, and adore him, who thus first loved us!
But how much more does this appear to be our duty, when we remember, that we are not only creatures, creatures mean and low, but sinful creatures! Had we been as innocent as we are guilty, had our acts of obedience been as great and numerous as our sins, it still would have been unspeakably gracious in our Maker, to send his Son to
Prov. viii. 23, 29, 30, 31.
instruct and help us. But, alas! we had no beauty to attract his desire; and no desert to lay him un.... der obligation. When "the Lord looked down "from heaven, upon the children of men, to see if "there were any that did understand, and seek "God; they had all gone aside; they had altogether become filthy; there was none that did good; no, not one."* The bounties of his providence we had converted into deadly poison; and the faculties given us for his service, into weapons of rebellion. The fair colouring, the beauteous form, and the harmonious structure of our nature, we had tarnished, distorted, and deranged. We had rendered ourselves the objects of hatred, rather than of love; of condign punishment, rather than of an unspeakable gift. Yet when he passed by, and saw us cast out, polluted in our own blood, he said unto us, Live: yea, when we were in our blood, he said unto us, Live; and our time was the time of love. He spread his skirt over us, and covered our deformities. Yea, I sware unto you, " and entered into a covenant with you, saith the "Lord God, and ye became mine."t-Had we known that God was looking on us from on high, and contemplating our estate, we would have dreaded the speedy tokens of his vengeance. Had we learned that he was to send his eternal Son into. the world, without being informed of his design, conscience would have suggested that it was to condemn us, and to rid the earth of creatures, worse than unprofitable. But such was his mercy, that his Son descended, not as an executioner of his vengeance, but as a messenger of peace, to publish, ↑ See Ezek. xvi. 5, 6, &
* Psalm xiv. 2, 3
nay, to purchase and bestow salvation. "For God
sent not his Son into the world, to condemn the
world; but that the world through him might be "saved."* It was this consideration of our unworthiness, which made Paul elsewhere thus pour forth his gratitude: "Scarcely for a righteous man "will one die; yet, peradventure, for a good man, "some would even dare to die: but God commend"eth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!"+
And have not we cause to join in his admiration, and in his thanks? By our just deserts, nay, by the recorded sentence of the divine law, we merited nought but wrath, even wrath to the uttermost. Yet to us, and for our behoof, is given, not a creature like ourselves, however innocent and pure; not one of those sons of light, whose greatness, though far exalted above the level of humanity, is still not wholly incomprehensible; whose excellencies, though glorious, are not inexpressible; and to whose value, though vast, gratitude might be adequate; but the Lord of nature, the Maker of angels and of men, to whose praise, to whose perfections, and to whose love, the conceptions and the hymns of seraphim are themselves unequal. He is given, not by one who may need our friendship, or be requited by our service, but by the Almighty, the eternal Father; and with him are bestowed all the cares of providence, all the blessings of grace, and all the riches of glory! Be then the manifestation of our gratitude the business of our lives; till we be fitted for the work of heaven, and be called to Rom. v. 7, 8.
John iii. 17.