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most stupendous effort of love that ever was, or can be, exhibitedo —-- It is greater love than was ever shewn even to the angels themselvesp: and, while it brings us nearer to the throne of God than they?, it will furnish us with everlasting songs in which they can never join' ----]
2. That you may renounce all erroneous methods of seeking acceptance with him
[If this glorious truth had never been revealed, we might well have made the same inquiries as Balaks. But what room is there for such inquiries now? Do we despise this unspeakable gift of God? or do we conceive that we shall be able to establish a firmer foundation for our hope, than that which is laid in the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ ? ---O reject not the proffered mercy of your God! Say not, · The Saviour of the world shall not save me. This is what you do, in fact, say, when you go about to “ establish any righteousness of your ownt." To guard you against so fatal an error, St. Paul testified with all the energy he could express u: and we also testify, that there is no other foundation to be laid *, nor any other name to be trusted in y, but that of Jesus Christ.]
3. That you may embrace the Lord Jesus with your whole hearts
[View him as sent down from heaven, even from the bosom of the Father: view him as dying in your place and stead 2: view him as saving a ruined world. Can you forbear to love him? Can you refrain from seeking an interest in him? Are
you not ready to cry out, “ Hosanna to the Son of David; Hosanna in the highest?” Behold him, I say; admire him ; adore him; trust in him ; “ cleave unto him with full purpose of heart;" "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus your Lord.” Alas! you are but too little affected with his love; and need to be reminded of it continually : “ we determine, therefore, with God's help, to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and him crucified," and to set before you his love, till it constrains you to love him, and to live to him.] CONCLUSION
[Hear once more our testimony. We testify, that Christ is indeed the Son of God, even “ Emmanuel, God with us." We testify, that the one errand on which he came, was to save a ruined world. We testify, that he has done all that was necessary for the salvation of our souls; and that “he is both able and willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him”. O compel us not to complain, as he did, “We testify of that we have seen, and ye receive not our witnessa !” but let us behold you inquiring after him, till ye can say with the Samaritan converts, we have seen ( heard') him ourselves, and believe that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world b.” It is true, you cannot now see him, as the Apostles did, face to face; but by faith you may “see him that is invisible:” and if only you behold him now by faith, you shall one day see him, as you are seen, and “ know him, as you are known.”] a John iii. 11.
o John ii. 16. Rom. v. 8. ver. 9, 10. p Heb. ii. 16. 9 Rev. vii. 11.
5 Rev. v. 9, 10. s Mic. vi. 6, 7. t Rom. x. 3. u Gal. v. 2-4.
x 1 Cor. iii. 11. y Acts iv. 12.
2 Isai. liii. 4, 6. 1 Pet. jii. 18.
b John iv. 42.
THE DISTINCTIVE CHARACTER OF A CHRISTIAN.
1 John iv. 16. We have known and believed the love that God
hath to us. NEVER was there a truth so deep, so comprehensive, so endearing, conveyed in so short a space as that immediately following our text; “God is love."
It is engraven on the face of universal nature: the heavenly bodies, in their various courses, proclaim it: the earth, with all its productions, declares it: the human race, in particular, both in the frame of their bodies and the faculties of their souls, unanimously attest it. Every work of God's providence displays it; and every word of his grace. Even the judgments which he threatens, and those which he executes, must be traced to love as their source; for though, as it respects the individuals that suffer, whether men or devils, he shews only his displeasure ; yet, as justice executed on criminals is mercy to the community, so is the punitive justice of the Deity an act of love to the whole intelligent creation.
But glorious as this truth is, it is but little known: the revelation which was designed to illustrate and confirm it, is lightly regarded : and those things
which incessantly engage the admiration of angels, are scarcely considered by men as worthy of the slightest attention.
Some there are however who know how to appreciate this truth. Whilst it is overlooked by the wise of this world, it is known, believed, and loved, by every true Christian, whatever be his condition or attainments in all other respects : if he be low and illiterate, he yet has a just apprehension of it in his mind; and if he be great and learned, he values this above all his other knowledge.
From the words before us we shall be led to shew, 1. The distinctive character of the Christian
The love referred to in the text, is that which God manifested in the gift of his dear Son to die for
Great as many
[In the context, the Apostle particularly directs our attention to this pointa. He elsewhere declares, that the Father's love to our ruined race was the motive that induced him (if we may so speak) to send his Son into the world b: and another Apostle refers to that event as the brightest exhibition which God himself could give of his love to mano. of his bounties are, this infinitely excels them all —--] The true Christian knows and believes this love-
(Others may talk of it with accuracy, according to the statement given of it in the Scriptures; but it is the Christian alone that justly apprehends it. The light of others, like that of the moon, is inoperative, uninfluential : but the Christian's light is like that of the sun : it diffuses a genial warmth through the soul, and causes every grace to flourish and abound. Were it sufficient to say, “I believe,” all who repeat the Creed would be believers; and there would be no room for that question of our Lord, “ When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith upon the earth?” But to exercise a living faith is a very distinct thing: this is peculiar to the true Christian: he knows and believes the love which God has exercised towards us: he "believes it” as the foundation of all his hopes — - he “knows it" as the source of all his joys -]
But that we may not deceive ourselves, we proceed to shew,
a ver. 9, 10.
b John iii. 16.
c Rom. v. 8.
II. How we may know whether that character be
formed in usIf a man know and believe that any thing of a very interesting nature, whether good or evil, has befallen him, he cannot fail of being, in some measure at least, suitably affected with it. Now, if we have known and believed the love that God hath to us, we must of necessity have been filled,
1. With wonder and admiration
[This subject has excited universal wonder through all the hosts of heaven: how then can it fail to astonish us, if we truly know it and believe it? Did the Apostle John express such wonder at our adoption into God's family, as to say, “ Behold, what manner of love is this wherewith the Father hath loved us?” Was St. Paul so overwhelmed with astonishment at the idea of the Gentiles being admitted into the Church as to exclaim, “O the depths!” and shall not we be amazed at a miracle of mercy that is infinitely more stupendous, that has a depth and length and breadth and height that surpass the conception of men or angels? What are all other gifts in comparison of the gift of his only dear Son? “ Having not spared him, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things ?" Know then, that, if ye have never been lost in wonder at this “ unspeakable gift," and at the unsearchable riches of grace and love contained in it; yea, if this be not in a measure your daily experience, you have never yet attained the Christian character: whatever you may have professed, or however you may have lived, you have yet to learn the first great lesson in the school of Christ.] 2. With love and gratitude
[Men in general speak of the great mystery of redemption as a common thing; and will repeat the Creed, or the truths contained in it, with as much indifference, as if the Gospel were nothing but “a cunningly-devised fable.” We might live with them for years, and never once hear them speak with rapture on this glorious theme. But " ye have not so learned Christ, if so be ye have heard him and been taught by him as the truth is in Jesus.” “ The love of Christ," if truly known and believed, will " have a constraining efficacy, to make us live to him who died for us.” The moment we feel it aright, we shall inquire, How can I requite it acceptably? What shall I render to the Lord for all these wonders of love and mercy? Contracted as our views of this mystery may be, “ we shall count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of it.” It will be the one subject of our meditations, the one theme of our praise ---]
3. With a desire to know our own personal interest in it
[The man that has no fears or jealousies about his interest in the love of God, has no just conception of it at all. He may descant learnedly on the Scriptures, but he knows nothing of the mystery contained in them. To be in suspense and doubt whether we are accepted in the Beloved, is to a true Christian more painful than the severest bodily suffering could be. On the other hand, to be able to say, " Christ hath loved me and given himself for me;" “My Beloved is mine, and I am his ;" this is a very heaven upon earth: and when the Christian can adopt this language, and feel the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost," “ his soul is indeed satified as with marrow and fatness:" he cares for nothing, and desires nothing: created objects lose all their lustre, when once he has thus beheld the Sun of Righteousness shining in his glory.] ADDRESS-
1. Those who have not this evidence within them
[There can be no difficulty in making the foregoing inquiries. But it is a fearful thing to find on examination that we have not the grace of God in us. O think not lightly of the distinction that has been pointed out! for it will form a ground of distinction in the day of judgment, and determine our abode either in heaven or in hella. Remember, too, that you will in that day be wholly without excuse. Others may say, ' It was my misfortune rather than
fault that I did not know and believe the love of God in Christ Jesus; for I never had it faithfully declared unto me.' But to you there has been no want of instruction to enlighten, no want of evidence to convince you: so that your ignorance and unbelief involve you in the deepest guilte. O continue not in such a state as this! but pray that “ the Spirit of wisdom and revelation may be given to you, and that the eyes of your understanding may be enlightened',” that “ you perish not for lack of knowledge."]
2. Those who can adopt the language of our text
[If you can with truth declare that you have known and believed the love of God, then we must say to you,
d 2 Thess. i. 7-10.
e Hos. iv. 6. 2 Cor. iv. 4. Heb. i. 3. ' Eph. i. 16–18.