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ON THE LOVE OF GOD TO HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE.
GOD, who is the source of being and the centre of perfection, is the object of worship and the fountain of all felicity. Absolutely independent and consummately happy, he receives no advantages from the services of angels: but his infinite excellence and universal dominion demand their profoundest homage. Though supremely majestic, and inflexibly just; though jealous of his honour, and abhorrent of sin; he stands revealed, by evangelical truth, under the most encouraging and endearing characters: for, with reference to that greatest of all works, Redemption, he is called LovE. To know him, as thus revealed, is to be truly wise: to be his devoted servant, is to possess the highest liberty of which humanity is capable: and completely to enjoy him, is the grand result of his boundless favour, through the mediation of Jesus Christ.
When Moses, full of devotional ardour, said to the Most High; I beseech thee show me thy glory: the gracious answer was, I will make all my goodness pass before thee-and Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, JEHOVAH, JEHOVAH GOD, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in
goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty. Here THE ETERNAL, while asserting the dignity of his own character, and the supremacy of his own will, in the bestowment of spiritual blessings on guilty creatures, reveals his goodness in the most encouraging manner which goodness, frequently expressed by the terms mercy, grace, and love, he represents as constituting the principal part of that divine glory which, to the antient Jewish church, was denoted by the sublimest of all names, JEHOVAH.
Mercy, grace, and love, when ascribed by inspired writers to the Most High, are to be considered as different modifications of divine goodness; and they may be thus distinguished. Mercy is goodness to the miserable; grace is goodness to the unworthy; and love is goodness delighting in the happiness of its objects. When God has completely delivered his chosen people from all the penal effects of apostasy, they will no longer be the objects of his goodness, under the strict notion of mercy; because mercy has regard to misery. When they are perfectly free from all the unworthiness attending depravity and guilt; they will no longer be the objects of divine goodness, under the apostolic notion of grace: for grace, in the writings of Paul,* respects the unworthiness of a sinful creature. But saints will for ever be the objects of divine goodness, under the delightful conception of love. Holy angels are the objects of supreme benignity under the idea of love: but of neither mercy, nor grace, in the Rom. iii. 24. iv. 4. ix. 5, 6. Eph. ii.5-9.
apostolic sense of those terms; because they are manifestly used respecting sinners.*
Charmed with divine benevolence, the Psalmist exclaims, How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.† Delightful, ravishing truth! It commands attention, and will richly repay the most intense regard. For the lovingkindness of God is the original fountain of all spiritual blessings; is better than life; and supremely excellent: as will appear, if its principal properties be considered. We are warranted, then, to assert,
That the love of God to his people is ETERNAL. Under the general notion of divine love, we cannot but include the unchangeable Jehovah's will to communicate everlasting happiness to the objects of his peculiar favour. Now that gracious will, far from commencing with our love to God, existed. before any creature was formed, or time began is without beginning, and without end. Hence Paul represents the divine Father as choosing his people in Christ, before the foundation of the world; as promising them everlasting life before the world began; and as calling them with an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. Hence also it is written, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.-The love of God is not like a passion in the human heart, excited and increased, diminished and
* See Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners, p. 85, 86. + Psalm xxxvi. 7.
Eph. i. 4. Tit. i. 2. 2 Tim.i. 9. Eph. iii. 9, 10, 11.
regulated, by any thing beheld in its object: for, being the dictate of his own understanding, and the determination of his own will, it has neither commencement nor termination; and is perfectly worthy of Him who is Eternal and Unchangeable.*
The love of God Is COMPLETELY FREE IN ITS NATURE. Free, as opposed to worthiness in its objects; and free, respecting the choice of its objects.
It is absolutely free, as opposed to worthiness in its objects. For no mortal has any claim upon it. The gospel of Christ, which is a revelation of this love, considers all mankind as in a state of guilt, of depravity, and of ruin. It addresses all to whom it comes, as justly condemned-as deserving to perish: and all the relief it exhibits is professedly of grace. Now, divine grace, in the sacred writings, is directly opposed to works and worthiness of every kind, and of every degree. For Paul, having mentioned the election of grace, argues thus: And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work. He elsewhere declares, once and again, in the same context, By grace ye are saved.‡
From the Epistles of Paul it further appears, that when he ascribes the blessings of salvation to grace, the emphatical term is used, not merely in opposition to worthiness of that which is good, but as connoting desert of the greatest evil. Had our first parents persevered in their original rectitude, the happiness which they enjoyed would certainly ↑ Rom. xi. 5, 6,
* Jer. xxxi. 3. Mal. iii, 6.
have been continued without diminution; but a superior degree of blessedness, if ever conferred upon them, must have proceeded from divine favour. That superadded felicity, however, could not have been of grace, in the same latitude and energy of meaning, as when the term is used respecting the salvation of sinners. Far from it: for, by the supposition, it would have been favour exercised towards innocent, immaculate, righteous creatures. Does Paul assure us, that we are pardoned, justified, saved by grace? his language implies, and he means to inform us, that we deserved condemnation, punishment, ruin. So far from having a claim upon heaven, that we have deserved hell.
Agreeable to this view of the fact, are the following remarkable sayings: Herein is love, not that we loved God, or were possessed of any thing amiable in the sight of our Maker; but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.-The Bible, it should never be forgotten, is the religion of SINNERS. It contains a system of doctrines, and reveals an assemblage of blessings, that are perfectly suited to the state and circumstances of guilty, of corrupt, of deservedly accursed creatures. Hence it is represented as able to make us wise to salvation; and hence its incomparable excellence.
That freeness of love which is exercised by mortals one towards another, must not be compared with the gratuitous nature of divine love to sinners. For every one is bound sincerely to love his neighbour, and to delight in his happiness, as being of the