Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

long expectation of his parents, when natural vigour was spent, and all hopes dead of having a surviving

heir ; he was in the spring of his youth, and the root of all the promises, that in him a progeny as numerous as the stars, and that the Messiah infinitely more worthy than all the rest, should come; yet at the best he was an imperfect, mortal creature, so that but a moderate affection was regularly due to him. Whereas our Redeemer was not a mere man or an angel, but God's only begotten Son, which title signifies his unity with him in his state and perfections; and according to the excellency of his nature, such is his Father's love to him. John represents to us that “God is love;' not charitable and loving, that is too weak an expression, but love itself. The divine nature is infinite essential love, in which other perfections are included. And he produces the strongest and most convincing testimony of it, “ 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," 1 John iv. 9. The love of God in all temporal blessings, is but faint in comparison with the love that is expressed in our Redeemer. As much as the Creator exceeds the creature, the gift of Christ is above the gift of the whole world. “Herein is love,” saith the apostle, that is, the clearest and the highest expression of it that can be, “God sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” The wisdom and power of God did not act to the utmost of their efficacy in the creation; he could frame a more glorious world; but the love of God in our strange salvation by Christ, cannot in a higher degree be expressed. As the apostle, to set forth how sacred and inviolable God's promise is, saith that because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself;" so when he would give the most excellent testimony of his favour to mankind, he gave his eternal Son, the heir of his love and blessedness. The giving of heaven itself, with all its joys and glory, is not so perfect and full a demonstration of the love of God, as the giving of his Son to die for us.

It is an endearing circumstance of this love, that it warmed the heart of God from eternity, and was never interrupted in that vast duration. Great benefits that come from a sudden flush of affection, are not so highly estimable, as when dispensed with judgment and counsel; because they do not argue in the giver such a true valuation and fixed love of the person that receives them. The spring-tide may be followed by as low an ebb; the benefactor may repent of his labours as spent in vain; but our salvation by Christ is the product of God's eternal thoughts, the fruit of love that ever remains. He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God," to suffer for us, Acts ii. 23. Before the world began, we were before the eyes, nay, in the heart of God.

And yet the continuance of this love through infinite ages past, is less than the degree of it. According to the rule of common esteem, a greater love was expressed to wretched man, than to Christ himself; for we expend things less valuable for those that are more precious; so that God in giving him to die for us, declared that our salvation was more dear to him than the life of his only Son. When no meaner ransom than the blood royal of heaven could purchase our redemption, God delighted in the expense of that sacred treasure for us; “It pleased the Lord to bruise him." Though the death of Christ absolutely considered was the highest provocation of God's displeasure and brought the greatest guilt upon the Jews, for which “ wrath came upon them to the uttermost,” yet in respect of the end, namely, the salvation of men, it was the most grateful offering to him, "a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour.” God repented that he made man, but never that he redeemed him.

And as the love of the Father, so the love of Christ appears in a superlative manner in dying for us. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," John xv. 13. There is no kind of love that exceeds the affection which is expressed in dying for another ; but there are divers degrees of it, and the highest is to die for our enemies. The apostle saith, Rom. v. 7, “Peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die:” it is possible, gratitude may prevail upon one who is under strong obligations, to die for his

[graphic]

benefactor: or some may, from a generous principle, be willing with the loss of their lives to preserve one who is a general and public good. But this is a rare and almost incredible thing. It is recorded as a miraculous instance of the power of love, that the two Sicilian philosophers, Damon and Pythias, each had courage to die for his friend; for one of them being condemned to die by the tyrant, and desiring to give the last farewell to his family, his friend entered into prison as his surety to die for him, if he did not return at the appointed time; and he came, to the amazement of all, that expected the issue of such a hazardous caution. Yet in this example there seems to be in the second, such a confidence of the fidelity of the first, that he was assured he should not die in being a pledge for him; and in the first it was not mere friendship or sense of the obligation, but the regard of his own honour that made him rescue his friend from death. And if love were the sole motive, yet the highest expression of it was to part with a short life, which in a little time must have been resigned by the order of nature. But the love of our Saviour was so pure and great, there can be no resemblance, much less any parallel of it; for he was perfectly holy, and so the privilege of immortality was due to him; and his life was infinitely more precious than the lives of angels and men; yet he laid it down, and submitted to a cursed death, and to that which was infinitely more bitter, the wrath of God: and all this for sinful men, who were under the just and heavy displeasure of the Almighty. He loved us, and gave himself for us, Gal. ii. 20. If he had only interposed as an advocate to speak for us, or only had acted for our recovery, his love had been admirable; but he suffered for us. He is not only our Mediator, but Redeemer; not only Redeemer, but Ransom.

It was excellent goodness in David, when he saw the destruction of his people, to offer himself and family as a sacrifice to avert the wrath of God from them; but his pride was the cause of the judgment, whereas our Redeemer was perfectly innocent, 2 Sam. xxiv. 17. David interceded for his subjects, Christ for his enemies.

[graphic]

He received the arrows of the Almighty into his breast to shelter us. “He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed,” Isa. liii. 4,5. Among the Romans the despotic power was so terrible, that if a slave had attempted upon the life of his master, all the rest had been crucified with the guilty person; but our precious master died for his slaves who had conspired against him. He shed his

spilt his. And the readiness of our Lord to save us, though by the sharpest sufferings, magnifies his love. When the richest sacrifices under the law were insufficient to take away sin, and no lower price than the blood of God could obtain our pardon, upon his entering into the world to execute that wonderful commission which cost him his life, with what ardour of affection did he undertake it! "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” Heb. x. 5—7. When Peter, from carnal affection, looking with a more tender eye on his master's life than our redemption, deprecated his sufferings, “Master, spare thyself;" he who was incarnate goodness, and never quenched the smoking flax, expresses the same indignation against him, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” as he did formerly against the devil tempting him to worship him, Matt. xvi. 23. He esteemed him the worst adversary that would divert him from his sufferings : he longed for the baptism of his blood. And when death was in his view, with all the circumstances of terror, and the supreme Judge stood before him, ready to inflict the just punishment of sin ; though the apprehension of it was so dreadful that he could scarcely live under it, yet he resolved to accomplish his work. Our salvation was amiable to him in his agony. This is specially observed by the evangelist, that Jesus having loved his own, he loved them unto the end, John xiii. 1. When the soldiers came to seize upon him, though by one word he could have commanded legions of angels for his rescue, yet he yielded up himself to their cruelty. It was not any defect of power, but the strength of his love that made

[graphic]

him to suffer. He was willing to be crucified, that we might be glorified; our redemption was sweeter to him than death was bitter, by which it was to be obtained. It was excellently said by Pherecides, that God transformed himself into love when he made the world : but with greater reason it is said by the apostle, “God is love," when he redeemed it. It was love that by a miraculous condescension took our nature, accomplishing the desire of the mystical spouse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” It was love, that stooped to the form of a servant, and led a poor despised life here below. It was love that endured a death, neither easy nor honourable, but most unworthy of the glory of the divine and the innocency of the human nature. Love chose to die on the cross, that we might live in heaven, rather than to enjoy that blessedness and leave mankind in misery.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »