13. ON THE LOVE OF GOD
"God is love!" sweet truth! Oh my soul! rejoice daily in this blessed
revelation, "God is love." Before all worlds, before any being was formed,
"God is love"—love, eternal and unchangeable. He is the same yesterday,
today, and forever. He is love. How inconceivably great is the love of God!
All worlds rolling in the infinite expanse; all beings inhabiting those
innumerable spheres, which extend far beyond the boundaries of the most
excursive imagination; all the myriads of angelic spirits which dwell
forever in the bright effulgence of uncreated light, are only the
overflowings of that love, which is inexhaustible. The immense fountain
loses not one drop, though countless millions are filled by its streams. It
is ever flowing, ever full. "Lord, you are love. Oh, fill my soul with your
love! You can not be diminished, and I shall be made everlastingly blessed."
When the Almighty created the angels in heaven, and man in paradise, he
endued them with powers suited to their distinctive degrees of excellence.
Both were formed holy, and consequently happy. All nature proclaims the
benevolence of the deity; the unbounded goodness of Jehovah. The moral law
emanated from the love of God. This law was stamped upon the heart of Adam,
when in a state of innocence. It is a transcript of the divine mind; holy,
just, and good.
When man sinned, he broke the law of God. He fell under its curse. To redeem
him from this wretched state, Jesus, the Son of God, assumed our mortal
nature, expiated our guilt, and brought in an everlasting righteousness. He
burst the bars of death. He ascended up on high; and reigns the sovereign
Lord of angels and of men.
When the "royal law" of love was broken in paradise, how soon did Adam's
first-born imbrue his hand in a brother's blood! Violence overspread the
earth with awful rapidity; until God, in righteous judgment, swept the
guilty rebels from the earth, by a tremendous flood of waters. Every
succeeding age has been marked by miseries of every name, all flowing from
one common source—an evil heart of unbelief. Sin is the cause of all misery,
and sin originates with man.
If it be asked, what is the true cause of man's inability to love and serve
God, may we not answer, a criminal indisposition of heart so to do? It is
not that man cannot love God, from a natural incapacity, arising from a
total destitution of understanding, will, and affections; but rather that he
will not, owing to a deep-rooted enmity against the holy character and
commands of God.
This aversion of the heart from God, constitutes the chief guilt of man. Man
is a responsible being, and must render an account to God, from whom he
receives all his powers, for the abuse of those talents committed to his
trust. He has a heart that can love the world; he can love sensual delights;
he can love riches and honors, yes, every thing which tends to gratify his
passions, and to exalt him in his own eyes, or in the estimation of others.
He has a will to choose what is pleasing to his animal appetites, and to
refuse what is painful or distasteful to him. He has an understanding to
judge upon worldly matters; and a quick eye to discover the path to temporal
advancement. He finds his hopes and fears, his joys and griefs, his love and
hatred, brought into continual exercise with the ever-varying events of
Hence man does not labor under a natural incapacity. His inability is
altogether of a moral kind. Sin has darkened and corrupted all the higher
faculties of the soul; so that now "the world by wisdom knows not God." "Men
choose darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil;" for "the
carnal mind is enmity against God."
This wrong state of the heart, this evil bias of the soul, this radical
corruption of our nature, is universal. It spreads itself through the whole
human race, without exception; for all are born in sin; all are by nature
the children of wrath, and the heirs of hell. So powerful is this innate
evil, this natural indisposedness of the heart towards God, that neither
reason, conscience, nor philosophy can remove it. God alone can turn the
heart of the sinner to himself. The language of divine revelation is, "you
have destroyed yourself, but in me is your help."
While, therefore, in deepest self-abasement we bear the burden of our guilt,
and acknowledge that we have destroyed ourselves; we must ascribe all the
glory of our salvation to omnipotent love, in whom our help is found, and
say, with the grateful Psalmist, "Not unto us, Oh Lord, not unto us, but
unto your name give the glory, for your mercy and for your truth's sake."
The whole human race must soon stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. No
plea will then be accepted in arrest of judgment. In that awful day, every
mouth shall be stopped, and all the world will become guilty before God "for
whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap." From this view of our fallen
state, we may scripturally conclude, that sinners, if left to themselves,
would never turn to God. And hence we see the blessedness and necessity of
that grace which turns us from darkness unto light, and from the power of
Satan unto God.
It is a true saying of Augustine, that without free will there could be no
condemnation; and without free grace there could be no salvation. But the
voice of sovereign love declares to the great Melchisedek, "Your people
shall be willing in the day of your power." Here is set forth the power of
God; the people on whom that power is exerted; and the blessed effects of it
upon their souls. This power is the power of God unto salvation. When he
works, who can resist it? It is convincing power, converting power,
sustaining power. Oh that this divine power; this ENERGY of LOVE, may be
felt in every soul! Lord, may I feel it in mine.
But on whom is this power exerted? When we view the whole human race sunk in
sin and misery, in a state of open rebellion against the majesty of heaven,
where shall we find "his people?" The very words, "they shall be willing,"
imply that they were not always so. Prior to this great change, they "were
enemies in their minds by wicked works." They are "his people" in purpose
and grace; chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they
should be holy and without blame before him in love; predestinated to be
conformed to the image of his Son."
When Paul was at Corinth, the Lord appeared to his persecuted servant, and
said, "Do not be afraid, but speak; hold not your peace: for I am with you,
and no man shall set on you to hurt you, for I have many people in this
city." Oh! that my proud heart could submit to receive salvation as the free
gift of unmerited mercy! Lord, make me willing in the day of your power, to
yield myself unto you, a living sacrifice, as my most reasonable service.
We see what is the effect produced by this power on the minds of "his
people." "They shall be willing"—willing to receive Christ—willing to suffer
for Christ—willing to give up all for Christ. This change in their will is
not effected by any natural effort of their own, or by the moral persuasion
of others; but solely by the power of God, through the instrumentality of
"I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ," wrote the apostle to the Romans,
"for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes."
Those favored souls, who are thus made willing in the day of God's power,
are not compelled by an unwelcome force to embrace salvation; but are
sweetly and lovingly inclined, through the soft influences of heavenly
grace, to choose, delight in, and appreciate the work and service of
Emanuel. They are made willing. Their whole heart goes forth towards the
Savior, as when Jesus said to Levi at the receipt of custom, "Follow me."
They love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. They embrace him as their only
Savior his precepts as their only rule—his promises as their only
support—his cross as their only glory—his righteousness as their only
boast—his people as their only friends—his heaven as their only home. Oh
what a change! "Lord, may I long, and pant, and labor after this
blessedness. Stir up my soul to seek it more and more."
I have here an evidence to judge of my own character. "Your people shall be
willing." If, then, I belong to this happy number, I must be willing to be
saved on God's terms; to delight in his salvation, to choose his ways. Do I
feel my will subdued, and cheerfully inclined to embrace, in humble faith,
the whole revelation of mercy, as made known to me through a crucified
Jesus? "Lord, put forth your mighty grace. Let this very day be the day of
your power. Tomorrow may find me in the eternal world. Oh may I now be
willing to be wholly yours; that every succeeding hour may only increase my
willingness to do and suffer your whole righteous will."
How different is earth to heaven! Here on earth, an awful disinclination of
heart to love God is discoverable in all the fallen children of Adam. Even
the regenerate feel with grief this hated deadness of soul to God. "My soul
cleaves unto the dust," was the lamentation—"quicken me, according to your
word," was the fervent prayer of David.
In heaven, all is governed by the sweet constraining principle of pure,
undivided love. Were a soul to leave this earth under the influence of
alienated affections, how could such a soul be either fit for, or happy in,
that blessed place, where every note is harmony, and every heart is love?
Reason, even in its present beclouded state, must see the unfitness of such
a soul for glory; when that glory consists in loving God with a supreme
affection, and being made like him in all his communicable perfections.
How great, then, is the happiness of loving and serving God, while
journeying through this valley of tears! This is the sweet peculiarity of
the religion of Jesus. It diffuses joy and gladness wherever it is received
in the simplicity of faith. "God is love; and every one that loves is born
of God, and knows God." To love God, and to be the object of his love,
constitute the bliss of angels. The opposite of this is hell.
What poor miserable creatures we are while in a state of nature, and under
the power of sin and Satan! We smile, when we should sigh. We laugh, when we
should mourn. We appear gay and sprightly, when we should be of a sorrowful
spirit. But, Oh the change which takes place when the Gospel comes to the
heart, not in word only, but in power! Then we receive beauty for ashes, the
oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of
heaviness. Then we are privileged to rejoice aways, and to delight ourselves
in the abundance of peace. Oh happy, blissful state! thus to be the genuine
disciples of the blessed Jesus, who has assured his faithful people that he
will manifest himself to them, as he does not unto the world; yes, even come
unto them, and make his abode with them. Who can contemplate these wonders
of grace, and not feel the holy influence of this precious revelation—"God
is love!" Surely none but they who know not God; for thus says the apostle,
"He that loves not, knows not God; for God is love." You
trembling saint, cast off your fear,
Your mourning garments lay aside;
It is Jesus speaks: "Be of good cheer,
My love, my sister, and my bride."
Oh listen to the voice of love!
Its gentle accents whisper peace;
The Savior; from his throne above,
Delights to view your joys increase.
Blessed Jesus! cheer each drooping heart;
Uplift, revive, each fainting soul;
Your presence, gracious Lord, impart;
Oh make each wounded sinner whole!
Then shall your church more beauteous grow,
"As lilies" in Judea's vale;
Like widening streams "her peace shall flow,"
Whose "springs in you" can never fail.
You trembling saints, no longer fear,
Your mourning garments lay aside;
Since Jesus is forever near,
The church's husband and her guide.