THE MINISTRY OF HOME  or "Brief Expository Lectures on Divine Truth"
by Octavius Winslow

The Lord's Time of Love

"Your time was the time of love." Ezekiel 16:8

The Prophet in this chapter employs the figure of an Israelitish woman, to illustrate the deliverance of the Jewish nation from its Egyptian bondage and its final settlement in the promised land. There is, however, something more spiritual and far more important than this. It is, doubtless, intended to shadow forth the emancipation of the soul, by Divine and sovereign grace, from the bondage of sin and Satan into the glorious liberty of the children of God- the liberty with which Christ makes His people free- and their final and assured entrance into the heavenly kingdom- the Canaan of bliss which Jesus has gone to prepare for His saints.
  The time when the deliverance was effected is termed " the time of love." It was the fixed and appointed time, ordained by God, when the people of Israel were brought out of Egypt; and their time of cruel bondage, when they sighed and cried for deliverance by reason of their cruel task-masters, is described as God's time of love toward them in their deliverance. All this is strikingly and beautifully descriptive of the conversion of the sinner.
  There is a set time for the gracious calling of God's people, who are described as being "called according to His purpose;" and when that moment or period arrives, all God's providential arrangements are made to converge towards its accomplishment- all conspire to bring it about; and this is emphatically and spiritually termed, "the time of love."
  God's love towards His people is, indeed, as we shall presently show, eternal; eternal as His being: a love before all time; nevertheless, the time of its first manifestation towards them is the time of conversion, the time when they are brought up out of the horrible pit of unregeneracy, are plucked as brands from the burning, are quickened with spiritual life, and are graciously brought to realize their state of pardon and acceptance with God. Such is the elevating subject which is now to engage our thoughts.
  I have already discoursed to you of the heart opened by the Holy Spirit in conversion; and then, of Jesus as the great Object which the heart, thus opened, desires earnestly to see. Let us now direct our thoughts to the Divine love where these and all other blessings of grace flow. The present subject suggests two distinct parts for our consideration- the love of God to us in Christ Jesus, and its timely and gracious manifestation. "Your time was the time of love."
  Our first and chief subject is The Love of God Towards His People. It is the most sublime thought, the most precious theme that could possibly engage the study of angels or men. Angels have not such an interest in God's love as man, and, therefore, have no such experience of its power. God loved not unsinning angels as He loved sinful man- His elect Church fallen in Adam. In this the sovereignty and grace of His love appear in their most conspicuous and engaging light. And yet the love of God to man is the subject of their profound study. "Which things the angels desire to look into."
  In contemplating some of the features of the great love with which God has loved us, we naturally, in the outset, seek to trace this infinite ocean to its source. This conducts to that great perfection of God- His eternity. The love of God is eternal. Love is not so much an attribute as it is the very essence of God- "God is love." In language the most touching God thus addresses His Church- "I have loved you with an Everlasting Love, and therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you." Eternal Love planned the scheme of our salvation; eternal Love wrote our names in the Lamb's Book of Life, Eternal Love appointed the time and the circumstance of our conversion; and Eternal Love will keep us safely, will guide us skillfully, and will afterwards bring us to glory. High let our voice ascend to its praise; and let our holy obedience testify the deep gratitude of our hearts for the amazing love with which God loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and in sins.
  The deepest homage we can pay this love, and the most grateful return we can make, is to accept it as the ruling principle of life. Let ours be a life of love- love to God and love to man. Love constraining us to filial obedience to God, to cheerful service for Christ, and to acts of self-denial for our fellow-creatures. In this we shall be followers and imitators of God as His children; for all the acts of our God- the cloud that shades, as the sunbeam that brightens our path, the discipline that embitters, as the mercy that sweeten our cup- flow from His everlasting and unchanging love.
  It is another interesting feature of God's love that it is a divinely revealed affection. Fallen man could never have discovered the truth that God still loved him. He can make great discoveries in the geological structure of the earth, and in the planetary system, in science and in art; but left to his own powers, he could never have found out the great and wondrous fact that, "God is love." We could never have known His will but for the record God has given us of it: the Bible alone teaches us this.
  Where else do we read such precious declarations as these: "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;" "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And, then, where should we look for that marvellous declaration of God, but in His own Word, which we find in the first epistle of John "God Is Love"?
 What an evidence we have here of the truth of the Bible! That Book must be divinely inspired, must be God's Book, which could reveal to us the fact that God loved us! But there is yet another revelation of this love, and another evidence of the truth of God's Word. I refer to our personal experience -the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us. Do not let any of us rest content with reading the declaration of God's great love to sinners in Christ Jesus in the letter of the Word only; but let us prayerfully and earnestly seek to have the witness within, that God is love.
  All other religion is "a vain religion." True religion consists in love to God influencing and sanctifying the whole life; nothing can be its substitute- not an orthodox creed, nor an enlightened understanding, nor great gifts, nor denominational zeal, nor beautiful worship, nor costly benevolence, nor the highest religious profession, nor the warmest natural affections can take the place of love to God.
  All this is pleasant and acceptable to God in its proper place, when it is the fruit of love to Him; but it may exist apart from love, and then it is a sacrifice in which He can take no delight: "Love is heaven, and heaven is love;" but it is love to God in Christ Jesus which makes it so.
  We reach another feature of Divine love- its self-sacrifice. The love of the Lord Jesus to us- which is essentially the love of the Father- constrained Him to make the great sacrifice of Himself for our sins. God's gift of His beloved Son, and the willing personal surrender of the Son to die the atoning death of the cross for sinners, are instances of love's sacrifice which must ever stand alone, unsurpassed and unequaled in the history of love. The grand display of God's love to us, then, was in parting with Jesus, in finding for us a Savior so great, in sacrificing a Son so precious to save us. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?"
  What blessing, then, do you desire, what petition do you present, what request do you make which the love of God is not prepared to grant? Reason from the greater to the lesser. If God has so loved you as to give you Jesus, do you think that if you desire the renewed forgiveness of your sins, or the assured evidence of your interest in His salvation, or council to guide, or strength to support, or deliverance from any present or anticipated evil, or the supply of any pressing need, that His heart will, or possibly can, refuse you? Oh no! Venture upon His love; remind Him of what it has already done; tell Him it is your warrant to approach, that it emboldens you to ask not greater but other blessings at His hand who, having given you Jesus, has promised with Jesus to give you all things.
  And what self-sacrificing love is Christ's! "Christ has loved us and given Himself for us." The whole history of Christ would be an unaccountable mystery but for the explanation which His love supplies. How otherwise could we account for the mystery of His incarnation?- "God manifest in the flesh,"- for the mystery of His sinless obedience, for the mystery of His soul-sorrow in Gethsemane, for the mystery of His sufferings and death upon the cross, for the mystery of His triumphant resurrection from the grave and His glorious ascension up into heaven- could we not resolve it all into the great LOVE with which He loved us?
  All this was love's sacrifice to save our souls- love sacrificing itself! In view of this amazing love of Christ, can you hesitate to come to Him just as you are, to be saved? Will you doubt His willingness or His ability to save you to the uttermost, if you but accept His gracious invitation in simple unquestioning faith? His invitation is- "Come unto Me;" His promise is, "Him that comes unto Me I'll never cast out."
  The love of God is a most free love. Even human love is unpurchasable: no wealth can procure its possession, as no wealth can compensate for its lack. How much more unpurchasable must Divine love be! The love of God in Christ Jesus towards sinners must be spontaneous and free, since it never could be procured by man's merit: we had forfeited all holiness, and goodness, and, therefore, had "nothing to pay." No declaration is more welcome, no truth more precious to the sin awakened heart than that it is "by GRACE we are saved, through faith,, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God." No words more welcome to the soul thirsting after Christ than the invitation, "Whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life FREELY."
  Is not this like Jesus? Is it not worthy of God, that when sin had rendered us bankrupt of all righteousness, when we had nothing of our own to plead, but poverty and misery and unworthiness; a salvation should have been provided without our own works, irrespective of our own merit, and proclaimed to us as ours "without money and without price"?
  Come, then, poor sin-burdened, guilt-oppressed soul! come you who have spent all your substance upon physicians of no value, and are nothing better but rather have grown worse, come and drink from the infinite fountain of the Savior's priceless love! -drink freely and abundantly.
  For, "the Free Gift is of many offences;" and, "where sin bath abounded, grace much more abound." "Eat, O friends, and drink; yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." "And when they had NOTHING TO PAY, He frankly forgave them both."    But the Lord has His time of manifesting this love to us. The text thus expresses it- "Your time was the time of love." Although, as we have shown, the love of God to His people is an everlasting love- a love from all past eternity- yet it is revealed to us at times, and often at special times, in our history. Every individual may recall to memory some period in his life of marked and solemn interest; but none so sacred and momentous to the believer as that in which he was first made to experience God's love. There are marked epochs in his history- sacred memorials in his homeward travel- lofty Ebenezers studding his wilderness pathway, upon which memory will love to linger when times and seasons are lost in eternity.
  Let us briefly glance at some of those times in which the love of God to us is the most conspicuous. The time of our unregeneracy is the time of the Lord's love. It is a remarkable expression of Jude's, "Preserved in Christ Jesus;" that is, preserved by the love of God in Christ Jesus, through the many long years of our unrenewed condition, sin, and rebellion against God. The whole passage is remarkable for its richness and beauty. "Those who are sanctified by God the Father," -that is, set apart by the purpose and love of God to be a distinct and peculiar people; "and preserved in Christ Jesus," -that is, chosen in Christ, and placed in His hands, and in Him secretly preserved from present death and from future condemnation, amid all the perils of our natural and unconverted state; "and called," -that is, by the Spirit and grace of God, especially and effectually called out of darkness into light, out of self into Christ- "called to be saints."
  Now this was a marked time of the Lord's love- His secret and hidden love. Oh how marvellous the love of God to us, as traced through those years in which we walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind, in which we lived without God and without hope in the world. Let the thought that God loved us when we hated Him- that His thoughts of us were peace, when ours of Him were rebellion- lay our mouth in the dust before Him, and enkindle a fresh flame of affection on the altar of our hearts.
  The time of the soul's conversion is the time of the Lord's love. How impressive His language in its spiritual application to this end! "When I passed by you, and saw you polluted in Chine own blood [margin -trodden under foot], I said unto you when you were in your blood, Live! yes, I said unto you when you were in your blood, Live! When I passed by (not as by accident- nothing in God's dealings with the children of men is according to what the world terms chance), when I passed by according to my purpose of eternal love, knowing who and what and where you were, I saw you in your blood- not with an angered, but with a pitying eye- an eye of Divine love and infinite compassion. In your blood- wounded, weltering, polluted, wallowing in sin- I said unto you, Live! I spoke, and in a moment your soul became quickened with new and spiritual life."
  Such, my reader, is real conversion. O what a golden precious time of love is this! The time when Jesus approached us in all the greatness of His love, in all the compassion of His nature, and in all the freeness of His grace, and brought us to Himself! Then it was He washed away our filthiness in His most precious blood, and we were cleansed from our sin. Then it was He threw around our naked soul the robe of His righteousness, and we were justified from all things. Then it was we burst our chains, and sprang into the liberty of Christ's free men. Then it was we passed out of present condemnation into no condemnation, and sent up a shout of joy, thanksgiving, and praise, with which the arch of heaven rang.
  Oh, if there is one period of our history of more thrilling interest than another, if there is one spot in the landscape of life upon which the sun of memory never sets- it is that of our calling by sovereign grace, of our passing from death unto life, of our espousal to Jesus, of the Lord's time of revealed love to our souls, when He drew us to Himself, and said- "You are mine!" Other spots are draped with shadows deep and shrouding; other scenes have faded one by one from memory; but our conversion to Christ marks an epoch of our history, and forms an event of our life, the luster of which no shadow will ever dim, and the recollection of which no hand will ever efface. O marvellous love of Jesus! -eternity shall resound with its praise! Love which loved us in our sins, loved us in our rebellion, loved us in our distance from God, and drew us so gently yet so powerfully, so lovingly yet so effectually to His feet, and pronounced us His!
  Lord! through many changes have I passed, and many scenes have I witnessed, and many tokens of Your goodness and faithfulness have I received since then, but Your love to me, whose grace sought and found and brought me to Yourself, will be the evergreen of my life, and my undying joy through eternity.
  "That was a time of wondrous love
When Christ, my Lord, was passing by;
He felt His tender pity move,
And brought His great salvation near.
 "Guilty and self-condemned I stood,
Nor thought His mercy was so near;
When He my stubborn heart subdued,
And planted all His graces there.
 "When, on the verge of endless pain,
He gently whispered, 'I am thine'
I lost my fears, and dropped my chain,
And felt 'a transport all divine'."
  Often, my Christian reader, dwell upon this first act of God's love to you. The time of your public espousals to Christ and the Church- when standing as before the altar of consecration, you openly avowed, "I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine," then gave your whole being to Him- truly was a time of love, the most solemn and memorable of your life. Oh sacred hour, when those two hearts- Christ's and yours openly united in a covenant which death itself could not disannul, and vowed eternal love and fealty! Never, never can you forget that moment; never, never can you ignore that act.
  When the world would win you back, and sin would tempt you to compromise, and the love which then glowed so brightly within the breast would wax cold, then let your thoughts recall the memory of that solemn and tender scene upon which so great a cloud of witnesses fixed their eager gaze, and leave all the allurements that would tempt you from Christ, and exclaim,
"Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
You from hence my all shall be
Perish every fond ambition,
All I've sought, or hoped, or known,
Yet how rich is my condition,
God and heaven are still my own."
  Affliction times, times of trial and sorrow-  are times of love in the experience of the saints. Never has the Lord been nearer to us than then. Can we not testify from happy experience that the dark cloud  was pencilled with gold- that the bitter cup was sweetened with Honey- that the chamber of suffering, and the couch of languor, and the house of mourning have, through the visits, the sympathy, and the grace of Jesus, been to us scenes and occasions of inexpressible love?
  Thus is it now, and thus it ever will be. You are, perhaps, the child of sorrow, the subject of affliction. Your faith is tempted, or your affections are tried, or your character is assailed, or your heart lies bleeding upon the green turf that covers all that once made it so happy, that lent to the world its attraction and to life its charm. Look up! O child of grief! Your time of sorrow, your time of temptation, your time of bereavement is the Lord's time of love to you.
  In love "He Himself has done it!" In love He will succor and soothe you; in love He will sustain and sanctify you; and when the rod shall have blossomed, and the affliction shall have been fruitful, and the purposes of love are accomplished, then the Lord will bring you forth as gold, and you shall testify- My time of bereaved sorrow, my time of correcting grief, was His time of unutterable love!
  A word to two classes of my readers. Unconverted sinner! the present is the time of God's love in Christ Jesus. The time of the preaching of the Gospel, the time of holy Sabbaths, the time of religious opportunities is the Lord's time of love for souls. Oh that you were awakened to know the time of your visitation, and to flee to Christ while it is today, and to call upon God while He is near. You may be seized with unexpected illness, or may be suddenly summoned into eternity. O terrible thought! to be arrested by a disease fatal to all religious thought and feeling; to be surprised by death in a state of unpreparedness to meet God. Fly to Jesus! He waits to be gracious! escape for your life, for "now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation."
  Be cautious, saint of God, of attempting to antedate the events of your future history. The times and seasons are under the control of your heavenly Father; and when the time shall come- the time of adversity, of suffering, of death- with it will come the love that keeps you, the grace that sustains you, the sympathy that soothes you, and the power that will safely conduct you out of it all, "tried, purified, and made white," to the glory and praise of Him that loves you.
  "My times are in Your hands;" let this be the calm conclusion of your simple, trustful, hopeful faith, leaving all with Jesus. Be it your only solicitude and aim, by patient continuance in well doing, and by a meek, quiet, and submissive spirit in suffering, to glorify God in the day of visitation.
  "Give to the winds your fears,
Hope, and be undismayed
God hears your sighs and counts your tears,
God shall lift up your head.
 "Through waves, and clouds, and storms
He gently clears your way
Wait on His time- the darkest night
Shall end in brightest day."