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person, in the day that thou wast born. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, Live.-Behold thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness," &c. While God thus delineates the condition of sinners, in the most moving and pathetic language, he introduces his condescension to their pitiful and perishing state with a Behold! “ Behold! thy time was the time of love."
There is nothing in this condescension of God, to the miserable condition of sinners, incompatible with his divine character and greatness. In no respect does he approve of the sins by which they are made wretched, nor connive at their wickedness. He gives them no ground to conclude that he considers sin as a trivial thing, which he can easily overlook.. He abhors infinitely all their sin, and highly disapproves of the evil propensities of their hearts. His condescension, then implies no partiality, to their iniquity, and no associ. ation with them as sinners, but his merciful determis nation to deliver them from such a condition. In doing this, he does not become like unto them, but assimilates them to himself. This amazing condescension of Jehovah made the wisest of men to exclaim, “ But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold! heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee." 2 Chron. vi. 18.
5. The love of God to his people is strong and intense. No limits can be set to it, as to the love of creatures. The goodness of the divine nature, like every other perfection, is infinite; and his love to his people, is nothing else than his essential goodness embracing them, in order to promote their best interest. The objects of this love are only finite objects, yet
this cannot limit the greatness of the divine love, as it is not at all regulated by any consideration of the objects. All the divine perfections act about finite objects, yet are not thereby limited.' Infinite power and wisdom are displayed by God in his works, though these works are all finite. So is it with the divine love. God is infinitely inclined to save perishing sinners, in an astonishing display of the unlimited goodness of his nature towards them. When the vileness, guilt, and enmity of the objects are considered, it is easy to conceive that no love but what is infinite could embrace the salvation of such objects. In estimating the intenseness of the love of God, we must not regulate our thoughts by any thing in the objects, but by the infinite excellence of his own nature.
THE Scriptures give us various views of this love, all manifesting its greatness. A comparison is made between it and God's love to the Son as engaged in the work of our salvation. In Christ's intercessory address to his Father, John xvii. 23. he says, “ Thou hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.'
" That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them.” The same thing is implied in what he said to his disciples about his love to them, John xv. 9. “ As the Fa. ther hath loved me, so have I loved you.” Though in these comparisons there must be a striking sameness between the love of God to Christ, and to his people, yet there is necessarily a dissimilarity; for in this, as well as in all other things Christ has the pre-eminence. There is in him that infinite excellence which renders him worthy of infinite love, whereas in them there is nothing amiable. The Son is the head to which the whole mystical body is united, through which the divine love fixes upon it, and from which it derives all its excellence.
God's love to his people is founded in his love to his own Son; and it is only in him that they can be objects of the divine love; for when considered as unconnected with him, they are children of wrath. He is the first object loved, and first object of choice; they are beloved and chosen in him, as the Scriptures uniformly assert. Whether we view Christ and his people united by God's electing love, or by the same living Spirit, we have only one complex object of love, the head and all the members; and that love which fixes primarily on the head, terminates upon the members. This points out the propriety and emphasis of Christ's words, 66 Thou hast loved them as thou hast loved me.". So intensely and firmly has this love laid hold of this complex object, that it can no more be removed from the members than from the head.
The fruits of this love, that are common to Christ and his people, demand our attention, and prove the greatness of it to believers. As a fruit of this love Je. sus is made heir of all things; but all believers are coheirs with him. 56 All things are your's; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.” 1 Cor. iii. 23. The same Spirit of the Father, who dwells in Jesus, dwells in them; and is the vital bond by which they are united. 1 Cor. iii. 16. The same kingdom is appointed both to Christ and his people. Luke xxii. 29. They shall both occupy the same throne at last. Rev. iii. 21. But no fruit of this love discovers its greatness more strikingly, than God's giving his own only begotten Son to redeem sinners. No doubt, God's ject was his own glory; but this is fully consistent with great love to sinners, for accomplishing their salvation. When the low humble condition in which the Son was to appear, by becoming flesh; and the substitu
great ob. tionary work and sufferings which he had to accomplish, are considered, the greatness of this love will be seen to advantage; and we will be ready to adopt, with wonder, the language of the beloved Apostle, “ God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son." John iïi. 16., “ Herein is love; not that we loved God; but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John iv. 10. And of Paul, Rom. v. 8. “ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." It is a just inference, among men, that valuable and singular favours conferred are an evidence of superior esteem and regard. The same inference may be justly made in the case before us, God had not a more valuable gift to confer than his own Son; nor could he confer it on objects more unworthy than sinners of mankind: yet this gift is freely given, and given as a prelude to all other blessings, and also as a security that sinners shall enjoy them.
. ed not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things.”' Rom. viii. 32.
6. It is eternal. It had no beginning. Every ac of the divine mind, if it be proper to speak of its acts in the plural number, must be eternal, without begin. ning, and without end. The acts of the divine mind are the same as the decrees, and no reason can be assigned why one of these should not be eternal more than another. But if we shall suppose that the divine pur. poses, or acts are not eternal, then there was a point in duration when God was without all thought; but this is, in other words, to say, that there was a point in duration when he did not exist. Not only the power of thinking, but the exercise of it, is a perfec.
tion; but if at any period God did not exercise this power, so far he was imperfect. Besides, to begin to think or act will necessarily imply imperfection and change.
God's eternal love to sinners, is that act of his mind in which he designed and determined to accomplish their everlasting and complete happiness. That constitution of grace, according to which this work was to be managed, originated in this love, and is declared to have taken place from eternity. The appointment of the Son to be the Saviour of sinners, the most asto. nishing, and the greatest fruit of this love, was from eternity. “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” Prov. viii. 23. The choice of the Elect in him was from everlasting. "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." Eph. i. 4.
This love of God fix. ing upon sinners, and its gracious designs towards them, in and through the Son of God, are that grace which the Apostle says, was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” 2 Tim. i. 9. If, then, this constitution of grace, and these things which belong to it, are eternal, the eternity of that love in which they originate cannot be denied. God expressly asserts the same truth. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” Jer. xxxi. 3. God's loving-kindnesses are the fruits of his eternal love, manifested to his people in time, in carrying on the work of their salvation.
This love will endure for ever. We are incapable of forming any distinct and adequate conception of eternity. We conceive of it as duration without beginning or end. With God, eternity is a continued unsuccesşive now, or what himself calls “ To day.” Psalm ii. 7,