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had “ shouted for joy" at the manifestation of creative power; for an affection which thought of us with compassion, and devised the stupendous plan of salvation long, long before we started from the womb of nothingness; long before time begun its course, and when nothing existed throughout the universe but the presence and perfections of the adorable Trinity ? No, my dear brethren, let our whole “ souls and all that is within us” unite in shouting praises to that Saviour whose "
is from everlasting to everlasting unto them that fear him."
This mercy is “ to everlasting ;" it is fixed and unchangeable, and, like its author, " is the same today, yesterday, and for ever.” 66 The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed, but my loving kindness shall not depart from thee; neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed ; saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." " In a little wrath he may hide his face from his children for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon them, saith the Lord their Redeemer. If they break his statutes and keep not his commandments, then will he visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes; nevertheless, his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail.” That love which drew them to repentance when they were wandering from God, shall much more preserve them when they are penitent, and shall never be taken from them. Other unions may be dissolved: the union between soul and body, intimate as it is, must for a time cease at death; but the union between Christ and believers never will be dissolved ; neither life nor death shall be able to separate them from him. Friends and connexions may be taken from us; but whilst our tears flow because the ties which united them to us are broken asunder, and the hearts which once beat high with affection to us lie cold and senseless in the grave, we are consoled by the recollection that Jesus still lives, still lives for us, still lives to make us happy by his love.
Having loved his own, he will love them to the end;" to the end of life, to the end of time, throughout eternity. Though man, the slave of error, wbim, and caprice, may become the relentless enemy of his fellow-man, whom he once caressed as a friend, yet Jesus will - set his friends as a seal upon his heart,” and “preserve them by his power through faith unto salvation.” Long after the angel of the Lord “ shall have lifted up his hand to heaven, and sworn by Him who liveth for ever and ever, that time shall be no longer;" long after the earth shall have been consumed by the flames of the judgmentday, shall you, believers, received to the palace of the King of kings, enjoy those raptures which result froin your Redeemer's love; and as your souls shall continually dilate and your capacities enlarge, so shall the manifestations of his kindness be more abundant, and your joys more elevated and full. O how precious is such a Saviour! how inestimable is such unfailing love! Let the men of the world busy themselves in the eager pursuit of perishable vanities. Alas! when “ the fashion of this world shall have passed away,” with what bitter, what unavailing anguish will they lament that they did not secure an eternal love on which their eternal souls might rest!
2. The love of Christ is most generous ; since it was undeserved, unsolicited, and disinterested.
It was undeserved. This necessarily results from the former property. Before we existed, nothing could be due unto us: a love, therefore, which had respect to us from eternity, must be unmerited. Besides, believers as well as others are born corrupted and defiled, with no loveliness to excite the affection of a holy Redeemer. Believers, as well as others, are by nature children of wrath ;” and before their renovation by his blessed Spirit, lived in a constant course of enmity and disobedience to God. Surely such persons could merit nothing from the Saviour. I mistake; they merited much; they merited the flames of divine wrath, eternal perdition in hell. Yet even in this condition, Jesus commu. nicated to them the riches of his love and the blessings of his covenant. But why do I stop to prove that the love of Christ is undeserved ? It is a truth which is written on almost every page of the scriptures with a sunbeam; the great object of this sacred volume is to point out the free grace of the Saviour, as the only hope of the guilty, the undeserving, and the perishing. Christians, your sentiments accord with these representations. You abhor the thoughts of being saved, otherwise than by free and unmerited grace; you joyfully lie down in the dust, that the crown may be placed upon the head of your Saviour; you renounce all self-righteousness and self-dependence, and build your hopes on undeserved mercy. Alas! ill would be our lot, did the Saviour regulate his love to us by our merits! How soon would he dart forth his thunders and sink us in the flames? My brethren, how much does this trait ennoble the love of the Saviour! He was moved, not by our merits, but by our miseries; he had compassion upon us, though we were enemies, rebels, slaves of Satan, heirs of hell.
But though we were thus undeserving, yet perhaps our solicitations were so strong as to move him to this display of mercy: By no means; for it is a new proof of the generosity of this love, that it was unsolicited. What creature urged him to undertake for sinners, and to enter into that stipulation with the Father, which was made infinite ages before a creature lived ? In answer to what petition of mortals was it that he cried, “ Lo, I come;" I come to fulfil thy law and undergo its penalty; " I delight to do thy will, my God?” Who is the mortal that ever offered to the eternal Son a prayer to descend from his throne and assume our nature ? No, no! It was his own self-moving goodness which alone induced him thus to act. He saw that we were perishing, and, without waiting for our cries, reached forth deliverance and proffered us salvation.
But was not the Saviour induced thus to act by interested or selfish views ? No! his love was entirely disinterested. The Creator of all things, creatures could not add to his glory; possessed of infinite happiness, we could not increase his felicity. He enjoyed supreme beatitude from the immensity of his own being and perfections, and from the bosom of his Father, before we had an existence; and he would have retained this beatitude, though we had never lived. He had then no selfish motive to lead him to interest himself for us: it was only the overflowings of his benevolence which made him interpose in our behalf. And does not such love deserve love? Shall we bury such kindness in ungrateful forgetfulness?
3. This is an efficient and powerful love. However sincere the affection of mortals for us may be, yet so impotent are they that they can supply but an inconsiderable portion of our wants, or afford us but a trifling share of blessedness. We have the guilt of sin to be purged from our conscience; the dominion of sin to be overthrown in our souls; the punishment of sin to be averted from us. We have a God offended by our iniquities, to whom we must be reconciled; an unholy heart to be sanctified ; the Christian graces to be implanted and cherished. We have to conflict with the king of terrors; to pass into an awful eternity. We have the diversified needs of an indigent nature to be satisfied; the void of a heart which sighs after perfect felicity to be filled. Where can we find succours sufficient for the supply of these necessities, and the attainment of these blessings? Where, merciful Saviour, but in thy powerful love ?. If conscience condemn us, his peace-speaking blood can assure us, and enable us to shout with the apostle, “ Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?” If our corruptions rage and struggle, his Spirit can subdue them, and render us more than conquerors over them. If the curses of the broken covenant hang over us, and hell
gape to receive us, yet sheltered in his wounds, no curse can smite us, no flames kindle around us. If we tremble to look upwards to an offended Judge, we are comforted when we reflect that " he hath reconciled us to God in the body of his flesh through death.” If we groan over an unholy heart, he has power to mould it anew and to fill it with the Christian graces. If we be called to pass through the gloomy vale of death, this Sun of Righteousness can enlighten it, and cause us even there to “ lift up our