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same nature with himself, independent of any thing amiable in his temper and conduct. But it is not so with God. He is not, nor is it possible that he should be, under any such obligation toward his offending creatures. When, therefore, we speak of his love to mortals being free, the epithet is to be understood in its highest and strongest sense.
Again: The love of the Most High is perfectly free, in regard to the choice of its objects. Not being under the least obligation to love any of our apostate race, it would be absurd to suppose him obliged to love them all. That all have sinned, is an incontrovertible fact; and that every offender is condemned by divine law, is clear from the Scripture. While, therefore, we admit the equity of that law, it must be acknowledged that every man lies entirely at mercy; and that the Supreme is perfectly at liberty to love and save whomsoever he pleases, without being accountable to any of his creatures.
Divine love is the favour of Him who governs the universe; and mankind, among whom its objects are found, a rebellious province of his immense dominions. He, therefore, considers himself as acting quite in character when he says, I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Nor can we, except at our peril, either doubt the fact, or consider it as without the verge of his royal and supreme prerogative: because he plainly intimates, that the idea of distinguishing favour enters deeply into the general meaning of that most venerable name, JEHOVAH. Besides, the Apostle Paul, when discriminating grace is the subject of his discussion, and
when expressly adverting to that antient oracle, says, Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth; or leaves to the depravity of their own hearts, and to the delu. sions of Satan. Having forfeited our all to eternal justice, and being preserved from hell by the forbearance of God; we certainly have no claim on his favour, but are entirely at his disposal.
The love of God is MOST WISE IN THE WHOLE OF ITS EXERCISE. That affection in man which is called love, is frequently a blind and unruly passion, far from being governed by the maxims of prudence, or the dictates of reason.
But not so the peerless philanthropy of which we treat. No: the love of God to his people must be considered, in the whole of its manifestation, as under the direction of his divine understanding: and as his boundless intelligence comprehends all possibilities, his love must be consummately wise in all its operations. The supreme perfection of Jehovah's nature forbids our supposing, that he can love without wisdom, any more than govern without rectitude, or punish without justice. Hence we find an apostle, when discoursing upon the admirable effects of divine love, speaks of God as abounding toward us in all wisdom and prudence; as exercising his manifold wisdom; and as working all things according to the counsel of his will.—The same inspired writer, when concluding his argumentative discourse on that profound subject, eternal predestination, thus exclaims, O the depth !-of what? An arbitrary will, or an absolute sovereignty, detached from wisdom? far from it: but-of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! To resolve those eternal de
crees, which constitute the great plan of Provi. dence, into the divine will, without regarding the unerring dictates of the divine understanding, is neither the doctrine of Scripture, nor agreeable to the character of Him who is the Supreme Lord is to represent him under the notion of an eastern despot, rather than to give us a just conception of God only wise.
We are indeed much at a loss for the reasons of our Maker's conduct in the exercise of his love toward Paul, for instance, rather than Judas; but we may cheerfully acquiesce in the noble sentiment expressed by Abraham, Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? and in that of Abraham's Great Superior, Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight. How much soever of mere sovereignty, therefore, may seem to attend the exercise of divine love to man, we must either consider it perfectly wise, or tacitly blaspheme Him in whom we live, and move, and have our being.
The love of God to his people iS MOST FERVENT IN ITS EXPRESSIONS. This glorious property is very emphatically expressed by inspired writers, when that most illustrious work, redemption, is under their notice. Do they, for instance, when handling that most interesting of all subjects, de scribe the character, the state, and the circumstances of those who are saved by this unparalleled love? they speak in the following manner.
• We were by nature the children of wrath even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace ye are saved.--We ourselves also were sometimes
foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers, lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared; not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us-God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us—If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son'; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life--Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.'
Do prophets and apostles express the feelings of their hearts, when contemplating the blessings conferred by the love of God? their language is that of admiration and rapture. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy-Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God !- The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.'
Is the way of redemption, or the great medium of all spiritual blessings, described by them? Among numerous particulars of a similar kind, they say: "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich“ He who knew no sin, was made sin for us-Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being
made a curse for us--He hath loved us, and given himself for us The Just suffered for the unjustTo Him that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood—God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,
In the work of redemption there are two particulars, on account of which the love of God to his people is principally celebrated in the inspired writings: and these are, the sending of his only begotten Son, and the delivering of him up to death for sinners. Yes, this one fact, The Father sent his only begotten Son to save the guilty, the unworthy, the justly condemned; is represented in Scripture as the strongest expression, and the brightest evidence of God's love to mankind, that ever blessed and astonished the world. In this light our Lord himself has taught us to view it;* and, thus considered, the Apostles rejoiced in it. The dignity of our Saviour's person, the interest he had in his Father's love, and the depth of his abasement in sufferings and in sorrows, being all of them superlatively great; those to whom he was given, or those for whom he died, may safely conclude, that God will freely give them every thing else which is necessary to their happiness. After the bestowment of such a gift as the Son of God, in comparison with whom the whole creation is of little value-after the substitution, obedience, and sufferings of the glorious Immanuel, contrasted with which the history of Providence contains but few facts that are
* Mark xii. 6. John iii. 16. + Rom. viii. 32. John iv, 10.