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.ful affection of love in his writings. In the beginning of this chapter, he gives an account of the general subject and design of the book of Revelation, the manner in which the discoveries contained in it were made to him, and his fidelity in testifying them to others. Then follows the apostolic falutation to the seven churches in Asia, which is a folemn benediction, in name of all the persons of the adorable Trinity : “ Grace be to you, and peace, from “ him which is, and which was, and which is to come ;" (that is, from God the Father, the ancient of days, im. mutable and eternal); “ and from the seven spirits which “ are before his throne ;” (not to detain you with a criti. cal account of this phrase, it means the Holy Ghost, single in his person, but multiplied in his gifts; the variety, fullness, and perfection of which, are denoted by this form of expression); “ and from Jesus Christ, who is the “ faithful witness, and the first-begotten from the dead, " and the Prince of the kings of the earth.” To him, you fee, he gives three illustrious characters.
1. Tbe faithful witness, who came from above, and revealed the whole will of God for our falvation; who be. ing the eternal truth, might be absolutely depended on in the account he was by the apostle to communicate, of the great events of Providence towards his church and people. 2. The first begotten from the dead, declared to be the Son of God with power, by his glorious resurrection and triumph over the king of terrors. And, 3. Tbe Prince of ihe kings of the earth; that is, the Lord of na. ture, to whom every prince and potentate must be subject, and to the ends of whose Providence, and the increase of whose kingdom, all their schemes of policy and conquest shall at last be subservient. He then, with great proprie. ty, having mentioned the name, and given a short view of the character of his blessed Lord, lays hold of the opportunity to express his own and every other finner's obligation to him in this sublime ascription, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
To enter upon the consideration of the love of Christ in its full extent, in its source, its expressions, and its effects, even those that are suggested in the text, would far exceed the bounds of a single discourse. What I propose, therefore, at this time, in order to prepare your minds and my own, for the folemn action before us, is only to collect into one view some of the great and gene- . ral characters of the love of Christ, which are most proper to excite our gratitude and praise; and then to make some practical improvement of it for your instruction and direction.
I. First, then, let us endeavor to point out some of the great and general characters of the love of Christ. In this I shall take care to confine myself to such views as are given of it in the holy scriptures. And every character given of it there, we are both entitled and obliged to attend to, and improve.
1. First of all, then, you may observe, that it is an everlasting love. It took its rise in the eternal counsels of Heaven. This is a character given of the love of God to his people, Jer. xxxi. 3. “ Yea, I have loved thee with “ an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness " have I drawn thee.” This expression is often used with a double view, to shew, on the one hand, its early, its original source, and on the other, its perpetual stability, and endless duration. Pfal. ciii. 17. “ But the mercy of “ the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them “ that fear him; and his righteousness unto children's “ children.” Isa. liv. 7, 8. “ For a small moment have “ I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather “ thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a
moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have
mercy on thee, faith the Lord thy Redeemer.” Having cited these passages of the Old Testament, I must justify the application of them, by observing that all the covenant-mercies of God to man, in our present fallen Itate, are to be referred to the love of Christ, as their price, their source, and their sum. This is plain from innumerable passages of scripture : Eph. i. 4, 5. “ According as “ he hath chofen us in him, before the foundation of the “ world, that we should be holy, and without blame before “ him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption
“ of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the “ good pleasure of his will.” Eph. iii. 11. “ According " to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus * our Lord.” For this reason it is, amongst others, that Christ is called, Rev. xiii. 8. “ the Lamb flain from the « foundation of the world."
I confess, my brethren, we are but ill able to understand, or at least to measure, the import of this truth, that the love of Christ to finners, or of God in him, was from eternity. All our conceptions are foon loft, and swallowed up, in what is infinite and boundlels. But surely it af fords matter for the deepest and humbleft adoration, as well as for the highest gratitude and joy. Does it not afford matter for adoring wonder, that the plan for redeeming loft sinners, and restoring them to the obedience and enjoyment of God, was the object of the divine purpose from eternity ? It appears to be a very confpicuous part, or rather perhaps we are warranted to say, from the scripture revelation, that it is the chief part of our Creator's will, to which every other part of his providence is fubordinate and subservient. Accordingly, in the very palfage where my text lies, the Redeemer says, ver. 8. “I
am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, " faith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is *" to come, the Almighty.” Does not this lead us to contemplate the glory of an infinite God, as it fhines in this everlasting love? Does it not also afford matter of gratitude to the believing foul, while he confiders every vessel of mercy as concerned in this eternal purpose ?
I am sensible my brethren, there may be an abuse and perversion of the doctrine of election, if we think of it as independent of its fruits, and apply it so as to produce either security or defpair. But I despise the wisdom of those persons who would conceal this truth as dangerous, which it hath pleased God distinctly to reveal. It is the root which produceth the plant; but it is the plant which discovers the root. It is the fountain which produceth the streams; but the streams lead us to the fountain. Mull not the finner who by faith has laid hold on a crucified Saviour, and given credit to the word of God in a preachviii. 4.
ed gospel, consider, with admiration, his name written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world? What delight will it give him! What honor does it reflect upon him, at the same time that it de. ftroys the very foundation of arrogance and pride? This is the first, and yet it is but one of many parts of the doctrine of salvation, which at once exalts and abafes us; raises our hopes, and forbids us to glory; clothes us with infinite honor, and yet discovers us to be less than nothing: so that we may say with the apostle Paul, after a view of the fame subject, Rom. xi. 33. “O the depth of the riches “ both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how un. " searchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding " out!” This leads me to obferve,
2. That the love of Christ is free and unmerited love. This is a circumstance that is scarcely ever separated from the account given of the love of Christ in fcripture. It niay be founded even on the infinite disproportion between uncreated excellence and created weakness: Pfal.
What is man, that thou art mindful of him ? and " the son of man, that thou visitest him ?" Psal. cxliv. 3. “ Lord, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him?
or the son of man, that thou makest account of him?"" Nay, as if this were a truth of the utmost moment, we have it repeated a third time in almost the same words; Job vii. 17. “ What is man that thou shouldst magnify him? " and that thou shouldst set thine heart upon him?' But this is not all, nor indeed the main thing to be attended to; for the love of Christ hath for its object those who were in actual rebellion against God, transgressors of his holy law, and liable to the stroke of his justice, It was not only to exalt those who were low, or to supply those who were needy, that Christ came, but to deliver those who were appointed to death: John iii. 16. “God so loved the
world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoso. ever believeth on him, should not perish, but have ever
lasting life.” Rom. v. 8. “ But God commendeth his “ love towards us, in that while we were yet finners, Christ “ died for us.” Eph. ii. 4, 5. “ But God who is rich in
mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even “ when we were dead in fins, hath quickened us together " with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.)” The same thing indeed is clearly intimated in the words of our text, Unto bim that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. It is on this account, in particular, that falvation, according to the gospel, is said to be free, and of grace, that is to say, an act of unmerited and voluntary kindness, which the finner had no title to demand : Rom. iii. 23, 24, 25. “ For all have finned, and come short of the
glory of God; being justified freely by his grace,
through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ: whom “ God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in “ his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission “ of fins that are past, through the forbearance of God.”
Believe it, Christians, this is the proper exercise of mercy; and here the divine mercy shines and reigns. Without this, it is not obscured only, but annihilated or destroyed. But, oh! what a view does this give us of the love of Christ! What an impression will his love make on all those who are truly convinced of their guilt and wretchedness! This is the very hinge upon which the whole doctrine of salvation turns. I hope you are not disposed to make any opposition to it. But alas! it is not fuificient to have learned it as a science, to have been taught it as making a part of the Christian faith ; it is ano. ther matter to have a real and personal conviction of it upon the heart. Why is the love of Christ so cold a subject to the generality of the world, but because they have no sense of their guilt and mifery? I am even afraid, that many of the zealous advocates for this truth have but little experience of its power, and live but little under the influence of it in their practice, Where, indeed, is the person to be found, who does full justice to the Saviour, and considers his love as wholly unmerited and free? The most evangelical expressions do often consist with the most legal and felf-righteous affections. Let me try, however, before I leave this particular, if I can make you understand it, even though you should not feel it. Suppose any of you were upon the most deliberate and composed reflection, upon the most particular and close examination, sensible