STANDING upon the verge of eternity, and feeling a desire, which I wish not to suppress, to address you, before I leave this world of boisterous wickedness, and take the joyful flight for which I have been longing and hoping nearly fifty-six years, I have taken up my pen to gratify that wish. The subject of my epistle, is the love of God. "God is love." What then is the love of God to us, but God himself loving us? May we not therefore, believe and say, that his love to us is eternal? What he is, he ever was, and ever will be: with him there is, there can be no variation. He eternally decreed our existence. We, with all the creatures, stood before him in the mirror of his decree: he beheld and loved us. His Son, whom he ordained to take our nature into personal union with himself, and to be God-man, was the prime object of his love. It was in him he loved us, and chose us to be his people, his sons, his heirs; heirs of himself, and joint-heirs with his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and ordained to be for ever the head of the body, the church elect in him; and the head over all things to the church, world without end.
Eternal love was the high impulsive cause of the glorious economy of our salvation; and is the grand source whence all the sublime and endless blessings of grace and glory flow. It was the sovereign cause, and is the everlasting bond of our union with Christ; that union is, therefore, indissoluble: who or what shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord? Shall life, or death, or angels, or principalities, or powers, things present, or things to come, or height, or depth, or any other creature? No; never, never. While God is God, and Christ is Christ, we must dwell in him and dwell in love.
Divine love was the cause of that everlasting covenant of the adorable eternal trinity, which is ordered in all things; and of the oath by which both it and all things in it, all things pertaining to eternal life and godliness were irrevocably confirmed unto us in Christ Jesus. It is a radiant circle Christ, with us in himself, stands in the center, where all its effulgent rays terminate and unite as in a focus, transfusing into us all eternal blessedness from the fullness of God. What are termed the grace, the mercy, the pity, and the kindness of the Lord, seem to be only so many modifications of the manifestation of his love, by those sovereign acts of his infinite wisdom and power, by which he effects that stupendous design of his love, which will fill all eternity with admiration and delight, the raising of many sons unto glory. This was apparently the view of the apostle Paul, when he wrote that almost unparalleled prayer in his admirable epistle to the church at Ephesus, chap. 3:16-19. That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, and be filled with all the fulness of God." Here, beloved, we have the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Love divine, issuing from the eternal bosom, flies to our guilty world of woe, enfolds in her compassionate and omnipotent arms all the elect of mankind, of every age and rank; and returns, bearing them away to the bosom whence she emanates; there to fix them in their endless, blissful abode. In this divine, unequalled affair of love, the whole glorious eternal godhead skews itself before angels and men in the most delightfully imposing manner. Each illustrious person is seen in his distinct character, acting his peculiar part, and all conjointly, with eyes determinately fixed upon the object of their joint design and co-operation, the glorification of themselves in the raising to immortal glory a countless number of the poor, the wretched, the helpless, the blind, and the naked of mankind. All the attributes of deity appear on this grand occasion, shining in their magnificent splendor, and all, in the most beauteous order and delightful harmony, conspiring to facilitate and complete the transcendent design of sovereign love.
Jehovah, the father, is seen in his sovereignty, choosing and ordaining his beloved Son to be the saviour of his chosen, putting them into his hands, anointing and sending him into the world, with solemn charge to lose nothing of all that he had given him, but raise it up at the last day. The Son appears, and in joyful acquiescence approaches the Father, gives him his hand with his heart, and is heard to say, "Lo, I come, I delight to do thy will O my God: yea, thy law is in my heart." The Father is heard to respond, "He shall approach and draw near unto me, for who is this that engaged his heart to draw near unto me." (Ps. 40:7,8; Jer. 30:21) The heavens open. The son descends. He stands upon our earth in our nature, his name is Immanuel, the brightness of his glory is veiled, it is covered with a cloud, he bears the form of a servant-he is a servant, the servant of God, the servant of man. He is our surety, our bondsman, our sponsor. He stands in our stead, under the broken law of our Maker, and is, through his Father's appointment and his own voluntary engagement, responsible for us. The keen scrutinizing eye of the law, and the stern vengeful eye of justice are fixed upon him. Love intense, and deep commiseration for men guilty and accursed, fill his bosom. He recedes not; love has determined him, and he sets his face as flint and his brow as brass. His work is before him; he loves it, his eye, his heart, his whole soul are fixed upon it. Now he proceeds. Behold the man! In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead substantially: the fullness of perfection, the fullness of love is in him. Let your eyes, let your hearts, be fixed. Look till your eyes sparkle with delight, and your hearts glow with love and teem with gratitude. The immaculate purity of the divine law in his heart is fully exemplified in his life. Every thought, every affection, every emotion of his soul, every accent of his lips, and every action of his body is the counterpart of the purity of its Godlike sanctity. Our Jesus loves the Lord our God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his strength, and his neighbor as himself. This, this, beloved, is our everlasting righteousness, before the eyes of infinite holiness and justice. It was eternally designed for us, and it is freely and for ever imputed unto us by love divine. This is our present, our past, our future, our eternal justification. This we may boldly plead at all times against an upbraiding conscience, against an accusing devil, at the throne of grace, and at the throne of justice. The God to whom we are indebted for this invaluable boon, will never disown it.
Now, behold the spotless man! He goes as a lamb to the slaughter; and is there not a cause? Love still burns in his heart, it predominates, it reigns over every other feeling. He has undertaken our cause. He has assumed our black, our hellish crimes, and stands legally charged with our enormous guilt. Vindictive justice frowns, and determinately vows to revenge the many, the countless insults offered unto it by our daring crimes; unsheathes its flaming sword, and waving it, sternly advances; fierce lightning flashing from its eyes, and burning coals roll clown before it, increasing at every step. The self-devoted victim, impelled by the quenchless ardor of his love, advances speechless to meet the (lire avenger, meekly receives the deadly stroke, and falls the victim of his own love and of our crimes. There he lies, breathless and extended, covered with his own pure blood. What shall we now say? We will sing over his bloodstained corpse, the death of death. He has abolished death and brought to light, life and immortality. (2 Tim. 1:10) 0 death where is thy sting! Who shall lay any thing to our charge? It is God that justifieth. Who shall condemn? It is Christ that died. But see! He lives again, he rises, he ascends, he takes his throne, and lives and reigns for ever. (Rom. 8:33,34)
From his throne he transmits his almighty spirit. Not to hover over us, with his offers, and proffers his tenders and overtures,-webs finely woven and artfully exposed, by the device of man, to allure and catch the unwary,-but to open the heart, enter it, and make it his permanent abode; to introduce into the soul a new supernatural divine life; to produce, nourish, cherish, strengthen, and perpetuate in us, what is termed by the pen of inspiration, the new man, the inner man, and the hidden man of the heart; to illuminate the mind, and endue it with a real spiritual discernment of spiritual objects revealed in the Scriptures; especially the person, the mediation, the fullness and glory of Christ Jesus our Lord; to create that faith, by which he is received and confided in, and by which he dwells in the heart; to shed abroad in the heart the love of God, and to root and ground the soul in the knowledge, belief, and enjoyment of that love; and, finally, to lead us, with all saints, to comprehend, the utmost that can be comprehended by created intelligences of the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths of eternal love, and thus fill us with all the fullness of God; raise us to the summit of our appointed perfection; and place us upon the highest pinnacle of our destinated glory and felicity. Thus are the designs of eternal love fulfilled by its own miraculous operations, according to the good pleasure of the eternal Three, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in covenant to save. To whom be glory in the church, world without end. Amen.