"The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I hare loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jeremiah 31:3)
THIS portion of God's Word I believe has been blessed to thousands of his dear family,—here one and there one; and there may be many among this congregation waiting and longing that it may be blessed to them.
The chapter begins thus: "At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people." Then why were not this people destroyed? Because they had to live to be recovered by God's special grace.
When grace enters a poor sinner's heart, God makes him know something of sin; and he begins to tremble immediately for fear of what is behind. He begins to feel sin to be of a bitter taste. While he was committing it, he felt it sweet in his mouth; but now God makes him feel it is bitter in his belly.
I have read this chapter again and again, for years, but have never before seen the beauty I now see in this text. The Lord, I hope, will set us all to work this morning, to see if we can come in with the prophet: "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." This is what the children of God are waiting for; and some of us can use the words for ourselves. I dare not preach from such a text, if God had not given me the experience of it. You know, it is a great many years since the word of God entered into my soul; and even now sometimes I fear my vessel is leaky. 0! but God has made his vessels of mercy secure, as he tells us,—" afore prepared unto glory." He makes them secure, so that they cannot lose out of their hearts the grace of God which bringeth salvation. It might vanish out of their heads; but never out of the soul, where God the Holy Ghost puts it as a fixture. The devil cannot pull it out; sin cannot pull it out, or mar it; because "he that is begotten of God keepeth himself; and that wicked one toucheth him not."
Let us just look, for a few moments, at the words: "The Lord hath appeared." He appears to the poor children of God, to remove the guilt and weight of sin from off the conscience; and when that is the case, there is room for the rest of the text: "Yea, I have loved thee."
When God appeared to my soul first, I expected to be in hell immediately; but, when he appeared again, instead of entering into judgment to destroy, his salvation entered into my soul to save me; and it removed all the sin, and guilt, and terrors, and condemnation out of my conscience. And then his love appeared unto me in such a manner that I did not know whether I was in the body or out of the body. "Where were you?" say you; " hearing the gospel?" No; I never knew any that preached it till after I was under God's teaching.
I felt, at first, as if I was the only reprobate. When the sinner is personally lost, and personally cursed, and then is personally saved and blessed, you know that poor thing is just as if he had been taken out of a grave, where he had never known any thing of the beauty and blessedness of the Lord; and he appears to be in a new world.
Let us see if we can find a few souls that are seeking this, and cannot be satisfied without knowing God has loved them. This knowledge is the greatest thing a poor sinner can receive in this world. Some may have had a little taste of it in the desire, but this does not enlarge; because "he that feareth is not made perfect in love; because fear hath torment. There is no fear in love," except that holy, filial fear wherein the soul appears before God. And you that possess a grain of godly fear in your hearts, you shall have the pearl of great price by and by; because the Lord has put his mark upon those that fear his Name; and he "taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." The eye of pity is upon them; the Lord is watching them, and taking care of them. Now, poor sinner, do you bear either of these marks? If so, let me tell you, mercy has in some measure reached your heart. " You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" and dead in a profession, if you made any. "Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world;" but not now that ye are called by grace. You have now another path to walk in,--a path that "no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen." And you that are favored so, you sometimes feel a little hope; and then it seems to vanish; but it does not really die out. It is an anchor, but you have no power to use it; but the Lord will give you power in due season. And let me tell you, if you have now and then a spirit of hunger springing up, the substance is for you; the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of life, is for you. He came down from heaven (therefore he was in heaven); that is, the Second Person in the Trinity came down from heaven. And what did he come for? Why, he says, "My Father giveth you the true Bread," Do you know what it is to be griped with hunger for a crumb of that living bread? Unworthy as you may be, you shall sit down at his table by and by.
There is, now and then, a little hope; now and then a tear squeezed out of the eye; and you sometimes try to pray, and the devil tells you it is of no use; and so does unbelief. These are two companions, well agreed. Unbelief never falls out with Satan. But you cannot help praying sometimes. The poor sinner is brought down upon his knees,—thrown down; because the Lord brings down the sinner's heart with labor; they fall down, and there is none to help. And then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saves them out of their distresses. Thus it is all sweetly linked, firmer and faster than you can read of it; just as David said that the Lord went beyond all his word. You can never see in the letter of the Word what you feel in the spiritual life of it when brought into your heart. It sets you upon your legs; and if you have no one to talk to about it, you talk to yourselves.
The Lord appeared in this way to Moses before he died. "Yea, he loved the people;" there was no Nay to it. And then: "All his saints are in thy hand; and they sat down at thy feet; every one shall receive of thy words." That is a blessed place to sit down in,—at the feet of Jesus. "
We find the Lord, by the prophet, says, "Yea, I have loved thee." Bless his dear Name, the Saviour goes back; and goes forward also. "Having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." Both, the Father and the Son show their particular love to the dear children. The Holy Ghost brings all things to our remembrance, whatsoever the Lord has said to us. And we are obliged, in our advanced stages of life, to depend on the work of the Holy Ghost. It is his work to open the secret beauty and blessedness there is in these things; and he knows how to do it; for when he opens, none can shut, and when he shuts, none can open. "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee." And he does love; for he is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
The Lord appeared thus unto my soul in the night. My exercises are very cutting, at times. And having had such a fall as I had last Thursday morning, Satan has been telling me that I should drop down dead the next few steps. I said, "Lord, do let me die at home, in my own house."
I felt before I came into the pulpit about the angels bringing the first tidings of love into the world; not to the ungodly, but to the shepherds that were watching their flocks by night. But angels would not do to preach to God's dear children, because they have never sinned, and don't know the state sinners are in. But the Lord Jesus Christ knew, because all our sins were laid upon him; and, therefore, in his pity he redeemed us. So the Saviour understands it better than ourselves.
Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love." When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to Peter, and asked him whether he loved him, he said, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." He said it again; and the third time Peter was grieved. He had forgotten he had denied his Lord and Master three times. The Lord was determined to have a threefold confession. And then Peter says, " Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." Then says the Lord, "Feed my sheep." This was all his concern after his resurrection, before he entered into glory. The first time he says, "My lambs;" and the second and last times, "My sheep." Sometimes the sheep are glad to have a little milk. I love the honey; but I don't like the way I am obliged to get at that sometimes. The Lord makes his old sheep "suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock." That shows, perhaps, the hardness there is in drawing it out.
I have loved thee with an everlasting love." If there is any Arminian here, what can you do with this? There never was one who moved God to love him; this is evident. God is great in love; and he quickens his children when dead in sins, and when they cannot be in a position to do good works. We are obliged to set all our good works aside; we dare not bring them before the Lord. This love produces good works. And what is the best work a poor sinner's soul is set to do? To love God in the Lord Jesus Christ; and we are compelled to do it when we feel that love working. And we are compelled to love him and his truth better than our lives. You know, the Lord Jesus Christ has declared that none shall enter heaven but those that hate their own lives. That is not a very pleasant spot to get into; for we hate our lives because of what we feel within, and of how short we come of the standard set up in the Word. And if there is any one here who thinks he lives up to his privileges, let me tell you, you don't believe in God's everlasting love. You believe that the sinner has a choice, and that Christ died for the world, and that a sinner has power to act faith. Such faith will sink the soul to hell. The least grain of living faith, of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Author, that faith works by love, purifies the heart, puts off the old man, and puts on the Lord Jesus Christ.
God's people love everlasting things. That passage has cheered my heart, many times: "The mercy of the Lord is [mark that little word, is] from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him." Here are the everlasting things; and here the character to whom they belong is drawn out: "And his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them." And the psalmist says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." Thus, dear friends, have you not tried to find out your first burden, to bring it back, and asked the Lord to give you a second deliverance? But your sins were thrown into the sea. Salvation was provided before there was a sinner lost in practice; or, why did David say, "Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant?" Thus, my dear fellow-sinner, if he made this covenant with David, he made it with all his seed; and he has sworn that he will not lie unto David. David went on to say, "Ordered in all things;" the order of it is the beauty;—"Ordered in all things, and sure." And he says, "This is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow." Salvation does not spring up like Jonah's gourd. Jonah was very glad of the gourd, to keep the heat of the sun from his head; but very angry when the Lord smote the gourd. And sometimes the Lord smites our gourds, and makes us appear to have no shelter; but, blessed be God, we have shelter in his everlasting love.
"Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." He will draw all his children to himself. The Saviour will say, by and by, "Behold, I, and the children whom the Lord hath given me." They are the only ones worth beholding, because the Lord Jesus Christ has made all his children to be as he is himself; only he is the Head, and we are the members. "As he is, so are we." And the Scripture declares that "we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
Now, I dare say some of you have got your heads stored pretty well with the knowledge of doctrine; but how about the "grace of God which bringeth salvation?" Knowledge of doctrines will not shelter any man in death; no; "Salvation is of the Lord." Jonah had to learn that; and he learned it in the whale's belly; and he could not have learned it in a better place.
But, says your soul and mine, "If we could but love him more, and serve him better; but we have something pulling us down and back." And sometimes I feel I have neither love to God nor any one else. Says one, "You are a pretty sort of preacher. You ought to be always basking in his love, if you know God has loved you." I have nothing else to bask in, in all states and conditions; but the enjoyment of it is not promised always. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." God's people are the people that are most constantly thwarted. They sometimes look at the worldly, and everything seems to prosper with them. But the adversity of the children of God is worth far more than the professor's prosperity. In the days of adversity we are to consider, and begin to weigh, and measure, and reckon; and thus are brought to Paul's resolution: "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." That is to come; we are looking after what is to come. The children of God long sometimes to lay down this body, and be received into glory; they do. Because the Lord has said that he will fashion our vile body like unto his glorious body. Now, just look and see the fashioning. On the resurrection morn, this vile body will be raised a spiritual body, such as no mortal here can conceive. We must come into it to thoroughly know it; though we may try whether we cannot put some little meaning upon it. To us it is a great thing; and even the souls in glory are waiting for this. When the Lord Jesus took Peter, James, and John up into the mount, he was transfigured before them. Moses and Elias appeared and talked with them; and they talked to him about the matter of his decease. The spirits in the Revelation, how they expected and look for the resurrection morn, when the body would be raised up a glorious body, a spiritual body, and the body and soul filled with the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, throughout the countless ages of eternity.
Then what a condition the wicked are in! If you can count the sands on the sea-shore, that is nothing to the eternity of the torments of those who are turned into hell. After thousands and millions and trillions of years, it will only be, Eternity, Eternity. 0! What a solemn thing! What a blessing, then, if you are favored with a hope in God's free mercy!
"Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." And you will sometimes find, when your hearts are as flat as they can be, all of a sudden the Father draws the poor child of God's mind out of the world, and draws his spiritual mind up to himself. Then the soul begins to converse with the Lord Jesus Christ, and begins to long to love him, and thank him for all his goodness. Sometimes I feel such sudden changes as I could not describe to any one. Yes; sometimes I feel very near to the blessed Lord; and sometimes very far from him. Sometimes I have hoped he would be with me today; and sometimes I feared he would not.
I can only set things before you. There is so much said upon the love of God in the Bible. In Deut. 7 you will see that the Lord did not set his love upon his people because they were more in number than any people; and, again, he did not love them because they were few, but because he would love them. He never gave any account further than that, in loving a sinner. Then may the blessed Lord, in covenant mercy, give us to feel more of the sweetness of this love that casts out that fear which hath torment.
"Therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." 0! How sweet it is to be drawn by the Father! Says Christ, "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day." "I will" do it, because it is my good pleasure to do it.
You that are seeking after this love, seek on; because they that seek shall, must find. You will say, "There is a passage which has cut me many times: 'Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.'" 0! How this throws back the souls of the children of God, at times! They fear that they are of the number that never shall be able to enter in. And they think, if the love of God laid hold of them, they would never doubt again. "Shall our unbelief make the faith of God without effect?" "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself." And his faithfulness is linked on to his love; for he has promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." May God add his blessing, and he shall have the glory.BACK TO MAIN PAGE