Here is love, that God sent his Son, his darling, his Son that never offended, his Son that was always his delight. Herein is love, that he sent him to save sinners; to save them by bearing their sins, by bearing their curse, by dying their death, and by carrying their sorrows. Here is love, in that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for us; yea, here is love, in that while we were yet without strength, Christ died for the ungodly.
Oh, blessed Jesus, how didst thou discover thy love to man in thy thus suffering! And, O God the Father, how didst thou also declare the purity and exactness of thy justice, in that, though it was thine only, holy, innocent, harmless, and undefiled Son Jesus, that did take on him our nature and represent our persons, answering for our sins instead of ourselves; thou didst so wonderfully pour out thy wrath upon him, to the making of him cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And, O Lord Jesus, what a glorious conquest hast thou made over the enemies of our souls—even wrath, sin, death, hell, and devils—in that thou didst wring thyself from under the power of them all. And not only so, but hast led them captive which would have led us captive; and also hast received for us that glorious and unspeakable inheritance that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.
The great Bringer of the gospel is the good Lord Jesus Christ himself; he came and preached peace to them that the law proclaimed war against. And to touch a little upon the dress in which, by the gospel, Christ presents himself unto us, while he offers unto sinful souls his peace by the tenders thereof:
He is set forth as born for us, to save our souls, Isa. 9:6; Luke 2:9–12; 1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 3:13; Rom. 10:4; Dan. 9:24.
He is set forth before us as bearing our sins for us, and suffering God’s wrath for us.
He is set forth before us as fulfilling the law for us, and as bringing everlasting righteousness to us for our covering.
Again, as to the manner of his working out the salvation of sinners for them, that they might have peace and joy, and heaven and glory for ever:
He is set forth as sweating blood while he was in his agony, wrestling with the thoughts of death, while he was to suffer for our sins, that he might save the soul, Luke 22:24.
He is set forth as crying, weeping, and mourning under the lashes of justice that he put himself under, and was willing to bear for our sins.
He is set forth as betrayed, apprehended, condemned, spit on, scourged, buffeted, mocked, crowned with thorns, crucified, pierced with nails and a spear, to save the soul from being betrayed by the devil and sin; to save it from being apprehended by justice and condemned by the law; to save it from being spit on in a way of contempt by holiness; to save it from being scourged with guilt of sins as with scorpions; to save it from being continually buffeted by its own conscience; to save it from being mocked at by God; to save it from being crowned with ignominy and shame for ever; to save it from dying the second death; to save it from wounds and grief for ever.
Dost thou understand me, sinful soul? He wrestled with justice, that thou might have rest; he wept and mourned, that thou might laugh and rejoice; he was betrayed, that thou might go free; was apprehended, that thou might escape; he was condemned, that thou might be justified, and was killed, that thou might live; he wore a crown of thorns, that thou might wear a crown of glory; and was nailed to the cross with his arms wide open, to show with what freeness all his merits shall be bestowed on the coming soul, and how heartily he will receive it into his bosom.
All this he did of mere good-will, and offers the benefit thereof unto thee freely. Yea, he comes unto thee in the word of the gospel, with the blood running down from his head upon his face, with his tears abiding upon his cheeks, as with the holes fresh in his hands and his feet, and as with the blood still bubbling out of his side, to pray thee to accept of the benefit, and to be reconciled to God thereby.
By this we may see his love, in that as a forerunner he is gone into heaven to take possession thereof for us; there to make ready and prepare for us our summer-houses, our mansions and dwelling-places; as if we were the lords, and he the servant. Oh, this love!
Thou Son of the Blessed, what grace was manifest in thy condescension! Grace brought thee down from heaven; grace stripped thee of thy glory; grace made thee poor and despicable; grace made thee bear such burdens of sin, such burdens of sorrow, such burdens of God’s curse as are unspeakable.
O Son of God, grace was in all thy tears; grace came bubbling out of thy side with thy blood; grace came forth with every word of thy sweet mouth; grace came out where the whip smote thee, where the thorns pricked thee, where the nails and spear pierced thee. O blessed Son of God, here is grace indeed! unsearchable riches of grace! unthought of riches of grace! grace to make angels wonder, grace to make sinners happy, grace to astonish devils!
And what will become of them that trample under foot this Son of God?
Christ is the desire of nations, the joy of angels, the delight of the Father. What solace then must that soul be filled with, that hath the possession of him to all eternity.
Who can tell how many heart-pleasing thoughts Christ had of us before the world began? Who can tell how much he then was delighted in that being we had in his affections, as also in the consideration of our beings, believings, and being with him afterwards?
Christ was never so joyful in all his life, that we read of, as when his sufferings grew near; then he takes the sacrament of his body and blood into his own hands, and with thanksgiving bestows it among his disciples; then he sings a hymn, then he rejoices, then he comes with a “Lo, I come.” O the heart, the great heart that Jesus had for us to do us good! He did it with all the desire of his soul.
When a man shall not only design me a purse of gold, but shall venture his life to bring it to me, this is grace indeed. But, alas, what are a thousand such short comparisons to the unsearchable love of Christ?
Christ Jesus has bags of mercy that were never yet broken up or unsealed. Hence it is said, he has goodness laid up; things reserved in heaven for his. And if he breaks up one of these bags, who can tell what he can do?
It is not exaltation, nor a crown, nor a kingdom, nor a throne that shall make Christ neglect his poor ones on earth; yea, because he is exalted and on the throne, therefore it is that such a river of life, with its golden streams, proceeds with us. And it shall proceed, to be far higher than ever were the swellings of Jordan, Rev. 22:1.
How the brave sun doth peep up from beneath, Shows us his golden face, doth on us breathe; Yea, he doth compass us around with glories Whilst he ascends up to his highest stories, Where he his banner over us displays And gives us light to see our works and ways.
Nor are we now, as at the peep of light, To question is it day or is it night; The night is gone, the shadow’s fled away, And now we are most certain that it is day.
And thus it is when Jesus shows his face, And doth assure us of his love and grace.
This makes Christ precious, if I consider how he did deliver me: it was:
- With his life, his blood; it cost him tears, groans, agony, separation from God; to do it, he endured his Father’s wrath, bare his Father’s curse, and died thousands of deaths at once.
- He did this while I was his enemy, without my desires, without my knowledge, without my deserts; he did it unawares to me.
- He did it freely, cheerfully, yea, he longed to die for me; yea, heaven would not hold him for the love he had to my salvation, which also he has effectually accomplished for me at Jerusalem.
Honorable Jesus! precious Jesus! loving Jesus! Jonathan’s kindness captivated David, and made him precious in his eyes for ever. “I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan,” said he; “very pleasant hast thou been to me; thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” Why, what had Jonathan done? Oh, he had delivered David from the wrath of Saul. But how much more should He be precious to me, who hath saved me from death and hell—who hath delivered me from the wrath of God? “The love of Christ constrains us.” Nothing will so edge the spirit of a Christian as, “Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” This makes the heavens themselves ring with joy and shouting.