God's Love, Gratuitous and Motive

A word on 'why I do this?'

"If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned." Cant. 8:7.

The pride of man's foolish heart is ever carrying him away from the grace sent to him in Jesus, which must meet him as a beggar, helpless, and undone, to some requirement that he may satisfy, which will, as he thinks, enable him to meet God on better terms; or he does away with the richness of the grace, and makes it inefficient to meet his real necessities, and then strives to make up the inefficiency by his own change of conduct. On the other hand, the soul taught of God is taught its entire helplessness (not merely to avow it with the lips, but to know it in the experienced weakness and wickedness of the heart); but it is taught also to turn away from this to the brightness of grace, that has reached it in its wickedness, and met it in the truth of its condition, evil as it was, with the full consolation, the desperate necessity of that condition sought - Jesus made unto it, of God, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption."

That man is ever attempting to make God as ungenerous as himself, to limit the greatness of His gifts by his own unbelief, and thus to dim the glory of His abounding grace, is not only the necessary result, but the proof, of the unchangeable evil of his heart. It is this, simply this, which has driven the church into the world, lowering the standard of obedience to the habits of its new associates. Vain would be the search of that man who might try in the pride of his heart to bring evidence from the word of truth that any one other motive but love was reckoned on, there to bring back to God, and guide in His ways, the heart of a self-willed and wayward sinner.

There can be no union with God in thought or act, save in love: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love." (1 John 4:7-8.) A service of constraint is no service to God. Anything that would impede the flow of the living waters, the fresh streams of love, peace, and joy, into the weary heart of a God-fearing sinner, is just that which would hinder fruitfulness, and leave it a sterile and thorn-bearing thing still.

Now the scriptural word "sanctification" is a fair title assumed by error, and one se apparently authoritative in its claim, that many are led captive by it who, while they feel and knew their slavery, are unable to account for it. "If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed," is the happy assurance of our Lord; and anything that would limit the love He came to prove, is but keeping fast the fetters that bind to earth, and holding us back from the happy, and therefore free, obedience of children. What is "sanctification," as new used, but uniting that which God has so graciously, so carefully separated - salvation and its holy consequences?

If there is one statement of truth more clear than another in Scripture, and more uncompromising in the language in which it is put, it is this, that redemption is exclusively the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, not that of the Holy Ghost. That faith is the work of the Holy Spirit, is another question. As a Saviour, and a perfect Saviour, putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Jesus says, "Look unto ME, and be ye saved." "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:14-15.) If what is so extensively termed sanctification (i.e. progressive advancement in holiness), is necessary to salvation, it might well be asked, How much would do? He who knows God will know also that he must be as perfect as He is perfect, or neither God or himself could be satisfied. But not only is this robbing the cross of Jesus of its power, and making His blood inefficient, but, as its result (how completely in this, as in everything, is wisdom justified of her children), we have nothing but an unhappy and unfruitful church, hardly knowing whether it is saved or not, knowing enough of itself to understand that it comes short of God's glory; and therefore, to get itself into peace (as looking to "sanctification," and not to Christ), it must reduce the standard of obedience, bringing down God's character that it may somehow come up to it, and so be satisfied with itself. Thus the ingenuity of unbelief will torture the simplicity of God's word into something that will impose a burden, when God's love has sought to remove it; and those who are thus self-tasked, or taught by another gospel than that of full and unconditional love, have to run in fetters, with the brightness of the prize for which they contend obscured by intervening clouds of fear and doubt as to God's willingness to bestow it on them. But thus saith the Lord: "Whosoever believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." (John 3:36.*) The whole Word, in its testimony to the Lord Jesus, speaks of Him as manifesting God as a Saviour; and it is in the faith of this that the troubled spirit gets peace, not to be found elsewhere. It sees the God it feared becoming, in His love to the sinner, the sinner's Saviour, and therefore it has confidence towards God; for who can doubt, if God becomes a Saviour, the perfectness of the salvation? Its completeness is the soul's security; and faith in it, as perfect and complete, gives peace, and instant peace too. It was thus the gospel (which is "glad tidings," the expression of God's love to sinners as sinners) was received when it was first believed on in the world. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," was the Spirit's reply to the trembling jailer, and he rejoiced in God. (Acts 16) "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest," was the prompt answer to the Ethiopian: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God," was the happy expression of his saving faith; "and he went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:37, 39.)

*See also 1 John 5:11-12; John 5:24; John 20:31; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 16:31; Acts 13:38-39; Rom. 3:20, 28; Rom. 4:3-8, 21-25; Rom. 5:8-11, 18-20; Rom. 10:4-13; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Heb. 10:5-18.

That salvation, then, is utterly irrespective of what we have been, or of what we are, or of the measure of sanctity we may attain, is and must be the conclusion of the heart that trembles at God's word. The simple fact that "God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us," is the proof that nothing but unbelief can hinder any sinner's participation in all the rich blessings God has to bestow. What is sin but estrangement of heart from and disobedience to the authority of Him who proved, by the gift of His Son to these who were so estranged and in open rebellion against Him, that, though sin was reigning unto death, His grace could reign triumphantly above all sin?

In the death of the Lord Jesus Christ we learn what God is to sinners as sinners. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" of sin. (Heb. 9:22.) Death is the wages of sin: death was the portion of Jesus, therefore, as made sin for us.

It is the blood of Jesus alone that cleanseth from all sin. (1 John 1:7.) It is by the blood of Jesus alone we have boldness of access into the holiest. (Heb. 10:19.) It is by the blood of Jesus alone, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot unto God, that our consciences are purged from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb. 9)

Here then is our secure, our only resting-place - the blood of the Holy Lamb. If the Spirit beareth witness to the sinner, it is to show the cross as his salvation; to the saved sinner, indeed, He reveals glory, far deeper glory, in the face of the Crucified One, as well as the glory of the inheritance (John 16); but, in imparting peace to the conscience, in delivering from the dread of death and of God's anger, the testimony is one and unvaried - Jesus delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. He who believes this is saved. Let him become ever so exalted in the evident favour of God, to that must he recur for his peace and salvation - "Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Nor is this merely a pardon given in dependence on future obedience. Alas! to those who know how their service is hindered by the heavy bondage of a sinful body, how the flesh ever "lusteth against the Spirit," who know that all their obedience, while so hindered, is in God's estimate "unprofitableness" (surely unprofitableness can be no claim to heaven), where would be the joy? Oh, how would man pervert God's liberal and most wondrous grace! how does he ever try to escape from the full blessing of being saved altogether by grace, in his ignorance of that God who, having not spared His Son, but delivered Him up for us all, will with Him freely give us all things! (Rom. 8:32.) What saith the Lord? "There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus," etc. (Rom. 8:1.) One with Him who hath died unto sin once, and over whom death hath no more dominion; the believer is called on to reckon himself dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God; as knowing that his old man is crucified with Him; baptized into His death, and raised with Him again into newness of life; dead, and therefore freed from sin. (Rom 6:1-7.) It is in the knowledge of the true position of freedom into which he is put before God, as one with Jesus, where He is at the right hand of God, that he is enabled to overcome sin in his daily and hourly conflict. Faith in the perfect victory of Jesus over all that was man's enemy, is the alone power by which we can become victors too.

It is the freedom of the happy spirit, abiding in a Father's love, which alone can give power to serve Him who is love; and upon this rests all the instruction of our Lord, delivering, by the power of that name "Father," from every bondage, freeing from every other master - man, the world, the flesh, the devil, and all the anxious cares of our fearful and doubting hearts - into the buoyancy, and therefore energy, of spirit by which alone we can serve in newness of life, being careful for nothing, taking no thought for the morrow, with the eye single in its object, the heart single in its subjection and service, having no master but Christ, no object but His glory; having present fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, led by the Spirit of God ("where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty"), abiding in Christ, and having, as so abiding, His peace and His joy. (John 16:27.)

Jesus came to declare the Father; He spake not of Himself, He was the Father's servant. The Holy Ghost is the servant of the risen Jesus, and speaks only of Him, not of Himself. Whether it be the first entering into the sheepfold by that Spirit's quickening, or subsequent increasing power over the world, the flesh, and the devil, the witness is the same, "the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:4.) "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory." (2 Cor. 3:18.) However mighty the work, the object of faith is the same as to the weakest believer - Jesus, and not what He (the Spirit) is doing, in the believer's heart.

Oh yes! the heart must love ere it will serve Him readily; it must know His mind and will ere it can serve Him faithfully; but it can only love Him, as knowing where His love is seen - in Jesus; it can only serve Him truly, as knowing Him who did serve Him faultlessly and faithfully in this same world. All is the witness of the Spirit; but Jesus, the exhibitor of the love which wins the heart - Jesus, the faithful servant - is that to which He testifies.

It is a wonderful thing that God should bring the heart of a poor, proud, self-seeking man into delight with that which is utterly opposed to every feeling of flesh. And how tenderly and graciously He does it! He does not say, 'Give up the world, deny thyself, crucify the flesh, become abased' (that would be hard indeed, though it would be righteous; and we all know those who have fancied He has so said, and they have tried every self-inflicted penance and monkish austerity, but the world was loved still, self was the only object of exaltation through it all). He speaks in gentleness, and tells us of the greatness of His love in the midst of our alienation and rebellion; tells us He loves us, though our hearts are worldly and proud, and our practices selfish and base, and wins us by this love. The testimony of Jesus is the story of this love, the proof of God's love to the sinning man, the ungodly, the proud, the worldly man; the proof that sin was not a sufficient barrier to shut out love, that it has broken that down, and can now flow unchecked into the sinful heart. The heart where this is credited, and therefore received, must return an answer of love, and will know, surely know, that God asks nothing from us to prove our love but what will secure to us increased and increasing peace and joy. It is grace the sinner wants; for that alone can be the connecting-link between him and God; and where is the grace, but in Jesus humbled, broken-hearted, and crucified? This is where God has come down to the sinner, and the sinner's stepping-place to get back to God; the hand of God stretched out to us in our wretchedness, lifting us up again to Himself, and clasping us to His heart. In truth, there can be no service to God except by the sweet constraint of love. The obedience of heaven is the obedience of love; for there can be nothing but love there. There is only one will there; obedience to that will is the unity and harmony of heaven. The results of self-will are clear enough around us in the full tide of misery which is flowing over this rebellious world. It is the same power which rules in heaven, reaching, by the Spirit's presence, the heart of a self-willed sinner, that brings it to subjection, and gives (when it has the mastery there) the joy of heaven, freeing it from its many turbulent and unrighteous masters and giving it but one, and that one love; for God is love.

The more then this love is known, and shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us, the more constrained will the heart be to this happy service, because it will thus judge, that "if one died for all, then were all dead: and that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them, and rose again."

And oh! where is it that we get daily strength, but in tracing the love and the glory that can be only seen in the Father's righteous servant, whose service was both to the Father and to us? Every step so traced will unravel the depths of that grace which has given the heart its peace, and assured it of everlasting glory. And it is this that the Holy Ghost does engrave day by day, deeper and deeper, on the willing heart of the believer, showing him his Lord - Him who was in the beginning with God, and was God, but who was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us - marking the circumstances of evil which surrounded Him from His birth onwards, and so the untiring love which could not be overcome by those circumstances, but which shone the brighter and showed its depths the more as it was scorned and trampled on while pressing on in its might through them all to finish that work which alone could meet the necessities of the sinner. It is not the cross only, but the character of the evil, which in its power overwhelmed the Lamb of God, and the unconquered compassion which ever shone forth from Him on the darkness which surrounded and would have quenched it - the every day's pitying endurance of the "contradiction of sinners against Himself," even to the moment when the readiness of His heart to bless was seen in the prompt reply of forgiveness to him who had reviled Him during His bitterest agony on the cross. (Compare Matt. 27:24 with Luke 23:43.) It is this that shows the depth of the love, a love that existed ever, a love that ordained the victim, that gave the victim (and that victim His only Son) to and for those who hated and disregarded both the giver and gift.*

*It is not, as some suppose, that the necessity of the sacrifice of Jesus is lessened by the assertion here made, that God loved us as sinners, and the sacrifice was but the proof of that love. No; but while nothing but the complete erasure of every charge, the cleansing from all sin, could bring the sinner back to God, with boldness into the holiest of all, yet it was a previous, exhaustless, and self-existing love, which expressed itself to the sinner it loved in the very way the sinner needed it, by giving him that which would answer his necessities to the full. God loved the sinner, and therefore found him the sacrifice he needed. And oh! God so loved the sinner, that He spared not His well-beloved Son to be the sacrifice.

He who delights to trace the steps of Jesus in this grief-stricken world, will see in every step the holiness, the moral glory, and the love of the unseen God, made manifest to him in a form that he can apprehend.

Oh yes, it is knowing God in Jesus, in all the exquisite detail of His most dignified yet condescending love - a love that could, and that did, descend to the depths of degradation and shame, to minister "its sweet consolation to the wretchedness of its object; that came into a world of sin and sorrow, not to be ministered unto, but to minister; to be the lowest and the poorest; to be associated with the most needy and despised of men - the leper, the publican, and the Samaritan - giving His back to the smiters, His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; 'learning obedience by the things that He suffered;' taking part in our sufferings, that, when perfected in His lesson of love, He might be a sympathising Intercessor for those whose companion in sorrow lie had become. It is this, the weakness of Jesus, the poverty of Jesus, the depths of poverty both of spirit and of circumstance, that shows us how far His love can reach, and what that love would do to bless its object that shows us God."

Upon the ground of the soul's present and perfected salvation by the blood of Jesus, the believer stands to meet the practical question of following Him, as made even now by His gratuitous grace, free and ready to serve Him in love, as having but one object, that of showing forth His praises in the world that rejected and still rejects Him. There will be no singularity in the confession of the name of Jesus in heaven; none will be ashamed of Him or of His words there; He will be fully glorified and admired there. But it is here in "this present evil world," in the midst of a crooked and perverse people, that the sinner, separated by the blood of the Lamb to all blessing, is called on to stand forth and declare how Jesus "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."