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What we mean when we say, the gospel of Jesus Christ flows naturally from God is, that all the causes which produce it, or cause it to flow forth to man, are in the nature of the divine Being. He is self-moved in all he does, and of course he is selfmoved in the dispensation of his grace. Even the Mediator himself, who is stiled “ the Captain of our salvation,” had no occasion to influence the Father of our spirits to be merciful to sinners, for it is the unchangeable nature of God to be gracious. The divine Being is wrongly represented, when it is said, as it often has been, that Christ has, by his life, death and resurrection opened a way for God to be merciful to sinners; because this evidently supposes, that he was not merciful to sinners before this door was opened.
The testimony of Jesus evidently corrects this error, and abolishes at once all vain imaginations which have been built upon it. Hear his words; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in hiin should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It is surely a very great error to suppose that the gift which the Father's love bestowed influenced him to bestow it. Such a mistake, we may presume, never was made on any other subject or in any other case. Were the unbappy children of wealthy parents, whose prodigality had reduced them to wretchedness and want, to receive from them a gift of immense value, would they be likely to conclude, that the worth of this invaluable treasure was the 'cause of their parent's love and pity? No; but however highly they might justly prize the favor sent, they would consider it as the evidence, not the cause of parental affection. This is evidently the sense of the Apostle who says ;
“ But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, · while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."
Here notice, the death of Christ was not the cause, but the commendation of the love of God toward us, while we were yet sinners. Again ; « Herein is love, not that ve loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." This propitiation for our sins, so far from opening a door for God to be gracious, was an effect and a manifestation of the divine favor.
These arguments are designed to illustrate the proposition, that the grace of the gospel flows naturally from God to his enemies. · It is believed that no subject in divinity is of greater moment than the one under consideration. For if it be not the nature of God to be gracious, and to love his creatures, and to do them good, even though they are enemies to him by wicked works; but if he require vindictive retaliation on his enemies ; and cannot, consitently with his true character, show any favor to transgressors, without being first reconciled and influenced so to do, it is to that which produces this reconciliation and effects this influence, that we are to look for mercy, and not to God. Moreover this doctrine, could it be maintained, would overthrow the doctrine of our text. “Be ye, therefore, perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” by love ing your enemies, by blessing them that curse you, by doing good to them that hate you, and by praying for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. If it be allowed, that our Father in heaven so imputed men's trespasses to them as to render it impossible for him to extend mercy to any until his vindictive wrath was appeased, then may wc reply to the requirements of the Saviour in our text, and say; First let us have satisfactory vengeance on our enemies, then we will love them and do them good. Suppose our Redeemer had tauglit the people, as our professed christians be
lieve, that he had undertaken to appease his Father's wrath towards man, by suffering the penal tortures which vindictive justice bad laid on the sinner ; and that by this mean he should procure the favour of God for them, would he not thereby have furnished them with a reply to his injunctions expressed in our text and context ? Might they not have said; When we can obtain as ample vengeance on our enemies, as you have to suffer in order to render it proper for God to love his enemies, then we will love ours? But no such doctrine can be found in the recorded testimony of Jesus. Whatever the blessed Redeemer is to us, he is made such by the Father of our spirits. Speaking to the Corinthians of Christ Jesus, the Apostle says; ~ Who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.”. To the same church, speaking of the ministry of reconciliation, the same author says; “ God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” But the error which we disprove, supposes that God did impute our trespasses to us, and that Christ reconciled him.'
There is a passage the common use of which is against our present argument, which we will here notice. “We have an advocate with the Father." The common opinion supposes Jesus Christ acts the part of an advocate, by pleading our cause before God, to incline him to show mercy. This is totally erroneous. The advocacy of Jesus is expressed thus ; “ Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us ; we pray you in Christ's stead be ye reconciled to God.” Thus we have an advocate with the Father who pleads with us to be reconciled to God; not with God to be reconciled to us, for “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing unto them their trespasses.”
That the character which we attribute, by these arguments, to the divine Being, is really what is due to him, may be made to appear by refering to his providence. This we are specially authorised to do, by the example which the Saviour has furnished in our context, and which was evidently de signed by him to inculcate what these arguments are designed to prove. He directed the attention of the people to two sensible objects, which the divine providence continually holds out to our view; the sun and the rain. « For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” By these ocular proofs the divine teacher inculcated the impartial love and goodness of our Father in heaven toward all men of every description of character.
It may be necessary to notice, in this place, what an objector might be disposed to urge against this impartial goodness of the divine Being toward the epil and the good, the just and the unjust.
Objection ; If God be equally as good to the evil as he is to the good, to the unjust as to the just; and if he love his enemies as well as he does his friends, then there is no difference between the reward of righteousness and unrighteousness. To this objection the candid hearer will accept the following reply.-Keeping in view the character of God, as set forth in the passage under consideration, as our Father in heaven, we say that a father may lave his obedient and disobedient children impartially, and yet, in relation to their conduct, may treat them as differently as they conduct one froin another. But however different the treatment may be, it must, in every case, proceed from the same principle of impartial love in the parent.
To illustrate this we may observe, that the parent who is visited with sickness among his children will naturally love those who are sick as well as he does those who are in health ; and yet, from this equal undimished love, he will treat them as differently as will exactly correspond with their different degrees of health. Now, you who are parents are called on to determine whether it be right, and consistent with your character as parents, to love your children and to do good to them when they are disobedient ? If you decide in the affirmative, as you most surely will, then you justify the argument, against which the objection we have noticed was stated. • If the objector should be disposed to contend, that we extend our argument too far by endeavoring to prove that the sinner is equally the object of divine love as the righteous, we rejoin by refering the objector to the full extent of the evidence already adduced, and to the consideration of the following remarks. · First; If we carefully examine the conduct of the divine Being toward Adam before and after transgression, shall we find any thing to justify the belief, that Adam was not equally the object of divine favor after he sinned as he was before ? Whose voice did guilty Adam hear in the cool of the day, expressive of parental solicitude, crying Adam, Adam, where art thou ? It was the voice of the Lord God. In that memorable hour of retribution was there the least sign that God's love towards his offspring had suffered any diminution? Does not the promise, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, bear date from this eventful period ? Surely this was a time of love.