“But God commends his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
From what other and higher source could the atonement have proceeded, if not from the very heart of God? And from His heart it did proceed. And not more freely does the sun pour forth its streams of light, and not more freely does the air fan with its refreshing influence, and not more freely does the ocean-billow heave, than the atonement flows from the heart of God! “God is love;” and the seat of that love is His heart.
Towards a sinner standing in the righteousness of His Son, that heart is love, and nothing but love. Not an unkind thought lodging there; not a repulsive feeling dwelling there; all is love, and love of the most tender character. Yes, we dare affirm, that towards His chosen people there never has been, and there never will be, one thought of unkindness, of anger, of rebuke in the heart of God: from eternity it has been love, through time it is love, and on through eternity to come it will be love.
What! are not their afflictions, their chastisements, the rough and thorny path they tread, proofs of God’s displeasure? What! is that individual loved of God, whom I see yonder bearing that heavy and daily cross; against whom billow after billow dashes, to whom messenger after messenger is sent; whose gourds are withered in a night, and whose fountains are all broken in a day; who is poor, feeble, and dependent; what! is that individual beloved of God? Go and ask that afflicted saint; go and ask that cross-bearing disciple; go and ask that son and daughter of disease and penury; and they will tell you, their Father’s dealings with them are the most costly proofs of His love: that instead of unkindness in that cross, there was love; instead of harshness in that rebuke, there was tenderness; and that when He withered that gourd, and broke up that cistern, and removed that earthly prop, it was but to pour the tide of His own love in the heart, and satiate the soul with His goodness. Oh, dear cross! oh, sweet affliction! thus to open the heart of God; thus to bring God near to the soul, and the soul near to God.
Let it not be forgotten that the atonement had its origin in the heart of God; it follows, then, that it must be free. Does the sun need bribing in order to shine? does the wind need persuasion in order to blow? does the ocean-wave need argument in order to roll? is the sun-light purchased? is the air purchased? is the water that flows from the fountain purchased? Not less free is the love of God, gushing from His heart, and flowing down through the channel of the cross of Christ, to a poor repenting, believing sinner, without works, without merit, without money, without price, without a previous fitness.
Convictions do not merit it; repentances do not merit it; tears do not merit it; faith does not merit it. Pardon to the chief of sinners—forgiveness to the vilest of the vile—the blotting out of sins of the deepest dye—the justification and acceptance of the most unworthy—all, free as the heart of God can make it. The hungry and the thirsty, the poor and the penniless, the weary and the heavy-laden, may come to the gospel provision, for the heart of God bids them welcome.
The objects contemplated in the special and gracious design of the atonement establish its perfect freeness beyond all question. Who are they? Are they spoken of as the worthy, the righteous, the deserving, the rich, the noble? The very reverse. They are sinners, ungodly, unworthy. “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
And see how our blessed Lord confirms this statement: “I am not come to call the righteous (that is, the self-righteous—those who were righteous in their own estimation, and despised others), but sinners to repentance.” And who did He save when upon earth? Were they the worthy or the most unworthy? were they the righteous or sinners?
Take the case of Saul of Tarsus. His own description of his previous character will certainly be believed: “which was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious.” And yet he “obtained mercy:” and why? “That in me Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.”
If Saul of Tarsus, then, obtained mercy—obtained it as a sinner of the deepest dye—obtained it fully, freely, aside from all human merit—penitent reader, so may you.