We Do Not Trust God's Love
This is the final installment ofÂ Jesus OnlyÂ fromÂ God's Way of Peace.Â I hope you will be encouraged to read the whole short book.Â
Oh, strange! We believe in Satan's willingness to tempt and injure; but not in God's willingness to deliver and to save! Nay, more, we yield to our great enemy when he seduces into sin, and leads away from Christ and heaven; but we will not yield to our truest friend, when he draws us with the cords of a man, and with bands of love! We will not give God the credit for speaking truly when he speaks in tender mercy, and utters over the sinner the yearnings of his unfathomable pity. We listen, as if his words were hollow; as if he did not mean what he says; as if his messages of grace, instead of being the most thoroughly sincere that ever fell on human ears, were mere words of course.
There is nothing in the whole Bible to repel the sinner, and yet the sinner will not come! There is everything to draw and to win; yet the sinner stands aloof! Christ receives sinners; yet the sinner turns away! He yearns over them, weeps over them, as over Jerusalem; yet the sinner is unmoved! The heavenly compassion is unavailing; the infinite long-suffering touches not the stony heart, and the divine tears are thrown away. The Son of God stretches out his hands all the day long, but the outstretched hands are disregarded. All, all seems in vain to arrest the heedless, and to win back the wanderer.
Oh, the amount of divine love that has been expended upon this sad world, - that has been brought to bear upon the needy sons of men! We sometimes almost doubt whether it be true or possible, that God should lavish such a love on such a world. But the cross is the blessed memorial of the love, and that saying stands unchangeable: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son."
Sometimes, too, we say, What is the use of throwing away such love? Is not the earnestness of God disproportioned to the littleness of its object, - man? It would be so were this life all; were there no eternity, no heaven, no hell, no endless gladness, and no everlasting woe. But with such a destiny as man's; with an eternity like that which is in store for him, - can any amount of earnestness be too great? Can love or pity exceed their bounds? Can the joy or grief over a sinner saved or lost be exaggerated?
Some believe that sin quenches Godâ€™s pity for the sinner. It is not so. That it shall do so hereafter, and that God will cease to pity the lost, is an awful truth. The lost soul's eternity will be an unpitied eternity of woe.
But, meanwhile, God's hatred of the sin is not hatred of the sinner. Nay, the greatness of his sin seems rather to deepen than to lessen the divine compassion. At least we may say that the increasing misery which increasing sin entails calls into new intensity the paternal pity of the God of the spirits of all flesh. "It grieves him at his heart." The farther the prodigal goes into the far country, the more do the yearnings of the father's heart go out after him in unfeigned compassion for the wretched wanderer, in his famine, and nakedness, and degradation, and hopeless grief.
No; sin does not quench the pitying love of God. The kindest words ever spoken to Israel were in the very height of their apostasy and rebellion. The most gracious invitation ever uttered by the Lord was to Capernaum, and Bethsaida, and Chorazin, "Come unto me." The most loving message ever sent to a Church was that to Laodicea, the worst of all the seven, "Behold I stand at the door and knock." It was Jerusalem, in her utmost extremity of guilt, and rebellion, and unbelief, that drew forth the tears of the Son of God.
No; sin does not extinguish the love of God to the sinner. Many waters cannot quench it, nor can the floods drown it. From first to last, God pursues the sinner as he flies from him; pursues him not in hatred, but in love; pursues him not to destroy, but to pardon and to save.
God is not a man that he should lie. He means what he says, when he speaks in pity, as truly as when he speaks in wrath. His words are not mere random expressions, such as man often uses when uttering vague sentiment, or trying to produce an impression by exaggerated representations of his feelings. God's words are all true and real. You cannot exaggerate the genuine feeling which they contain; and to understand them as figures, is not only to convert them into unrealities, but to treat them as falsehoods. Let sinners take God's words as they are; the genuine expressions of the mind of that infinitely truthful Being, who never uses but the words of truth and soberness. He is sovereign; but that sovereignty is not at war with grace; nor does it lead to insincerity of speech, as some seem to think it does. Whether we can reconcile the sovereignty with the pity, it matters not. Let us believe them both, because both are revealed in the Bible. Nor let us never resort to an explanation of the words of pity, which would imply that they were not sincerely spoken; and that if a sinner took them too literally and too simply, he would be sorely disappointed; - finding them at last mere exaggerations, if not empty air.
Oh, let us learn to treat God as not merely the wisest, and the highest, and the holiest, but as the most truthful of all beings. Let the heedless sinner hear his truthful warnings, and tremble; for they shall all be fulfilled. Let the anxious sinner listen to his truthful words of grace, and be at peace. We need to be told this. For there is in the minds of many, a feeling of sad distrust as to the sincerity of the divine utterances, and a proneness to evade their plain and honest meaning. Let us do justice, not merely to the love, but to the truthfulness, of God. There are many who need to be reminded of this; - yes, many, who do not seem to be at all aware of their propensity to doubt even the simple truthfulness of the God of truth.
God is love. Yes, God is love. Can such a God be suspected of insincerity in the declarations of his long-suffering, yearning compassion toward the most rebellious and impenitent of the sons of men? That there is such a thing as righteousness; that there is such a place as hell; that there are such beings as lost angels and lost men, we know to be awful certainties. But, however terrible and however true these things may be, they cannot cast the slightest doubt upon the sincerity of the great oath which God has sworn before heaven and earth, that he has "no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live;" nor in the least blunt the solemn edge of his gracious entreaty, "TURN YE, TURN YE, FOR WHY WILL YE DIE?"