Behold, What Manner Of Love!

Sacramental Meditation IV

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 247-8

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 Jn 3:1)

In the amazing work of our redemption, we are called to behold and admire both the love of the Father, and the love of the Son. Unspeakable love of the Father, that contrived our redemption, and gave the Redeemer. Oh how readily he accepted of the Son’s offer to suffer and satisfy infinite justice for sin in our room! Upon our fall, he might justly have said, no, the soul that sins shall die personally, I will admit of no surety. But, glory to the blessed Father, such was his love to us, that when the dear Son said, Father, I will be surety for the sinners of mankind, let my blood be shed for theirs, let the blow light on me, let me die in their room; such was the love and pity of the Father to us, that he presently accepted the offer, held our Redeemer at his word, saying, be it as thou hast said. “Awake O sword, against the man that is my fellow; smite the Shepherd,” and spare the sheep. I will glorify my justice upon my own dear Son, rather than upon them. Amen, said the blessed Son of God, I will be the sacrifice.

Oh love unspeakable, both in the Father and the Son! Human love, angelic love, is nothing to it! Oh what is the love of creatures one to another, to this love of God to man! Astonishing love! that the eternal Son of God, entreated by no man, but hated of all men, should in his love and pity undertake and die for them, when enemies to God and all that is good! “Oh the breadth, oh the length, oh the depth, oh the height of this love of Christ, which passeth knowledge!” I may possibly feel it, but I cannot fathom it. The love of creatures is nothing to the love of Christ. It was great love that Jacob bare to Rachel, that he endured the heat of summer, and frosts of winter, for her. But all that was nothing to the winter storm which Christ suffered for us. It was extraordinary love that Jonathan had to David, that he would peril his life to avert his father’s wrath from him; but, what was that to Christ’s love, that took on his eternal Father’s wrath, which was infinitely greater than Saul’s, and actually laid down his life to avert that dreadful storm of wrath from us! What love was it that made him stand before the mouth of hell furnace, and suffer himself to be scorched with it in the most terrible manner, that he might stop the flame from breaking out on us! Behold him receiving the sword of justice into his bowels, to prevent its being sheathed in our hearts!

Behold, when the sea of God’s wrath raged and was tempestuous, threatening to swallow us all up; Christ came, and said, like Jonah, spare these poor sinners; take me up, and cast me into the sea in their stead, that the storm may be appeased! Christ was willing to be cast into the sea of wrath, to be a blessed plank of mercy for shipwrecked souls to grip to, and be saved.

Admirable love of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who would give his dearly beloved Son, out of free love and pity to man, to die for him! And would choose rather to see his dear Son agonizing and struggling under infinite wrath for a time, than to see an elect world struggling in hell among devils forever! Oh who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord! Who can show forth all his praise! O Father of mercies, from all eternity thou foresaw our fall and misery, and, in thy wisdom and love, didst contrive a noble remedy for us. Thou didst even provide a surety for man before the debt was contracted, a saviour for him before he was lost; and by this glorious surety thou hast found out a noble way to satisfy both the demands of justice and the entreaties of mercy, and glorify both those divine perfections at once. By this, Lord, we know thou lovest us, that thou hast not withheld thy Son, thine only Son from us, to be sacrificed in our room ; and graciously callest us to commemorate thy love, in providing this sacrifice at thy holy table. Instead of this, thou mightest justly have called multitudes of us together, to make us a sacrifice to thy justice for our heinous sins and rebellions against heaven. But behold, thou callest us together to thy table upon a quite other design, even to intimate to us a sacrifice of thy own providing, sufficient for us all; and actually to behold the bleeding Lamb of God, who willingly, at his Father’s call, gave himself to be slain to take away the sins of the world! Lord, what didst thou see in such creatures, as to make thee love us after this manner? Surely “thy thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor thy ways as our ways.” How astonishing was thy conduct in redeeming us when lost? And worse are we than devils, if we be not ravished with the love of the Father in projecting our redemption, and with the love of his eternal Son that made him leave his glory in heaven, to save the dregs of the creation.

Oh what manner of love is this, that the Father did give his eternal Son, to die for those who deserved eternal wrath for their rebellion and treason against himself! When notice was first given in this lower world, that the Son of God was coming down from heaven; what could have been expected, but that his business here would be to condemn the world, and hasten the execution of those he found in arms against him? But oh! who can think, and not wonder, that he should have sent him to suffer and die for such as deserved to be slain; yea, for such as were alienated from the life of God, and full of enmity against him, unworthy of any abode upon earth, and by their wickedness fully prepared for hell! Oh how surprising it is, that God would, in this our miserable state, send the Son of his love to die for us, and purchase a new title for us to life and glory! Behold what manner of love this is, that the just should suffer for the unjust, the just prince for the unjust rebels that were in arms against him, the King of Glory for the children of disobedience, the obedient Son for mortal enemies! Oh, this is such a manner of loving, that the highest transport of wondering cannot reach! “For scarcely for a righteous man will one dare to die; but God commends his love to us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:7, 8).

Oh how am I able to hear, speak, or think of this love, and my heart not burn with an admiring sense of the freeness and riches of God’s grace; and with a vehement hatred and indignation against my sins, which contributed to pierce and crucify my glorious Redeemer! Can I be but ravished with love to him, when he comes to communicate his love to me at his table, and say, behold how I have loved you, and given myself for you! I was “cut off, but not for myself; I was wounded for your transgressions, and bruised for your iniquities.” It was for you I was betrayed, reviled, condemned, and crucified; for you my hands and feet were nailed to the tree, my head crowned with thorns, and my side pierced with a spear, and all this I suffered, that you might be saved from hell, and get sin forgiven, and God reconciled to you forever.

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