The Love of Christ 

Sacramental Meditation XIII 

By John Willison, Practical Works (London: Blackie & Son, 1844), 260-1; minimally edited.

“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19).

Where shall I begin my thoughts upon this subject of the love of Christ to men? And when begun, how shall I make an end? It hath a breadth and length, a depth and height, that passeth knowledge. If the Apostle Paul, that had the brightest discoveries of his love, owned this, much more may I. I may sooner find out the height of heaven, the breadth of the earth, or the depth of the sea, than measure Christ’s love. It is an unfathomable ocean that has neither bank nor bottom. O whither did his love carry him? From the height of glory to the depth of misery. How low and deep was our fall, that nothing could recover and raise us up but the low abasement of the Son of God, the King of glory! How low was the step he made to help us up; even to put on our nature, and suffer himself to be pierced for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities! Blessed Lord, thou tookest not on thee the nature of angels, but the seed of Abraham; these are fast bound up from thee with chains of darkness, whilst thou drawest us to thee with the cords of love! How distinguishing was thy love to man, that brought thee from heaven to earth, from the throne to the manger, from the manger to the wilderness, from the wilderness to the garden, from the garden to the judgment-hall, from the judgment-hall to the cross, from the cross to the grave; yea, from the glory of heaven to the torments of hell,—and all for creatures that were black and ugly as hell! How wonderful is the sight thou callest me to see at the Lord’s table! Even to see him suffering for sin, that never committed sin! To see him made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we, who knew no righteousness, might be made the righteousness of God in him! An amazing sight indeed!

“Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him!” O what is he that thou shouldst magnify and set thy heart on him! And what am I, the worst of men, the vilest of sinners, that thou shouldst stoop so low to exalt me; that thou shouldst endure the poverty of this world, that I might enjoy the riches of heaven! Be content to live in the form of a servant, that I might have the adoption of a son! 

Be willing to bow thyself unto death, to raise me to eternal life! Be content to be numbered among transgressors, that I might have a crown among the blessed! To be crowned with thorns, that I might be crowned with glory! To be condemned before men, that I might be justified before God! To drink the bitter cup of wrath, that I might drink the pure river of life! To cry out in sorrow upon the cross, that I might triumph with joy upon the throne! To stand before the mouth of hell furnace, to keep its flames from breaking out on me!

O Lord Jesus thy love hath overflown all banks, and thy compassion knew no bounds! Can I think on it and my heart not burn! Can I speak of it and not be overcome, so as to seek like Joseph, a secret place to weep in!

O love that passeth knowledge! How shall I think of it and not stand amazed! That the general should die for the soldier, the physician for the patient! That the righteous Judge of heaven should come to the bar, put himself in the malefactor’s clothes, and be condemned for him! That the blessed Son of God should interpose his innocent breast to receive the mortal stroke for us! That God all-sufficient should be exposed to hunger and thirst, to grief and weariness, and the vilest reproaches and indignities, for worms like us! Behold the Creator of the world, wounded, mangled, and killed by ungrateful creatures, whom he came to save! Behold his bowels yearning towards them who raked in them with their bloody hands! Behold his heart burning with affection towards them that cruelly pierced it! Surely a believing view of this love of Christ is sufficient to mollify a heart more cold and frozen than ice itself! O love unfathomable! Who can measure its dimensions? It hath a height without a top, a depth without a bottom, a breadth without a side, a length without an end! Astonishing love! that my exalted Lord should stoop so low as to become a man; nay, a poor man, a man of sorrows, a deserted man, a dying man, and also a dead man, for such a wretch as me! Nay, more, that he should stoop to be made a curse, and underlie a dreadful load of wrath upon his innocent soul, infinitely more heavy than what is laid upon any damned soul in hell!

O what a sea of wrath did my loving Jesus swim through to save me from perishing! Behold how that raging sea wrought, and was tempestuous, roared most terribly, and threatened to swallow me up with the rest of the elect world, till once my Redeemer stepped in, and undertook to be the sacrifice for calming the sea! Take me up, (said he, like Jonah,) and throw me into the sea, and ye shall all be safe. In this red sea our blessed Jonah was content to swim for thirty-three years, without seeking deliverance, till once the sea was perfectly calm, and every elect soul out of danger. Marvellous loving-kindness! Oh that I could, with a suitable frame of heart, both remember and admire redeeming love, and redeeming blood, when I go to sit down at my Redeemer’s table. O that I may there get faith’s sight of the various instances of his love, that passeth knowledge. Let me there view Christ in the womb, and in the manger, in his weary steps and hungry bowels; in his prostrations in the garden, and clotted drops of bloody sweat. Let me view his head with a crown of thorns, and his face besmeared with soldiers’ spit. Let me view him in his march to Calvary, and his elevation upon a painful cross, with his head bowed down, and his side streaming blood! O unparalleled love! It had been wonderful love to have sent one of the lofty seraphim to suffer for us; but to give him whom all the seraphim serve and adore, is love “that passeth knowledge!” Let me view the Scripture designations and titles of “him that loved us, and gave himself for us,” that he might wash us in his blood.

He is our “Emanuel, the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Prince of the kings of the earth, the Lord of glory, the Plant of Renown, the Brightness of his Father’s Glory, the express Image of his Person, the Bright and Morning Star, the Sun of Righteousness, the Light of the world, the Head of the church, the Beginning and First-born from the dead, the Appointed Heir of all things.” This is he that loved us, and gave himself to die for the redemption of a crew of rebels, grace-abusing, and gospel-slighting sinners! Oh, what am I, that thou shouldst spare, yea, ransom and feast me in such a manner! Long ago mightst thou have shaken off the hand of thy providence such a viper as I am into fire unquenchable; and there made me to know, to sad experience, what it is to abuse free grace, by the loss of eternal glory: But, instead of that, thou hast pitied me, loved, become my surety to appease justice for my heinous sins by thy blood, when no other sacrifice would do. Lord, I welcome thy love feast; I lay my hand on the head of the sacrifice, and rest upon it; “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.” O that I may henceforth live under the continual sense of my infinite obligations to my glorious Surety that could make his soul an offering for my sin. O what return shall I give him for all his soul-travail and agonies for me? O that I could spend my whole life, and each day of it, in magnifying his love, and living to his praise. ‘‘Now, blessed be his glorious name for ever and ever; let the whole earth be filled with his glory.” Amen and Amen. Ω