THE GOSPEL OF FORGIVENESS
I. EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY THINGS.
"If I have told you earthly things, and you believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things ?" - JOHN iii. 12.
THE Lord here plainly makes a distinction between the
things which he has been telling Nicodemus, and the things of which he is about
to tell him. The former he calls earthly things, the latter he calls heavenly
things. He intimates also plainly that the earthly things are of easier grasp
to human intelligence and faith than the heavenly; so much so that if Nicodemus
could not apprehend the earthly, he could scarcely be expected to accept the
heavenly. But still the Lord is so bent on telling of the heavenly things that
he speaks as if he must needs do so, whether the earthly things are believed or
not, in order to fulfil his mission and complete his message. There are,
therefore, three questions suggested by our text -
I. What is the distinction between the earthly things and the heavenly things?
II. How should the earthly things be more easily believed than the heavenly things?
III. Why must the Divine Teacher, having told his hearer earthly things, proceed to tell him of heavenly things, even although the earthly things are not believed
IV The things which Christ has been telling Nicodemns are facts or truths connected with regeneration; its necessity, its nature, and the agency by which it is accomplished. The things of which he goes on to tell him are facts or truths which concern redemption; the lifting up of the Son of man, the love of God in the gift of his Son, and the way of grace and salvation through faith in him. In what sense and to what effect are they contrasted as earthly and heavenly? Are they not alike and equally heavenly? Surely in some most important aspects they must be so regarded.
1. They have both of them alike and equally a heavenly source and origin. Regeneration and redemption are alike of God. They are effects of his mere good pleasure. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth" (James i. 18). "In his love and in his pity he redeemed them" (Is. lxiii. 9). The new birth and the atonement are alike and equally heavenly thoughts, heavenly plans and purposes.
2. The agencies concerned in their accomplishment are alike and equally heavenly. In the one, it is the agency of the Eternal Spirit, the only regenerator. In the other it is the agency of the Eternal Son, the only Redeemer. In both works and the things about them, in both alike, a heavenly being, a divine person, must be the worker - the Spirit in the one, the Son in the other.
3. In respect of instrumentality also, they are alike heavenly. The word of God, which is heavenly, is the available instrumental means as regards our interest in both. In regeneration, we are born again, not of corruptible seed but of incorruptible, by the Word of God "which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter i. 23). And the application of redemption, or our being made partakers of it, is through the Word; the Word or ministry of reconciliation, which Christ has committed to his ambassadors, that as though God did beseech you by us, we should pray you, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God (2 Cor. v. 20).
4. The end contemplated is in both cases alike and equally heavenly. Coming from heaven, they aim and tend heavenward. Regeneration contemplates our restoration to the image or likeness of God; redemption contemplates our restoration to his favour, fellowship, and friendship. The Spirit, in the new birth, brings us near to God in respect of character and nature. The Son, lifted up, brings us near, in respect of real and actual standing.
Thus, as regards the source, the agency, the instrumentality, and the end; the two works are alike and equally heavenly things.
In another view, and in a view, for practical application quite as important, they are alike and equally earthly.
1. The subjects of both, the persons on whom they tell, are the same ; and they are to be viewed in the same light as earthly, all alike and equally earthly. They are men; and men contemplated simply as earthly; wholly alienated and estranged from heaven; destitute, all of them alike, of a taste or fondness for heaven, and of a right or title to heaven; in character and condition, earthly. Regeneration deals with them as corrupt ; redemption deals with them as criminal. Regeneration looks at their depravity; redemption looks at their guilt. The one has respect to their being morally and spiritually unsound, the other to their being legally and judicially condemned. "The carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be:" that is the feature of our miserable case that renders the new birth, our being born of the Spirit is necessary. "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the law to do them:" that is what requires the lifting up of the Son to be the propitiation for our sin. Thus far, alike and equally, regeneration and redemption, with the things or truths about them, are emphatically earthly; they bring the heavenly agents concerned in them respectively into contact, real and personal contact, with the worst elements of our earthliness; our deep indwelling ungodliness on the one hand, and our hell-deserving guilt on the other.
2. Then, as to place and time, the place and time of their accomplishment, or their availableness for us, they are earthly. The place for both alike and equally is this earth. earthly life. Here and now, on this earth, while you are The time for both is our brief sojourn on this earth, our spared on it, you must be born again. There is no provision any time else than now. Here and now you have to make for any renovating change of nature anywhere else than here, good your interest in him who is lifted up as the atoning Lamb of God. Nowhere else than here, no time else than now, is there any sacrifice for sin. Thus the things, or truths, relating to these two works - the work of the Spirit in regeneration and the work of the Son in redemption - are to be regarded as in some views alike and equally heavenly, and in others alike and equally earthly.
What then is the ground of difference in respect of which the Lord characterises and contrasts the two themes or topics as earthly and heavenly? How are they to be thus distinguished? Evidently the distinction is one of relation. It turns upon the antithesis or contrast of these two questions, both arising out of our fallen state - the first, How does man on earth feel and act towards God in heaven - the second, How does God in heaven feel and act towards man on earth?
The relation between heaven and earth, between God and man, has become and is deranged and disordered on both sides. It is no more what it was at first; a relation of amity and mutual good-will. Both parties have drawn off from one another; they stand to one another in the attitude or position of estrangement and antagonism. If there is to be reconciliation and peace, restored fellowship and friendship, there must be double movement. Earth and heaven must both be moved. Earth must be moved heavenward; its heart must have put into it a heavenward bent and bias; and it must also be made clear that heaven is moved earthward, that the longings and yearnings of heaven's heart are earthward, seeking to have earth again as its own.
Hence the distinction now in question. Regeneration, or the new birth, has respect to the relation and affection of earth towards heaven; redemption, to the relation and affection of heaven towards earth. Regeneration is the putting right of man's disposition of heart towards God; redemption, or the operation and manifestation of the Father's love in the lifting up of the Son, is the discovery to us of God's disposition of heart towards man. Nay, it is more than that. It is the actual working out of that disposition; the rendering of it effectual on the part of God for the real and actual reconciliation of sinners to himself.
For in both cases, and on both sides, there is a work. Only, in the one case it is a work needed to call forth love, while in the other case it is a work needed to make a way in which love may righteously have its free course. The Spirit's work in regeneration creates love out of enmity, turning the carnal mind, which is enmity against God and insubordination to his law, into the loving, loyal, obedient heart of a child. The Son's work in redemption - his being lifted up - does not create love, being itself the fruit of love; but it is a work indispensable to heaven's love reaching righteously this earth and its righteously doomed inhabitants. Most fitly, therefore, it may be characterised as in itself, and in all the things or truths connected with it, distinctively and emphatically heavenly. For as it is all of earth that there is need of regeneration to make earthly men meet and fit for heaven, so is all of heaven, of heaven's holiness and right end truth, heaven's free grace and love, that redemption is needed and provided for earth's guilty ones - the redemption which alone can secure to them either a righteous title to heaven or a holy preparation for its joy.
II. The Lord plainly intimates that the earthly things which he has been telling Nicodemus are somehow of easier grasp to human intelligence and faith than the heavenly things of which he has yet to tell him; insomuch that if one cannot take in the earthly he will not be likely to accept the heavenly. Here it is at all events implied, that in our Lord's judgment Nicodemus should have understood and believed the earthly things; that this might have been warrantably expected of him. The Lord has already indicated as much. And he has given two reasons; the one, as it were, official; the other simply human.
1. "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" (ver. 10). As a master of Israel, thou art called to study and expound the Scriptures. And hast thou never discovered in them any trace of man's need of the Spirit's renovating work, or of God's promise of it? Is David's fervent prayer "create in me a clean heart;" is the Lord's gracious assurance "a new heart will I give you;" are these to thee sealed utterances from earth and from heaven? And if it is my use of the symbol of water that staggers thee, should not that be familiar to thee as a reader of Isaiah's prophecy, especially in its application to Messianic times. "I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring" (xliv. 3). "Art thou a master of Israel and knowest not these things?"
2. But that is not all. On another ground my teaching should have a hold upon thee. "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness" (ver. 11). Not only as a master of Israel, familiar with Old Testament phraseology, and with Messianic prophecy using that phraseology; but simply as a man with human consciousness and human experience, you might have taken in and accepted the earthly things I have been telling you. For my speech and testimony hitherto has been about what lies within the range of, our ordinary knowledge, and sense, and observation; yours and mine alike. The subject of our conversation, about which, as a teacher and revealer, I have been conferring with you, is one that touches the confines, or rather reaches the heart of man's conscious want. What I have been telling you of the new birth might never indeed have occurred to you so clearly unless suggested from above; but when suggested it should be felt to fall within the range of your conscience as well as my insight. I know enough of human nature by intuition (John ii. 24, 25), you should know enough of it experimentally, to make us both own this as a great truth, that except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
So the Lord appeals to the inward sense of Nicodemus. And not without warrant. For Nicodemus has already given some indication of his consciousness or conscience bearing responsive witness to the Lord's appeal about the new birth. Consider, in that view, the rise and progress of the conversation.
Nicodemus is an earnest man, seeking light. Gladly and gratefully he hails the light which a teacher come from God may give. He places himself accordingly at the teacher's feet, and awaits his teaching. The teacher's first word arrests and startles him. It is not enough that there be light from above. There must be the opening of the eye here below to receive and use it. The teacher may have come from God; but that will not suffice. The scholar must get a new capacity for seeing what the teacher has to show. A teacher come from God may show the kingdom of God. But except a man be born again, he cannot see it.
It is probably a new thought to Nicodemus. But it takes hold of him. It comes home to his inmost soul. It calls forth from its depths the anxious question, a sort of plaintive, wailing cry (ver. 4), "How can a man be born when he is old ? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Would that he could! For it is in that light that I look upon this question of Nicodemus. I cannot imagine it to be ironical. To me, it is rather the utterance of real feeling, of profound emotion It is the man, not the master of Israel, who asks. Would that what thou speakest of were possible! It is the fond, vain wish that often springs up in the bosom of weary, sated, jaded manhood; sin-laden, care-worn, tempest-tost, war-broken; touched at the sight of calm, sweet, smiling infancy! Ah! what would I not give to be as that newborn child once more! To have all my long life of sin and shame, of vanity and folly, cancelled, obliterated, blotted out for ever, to begin anew, fresh from the womb again! What would I not give for that ?
Nay, the Lord replies, even if that could be, it would avail thee nothing. (Ver. 6) "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." And a thousand new births could not make it other than flesh. Thou mightest enter a second time into thy mother's womb and be born. Thou wouldest be but what thou art now; flesh born of the flesh; and as such incapable of seeing or entering into the kingdom of God. Only "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," capable of seeing and entering into the kingdom of God, who is a spirit. Therefore have I said (ver. 5) "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
And now I say (ver. 7)" Marvel not at this." A man's being born of the Spirit may not be so palpable to sight and sense as his being born of the flesh. But consider the view-less wind, from which, by analogy, the Divine Spirit is named. Mark its mighty power, as thou hearest its rushing sound. Thou canst not trace or track its course, though thou feelest its force and seest its effects. Why should it be thought incredible that, as the Lord sends forth his breath, his wind, to renew the face of the earth (Ps. civ. 30) so his Spirit should be sent forth to regenerate the soul. "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Now, it is when Nicodemus, notwithstanding this explanation, still asks incredulously (ver. 9) "How can these things be 3" that the Lord, after a sharp expression of surprise and rebuke to the master of Israel speaks tenderly, as if in the sorrow of a sore disappointment, to the man; I have more to reveal to you of my Father than I have yet indicated. But to what purpose "If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?"
I have been telling you of what comes within the range of your own earthly cognisance, your own inward earthly sense and experience, when I have been telling you of your need of being born again, and of the sort of new birth that you need; and therefore I might have expected you to understand and receive my testimony. I have been speaking of what is not merely matter of revelation to you from heaven, but to a large extent also matter of personal feeling and conviction in you upon earth. True, the possibility of your being born again as you need to be born again, the fact that there is an agency by which this can be effected, must be communicated to you from above; but when so communicated, it should surely find ready entrance into your understanding and conscience, into your mind and heart.
If the right construction has been put on your question, "How can a man be born when he is old?" if that question indicates, as I have supposed it to do, a sense of some great change, like that from age to infancy, being much to be desired and longed for, ah! should you not welcome as the best of all good news the authentic information that such a change, nay, one infinitely better, is within your reach! And when one whom you yourself acknowledge as a teacher come from God tells you of a divine Person, the blessed Spirit, who will be in you the agent for producing this change - imparting a new spiritual nature and beginning a new spiritual life - ah! why are you so slow to apprehend a statement so fitted to meet what, as your own inmost consciousness should teach you and is teaching you even now, is the deepest want of your soul.
And if thus I find you so unable to understand and unwilling to admit such truths as these - truths that might find an echo in your own bosom as you muse on all your earthly life, in its inner sources as well as in its outward flow; truths which your spirit, weary of sin's restlessness and longing for pure peace, should eagerly welcome and embrace as the only elixir of real and immortal youth and joy - how can I hope to carry you along with me, intelligently, believingly, sympathisingly, in the discoveries I have to make to you of heavenly things - things having nothing at all in common with any earthly consciousness or earthly experience - things which eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man - things which God has purposed and prepared in the unsearchable counsels of his own sovereign mind and will - things which you would need to be able to ascend up into heaven if you would discover them for yourselves - things which you must receive, not for any corroboration or corresponding attestation which earth's history, or your own earthly knowledge and feeling, may afford, but solely and exclusively on the testimony of him who came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven? (ver.13.)
The lifting up of the Son of man, as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness ; the love of God in sending his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish but have everlasting life ; the blessed power of faith in him to deliver from condemnation; the terrible danger and doom of unbelief - these are not earthly things at all, in the sense of there being anything in earth's ongoings, within or without yourselves, to explain them, to account for them, to facilitate your acceptance of them. No. They are altogether and only heavenly. They have their seat in the heart of the Eternal; in the bosom of God, where his only begotten Son dwells evermore. When the Son tells you of these heavenly things - of his own all-healing Cross, and of his Father's world-wide love, and of the free gospel-call, and the tremendous responsibility which it entails - he has nothing earthly to which he can appeal as throwing any light upon, or giving any confirmation to, the great mystery of godliness, or as fitted in the very least to make it more intelligible, more probable, more credible, than it is in his own simple declaration of it. Therefore he may well express a fear that if you will not receive his testimony on a matter of which your own hearts may at least partially have experimental knowledge, you may refuse him credit when he speaks of what he alone can know - the great loving heart of the Eternal Father giving his own Son to be the propitiation for sin, and so reconciling the world unto himself.
Observation and experience may confirm this view, if you have the spiritual mind to discern spiritual things. Look around and say, who are they who are the most unintelligent and practically unbelieving as regards the heavenly things: the doctrine or fact of redemption in its reality and issues? Who are they who are at a loss to see why so great a work should be made about the forgiveness of sin? Why it should cost so vast an expenditure of the divine resources to secure their not perishing, or being finally condemned? Are they not the very men who are equally, or still more, at a loss to see why so great a change of nature must be wrought in them before they are fit for heaven? Why it should be a change so radical as to be at all like a new birth or a new creation? Show me a man who does not feel his need of being so thoroughly renewed, whose notion is that with some repentances and confessions, some hopes to effect before he dies, his character may enough to pass muster in the crowd: show me that man and I will answer for it that he is one who is to comprehend why, without shedding of blood there can be no remission of sin; why God cannot save the lost without his own Son dying in their stead.
Yes; let us be well assured that slight and superficial views as to the change which needs to be wrought in us will carry with them slight and superficial views as to the work which needed to be done for us. The less I feel what the Spirit has to do in me, the less I feel what the Son had to do for me; for my sense or apprehension of my sin, as inferring guilt needing to be atoned for, turns largely on my sense or apprehension of my sin as so vitiating my whole inner man, that nothing short of a new birth, or a new creation, can make my heart right with God. If I think lightly of the hurt of my soul as regards the state of my affections towards the holy God and his holiness, if I think of it as a hurt to be slightly healed, and indulge myself in the dream that I am not so utterly wrong, so thoroughly carnal and ungodly, as to be unable through penitence and prayer to right and reform myself tolerably and sufficiently; how will you ever convince me that there is any extraordinary exercise of mercy on the part of God in granting me pardon so far as I need it? How will you ever hinder me from reckoning on forgiveness almost as a matter of course, if not a matter of right? how will you ever persuade me that there is in my sin such a deep dye of criminality as only the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, can wash out? how will you ever get me to take in the amazing love of God in his giving his only begotten Son, "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life?" Therefore let me look within. Let me see to it that I have some adequate sense of the deep and deadly corruption of my nature, the entire and thorough estrangement of my heart from God, as being such that I must be born again if I am to see and enter into his kingdom, if I am to be at home with him.
I sometimes wonder that I am so little affected and impressed by the great love of God in the gift of his Son to be the propitiation for my sin, that I am so slow to take in all the terror and all the glory of that amazing substitution; the eternal Son taking my nature and my place under the law which I have broken, made sin, and made a curse for me. I may not question the reality of the transaction, but somehow I find myself little alive, less than I used to be, to its awful meaning and dread necessity. I am beginning again to ask why there should be so much ado about my deliverance and my safety, and consequently to see less and feel less of the love passing knowledge that prompts and pervades the whole gracious plan. Is it so with me now? Ah! it is a sad sign of declension, a most alarming symptom of unbelieving un-thankfulness, that must surely and swiftly harden my heart. Let me be startled at once; let me thoroughly search and try myself, and instantly ask God to search and try me; and let very specially on this precise point, that I search myself, and ask God to search me, the state of my conscience, and its conviction of indwelling sin; the corruption of my nature, and my inveterate, because inborn, carnality. May there not be creeping over me a growing insensibility to that sore evil, in some one or other of the forms in which it must continue to meet me, as long as the war of the flesh against the Spirit lasts? Alas! may not that warfare itself be slackening in its energy, if not inclining to a truce? May not that explain the melancholy mystery of my lessening warmth of gratitude to God for his unspeakable gift? For let me be well assured that all through my spiritual life, from its first beginning in the new birth to its final consummation in perfected holiness, the principle involved in the Lord's question must apply: "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things I"
III. Having told us earthly things, the Lord intimates that, whether we believe them or not, he must go on to tell us of heavenly things; and there are several good and sufficient reasons why he must do so.
1. He must do so for the sake of those who do believe the earthly things, of whom Nicodemus probably came ere long to be one. This view follows up and supplements the view which I have just been giving. The case I put now is the converse of the case I have been putting. I suppose now a man thoroughly awakened by the Spirit to a real and deep apprehension of that inborn depravity in him which renders the new birth necessary. He is undergoing some such experience as Paul describes in Eomans vii. His sin, in that aspect of it chiefly which regards its bearing on his whole inner man, is finding him out. He has no difficulty in believing the earthly things about it; that it is, as the Lord has been telling Nicodemus, in itself, and in its malignant poison as vitiating his entire nature, such as no power of his can deal with. He looks at himself in the light of the law. His very inmost self he thus looks into: for the Spirit is bringing home to him the law in a new light, as not outward and formal merely, but intensely spiritual; not disliked and dreaded, but approved and loved; not complained of as irksome and grievous and severe, but felt to be holy and just and good. The man is in earnest. But the more he is in earnest the more pitiable does his case become. "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. When I would do good, evil is present with me."
Ah! is he not in the very position and the very frame of mind to welcome the assurance that for him, and such as he is, there is provision made for a new birth, for a change so radical and complete that he comes forth from it a new man, with a new heart, a heart that can love, and can cease from lusting. Yes, truly this teaching about the Spirit, that one may be born of the Spirit, is seasonable and acceptable.
But the Spirit himself, who has brought the man thus far in this sore but salutary exercise of soul, knows that at this stage he needs something else and something more. For the insight which the Spirit has been giving him into his sin and its exceeding sinfulness, as so defiling and destroying his whole nature that he cannot make himself such as he now fain would be, a loving and obedient child of God, that very insight opens his eye to that other and most appalling aspect of sin which brings in the fatal element of guilt. The man awakens, as from a troubled sleep, to find himself a criminal in chains, in the arms of justice, under the doom of law. And as he now cannot but acknowledge, not only really, but righteously condemned. What avails any prospect of a change for the better in him if that inevitable, irrevocable sentence of judgment is to lie upon him?
Ah! is it not here that the heavenly things so opportunely so blessedly come in? For the Spirit is of one mind Christ in this matter. He will not leave a poor Nicodemus, an all but despairing Paul, at his wits end under the terrible and crushing discovery which he gives of the earthly things. In the nick of time, at the very moment they are needed, be will bring to remembrance the heavenly things of which Christ has to tell every miserable sinner as he told Nicodemus - the Son of man lifted up on the cross; the free call; the faithful saying; the world-wide "whosoever" - so that the very cry forced from lips of penitential anguish, "0 wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" shall issue in the glad and grateful exclamation, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."
2. Another reason why the Lord, having told us the earthly things, next goes on to tell us of the heavenly things, is that, whether we believe or not, he must complete the discovery which he has to make to us of the Father; so as to do full justice to the Father's love, in his purpose and plan of salvation; and leave us, if we continue unbelieving, altogether unpardonable.
What could I have done more for you that I have not done? saith the Lord. I have sent my Son; will they not hear him, when my Spirit commends him to them. Light is come into the world. If it is to be light, saving on the one hand, and condemning on the other, as it must be if it is the light of God; it must be the whole light of God. It must be light that brings out the whole counsel of God.
Such it can be only when, having revealed the earthly, it reveals also the heavenly. For thus only the light of the Father's love shines forth in all its glory; the glory of its consummated grace; its double grace, in regeneration and redemption; so as to leave all men, of all conditions, absolutely without excuse. For what apology can any sinner now have for not coming to the light that shines upon and in him? No doubt the light will make manifest his deeds, his doings, his dispositions. And if he is bent on them being all still on the side of evil, he must shun the light of God s pure truth, and court the darkness of guile. But why should he do so? If the bent of his mind is toward the truth, why should he hesitate about coming to the light? For; be it what it may, at the very worst, the light shows him his case completely met. Yes; it is met, thoroughly and efficaciously met, in both of the aspects in which it seems so hopeless. You must he born again. You must undergo a change of nature which it is beyond any power of your own to effect. Does that offend you? Does it seem to you to make your case desperate? It should not do so. It need not do so. For, not only have you the assurance of the Spirit's unseen agency being available for working this necessary change within: you are told of what, irrespectively of any inward consciousness, may minister immediate relief.
Jesus tells you of heavenly things. And the Spirit carries home to you what he tells you of heavenly things. He summons you to deal with them; to deal with them now; instantly and immediately; and deal with them as they are in themselves, without the slightest regard to the earthly things, or to any experience of yours about the earthly things. For that is the glorious gospel of the free grace of God. The Son of man, lifted up on the cross, is set forth before your eyes. Look to him simply as you would have looked to the serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness. Look to Him now, just as you are. Look to Him and be saved. Do not wait for any sense or consciousness of the new or of any work of the Spirit regarding it, as if that were to be your warrant for looking to the Son of man lifted the cross. No: your warrant is just what the Israelites of old; the real and actual lifting up of the Son of man, as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness. It is the wide and free proclamation, whosoever believeth shall be saved. Surely if on that warrant, the warrant of an infinitely sufficient atonement, and a gracious, gratuitous invitation, with a sovereign command grounded thereupon, you will not believe; the fault is not God's but yours. "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." "I would but ye would not." "Your blood be on your own heads."
3. There is yet another reason to be given for the Lord's going on to tell of heavenly things, even though the earthly things he has been telling are but little apprehended and realised. His discovery of the heavenly things may be the very means used by the Spirit for making me alive to the earthly. Yes what the Lord tells, as none else could tell, of his Father s love and his own cross, may be turned to account by the Spirit, and made to smite me with a sense of may deep need of a very thorough change. That God has been so loving me while I have been so hating him; that his heart has been so turned towards me, while my heart has been so turned away from him; that he has caused his own Son to be lifted up for me on the expiatory altar of the cross, while I have been living on as if I had no sin that needed expiation at all; is not that a thought that might well convince me of my own heart being harder than the nether millstone, and make me seek a new heart from God.
Ah It may well be so. If Christ is telling me of these heavenly things, and the Spirit is bringing home to me Christ's telling me of them; if, with eye opened by the Holy Ghost, I get but a glimpse of that love in which the whole plan of redemption originates, and of which even it is an inadequate expression; if thus taught of God, I see into the heart of God, and obtain some faint idea of the longing of that heart for the world's salvation, and for mine; if I am divinely moved to apprehend that it is that very love that the great Father reveals to me, and presses on my acceptance, in his dear Son, beseeching me to be to him what his Son is, and to let him be to me what he is to him. Ah!if thus I am made to see the great Father in heaven loving me with a love like that; providing for me an atoning sacrifice that satisfies highest justice and expiates deepest guilt; and so reconciling me to himself, fully, freely, in his Son; may not such a discovery of what God is to me open my eyes to what 1 am to him? May it not convince me that I do indeed need to be born again, if I am to know and believe such love as that!
Ah, sinner I wilt thou not be moved by that love now? Wilt thou not contrast what is in God's heart towards thee with what is in thy heart towards God? Wilt thou not be filled with shame and grief when thou thinkest how dead and insensible thou hast been when such love as that has been set before thee and pressed upon thee? Wilt thou not cry out in earnest, "Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, and renew within me a right spirit!" Fulfil thine own promise. "A new heart will I give thee and a right spirit will I put within thee, and I will put my Spirit within thee." Yes; 0 Lord God, gracious and loving Father. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
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