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20 April, 2014

THE LOVE OF CHRIST CONTEMPLATED



"And to know the love of Christ." Eph. 3:19

On no other subject did the mind of the apostle Paul dwell with so
much delight, as on that of the redeeming love of Christ. This was his favorite theme. It was his ardent desire to exhibit to a lost world, the grace of the Lord Jesus, which had been so abundantly manifested to himself, once a great sinner. It was the love of Christ that sustained him amid all his trials, and distresses, and persecutions, and enabled him to finish a glorious career. Neither the threats of the Jews, nor the terror of the Romans, could separate him from the love of Christ, or in the least abate his zeal for spreading the news of salvation, and the wonders of redeeming love through a lost world.

Writing to the Romans, he boldly exclaims, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.' No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The same apostle, writing to the Ephesians, desires and prays that Christ may dwell in their hearts by faith, that they being rooted and grounded in love, "may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge."

Let us contemplate the love of Christ in all its extent, and in all its vastness. When did it commence? In the past eternity. The love of Christ to his people extends from eternity. Though it was manifested in time, yet it existed from eternity. "Then I was by him as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth, and my delights were with the sons of men." Christ says to each of his chosen ones, "I have loved you with an everlasting love therefore, with loving kindness have I drawn you."

Oh! wonderful thought, everlasting love! Who can comprehend the import of these words– everlasting love? Christ loves us, and his love is everlasting. Yes, dear believer, Christ loved you before the world was created; before you had an existence. From all eternity he thought upon your lost condition by nature; and oh! how willingly, how gladly, he left the throne of glory to bring salvation to you. His love never had a beginning. "This river of love began to flow before the world was; from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth was. Christ's love to us is as old as the Father's love to the Son. This river of light began to stream from Jesus towards us, before the beams poured from the sun; before the rivers flowed to the ocean; before angel loved angel, or man loved man: before creatures were, Christ loved us. This is a great mystery; who can fathom it? This love passes knowledge." (McCheyne)

The love of Christ will reach into eternity; will extend throughout its immeasurable ages it has no end. This is the sweet declaration of Christ, with regard to his love, that "For the mountains may depart and the hills disappear, but even then I will remain loyal to you. My covenant of blessing will never be broken," says the Lord, who has mercy on you."

O, to be among that happy number, who will enjoy in heaven the eternal favor of Christ's love, which will make eternity itself one joyous unclouded day of everlasting light and immortal felicity! Blessed Jesus! Give us a saving interest in your unchanging loving-kindness, which is better than life. O, let one ray of your most wonderful love light on our benighted hearts: soften them by the manifestation of your grace.

Of the vastness of the love of Christ, we can form no adequate conceptions; much less can we, by any power of the understanding, comprehend it. To use the emphatic language of Rutherford, "it is as if a child could take the globe of earth and sea in his two short arms." The love of Christ is like a great ocean, whose depths are unfathomable. There is a height in this love, to which no human intelligence can soar; a depth which no created mind can penetrate. In viewing the love of Christ, there lies a wide unbounded prospect before us. The mental vision wanders at liberty over this illimitable range. The love of Christ is circumscribed by no limits; it is bounded by no horizon: it is one vast expanse in which the soul may lose itself in wonder, delight, and admiration.

The pious McCheyne, whom we have already quoted, has the following beautiful remarks on the love of Christ– "Paul says: 'The love of Christ passes knowledge.' It is like the blue sky into which you may see clearly, but the real vastness of which you cannot measure. It is like the deep, deep sea, into whose bosom you can look a little way, but its depths are unfathomable. It has a breadth without a bound, length without top, and depth without bottom. If holy Paul said this, who was so deeply taught in divine things; who had been in the third heaven, and seen the glorified face of Jesus; how much more may we, poor and weak believers, look into that love, and say, It passes knowledge!"

If we cannot comprehend the love of Christ; if we cannot fathom it, let us contemplate and admire it. It was the love of Christ that led him to assume human nature, in order that he might suffer and die, and thus atone for the sins of his people. It was this love that induced him to leave the bosom of his Father, and the adoration of the angelic host, and to sojourn among guilty, worthless mortals.

It was love that led him to exchange the throne of glory for the manger of Bethlehem and the cross of Calvary. It was love that made his whole life, from the manger to the cross, one of grief and sorrow. Love made him "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."

Well might the blessed Jesus have exclaimed, "Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, with which the Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger." It was love that made him suffer and die for sinners. Yes, love led him to the gloomy garden of Gethsemane; love drew him to the judgment hall; love nailed him to the cross; and love enabled him to exclaim with his expiring breath, "It is finished."

"Greater love has no man than this." The love of Christ is wonderful love: it is surpassing, boundless love. Look at that amazing love which Christ has manifested to sinners; and may you be able to comprehend with all saints what is its breadth, and length, and depth, and height! When you intently contemplate that redeeming love which brought Christ from his throne, to live and suffer, and die for sinners, does not your breast heave with emotions of gratitude? Does not your soul rise in adoration, and is it not lost in wonder, love, and praise?

Have you a heart so cold as not to be warmed by such unbounded love; a heart so hard as not to be softened by such grace as is here set before the eyes of a wondering world?

No feeble mortal can express the vastness of the love of Christ to sinners! It is a mystery which eternity itself will never fully unravel. "God only, knows the love of God." We know that it is great love, and that it is manifested to sinners, but it is love too boundless for the most capacious mind to grasp. None can comprehend its vastness: none can measure its immensity; language fails to describe it; human thought cannot fathom it; time cannot disclose its depths; and vast eternity itself will roll away in its continual and delightful contemplation. How transcendent is the love of Christ! It passes knowledge.

O my soul, are you not lost in wonder and admiration when you contemplate this divine love– the love of Jesus? And love so amazing, love so boundless as the love of Christ should call forth our loftiest strains of praise, and exercise our highest powers of mind in devout contemplations. It should be the constant theme of our meditation here, until we come to possess its full and eternal enjoyment in that world where all is love. And if we possess the love of Christ on earth, it will cheer our hearts, brighten our prospects, alleviate our sorrows, mitigate our afflictions, and emit a ray of hope that will enable us to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, even in this valley of tears.

To be the object of Christ's love is desirable, and it is a blessed attainment to know that you enjoy it; to say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." There is nothing so much calculated to drive from sin, or excite to good works, as a ray of the love of Christ darting into the sinner's heart! This will more effectually melt it, than all tide terrors of the law, or the thunders of Sinai.

The love of Christ fills the soul with immortal joys. There is nothing so reviving to the believer, as the sweet thought of Christ's love to him. There is no subject stored with such an exuberance of divine consolation, and heavenly joy, as that of redeeming love– the love of the Son of God to a lost world. Every other subject loses its luster when contrasted with this sublime, soul-reviving theme; and nothing tends so effectually to expand, elevate, and purify the soul, as that faith "which works by love."

And what do we not owe to the love of Christ? All the comforts and happiness of life, and all the joys of a blissful eternity flow from this love. You should meditate much upon the love of Christ; and may that love ever glow within you, and be like a perpetual fire burning upon the altar of your heart.

"The love of Christ is a subject too lofty for a seraph's harp. The soul, renewed by the spirit, is often incapable of expressing the sublime feelings which pass through the mind, when thinking on this glorious subject. The love of Christ conveys a joy to the believer's heart, which is unspeakable and full of glory. The tongue cannot express the delight of heart which arises from the manifestation of this love. The joy of harvest, the joy of the bridegroom on his wedding day; the joy of victory, and taking great spoils from the enemy; the joy of a poor man in finding great treasures; all these are not worthy to be compared with the joy and exultation of the believer's heart, on the manifestation of this love to his soul." (Vincent)

What does the blessed Jesus deserve for such unbounded love to sinners? All our hearts should be devoted to his service, and all our affections should be placed upon him. We should love him, because he first loved us. "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."

O to be made like the adorable Redeemer, and to praise him throughout the countless age's of eternity, for the wonders of his redeeming love! May this be the desire of every reader; and may each be enabled to exclaim with the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but you? There is none upon earth that I desire besides you!"

"One there is, above all others,
Well deserves the name of Friend
His is love beyond a brother's;
Costly, free, and knows no end.
They who once his kindness prove,
Find it everlasting love.
Which of all our friends to save us,
Could or would have shed their blood!
But our Jesus died to save us
Reconciled, in him to God;
This was boundless love indeed
Jesus is a friend in need."



David Harsha, 1827-1895