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that love, the measure whereof they could never aspire to know ? Surely so it is, O blessed Jesus; that thou hast loved us we know, but how much thou hast loved us is past the comprehension of angels. Those glorious spirits, as they desire to look into the deep mystery of our redemption, so they wonder to behold that Divine love whereby it is wrought; but they can no more reach to the bottom of it, than they can affect to be infinite : for surely no less than an endless line can serve to fathom a bottomless depth. Such, O Saviour, is the abyss of thy love to miserable man. Alas, what do we poor wretched dust of the earth go about to measure it by the spans and inches of our shallow thoughts! Far, far be such presumption from us; only admit us, O blessed Lord, to look at, to admire and adore, that which we give up for incomprehensible. What shall we then say to this love, O dear Jesus, both as thine, and as cast upon us ! All earthly love supposes some kind of equality, or proportion at least, betwixt the person that loves, and is loved; here is none at all; so as (which is past wonder) extremes meet without a mean. For, lo, thou, who art the eternal and absolute Being, God blessed for ever, lovedst me that had no being at all; thou lovedst me both when I was not, and could never have been but by thee. It was from thy love that I had any being at all, much more that, when thou hadst given me a being, thou shouldst follow me with succeeding mercies. Who but thou, who art infinite in goodness, would love that which is not? Our poor sensual love is drawn from us by the sight of a face or picture ; neither is ever raised but upon some pleasing motive: thou wouldst make that which thou wouldst love, and wouldst love that which thou hadst made. O God, was there ever love so free, so gracious, as this of thine? Who can be capable of loving us, but men or angels ? Men love us because they see something in us which they think amiable; angels love us because thou dost so: but why dost thou, O blessed Lord, love us, but because thou wouldst? There can be no cause of thy will, which is the cause of all things: even so, Lord, since this love did rise only from thee, let the praise and glory of it rest only in thee.
II. How free of us who had made ourselves vile and miserable.
Yet more, Lord, we had lost ourselves before we were, and having forfeited what we should be, had made ourselves perfectly miserable ; even when we were worse than nothing, thou wouldst love us.
Was there ever any eye enamoured of deformity? Can there be any bodily deformity comparable to that of sin? Yet, Lord, when sin had made us abominably loathsome, didst thou cast thy love upon us! A little scurf of leprosy, or some unsavoury scent, sets us off, and turns our love into detestation. But for thee, O God, when we were become as foul and as ugly as sin could make us, even then was thy love inflamed towards us; even when we were weltering in our blood, thou saidst, Live, and washedst and anointedst us, and clothedst us with a broidered work, and deckedst us with ornaments, and graciously espousedst us to thyself, and receivedst us into thine own bosom! Lord, what is man, that thou art thus mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou thus visitest him? Oh, what are we in comparison of thy once glorious angels? They sinned and fell, never to be recovered, never to be loosed from those everlasting chains, wherein they are reserved to the judgment of the great day. Whence is it then, O Saviour, whence is it that thou hast shut up thy mercy from those thy more excellent creatures, and hast extended it to us vile and sinful dust? Whence, but that thou wouldst love man because thou wouldst? Alas, it is discouragement enough to our feeble friendship, that he to whom we wished well is miserable. Our love doth gladly attend upon and enjoy his prosperity ; but when his estate is utterly sunk, and his person exposed to contempt and ignominy, yea, to torture and death, who is there that will then put forth himself to own a forlorn and perishing friend? But for thee, O blessed Jesus, so ardent was thy love to us, that it was not in the power of our extreme misery to abate it; yea, so as that the deplorableness of our condition did but heighten that holy flame. What speak I of shame or sufferings ! Hell itself could not keep thee off from us; even from that pit of eternal perdition didst thou fetch our condemned souls, and hast contrarily vouchsafed to put us into a state of everlasting blessedness.
III. How yet free of us who were professed enemies.
The common disposition of men pretends to a kind of justice in giving men their own; so as they will repay love for love, and think they may for hatred return enmity. Nature itself then teacheth us to love our friends, it is only grace that can love an enemy. But, as of injuries, so of enmities thereupon grounded, there are certain degrees, some are slight and trivial, some main and capital. If a man do but scratch my face, or give some light dash to my fame, it is no great mastery, upon submission, to receive such an offender to favour : but if he have endeavoured to ruin my estate, to wound my reputation, to cut my throat; not only to pardon this man, but to hug him in my arms, to lodge him in my bosom as my entire friend, this would be no other than a high improvement of my charity. O Lord Jesus, what was I but the worst of enemies when thou vouchsafest to embrace me with thy loving mercy! How had I shamefully rebelled against thee, and yielded up all my members as instruments of unrighteousness and sin! How had I crucified thee, the Lord of life! How had I done little other than trod under foot the blessed Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing! How had I in some sort done despite unto the Spirit of grace! Yet even then, notwithstanding my most odious unworthiness, didst thou spread thine arms to receive me, yea, thou openest thy heart to let me in. Oh love, passing not knowledge only, but wonder also! Oh mercy, not incident into any thing less than infi. nite, nor by any thing less comprehensible!
IV. The wonderful effects of the love of Christ : his incarnation.
But, О dear Lord, when from the object of thy mercy I cast mine eyes upon the effects and improvement of thy Divine favours, and see what thy love hath drawn from thee towards the sons of men, how am I lost in a just amazement! It is that which fetched thee down from the glory of the highest heavens, from the bosom of thine eternal Father, to this lower world, the region of sorrow and death. It is that which to the wonder of angels) clothed thee with this flesh of ours, and brought thee, who thoughtest it no robbery to be equal with God, to an estate lower than thine own creatures. Oh mercy, transcending the admiration of all the glorious spirits of heaven, that God would be incarnate! Surely, that all those celestial powers should be brought to either worms or nothing, that all this goodly frame of creation should run back into its first confusion, or be reduced to one single atom, it is not so high a wonder as for God to become man : those changes (though the highest nature is capable of) are yet but of things finite; this is of an infinite subject, with which the most excellent of finite things can hold no proportion. Oh the great mystery of god. liness, God manifested in the flesh, and seen of angels! Those heavenly spirits had, ever since they were made, seen his most glorious Deity, and adored him as their omnipotent Creator ; but to see that God of spirits invested with flesh, was such a wonder as had been enough (if their nature could have been capable of it) to have astonished even glory itself; and whether to see him that was their God so humbled below themselves, or to see humanity thus advanced above themselves, were the greater wonder to them, they only know. It was your foolish mistake, O ye ignorant Lystrians, Acts xiv., that you took the servants for the Master; here only is it verified (which you supposed) that God is come down to us in the likeness of man, and, as man, conversed with men. What a disparagement do we think it was for the great monarch of Babylon, for seven years together, as a beast, to converse with the beasts