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ceive the import, and have an inward sense and enjoyment of this great grace expressed in the words before us, I will heal their backsliding.
I come to my next head of discourse, which is, Secondly-The freeness of God's love to his pardoned ones shall be taken notice of. This he is pleased thus to express, I will love them freely. What is contained in this, none but God himself can tell. The pardoned ones know how they are affected with it; yet, the grace contained in all this is only known to God. It is the Lord who speaks these words; and, it is he only who can fathom what is contained in them.
I will love them freely. This is incomprehensible grace! The former words were great, yet these exceed them, as the cause must for ever exceed the effect. They are not here expressed as the original of all the mercy in God, expressed in a variety of acts; but they come in, and are expressed as that which follows upon the revelation and manifestation of his pardoning mercy to his beloved ones. The love of God is the fountain and spring of mercy to the whole election of grace: neither is this to be overlooked here; yet, we will by no means go off our present subject, therefore we will only pursue the same. The Lord in the former part of the text, uttered his glorious voice, saying to backsliders, I will heal your backsliding; to this he adds, I will love you freely. This is full proof, that Israel
may well hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. Psalm. cxxx. 7, 8. The expression, I will love them freely, coming in after the former declaration of grace, seems to imply, how most divinely the Lord would break forth in the manifestations of his love, to his forgiven ones, to his pardoned people: notwithstanding their backsliding from him; yet, they being restored by his royal, free, and pardoning mercy, he says, I will love them freely; yea, as fully and freely as if they had never sinned against me. My whole will is in this-I will love them as freely as if there had never been sin in them. assuredly is the truth of the assertion, and which is a most divine and solemn one. It is true blessedness to receive the same into our minds, with the most cordial acceptation and delight. I would, by way of simile, illustrate the subject thus: when we have had a very severe winterseason, and the vernal equinox is passed, the sun seems to shine with greater vigour upon us, than to our then present apprehensions it ever did before; so when any of us, who may have had our wintry seasons, and felt the evil of backsliding in heart and practice from the Lord, are restored from the same by the gracious influences of the word and spirit of Christ, upon us and within us; it seems to be with us, as if the sun of ever
lasting righteousness shone with redoubled light and love upon us. And surely, this may serve in part to elucidate the words before us, I will love them freely. The will of Christ is in all the acts of his grace towards his beloved. It was in his healing their transgressions. It is in the continuation of his love, in all the freeness and perfection of the same unto them. You have here his whole heart: I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely. And the freeness of Christ's love is as great a subject, as the greatness of the same, and the continuation and perpetuity thereof. Who can say, what the love of Christ is to his beloved? the Apostle tells us, it passeth knowledge. It is an affection in his own vast and infinite mind. It is fixed immutably on the persons of his people. He loveth them at all times. He sticketh close unto them. Their changes, cases, and circumstances, make no change or alteration in him; yet, each and every one of these, gives occasion for him to administer the blessings of his love unto them. This sometimes he does by quickening their souls; at other times, in healing their sinful wounds; in pardoning their sins; in comforting them under manifold temptations; and, in being every thing to them they can possibly need. So that hereby they may through the teachings of the Holy Spirit, be clearly led to see and know, that he does not, nor ever will leave or forsake them.
It was an act of free love, wherewith he loved them, when the Father loved them in him, and gave them to him before the foundation of the world. It was his own free love to them, expressed by him, when in the full and intuitive knowledge of their whole sinfulness, in which they would be implunged by the fall of Adam, and their own actual transgressions, which put him on undertaking their cause, becoming their surety, and making his soul an offering for sin. He loved them freely; when he was made sin and a curse, and bore and sustained the whole of the Father's wrath due to their crimes. It is the very same love in the divine evidences of it, which he is here speaking of in the words before us. He having, out of his own will, and the good pleasure of the same, said, I will heal their backsliding; he will not stop here, but with another I will; says, he will love them freely. Surely this is grace beyond our uttermost conception; yet, it being spoken by the Lord, it ought most assuredly to be believed by us, and received into our minds; which if it is, we cannot but be divinely affected with, and swallowed up in soul-admiring thoughts at the exuberancy thereof. As the same is spoken to returning backsliders, it is a good proof of what the heart of Christ is towards them, the true knowledge of which must endear Christ unto them: and under the constraining influences of it, they cannot but cleave with full purpose of heart unto the Lord.
When it pleases the Lord to let his pardoned ones, hear his voice in this word of his grace, I will love them freely, it cannot but fill their minds with such apprehensions of the grace contained in Christ, as surpass the very uttermost of all they can express concerning it. Freeness is here added to love. This, in the case before us, is designed to express that there is nothing in the saints of the Most High God, which can ever abate the love of Christ towards them; neither what they were in Adam by the fall, nor what they are in their corrupt fallen nature received from him by natural generation, nor all the actual outbreakings of the same in their own persons and cases, can ever make the least change in the love of Christ unto them, as members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. These very words prove it; I will love them freely. This brings me to my last particular, which is this, to notice
Thirdly-The reason given for all this, both for the healing these backsliders, and loving them freely, is contained in these words, For mine anger is turned away from him. I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.
We may safely say, the Lord God never hates his people for sin: yet, we may surely say he is angry with his professing people for it. To deny this, would be to set aside many direct assertions in the Scriptures, therefore this must not be.