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after all, the determining principle, which set in motion the whole course of operations by which the salvation of believers is effected, was that to which we so often find its origin ascribed in the Bible, the love of the Eternal Mind,-a love infinitely disinterested and infinitely generous.
For what were the circumstances of our condition-what the aspect of our character, as they appeared to God and his Eternal Son, when they deigned to set their love on us ? There was no concentration of physical circumstances,-deformed, abhorrent, repulsive to affection, that can be imagined, adequately representing the strength of that mighty obstacle to the Only-begotten loving us, which was contained in the fact that we were sinners. We know that the perception and abhorrence of moral evil in the breast of the Divinity are so inconceivably intense, that the feelings of moral loathing with which a human being regards any act of crime, however gross, or even however personal, are, as it were, approbation itself when compared with that infinite recoiling of nature with which it affects Immaculate Perfection. For he is “ not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with him. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. He cannot look upon sin.” Nay, so intense and piercing, and beyond the power of created purity to bear, according to the descriptions of the Sacred Word, is the eye of God's omniscient holiness, that things to us the very em
blems of all that is most celestially bright and undefiled, wax dim and black beneath its glance. “ He looketh to the moon," and behold the chaste moon withdraws her shining ; " and the heavens," with all their stainless ether, and all their stars of most unsullied and spiritual beam," the heavens are not clean” before his sight. “How much more," it is immediately added, “ how much more shall man be abominable and polluted that drinketh iniquity like water !” Judge, then, my brethren, how profound and powerful a spring of absolutely generous love that holy bosom must have contained, which had within itself an attraction to the lost able to vanquish the force of so mighty a repulsion--which, regarding sin with such infinite abhorrence, could yet regard the sinner with such infinite affection,—and which has thus recorded the triumph of its own benevolent emotions over all the circumstances in the condition of his chosen most fitted to disgust, to sicken, to revolt: “ There was no eye to pity thee, O daughter of Jerusalem ; none to have compassion upon thee. Thou wast cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person and thy life. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted - trodden under foot in thine own blood, I said unto thee in thy blood, Live ; yea, I said unto thee in thy blood, Live. When I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, thy time was a time of love ; and I entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord Jehovah, and thou becamest mine."
But, in order properly to understand the pure, untainted, unmingled generosity of the Redeemer's preventing affection to his Church, we must remember, that in proportion to the vileness of sin in the estimation of his Omniscient Holiness is its demerit, that the moral evil in the abyss of which we were involved, is that which must have been not only the object of intensest loathing to him who is the Supreme Moral Nature of the universe, but to him who is the Supreme Moral Ruler of the universe the object of severest condemnation. Some circumstances, indeed, there were in the condition and the prospects of his Church, which, when the Holy One of God undertook the task of her salvation, afforded just and natural occasion for some portion of the feelings with which he vouchsafed to look on her. There was enough in the misery in which she lay. involved already, and in that more appalling misery to which she was sinking down in a doomed and despairing eternity,—to awaken in his bosom the sentiment of profoundest pity; such pity as, we are assured by his own inviolable oath, he feels even towards the finally undone ; such pity as he expressed of old, when, with glistening eyes and a heaving heart, he pronounced the sentence of now inevitable ruin against Jerusalem's devoted towers. But this was all that our misery could warrantir it was more than our guilt could claim; the graceful and affecting, yet unavailing compassion of the
Judge, when, with the tones of pity, he utters the words of inexorable doom, when he weeps for those whom he must not spare. But when, instead of this, we see him take the guilty, degraded, trembling criminal,--tearing the brand of condemnation from her brow, and discharging the taint of pollution from her nature,--making her worthy, not merely of his compassion, but of his complacency and esteem,-raising her to the dignities and the enjoyments of his espoused bride, his celestial queen, to what shall we trace all this but to free, spontaneous, unmerited, and, as far as all its objects were concerned, unearned benignity,--to the purest strain of generous emotion,--to a sovereignty of affection, of which the sources are hidden in the glorious depths of his inscrutable being, whose “nature and whose name is Love ?"
But while we thus, my brethren, infer, from the aspect presented by the Church when Christ began to love her, the generosity of his affection,-its strength and ardour we may best calculate from what the sequel of this passage declares respecting the sacrifices which he made for her, and the gifts which he bestowed upon her.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend ;” and were we to seek for such instances at all in the history of our race, perhaps we might expect to find them in the case of that closest and most sacred of earthly relations from which the imagery of the text is borrowed. In ancient story, accordingly, we find here and there a dim and beautiful legend of a hero-husband, or more heroic spouse, who, when the oracle had given them the alternative of death with those whom they loved best, have chosen the more generous part, and, prodigal of their noble lives, have counted it “ a sweet and sacred thing to die” in ransom for souls dearer than their own. But, oh! how faint an image of the Heavenly Bridegroom's love to his espoused Church is afforded by the most touching of these old traditions, though hallowed to immortal memory by the most potent spells of pathetic song! For let us recollect how stupendous a thing it was for him to die. For a mortal man to die, in order to redeem another's life, what was this but by a few days to anticipate his own inevitable fate? But for him who was the Eternal Father's co-eternal Son, the First and the Last, and the Living One,"—the possessor of that uncreated essence which alone hath immortality; for him to die would have appeared to all eternity an impossibility in supposition, had it not become a fact in history. In order that he might be capable of dissolution, the most amazing miracle was wrought, which the universe hath witnessed, or the annals of eternity recorded. Into the mystery of God had to be interwoven the mystery of mysteries,—God manifest in the flesh. A man had to be constituted, who was yet the fellow of Jehovah,-a child had to