By Daniel Steele
What a mystery is love! We cannot define it; we can only indicate it by describing the occasion on which it arises in the soul. If human love is inexplicable, Divine love is an ocean too deep for the plummet of man or archangel; too broad to be bounded by the thought of the loftiest intelligence in the universe. He who knows not in his inmost consciousness the love of God, will find this book sealed to his understanding. It can only be unlocked by the key of experience. Love is not a product of the reason. It is the free play of the spiritual sensibilities in the possession of its object. God is not only love, but he is love revealed. The perfect love of God toward man is designed to call forth perfect love toward God in man's bosom. Though the mirror on which that is reflected is broken into uneven planes and reflects a distorted image, -- though the human soul at its best earthly estate under grace is shattered by infirmities and incurable imperfections, -- yet the love which man cherishes toward God may flow with all the united force of his being. The history of God's intercourse with men is the chronicle of his love. This is the only history which will outlive itself, and escape the conflagration which will burn up the world and all the works therein. This will be our text-book forever. We can contemplate no more sublime and ennobling theme. The brightness of the material universe pales before the splendours of the Divine character -- that central fire which kindles the souls of seraphs in heaven and melts the hearts of sinners on earth. Thus is the science of the divine Heart infinitely above the science of the almighty Hand.
In love revealed there are ceaseless wonders. Our surprise is ever new when we discover that God so loves our entire race that he gave his well beloved Son to the humiliation of the manger, the mockery of Gabbatha, the agonies of Gethsemane, and the ignominy of Calvary. But this was but the beginning of his beneficence. Since the Son of God has gone up to be glorified and worshipped by all the celestial orders, the loving Father has bestowed an abiding gift, the Holy Spirit, to whisper in the ear of spiritual death the words of life, to pardon penitence, and fully restore the lost image of God. The greatest marvels of the gospel scheme are not in the facts of Christ's earthly life, death, and resurrection, but in the wondrous transformation wrought by the Holy Spirit in the soul of the believer who apprehends the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe. A less surprise is the fact that the eternal Logos should inseparably unite himself with a spotless human body and soul than that the Holy Spirit, co-equal with the Father and the Son, should first completely cleanse a polluted man, and then change his heart from a "cage of unclean birds" into "a holy temple" and make it the habitation of God. This is a mystery of mysteries with all who have experienced the love of God perfectly shed abroad in their hearts. The age of miracles is not past. Jesus changed unresisting water into wine, but the Holy Ghost transfigures the sinful soul bristling with antagonisms, transforming depravity to purity by the mighty alchemy of love. The power to effect such revolutions in character constitutes the standing miracle of Christianity. "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree" -- tenderness instead of cruelty -- "instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle-tree" -- the gentle graces instead of stinging hatreds -- "and it shall be to the Lord for a name," indicating his nature, and "for an everlasting sign, that shall not be cut off." The Holy Ghost, holding up to the gaze of the world specimens of his sanctifying power in the form of purified characters and inspired activities for Christ, is the ceaseless miracle-worker attesting Christian truth in an age of intense materialism, selfishness, and unbelief.
God has begun to save every human soul. He has already saved the entire race from the extinction threatened in the instantaneous execution of the death penalty upon Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden in the moment of their first transgression. The remedial dispensation began with the promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head. The children of the pair banished from Eden, and fallen from their high estate, are born in the likeness of their sinful parents, with tremendous proclivities toward sin in the strength of their passions and the bent of their wills. Yet they come into being under the dispensation of mercy. They have a gracious ability to repent. They are saved from that complete moral inability which paralyses the will of the fallen angels in the direction of obedience to the moral law. This ability to resist the downward tendency of their nature, and to turn from sin, is, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, procured by Jesus Christ for all the race. "He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement." Through the atonement every soul is in a salvable state. By assenting to the facts and truths of the Gospel, and by relying solely on its Author, every penitent sinner may be saved from the guilt of sin. If any one fails to submit to the Divine plan of salvation, the merciful purpose of God is defeated, and the initial salvation never becomes actual and final. Through an abuse of the godlike attribute of freedom man may withstand all the suasives of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and create for himself a destiny of endless sorrow. The human will is an independent fountain of causation, itself uncaused in all its moral volitions. " Whatever the good man is, he is through God and his own will; the evil man, however, is so only through his own will, for evil is falling away from God." Hence the following theological axiom of Fletcher: "All damnation flows from man, all salvation flows from God." He saves all that he can without a violation of the sacred prerogative of freedom. "Turn ye, turn ye -- why will ye die?" Thus love is revealed as dominant over this world; not a fondling sentimentalism, but a holy principle, ever acting in accordance with wisdom and justice; saving the penitent, persevering believer, and consuming with flaming fire all who, by incorrigible disobedience, thrust from themselves the cover of the atoning blood.
The extent of this conquest of love over the believing soul in the present world, is a theme which has elicited intense interest through all the Christian ages. At times the grace of God has been magnified, and many have proved that he can do "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think;" while at other times this great Christian privilege of evangelical perfection, or perfect love, has gone into an eclipse, partial or total, and the Church has groped in the darkness, benumbed by the chilling cold.