Ralph Erskine Archive

Ralph Erskine

SERMON LXI.


THE GIVING LOVE OF CHRIST, AND THE RECEIVING PROPERTY
OF FAITH.

[The Third Sermon on the Text]


This sermon was delivered on a sacramental occasion at Kinclaven, Sabbath, July 30th, 1739. And in the first edition of it, we are told, that it contains the sub­stance of more discourses than one, though written only in short heads by the author, through want of time.


“The life which I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20.


Having in some former discourses, explained the words at consider­able length, and made some application of them, we now proceed to prosecute the following observation from them.

Doctrine: “That the love of Christ, manifested in the word to sin­ners, is a giving love.”

Christ’s love is manifested by gifts, even as his covenant is a giving covenant, giving all the sure mercies of David, (Isa. 55:3; Acts 13:34).

We shall endeavor here the illustration, the confirmation, and the application of this doctrine.

1. We are to essay the illustration of the doctrine. As God’s love is a giving love, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,”&c. (John 3:16); so Christ’s love is a giving love; “He loved me, and gave himself for me.” On the cross, he gave himself for us; and in the gospel, he gives himself to us; even to these that refuse the gift, he gives himself to be received, (John 6:32). He gives himself to be light to the dark: “I am the light of the world, a light to lighten the Gentiles,” &c. He gives himself to be sight to the blind, eye-salve; he gives himself to be raiment to the naked; to be riches to the poor, and tried gold. He gives himself to be life to the dead; “I am the way, the truth, and the life; the resurrection and the life; the God that quickens the dead.” He gives himself to be a covenant of the people: the old covenant being broken, he gives himself to be the Mediator, the Testator, Surety, Messenger, and all of the covenant; to be a cove­nant of grace, of justifying grace, to the guilty; sanctifying grace, saving grace, drawing grace: to be a covenant of peace, a covenant of mercy, a covenant of salt, an everlasting covenant, a well-ordered covenant, a sure covenant; or, as it may be read, a kept covenant. He gives himself to be a witness, (Isa. 55:4); the true and faithful witness; a witness to the truth, particularly of his kingly office and authority: for this end was he born: O Sirs, it is a great honor to be an honest witness, for so was Christ. Happy these, whom he honors to be faithful to the death in witnessing for him! But it must be given. He gives himself to be a Leader; a Leader of the blind, (Isa. 42:16). He gives himself to be a Commander, a Cap­tain-general, to command the field against the enemy; to command the blessing to his people; to command the devil to come out: “Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee to come out; thou un­clean spirit, I charge thee to come out;” to command peace. He gives himself to be a Laver, an open fountain for sin and for un­cleanness. He gives himself to be a Ladder, by which we may as­cend up to heaven; all the rounds are complete. he gives himself to be “a hiding place; and a covert from the tempest; to be as rivers of water in a dry place; to be a shadow of a great rock, a shadow from the heat,” (Isa. 32:2). He gives himself to be wis­dom, to be righteousness, to be sanctification, to be complete redemp­tion. He gives himself to be meat indeed and drink indeed. He gives himself to be a propitiation, whom God hath set forth to be so; a ransom, a sacrifice, an atonement. He gives himself to be a pat­tern; “He hath given us an example that we should follow his steps;” but this is not all, as Socinians allege; for, besides this, he gave himself to be a curse for us, and to be sin for us; a sacrifice for sin. He gave himself to be the strength of the poor weak creature; to be the consolation of the disconsolate; for he is the consolation of Israel: to be not only the Saviour, but the salvation of Israel: to be the rest of the weary: “Come to me, all ye that labour, and I will give you rest;” to be the blessing of the cursed sinner; he comes to bless, according to the promise, “Men shall be blessed in him.” He gives himself to be the builder of the temple, and the bearer of the glory: to be the glory of his house, “A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel; and in him shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory.” He gives himself to be a refuge for the oppressed and cast down; “The eternal God is thy refuge;” O fly to him to be a sun and shield. He gives himself to be a succor of the tempted; “For he suffered, being tempted, that he might be able to succor them that are tempted;” to be a Prophet, Priest, and King: to be a Father to the fatherless, “In whom the fatherless findeth mercy: to be a husband to the widow, The stranger’s shield, the widow’s stay, the orphan’s help is he;” to be a restorer; “Then I restored that which I took not away.” He restores the image of God, the favor of God. O! his love is a giving, love. He gives himself to be an advocate, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” to be the author of faith, and finisher thereof: the author of repentance; he is exalted a prince and a savior to give its the author of true knowledge; “Who teacheth like him?” the author of love, “I will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love me.” He gave himself to be a bearer of burdens, that you may cast all yours upon him; to be a counselor, a wonderful counselor; to be a day’s-man; a door of hope; “The desire of all nations;” to be the end of the law for righteousness; to be a friend, a physician of sinners, a sure foundation; to be God with us; to be head over all things to the church; to be Jesus, and to be the Christ; to be King in Zion; to be Lord of all; to be a doer for us; to be a sufferer and a satisfier; to be an open fountain; Alpha and Omega, a savior; a seeker of the lost. He gives himself to be all our hope; “Thou art my hope in the day of evil;” the hope of Israel; the surety, the shepherd, (Isa. 40:11), a physician and healer. Jehovah-rophi: to be an undertaker; “I am op­pressed, undertake for me;” to be all in all.

1. We come now to the confirmation of the doctrine. O Sirs, everything about Christ, this glorious lover, points him out as a glorious giver.

His covenant is a giving covenant; a covenant of free gifts; “I will give thee the sure mercies of David,” (Acts 13:34, com­pared with Isa. 55:3), “I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.”

His blood is a giving blood; it speaks better things than the blood of Abel, and it gives better things; for it gives peace with God; “He made peace by the blood of his cross.”

His heart is a giving heart: the very thoughts of his heart are thoughts of giving; “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,” (Jer. 29:11). Your unbelief, O poor sensible sinner, is al­ways saying, Oh! he hath some ill thoughts, some ill design against you: but behold he is now telling you what are his very thoughts, even thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. You are to measure his thoughts and designs, by his words of grace.

His words are giving words; his word is a life-giving word; “The hour cometh, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.” His word is a health-giv­ing word; “He sent his word, and healed them.” His word is a light-giving word; “The entrance of thy word gives light.” His word is a joy-giving word; “Thy word was found of me, and I did eat it, and it was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”

His hand is a giving hand; “The eyes of all things wait on thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing,” (Ps. 145:15-16). His hand gives with his heart.

His life both in earth and heaven is a giving life. His life on earth was to give himself for us, and to give himself to be a sacri­fice and atonement for our sin; and his life in heaven is to give himself to us, and to give out the blessings of his atoning blood; “Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give re­pentance and forgiveness of sins,” (Acts 5:31). He was humbled on earth to give, and he is exalted to heaven to give.

His glory, to which he is exalted, is a giving glory. And, in­deed, the higher he is exalted, the lower does he still stoop to give; “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hand, he girds himself with a towel, and rises from supper, and washes his disciples’ feet,” (John 13:3 & 4).

Again, his super-eminent unction, wherewith he is anointed, is a giving unction: he is anointed that he may anoint; “God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows, (Ps. 45:5). I have put my Spirit upon him; he shall bring forth judgment unto the Gentiles,” (Isa. 42:1). And hence, as his errand to the earth was a giving errand; so his errand to heaven again was a giving errand: “If I go away, says he, I will send the comforter.”

His fullness is a giving fullness; “In him dwelleth all the full­ness of the Godhead bodily: and ye are complete in him, which is head of all principality and power, (Col. 2:10). Of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace,” (John 1:16).

His Father is a giving Father; “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,”&c. And so he loved, and he loves the world, as to give himself to be the Saviour of a lost world. O! how do the Father and the Son harmonize in this matter? In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to be the propitiation for our sins,”(1 John 4:9-10). And he says, “Lo, I come!” upon this giving errand, (Ps. 40:7).

His Spirit is a giving Spirit. These blessed three who bear witness in heaven, we may say, as they are one, so they agree in one: as it is said of the Three that bear witness on earth, they agree in one: so they agree in giving. The Father is a giving Father; he gives the Son; Christ is a giving Christ; he gives him­self; and both the Father and the Son give the Spirit, (John 15:26), where Christ speaking of the Comforter says, “Whom I will send unto you from the father, even the spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father.” And the Spirit is a glorious giver of all things that belong either to the Father or the Son; yea, the giver of all things that belong both to the Father and the Son, (John 16:14-15). The Spirit gives conviction and illumination. He makes the application of redemption. He is the immediate Giver of faith, and repentance, and love, and other graces that are all the fruits of the Spirit; the Spirit gives: as a Spirit of adoption, he gives to cry, Abba, Father; as a Spirit of liberty, he gives a loosening to our bands; as a Spirit of grace, he gives all grace; and as a Spirit of Glory, he gives the faith of glory, the hope of glory, the view of glory, the first fruits and beginnings of glory. Again,

As the Father is a giving Father, and his Spirit a giving Spirit, so his servants in the ministry are giving servants; for he says to them, “Freely ye have received, freely give; Go preach the gospel to every creature.” We are earthen vessels, for no other use but as cups, or vessels, for giving out to you what he gives to us for you.

Wherefore was Christ humbled? Even to give himself for us. And wherefore is he exalted? He is even exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give himself to us, by giving repentance and remission of sins. He was humbled to give himself, and exalted to give his Spirit.

All his offices are giving offices. He is a Prophet, to give instruction, and advice, and wisdom; a Priest, to give righteousness; and a King, to give power and victory.

All his names are giving names. He is Jesus, to give salva­tion from sin and wrath; he is Christ, to give the Spirit, the anointing; and he is Lord, to give the crown and the kingdom.

All his appearances are giving appearances. His doing is for giving us a title to heaven; his dying is for giving us security from hell and death; his resurrection is for giving us a new life, and raising us to a new and lively hope; his ascending up to heaven, leading captivity captive, was for receiving gifts for men, even for the rebellious; his sitting at the right hand of God, and making continual intercession there, is for giving out the blessings of his purchase, and for making the powerful application thereof.

All his ordinances are giving ordinances. Ministers are earthen vessels, into which he puts the treasure that he gives out for you: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” What is the word preached, and the sacraments dispensed, but like so many vessels and cups, and means for conveying his gifts and bounties to sinners?

All his promises are giving promises. There is the new heart to be given: “A new heart also will I give you,” there is the new Spirit to be given: “I will put my Spirit within you.”

I may say all his commands are giving commands; for the sum of his commands is this, that ye believe in him; and what is that but that ye receive him? It is just God stretching forth his hand, and commanding you to take all from him, and to be obliged to him for all: for “He gives grace, and glory, and every good thing,” and his command is that you take what he gives.

Question: How does he give?

Answer: He gives freely and fully; when he gives himself, he gives all: He gives irreversibly; “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance;” He gives lovingly; “He loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Question: What of himself did he give for them?

Answer: He gave his body a sacrifice; his back to the smiters, and to the whole burden of wrath; his cheeks to them that pulled off the hair; his name to be a reproach; his hands, and feet, and side, to be pierced; his head, to be crowned with thorns; his blood, to be poured out; his soul, to be an offering for sin.

Question: Why is his love a giving love?

Answer: Thus he gets glory to his name, to his Father, and to himself. This is suitable to his people’s need and necessity: he hath bought and paid the price of all; and therefore we have nothing to pay; all is given freely; and it is suitable to the state of a king to, give gifts and presents.

III. I come now, in the last place, to the application. If he be such a Giver, as we have been representing him, then we ought to be receivers. We should meet his giving hand with our receiving hand. O Sirs, are you for great gifts today. You may be made up with free gifts, if you be not fools; and, if hitherto you have been such fools, and lack wisdom, you may now seek and get enough: “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth none; and let him ask in faith of getting, nothing doubting.” Doubt not of his readiness to give; for giving is his trade, it is his office, which he executes both is his state of humiliation and exaltation. O! you have come to a good market this day; and if you go away without making a bargain, whom can you blame?

O Sirs, what came you hear for? If you come for any good, here is all, and you may be supplied. If you come for no good, yet here you may be pitied and prevented, and get the good you was not seeking: as Saul went out to seek his father’s asses, and found a kingdom; so, though you had some poor trifling errand, yet here you may get a kingdom for the taking.

What want you for yourself, for your family, for your children, for the land, for posterity? Want you knowledge, faith, pardon, healing! O! his love is a giving love! “Whosoever will, let him come, and take. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come to the waters.” Ho, every one that needs a drink; ho, every one that is guilty, come and take remission: ho, every one that is filthy, come and be wash­ed. O poor, mortal, dying sinner, here is life and immortality brought to light by this gospel, and brought to your door, as a love gift to you in Christ Jesus, who gives himself to you in this word; take him, and God’s blessing with him, if you will take him wholly; for he will not be divided. He gives himself for sanctification as well as for justification; for salvation from sin now, as well as salva­tion from hell afterwards. Will you close with this bargain? You have nothing to object, for all is given. If you say you have no power, he hath power to give; “‘He giveth power to the faint.” If you say you have no will, he hath the will to give; “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Are you content? Is it a bargain? An everlasting bargain be it, never to be forgotten.

Come not ye to give, but to get: for you must be humbled to be receivers, he exalted as a Giver.

Question: How shall I know whether he be giving all these things to me, and whether I have a warrant to take and accept?

Answer: You may be sure of this, if these two things concur, namely, if he be offering, and you be needing these things; if you want, and he has, and be saying by this gospel, Come and share; if you be needy and destitute of all these things, so as there is none of them with you, nor to be had anywhere else, then you may look for them here, and expect them, according to the promise, In Isaiah 41:17-18; “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” By the water here, you may understand the water of life, comprehend­ing all the blessings of the covenant. Now, are you poor and needy, seeking life, and there is none to be had among creatures; seeking righteousness, strength, grace, and there is none? “The Lord will hear; the God of Israel will not forsake.”

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