08 February, 2017

John Kennedy of Dingwall (1819-1884): on Ezekiel 33:11

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? (Ezek. 33:11)


[Sermon on Ezekiel 33:11]

Nor is it by concluding that because God is love, therefore He loveth all, that you can have before you the view of His character presented in the text. Beware of being content with a hope that springs from believing in a love of God apart from His Christ, and outside of the shelter of the cross. It may relieve you of a superficial fear. It may excite a feeling of joy and gratitude in your heart. It may beget in you what you may regard as love to God. This love, too, may be the mainspring of very active movements in the bustle of external service; but it leaves you, after all, away from God, ignoring His majesty and holiness, dispensing with His Christ, and enjoying a peace that has been secured by a cheating, instead of a purging, of your conscience. The time was when men openly preached an uncovenanted mercy as the resort of sinners, and laid the smoothness of that doctrine on the sores of the anxious. ‘Universal love,’ in these days in which evangelism is in fashion, is but another form in which the same ‘deceit’ is presented to the awakened. This is something from which an unrenewed man can take comfort. It is a pillow on which an alien can lay his head, and be at peace far off from God. It keeps out of view the necessity of vital union to Christ, and of turning unto God; and the hope which it inspires can be attained without felt dependence on the sovereign grace, and without submitting to the renewing work of God the Holy Ghost. ‘God is love;’ but when you hear this you are not told what must imply the declaration that He loves all, and that, therefore, He loves you. This tells us what He is, as revealed to us in the cross, and what all who come to Him through Christ will find Him to be. It is on this that faith has to operate. You have no right to regard that love, which is commended in the death of His Son, as embracing you if you have not yet believed. It is only with the character, not at all with the purpose, of God that you have in the first instance to do. What right have you to say that He loves all? Have you seen into the heart of God that you should say He loves you, until you have reached, as a sinner, through faith, the bosom of His love in Christ? ‘But may I not think of God loving sinners without ascribing to Him any purpose to save?’ God loving a sinner without a purpose to save him! The thing is inconceivable. I would reproach a fellow-sinner if I so conceived of his love. Love to one utterly ruined, and that love commanding resources that are sufficient for salvation, and yet no purpose to use them! Let not men so blaspheme the love of God. ‘But may I not conceive of God as loving men to the effect of providing salvation, and to the effect of purchasing redemption for them, without this being followed out to the result of His purpose taking actual effect in their salvation?’ No, verily. For the love of God is one, as the love of the Three in One. The one love of the One God is the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If that love generated in the person of the Father a purpose to provide, and in the person of the Son a purpose to redeem, it must have generated in the person of the Holy Ghost a purpose to apply. You cannot assign one set of objects to it, as the love of the Father, and a different set of objects to it, as “the love of the Spirit.” And there can be no unaccomplished purpose of Jehovah. ‘My counsel shall stand,’ saith the Lord, ‘and I will do all my pleasure.’ ‘The world,’ which the Father loved and the Son redeemed, shall by the Spirit be convinced ‘of sin, righteousness, and judgment,’ and thus the Father’s pleasure shall prosper, and the Son’s ‘travail’ be rewarded, through the efficient grace of God the Holy Ghost. You have no right to attempt to look in on the relation of Divine love to individuals till first you attain, through faith, to a place among His children. ‘Secret things belong unto the Lord;’ do not, then, try to share them with Him. In considering the doctrine of the text you have nothing to do with the question—‘Does God love the wicked?’ It is on the character of God that you are called to look, as He hath revealed this in the cross of His dear Son. You have no right to be influenced in judging of Divine procedure by preconceived ideas of Divine counsels, or of God Himself, but by the glory of His name, as He hath been pleased to reveal it. He does not tell me that He loves the wicked; but I am assured, when I look on Him as ‘He is love,’ that He hath no pleasure in his death. The fullest exhibition of His character, and the overwhelming proof of His having no pleasure in the death of the wicked [Eze. 33:11], are given to us in the cross of Jesus Christ. ‘Yes,’ you say, ‘but it is in fulfilling a sovereign purpose of grace that He has revealed Himself there.’ True, but it is infinite love which He has revealed. It is by this display of His love that you are to judge of the way in which it shall fare with you, if you come to Him in response to His call. Faith has infinite love on which to operate, in order to your encouragement. For, whatever be His purpose, it is abundantly evident that ‘God is love.’ That is the character of Him to whom you are called to return. That is the view presented to you of Him to whom you are called to return, and it is with this that you have to do. And when you think of the special purpose in fulfilling which He has so revealed Himself, you may be all the more encouraged to return; for it is this which assures you that a salvation both free and sure awaits you when you come. The ‘purpose according to election, while casting no shade on the infinity of the love, is a guarantee for the certainty of the salvation which you are called to accept. For a people, whom, in providing salvation for them, He accounted worthy of death, He gave His only begotten Son, that, buying them by His blood, He might save them by His power. You are called to meet that love in the Son as Jesus the Christ, and to present yourself on His blood as a suppliant for all the blessings of the covenant of grace. What more can you desiderate? What element of encouragement is wanting, in this form of doctrine, which any of the systems of evangelical theology, or all of them together, can supply?

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