Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The outgushing of that ocean

"Nor must we overlook the grand source of encouragement to a returning soul -- that which springs from the cross of Christ. But for a crucified Savior, there could be no possible return to God; in no other way could he consistently with the holiness and rectitude of the divine government, with what he owes to himself as a just and holy God, receive a poor wandering, returning sinner. Mere repentance and humiliation for and confession of sin could entitle the soul to no act of pardon. The obedience and death of the Lord Jesus laid the foundation and opened the way for the exercise of this great and sovereign act of grace.

The cross of Jesus displays the most awful exhibition of God's hatred of sin and at the same time the most august manifestation of his readiness to pardon it. Pardon, full and free, is written out in every drop of blood that is seen, is proclaimed in every groan that is heard, and shines in the very prodigy of mercy that closes the solemn scene upon the cross. O blessed door of return, open and never shut, to the wanderer from God! How glorious, how free, how accessible! Here the sinful, the vile, the guilty, the unworthy, the poor, the penniless, may come. Here too the weary spirit may bring its burden, the broken spirit its sorrow, the guilty spirit its sin, the backsliding spirit its wandering. All are welcome here.

The death of Jesus was the opening and the emptying of the full heart of God; it was the outgushing of that ocean of infinite mercy that heaved and panted and longed for an outlet; it was God showing how he could love a poor, guilty sinner. What more could he have done than this? What stronger proof, what richer gift, what costlier boon, could he have given in attestation of that love?

Now it is the simple belief of this that brings the tide of joy down into the soul. It is faith's view of this that dissolves the adamant, rends asunder the flinty rock, smites down the pyramid of self-righteousness, lays the rebellious will in the dust, and enfolds the repenting, believing soul in the very arms of free, rich and sovereign love. Here too the believer is led to trace the sin of his backsliding in its darkest lines and to mourn over it with his bitterest tears,

'Then beneath the cross adoring,
sin doth like itself appear,
when, the wounds of Christ exploring,
I can read my pardon there.'

If the Lord has restored thy soul, dear reader, remember why he has done it -- to make thee hate thy sins. He hates them, and he will make thee to hate them too. And this he does by pardoning them, by sprinkling the atoning blood upon the conscience, and by restoring unto you the joys of his salvation. And never is sin so sincerely hated, never is it so deeply deplored, so bitterly mourned over, and so utterly forsaken, as when he speaks to the heart and says, 'Thy sins are forgiven thee, go in peace.'"

Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, pages 183-184.