All the history of God’s relationships with us is the chronicle of His love. We can contemplate no more sublime and ennobling theme. In His love there are ceaseless wonders. God so loves our race that He gave His well-beloved Son to the humiliation of the manger, the mockery of Gabbatha, the agonies of Gethsemane and ignominy of Calvary.
Moreover, 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 sin, and fully restore the lost image of God.
It is less a surprise that Christ, the eternal Logos, should inseparably unite Himself with a spotless human body 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, for the Holy Spirit still transfigures the sinful soul bristling with antagonisms and transforms depravity to purity by the mighty working of love.
This is the standing miracle of Christianity.
God has begun to save every human soul. He has already saved the entire race from extinction threatened in the instantaneous execution of the death penalty after Adam’s sin in Eden. His great remedial scheme began with the promise that the Seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head.
Though we are born in the likeness of sinful parents, inclined to sin in the strength of our passions and the bent of our wills, we come into this world under the dispensation of His mercy. We have a gracious ability to repent.
We are saved from that complete moral inability which paralyzes the will of the fallen angels. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is given to “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
Through the atonement every soul is in a salvable state. By assenting to the truths of the Gospel and by relying solely on Christ, every penitent sinner may be saved from the guilt of sin. If anyone fails to submit to the divine plan, 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, we may withstand all the pleading of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and create for ourselves a destiny of endless sorrow.
Hence the words of John 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—while 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 incurable disobedience thrust from themselves the cover of the atoning blood.
The extent of this conquest of love over the believing soul in this present world is a theme which has aroused 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.”
Unfortunately, at other times the great Christian privilege of evangelical perfection, of perfect love, has gone into an eclipse, partial or total, and the Church has groped in the darkness, benumbed by the chilling cold.
This much is sure. God’s perfect love toward us is designed to call forth perfect love toward God in our hearts. Though the mirror in which that love is reflected always gives 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 we cherish toward God may flow with all the united force of our being.
Dr. Daniel Steele was a well-known writer, educator, and holiness advocate in late 19th-century Methodism. This selection, abridged by the editor, is from Steele’s book by the same title, published in 1877.
Dr. Daniel Steele was a well-known writer, educator, and holiness advocate in late 19th-century Methodism.