What is it that Saves a Soul? Love the Cause
Our feeble faculties being unable to grasp the mind of Jehovah as one harmonious whole, we are compelled to ascribe to Him a succession of acts, which succession has no real existence in Him who is one eternal Now-"the same yesterday, and today, and for ever". Thus we speak of the regard which God has to His own glory as the first act in the scheme of salvation, and His eternal love as the second. But in His infinite mind there is neither first nor second, future nor past, prior nor posterior. When we say, then, that eternal love is the second moving cause of salvation, we use the language demanded by our feeble minds, and do not mean thereby to ascribe to God any such imperfection as a succession of motives implies.
Love, then, is a cause of salvation. But if Jehovah be perfect and unchangeable, His love must be of the same nature. The more pure, the more unwavering, the more unalterable that love is, the nearer it approaches to perfection. To be fickle, to move from object to object, to be damped, discouraged, destroyed, alienated, or in any way impaired by external circumstances, takes from the purity of love. The fond wife that clings to her husband in spite of ill-treatment and neglect, that loves him in disgrace and ignominy, that wears his image on her heart, though he be transported as a felon, or hanged as a malefactor, commends herself to our admiration as a pattern of conjugal love. The tender mother who yearns after her profligate son, and waters her midnight pillow with tears of love towards him, though her heart is well-nigh broken by his licentious habits, we at once admire as an example of maternal affection. The strength, the unalterable nature, the purity, the disinterestedness of these two instances of human love go instinctively to our heart.
Now, shall we measure the purity and perfection of creature affection by a certain standard, and throw that rule aside when we measure divine love? If the love of God to the sons of men be fickle, changeable, dependent on circumstances, influenced by their conduct, alternately given and taken away. then we must say boldly that the love of God is imperfect; and if the love of God be imperfect, then is God Himself imperfect too. But if God loves those whom He loves, eternally, infinitely, perfectly, then must He love them unchangeably and unalterably. Does God, then, love all men? Did He love Esau, Pharoah, Saul, and Judas? He tells us Himself that "He hated Esau" Mal 1:3, and Paul declares that this hatred was "before the children were born, and before they had done any good or evil" Ro 9:10-13.
We must come, then, to this conclusion, that God loves some and hates others. But is there no moving cause in the individuals themselves? Are not some good and others bad, some obedient and others disobedient, some who deserve love and others who deserve hatred? If all men are equally fallen, equally vile, equally involved in condemnation and transgression, there can be in them no original difference. If some are saved and others lost, some made eternally happy and others eternally miserable, we must look for the cause of this difference as existing somewhere else than in the persons themselves. And let us argue the matter as long as we will, if we once admit original sin and the Fall of man, we must still come to the same conclusion, that the difference made between the saved and the damned originates not in them, but in God; in a word, that He freely hates some and freely loves others.
But the existence of love can only be made known by actions. Love is a hidden principle in the bosom, as far as regards those by whom it is felt; but with respect to those to whom it is felt, it can only be manifested by some outward conduct. Thus love is the spring of salvation, as salvation is the fruit of love. The one is the cause, the other the effect; the one the inward motive, the other the outward action. But we measure love by the trials it will undergo, the sacrifices it will make, the sufferings that it will endure for the object of affection. By the same standard we measure the love of God towards the children of men. Redemption, therefore, is continually set forth in the Word as the test and proof of the love of Christ: "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it" Eph 5:25. "Who loved me," says Paul, "and gave Himself for me" Ga 2:20. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us" 1Jo 3:16. If redemption, then, is the fruit of love, the effect of it, and the expression of it; if love is limited and particular, redemption will be limited and particular, too. The effect cannot be greater than the cause, nor the action than the motive.