THE MINISTRY OF HOME
Expository Lectures on Divine Truth"
by Octavius Winslow
The Lord's Time of
"Your time was the time of love." Ezekiel 16:8
The Prophet in this chapter employs the figure of an
Israelitish woman, to illustrate the deliverance of the Jewish nation from
its Egyptian bondage and its final settlement in the promised land. There
is, however, something more spiritual and far more important than this. It
is, doubtless, intended to shadow forth the emancipation of the soul, by
Divine and sovereign grace, from the bondage of sin and Satan into the
glorious liberty of the children of God- the liberty with which Christ makes
His people free- and their final and assured entrance into the heavenly
kingdom- the Canaan of bliss which Jesus has gone to prepare for His saints.
The time when the deliverance was effected is termed " the time of love."
It was the fixed and appointed time, ordained by God, when the people of
Israel were brought out of Egypt; and their time of cruel bondage, when they
sighed and cried for deliverance by reason of their cruel task-masters, is
described as God's time of love toward them in their deliverance. All this
is strikingly and beautifully descriptive of the conversion of the sinner.
There is a set time for the gracious calling of God's people, who are
described as being "called according to His purpose;" and when that moment
or period arrives, all God's providential arrangements are made to converge
towards its accomplishment- all conspire to bring it about; and this is
emphatically and spiritually termed, "the time of love."
God's love towards His people is, indeed, as we shall presently show,
eternal; eternal as His being: a love before all time; nevertheless, the
time of its first manifestation towards them is the time of conversion, the
time when they are brought up out of the horrible pit of unregeneracy, are
plucked as brands from the burning, are quickened with spiritual life, and
are graciously brought to realize their state of pardon and acceptance with
God. Such is the elevating subject which is now to engage our thoughts.
I have already discoursed to you of the heart opened by the Holy Spirit
in conversion; and then, of Jesus as the great Object which the heart, thus
opened, desires earnestly to see. Let us now direct our thoughts to the
Divine love where these and all other blessings of grace flow. The present
subject suggests two distinct parts for our consideration- the love of God
to us in Christ Jesus, and its timely and gracious manifestation. "Your time
was the time of love."
Our first and chief subject is The Love of God Towards His People. It is
the most sublime thought, the most precious theme that could possibly engage
the study of angels or men. Angels have not such an interest in God's love
as man, and, therefore, have no such experience of its power. God loved not
unsinning angels as He loved sinful man- His elect Church fallen in Adam. In
this the sovereignty and grace of His love appear in their most conspicuous
and engaging light. And yet the love of God to man is the subject of their
profound study. "Which things the angels desire to look into."
In contemplating some of the features of the great love with which God
has loved us, we naturally, in the outset, seek to trace this infinite ocean
to its source. This conducts to that great perfection of God- His eternity.
The love of God is eternal. Love is not so much an attribute as it is the
very essence of God- "God is love." In language the most touching God thus
addresses His Church- "I have loved you with an Everlasting Love, and
therefore with loving kindness I have drawn you." Eternal Love planned the
scheme of our salvation; eternal Love wrote our names in the Lamb's Book of
Life, Eternal Love appointed the time and the circumstance of our
conversion; and Eternal Love will keep us safely, will guide us skillfully,
and will afterwards bring us to glory. High let our voice ascend to its
praise; and let our holy obedience testify the deep gratitude of our hearts
for the amazing love with which God loved us, even when we were dead in
trespasses and in sins.
The deepest homage we can pay this love, and the most grateful return we
can make, is to accept it as the ruling principle of life. Let ours be a
life of love- love to God and love to man. Love constraining us to filial
obedience to God, to cheerful service for Christ, and to acts of self-denial
for our fellow-creatures. In this we shall be followers and imitators of God
as His children; for all the acts of our God- the cloud that shades, as the
sunbeam that brightens our path, the discipline that embitters, as the mercy
that sweeten our cup- flow from His everlasting and unchanging love.
It is another interesting feature of God's love that it is a divinely
revealed affection. Fallen man could never have discovered the truth that
God still loved him. He can make great discoveries in the geological
structure of the earth, and in the planetary system, in science and in art;
but left to his own powers, he could never have found out the great and
wondrous fact that, "God is love." We could never have known His will but
for the record God has given us of it: the Bible alone teaches us this.
Where else do we read such precious declarations as these: "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;" "God so loved
the world, that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in
Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." And, then, where should
we look for that marvellous declaration of God, but in His own Word, which
we find in the first epistle of John "God Is Love"?
What an evidence we have here of the truth of the Bible! That Book must be
divinely inspired, must be God's Book, which could reveal to us the fact
that God loved us! But there is yet another revelation of this love, and
another evidence of the truth of God's Word. I refer to our personal
experience -the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
given unto us. Do not let any of us rest content with reading the
declaration of God's great love to sinners in Christ Jesus in the letter of
the Word only; but let us prayerfully and earnestly seek to have the witness
within, that God is love.
All other religion is "a vain religion." True religion consists in love
to God influencing and sanctifying the whole life; nothing can be its
substitute- not an orthodox creed, nor an enlightened understanding, nor
great gifts, nor denominational zeal, nor beautiful worship, nor costly
benevolence, nor the highest religious profession, nor the warmest natural
affections can take the place of love to God.
All this is pleasant and acceptable to God in its proper place, when it
is the fruit of love to Him; but it may exist apart from love, and then it
is a sacrifice in which He can take no delight: "Love is heaven, and heaven
is love;" but it is love to God in Christ Jesus which makes it so.
We reach another feature of Divine love- its self-sacrifice. The love of
the Lord Jesus to us- which is essentially the love of the Father-
constrained Him to make the great sacrifice of Himself for our sins. God's
gift of His beloved Son, and the willing personal surrender of the Son to
die the atoning death of the cross for sinners, are instances of love's
sacrifice which must ever stand alone, unsurpassed and unequaled in the
history of love. The grand display of God's love to us, then, was in parting
with Jesus, in finding for us a Savior so great, in sacrificing a Son so
precious to save us. "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up
for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?"
What blessing, then, do you desire, what petition do you present, what
request do you make which the love of God is not prepared to grant? Reason
from the greater to the lesser. If God has so loved you as to give you
Jesus, do you think that if you desire the renewed forgiveness of your sins,
or the assured evidence of your interest in His salvation, or council to
guide, or strength to support, or deliverance from any present or
anticipated evil, or the supply of any pressing need, that His heart will,
or possibly can, refuse you? Oh no! Venture upon His love; remind Him of
what it has already done; tell Him it is your warrant to approach, that it
emboldens you to ask not greater but other blessings at His hand who, having
given you Jesus, has promised with Jesus to give you all things.
And what self-sacrificing love is Christ's! "Christ has loved us and
given Himself for us." The whole history of Christ would be an unaccountable
mystery but for the explanation which His love supplies. How otherwise could
we account for the mystery of His incarnation?- "God manifest in the
flesh,"- for the mystery of His sinless obedience, for the mystery of His
soul-sorrow in Gethsemane, for the mystery of His sufferings and death upon
the cross, for the mystery of His triumphant resurrection from the grave and
His glorious ascension up into heaven- could we not resolve it all into the
great LOVE with which He loved us?
All this was love's sacrifice to save our souls- love sacrificing itself!
In view of this amazing love of Christ, can you hesitate to come to Him just
as you are, to be saved? Will you doubt His willingness or His ability to
save you to the uttermost, if you but accept His gracious invitation in
simple unquestioning faith? His invitation is- "Come unto Me;" His promise
is, "Him that comes unto Me I'll never cast out."
The love of God is a most free love. Even human love is unpurchasable: no
wealth can procure its possession, as no wealth can compensate for its lack.
How much more unpurchasable must Divine love be! The love of God in Christ
Jesus towards sinners must be spontaneous and free, since it never could be
procured by man's merit: we had forfeited all holiness, and goodness, and,
therefore, had "nothing to pay." No declaration is more welcome, no truth
more precious to the sin awakened heart than that it is "by GRACE we are
saved, through faith,, and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God." No
words more welcome to the soul thirsting after Christ than the invitation,
"Whosoever will, let him drink of the water of life FREELY."
Is not this like Jesus? Is it not worthy of God, that when sin had
rendered us bankrupt of all righteousness, when we had nothing of our own to
plead, but poverty and misery and unworthiness; a salvation should have been
provided without our own works, irrespective of our own merit, and
proclaimed to us as ours "without money and without price"?
Come, then, poor sin-burdened, guilt-oppressed soul! come you who have
spent all your substance upon physicians of no value, and are nothing better
but rather have grown worse, come and drink from the infinite fountain of
the Savior's priceless love! -drink freely and abundantly.
For, "the Free Gift is of many offences;" and, "where sin bath abounded,
grace much more abound." "Eat, O friends, and drink; yea, drink abundantly,
O beloved." "And when they had NOTHING TO PAY, He frankly forgave them
both." But the Lord has His time of manifesting this love
to us. The text thus expresses it- "Your time was the time of love."
Although, as we have shown, the love of God to His people is an everlasting
love- a love from all past eternity- yet it is revealed to us at times, and
often at special times, in our history. Every individual may recall to
memory some period in his life of marked and solemn interest; but none so
sacred and momentous to the believer as that in which he was first made to
experience God's love. There are marked epochs in his history- sacred
memorials in his homeward travel- lofty Ebenezers studding his wilderness
pathway, upon which memory will love to linger when times and seasons are
lost in eternity.
Let us briefly glance at some of those times in which the love of God to
us is the most conspicuous. The time of our unregeneracy is the time of the
Lord's love. It is a remarkable expression of Jude's, "Preserved in Christ
Jesus;" that is, preserved by the love of God in Christ Jesus, through the
many long years of our unrenewed condition, sin, and rebellion against God.
The whole passage is remarkable for its richness and beauty. "Those who are
sanctified by God the Father," -that is, set apart by the purpose and love
of God to be a distinct and peculiar people; "and preserved in Christ
Jesus," -that is, chosen in Christ, and placed in His hands, and in Him
secretly preserved from present death and from future condemnation, amid all
the perils of our natural and unconverted state; "and called," -that is, by
the Spirit and grace of God, especially and effectually called out of
darkness into light, out of self into Christ- "called to be saints."
Now this was a marked time of the Lord's love- His secret and hidden
love. Oh how marvellous the love of God to us, as traced through those years
in which we walked according to the course of this world, fulfilling the
lusts of the flesh and of the mind, in which we lived without God and
without hope in the world. Let the thought that God loved us when we hated
Him- that His thoughts of us were peace, when ours of Him were rebellion-
lay our mouth in the dust before Him, and enkindle a fresh flame of
affection on the altar of our hearts.
The time of the soul's conversion is the time of the Lord's love. How
impressive His language in its spiritual application to this end! "When I
passed by you, and saw you polluted in Chine own blood [margin -trodden
under foot], I said unto you when you were in your blood, Live! yes, I said
unto you when you were in your blood, Live! When I passed by (not as by
accident- nothing in God's dealings with the children of men is according to
what the world terms chance), when I passed by according to my purpose of
eternal love, knowing who and what and where you were, I saw you in your
blood- not with an angered, but with a pitying eye- an eye of Divine love
and infinite compassion. In your blood- wounded, weltering, polluted,
wallowing in sin- I said unto you, Live! I spoke, and in a moment your soul
became quickened with new and spiritual life."
Such, my reader, is real conversion. O what a golden precious time of
love is this! The time when Jesus approached us in all the greatness of His
love, in all the compassion of His nature, and in all the freeness of His
grace, and brought us to Himself! Then it was He washed away our filthiness
in His most precious blood, and we were cleansed from our sin. Then it was
He threw around our naked soul the robe of His righteousness, and we were
justified from all things. Then it was we burst our chains, and sprang into
the liberty of Christ's free men. Then it was we passed out of present
condemnation into no condemnation, and sent up a shout of joy, thanksgiving,
and praise, with which the arch of heaven rang.
Oh, if there is one period of our history of more thrilling interest than
another, if there is one spot in the landscape of life upon which the sun of
memory never sets- it is that of our calling by sovereign grace, of our
passing from death unto life, of our espousal to Jesus, of the Lord's time
of revealed love to our souls, when He drew us to Himself, and said- "You
are mine!" Other spots are draped with shadows deep and shrouding; other
scenes have faded one by one from memory; but our conversion to Christ marks
an epoch of our history, and forms an event of our life, the luster of which
no shadow will ever dim, and the recollection of which no hand will ever
efface. O marvellous love of Jesus! -eternity shall resound with its praise!
Love which loved us in our sins, loved us in our rebellion, loved us in our
distance from God, and drew us so gently yet so powerfully, so lovingly yet
so effectually to His feet, and pronounced us His!
Lord! through many changes have I passed, and many scenes have I
witnessed, and many tokens of Your goodness and faithfulness have I received
since then, but Your love to me, whose grace sought and found and brought me
to Yourself, will be the evergreen of my life, and my undying joy through
"That was a time of wondrous love
When Christ, my Lord, was passing by;
He felt His tender pity move,
And brought His great salvation near.
"Guilty and self-condemned I stood,
Nor thought His mercy was so near;
When He my stubborn heart subdued,
And planted all His graces there.
"When, on the verge of endless pain,
He gently whispered, 'I am thine'
I lost my fears, and dropped my chain,
And felt 'a transport all divine'."
Often, my Christian reader, dwell upon this first act of God's love to
you. The time of your public espousals to Christ and the Church- when
standing as before the altar of consecration, you openly avowed, "I am my
Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine," then gave your whole being to Him- truly
was a time of love, the most solemn and memorable of your life. Oh sacred
hour, when those two hearts- Christ's and yours openly united in a covenant
which death itself could not disannul, and vowed eternal love and fealty!
Never, never can you forget that moment; never, never can you ignore that
When the world would win you back, and sin would tempt you to compromise,
and the love which then glowed so brightly within the breast would wax cold,
then let your thoughts recall the memory of that solemn and tender scene
upon which so great a cloud of witnesses fixed their eager gaze, and leave
all the allurements that would tempt you from Christ, and exclaim,
"Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee;
Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,
You from hence my all shall be
Perish every fond ambition,
All I've sought, or hoped, or known,
Yet how rich is my condition,
God and heaven are still my own."
Affliction times, times of trial and sorrow- are times of love in
the experience of the saints. Never has the Lord been nearer to us than
then. Can we not testify from happy experience that the dark cloud was
pencilled with gold- that the bitter cup was sweetened with Honey- that the
chamber of suffering, and the couch of languor, and the house of mourning
have, through the visits, the sympathy, and the grace of Jesus, been to us
scenes and occasions of inexpressible love?
Thus is it now, and thus it ever will be. You are, perhaps, the child of
sorrow, the subject of affliction. Your faith is tempted, or your affections
are tried, or your character is assailed, or your heart lies bleeding upon
the green turf that covers all that once made it so happy, that lent to the
world its attraction and to life its charm. Look up! O child of grief! Your
time of sorrow, your time of temptation, your time of bereavement is the
Lord's time of love to you.
In love "He Himself has done it!" In love He will succor and soothe you;
in love He will sustain and sanctify you; and when the rod shall have
blossomed, and the affliction shall have been fruitful, and the purposes of
love are accomplished, then the Lord will bring you forth as gold, and you
shall testify- My time of bereaved sorrow, my time of correcting grief, was
His time of unutterable love!
A word to two classes of my readers. Unconverted sinner! the present is
the time of God's love in Christ Jesus. The time of the preaching of the
Gospel, the time of holy Sabbaths, the time of religious opportunities is
the Lord's time of love for souls. Oh that you were awakened to know the
time of your visitation, and to flee to Christ while it is today, and to
call upon God while He is near. You may be seized with unexpected illness,
or may be suddenly summoned into eternity. O terrible thought! to be
arrested by a disease fatal to all religious thought and feeling; to be
surprised by death in a state of unpreparedness to meet God. Fly to Jesus!
He waits to be gracious! escape for your life, for "now is the accepted
time; now is the day of salvation."
Be cautious, saint of God, of attempting to antedate the events of your
future history. The times and seasons are under the control of your heavenly
Father; and when the time shall come- the time of adversity, of suffering,
of death- with it will come the love that keeps you, the grace that sustains
you, the sympathy that soothes you, and the power that will safely conduct
you out of it all, "tried, purified, and made white," to the glory and
praise of Him that loves you.
"My times are in Your hands;" let this be the calm conclusion of your
simple, trustful, hopeful faith, leaving all with Jesus. Be it your only
solicitude and aim, by patient continuance in well doing, and by a meek,
quiet, and submissive spirit in suffering, to glorify God in the day of
"Give to the winds your fears,
Hope, and be undismayed
God hears your sighs and counts your tears,
God shall lift up your head.
"Through waves, and clouds, and storms
He gently clears your way
Wait on His time- the darkest night
Shall end in brightest day."