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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Gospels

Chapter 46 - Luke 15:22 - God's Free Love Light & Truth: The Gospels by Bonar, Horatius




God's Free Love.


"But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet."-Luke 15:22.



     There is among many a secret dread of the gospel in its freeness. They may not deny that freeness, but they shrink from it as dangerous, if not pernicious. There is among others not so much a dread as a distrust of that freeness. They hesitate, for they are not sure but that freeness may be abused; and they take precautions, as they think, by a long and deep preliminary law-work to place the sinner in circumstances in which he will not abuse the gospel; as if they knew better than God what these circumstances are, and as if any circumstances, any convictions, any law-work could prevent the sinner from abusing the gospel; or as if the gospel itself did not contain within itself, in its own good news, the best safeguards against abuse. They do not deny it; but they do not give it fair play; so modifying, circumscribing, clogging it, guarding it, that it ceases to be good news to the sinner as he is, convinced or unconvinced, penitent or impenitent, sensible or insensible.

     These words of the parable rebuke all such unworthy ideas of the gospel; as if it could be made more free; as if it could not guard itself; as if its sanctifying power did not lie in that very element of free love which it contains, and which some dread as the destruction of all holiness.

     The distrust of a free gospel is the reflection of the old spirit of the Pharisees; the modern arguments against its freeness, are a mere reproduction of the old self-righteous murmurings of the Scribes. And the answer to all this is contained in the parable of the lost son. No doubt some of those who heard Christ's words cried out, How dangerous such statements, how prejudicial to the interests of morality, how fitted to encourage laxity, how certain to end in backsliding! Nevertheless these are the words of the holy One, of Him who is true as well as holy, and who spoke these words for us as well as for the publicans and the Pharisees of old.

     It was misery, poverty, hunger, straits, that brought the son to the father. No high, pure, holy motive. He comes as he was, with nothing about him but evil. He speaks few words; and these are simply the declaration of what he was. Yet he is received at once. He had no promise, no message, no encouragement. He had never heard of such a case as his before.  But be ventures; he makes an experiment.

     Not so with us. We make no experiment. We undertake no venture. We do not come unbidden. We are invited and besought. We have a thousand promises of reception and proclamations of free love. We have heard of, and seen multitudes go in before us. What a gospel is that which we have to go upon! So free; so full of love; so rich in promises!

     I. There is here the difference between man's thoughts and God's thoughts. Man despises, God pities; man hates, God loves; man repels, God attracts; man rejects, God receives. God's thoughts are love, and longsuffering, and paternal patience, and pity. The Pharisee speaks out man's mind, Jesus speaks out the mind of God. And what a difference! As heaven is above earth, so are God's thoughts above man's.

     II. The difference between man's ways and God's ways, between man's treatment of the sinner and God's. This difference has many aspects, and comes out at many points.  But let us take that of our text: "Bring forth the best robe and put it on him." Here is God's way, God's treatment of the sinner. It is the treatment of love. It assumes that the sinner is all in rags and filth,-half naked; and that God must deal at once with this wretched condition. It does not assume any previous preparation, or preliminary treatment. God must take him as he is; deal with him as he is; not that the sinner must deal with himself, or fit himself, or wait, or work, or amend; but that God must take up his case just as it stands.

     (1.) The robe. He came for food, not thinking of his rags; hunger made him forget all else. But the father sees his nakedness, and at once removes it. Clothe him, he says. There is a robe for him. Ask not whether he is worthy of it; he is in rags; let him be clothed at once.

     (2.) The best robe. There were different robes in the house: for the servants, for strangers, for the eldest son. Would these not do for him? If he must be clothed, any robe will do for such a wretch. So man would have said. Not so God. There is hardly a robe in the house good enough for him.  He must have the best.  The best robe for the vilest son. What love is here. What delight in loving and in blessing! We poor prodigals must be gloriously clad! Not sackcloth, nor cast-off raiment, nor a servant's dress; not Adam's nor an angel's righteousness; but something better than all,-the robe of Jesus!

     (3.) Bring it forth. He must have it at once. He is not to go in search of it. It must be brought out to him. On the spot; just where he is and as he is, bring it out, bring it to him. Out of the wardrobe bring it; select the best, the very best, before he moves another step, that he may enter the house even better clothed than when he left.

     (4.) Put it on him. It is not, "Give it to him, and let him put it on himself"; but, "Put it on." He has but to stand still and allow himself to be thus clothed and blessed. He does nothing. He does not need to do anything. Love does it all. The Father does it all.

     Ah, herein is love! Free love! Love to the uttermost. Love without measure.  Yes, such is the love of God to the sinner. He is rich in mercy, and abundant in loving-kindness. There is nothing like it in earth or heaven.