‘I will love them freely.’ Hosea 14:4
Suggested Further Reading: Malachi 3:6–18
This subject invites backsliders to return; indeed, the text was specially written for such—‘I will heal their backsliding; I will love them freely.’ Here is a son who ran away from home. He enlisted for a soldier. He behaved so badly in his regiment that he had to be drummed out of it. He has been living in a foreign country in so vicious a way that he has reduced his body by disease. His back is covered with rags; his character is that of the vagrant and felon. When he went away he did it on purpose to vex his father’s heart, and he has brought his mother’s grey hairs with sorrow to the grave. One day the young lad receives a letter full of love. His father writes—‘Return to me, my child; I will forgive you all; I will love you freely.’ Now if this letter had said—‘If you will humble yourself so much, I will love you; if you will come back and make me such-and-such promises, I will love you;’ if it had said, ‘If you will behave yourself for the future, I will love you,’—I can suppose the young man’s proud nature rising; but surely this kindness will melt him. Surely the generosity of the invitation will at once break his heart, and he will say, ‘I will offend no longer, I will return at once.’ Backslider, without any condition you are invited to return. ‘I am married unto you,’ saith the Lord. If Jesus ever did love you he has never left off loving you. You may have left off attending to the means of grace; you may have been very slack at private prayer, but if you ever were a child of God you are a child of God still, and he cries ‘How can I give thee up?’
For meditation: God’s love is not a response to our initiatives, but is ‘an everlasting love’ (Jeremiah 31:3), predating the very existence of us all. However, it does demand a response from us to make an effective difference to us.
Sermon no. 501
22 March (1863)