Charles Simeon (1759-1836) on John 3:16

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in John 3:16



John iii. 16. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

THE doctrine of our reconciliation with God through the death of his Son, is calculated to impress our minds with a deep sense of the love of Christ in undertaking for us; but, if not cautiously stated, it may give us very erroneous conceptions respecting the Father. If, for instance, we imagine that the Father needed the mediation of his Son to render him propitious, then we must ascribe all the glory of our salvation to the Son, and consider the Father merely as acquiescing in the Son’s wishes, and showing mercy to us for his sake. But the whole plan of our salvation originated with the Father: the very gift of a Savior was the fruit of the Father’s love; and therefore, in contemplating the wonders of Redemption, we must trace them to their proper source, the love of God the Father.

To this view of things we are led by the text; in elucidating which, we shall not form any particular arrangement, but simply take the several expressions contained in it, and use them as so many mirrors to reflect light upon one central point, the love of God the Father in sending his only-begotten Son to die for us.

Consider then, first, the Giver

[If man confer a benefit upon his fellow-creature, we are not surprised; because there is no man so elevated, but he may need the assistance of his inferiors; nor is there any man so depressed, but he may, at some period or other, have it in his power to requite a kindness. But “God” is totally independent of us; “our goodness extends not to him,”1 “it is no profit to him that we are righteous,”2 he would have been equally happy and glorious, though no creature had ever been formed; and he would remain so, if every creature in the universe were annihilated. How wonderful, then, was it, that he should condescend to look on us; yea, that he should take such an interest in our affairs, as to supply, at a most incalculable price, our pressing necessities! Even in this first view of his love we are lost with wonder.]

But our admiration will be greatly increased, if we reflect upon the gift

[It was his Son, “his only-begotten Son,” whom he vouchsafed to give. It was not a creature; no, not the first of all created beings, but his co-equal, co-eternal Son;3 who from eternity had been in his bosom,4 and “daily his delight.”5 A less gift than that would not have sufficed for our relief: and a greater, God himself was not able to bestow. In comparison of this, ten thousand angels would have been as nothing; yea, all the hosts of heaven would not have been more than a grain of sand is in comparison of the universe. Yet God, seeing our wants, “sent his own Son to be a propitiation for our sins.”6 What manner of love was this! How “incomprehensible are its breadth and length, and depth and height.”7]

Additional luster will be reflected on this mystery, if we consider the manner in which he bestowed this gift

[He waited not to be solicited: indeed no creature could have asked for such a favour: the thought could not have entered into the mind of any created intelligence; nor, if it had occurred, could he have presumed to utter it. But God needed no suggestion from his creatures: his love prevented their requests;8 it even provided for their wants before those wants existed, yea, before the creatures themselves had any being. He himself is love;9 and the exercise of mercy is his delight.10 He neither had, nor could have, any inducement from without: all his motives were found within his own bosom: the displaying of his own unbounded love was a sufficient reason for his utmost exertions: he shown mercy for mercy sake; and “gave” because it was the joy of his soul to give.]

But how will this stupendous love be heightened in our esteem, if we take into consideration the persons on whom this gift was bestowed!

[It was not vouchsafed to angels, though angels needed it as much as we. This was a mercy reserved for fallen man, even for “the world” that lies in wickedness.11 To form an estimate of the world, let us look around us, and see to what an awful extent iniquity abounds: or, if we would have our judgment still more according to truth, let us look within our own hearts, and see what horrible abominations are harbored there. We know nothing of others, but by their words and actions: but we have a juster criterion within our own bosoms: we may search into our own thoughts and desires; we may discern the base mixture that there is in all our motives and principles of action: in short, we may see such “a world of iniquity” within us, as may well constrain us to say, with David, “My heart shows me the wickedness of the ungodly, that there is no fear of God before his eyes:”12 yes, in our own hearts there is an epitome of all the evil that is in the world: and, if we know any thing of ourselves, we shall stand amazed that God should look upon such a world as this, and give his only dear Son to save those who so richly merited his hottest indignation.]

We cannot do justice to this subject, if we do not further notice God’s ultimate design in bestowing this precious gift upon us

[We must, but for this marvelous effort of divine love, have perished in our sins. Having resembled the fallen angels in their sin, we must have resembled them also in their misery. But “God would not that we should perish.” Notwithstanding the greatness and universality of our guilt, he would not that we should suffer according to our desert; and therefore he interposed for our deliverance. But this was not all. He desired to restore us to our forfeited inheritance, and to bring us to the possession of “everlasting life.” It was not enough for him to save us from perishing; he must also renovate us after his own image, and make us partakers of his own glory. What stupendous love was this! That he should ever think of receiving such hateful creatures into his presence; that he should lay a plan for the exalting of them to thrones and kingdoms in heaven; and that he should even give his only-begotten Son out of his bosom to effect it! How infinitely does this surpass all the comprehension of men or angels!]

The condition which he has imposed for our participation of these benefits, yet further illustrates and magnifies his love–

[Suppose God had said, “Find me fifty righteous, or forty, or thirty, or twenty, or only ten, and for their sakes I will pardon and save all the rest;”13 we must have perished, because among the whole human race there is “not one righteous, no, not one.14

Suppose that, instead of this, he had said, “I will give my Son to die for your past offenses, and will bring you back to a state of probation; whereby, if you fall not again from your righteousness, you shall be saved:” the offer had been exceeding kind and gracious; but we should not long have reaped any solid advantage from it: we should soon have broken the covenant again, and been involved in the same misery as before.

Suppose God had said, “I foresee that a renewal of your former covenant would be to no purpose; and therefore my Son shall work out a righteousness for you; and I require nothing of you, but to add to that a righteousness of your own, that the two righteousness together may form a joint ground of your acceptance with me:”alas! we should have been in as deplorable a state as ever; for we never have done, nor ever can do, one single act, which, if weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, will not be found wanting.

But suppose God yet further to lower his demands, and to say, “I will give you a complete salvation through the blood and righteousness of my dear Son; and I will require nothing of you, but only to render yourselves worthy of it:” still had our state been altogether hopeless; for we can no more render ourselves worthy of such a mercy, that we can create a world.

This was well known to God; and therefore he proposed none of these things: he requires only that we should believe in his Son, and accept freely what he so freely offers. It is true, that, if even this depended on ourselves, we should perish: because without the grace of God we cannot exercise saving faith:15 but still this is the condition, which alone is suited to our helpless state; because it implies a total renunciation of all merit or strength in ourselves, and leads us to Christ, that we may find our all in him. O how does this enhance the love of God! And in what bright colors does that love appear, when viewed in the light which so many mirrors reflect upon it!]

If any thing can add to the luster with which his love already shines, it is the extent which the offers of these benefits are made

[There is not a human being upon earth, who shall not be a partaker of all these benefits, if only he believe in Christ. There is no limitation, no exception: God gave his Son, thatwhosoever”; believes in him should not perish. Past sins, however numerous or heinous, are no bar to our acceptance with God, if only we accept his mercy on the terms on which it is offered. This is the uniform testimony of Holy Writ16—O let us magnify God for his mercy; and be telling of the wonders of his love from day to day!]


1. How aggravated must be the condemnation of them that reject the Gospel!

[Our Lord says, “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”17 Let this sink down into our ears: for, if such love cannot melt us into contrition, and such goodness bring us to repentance, we may well expect a most accumulated weight of vengeance at the hands of an offended God.]

2. How groundless are the fears of many who embrace the truth!

[Many sincere Christians are troubled in mind; some on account of their temporal wants, and others on account of their spiritual necessities. But “if God has delivered up his own Son for us, will he not with him also freely give us all things?”18 And “if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”19 These are unanswerable arguments; and they should compose our minds under trials, of whatever kind.]

3. How deeply should we all be affected by the love of God! [Pungent indeed is that question, “What could I have done more for my vineyard, that I have not done?”20 The more we consider how God has loved the world, the more we shall see, that he has indeed done all for us that he could do, consistently with our free agency, and his own honor. And when he has so loved the world, are we at liberty to forget him? Does such love call for no return? or are we to requite it only by increased impiety? O let every one of us say, “What shall I render to the Lord?” And let his love to us constrain us to devote ourselves unreservedly to him.]

Charles Simeon, ‘Horæ Homileticæ,” in The Entire Works of the Rev. Charles Simeon (London: Printed by Richard Clay, Bread-Street-Hill, 1833), 13:254-258. [Some reformatting; some spelling modernized; italics original; and underlining mine.]


1Ps. xvi. 2.

2Job xxii. 2, 3.

3Mic. v. 2.

4John i. 13.

5Prov. viii. 22-30

61 John iv. 9, 10.

71 John iv. 9, 10. with Eph. iii. 18, 19.

8God, instead of following our first parents with denunciations of wrath, gave, unsolicited, that promise, which was the foundation of hope to them and all their posterity. Gen. iii. 15.

91 John iv. 16.

10Mic. vii. 18

11Heb. ii. 16.

12Ps. xxxvi. 1. Prayer-book translation.

13Gen. xviii. 24 32.

14Rom. iii. 10.

15Phil. i. 29.

16Isai. xlv. 22. and Iv. 1. and Rev. xxii. 17. and John vi. 37.

17John iii. 19.

18Rom. viii. 32.

19Rom. v. 10.

20Isai. v. 1.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 at 8:58 am and is filed under John 3:16. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far

Michael Mattson

Just came across your site while digging for an online source for Owen’s argument regarding faith being obtained for us by the blood of Christ. Excellent resource site — I’ll refer people often.
Grace & Peace,

September 22nd, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Thanks for stopping by. Please do recommend this site to others. I think that the material here needs to become more widely known. Most of the critiques here seem, to me, to be so obvious that once one understands them, the evidential value becomes obvious.


September 23rd, 2010 at 7:07 am

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)