(The following letter was written by Pastor William Burns to the youth Sunday School class in Edinburgh, on March 10, 1840.)
My dear young friends,
Some of you remember that sweet and glorious verse, on which I spoke a little the first time I was among you. I will repeat it, as it is one that ought to be engraved upon all our hearts, "You know the grace of the Lord Jesus, who, though he was rich — yet for your sakes became poor, that you through his poverty might be made rich."
This sweet verse, I well remember, tenderly affected some of our souls, through the power of the Holy Spirit, on that afternoon that I was among you. And it is by considering, and truly believing, the wonderful truth which it contains — that we are to be saved from sin, and all its bitter and everlasting fruits, and to be made partakers of God's salvation, with eternal glory.
Think, then, again, my dear young friends, of the dignity and glory which Emmanuel left — when He came to our earth to save us! This we cannot conceive, it is so great and glorious. He was gloriously rich. He was not a creature — but the Father's "only-begotten Son," the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person. And, therefore, He was rich from all eternity, not only in having all the universe as His own — but in possessing all the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable attributes of the Godhead! And yet, mystery of mysteries! He became poor! He veiled His divine glory in our weak nature, by becoming a man: "He made Himself nothing — by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."
But this was not all, "he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" and His sufferings and shame were only ended by bleeding to death upon the accursed tree! This is a mystery which will never be fully understood by any creature throughout eternity — but will always be forever unfolding new wonders of divine wisdom, power and grace — to the souls of redeemed sinners and unfallen angels!
But then, what comes next in the verse? "He became poor for your sakes — that you through his poverty might be made rich!" Had He not become thus poor, giving up for us — not only all that He possessed — but giving Himself for us — we could not have been ransomed from the power of sin and Satan — but must all have lain down in everlasting burnings, lighted up and fanned forever and ever by the breath of a holy and righteous God!
When we were thus awfully poor, He, in His infinite love, became Himself poor — to enrich us. The wrath of God was suspended over us all, and though all creatures in heaven and earth would have tried, even by their own death, to save us from it — they could no more have done so, than the least worm could support the mighty globe! But when all hope was at an end, Emmanuel interposed Himself in human nature, between the wrath of Almighty God above — and us, poor guilty perishing sinners, below! That wrath descended on Him — it mangled His body, it pierced and tortured His soul, until He, "the Prince of life," "the Lord of glory, died!"
He cried out, "It is finished!" as He bowed His head and gave up His spirit — and the infinite wrath of God coming down on Him, could come no further! Death triumphed over Him as man — but He vanquished death itself, because He was Jehovah! Divine wrath consumed His human nature — but it could not injure the golden altar of His Divine nature on which that sacrifice was consumed! And this altar, sanctifying the gift upon it — gave such a value to the sacrifice of Jesus, that His death is an infinite atonement for sin. And His death was sufficient to ransom, if so it pleased the Father, millions of millions of worlds of sinners, though each individual had on him the united guilt of all men on earth, and all men and devils in hell!
Dear fellow-sinners, if you take refuge by faith in this sacrifice of Emmanuel, you are saved, and cannot come into condemnation — but have passed from death unto life. If you despise and reject it, then sooner may heaven and earth pass away — than that you should escape being in hell to all eternity for your sins!
I rejoice to hear that some of you seem to have gotten a glimpse of the love of Jesus, and of the preciousness of His atoning blood. To such I would say — remain at Calvary, be there sleeping and waking, at work or at play, living and dying. Gaze upon that great sight — until your conscience enjoys perfect peace with God, until your heart is filled with Emmanuel's love, and your whole soul is transformed into His image, and becomes as a mirror, finely polished to reflect the rays of His grace and glory — to all eternity!
"Look unto Jesus!" is the whole of the gospel. Look and wonder, look and live, look and love, look and adore, look and admire, look and be blessed, look and be glorified, look eternally — and your hearts will be filled with everlasting love, your mouth with an unending hallelujah!
But what can I say to those among you, who have heard of Jesus, and whose hearts are given to another — to the world, to themselves, to a lust, to a passion, to an idol, to sin, to Satan! Ah! to hell-fire you will go — if the Lord, in infinite mercy, does not interpose for you! Children, young people, who have not yet come to Jesus — realize that you are under the wrath of God — and that every moment it is coming nearer and nearer to your poor souls! Awake, arise, flee without a moment's delay to Jesus, and take refuge below His atoning cross — and enjoy now and to all eternity, His free, infinite, and unchangeable love to perishing sinners!
Shall I meet you in heaven — or see you going away in your impenitence and unbelief to hell? What do you mean, O sleepers! Arise and call upon God! "Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
May the Lord Jesus be with you!
Yours in Emmanuel,