Plumer’s Piety – Sermons for Saints and Sinners – John 3:16

The following is a sermon by William Swan Plumer, the first in a series of twenty-five. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to transcribe the rest of them.

Sermons on Saints and Sinners

By William Swan Plumer

 Sermon I

God’s Wonderful Love


“God so loved the word, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.


Some victories are the result of brute force and courage. Others are gained by fair argument and the force of truth. Some are the fruit of terror and panic. Others come from the manifestation of love and gentleness. In God’s government victories abound. He goes forth conquering and to conquer. Sometimes by terrible things in righteousness he breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder, and burns the chariot in the fire. None can measure arms with him. No voice like his can thunder in the heavens. In his government the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. When he chooses one chases a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. Nothing is too hard for the Almighty.

But Jehovah’s most glorious victories are in his deeds of love. Creation is well worthy of songs and alleluiahs. But it is in the work of redemption that we most fully sing, Glory to God in the highest. No truth is of more value in subduing the soul to God than this: God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Let us look at some things, which may well heighten our estimate of God’s love in the gift of his Son. Surely this theme is welcome to every pious mind. Surely it ought to be welcome to every man. In this matter we might confine ourselves to the character of him who love, and the character of those who are loved. If the text had asserted that man so loved God that he was willing at God’s command to give his own offspring it would have been within the compass of sanctified reason. Abraham offered up Isaac. In such a case he who loves and he who is loved, stand to each other in such a relation that nothing else ought to have been looked for. But this is not the order of things noticed in the text. Nay, it is the very reverse. Let us look at a few things that properly enter into the estimate:

I. He, who loves, is absolutely independent, while those who are loved are wholly dependent.[1] He is blessed for ever. We can add nothing to his spiritual happiness. He has infinite resources in himself. But the world of mankind are wholly dependent. They are feeble. Without God they can do nothing. Without him life is a burden, and existence undesirable. It could not be other wise.

II. He who in the text is spoken of as loving is pure and holy and abundant in truth, while those, who are loved, are vile and sinful and go astray from the womb speaking lies. Had we been holy and good, it would have been no marvel that a holy and good God should have had thoughts and plans of kindness towards us. All pure beings love that which is amiable. But man’s nature was fearfully perverted. The world was utterly destitute of moral goodness. Nothing remained but deformity and defilement. The love of God, in its operation, makes us amiable, but it did not find us so. Our goodness was not the motive to his love, but his love is the original of our goodness. Redemption is a free favor, not excited by the worth of him that receives it. “Herein God commanded his love to us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

III. He, who so loved the world, has a loving and lovely nature; while those, to whom he shows kindness, are hateful and hating one another and the God that made them. Rom. 8:7; Tit. 3:3. Had God found the world in the ardent pursuit of objects, which have always been dear to him, such as the good of his creatures or the advancement of the divine glory, it would not have been strange that he should have turned his kindly thoughts and directed his benign footsteps towards us. Similarity of pursuits implies correspondence of character. Had Jehovah found us intent on furthering his divine and excellent purposes, it would have been just like him to come and bless us. Like desires and purposes always beget friendships, if the parties know each other. Two may well walk together, if they be agreed.

But in the case we are considering, God’s character and man’s character are wholly opposite and contrary. God in himself infinitely, eternally and unchangeably excellent had a race to deal with, who are filled with all wickedness, envy, hatred, wrath, malice, pride and aversion to all that is good. Light and darkness, Christ and Belial, heaven and hell, are not more opposed to each other than were the natures of God and of carnal man. In thoughts, desires, wills and plans man was directly counter to the Almighty. Yet there is no being in the universe, who hates sin as God hates it. How strange that he in whose sight the stars are not pure, should love and pity man who drinketh iniquity as water, and who sleeps not except he has done mischief. Job 25:5; Pr. 4:16. Truly such pity is wonderful.

IV. God loved the world not only without his favor being sought by fallen man, but in the face of insults, derision, mockery and rage. Even Christ, who was the gift of God’s love, was met at every stage with a murderous persecution. To love those, who love us, is an exercise of virtue so low that Christ says publicans and sinners attain unto it. Matt. 5:46. Congenial spirits are drawn toward those who show them kindness. But there was no such state of case between God and man. It is a mystery in nature that the magnet passes by silver and gold, and draws to itself iron and steel. It is a greater mystery that redeeming love went forth towards the lowest order of rational beings, even many very deeply sunk in vice and crime[?]. There never has been but one thing more strange, unaccountable and out of the way, than man’s aversion to God. That more strange and unaccountable thing is the manner, in which God has treated wicked rebellious man. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” I John 4:10.

V. God’s love to the world cost him a great deal, while ours to him never costs us any thing worth retaining if we have his glory in view. He gave us more than some general tokens of regard; he gave us his Son, his own Son, his beloved Son, his only begotten Son, that whosoever would accept him should be eternally blessed.

VI. God’s love to man may be further estimated by looking at the results it accomplishes in the case of all, who accept God’s unspeakable gift. To all such it effects two amazing results, both noticed in our text. One is, it saves men from perdition. The Bible is the most truthful book that ever was written; and yet it speaks with awful solemnity of men perishing. The other result of God’s love in the gift of his Son is the life everlasting. Heaven is as glorious as hell is terrible. Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, heart has not conceived the good things God has prepared for them that love him, or the dreadful things God has prepared for them that hate him. Inspiration has exhausted all the terms and forms of speech known to mortal to teach us the joys of the city not made with hands, and the woes of the bottomless pit.




1. If God so loved the world, then it follows that not to believe in his Son is great and just cause of offence to God. To perish under the gospel is unnecessary and is a great crime. To fail of everlasting life is wonton wickedness, deserving God’s everlasting frown and wrath. How can men resist such love and such mercy! How shall they escape if they neglect so great salvation! Immortal man! Now is thy time. Embrace the proffered grace, lest “thou mourn at the last, when they flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof, and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!”

2. If God so loved the world as to give his Son for its salvation, we ought also to make any possible sacrifice to promote the same object. Never did man pray too earnestly, or labor too faithfully for the salvation of his fellow creatures. Let us “be followers [imitators] of God as dear children.” The worth of the soul is no where learned better than in the sacrifice of Calvary. The loss of one soul is a greater evil than the burning up of a planet.

3. If God so loved the world as to save all, who believe in his Son, then those, who are saved ought to ascribe their salvation to the proper cause. “The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord.” Let the redeemed say so. All pious souls love to join in ascription of praise, and honor, and glory to him by whom they are saved from the pit and raised to be for ever with the Lord. It was a shame that of the ten lepers healed only one returned to give glory to God. It is a mark of an ignoble nature to refuse to give thanks where thanks are due.

4. If in our sin and ruin God so loves us, then when we are in Christ we may safely argue that he will not hate us, nor make light of us. This is a form of reasoning well known to inspired men. Take your Bible and read Rom. 5:8-10; 8:32. There is as strong reasoning as can be found in any science, in any language.

5. If God so loved us, we ought to love one another. This is an inference clearly drawn in Scripture (I John 3:16). Its fairness will not be questions by any. The nature of the love we owe to man and the direction it takes are clearly stated in I Cor. 13:4-8.

6. If God so loved us and has done so much for us, how we ought to love him! His love to sinners is goodwill, benevolence. It ought to be requited by all the gratitude of which our natures are capable. Then we should delight ourselves in him and bear a goodwill to his cause and kingdom.

7. If God so loved the world, the world ought not to treat him as it does. To return good for evil is Godlike. But to return evil for good is devilish. One hears more said against God than against all other beings; and yet these very men are living every day on his bounty. Ingratitude is the sum of all wickedness. It is a mark of a very debased nature. It is one of the darkest signs of coming ruin.

 Hymn (Long Meter)

Not to condemn the sons of men,
Did Christ the Son of God appear:
No weapons in his hand are seen,
No flaming sword nor thunder there.

2. Such was the pity of our God,
He loved the race of men so well,
He sent his Son to bear our load
Of sins, and save our souls from hell.

3. Sinners believe the Saviour’s word,
Trust in his mighty name and live;
A thousand joys his lips afford,
His hands a thousand blessings give.


[1] This sentence follows, with a line striking through it: “Jehovah was the happy God, before the sun shone in the heavens.”



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