From the diary of Cotton Mather February 1684

When I have been sitting in a Room full of People, at a Funeral, where they take not much Liberty for Talk, and where yett much Time is most unreasonably lost, I have usually sett my Witts a work, to contrive agreeable Benedictions, for each Person in the Company.

In passing along the Street, I have sell myself to bless thousands of persons, who never knew that I did it; with secret Wishes, after this manner sent unto Heaven for them. Upon the sight of:

A tall Man: Lord, give that Man, High Attainments in Christianity; lett him fear God, above many.

Children at Play: Lord, lett not these Children always forgett the Work, which they came into the World upon.

A Very little Man: Lord, bestow great Blessings upon that Man, and above all, thy Christ, the greatest of Blessings.

A Man carrying a Burden: Lord, help this Man, to carry a burdened Soul, unto his Lord-Redeemer.

A Man on Horseback: Lord, thy Creatures do serve that man; help him to serve his Maker.

Young People: Lord, help these Persons to remember their Creator in the Dayes of their Youth.

Young Gentlewomen: Lord, make `em wise Virgins, as the polish’d Stones of thy Temple.

A Shop-keeper, busy in the Shop: Lord, lett not the World, cause that Person to neglect the one thing that is needful.

A Man, who going by mee took no Notice of mee: Lord help that Man, to take a due Notice of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray thee.

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THE LOVE OF GOD

 

CONSIDERED.

 


 

2 THESSALONIANS 3:5
And the Lord God direct your hearts into the Love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ.


One principal part of the apostle’s design in writing this epistle was to satisfy some persons in this church, who were shaken in mind, and troubled, as though The day of Christ was at hand. He assures them, therefore, in the second chapter, that it was not; for there were several things to he done previous thereunto: such as the removal of the Roman empire; the great apostasy that was to befall the churches; and the setting up the man of sin, the Papal Antichrist. He therefore exhorts them to steadfastness in the doctrines of the gospel; and wishes them a great many good things. In the beginning of this chapter, he desires them to pray for him, and the rest of the ministers of the gospel; hints what he would have them pray for, and the reason why. Finally, brethren, pray for us; that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified; that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not faith. And then, for their comfort, expresses his assurance of their final perseverance. But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil. As also, his great confidence of their cheerful and universal obedience to the commands of God, saying, And we have confidence in the Lord, touching you, that ye both do, and will do, the things which we command you. In order to which, he puts up a prayer for them, in the words of the text. The Lord direct your hearts, &c. So that the words are a prayer of the apostle consisting of two petitions, namely, That the Lord would direct their hearts into the Love of God. And, that the same Lord would also direct their hearts into the patient waiting for Christ. It is the former of these that shall insist upon at this time. In order to explain which, I shall make the following enquiries,

I. What are we to understand by the Love of God.

II. What it is to have our hearts directed into it.

III. Who this Lord is, who is prayed unto to do this for us. And,

IV. What is the great usefulness of having our hearts so directed.

I. What we are to understand by the Love of God. This may be understood either actively or passively. Actively, of the love wherewith we love God. Or, passively, of the love wherewith we are loved by God. In other words, by it may be meant, either our love of God, or God’s love to us; and seeing the words will admit of either sense, I shall consider them in both. And by the Love of God, may be meant, our love to God; concerning which, let the following things be observed.

1. That this is the sum and substance of the moral law; at least, it is the main and principal part thereof, as may easily be collected from our Lord’s answer to the lawyer’s question, in Matt. 22:35, 40. The lawyer’s question is, Master, which is the great commandment in the law ? Christ’s answer is, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thysoul, and with all thymind; this is the first and great commandment. Love to God, urged under the gospel dispensation, is the same with that enjoined by the law of Moses. Christ and Moses agree in this, as appears from Deut. 4:4, 5. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. This is no new commandment of the gospel; only it is renewed under the gospel dispensation, and pressed with stronger motives.

2. Let it also be observed, that every man by nature, is destitute of love to God: nay, there is not only a want of affection, but even an aversion to him; yea, an enmity against him. For the carnal mind is enmity against God. One part of the character given of the Heathens (Rom. 1:30) who were left of God and given up to their own lusts, is that they were θεοσυγεις; which signifies, not only that they were hateful to God, but that they were haters of God. Likewise in the account the apostle gives of the degeneracy which shall be in the latter day, he says, (2 Tim. 3:4) Men shall he lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God. And this is not only the case of those persons now mentioned, but of all mankind even of God’s elect themselves, while in a state of nature. For they, as well as others, are enemies in their minds, by wicked works. They live in a state of rebellion, and commit open acts of hostility against the God of heaven. They stretch out their hands against God, and strengthen themselves against the Almighty. They run upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his buckler.

3. Let it be further observed, that love to God is a grace implanted in the heart, by the Spirit of God. This is one of the fruits of the Spirit; and is mentioned at the head of them, Gal. 5:22. The fruit of the Spirit is love, &c. It is, with other graces, wrought in the soul at regeneration. That grace of the Lord, which comes in with it, flows into the sinner’s heart at conversion; is exceeding abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. These two graces always go together; being implanted at one and the same time: by one and the same hand. And faith, particularly, works by love: and love is usually most warm, active, and vigorous, at first conversion. Insomuch, that the Lord takes special notice when it is left by us; according to Jer. 2:2. Thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Which leads me to observe,

4. The fervour of this love often abates; though the grace itself can never he lost. This frequently arises from the aboundings of sin, both in ourselves and others. Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold, according to Matt. 24:12. Very often, also it arises from an immoderate pursuit after the things of this world. Hence the apostle, 1 John 2:15, advises, not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world: for, says he, If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. That. is, there is but little evidence of love to God, in that man’s heart, whose affections are set upon the things of this world. These things, though they cannot destroy the grace, where it is once wrought; yet they strike a very great chill upon it. The grace of Love indeed, cannot be lost; but then it may be left, as it was by the church at Ephesus, of whom the Lord complains, Rev. 2:4, saying, Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. He does not say, because thou hast lost it ; the word signifying not Amittere, to lose; but Remittere, to remit, or abate, in the fervour of it. And this, all the people of God, more or less, sooner or later, experience to their great sorrow: especially in the day in which we live. Therefore,

5. There is great need to pray, with the apostle, that the Lord would direct our hearts into this love. That is, that he would work upon our hearts, and excite our love to God: stir and blow it up into a flame. This he does, by shewing us the vanity of all earthly enjoyments: what God is in himself, and what he is to his people. How worthy he is of their highest affection; and more especially, by shedding abroad the love of God in our hearts; than which nothing can more effectually do it. For we love him, because he first loved us, 1 John 4:19. A sense of this, invigorates our love, ravishes our souls, and obliges us to say with the Psalmist, Whom have I in heaven but thee; and there is none upon earth, that I desire besides thee. Psalm 73:25. But I choose rather,

By the love of God here, to understand God’s love to us; concerning the nature and glory of which, take the following hints.

1. As to the original of it, it is free and sovereign, Nothing out of God moved him to it. He did not set his love upon us, because of any loveliness in us; or because of any love in us to him. Not because of any loveliness in ourselves. For we were in no wise better than others, being by nature the children of wrath. Nor because of any love in us to him; for his love is prior to ours, as the cause is to the effect. And, indeed, he loved us, before we had done either good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand. No other reason can he given of God’s loving his people, but his own Ευδοχια; his Sovereign good will and pleasure. Nor ought any other to be sought for, he loves them because he will love them. And though, perhaps, this may not be allowed to be a sufficient reason, by your men of reason; yet it is what the Holy Ghost thought fit to give us, and we should be satisfied with it, Deut. 7:7, 8. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people (for ye were the fewest of all people); but because the Lord loved you.

2. As to the objects of God’s love, it is special and discriminating. He loves some, and not others. It is true, he has a general love and regard to all his creatures. He is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. They all share in the bounties of his providence. He makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good. He sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. But then, he has chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure. Hence he bestows peculiar blessings on those to whom he bears a peculiar love. David says, Psalm 106:4, Remember me with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: very plainly intimating, that it was special and discriminating; of a different nature from that which he bore to others. A full instance of this distinguishing love, we have in Mal. 1:2, 3, I have loved you, saith the Lord; yet ye say, wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, and hated Esau. And, as I said before, no other reason can be given of this distinction, which God makes among the lost sons of Adam, but his own sovereign will; who will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and will be gracious to whom he will be gracious, let a wrangling world say what they please.

3. As to its commencement, it is from eternity. God has loved his people with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness he draws them to himself in time. Many are the instances which might be given, in proof of the antiquity of this love. His choosing them in Christ, before the foundation of the world, was an act of his love, for Electio præsupponit dilectionem. Election pre-supposes love. His entering into an everlasting covenant with his Son, on the account of those he chose; his setting him up as the Mediator of that Covenant, from everlasting; and his donation of grace to them, in him, before the world began; are so many demonstrations of his early love to them. As also, his putting their persons into the hands of Christ, and so making them his care and charge. Because he loved the people (Deut 33:5), all his saints are in his hand. Now, can it ever be imagined, that there should be a choice of persons; a covenant of grace, so well formed and stored; a promise of life granted; and security given both for person and grace, and yet no love all this while? No, these things prove his love, and this love does not commence with ours; nor, indeed, with time; but bears date from eternity.

4. As to the duration of it, it is to eternity; for it reaches from one eternity to another. Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. He loves them to the end of time, and will love them throughout the endless ages of eternity; for he rests in his love towards them, and from it there can be no separation. For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom. 8:38, 39.

5. As to the degree of it, it is unparalleled. It appears very great in the conversion of a poor sinner. Hence, says the apostle, Eph. 2:4, 5, God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. But in sending his Son to die for sinners, it appears yet greater. Scarcely for a righteous man (says the apostle, Rom. 5:7, 8  ) will one die; but God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. There is in those words a very beautiful gradation. The apostle seems to allude to the distribution of the Jewish people; among whom were three sorts of persons. One sort they called Righteous persons, very strict observers of the letter of the law; but did no more than just what they were obliged to do by the law. There was another sort called, Good men. These were very generous and liberal to the poor, and towards defraying all the expenses of the temple service, in which they exceeded the strict demands of the law. But then there was a third sort, called Wicked men; the profligate and abandoned part of the people, given up to their own lusts, and the very refuse of mankind. Now it is as if the apostle should say, scarcely for one of these righteous persons will one die, who will do no more than just what he is obliged to; yet, peradventure, for one of these good men, who were so generous (and, consequently, had the affections of the people) some would even dare to die. But who will die for those wicked, profligate, and abandoned wretches? Not one; but God commended his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Matchless, unparalleled grace!

6. As to the nature and quality of it, it is unchangeable. It is as invariable as his own nature; nay, it is his nature: for God is love. (1 John 4:16) The blessings of his grace are irreversible, because they proceed from him, who is the Father of lights, with whom there is nor variableness, nor shadow of turning. Hence also it is, that our salvation does not stand upon a precarious foundation; which it would do, if his love to us changed, as ours to him does. But he is the Lord, who changes not; therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed. God sometimes changes the dispensations of his providences towards his people; but never changes his love. He sometimes hides, and he sometimes chides; but at all times he loves. When he hides his face from his people, for a moment; he still, with everlasting kindness will have mercy on them. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee. (Isa. 54:8, 10) Love makes alterations in the condition of God’s people; but those alterations make no change in God’s love. Love made a strange alteration in the state of the apostle Paul; who, of a persecuting, blaspheming, and injurious Saul, was made, not only a believer in Christ, but a preacher of the everlasting gospel. But this wonderful change in him, produced none in God, nor in his love. But if things be so, you’ll say, ” Then God loves his people with the same love, before conversion, as after.” And where is the great hurt of saying so? For once, I will assert, he does; and a very few considerations will bring you to an acknowledgment of it. Let us a little consider, the instances of God’s love, before and after conversion, and compare them together; from whence we may be able to conclude which exceeds. I might take notice of God’s love in choosing them in Christ; in making a covenant of grace with him, on their account; and in putting both their persons and their grace into his hands which are all great instances of love, before conversion. But I shall only observe to you three great gifts of Gods love to his people before conversion; which, I think, can never be equaled by any instance after conversion. And they are these,

1. God’s gift of himself to them: for God has, in his everlasting covenant (and this long before conversion) made over himself unto his people. The tenure of which runs thus, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

2. The great gift of his Son to them, and for them; in which he has shewn the exceeding greatness of his love towards them. Herein is love, says the apostle, not that we loved God: (so far from it, that we were enemies to him; for it was, while we were yet sinners, that Christ died for us) but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10; John 3:16; Rom. 5:6, 8, 10)

3. The great gift of the Spirit, who is sent into the hearts of God’s people, previous to conversion, in order to effect that great work; namely, to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. And now, having observed these things, I am ready to ask, Can any greater instance of God’s love to his people, after conversion, be produced? If the heavenly glory itself should be mentioned, with all the joys of that delightful state; I deny it to he a greater instance of God’s love, than the gift of himself, or that of his Son, of that of his Spirit. And, indeed, all that God does in time, or will do to eternity, is only telling his people, how much he loved them from everlasting; all is but, as it were, a comment upon that ancient love of his. If, then, no greater instance of love can be produced, after conversion, than was before, we need neither to be afraid, nor ashamed to say, That God loves his people with the same love before conversion, as he does after.

This doctrine, I am sensible, is not easily digested; and therefore, many distinctions are formed, in order to lay it aside. Some distinguish God’s love into Antecedent and Consequent; a distinction without any foundation in the word of God; and is, indeed, in itself a mere jargon of words, which convey no proper ideas of God’s love: but such as are derogatory to the glory of his being and perfections, and serve only to introduce confusion and distress in the minds of men.

There is another distinction of God’s love, which I have observed pretty much obtain among persons, though as groundless as the former. It is this, God loves his people before conversion, with a love of benevolence, or goodwill. He wishes them well; but he does not love them with a live of complacency, till after conversion. But purely the Lord Jesus Christ loved his people, with a low of complacency, before conversion; for, it is said, from the beginning, or ever the earth was, his delights were with the sons of men. (Prov. 8:23-31) The Hebrew word translated delights, is not only in the plural number, but its radical letters are doubled; which, according to the usage of that language, always increases the signification of the word: so that it is expressive of the exceeding greatness of Christ’s delight and complacency, which he took in his people. Nay, he seems to have taken a pleasure in the fore-views of the very places where he knew his elect should dwell: for it is said, that he was rejoicing in the habitable parts of his earth. And now, why God the Father should not love them with the same love the Son did, I cannot see. God’s love is invariably the same, as his nature and essence are. It does indeed appear more in some acts of God than in others and is more clearly manifest at one time than another; but in itself it is always the same. All the difference between God’s love before, and after conversion, lies in the manifestation of it. It is manifested at, and after conversion; and that sometimes more, and sometimes less; but was not at all manifested before. But the change is in us, and not in God’s love.

But if this doctrine be true, you will say, God must love his people in their sins. Well, and where is the hurt of saying he does? It would have been miserable, to all intents and purposes, with you and me, had he not done so. When he saw us wallowing in our blood, in all the impurity of our nature, with our numerous sins and transgressions attending us; had not then his time, been a time of love, had he not then spread his skirt over us, and manifested his covenant grace to us, we had never been his. Perhaps it may be replied, according to this notion, God takes pleasure in the sins of his people, but where is the reason so to conclude? What, can no distinction be made between God’s taking delight in the persons of his elect, and his taking delight in their sins? The distinction is allowed after conversion; that God loves the persons of his people, though he hates their sins. And why may not the same distinction he allowed before, as after conversion ? We know that God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, or look upon iniquity: that he takes no pleasure in sin, neither shall evil dwell with him, but hates all the workers of iniquity. We abhor and detest all notions to the contrary; yet firmly believe the unchangeableness of God’s love to his people. It may he asked, how is it possible that a person should be a child of wrath, and an object of love, at one and the same time? For the elect of God are by nature children of wrath even as others: how then at the same time can they be the objects of Love? I answer, how was Jesus Christ the object of his Father’s Love and wrath, at one and the same time? Why it was as he bore two different characters, and stood in two different relations to his Father; viz. That of a Son, and that of a surety. As he was the Son of God, he was always the object of his love and delight; but as he was the sinner’s surety, he was the object of his wrath and displeasure. Hence it is said, thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wrath with thine anointed, (Psa. 89:38)with thy Messiah, or Christ. But yet even when he poured forth his wrath upon him to the uttermost, on account of the sins of his people; when he ordered Justice to draw the sword, and sheath it in him, his love towards him was not in the least abated. Thus also the elect of God, considered in different views, may be truly said to be the children of wrath, and yet objects of love at one and the same time. Considered in Adam, and under a covenant of works, they were children of wrath; exposed to the curses of God’s righteous law, and liable to the wrath of God. But as considered in Christ, and under the covenant of grace, they always were, and ever will he the objects of God’s love.

Nor has this doctrine any tendency to encourage licentiousness; or to discourage the performance of good works; or to prejudice true humiliation for sin; but all the reverse. The consideration of this, that God loved me, before I loved him; nay, when I was an enemy to him; that his thoughts were running out on my salvation, when I had no thoughts of him, or concern for myself; lays me under ten thousand times greater obligations to serve, fear, and glorify him, than a supposition that he began to love me, when I began to love him, or because I did so, can possibly do. This may he a full answer to those who ask where is the usefulness of this doctrine?

7. If we inquire into the excellency of God’s love, it is preferable to all creature enjoyments; thy loving kindness is better than life. And if so, it must be better than all the comforts and pleasures of life. The streams of this river of God’s love, make glad the city of God. A sense of it makes the believer cheerful under all his trials, and fixes his confidence in God. How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. Psalm 34:7. But I proceed,

II. To enquire what it is, to have our hearts directed into this Love. And,

1. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is to be led into it, as it were, by a straight line; for so the word κατευθύ ναι, here used, properly signifies. Now it is the work of the Spirit of God, to lead souls into the love of God, directly, at once, in a straight line; and not in a round about way, as some persons are led, being directed by false guides; who tell them, they must go through the valley of humiliation, and up the hill of obedience, before they can get into the love of God. But the Spirit of God; leads the soul directly into it, independent of all its obedience and humiliation for sin: which love, when directed into, will set persons in the road of obedience, and put them upon humiliation for sin, in another way and manner.

2. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is to be led into it further and further; so as to be able to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth of it. This work is progressive, and may very well be represented by Ezekiel’s waters; which were first up to the ankles, then to the knees, and then to the loins; but after that, they were waters to swim in, a river that. could not be passed over, Ezek. 47:3-5.

3. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is to be led into it, so as to know our own particular interest in it. Thus the apostle Paul knew that God loved him in particular, and was persuaded that nothing should be able to separate him from it, Rom. 8:38, 39.

4. To have our hearts directed into the love of God, is so to be led into it, as to have our hearts affected with it; and influenced by it. A man may have notions of God’s love in his head, who never felt the power of it upon his heart: and I am afraid that some persons are more solicitous to have their heads filled with notions about it, than to have their hearts and lives influenced by it. But our apostle does not pray, that the Lord would direct their heads but their hearts, into the love of God. I now proceed,

III. To enquire who is meant by the Lord here; who is prayed unto to do this for the saints. The word κύιος, here used, is commonly in the New Testament applied to Jesus Christ; though the Holy Spirit is also sometimes signified thereby, as in 2 Cor. 3:17. Now the Lord is that Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And, I am of opinion, that by the Lord, in our text, we are to understand the Holy Spirit; for he is very manifestly distinguished from God the Father, into whose love, and from Jesus Christ, into whose patient waiting for, the hearts of the saints are to be directed. So that we have here a proof of the doctrine of a Trinity of Persons. Besides, we are furnished from hence, with more arguments than one, in favour of the Divinity of the Holy Ghost; who is not only called the Lord, which is expressive of dominion: but is also said to direct the heart; which none but God can do. For the king’s heart, and so every man’s heart, is in the hands of the Lord, and in his only; as the rivers of waters, he turneth it whithersoever he will: (Prov. 21:1) and especially, he must be God, that can direct the heart into the love of God; which is one of the deep things of God, which the Spirit of God only can search into, and reveal to us. Besides, prayer is here directed to him; which is so considerable a part of divine worship, that it is sometimes put for the whole of it, as in Rom. 10:13, and therefore would never be offered up to the Spirit, was he not the true God. Now it is the work of the Spirit, to direct souls into the love of God. He not only takes of the things of Christ (his person, blood, and righteousness) and shews them to us, and our interest in them; but he takes also of the things of the Father, and particularly his love, he sheds it abroad in our hearts, and directs our hearts into it; and, in so doing, acts the part of a Comforter to us. I now come,

IV. To enquire into the usefulness of having our hearts directed into the love of God. And,

1. It is very useful to increase our love to God. Never was love to God, to Christ, to his gospel, people, ways, and ordinances, more cold than it is now. Great need there is to have it revived and increased; and nothing can more effectually do it, than this, to have our hearts directed into the Love of God. It was this, which, being let down into our hearts, first produced our love to God; and which only can animate and excite it, when it is grown cold. According to the perception we have of God’s love to us, does our love to him rise. Her sins, which were many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, same loveth little, Luke 7:4.

2. It is very useful to promote our love to one another. There is a very visible decay of brotherly love among the saints, in this day; as is manifest from those discords, divisions, contentions, and backbitings, which every where abound in churches. Now nothing is more likely to retrieve our love to one another, than to have our hearts directed into the love of God. The primitive saints having a large effusion of the Spirit upon them, and a large sense of the love of God to them, were full of affection to each other. Insomuch that they had no need to be stirred up; for they were taught of God to love one another. Nay, even in Tertullian’s time, so strong and vehement was their love to each other, that the very Heathens could not but take notice of them, as they walked about the streets, and say, Vide, ut se invicem diligant. See, how they love one another! No greater incentive to this duty is there than the love of God and of Christ. Hence the apostle John, after having discoursed of the love of God in sending his Son to die for sinners, thus argues, Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another: well knowing, that nothing could more vehemently provoke unto it.

3. It is very useful to enlarge our obedience to God. And indeed, it seems to be with this view, that the apostle puts up this petition here. In the preceding verse he expresses his confidence in these Thessalonians, that they both did, and would do, the things that were commanded them: and in order to that, he prays, that the Lord would direct their hearts into the love of God; knowing, that nothing would more enlarge their hearts, to run with cheerfulness in the ways of God’s commandments. ‘Tis this which constrains souls to live to the glory of God; and makes even those that were slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Never was there more need of having our hearts directed into the love of God than now ; when there is such a neglect of duty among professors; not only in their closets and families, but also in the church of God.

4. It is very useful to enable us to mourn for sin aright. We have great reason to be humbled before God, and to mourn both for our own sins, and for the sins of others. But we never mourn more, nor better, than when impressed with a sense of God’s love. It is this which throws our humiliation for sin into a proper channel. Our sorrow for it never rises higher; nor are our shame for it, and detestation of it more increased, than when we are made sensible of God’s pacifying love towards us. See Ezek. 16:61-63. It was a look of love from Christ that sent Peter out of the hall to weep bitterly, after he had so shamefully denied his Lord; and it was a discovery of Christ’s love to the poor woman, which fetched those floods of tears from her eyes, and which put her upon washing Christ’s feet therewith, and wiping them with the hairs of her head.

5. It is very useful to enable us to bear the cross of Christ cheerfully; and perhaps that may be the reason why this other clause is added, And unto the patient waiting for Christ. This may intend, either a patient waiting for Christ’s second Advent, and is what our version seems to regard; or a patient bearing the cross for the sake of Christ. The words in the original, will admit of either sense. It is the saints’ duty to bear all reproaches and trials, patiently, for the sake of Christ; and that, in imitation of him who has left them an example. And great need they have to consider him, who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself; lest they be weary, and faint in their minds. And not only a consideration of Christ’s person, but a sense of God’s love is very requisite to support them under adverse dispensations of providence; which when they have, they glory in tribulations; knowing, that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us. (Rom. 5:3-5) Wherefore the apostle maybe thought to pray, that their hearts might be directed into the love of God, in order that they might patiently bear all things for the sake of Christ. Thus having considered the nature of God’s love, and shewn you what it is to be directed into it, I shall close all with those hearty petitions of the apostle in the two last verses of the preceding chapter . . . Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

1741

My dear young friend,

As you desired me to send you, in writing, some directions how to conduct yourself in your Christian course, I would now answer your request. The sweet remembrance of the great things I have lately seen at your church, inclines me to do anything in my power, to contribute to the spiritual joy and prosperity of God’s people there.

1. I would advise you to keep up as great a earnestness in religion, as if you knew yourself to be in a state of nature, and were seeking conversion. We advise people under conviction, to be earnest and violent for the kingdom of heaven; but when they have attained to conversion, they ought not to be the less watchful, laborious, and earnest, in the whole work of religion, but the more so; for they are under infinitely greater obligations. For lack of this, many people, in a few months after their conversion, have begun to lose their sweet and lively sense of spiritual things, and to grow cold and dark, and have “pierced themselves through with many sorrows;’ whereas, if they had done as the apostle did, (Phil. 3:12-14.) their path would have been “as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day.”

2. Do not leave off seeking, striving, and praying for the very same things that we exhort unconverted people to strive for, and a degree of which you have had already in conversion. Pray that your eyes may be opened, that you may receive sight, that you may know yourself, and be brought to God’s footstool; and that you may see the glory of God and Christ, and may be raised from the dead, and have the love of Christ shed abroad in your heart. Those who have most of these things, have need still to pray for them; for there is so much blindness and hardness, pride and death remaining, that they still need to have that work of God wrought upon them, further to enlighten and enliven them, that shall be bringing them out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, and be a kind of new conversion and resurrection from the dead. There are very few requests that are proper for an impenitent man, that are not also, in some sense, proper for the godly.

3. When you hear a sermon, hear for yourself. Though what is spoken may be more especially directed to the unconverted, or to those that, in other respects, are in different circumstances from yourself; yet, let the chief intent of your mind be to consider, “In what respect is this applicable to me? and what improvement ought I to make of this, for my own soul’s good?”

4. Though God has forgiven and forgotten your past sins, yet do not forget them yourself: often remember, what a wretched bond-slave you were in the land of Egypt. Often bring to mind your particular acts of sin before conversion; as the blessed apostle Paul is often mentioning his old blaspheming, persecuting spirit, and his injuriousness to the renewed; humbling his heart, and acknowledging that he was “the least of the apostles,” and not worthy “to be called an apostle,” and the “least of all saints,” and the “chief of sinners;” and be often confessing your old sins to God, and let that text be often in your mind, (Ezekiel 16:63.) “that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more, because of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you has done, says the Lord God.”

5. Remember, that you have more cause, on some accounts, a thousand times, to lament and humble yourself for sins that have been committed since conversion, than before, because of the infinitely greater obligations that are upon you to live to God, and to look upon the faithfulness of Christ, in unchangeably continuing his loving-kindness, notwithstanding all your great unworthiness since your conversion.

6. Be always greatly abased for your remaining sin, and never think that you lie low enough for it; but yet be not discouraged or disheartened by it; for, though we are exceeding sinful, yet we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; the preciousness of whose blood, the merit of whose righteousness, and the greatness of whose love and faithfulness, infinitely overtop the highest mountains of our sins.

7. When you engage in the duty of prayer, or come to the Lord’s supper, or attend any other duty of divine worship, come to Christ as Mary Magdalen1 did; (Luke 7:37, 38.) come, and cast yourself at his feet, and kiss them, and pour forth upon him the sweet perfumed ointment of divine love, out of a pure and broken heart, as she poured the precious ointment out of her pure broken alabaster box.

8. Remember, that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul’s peace, and of sweet communion with Christ: it was the first sin committed, and lies lowest in the foundation of Satan’s whole building, and is with the greatest difficulty rooted out, and is the most hidden, secret, and deceitful of all lusts, and often creeps insensibly into the midst of religion, even, sometimes, under the disguise of humility itself.

9. That you may pass a correct judgment concerning yourself, always look upon those as the best discoveries, and the best comforts, that have most of these two effects: those that make you least and lowest, and most like a child; and those that most engage and fix your heart, in a full and firm disposition to deny yourself for God, and to spend and be spent for him.

10. If at any time you fall into doubts about the state of your soul, in dark and dull frames of mind, it is proper to review your past experience; but do not consume too much time and strength in this way: rather apply yourself, with all your might, to a pledge pursuit after renewed experience, new light, and new lively acts of faith and love. One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face, will do more toward scattering clouds of darkness in one minute, than examining old experience, by the best marks that can be given, through a whole year.

11. When the exercise of grace is low, and corruption prevails, and by that means fear prevails; do not desire to have fear cast out any other way, than by the reviving and prevailing of love in the heart: by this, fear will be effectually expelled, as darkness in a room vanishes away, when the pleasant beams of the sun are let into it.

12. When you counsel and warn others, do it earnestly, and affectionately, and thoroughly; and when you are speaking to your equals, let your warnings be intermixed with expressions of your sense of your own unworthiness, and of the sovereign grace that makes you differ.

13. If you would set up religious meetings of young women by yourselves, to be attended once in a while, besides the other meetings that you attend, I should think it would be very proper and profitable.

14. Under special difficulties, or when in great need of, or great longings after, any particular mercy, for yourself or others, set apart a day for secret prayer and fasting by yourself alone; and let the day be spent, not only in petitions for the mercies you desire, but in searching your heart, and in looking over your past life, and confessing your sins before God, not as is accustomed to be done in public prayer, but by a very particular rehearsal before God of the sins of your past life, from your childhood hitherto, before and after conversion, with the circumstances and aggravations attending them, and spreading all the abominations of your heart very particularly, and fully as possible, before him.

15. Do not let the adversaries of the cross have occasion to reproach religion on your account. How holily should the children of God, the redeemed and the beloved of the Son of God, behave themselves. Therefore, “walk as children of the light, and of the day,” and “adorn the doctrine of God your Savior;” and especially, abound in what are called the Christian virtues, and make you like the Lamb of God: be meek and lowly of heart, and full of pure, heavenly, and humble love to all; abound in deeds of love to others, and self-denial for others; and let there be in you a disposition to account others better than yourself.

16. In all your course, walk with God, and follow Christ, as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the marks of the wounds in his hands and side, whence came the blood that cleanses you from sin, and hiding your nakedness under the skirt of the white shining robes of his righteousness.

17. Pray much for the ministers and the church of God; especially, that he would carry on his glorious work which he has now begun, until the world shall be full of his glory.”

Particularly I would beg a special interest in your prayers and the prayers of your Christian companions, both when you are alone and when you are together, for your affectionate friend, who rejoices over you and desires to be your servant.

In Jesus Christ,
Jonathan Edwards

Love is the Queen of the Christian graces. It is a holy disposition given to us when we are born again by God. It is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. True spiritual love is characterized by meekness and gentleness, yet it is vastly superior to the courtesies and kindnesses of the flesh.

We must be careful not to confuse human sentimentality, carnal pleasantries, human amiability and affability with true spiritual love. The love God commands, first to Himself and then to others, is not human love. It is not the indulgent, self-seeking love which is in us by nature. If we indulgently allow our children to grow up with little or, no Scriptural discipline, Proverbs plainly says we do not love them, regardless of the human sentimentality and affection we may feel for them. Love is not a sentimental pampering of one another with a loose indifference as to our walk and obedience before the Lord. Glossing over one another’s faults to ingratiate ourselves in their esteem is not spiritual love.

The true nature of Christian love is a righteous principle which seeks the highest good of others. It is a powerful desire to promote their welfare. The exercise of love is to be in strict conformity to the revealed will of God. We must love in the truth. Love among the brethren is far more than an agreeable society where views are the same. It is loving them for what we see of Christ in them, loving them for Christ’s sake.

The Lord Jesus Himself is our example. He was not only thoughtful, gentle, self-sacrificing and patient, but He also corrected His mother, used a whip in the Temple, Severely scolded His doubting disciples, and denounced hypocrites. True spiritual love is above all faithful to God and uncompromising towards all that is evil. We cannot declare, ‘Peace and Safety’ when in reality there is spiritual decay and ruin!

True spiritual love is very difficult to exercise because it is not our natural love. By nature we would rather love sentimentally and engender good feelings. Also many times true spiritual love is not received in love, but is hated as the Pharisees hated it. We must pray that God will fill us with His love and enable us to exercise it without dissimulation toward all.

1. MAN’S ILL-DESERT

The Bible declares that the salvation of sinful men is a matter of grace. From Eph. 1:7-10 we learn that the primary purpose of God in the work of redemption was to display the glory of this divine attribute so that through succeeding ages the intelligent universe might admire it as It is made known through His unmerited love and boundless goodness to guilty, vile, helpless creatures. Accordingly all men are represented as sunk in a state of sin and misery, from which they are utterly unable to deliver themselves. When they deserved only God’s wrath and curse, He determined that He would graciously provide redemption for them by sending His own eternal Son to assume their nature and guilt and to obey and suffer in their stead, and His Holy Spirit to apply the redemption purchased by the Son. On the same representative principle by which Adam’s sin is imputed to us, that is, set to our account in such a way that we are held fully responsible for it and suffer the consequences of it, our sin in its turn is imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us. This is briefly, yet clearly expressed in the Shorter Catechism, which says, “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” Ans. to Q. 33.

We should keep clearly in mind the distinction between the two covenants: that of works, under which Adam was placed and which resulted in the fall of the race into sin; and that of grace, under which Christ was sent as a Redeemer. As stated in another connection, the Arminian system makes no essential distinction in principle between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, unless it be that God now offers salvation on lower terms and instead of demanding perfect obedience He accepts only such faith and evangelical obedience as the crippled sinner is able to render. In that system the burden of obedience is still thrown upon man himself and his salvation in the first place depends upon his own works.

The word “grace” in its proper sense means the free and undeserved love or favor of God exercised toward the undeserving, toward sinners. It is something which is given irrespective of any worthiness in man; and to introduce works or merit into any part of this scheme vitiates its nature and frustrates its design. Just because it is grace, it is not given on the basis of preceding merits. As the very name imports, it is necessarily gratuitous; and since man is enslaved to sin until it is given, all the merits that he can have prior to it are bad merits and deserve only punishment, not gifts, or favor. Whatever of good men have, that God has given; and what they have not, why, of course, God has not given it. And since grace is given irrespective of preceding merits, it is therefore sovereign and is bestowed only on those whom God has selected for its reception. It is this sovereignty of grace, and not its foresight or the preparation for it, which places men in God’s hands and suspends salvation absolutely on His unlimited mercy. In this we find the basis for His election or rejection of particular persons.

Because of His absolute moral perfection God requires spotless purity and perfect obedience in his intelligent creatures. This perfection is provided in Christ’s spotless righteousness being imputed to them; and when God looks upon the redeemed He sees them clothed with the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness, not with anything of their own. We are distinctly told that Christ suffered as a substitute, “the just for the unjust”; and when man is encouraged to think that he owes to some power or art of his own that salvation which in reality is all of grace, God is robbed of part of His glory. By no stretch of the imagination can a man’s good works in this life be considered a just equivalent for the blessings of eternal life. Benjamin Franklin, though by no means a Calvinist, expressed this idea well when he wrote: “He that for giving a drink of water to a thirsty person, should expect to be paid with a good plantation, would be modest in his demands, compared with those who think they deserve heaven for the little good they do on earth.” We are, in fact, nothing but receivers; we never bring any adequate reward to God, we are always receiving from Him, and shall be unto all eternity.

2. GOD MAY GIVE OR WITHHOLD GRACE AS HE PLEASES

Since God has provided this redemption or atonement at His own cost, it is His property and He is absolutely sovereign in choosing who shall be saved through it. There is nothing more steadily emphasized in the Scripture doctrine of redemption than its absolutely gracious character. Hence, by their separation from the original mass, not through any works of their own but only through the free grace of God, the vessels of mercy see how great a gift has been bestowed upon them. It will be found that many who inherit heaven were much worse sinners in this world than were many others who are lost.

The doctrine of Predestination cuts down every self-righteous imagination which would detract from the glory of God. It convinces the one who is saved that he can only be eternally thankful that God saved him. Hence in the Calvinistic system all boasting is excluded and that honor and glory which belong to God alone is fully preserved. “The greatest saint,” says Zanchius, “cannot triumph over the most abandoned sinner, but is led to refer the entire praise of his salvation, both from sin and hell, to the mere goodwill and sovereign purpose of God, who hath graciously made him to differ from that world which lieth in wickedness.”1

3. SALVATION NOT TO BE EARNED BY MAN

All men naturally feel that they should earn their salvation, and a system which makes some provision in that regard readily appeals to them. But Paul lays the axe to such reasoning when he says, “If there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law,” Gal. 3:21; and Jesus said to His disciples, “when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded of you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do,” Luke 17:10.

Our own righteousness, says Isaiah, is but as a polluted garment — or, as the King James Version puts it, as filthy rags — in the sight of God (64:6). And when Isaiah wrote, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price,” 55:1, he invited the penniless, the hungry, the thirsty, to come and take possession of, and enjoy the provision, free of all cost, as if by right of payment. And to buy without money must mean that it has already been produced and provided at the cost of another. The further we advance in the Christian life, the less we are inclined to attribute any merit to ourselves, and the more to thank God for all. The believer not only looks forward to everlasting life, but also looks backward into the ante-mundane eternity and finds in the eternal purpose of divine love the beginning and the firm anchorage of his salvation.

If salvation is of grace, as the Scriptures so clearly teach, it cannot be of works, whether actual or foreseen. There is no merit in believing, for faith itself is a gift of God. God gives His people an inward working of the Spirit in order that they may believe, and faith is only the act of receiving the proffered gift. It is, then, only the instrumental cause, and not the meritorious cause, of salvation. What God loves in us is not our own merits, but His own gift; for His unmerited grace precedes our meritorious works. Grace is not merely bestowed when we pray for it, but grace itself causes us to pray for its continuance and increase.

In the book of The Acts we find that the very inception of faith itself is assigned to grace (18:27); only those who were ordained to eternal life believed (13:48); and it is God’s prerogative to open the heart so that it gives heed to the gospel (16:14). Faith is thus referred to the counsels of eternity, the events in time being only the out-working. Paul attributes it to the grace of God that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them,” Eph. 2:10. Good works, then, are in no sense the meritorious ground but rather the fruits and proof of salvation.

Luther taught this same doctrine when he said of some that,

They attribute to Free-will a very little indeed, yet they teach us that by that very little we can attain unto righteousness and grace. Nor do they solve that question, Why does God justify one and leave another? in any other way than by asserting the freedom of the will, and saying, Because the one endeavors and the other does not; and God regards the one for endeavoring, and despises the other for his not endeavoring; lest, if he did otherwise, he should appear to be unjust.”2

It is said that Jeremy Taylor and a companion were once walking down a street in London when they came to a drunk man lying in the gutter. The other man made some disparaging remark about the drunk man. But Jeremy Taylor, pausing and looking at him, said, “But for the grace of God, there lies Jeremy Taylor!” The spirit which was in Jeremy Taylor is the spirit which should be in every sin-rescued Christian. It was repeatedly taught that Israel owed her separation from the other peoples of the world not to anything good or desirable in herself, but only to God’s gracious love faithfully persisted in despite apostasy, sin, and rebellion.

Paul says concerning some who would base salvation on their own merits, that, “going about to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God,” and were, therefore, not in the Church of Christ. He makes it plain that “the righteousness of God” is given to us through faith, and that we enter heaven pleading only the merits of Christ.

The reason for this system of grace is that those who glory should glory in the Lord, and that no person should ever have occasion to boast over another. The redemption was purchased at an infinite cost to God Himself, and therefore it may be dispensed as He pleases in a purely gracious manner. As the poet has said:

“None of the ransomed ever knew,
How deep were the waters crossed,
Nor how dark was the night that the
Lord passed through,
E’er He found His sheep that was lost.”

4. SCRIPTURE TEACHING

Let us now notice some of those scriptures which teach that our sins were imputed to Christ; and then notice some which teach that His righteousness is imputed to us.

“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Is. 53:4,5. “By the knowledge of Himself shall my righteous servant justify many, and He shall bear their iniquities He bare the sin of many,” Is. 53:11, 12. “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” II Cor, 5:21. Here both truths are plainly stated, — our sins are set to His account, and His righteousness to ours. There is no other conceivable sense in which He could be “made sin,” or we “made the righteousness of God.” It was Christ “who His own self bare our sins in His body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes we are healed,” I Peter 2:24. Here, again, both truths are thrown together. “Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God,” I Peter 3:18. These, and many other such verses, prove the doctrine of His substitution in our stead, as plainly as language can put it. If they do not prove that the death Of Christ was a true and proper sacrifice for sin in our stead, human language cannot express it.

That His righteousness is imputed to us is taught in language equally plain. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight . . . But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested . . . even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe . . . being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood, to show His righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, I say, of His righteousness at this present season; that He might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus. Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? of works? Nay, but by the law of faith. We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law,” Rom. 3:20-28. “So then as through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous,” Rom. 5:18, 19. Paul’s testimony in regard to himself was: “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith,” Phil. 3:8,9. Now, is it not strange that any one who pretends to be guided by the Bible, could, in the face of all this plain and unequivocal language, uphold salvation by works, in any degree whatever?

Paul wrote to the Romans, “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace,” 6:14. That is, God had taken them out from under a system of law and had placed them under a system of grace; and as their Sovereign, it was not His purpose to let them again fall under the dominion of sin. In fact, if they were to fall, it could only be because God had taken them out from under grace and again placed them under law, so that their own works determined their destiny. In the very nature of the case as long as the person is under grace he is entirely free from any claim that the law may have on him through sin. For one to be saved through grace means that God is no longer treating him as he deserves but that He has sovereignly set the law aside and that He saves him in spite of his ill-desert, — cleansing him from his sin, of course, before he is fit to enter the divine presence.

Paul goes to great pains to make it clear that the grace of God is not earned by us, is not secured by us in any way, but is just given to us. If it be earned, it ceases by that very fact to be grace, Rom. 11:6.

5. FURTHER REMARKS

In the present state of the race all men stand before God, not as citizens of a state, all of whom must be treated alike and given the same “chance” for salvation, but rather as guilty and condemned criminals before a righteous judge. None have any claim to salvation. The marvel is, not that God doesn’t save all, but that when all are guilty He pardons so many; and the answer to the question, Why does He not save all? is to be found, not in the Arminian denial of the omnipotence of His grace, but in the fact that, as Dr. Warfield says, “God in His love saves as many of the guilty race of man as He can get the consent of His whole nature to save.”3 For reasons known to Himself He sees that it is not best to pardon all, but that some should be permitted to have their own way and be left to eternal punishment in order that it may be shown what an awful thing is sin and rebellion against God.

Time and again the Scriptures repeat the assertion that salvation is of grace, as if anticipating the difficulty which men would have in coming to the conclusion that they could not earn salvation by their own works. Thus also they destroy the widespread notion that God owes salvation to any. “By grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory,” Eph. 2:8, 9. “But if it is of grace, it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace,” Rom. 11:6. “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” Rom. 3:20. “Now to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned as of grace, but as of debt,” Born. 4:4. “Who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” I Cor. 4:7. “By the grace of God I am what I am,” I Cor. 15:10. “Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?” Born. 11:35. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 6:23.

Grace and works are mutually exclusive; and as well might we try to bring the two poles together as to effect a coalition of grace and works in salvation. As well might we talk of a “purchased gift,” as to talk of “conditional grace,” for when grace ceases to be absolute it ceases to be grace. Therefore when the Scriptures say that salvation is of grace we are to understand that it is through its whole process the work of God and that any truly meritorious works done by man are the result of the change which has already been wrought.

Arminianism destroys this purely gracious character of salvation and substitutes a system of grace plus works. No matter how small a part these works may play they are necessary and are the basis of the distinction between the saved and the lost and would then afford occasion for the saved to boast over the lost since each had equal opportunity. But Paul says that all boasting is excluded, and that he who glories should glory in the Lord (Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 1:31). But if saved by grace, the redeemed remembers the mire from which he was lifted, and his attitude toward the lost is one of sympathy and pity. He knows that but for the grace of God he too would have been in the same state as those who perish, and his song is, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake.”

There are three things told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God. First, “God is spirit” (John 4:24). In the Greek there is no indefinite article, and to say “God is a spirit” is most objectionable, for it places Him in a class with others. God is “spirit” in the highest sense. Because He is “spirit” He is incorporeal, having no visible substance. Had God a tangible body, He would not be omnipresent, He would be limited to one place; because He is spirit He fills heaven and earth. Second, God is light (1 John 1:5), which is the opposite of “darkness.” In Scripture “darkness” stands for sin, evil, death; and “light” for holiness, goodness, life. God is light, means that He is the sum of all excellency. Third, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It is not simply that God “loves,” but that He is Love itself. Love is not merely one of His attributes, but His very nature.

There are many today who talk about the love of God, who are total strangers to the God of love. The Divine love is commonly regarded as a species of amiable weakness, a sort of good-natured indulgence; it is reduced to a mere sickly sentiment, patterned after human emotion. Now the truth is that on this, as on everything else, our thoughts need to be formed and regulated by what is revealed thereon in Holy Scripture. That there is urgent need for this is apparent not only from the ignorance which so generally prevails, but also from the low state of spirituality which is now so sadly evident everywhere among professing Christians. How little real love there is for God. One chief reason for this is because our hearts are so little occupied with His wondrous love for His people. The better we are acquainted with His love—its character, fulness, blessedness—the more will our hearts be drawn out in love to Him.

1.  The love of God is uninfluenced. By this we mean, there was nothing whatever in the objects of His love to call it into exercise, nothing in the creature to attract or prompt it. The love which one creature has for another is because of something in them; but the love of God is free, spontaneous, uncaused. The only reason why God loves any is found in His own sovereign will: “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved thee” (Deut. 7:7,8). God has loved His people from everlasting, and therefore nothing of the creature can be the cause of what is found in God from eternity. He loves from Himself: “according to His own purpose” (2 Tim. 1:9).

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced. It is highly important if God is to be honored and the heart of His child established, that we should be quite clear upon this precious truth. God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.

“What was there in me that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
‘Twas even so, Father, I ever must sing,
Because it seemed good, in Thy sight.”

2.  It is eternal. This of necessity. God Himself is eternal, and God is love; therefore, as God Himself had no beginning, His love had none. Granted that such a concept far transcends the grasp of our feeble minds, nevertheless, where we cannot comprehend, we can bow in adoring worship. How clear is the testimony of Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” How blessed to know that the great and holy God loved His people before heaven and earth were called into existence, that He had set His heart upon them from all eternity. Clear proof is this that His love is spontaneous, for He loved them endless ages before they had any being.

The same precious truth is set forth in Ephesians 1:4,5, “According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. In love having predestinated us.” What praise should this evoke from each of His children! How tranquilizing for the heart: since God’s love toward me had no beginning, it can have no ending! Since it be true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God, and since God is “love,” then it is equally true that “from everlasting to everlasting” He loves His people.

3.  It is sovereign. This also is self-evident. God Himself is sovereign, under obligations to none, a law unto Himself, acting always according to His own imperial pleasure. Since God be sovereign, and since He be love, it necessarily follows that His love is sovereign. Because God is God, He does as He pleases; because God is love, He loves whom He pleases. Such is His own express affirmation: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:19). There was no more reason in Jacob why he should be the object of Divine love, than there was in Esau. They both had the same parents, and were born at the same time, being twins; yet God loved the one and hated the other! Why? Because it pleased Him to do so.

The sovereignty of God’s love necessarily follows from the fact that it is uninfluenced by anything in the creature. Thus, to affirm that the cause of His love lies in God Himself, is only another way of saying, He loves whom He pleases. For a moment, assume the opposite. Suppose God’s love were regulated by anything else than His will, in such a case He would love by rule, and loving by rule He would be under a law of love, and then so far from being free, God would Himself be ruled by law. “In love having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to”—what? Some excellency which He foresaw in them? No; what then? “According to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph. 1:4,5).

4.  It is infinite. Everything about God is infinite. His essence fills heaven and earth. His wisdom is illimitable, for He knows everything of the past, present and future. His power is unbounded, for there is nothing too hard for Him. So His love is without limit. There is a depth to it which none can fathom; there is a height to it which none can scale; there is a length and breadth to it which defies measurement, by any creature-standard. Beautifully is this intimated in Ephesians 2:4: But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us: the word “great” there is parallel with the “God so loved” of John 3:16. It tells us that the love of God is so transcendent it cannot be estimated.

No tongue can fully express the infinitude of God’s love, or any mind comprehend it: it “passeth knowledge” Eph. 3:19). The most extensive ideas that a finite mind can frame about Divine love, are infinitely below its true nature. The heaven is not so far above the earth as the goodness of God is beyond the most raised conceptions which we are able to form of it. It is an ocean which swells higher than all the mountains of opposition in such as are the objects of it. It is a fountain from which flows all necessary good to all those who are interested in it (John Brine, 1743).

5.  It is immutable. As with God Himself there is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17), so His love knows neither change or diminution. The worm Jacob supplies a forceful example of this: “Jacob have I loved,” declared Jehovah, and despite all his unbelief and waywardness, He never ceased to love him. John 13:1 furnishes another beautiful illustration. That very night one of the apostles would say, “Show us the Father”; another would deny Him with cursings; all of them would be scandalized by and forsake Him. Nevertheless “having loved His own which were in the world, He love them unto the end.” The Divine love is subject to no vicissitudes. Divine love is “strong as death … many waters cannot quench it” (Song of Sol. 8:6,7). Nothing can separate from it: Romans 8:35-39.

“His love no end nor measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Eternally the same it flows
From one eternal source.”

6.  It is holy. God’s love is not regulated by caprice passion, or sentiment, but by principle. Just as His grace reigns not at the expense of it, but “through righteousness” (Rom. 5:21), so His love never conflicts with His holiness. “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is mentioned before “God is love” (1 John 4:8). God’s love is no mere amiable weakness, or effeminate softness. Scripture declares, “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). God will not wink at sin, even in His own people. His love is pure, unmixed with any maudlin sentimentality.

7.  It is gracious. The love and favor of God are inseparable. This is clearly brought out in Romans 8:32-39. What that love is from which there can be no “separation,” is easily perceived from the design and scope of the immediate context: it is that goodwill and grace of God which determined Him to give His Son for sinners. That love was the impulsive power of Christ’s incarnation: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Christ died not in order to make God love us, but because He did love His people, Calvary is the supreme demonstration of Divine love. Whenever you are tempted to doubt the love of God, Christian reader, go back to Calvary.

Here then is abundant cause for trust and patience under Divine affliction. Christ was beloved of the Father, yet He was not exempted from poverty, disgrace, and persecution. He hungered and thirsted. Thus, it was not incompatible with God’s love for Christ when He permitted men to spit upon and smite Him. Then let no Christian call into question God’s love when he is brought under painful afflictions and trials. God did not enrich Christ on earth with temporal prosperity, for “He had not where to lay His head.” But He did give Him the Spirit “without measure” (John 3:34). Learn then that spiritual blessings are the principal gifts of Divine love. How blessed to know that when the world hates us ,God loves us!

What is Faith?

May 5, 2011

Hebrews 11:1 ESV
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

From C.H. Spurgeon’s Catechism:

69. Q. What is faith in Jesus Christ?
A. Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, (Hebrews 10:39) whereby we receive,
(John 1:12) and rest upon him alone for salvation, (Philippians 3:9) as he is set forth
in the gospel. (Isaiah 33:22)

From The Heidelburg Catechism:

Q. 21. What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, (a) but also an assured confidence, (b) which the Holy Ghost (c) works by the gospel in my heart; (d) that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, (e) are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. (f)

(a) James 2:19. (b) 2 Cor.4:13; Eph.2:7-9; Eph.3:12; Gal.2:16; Heb.11:1,7-10; Heb.4:16; James 1:6; Matt.16:17; Philip.1:19; Rom.4:16-21; Rom.5:1; Rom.1:16; Rom.10:10,17; Rom.3:24.25. (c) Gal.5:22; Matt.16:17; 2 Cor.4:13; John 6:29; Eph.2:8; Philip.1:19; Acts 16:14. (d) Rom.1:16; Rom.10:17; 1 Cor.1:21; Acts 10:44; Acts 16:14. (e) Rom.1:17; Gal.3:11; Heb.10:10,38; Gal.2:16. (f) Eph.2:8; Rom.3:24; Rom.5:19; Luke 1:77,78.

From the Westminster Larger Catechism:

Q. 72. What is justifying faith?
A. Justifying faith is a saving grace,(a) wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit (b) and Word of God,(c) whereby he, being convinced of his sin and misery, and of the disability in himself and all other creatures to recover him out of his lost condition, (d) not only assenteth to the truth of the promise of the gospel,(e) but receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein held forth, for pardon of sin,(f) and for the accepting and accounting of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.(g)

(a) Hebrews 10:39 (b) 2 Corinthians 4:13,Ephesians 1:17-19 (c) Romans 10:14-17 (d) Acts 2:37,Acts 16:30,John 16:8-9,Romans 6:6,Ephesians 2:1,Acts 4:12 (e) Ephesians 1:13 (f) John 1:12,Acts 16:31,Acts 10:43 (g) Philippians 3:9,Acts 15:11

From the London Baptist Confession 1689:

CHAPTER 14 – SAVING FAITH

1.THE grace of faith by which the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls is the work of the Spirit in their hearts. Normally it is brought into being through the preaching of the Word. By the Word and its ministry, by the administration of baptism and the Lord’s supper, by prayer, and also by other means appointed by God, faith is increased and strengthened.

Luke 17:5; Acts 20:32; Rom. 10:14,17; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 2:8; 1 Pet. 2:2.

2.By faith a Christian believes everything to be true that is made known in the Word, in which God speaks authoritatively. He also perceives in the Word a degree of excellence superior to all other writings, indeed to all things that the world contains. The Word shows the glory of God as seen in His various attributes, the excellence of Christ in His nature and in the offices He bears, and the power and perfection of the Holy Spirit in all the works in which He is engaged. In this way the Christian is enabled to trust himself implicitly to the truth thus believed, and to render service according to the different requirements of the various parts of Scripture. To the commands he yields obedience; when he hears threatenings he trembles; as for the divine promises concerning this life and that which is to come, he embraces them. But the principal acts of saving faith relate in the first instance to Christ as the believer accepts, receives and rests upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life; and all by virtue of the covenant of grace.

Ps. 19:7-10; 119:72; Isa. 66:2; John 1:12; 15:14; Acts 15:11; 16:31; 24:14; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 11:13.

3.Saving faith has its gradations. It may be weak or strong. Yet, like all other kinds of saving grace, even at its lowest ebb it is quite different in its nature from the faith and common grace of temporary believers. In consequence, though it may be frequently attacked and weakened, it wins through to victory, developing in many Christians until they attain to full assurance through Christ, who is both the ‘author and finisher of our faith’.

Matt. 6:30; Rom. 4:19,20; Eph. 6:16; Col. 2:2; Heb. 5:13,14; 6:11,12; 12:2; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:4,5.