Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Threefold Love of God

Besides his special love to the elect, orthodox Reformed divines speak of God's general love towards his creatures, as creatures, including all men, made in his own image, whether reprobate or elect. The command of Christ to love our enemies as even our Heavenly Father does is a clear demonstration of this truth. Moreover, the Incarnation itself is proof of God's love for man. Citing Wolfgang Musculus, Loci communes, XLVIII (Commonplaces, pp. 961-963), Richard Muller writes: "There could be no greater indication of the love of God for humanity than this personal union of human nature with the divine nature" (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics 3.563). The select extracts which follow demonstrate the consistent understanding of Reformed divines, that, because God is love, and this attribute is essential to himself, the general, benevolent love of God towards all his works of creation, is consistent with his special, discriminating, or electing love, to his chosen ones.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 1 (Twentieth Question), p. 241:

IV. From goodness flows love by which he communicates himself to the creature and (as it were) wills to unite himself with and do good to it, but in diverse ways and degrees according to the diversity of the objects. Hence is usually made a threefold distinction in the divine love: the first, that by which he follow creatures, called "love of the creature" (philoktisia); the second, that by which he embraces men, called "love of man" (philoanthropia); the third, which is specially exercised towards the elect and is called "the love of the elect" (eklektophilia). For in proportion as the creature is more perfect and more excellent, so also does it share in a greater effluence and outpouring (aporroen) of divine love. Hence although love considered affectively and on the part of the internal act is equal in God (because it does not admit of increase or diminution), yet regarded effectively (or on the part of the good which he wills to anyone) it is unequal because some effects of love are greater than others.

Edward Leigh, A Treatise of Divinity, II.viii (p. 71) (quoted by Richard A. Muller, PRRD 3.566):

God's love to Christ is the foundation of his love to us, Matt. 3:17; Ephes. 1:6.
God loves all creatures with a general love, Matt. 5:44, 45, as they are the work of his hands; but he doth delight in some especially, whom he hath chosen in his Son, John 3:16; Ephes. 1:6.

John Collinges, in Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 3, p. 26 (re Matt. 5.45):

As your heavenly Father hath a common love, which he extendeth to all mankind, in supplying their necessities, with the light and warmth of the sun, and with the rain; as well as a special love and favour, which he exerciseth only toward those that are good, and members of Christ; so ought you to have: though you are not obliged to take your enemies into your bosom, yet you ought to love them in their order. And as your heavenly Father, though he will one day have a satisfaction from sinners, for the wrong done to his majesty, unless they repent; yet, to heap coals of fire on their heads, gives them good things of common providence, that he might not leave them without witness, yea, and affords them the outward means of grace for their souls: so, although you are bound to seek some satisfaction for God's honour and glory from flagitious sinners, and though you may in an orderly course seek a moderate satisfaction for the wrong done to yourselves, yet you ought to love them with a love consistent with these things; that so you may imitate your heavenly Father, and approve yourselves to be his children.

Wilhelmus à Brakel, The Christian's Reasonable Service I.3.33, Vol. 1 (1999 ed.), pp. 123-124:

The love of His benevolence is either general as it relates to the manner in which God delights in, desires to bless, maintains, and governs all His creatures by virtue of the fact that they are His creatures (Psa. 145:9), or it is special. This special love refers to God's eternal designation of the elect to be the objects of His special love and benevolence. This finds expression in the following texts, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16); "As Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it" (Eph. 5:25).

William Jenkyn, An Exposition Upon the Epistle of Jude, p. 36:

1. There is a love of God to man, though without passion, sympathy, or any imperfection or weakness; these being attributed to him only to relieve the weakness either of our faith or apprehensions. And this love is,

(I.) Considered as a love of desire; as love desires to be carried to the union of the thing beloved. This desire of union with man God shows many ways; as, I. By being near unto, nay, present with him, by his universal care and providence; he being " not far from every one of us : for in him we live," &c., Acts xvii. 27, 28. 2. By assuming the nature of man into a personal conjunction with himself in the Mediator, Christ. 3. By conversing with man by signs of his presence, extraordinary visions, dreams, oracles, inspiration; and ordinarily by his holy ordinances, wherewith his people, as it were, abide with him in his house. 4. By sending his Holy Spirit to dwell in man, and bestowing upon man the Divine nature. 5. By taking man into an eternal habitation in heaven, where he shall be ever in his glorious presence, Psal. xvi. 11.

(2.) There is a love of God to man, considered as a love of benevolence, or of good-will, or of willingness to do good to the thing beloved: what else was his eternal purpose to have mercy upon his people, and of saving them, but, as it is expressed concerning Jacob, this loving them? Rom. ix. 13. And to whom can a will of doing good so properly agree, as to Him whose will is goodness itself?

(3.) There is a love of God to man, considered as a love of beneficence, bounty, or actual doing good to the thing beloved. Thus he bestows the effects of his love, both for this life, and for that which is to come. And the benencence of God is called love; "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God," 1 John iii. 1. And John iii. 16, "God so loved the world, that he gave," &c. By this love of beneficence he bestows the good things of nature, grace, and glory. God does good to every creature, hating, though the iniquity of any one, yet the nature of none; for the being of every creature is good, Gen. i. 31, and God has adorned it with many excellent qualities. According to these loves of benevolence and benencence, God loves not his creatures equally, but some more than others; inasmuch as he wills to bestow, and also actually bestows, greater blessings upon some than upon others. He makes and preserves all creatures, but his love is more especially afforded to mankind; he styles himself from his love to man, Tit. iii. 4, and not from his love to angels, or any other creature. He is called [Gk.], a lover of man, but never [Gk.], or [Gk.], a friend of angels or creatures without man. His love is yet more peculiarly extended to man in creating him after his own image, Gen. i. 27, and in giving him lordship over the creatures, Psal. viii. 5; in giving his Son to take upon him man's nature, Heb. ii. 16, and exalt it above heavens (Matt, xxviii. 18) and angels, to die for sinning, dying man; offering him to man hi the dispensation of the gospel with wooing and beseechings. And yet of men he loves some more especially and peculiarly than others; namely, those whom he loves with an electing, calling, redeeming, justifying, glorifying love. God loves all creatures, and among them the rational, and among them the members of his Son, and much more the Son himself.

(4.) There is a love of God to man, considered as a love of complacency, and delight in the thing beloved. He is pleased through his Son with his servants; and he is much delighted with his own image wheresoever he finds it. He is pleased with the persons and performances of his people: "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him," Psal. cxlvii. 11. They reflecting his excellencies, and showing forth his virtues; he rejoicing over them with joy, and resting in his love, Zeph. iii. 17: accounting a believer amiable; his soul, a lesser heaven; his prayers, melody; his sighs, incense; his stammerings, eloquence; his desires, performances.

Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 70-71:

a. The goodness of God towards His creatures in general. This may be defined as that perfection of God which prompts Him to deal bountifully and kindly with all His creatures. It is the affection which the Creator feels towards His sentient creatures as such. The Psalmist sings of it in the well known words: "Jehovah is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works...The eyes of all wait for thee; and thou givest them their food in due season, Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living creature," Ps. 145:9,15,16. This benevolent interest of God is revealed in His care for the creature's welfare, and is suited to the nature and the circumstances of the creature. It naturally varies in degree according to the capacity of the objects to receive it. And while it is not restricted to believers, they only manifest a proper appreciation of its blessings, desire to use them in the service of their God, and thus enjoy them in a richer and fuller measure. The Bible refers to this goodness of God in many passages, such as Ps. 36:6; 104:21; Matt. 5:45; 6:26; Luke 6:35; Acts 14:17.

b. The love of God. When the goodness of God is exercised towards His rational creatures, it assumes the higher character of love, and this love may again be distinguished according to the objects on which it terminates. In distinction from the goodness of God in general, it may be defined as that perfection of God by which He is eternally moved to self-communication. Since God is absolutely good in Himself, His love cannot find complete satisfaction in any object that falls short of absolute perfection. He loves His rational creatures for His own sake, or, to express it otherwise, He loves them in Himself, His virtues, His work, and His gifts. He does not even withdraw His love completely from the sinner in his present sinful state, though the latter's sin is an abomination to Him, since He recognizes even in the sinner His image-bearer. John 3:16; Matt. 5:44,45. At the same time He loves believers with a special love, since He contemplates them as His spiritual children in Christ. It is to them that He communicates Himself in the fullest and richest sense, with all the fulness of His grace and mercy. John 16:27; Rom. 5:8; I John 3:1.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 427:

Goodness, in the Scriptural sense of the term, includes benevolence, love, mercy, and grace. By benevolence is meant the disposition to promote happiness; all sensitive creatures are its objects. Love includes complacency, desire, and delight, and has rational beings for its objects. Mercy is kindness exercised towards the miserable, and includes pity, compassion, forbearance, and gentleness, which the Scriptures so abundantly ascribe to God. Grace is love exercised towards the unworthy. The love of a holy God to sinners is the most mysterious attribute of the divine nature. The manifestation of this attribute for the admiration and beatification of all intelligent creatures, is declared to be the special design of redemption.

John Gill, A Body of Divinity, p. 79:

All that God has made is the object of his love; all the works of creation, when he had made them, he looked over them, and saw that they were good, very good, Gen. i. 31. he was well pleased, and delighted with them; yea, he is said to rejoice in his works, Psal. civ. 31. he upholds all creatures in their beings, and is the Preserver of all, both men and beasts; and is good to all, and his tender mercies over all his works, Psalm xxxvi. 6. and cxlv. 9. and particularly, rational creatures are the objects of his care, love, and delight: he loves the holy angels, and has shewn his love to them in choosing them to happiness; hence they are called elect angels, 1 Tim. v. 21. by making Christ the head of them, by whom they are confirmed in the estate in which they were created, Col. ii. 10. and by admitting them into his presence, allowing them to stand before him, and behold his face, Matt. xviii. 10. yea, even the devils, as they are the creatures of God, are not hated by him, but as they are apostate spirits from him: and so he bears a general love to all men, as they are his creatures, his offspring, and the work of his hands; he supports them, preserves them, and bestows the bounties of his providence, in common upon them, Acts xvii. 28. and xiv. 17. Matt. v. 45. but he bears a special love to elect men in Christ; which is called his great love, Eph. ii. 4. whom he has chosen and blessed with all spiritual blessings in him, Eph. i. 3, 4. and which love is distinguishing and discriminating, Mal. i. 1, 2. Rom. ix. 11, 12.

James Ussher, A Body of Divinity, p. 55-58:

What is the Love of God?
It is an Essential Property in God, whereby he loveth himself above all, and others for himself, 1 John 4:16; Rom. 5:8; John 3:16; Titus 3:4; Mal. 1:2, 3.

What learn you from hence?
That we should love him dearly, and other things for him.

That we may the better know what the Love of God is, declare first, What Love is in our selves?
It is a passion of the Mind, whereby we are so affected towards the Party whom we love, that we are rather his than our own, forgetting ourselves to do him good whom we so love.

And is love such a thing in God?
No: the true Love of God is not such as our Love is.

What difference is there?
There is great difference two ways. First, In time: for Love was in God before it was in us, or in anything created; for he loved himself and us also before the World was, John 17:23. Secondly, They differ in nature and quality: for that Love which is in God is most perfect and pure, without passion; but in us it is imperfect, and matched with Passions, with impure Affections, and grief of the mind.

After what manner doth the Scripture express the Love of God?
In the Scriptures God doth compare himself to a Father and to a Mother loving their Children; to a Hen gathering her Chickens together under her Wings; to a good Shepherd seeking up his Sheep, and to divers other things.

And wherefore serve these Comparisons?
They are for our profit two ways. First, To shew us that God's Love towards us, is most vehement and sincere. Secondly, To make us bold in coming to him, and calling upon him. So for this Love Christ Jesus calleth us by all the Names of Love: as his Servants, his Kinsmen, His Friends, his Spouse, his Brethren, and by many names more: to shew, that he loveth us with all loves, the Father's Love, the Mother's Love, the Masters Love, the Husbands Love, the Brothers Love, &c. and if all Loves were put together, yet his Love exceedeth them all: for all could not do so much for us as he alone hath done.

If Love doth not signify any Affection or Passion in God, as it doth in us: What then doth it signify?
In God it signifieth three things most perfect. First, The eternal good Will of God towards some Body: for the Love of God (suppose towards the Elect) is his everlasting good Will, or his purpose and determination to shew them Mercy, to do them Good, and to save them, as in Rom. 9:11, 13. Secondly, The effects themselves of this Love or good Will; whether they be temporal concerning this Life, or eternal concerning the Life to come, as in 1 John 3:1. Thirdly, The pleasure and delight which he taketh in that which he loveth: and so it is taken in Psalm 45:7.

That things doth God love besides himself?
Besides himself, God loveth all things else whatsoever he made: but he loveth not sin and iniquity; for he never made it, as St. John saith, 1 John 2:16. Again, he loveth his Son, being manifested in the flesh; and he loveth his chosen Children for his Sons sake, with whom he is well pleased, Matt. 3:17.

Object. 1. The Scripture saith, That God doth hate all that work Iniquity: How then can God both hate and love one and the same Man?
In every wicked Man we must consider two things. First, His Nature. Secondly, His Sin. His Nature is the Work of God, and that he loveth: but his iniquity is not of God, and that he hateth.

Object. 2. God doth afflict his Children; therefore he doth not love them.
Whom he loveth he correcteth, (Prov. 3:12) and therefore he correcteth them because he loveth them; even as a Gold-smith tryeth his Gold in the fire, because he loveth it.

Whether doth God love all alike, or no?
No: he preferreth Mankind before all his other Creatures; for which cause God is called Philanthropos, that is, a Lover of Men. And this appeareth by three effects of his Love.
First, He made him according to his own Image; that is, in Righteousness and true Holiness, Gen. 1:26; Eph. 4:24.
Secondly, He made him Lord over all his Creatures, Psalm 8:5, 6.
Thirdly, He gave his own Son to death for his ransom.

Doth God love all men alike?
No: for he loveth his Elect better than the Reprobate. For the Elect he calleth effectually by his Spirit in their Hearts, when he calleth others but by the outward Voice of the Gospel, &c.
Again, amongst the Elect themselves, some are actually Wicked, and not yet reconciled nor called; as was Paul before his Conversion. But the rest are called and already made holy by Faith in Christ, as Paul was after his Conversion. And of these, he loveth the latter sort with a greater measure of love than the former, as the Scripture testifieth, Prov. 8:17.

What manner of Love doth God bear to his Elect?
It hath three adjuncts or properties. First, It is free without desert.
Secondly, It is great without comparison.
Thirdly, It is constant without any end.

How is the Love of God said to be free?
It is free two ways. First, Because nothing caused God to love us, but his own Goodness and Grace: and therefore St. John saith, that his Love was before ours, 1 John 4:10.
Secondly, It is free, because God in loving us, did not regard any thing that belonged to his own Commodity: for, as David saith, Psalm 16:2, he hath no need of our Goods; but only to our own Salvation he loved us.

Wherein doth the Greatness of God's Love appear to his Elect?
It appeareth two ways. 1. By the means which God used to save us by, that is, the death of his Son: and so St. John setteth forth his Love, John 3:16; 1 John 3:16, when he saith ου'τω, that is, So, (as if he should say, so vehemently, so ardently, so earnestly, so wonderfully) did he love us, that for our Salvation he spared not his own only begotten Son, but gave him to the death of the Cross for our Salvation.

What else doth set forth the greatness of God's Love unto us?
The consideration of our own selves. For he did not only give his only Son to death for us, but it was for us being his Enemies. And this Circumstance is used by the Apostle to express the same, Rom. 5:7, 8.

Where find you it written, that God's Love is constant and perpetual?
That is manifestly shewed in these Scriptures following, Hos. 11:9; John 13:1; Rom. 11:29. For as God is unchangeable in His Essence and Nature; so is he unchangeable in his Love, which is his Essence and Nature: and therefore is God called Love in the Scriptures, 1 John 4:8.

What use must we make of God's Love?
First, It filleth our hearts with gladness, when we understand that our God is so loving, and Love itself: and what is this but the beginning of eternal Life? if eternal Life consists in the true knowledge of God, as our Saviour Christ saith, John 17:3.

Secondly, Out of knowledge of this Love, as out of a Fountain, springeth the Love of God and our Neighbor. For St. John saith, He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love, 1 John 4:8.

Thirdly, When we consider that God loveth all his Creatures which he made, it should teach us not to abuse any of the Creatures, to serve our Lusts and beastly Affections. For God will punish them which abuse his beloved; as he punished the rich Glutton, which abused the Creatures of God, Luke 16.

Fourthly, We are taught to love all the Creatures, even the basest of all, seeing that God loveth them, and for the love he beareth to us he made them: and we must (if we love them for God's sake) use them sparingly, moderately, and equally or justly. To this end we are commanded to let our Cattle rest upon the Sabbath day, as well as our selves: to this end we are forbidden to kill the Dam upon her Nest; and to this end we are forbidden to muzzle the Mouth of the Ox which treadeth out the Corn, Deut. 25:4; 1 Cor. 9:9.

Fifthly, We are taught from hence to love Mankind better than all other Creatures, because God doth so: and therefore we must not spare any thing that we have, that may make for the safety of his Body, and the salvation of his Soul. And for this cause, we are commanded to love our Enemies, and to do them good; because our good God doth so.

Sixthly, From God's Love, we learn to prefer the Godly Brethren, and those that profess sincerely the same Religion that we profess before other Men: because God's Love is greater to the Elect, than to the Reprobate: and this doth the Apostle teach us, Gal. 6:10.

Seventhly, Whereas God's Love is freely bestowed upon us, this teacheth us to be humble, and to attribute no part of our Salvation to our selves, but only to the free Love of God.

Eighthly, From hence ariseth the certainty of our Salvation. For if God's Love was so free and great when we were his Enemies, much more will it be so, and constant also to us, being reconciled to God by Jesus Christ, Rom. 5:10.

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