Love to GodMiscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
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197. Christian Religion. The Love of God. It seems to me exceeding congruous and the highest manner consentaneous that a God, a being of infinite goodness and love, who, it is evident from mere reason, created the world for this very end, to make the creation happy in his love: I say it seems exceeding congruous, that he should give to the creature the highest sort of evidence or expression of love. For why should not that love, which is infinitely higher than any other and the love of a being infinitely more excellent, of which other love is but the emanation and shadow; why should not that love have the highest and most noble manifestations and the surest evidences? Now we know that the highest sort of manifestations and evidence of love is expense for the beloved. How much soever the lover gives, or communicates to the beloved, yet if he is at no expense himself, there is not that high and noble expression of love as if otherwise. Now I can clearly and distinctly conceive how the giving of Christ should have all that in it, that renders it every way an equal, and like, and perfectly equivalent expression of love, as the greatest expense in a lover, as I have shown elsewhere. And this is a way that is exceeding noble and excellent, and agreeable to the glorious perfections of God. But no other way can be conceived of; and they that deny the Christian religion can pretend no other. And if they do it is impossible they should think of any in any measure so exalted, noble, and excellent.
270. Glory of God. That no actions are good but what have the honor of God as their chief end proposed is not necessary. It is very true that no actions are good any further than they have God for their ends, either the glorifying him or the pleasing him or enjoying him, and love to God, or inclination towards him, must be its spring and motive. Even glorifying God is not a good end, any further than our seeking his glory springs from love. And if a desire of enjoying God springs more from love than a desire of honoring him, it is a better principle.
530. Love to God. Self -Love. Whether or no a man ought to love God more than himself. Self-love, taken in the most extensive sense, and love to God are not things properly capable of being compared one with another, for they are not opposites or things entirely distinct, but one enters into the nature of the other. Self-love is a man’s love of his own pleasure and happiness and hatred of his own misery, or rather, it is only a capacity of enjoyment or suffering. For to say a man loves his own happiness or pleasure is only to say that he delights in what he delights; and to say that he hates his own misery is only to say that he is grieved or afflicted in his own affliction. So that self-love is only a capacity of enjoying or taking delight in anything. Now surely it is improper to say that our love to God is superior to our general capacity of delighting in anything. Proportionable to our love to God is our disposition to delight in his good. Now our delight in God’s good cannot be superior to our own general capacity of delighting in anything or, which is the same thing, our delight in God’s good cannot be superior to our love to delight in general. For proportionately as we delight in God’s good, so shall we love that delight. A desire of and delight in God’s good is love to God, and love to delight is self-love. Now the degree of delight in a particular thing and the degree of love to pleasure, or delight in general, ben’t properly comparable one with another, for they are not entirely distinct, but one enters into the nature of the other. Delight in a particular thing includes a love to delight in general. A particular delight in anything cannot be said to be superior to love to delight in general, for always in proportion to the degree of delight is the love a man has to the delight, for he loves greater delight more or less, in proportion as it is greater. If he did not love it more, it would not be a greater delight to him. Love of benevolence to any person is an inclination to their good. But evermore equal to the inclination or desire anyone has of another’s good is the delight he has in that other’s good if it be obtained, and the uneasiness if it be not obtained. But equal to that delight is a person’s love to that delight, and equal to that uneasiness is his hatred of that uneasiness. But love to our own delight or hatred of our own uneasiness is self-love, so that no love to another can be superior to self-love as most extensively taken.
Self-love is a man’s love to his own good. But self-love may be taken in two senses, or any good may be said to be a man’s own good in two senses. First. Any good whatsoever that a man any way enjoys, or anything that he takes delight in — it makes it thereby his own good whether it be a man’s own proper and separate pleasure or honor, or the pleasure or honor of another. Our delight in it renders it our own good in proportion as we delight in it. It is impossible that a man should delight in any good that is not his own, for to say that would be to say that he delights in that in which he does not delight. Now take self-love for a man’s love to his own good in this more general sense — and love to God cannot be superior to it. But secondly, a person’s good may be said to be his own good as it is his proper and separate good, which is his and what he has delight in directly and immediately. Love to good that is a man’s own, in this sense, is what is ordinarily called self-love. And superior to this, love to God can and ought to be.
Self-love is either simple, mere self-love, which is a man’s love to his own proper, single, and separate good, and is what arises simply and necessarily from the nature of a perceiving, willing being — it necessarily arises from that without the supposition of any other principle. I therefore call it simple self-love because it arises simply from that principle, viz., the nature of a perceiving, willing being. Self-love, taken in this sense, and love to God are entirely distinct and do not enter one into the nature of the other at all. Second. There is a compounded self-love which is exercised in the delight that a man has in the good of another — it is the value that he sets upon that delight. This I call compounded self-love because it arises from a compounded principle. It arises from the necessary nature of perceiving and willing being, whereby he takes his own pleasure or delight, but not from this alone. But it supposes also another principle that determines the exercise of this principle — a certain principle uniting this person with another that causes the good of another to be its good, and makes that to become delight which otherwise cannot. The first arises simply from his own being, whereby that which agrees immediately and directly with his own being is his good, though it arises also from a principle uniting him to another being, whereby the good of that other being does in a sort become his own. This second sort of self-love is not entirely distinct from love to God, but enters into its nature.
Corollary. Hence, it is impossible for any person to be willing to be perfectly and finally miserable for God’s sake, for this supposes love to God is superior to self-love in the most general and extensive sense of self-love, which enters into the nature of love to God. It may be possible that a man may be willing to be deprived of all his own proper, separate good for God’s sake. But then he is not perfectly miserable, but happy in the delight that he has in God’s good. For he takes greater delight in God’s good, for the sake of which he parts with his own, than he did in his own. So that the man is not perfectly miserable: he is not deprived of all delight, but he is happy. He has greater delight in what is obtained for God than he had in what he has lost of his own, so that he has only exchanged a lesser joy for a greater. But if a man is willing to be perfectly miserable for God’s sake, then he is willing to part with all his own separate good, but he must be willing also to be deprived of that which is indirectly his own, viz., God’s good, which supposition is inconsistent with itself. For to be willing to be deprived of this latter sort of good is opposite to that principle of love to God itself, from whence such a willingness is supposed to arise. Love to God, if it be superior to any other principle, will make a man forever unwilling, utterly and finally, to be deprived of that part of his happiness which he has in God’s being blessed and glorified, and the more he loves him, the more unwilling he will be. So that this supposition, that a man can be willing to be perfectly and utterly miserable out of love to God, is inconsistent with itself.
Note. That love of God, which we have hitherto spoke of, is a love of benevolence only. But this is to be observed, that there necessarily accompanies a love of benevolence a love of appetite or complacence, which is a disposition to desire or delight in beholding the beauty of another, and a relation to or union with him. Self-love, in its most general extent, is very much concerned in this, and is not entirely distinct from it. The difference is only this: that self-love is a man’s desire of, or delight in, his own happiness. This love of complacence is a placing of his happiness, which he thus desires and delights in, in a particular object. This sort of love, which is always in proportion to a love of benevolence, is also inconsistent with a willingness to be utterly miserable for God’s sake. For if the man is utterly miserable, he is utterly excluded from the enjoyment of God. But how can man’s love of complacence towards God be gratified in this? The more a man loves God, the more unwilling will he be to be deprived of this happiness.
567. Love to God. If a man has any true love to God, he must have a spirit to love God above all, because, without seeing something of the divine glory, there can be no true love to God. But if a man sees anything of divine glory, he’ll see that he is more glorious than any other, for whereinsoever God is divine, therein he is above all others. If men are sensible only of some excellency in God that is common with him to others, they are not sensible of anything of his divine glory. But so far as any man is sensible of excellency in God above others, so far must he love him above others.
739. Love to God. Predominancy of Grace. Though it be by many things most evident that there is but little grace in the hearts of the godly, in their present infant state, to what there is of corruption, yet it is also very evident by the Scripture that grace is the principle that reigns and predominates in the heart of a godly man in such a manner that it is the spirit that he is of, and so, that it denominates the man. Goodness or godliness prevails in him so that he is called a good man, a godly, righteous man, a saint or holy man. Humility predominates, therefore all good men are called humble men. Meekness predominates, so that all good men are denominated the meek. Mercifulness prevails, so that all good men are called merciful men. So godly persons are represented as such as love God and not the world, for it is said, if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. A true disciple of Christ is represented as one that loves Christ above father and mother, and wife and children, houses and lands, yea, more than his own life, that loves him above all and therefore sells all for him. Now how can these things consist with his having so little grace and so much corruption, his having so little divine love and so much love to the world? Why cannot it be so that a man may have some true love to God, and yet that love be so little and the love of the world so much that he may be said to love the world a great deal better than God?
I answer, it is from the nature of the object loved rather than from the degree of the principle in the lover. The object beloved is of supreme excellency, of a loveliness immensely above all, worthy to be chosen and pursued and cleaved to and delighted in far above all. And he that truly loves loves him as seeing this superlative excellency, seeing it as superlative, and as being convinced that it is far above all. Though a man has but a faint discovery of the glory of God, yet if he has any true discovery of him, so far as he sees this he is sensible that God is worthy to be loved far above all. The Spirit of God is a spirit of truth, and if he makes any true discovery of God, it must be a discovery of him as lovely above all. If such an excellency is not discovered, there is no divine excellency discovered, for divine excellency is superlative, supreme excellency.
Now that wherein a godly man may be said to love God above all seems to be built on, and seems all to be no more than immediately follows: he that has God’s supreme excellency thus discovered to him has a sense of heart of his being lovely above all. For spiritual knowledge and conviction consists in the sense of heart. And having such a sort of conviction and sense of heart, it follows that he does in his heart esteem God above all, so that the love of God reigns in his practical judgment and esteem. And it will also follow that God predominates in the stated established choice and election of his heart. For he that has a conviction and sense of heart of anything, as above all things eligible, must elect that above all. And therefore godly men are often in Scriptures represented as choosing God for their portion, or choosing the pearl of great price above all. From this it will follow that God and holiness predominates in his established purpose and resolution. He cleaves to the Lord with purpose of heart and so, in the sense of the Scriptures, with his whole heart.
Though there may be but little of the principle of love, yet the principle that is being built on such a conviction will be of that nature, viz., to prize God above all. There may be an endless variety of degrees of the principle; but the nature of the object is unalterable, and therefore, if there be a true discovery of the object, whether in a greater or lesser degree, yet if it be true or agreeable to the nature of the object discovered, the nature of that principle that is the effect of the discovery will answer the nature of the object. And so it will evermore be the nature of it to prize God above all, though there may be but little of such a principle.
And so may it be said of the man’s love to, and choice of, holiness and of particular graces such as meekness, mercifulness, etc. — he sees the excellency of these things above all other qualifications, hence they predominate in the judgment and choice.
And then another way whereby grace predominates in the soul of a saint is by virtue of the covenant of grace and the promises of God on which Christian grace relies, and which engage God’s strength and assistance to be on its side and to help it against its enemy when otherwise it would be overpowered. Where God infuses grace, he will give it a predominance by his upholding of it, and time after time giving it the victory when it seemed for a time to be overborn and ready to be swallowed. This is not owing to our strength, but to the strength of God who will not forsake the work of his hands, and will carry on his work where he has begun it, and always causeth us to triumph in Christ Jesus, who is the author and has undertaken to be the finisher of our faith.
Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:
Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.
Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.