God’s Love Before Time and God’s Love In Time

Gods love before time and Gods love in time

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” (Song of Solomon 4:9).

Samuel Rutherford
The Trial and Triumph of Faith
Sermon 24, pp. 260-261.

A Twofold Love of God, one of Good-will to the Person, another of Complacency to his own Image in the Person.

Our divines do rightly teach, that there is a twofold love in God.

(1.) Amor benevolentiæ, a love of well-willing, which he did bear to them before the world was, and it is called the love of election. Of this love, Paul speaketh. “I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau.” (Rom. 9:13.) This is fountain-love, the well-head of all our salvation.

(2.) There is another love called Amor complacentiæ, a love of complacency, a love of justification (so Mr. Denne termeth it), which presupposeth faith, “without which it is impossible to please God,” (Heb. 11:6). Of this Christ speaketh, “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21). “If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him,” (verse 23). So Christ, the wisdom of God, saith, “I love them that love me,” (Prov. 8:17). And so Christ speaketh of his love to his redeemed and sanctified spouse, “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” (Cant. 4:9). Holiness and the image of God is the object of this love, not the cause nor any hire. It is not so properly love as the other. God rather loveth persons, desiring well and good to them, than things.

. . .

How God loveth us before time, and how he now loveth us in time.

It is a palpable untruth, that the elect, by believing in Christ, and being translated from death to life in their conversion to God, are equally loved of God before conversion, as after conversion, if we speak of God’s love of complacency. For though the inward affection and love of God, as it is an immanent and indwelling act in God, be eternal, and have not its rise in time, and be not like the love of man to man, which is like the sea ebbing and flowing; or the moon, which admitteth of a cloudy and dark visage, and of an enlightened and full condition; yet as the same love of God is terminated upon sinful men, or rather, that which is called the love of complacency, which is indeed the effect of God’s love; it is not every way one and the same, after conversion and before. As it is the same fountain and spring that runneth in its streams toward the south, which, by art and industry of men, may be made to run toward the north: the change is in the streams, not in the fountain; yet we say the fountain now runneth not southward, as it did before, but northward.

Also, give me leave to doubt, if these same very visible sun-beams, that did fall upon Adam and Eve, do this summer fall upon us; yet, I doubt not, but the same sun that did shine the first six hours of the creation, on the garden of Paradise, shineth upon all our gardens and orchards that now are. So God’s love is one and the same toward the elect before time, and while they are wallowing in the state of sinful and depraved nature, and now, when they are changed in the spirits of their mind.

But it may well be said that God loveth his Church, as washed, as fair, and spotless (Cant. 4:7), and that he doth now say of her, “How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine, and the smell of thine ointments than all spices?” (Cant. 4:10). Whereas, the Lord said before of her, “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, thy mother an Hittite; as for thy nativity, in the day that thou wast born, thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all” (Ezek. 16:3,4). “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thy blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, live.” (verse 6). And all this the Lord might speak to the same Church yet unconverted; and at that time, the Lord could not utter that expression of love, to say to a bloody and polluted church, as he doth, “Thou art all fair, my love, there is not a spot in thee.” (Cant. 4:7). Now, could it be said, that the Father and the Son love such a Church, as such as loveth the Father, and keepeth the words of the Son, as it is (John 14:21,23), when the church was not fair, not spotless, but filthy, polluted, not washed, not justified as yet?

And though it be true, that faith procures not God’s love and favour (it is a calumny, that ever a protestant divine taught any such thing); for the work of God’s eternal love in election to glory, or his hatred in reprobation, is not the yesterday or today’s birth of our faith, or our unbelief; yet that believing, or our effectual conversion maketh no alteration or change in our state before God, is a gross untruth. Faith and conversion make indeed no change of any state in the Ancient of days, in the Strength of Israel, who cannot lie or repent; and putteth not God from the state of a reprobating or hating, or a not loving and choosing God; whereas, before he was such, who did love and choose us to salvation. The Lord is our witness, we asserted the contrary doctrine of free grace, against Arminians and Papists.


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