Subjects of more than an ordinary nature are generally introduced in the word of God with a "behold!" For instance, Jacob's dream (Gen. 28:12), the kingly reign of Christ, (Isa. 32:1) and also his sacrificial character as the Lamb of God's providing and sending; (John 1:29) and as the love of God to his elect is a subject which is not at all inferior to the above, the apostle introduces it with a "behold" (i. e., see, consider) "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, who are such poor, vile, rebellious, and sinful creatures, that we should be called or made the sons of God."
Nevertheless, as it is revealed in the Scriptures of truth, I will venture to make a few remarks upon what is said of it there.
And, first, it is said to be. eternal. The Arminians say that we must love God, and then he will love us. If so, then our love to God must precede his love to us, and we must be before hand with him, instead of his being before hand with us, as I am sure he is. But if the love of God be God himself, as the apostle says it is, and if God is eternal in his nature, (Deut. 33:27) then his love must be eternal; and as love cannot exist without an object loved, he must have loved his people with an everlasting love; and the many things Which he did for them in eternity fully prove that he loved them before they love him; yes, that he loved them from eternity; such as his choosing them in Christ before the world began, that they might be holy and without blame before him in love; his giving them to Christ as his children; his entering into covenant with him to redeem them from sin, wrath, and death; his giving them grace in him before the world began; his having written their names in the book of life, promised life to them, and ordained them to it. Now there must have been a cause why the Lord did those things for them; and what could that cause be but love to the persons for whom they were done; and as they were done in eternity, they certainly prove that the love which was the cause of their being done is eternal in its date. (Jer. 31:3)
Secondly, it is free in its nature. The Most High did not love his people with an eternal love upon the fore view of any goodness in them, for there is none by nature; nor for their faith, repentance, and love, for these are the effects of his love to them; and it is clear that Jehovah never foresaw them possessed of one good thing which his love was not the cause of. As such, his love must exist toward them before faith, repentance, and love; for these are the effects of his love to them; and it is clear that Jehovah never foresaw them possessed of one good thing which his love was not the cause of. As such, his love must exist toward them before faith, repentance, and love can exist in them. Neither did he set his love upon them for the good works done by them; for Paul says, "It is not of works, lest any man should boast." Indeed, there is nothing that is either possessed or done by them that is the cause of his loving them; for the cause of love is in himself, of his own sovereign will. Hence, as the Jews hated Christ without there being any cause in him why they should have hated him, even so the Lord loved his saints without there being any cause in them why he should have loved them. And that man must be very ignorant of both his Bible and his own condition as a sinner, that thinks that there is any thing in him, or done by him, as a cause of the Lord's love, either in its fixation or manifestation to the soul: for the word of God declares that all men are sinners; enemies to God by wicked works; unclean in heart, lip, and life, and haters of God and each other. And what the people are as fallen creatures, and what they do as such, were foreseen and foreknown by the Lord of heaven and earth; and yet he loved them, notwithstanding all. To this the apostle bears his testimony when he says, "But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us," (when we loved him? no, no! but) "even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ." (Eph. 2:4) Yes, the great I AM has loved some of the very worst of mankind, and thereby he commends the freeness of his love to sensible sinners, who are poring over their total unworthiness of it; for that love must be free which embraced a Manasseh, a Mary Magdalene, a crucified thief, a Saul of Tarsus, a Newton, and a Bunyan, when they were walking according to the prince of the power of the air, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. And the love which embraced them when they were dead in sins, quickened them to feel their need of salvation, and also to receive it without money and without price. Therefore, poor sinner, though you may feel yourself entirely destitute of all good by nature, and as such have nothing of your own to plead before God as a cause why he should bless you; as his love is free, all the blessings which proceed from it are free also; yea, as free as the rain which comes down from the clouds, or the light which comes from the sun.
Thirdly, the love of God is sovereign. Jehovah was quite at liberty either to love with complacency the human race or not; therefore his love flows to his people from his own sovereign pleasure. As it is written, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." (Rom. 9:15) But this is a truth which carnal men hate and oppose, and they do not hesitate to charge the Divine Being with acting unjustly, in the exercise of his own sovereign right; in loving some and not others. Still it shines forth in the Scriptures as the sun at noon-day, when there are no clouds to obstruct its rays; for the Lord loved Abel, but not Cain; Isaac, but not Ishmael; Jacob, but not Esau. Not because there was any difference between those who were loved and those who were not; for they were all alike unworthy; ["the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil"] but that "the purpose of God according to election might stand; not of works, but of him that calleth; as it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom, 9:11) Indeed, if the Lord loves all men alike, how is it that the effects of that love are not communicated to all men? How is it that some are saved, regenerated, pardoned, justified, and reconciled to God, and others are not? It is in vain for the Arminian to say that the Lord has loved all men, and that all men might have the effects of his love, and be saved from sin and hell, if they would only be obedient; for that implies that men's disobedience prevents the accomplishment of God's will to save them; and therefore, while God is mighty to love and will the salvation of all men, men by their disobedience are almighty to resist his love, and prevent the accomplishment of his will to save them, and that, instead of men's submitting to God and the power of his grace, God has to submit to them. But bless his precious name, when he displays his power, none can withstand it; for he says, "I will work, and who shall let or hinder?" (Isa. 43:13) "and my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." (Isa. 46:10) And as it respects the supposed injustice of the act, I ask, was God under any obligation to the human race? No, he was not. Had he not a perfect right to fix his love upon whomsoever he would?
And now, who art thou, 0 vain man, that dare to find fault with thy Maker for doing that which he has a perfect right to do? "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy which he had afore prepared to glory?" (Rom. 9)
Fourthly, the love of God is wonderful. We read of the love of Jacob to Rachel, and of the love of David to Jonathan; but, "here in is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:1O) As the Father sent his Son to be a propitiation or atonement for sin, he laid upon him all the sins of his people, and he was viewed by infinite holiness and justice, as made sin for his members. As such, he was abhorred by the former, and punished by the latter. (Ps. 89:38) "He bore our sins in his own body upon the tree, and he was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities, and the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him." (Isa. 53:6) Hereby sin was honorably removed. It was removed from the elect to Jesus by imputation, and Jesus removed it from himself by making an atonement for it by the shedding of his blood; and he has removed it where neither justice, law, men, nor devils can find it, so as to bring it back and lay it to the charge of his people. (Jer. 50:20; Rom. 3:33,34) The love of God appears wonderful in sending Jesus to open an honorable way for the exercise of mercy, to be the paymaster of his people's debts; to work out a righteousness that they may be righteous; to die, that his children might live for ever; to be poor, that they through his poverty might be rich in grace and glory. Yea, the love of God appears wonderful in his thinking of them, bearing with their numberless provocations, lifting them up from the dunghill of nature's wretchedness, manifesting himself to them, providing for all their needs, so that though the young lions do lack and suffer hunger, they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. Therefore, believer, trust in thy ever-faithful and ever-loving God, at all times, for he is possessed of everlasting strength.
Again; the love of God appears wonderful in preparing an eternal inheritance of life, light, liberty, holiness, happiness, &c., for the saints, and giving them a title to it, and making them meet for the possession and enjoyment of it.
Fifthly, the love of God is unchangeable. The world is changeable, so that we both see and hear of changes taking place every day. Friends are changeable, for one day they appear as if they were all love, and then perhaps the next they seem as if they were all hatred. They will lift us up today and cast us down tomorrow, And, what is still worse, we find, to the grief of our minds, that some who profess to be friends can carry two faces under one hat, that is, can say and do one thing before our face, and another behind our back. Feelings are changeable. We are sometimes in the light, and sometimes in the dark; sometimes in liberty, and sometimes in bondage; sometimes a little comfortable, and sometimes very miserable; prospects sometimes encouraging, and then discouraging. But amidst all these, and numberless other changes, both within us and without us, the love of God is the same. "For he is in one mind, and none can turn him;" therefore, whatever changes take place, the love of God remains the same: "I am the Lord, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed."
The love of God changes the objects of it from death to life, from being enemies to be friends, from hating him to love him; but these changes do not change his love to them; for he loved them the same before they were changed as he does after they are changed; and as there never was any thing in or done by them that drew the Lord's love toward them, so there is nothing in them or done by them that can turn it away from them: "For he rests in his love." (Zeph. 3:17) "I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them to do them good." (Jer. 32:40) "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, &c., shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38,39)
I conclude these remarks by observing that the love of God is from everlasting to everlasting the same, and that it is just as impossible for God to cease to be God, as it is possible for him to cease to love his children.
Bedford, 1837. JACOB.