August 11, 2007

Thomas Manton (1620–1677) on Common Love and Special Love

[4.] If they are committed against love. It is sad to sin against God's laws, it is more to sin against God's love. Suppose it be but against common love, against God that giveth us food and raiment, rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons. The apostle calls this a ' despising the goodness of God,' Rom. 2:4, either by employing it to vile uses, or else by a careless slighting and not taking notice of it. You that slight the kindness of God do as it were say, God shall not gain me to his ways for all this. Every sin is not committed against knowledge, but every sin is against love and bowels. Christ may say to every sinner, as he said to the Jews, John 10:32, ‘Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me?' Thus the Lord may plead, I have given you protection and provision, and food and raiment, for which of these do you violate my law and put such an affront upon me? It is I that have been so liberal to you, in giving you the fruits of the earth, the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air; it is I that have caused your sheep to bring forth thousands, and your fields to yield meat; and will you return upon me with my own weapons? Malefactors are punished in the same things in which they offend, and you seek to do me despite by my own blessings, as if I did you wrong when I did you good. But much more if you sin against special love. You that are Christ's favourites, every sin of yours is as a stab at the heart of mercy; as when the multitude forsook him, says Christ to his disciples, John 6:61, 'Will ye also go away?' That went to his heart. God reckoneth upon you that he shall have much service and obedience from you, and disappointment is the worst kind of vexation: Gen. 18:19, ' I know Abraham, that he will command his children, and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord;' Isa. 63:8,' Surely they are my people, children that will not lie.' That which in others is but single fornication in you is adultery; others sin against common mercies, but you against the bowels of Christ; they are not thankful for a piece of bread, nor you for the bread of life. As Absalom said to Hushai, 2 Sam. 16:17, ' Is this thy kindness to thy friend? ' so is this the fruit of all those tender loves and mercies which God hath meted out to you ? It is unnatural, as if a hen should bring forth the egg of a crow.
In the above quote, notice that Thomas Manton distinguishes between "common love" and "special love". "Common love" consists of receiving food, raiment, rain (you can see allusions to Matt. 5:44-45), fruitful seasons, the "goodness of God" in Romans 2:4, the kindness of God, knowledge (in general, of God's law and His ways), protection, provision, fruits of the earth, fish of the sea, fowls of the air, increase in livestock and in farming. These are all called "blessings." Thus, for Manton, common grace is "common love" and this at least consists in the reception of all the "blessings" above. This grace also involves the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit wooing, pleading (even "begging") and alluring all to salvation through the gospel, as I have shown in earlier posts.

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