April 30, 2012

John Collinges (1623–1690) on the Loves of God

First, Love in the strict, and proper Notion of it, signifieth the Persons or the Creatures Propension and Inclination to some Object, and its Complacency in it. And in this Abstract, and purer Notion of it, it agreeth to the Divine Being, and Christ is the Subject of Love. There is in the eternal Son of god, strong Propensions and Inclinations to do good to the Sons of men. To love, the Philosopher saith, is Velle bonum; to will good to another: There is in Christ a Propension, a strong Inclination to will good to the Sons of Men; He hath a Complacency in some of the Sons of Men. Love is a Term that signifies Affections, and all our Affections are but the motions of our Wills towards their Objects. We say, there are no Affections in God: That is true; But there is something in the Divine Being, which is proportionable to what in us we call Affections. In us Affections are extravagant Motions, mutable Passions; there are no such things in God: In us something out of our selves draws out our Love. There is no such Passions and Affections in God: But if we consider Love in its pure Nature, as it is the kind motion of the Will to an Object, so Christ is Love, and he hath Loves; that is, there is in him, pure and admirable Propensions and Inclinations of his Will to do good to the Children of Men, especially to some particular Souls amongst the Sons of Men. These indeed are not kindled in the Divine Being, from any thing in us, or out of itself, as Flames of Love in the Creature usually are: Yet even in Creatures Love oftentimes is an inaccountable thing, but in God it is always so; he sheweth Mercy because he will shew Mercy, and loveth freely. That's the first thing.

But Secondly, The word [in Cant. 1:2] is plural, not Love but Loves. God is one, and his Love is one, Christs Love is one in himself, but as the River, that went out of Eden to water the Garden of Paradise Gen. 2.10. was one in its Original, and Source, but from thence it was parted, and became into four Heads. So that Oneness of the Divine Propension and Inclination to do good to poor Creatures, being out of the Divine Being, it divides itself into many Heads, and as the Sea which is one in itself, yet as it passeth by several Lands and washeth upon various Shoars receives several Names, and so admits of a plural number; so the Love of Christ, which in him is but one Good-will to poor Creatures; yet as it sheweth itself, in Serving the necessities of various Souls, or the various necessities of the same Soul, so it becomes Loves, and admits of plurality, there is in Christ pardoning Love, and a healing Love, a strenthening Love, and a comforting Love; therefore the Spouse saith Thy Loves. There is but One Love in Christ, but it becomes many when it washeth upon various shores, and touches our diverse wants.

Thirdly, The plural Number speaketh the Dimensions of that Love which is in Christ, or rather the want of Dimensions in it. The plural number hath no bounds, the singular is bounded by Unity, Millions of Millions, 'tis all still but the plural number. Loves teacheth infiniteness. When the Spouse saith, They Loves, it is as much as thine infinite, unmeasurable Love, Christ hath not only a good Will, a kind-inclination, an Propension to the Sons of Men, but an infinite, unmeasurable, unfathomable Propensions and Inclination o do good to the Souls of his Saints. The Apostle prayeth for the Ephesians. Eph. 3. 17, 18. That Christ might dwell in their Hearts by Faith; that they being rooted and grounded in Love, might be able to comprehend with all Saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and heighth, and to know the Love of Christ which passeth knowledge, heighth, and depth, and length, and breadth, are the boundaries of our knowledge but the Love of Christ passeth knowledge.

Fourthly, Love signifies some Specialties of Affection. A good man hath Love for many Women, but Love's only for the Wise of his Bosom. Love signifie both a common, and a singular and special Love. Christ hath a Philanthropy, or common Love for all the Sons of Men; but he hath a [unclear Greek word omitted], a special Love and Kindness for some. Joseph caused all his Brethren, to have a Mess set for them, but for Benjamin, a double Mess. God gave Esau the Mountains of Edom. There was Love, but Jacob had the Blessing, Esau had his Love, Jacob had his Loves. That the Gospel is preached to every Creature, is from Christ's Love, but that any by the Gospel are made New creatures this is from his Loves. It is kindness to them that they have the Gospel, but a far greater kindness, a kindness of another nature to the Soul that it is inabled to receive the Gospel, and is turned into the likeness of it.

5. Loves may signify the Effects, and inclinations of Love, and indeed Terms of Affection applyed unto God, do very ordinarily in Scripture signify this, Et affectum, & effectum; Both the Motion of the Divine Will within itself and the effect of it, upon the Creature. So it is true, that Christ hath Loves, his Good-Will to poor Creatures doth not exhaust itself in one or another Emanation, in one or another Stream, but in various Emanations, in a multitude of Streams, and thus you see there are two things in the Proposition asserted.

1st. That in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is an infinite, unmeasurable Good-Will to the Children of Men, especially to such of them as are by Faith united to him.

2dly. That this Good-will of Christ toward them, declareth itself in a great variety of Indications and Effects, Suited to their various necessities; It is not a Love that evaporates in Air, as the Love of some impotent persons, whose Love towards us terminates within their own Souls.

These are the two Points I have to prove, and they are of exceeding easy demonstration, to those who believe the History of the Gospel, or the Matter, and Propositions of the whole Word of God.

Solomon tells us of Christ under the notion of Wisdom (the Apostle calls Christ The Wisdom of God, 1. Cor. 1.24.) that before ever the Earth was, when there were no Depths nor Fountains abounding with Water, when God prepared the Heavens, and set a compass upon the face of the Deep, when he established the Clouds, Prov. 8. 24, 25, 31. He was Rejoycing in the habitable part of his Earth, and his Delights were with the Sons of Men. The Apostle tells those of the Ephesians who were Saints and faithful, That they were chosen in Christ before the Foundation of the World, that they should be holy, and without blame before him, in Love, predestined unto the Adoption of Children, by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his Will, To the Praise of the Glory of his Grace, wherein hath made us accepted through the Beloved, in whom we have, Redemption through his Blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the Riches of his Grace, &c. There is no portion of the Word of God, that part of it especially which we call the Gospel, but affordeth us an abundant proof of this; What meant his being made Surety of a better Covenant for us (as the Apostle to the Hebrews tells us?) His being given for a Covenant for the people, Isa. 42. 6. a Light to the Gentiles, to open the Eyes of the blind to bring out the Prisoners from the Prison, and them that sit in Darkness out of the Prison-house? His being the Lamb slain from the beginning of the World, Rev. 13.8. His Speaking by the Mouths of the Prophets (as the Apostle tells us), His growing up as a tender Plant, and as a Root out of a dry ground, having no form, nor comliness, nor beauty to be desired, his being despised, & rejected of men, as man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, his bearing our griefs, and carrying our Sorrows, being Smitten of God, and afflicted, his being wounded for our Transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, when the chastisement of our peace lay upon him? His suffering stripes that we might be healed, &c. What signified his incarnation, his death and p [blot in text here], his resurrection, and ascension, his taking care for his Gospel to be preach'd to every creature, &c. his being grieved for the hardness of peoples hearts, and troubled for their unbelief, his frequent preaching while he was upon the Earth, his weeping over Jerusalem, his invitations of people to come unto him that they might have life, his complaints that they would not come unto him, &c. I say what do all these things signify from him who needeth not his creature, being over all God blessed forever, but that he hath loves, an infinite good will to the Children of men? No man is at cost, taketh pains in any business, suffereth hard things to go through it, but either out of kindness to himself or to another. Our Lord did not do, and suffer these things for himself, he had no need of them, if it were for us it speaks his loves.

2. But this is no more than what every one who owneth Christ, and the Gospel will easily grant, That Christ is Love and hath a Love for the Sons of men, yea and that there is an infiniteness, and unmeasurableness in the Love of Christ. But that he hath Loves in the Other sense: Some Specialties of Love, some particular propensions to some Souls more than others; this is what the proud world cannot so easily digest. Yet is this as plain in the Revelation of holy Writ as the other. It speaks of an Election or choice of some to Holiness and Happiness before the foundation of the world; the choice of Some must suppose the passing by or not electing others, experience shows us that not only the good things of common providence, but even the external means of Grace are granted to some not to others.

3. Neither doth this grate so much. The most perverse opiners in this point must grant the publication of the Gospel, an effect of the Love of Christ, and that there is a very inequal distribution of it by the wise Providence of God, but as to them to whom the Gospel is alike preached, they know not how to allow Loves in Christ; have they then forgot what the Apostle saith, Rom. 9.6. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all Children: But in Isaac shall thy seed be called, that is, They who are the Children of the flesh these are not the Children of God, but the Children of the Promise counted for the seed. And again. Rom. 2.28, 29. He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that in the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the Letter, whose praise is not of men but of God. Doth not experience teach us that even where the Gospel is preached some repent of their sins, some are hardened, some believe, others are locked up in unbelief, some are holy and blameless, others are loud and profane. But they will say. This is not from any Loves in Christ, he is alike to all, but from the differing motions and inclinations of the will of man. I yet ask, Whence is it? Seeing human Souls are Equal and have the same powers, and faculties, how comes it that one man loveth God, and the ways of God, another hates and abhoreth every thing almost that hath the image and Superscription of God upon it? Is a man a God to himself and the first cause of any motions that are truly and spiritually good? Is it not God that giveth to will, and to do, of his own good pleasure? Hath a man any thing which is good which he hath not received? If one hath received such a power, such an inclination, such a disposition from God, there is Special Love; then Christ hath Loves besides a common Philanthropy, a good will to the generality of mankind, shewed in other things which will not bring Souls to Eternal Salvation, he hath a special Love and kindness to some Souls, which he manifesteth in such dispensations to it, as shall certainly bring the Soul to Eternal Life and Salvation; and these are those of which the text Speaks.
John Collinges, The Intercourses of Divine Love Betwixt Christ and his Church (London: Printed by T. Snowden, for Edward Giles Bookseller in Norwich, near the Market-place, 1683), 149–153. [some spelling changes; much italics left out due to length]
Mark saith, that Jesus beholding him, loved him [the rich young ruler]; not with a special saving love, (for he sent him away sad; upon his going he tells his disciples, that it was a very hard thing for a rich man to come to heaven; he tells him one thing was wanting to him) but he loved him with such a common love as he loveth all his creatures with, and more especially such as are better than others. All that can be concluded from hence is, that acts of moral righteousness are pleasing to God. He saith to him, If thou wilt be perfect, that is, in keeping the commandments of God.
John Collinges, "Annotations on the Gospel According to St. Matthew," in Matthew Poole, Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, 2 vols., ed. S. Clark and E. Veale, 4th ed. (London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, Jonathan Robinson, Brabazon Aylmer, John Lawrence, John Taylor, and Thomas Cockerill in the Poultrey, 1700), 2:Fff7v. Also in John Collinges, "Annotations on the Gospel According to St. Matthew," in Matthew Poole, Annotations Upon the Holy Bible, 3 vols. (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1852), 3:90. Collinges, among other Puritans (John Jackson, Henry Hurst, William Cooper, Peter Vinke, Richard Mayo, Edward Veale, Matthew Barker, Richard Adams, Obadiah Hughes, and John Howe), contributed to Poole's commentary. See here.


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