May 1, 2012

Arthur Hildersham (1563–1632) on Common and Special Love

"Secondly, God giveth none of these things in love to the man that is not in Christ.[1] True it is all these outward blessings be in themselves fruits of Gods love and mercy unto men. It is an argument of his love to the stranger (saith Moses, Deut. 10.18.) that he giveth him food and raiment. And a man may safely conclude God is good to me and loveth me, or else he would never preserve me and provide for me as he doth. Yet this love of God that appeareth in any of these outward things, is such a man can take no sound comfort in, till he be in Christ. For alas that is but a common love extended to the brute beasts as well as to thee, O Lord thou preservest man and beast, saith David. Psalm 36.6. There is many a brute beast that liveth longer and in better health, more fully provided for all things fit for the preservation of his life, and that with less care and trouble, then any man is. Yea this love God extendeth unto his very enemies and such as he hath ordained to everlasting confusion. Cain had a greater portion of them then Seth, and Esau then Jacob. And what comfort can a man have in such fruits of Gods love as these are? What comfort can the traitor take in that goodness of the King, that being apprehended he giveth order that he may have a fair and good lodging in the tower and a good diet too, till matters be ripe and read for his arraignment and execution? No no he taketh small comfort in all this; nothing will assure him of the Kings mercy and love till his pardon be brought him. So may I say of all these outward blessings thou canst have no sound comfort in them, till thou have Christ, and hast through him gotten the pardon of thy sinnes. These are indeed fruits of Gods common love, but these are no fruits or signes of Gods special or everlasting love, of that love that he beareth to them whom he meaneth to save eternallly. No man knoweth either love or hatred by any thing that is before him, saith Solomon, Eccl. 9.1. A man cannot argue God loveth him with his special love, because he enjoyeth these things, nor that God hateh him because he wanteth them. And it is not that common but this special and everlasting love of God only that we are to make reckoning of, and to take comfort in. In this was manifested the love of God toward us (saith the Apostle, 1 Joh. 4.9, 10.) because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him, Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. If thou canst say God hath given Christ unto thee, and to thee an heart to receive him, then thou mayest be bold to say, God loveth thee indeed. But thou canst never say God loveth thee indeed, till thou be in Christ. He is called the Son of his love, [Greek omitted] Col. 1.13. He hath made us accepted in the beloved, saith the Apostle, Eph. 1.6. As if he had said, He loveth us for his sake, and he loveth none but for his sake, and with respect unto him only. And what good will it do thee to have all the world, if thou have not Gods love? What comfort canst thou take in any thing thou hast, if God have not given it thee in his love?"
Arthur Hildersham, CLII Lectures Upon Psalme LI (London: Printed by George Miller for Edward Brewster at his shop at the great North doore of Pauls at the signe of the Bible, 1635), 687–688.

[Note 1. The modern reader may be confused by Hildersham's first sentence, and others like it. In the context, it is clear that he means God's love for the non-elect (or those that remain outside Christ) is not a special, everlasting love. It's not the love that really matters, or the sort one can take comfort in. He's not saying it is in no sense love, etc.]


No comments: