June 10, 2019

Tom Nettles’s Summary of John Gill’s (1697–1771) View on the Love of God

The love of God, according to Gill, foundations all theology. God’s principal object of love is Himself. This is right and good, for He contains all excellence and perfection and worth. Second, God loves all that He has made, declares it very good and rejoices in His works. Because rational creatures are the particular objects of His care, love and delight, God supports, preserves and bestows the bounty of His providence upon all of His creatures.

To the elect, however, the Triune God bears a special love. Gill identifies this with the “great love” spoken of in Ephesians 2:4. The love of the Father is demonstrated toward the elect by His devising and effecting a plan whereby they might be reconciled to Him through Christ. The Father chose the elect in Christ from the beginning and, in Him, has bestowed upon them all other blessings. The Son’s love for the elect appears in His becoming a surety for their salvation by actually giving Himself as a sacrifice for them, laying down His life on their account, and shedding His blood for the remission of their sins. The special love the Spirit exhibits toward the elect appears in His convincing them of sin and righteousness, shedding abroad the love of God in their hearts, and implanting every grace in them.6
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6. John Gill, Body of Divinity, 2 vols. (n.p. Tegg & Co., 1839; reprint ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1978), 1:112–115.
Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory: A Historical, Theological and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Revised and Expanded 20th Anniversary Edition (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 25.

Note: One should not think that Gill is altogether orthodox or within the boundaries of mainstream Reformed thought on the universal love of God. In classic Calvinistic and Puritan thought, God’s love for all men, including the non-elect, involves His benevolent desire for their ultimate well-being, and His beneficent love or kindness is given with a view to bringing men to evangelical repentance (Rom. 2:4). In Gill’s theology, however, God simply has a regard for the temporal/physical well-being of the non-elect, and a kind of passive delight in them as a part of His good creation as such (which is what Nettles outlines above). It is a “love” that is totally devoid of any willingness or desire on God’s part to bring them to evangelical repentance, though at times he may want to bring them to external, civil repentance, so as to get them to avoid some physical calamity. Nevertheless, at least Gill, unlike other hyper-Calvinists, acknowledges a sense of love in God for all men, and Nettles’s brief summary is basically correct, though it lacks nuance.

June 8, 2019

Peter van Mastricht (1630–1706) on Common Grace

What is common grace and what sort is it?
XVI. There is, second, common grace, by which he dispenses moral goods, particularly to men, but indiscriminately, to the elect and the reprobate. To this kind of grace belong the virtues of the intellect, such as ingenuity, wisdom, and prudence (Ex. 31.3), as well as the virtues of the will, the ethical virtues (Luke 18:11), of which kind are all the virtues of pagans and unbelievers. In this number should be reckoned those things that appear more closely to approach saving things, such as are mentioned in Hebrews 6:4–5, Isaiah 58:2, and 1 Corinthians 13:1. To this pertains external calling to participation in Christ through the proclamation of the Word (Ps. 147:19–20; Matt. 20:16, and also internal calling through some sort of illumination, and all those good things which are conspicuous in temporary believers (Matt. 13:20–21).
Petrus van Mastricht, Theoretical-Practical Theology. Volume 2: Faith in the Triune God, trans. T. M. Rester, ed. J. R. Beeke and M. T. Spangler (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2019), 354; 1.2.17 §XVI.

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Wiki (WDE)