Thomas Manton on General Love

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in God is Love: Electing and Non-Electing Love


1) “The cause why so few are won to believe in Jesus Christ is because they have not the Spirit’s revelation.

This I shall prove to you by these reasons:

1. Because without the Spirit’s revelation all the outward tenders and reports of Jesus Christ will be to no purpose. The efficacy of the word lieth in the Spirit’s assistance. I told you in the former point how powerful the word of God is, but withal I told you it was when the Spirit sets it home upon the heart. God may knock at the door and yet no man open to him; and, therefore, he speaketh by way of supposition, if he doth but barely knock: Rev. iii. 20, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me.’ It is put upon an if: it is a great peradventure whether any man will open the door or no, when it is but a bare knock of the word. The spouse pleadeth excuses when Christ stood and knocked, saying, ‘Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled,’ Cant. v. 2; but in the 4th verse it is said, ‘My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him; ‘that signifieth the working of his Spirit, and then she opened. Men would fain take one nap more in sin when they are roused by the ministry; but when God puts his fingers upon the handles of the lock, Christ hath an admittance and the door then flieth open: Acts xi. 19-21, ‘The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.’ God’s hand was upon the lock. If the word be anywhere spoken of as powerful, it is in reference to the Spirit, as 1 Thes. i. 5, ‘Our word came unto you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost;’ therefore in power, because in the Holy Ghost.

2. Because the Spirit’s revelation is the token of God’s special love; and that is not given to every one: God has appointed his special love but for a few. The outward revelation is to leave men without excuse; it is but a token of God’s common love: 2 Cor. iv. 3, ‘If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost’–hidden from their hearts, though it be revealed to their ears. Those that are lost have not the inward discoveries–that is, the effectual discovery and special effect of God’s peculiar love: Acts xiii. 48, ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed;’ such have God’s special love. Those that have least have many times an outward revelation: Acts xiv. 17, ‘God left not himself without a witness, in that he did good;’ yet, ver. 16, ‘he suffered them to walk in their own ways.’ They had a revelation, but they had not an efficacious revelation. And in this sense it is said, that ‘many are called but few are chosen, many are invited and few wrought upon. They have the doctrine of life propounded to them, but they have not the Spirit of life setting it home upon their hearts; few taste of God’s special love.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 3:210-211.

2) “First, What is this love of God in Christ? Here I take it actively for the love wherewith he loveth us. Love may be considered–First, As an attribute or a perfection in God; so it is said, 1 John iv. 8, ‘God is love.’ Which noteth his readiness, self-propension, or inclination to do good. Secondly, As it relateth and passeth out to the creature; so there is a common love and a special love. His common love is set forth: Ps. cxlv. 4, ‘ The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works.’ This love floweth in the channel of common providence. But then there is a special love, which is called his love in Christ: Eph. i. 3, ‘Who hath blessed us with spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ.’ This love may be considered as purposed or expressed. As purposed: 2 Tim. i. 9, ‘According to his purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.’ His gracious purposes were from everlasting; he determined within himself that we should receive these fruits of his love through Jesus Christ. As expressed, and that two ways; as revealed in the gospel, and as applied to our hearts.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 12:413.

3) “Second case is about the actual persuasion of God’s love to us. For since this love of gratitude ariseth from a sense or apprehension of God’s love to us in Christ; therefore God’s children are troubled when they cannot make particular application, as Paul, and say, ‘He loved me, and gave himself for me,’ Gal. ii. 20.

Ans. 1. A particular persuasion of God’s love to us is very comfortable. Things that do most concern us do most affect us; as a man is more pleased with legacies bequeathed to him by name, than left indefinitely to those who can make friends. If I can discern my name in God’s testament, it is unquestionably more satisfactory and more engaging than when with much ado I must make out my title, and enter myself an heir: Eph. i. 13, ‘After that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.’ It is not sufficient to know that the gospel is a doctrine of salvation in general, or to others only, but every one should labour, by a due application of the promises of the gospel unto themselves, to find it a doctrine of salvation unto themselves. Salvation by Christ is a benefit which we need as much as others, and therefore should give all diligence to understand our part and interest in it. God’s love to us is the great reason of our love to God; ours a reflection; the more direct the beam, the stronger the reflection. It is the quickening motive to the spiritual life, Gal. ii. 20. Certainly they are much to blame who can so contentedly sit down with the want thereof, so they may be well in the world; if God will love them with a common love, so as they may live in peace, and credit, and mirth, and wealth among men. Our joy, comfort, and peace, much dependeth on the sense of our particular interest: Luke i. 46, ‘My soul doth rejoice in God my saviour;’ and Rom. v. 11, ‘We rejoice in God, as those that have received the atonement.’ It is uncomfortable to live in doubts and fears, or else to live by guess and uncertain conjectures. Well then, if we would maintain the joy of faith, the vigour of holiness, we should get our interest more clear.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 13:154.

4) “[1.] If you interpret it of his divine love, the difficulty will not be great; for there is a general and common love, and a special love. With the first, God loves all his creatures, especially mankind, and amongst them those that have any strictures of his image in them more than others. But then there is a special love, and so all those are saved whom God thus loveth. So God loveth his own people, either with a love of good-will when they are uncalled: Jer. xxxi. 3, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love;’ or else with a love of complacency, when called and converted: Zeph. iii. 17, ‘He will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love.’ Now this will easily salve the matter; there was a general love, or a liking and approbation of those moral virtues and good things which he saw in him [the rich young ruler], but not that special love which brings grace and salvation along with it.”  Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 16:457.

5)     “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 favorites, 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 reckons 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.”   Thomas Manton, “Sermons Upon Genesis 24:63,” in The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), Sermon 8, 17:329.

6) “3. When men have received many mercies. Men cannot endure to have their kindness despised. Joseph thought it ingratitude to wrong his master, who had committed all things to him, Gen. xxxix. 9; and shall we wrong God? Every sin is not a sin against knowledge, but every sin is a sin against mercies. There is a common love which all receive, food and raiment. It is their charge, Rom. ii. 4, that they despise not his kindness and the riches of his goodness. But his people have tasted his love in Christ. Every sin of yours is a stab at the heart: John vi. 67, ‘Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? ‘Is this the fruit of all his tender love sealed to you by the Spirit? Ps. Iv. 12, 13, ‘It was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it. But it was thou, a man, mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.’ David took it ill from Achitophel, and Christ from Judas. From a professed enemy we could expect no better; but from a friend, it is grievous; you have tasted of his bread, and been fed with hidden manna.” Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1873), 21:393.

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Thanks to Tony, I have updated entries 1-4 and 6 on Manton on General Love.

March 14th, 2008 at 9:35 am