John Owen

B. Childress
Nov 06 2009 08:00AM

Having proved that there is such a distinct communion in respect of Father, Son, and Spirit, as of which we speak, it
remains that it be farther cleared up by an induction of instances, to manifest what [it is], and in which the saints
peculiarly hold this communion with the several persons respectively: which also I shall do, after the premising some
observations, necessary to be previously considered, as was promised, for the clearing of what has been spoken.


When I assign anything as peculiar in which we distinctly hold communion with any person, I do not exclude the other
persons from communion with the soul in the very same thing.  Only this, I say, principally, immediately, and by the way
of eminency, we have, in such a thing, or in such a way, communion with some one person; and in that with the others
secondarily, and by the way of consequence on that foundation; for the person, as the person, of any one of them, is
not the prime object of divine worship, but as it is identified with the nature or essence of God.  Now, the works that
outwardly are of God (called '
Trinitatis ad extra'), which are commonly said to be common and undivided, and either
wholly so, and in all respects, as all works of common providence; or else, being common in respect of their acts, they
are distinguished in respect of that principle, or next and immediate rise in the manner of operation: so creation is
appropriated to the Father, redemption to the Son.  In which sense we speak of these things.

There is a concurrence of the actings and operations of the whole Deity in that dispensation, in which each person
concurs to the work of our salvation, to every act of our communion with each singular person.  Look, by whatsoever act
we hold communion with any person, there is an influence from every person to the putting forth of that act.  As,
suppose it to be the act of faith: it is bestowed on us by the Father: 'It is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God'
(Ephesians 2:8).  It is the Father that reveals the gospel, and Christ therein (Matthew 11:25).  And it is purchased for us
by the Son: 'To you it is given in the behalf of Christ, to believe on him' (Philippians 1:29).  In him are we 'blessed with
spiritual blessings' (Ephesians 1:3).  He bestows on us, and increases faith in us (Luke 17:5).  And it is wrought in us by
the Spirit; he administers that 'exceeding greatness of his power,' which he exercises towards them who believe,
'according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead'
(Ephesians 1:19-20; Romans 8:11).

When I assign any particular thing in which we hold communion with any person, I do not do it exclusively to other
mediums of communion; but only by the way of inducing a special and eminent instance for the proof and manifestation
of the former general assertion: otherwise there is no grace or duty in which we have not communion with God in the
way described.  In every thing in which we are made partakers of the divine nature, there is a communication and
receiving between God and us; so near are we to Him in Christ.

By asserting this distinct communion, which merely respects that order in the dispensation of grace which God is
pleased to hold out in the gospel, I intend not in the least to shut up all communion with God under these precincts (his
ways being exceeding broad, containing a perfection of which there is no end), not to prejudice that holy fellowship we
have with the whole Deity, in our walking before him in covenant-obedience; which also, God assisting, I shall handle


These few observations being premised, I come now to declare what it is in which peculiarly and eminently the saints
have communion with the Father; and this is love - free, undeserved, and eternal love.  This the Father peculiarly fixes
upon the saints; this they are immediately to eye in Him, to receive of Him, and to make such returns thereof as He is
delighted with.  This is the great discovery of the gospel: for whereas the Father, as the fountain of the Deity, is not
known any other way but as full of wrath, anger, and indignation against sin, nor can the sons of men have any other
thoughts of Him (Romans 1:18; Isaiah 33:13-14; Habakkuk 1:13; Psalm 5:4-6; Ephesians 2:3) - here He is now revealed
peculiarly as love, as full of it to us; the manifestation of which is the peculiar work of the gospel (Titus 3:4).


'God is love' (I John 4:8).  That the name of God is here taken personally, and for the person of the Father, not
essentially, is evident from verse 9, where He is distinguished from His only begotten Son whom He sends into the
world.  Now, says he, 'The Father is love;' that is, not only of an infinitely gracious, tender, compassionate, and loving
nature, according as He has proclaimed Himself (Exodus 34:6-7), but also one that 'eminently and peculiarly dispenses
Himself to us in free love.'  So the apostle sets it forth in the following verses: ' This is love' (verse 9); 'This is that which I
would have you take notice of in Him, that He makes out love to you, in "sending his only begotten Son into the world,
that we might live through him."'  So also, ' He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins' (verse 10).  
And that this is peculiarly to be eyes in Him, the Holy 'Ghost plainly declares, in making it antecedent to the sending of
Christ, and all mercies and benefits whatever by him received.  This love, I say, in itself, is antecedent to the purchase
of Christ, although the whole fruit thereof be made out alone thereby (Ephesians 1:4-6).


So in that distribution made by the apostle in his solemn parting benediction (II Corinthians 13:14), 'The grace of the
Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you all.'  Ascribing sundry things to the
distinct persons, it is love that he peculiarly assigns to the Father.  And the fellowship of the Spirit is mentioned with the
grace of Christ and the love of God, because it is by the Spirit alone that we have fellowship with Christ in grace, and
with the Father in love, although we have also peculiar fellowship with him; as shall be declared.


In John 16:26-27 our Saviour says, 'I say not to you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you.'  
But how is this, that our Saviour says, 'I say not that I will pray the Father for you,' when he says plainly, 'I will pray the
Father for?' (John 14:16).  The disciples, with all the gracious words, comfortable and faithful promises of their Master,
which most heavenly discoveries of his heart to them, were even fully convinced of his dear and tender affections
towards them; as also of his continued care and kindness, that he would not forget them when bodily he was gone from
them, as he was now upon his departure: but now all their thoughts are concerning the Father, how they should be
accepted with Him, what respect He had towards them.  Says our Saviour, 'Take no care of that, nay, impose not that
upon me, of procuring the Father's love for you; but know that this is his peculiar respect towards you, which you are in
Him: "He himself loves you."  It is true, indeed (as I told you), that I will pray the Father to send you the Spirit, the
Comforter, and with him all the gracious fruits of his love; but yet in the point of love itself, free love, eternal love, there
is no need of any intercession for that: for eminently the Father Himself loves you.  Resolve of that, that you may hold
communion with Him in it, and be no more troubled about it.  Yea, as your great trouble is about the Father's love, so
you can no way more trouble or burden Him, than by your unkindness in not believing of it.'  So it must needs be where
sincere love is questioned.


The apostle teaches the same (Romans 5:5), 'The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is
given to us.'  God, whose love this is, is plainly distinguished from the Holy Ghost, who sheds abroad that love of His;
and He is also distinguished from the Son (verse 8), for it is from that love of His that the Son is sent:  and therefore it is
the Father of whom the apostle here specially speaks.  And what is it that he ascribes to Him?  Even love; which also
(verse 8), he commends to us - sets it forth in such a signal and eminent expression, that we may take notice of it, and
close with him in it.  To carry this business to its height, there is not only most frequent peculiar mention of the love of
God, where the Father is eminently intended, and of the love of the Father expressly, but He is also called The God of
love' (II Corinthians 13:11), and is said to be 'love:' so that whoever will know Him (I John 4:8), or dwell in Him by
fellowship or communion, must do it as 'he is love' (verse 16).


Whereas there is a twofold divine love, beneplaciti and amicitie, a love of good pleasure and destination, and a love of
friendship and approbation, they are both peculiarly assigned to the Father in an eminent manner:

    1.  'God so loved the world that he gave' (John 3:16); that is, with the love of His purpose and good pleasure, His
    determinate will of doing good.  This is distinctly ascribed to Him, being laid down as the cause of sending His Son
    (Romans 9:11-12; Ephesians 1:4-5; II Thessalonians 2:13-14; I John 4:8-9).

    2.  In John 14:23, there is mention of that other kind of love of which we speak.  'If a man love me,' says Christ,
    'he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him.'  The
    love of friendship and approbation is here eminently ascribed to Him.  Says Christ, 'We will come,' even Father
    and Son, 'to such a one, and dwell with him;' that is, by the Spirit: but yet he would have us take notice, that, in
    point of love, the Father has a peculiar prerogative: 'My Father will love him.'


As this love is peculiarly to be eyed in Him, so it is to be looked on as the fountain of all following gracious
dispensations.  Christians walk oftentimes with exceedingly troubled hearts, concerning the thoughts of the Father
towards them.  They are well persuaded of the Lord Christ and his goodwill; the difficulty lies in what is their acceptance
with the Father - what is His heart towards them?  'Show us the Father, and it suffices us' (John 14:8).  Now, this ought
to be so far away, that His love ought to be looked on as the fountain from whence all other sweetnesses flow.  Thus the
apostle sets it out (Titus 3:4), 'After that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.'  It is of the
Father of whom he speaks; for he tells us that  'he makes out to us,' or 'sheds that love upon us abundantly, through
Jesus Christ our Saviour' (verse 6).  And this love he makes the hinge upon which the great alteration and translation of
the saints turns; for, says he, "We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts
and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another' (verse 3).  All naught, all out of order, and
vile.  Whence, then is our recovery?  The whole rise of it is from this love of God, flowing out by the ways there
described.  For when the kindness and love of God appeared - that is, in the fruits of it - then did this alteration ensue.  
To secure us of this, there is not anything that has a loving and tender nature in the world, and does act suitably to that
end, which God has not compared Himself to.  Separate all weakness and imperfection which is in them, yet great
impressions of love must abide.  He is as a father, a mother, a shepherd, a hen over chickens, and the like (Psalm 103:
13; Isaiah 63:16; Matthew 6:6; Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 23:1; Isaiah 40:11; Matthew 23:37).

I shall not need to add any more proofs.  That is that which is demonstrated:  There is love in the person of the Father
peculiarly held out to the saints, in which He will and does hold communion with them.


Now to complete communion with the Father in love, two things are required of believers: that they receive it of Him and
that they make suitable returns to Him.


Communion consists in giving and receiving.  Until the love of the Father be received, we have no communion with Him
in that.  How, then, is this love of the Father to be received, so as to hold fellowship with Him?  I answer, by faith.  The
receiving of it is the believing of it.  God has so fully, so eminently revealed His love, that it may be received by faith.  
'You believe in God' (John 14:1); that is, the Father.  And what is to be believed in Him?  His love; for He is 'love' (I John

It is true, there is not an immediate acting of faith upon the Father, but by the Son.  'He is the way, the truth, and the life:
no man comes to the Father but by him' (John 14:6).  He is the merciful high priest over the house of God, by whom we
have access to the throne of grace: by him is our manuduction to the Father; by him we believe in God (I Peter 1:21).  
But this is that I say - when by and through Christ we have an access to the Father, we then behold His glory also, and
see His love that He peculiarly bears to us, and act faith thereon.  We are then, I say, to eye it, to believe it, to receive it,
as in Him; the issue and fruits of it being made out to us through Christ alone.  Though there be no light for us but in the
beams, yet we may by beams see the sun, which is the fountain of it.  Though all our refreshment actually lie in the
streams, yet by them we are led up to the fountain.  Jesus Christ, in respect of the love of the Father, is but the beam,
the stream; in which though actually all our light, our refreshment lies, yet by him we are led to the fountain, the sun of
eternal love itself.  Would believers exercise themselves in this, they would find it a matter of no small spiritual
improvement in their walking with God.

This is that which is aimed at.  Many dark and disturbing thoughts are apt to arise in this thing.  Few can carry up their
hearts and minds to this height by faith, as to rest their souls in the love of the Father; they live below it, in the
troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds.  All here is serene and quiet.  But how to attain to this pitch
they know not.  This is the will of God, that He may always be eyed as benign, kind, tender, loving, and unchangeable in
that; and that peculiarly as the Father, as the great fountain and spring of all gracious communications and fruits of
love.  This is that which Christ came to reveal - God as a Father (John 1:18); that name which he declares to those who
are given him out of the world (John 17:6).  And this is that which he effectually leads us to by himself, as he is the only
way of going to God as a Father (John 14:5-6); that is, as love: and by doing so, gives us the rest which he promises;
for the love of the Father is the only rest of the soul.  It is true, as was said, we do not this formally in the first instant of
believing.  We believe in God through Christ (I Peter 1:21); faith seeks out rest for the soul.  This is presented to it by
Christ, the mediator, as the only procuring cause.  Here it abides not, but by Christ it has an access to the Father
(Ephesians 2:18) - into His love; finds out that He is love, as having a design, a purpose of love, a good pleasure
towards us from eternity - a delight, a complacency, a goodwill in Christ - all cause of anger and aversation being taken
away.  The soul being thus, by faith through Christ, and by him, brought into the bosom of God, into a comfortable
persuasion and spiritual perception and sense of His love, there reposes  and rests itself.  And this is the first thing the
saints do, in their communion with the Father; of the due improvement of which, more afterward.


For that suitable return which is required, this also (in a main part of it, beyond which I shall now extend it) consists in
love.  God loves, that He may be beloved.  When He comes to command the return of His received love, to compete
communion with Him, He says, 'My son, give me your heart' (Proverbs 23:26) - your affections, your love.  'You shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind' (Luke
10:27); this is the return that He demands.  When the soul sees God, in His dispensation of love, to be love, to be
infinitely lovely and loving, rests upon and delights in Him as such, then has it communion with Him in love.  This is love,
that God loves us first, and then we love Him again.  I shall now go forth into a description of divine love.  Generally,
love is an affection of union and nearness, with complacency therein.  So long as the Father is looked on under any
other apprehension, but  only as acting love upon the soul, it breeds in the soul a dread and aversation.  Hence the
flying and hiding of sinners, in the Scriptures.  But when He who is the Father is considered as a father, acting love on
the soul, this raises it to love again.  This is , in faith, the ground of all acceptable obedience (Deuteronomy 5:10;
Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 10:12;11:1, 13; 13:3).

Thus is this whole business stated by the apostle (Ephesians 1:4), 'According as he has chosen in him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love'  It begins in the love of God, and
ends in our love to Him.  That is it which the eternal love of God aims at in us, and works us up to.  It is true, our
universal obedience falls within the compass of our communion with God; but that is with Him as God, our blessed
sovereign, lawgiver, and rewarder: as He is the Father, our Father in Christ, as revealed to us to be love, above and
contrary to all the expectations of the natural man; so it is in love that we have this intercourse with Him.  Nor do I intend
only that love which is as the life and form of all moral obedience; but a peculiar delight and acquiescing in the Father,
revealed effectually as love to the soul.


That this communion with the Father in love may be made the more clear and evident, I shall show two things:  First,
how this love of God to us and our love to Him agree, as to some manner of analogy and likeness.  Second, how they
differ, which will farther discover the nature of each of them.


The love of God is so.  'The Lord your God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy, he
will rest in his love; he will joy over you with singing' (Zephaniah 3:17).  Both these things are here assigned to God in
his love - rest and delight.  The words, are 'He shall be silent because of his love'  To rest with contentment is
expressed by being silent; that is, without repining, without complaint.  This God does upon the account of His own love,
so full, so every way complete and absolute, that it will not allow Him to complain of anything in them whom He loves, but
He is silent on the account thereof.  Or, 'Rest in his love;'  that is, He will not remove it - He will not seek farther for
another object.  It shall make its abode upon the soul where it is once fixed, for ever.  And complacency or delight: 'He
rejoices with singing;' as one that is fully satisfied in that object He has fixed His love on.  There are two concepts used
to express the delight and joy that God has in His love:  The first denotes the inward affection of the mind, joy of heart;
and to set out the intenseness of this, it is said He shall do it in gladness, or with joy.  To have joy of heart in gladness,
is the highest expression of delight in love.  The second denotes not the inward affections, but the outward
demonstration of it.  It is to exult in outward demonstration of internal, delight and joy; '
Tripudiare,' to leap, as men
overcome with some joyful surprisal.  And therefore God is said to do this with a joyful sound, or singing.  To rejoice with
gladness of heart, to exult with singing and praise, argues the greatest delight and complacency possible.  When he
would express the contrary of this love - 'he was not well pleased' (I Corinthians 10:5); He fixed not His delight nor rest
on them.  And, 'If any man draw back, the Lord's soul has no pleasure in him' (Hebrews 10:38; Jeremiah 22:28; Hosea 8:
8; Malachi 1:10).  He takes pleasure in those that abide with him.  He sings to his church, 'A vineyard of red wine: I the
Lord do keep it' (Isaiah 27:2-3; Psalms 147:11; 149:4).  There is rest and complacency in His love.  There is in the
Hebrew but a metathesis of a letter between the word that signifies a love of will and desire, and that which denotes a
love of rest and acquiescence; and both are applied to God.  He wills good to us, that he may rest in that will.  Some
say, 'to love,' is to perfectly acquiesce in the thing loved.  And when God calls His Son 'beloved' (Matthew 3:17), He
adds, as an exposition of it, 'in whom I rest well pleased.'

The return that the saints make to him, to complete communion with him in this, holds some analogy with his love in this;
for it is a love also of rest and delight.  'Return to your rest, my soul,' says David (Psalm 116:7).  He makes God his rest;
that is, he in whom his soul does rest, without seeking farther for a more suitable and desirable object.  'Whom have I,'
says he, 'in heaven but you and there is none upon earth that I desire beside you' (Psalm 73:25).  Thus the soul
gathers itself from all its wanderings, from all other beloveds, to rest in God alone - to satiate and content itself in him;
choosing the Father for his present and eternal rest.  And this also with delight.  'Your loving-kindness,' says the
psalmist, 'is better than life; therefore I will praise you' (Psalm 63:3).  'Than life,' before lives.  I will not deny but life in a
single consideration sometimes is so expressed, but always emphatically; so that the whole life, with all the concerns of
it, which may render it considerable, are thereby intended.  Augustine, on this place, reading it '
super vitas,' extends it to
the several courses of life that men engage themselves in.  Life, in the whole continuance of it, with all its advantages
whatever, is at least intended.  Supposing himself in the jaws of death, rolling into the grave through innumerable
troubles, yet he found more sweetness in God than in a long life, under its best and most noble considerations,
attended with all enjoyments that make it pleasant and comfortable.  From both these is that of the church, 'Asshur shall
not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands,  You are our gods: for
in you the fatherless finds mercy' (Hosea 14:3).  They reject the most goodly appearance of rest and contentment, to
make up all in God, on whom they cast themselves, as otherwise helpless orphans.


The mutual love of God and the saints agrees in this - that the way of communicating the issues and fruits of these
loves is only in Christ.  The Father communicates no issue of his love to us but through Christ; and we make no return
of love to Him but through Christ.  He is the treasury in which the Father disposes all the riches of His grace, taken from
the bottomless mine of His eternal love; and he is the priest into whose hand we put all the offerings that we return to
the Father.  Thence He is first, and by way of eminency, said to love the Son; not only as his eternal Son - as he was
the delight of his soul before the foundation of the world (Proverbs 8:30) - but also as our mediator, and the means of
conveying his love to us (Matthew 3:17; John 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 15:9; 17:24).  And we are said through him to believe in
and to have access to God.

The Father loves us, and 'chose us before the foundation of the world,' but in the pursuit of that love, he 'blesses us
with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ' (Ephesians 1:3-4).  From His love, He sheds or pours out the
Holy Spirit richly upon us, through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:6).  In the pouring out of His love, there is not one
drop falls besides the Lord Christ.  The holy anointing oil was all poured on the head of Aaron (Psalm 133:2); and
thence went down to the skirts of his clothing.  Love is first poured out on Christ; and from him it drops as the dew of
Hermon upon the souls of his saints.  The Father will have him to have 'in all things the preeminence' (Colossians 1:18);
'it pleased him that in him all fulness should dwell' (verse 19); that 'of his fulness we might receive, and grace for grace'
(John 1:16).  Though the love of the Father's purpose and good pleasure have its rise and foundation in His mere
grace and will, yet the design of its accomplishment is only in Christ.  All the fruits of it are the first given to him; and it is
in him only that they are dispensed to us.  So that though the saints may, nay, do, see an infinite ocean of love to them
in the bosom of the Father, yet they are not to look for one drop from Him but what comes through Christ.  He is the only
means of communication.  Love in the Father is like honey in the flower; it must be in the comb before it be for our use.  
Christ must extract and prepare this honey for us.  He draws this water from the fountain through union and
dispensation of fulness; we by faith, from the wells of salvation that are in him.  This was in part before discovered.

Our returns are all in him, and by him also.  And well is it with us that it is so.  What lame and blind sacrifices should we
otherwise present to God!  He bears the iniquity of our offerings, and he adds incense to our prayers.  Our love is fixed
on the Father; but it is conveyed to him through the Son of his love.  He is the only way for our graces as well as our
persons to go to God; through hi passes all our desire, our delight, our complacency, our obedience.  Of which more

Now, in these two things there is some resemblance between that mutual love of the Father and the saints in which they
hold communion.


The love of the Father is a love of bounty - a descending love, such a love as carries Him out to do good things to us,
great things for us.  His love lies at the bottom of all dispensations towards us; and we scarce anywhere find any
mention of it, but it is held out as the cause and fountain of some free gift flowing from it.  He loves us, and sends His
Son to die for us; He loves us, and blesses us with all spiritual blessings.  Loving is choosing (Romans 9:11-12).  He
loves us and chastises us.  It is a love like that of the heavens to the earth, when, being full of rain, they pour forth
showers to make it fruitful; as the sea communicates its waters to the rivers by the way of bounty, out of its own fulness -
they return to it only what they receive from it.  It is the love of a spring, of a fountain - always communicating; a love
from whence proceeds every thing that is lovely in its object.  It infuses into, and creates goodness in, the persons
beloved.  He that loves works out good to them He loves, as He is able.  God's power and will are commensurate; what
He wills He works.

Our love to God is a love of duty, the love of a child.  His love descends upon us in bounty and fruitfulness; our love
ascends to Him in duty and thankfulness.  He adds to us by His love; we nothing to Him by ours.  Our goodness extends
not to Him.  Though our love be fixed on Him immediately, yet no fruit of our love reaches Him immediately; though He
requires our love, He is not benefited by it (Job 35:5-8, Romans 11:35, Job 22:2-3).  It is indeed made up of these four
rest; delight; reverence; obedience.  By these do we hold communion with the Father in His love.  Hence
God calls that love which is due to Him as a father, 'honour' (Malachi 1:6), 'If I be a father, where is mine honour?'  It is a
deserved act of duty.


The love of the Father to us is an antecedent love, and that in two respects:

    1.  It is antecedent in respect of our love (I John 4:10), 'In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved
    us.'  His love goes before ours.  The father loves the child, when the child knows not the father, much less loves
    him.  Yea, we are by nature haters of God.  He is in His own nature  - a lover of men; and surely all mutual love
    between Him and us must begin on his hand.

    2.  In respect of all other causes of love whatever.  It goes not only before our love, but also anything in us that is
    lovely.  Romans 5:8, 'God commends his love towards us, in that whilst we were yet sinners Christ died for us.'  
    Not only His love, but the eminent fruit of it, is made out towards us as sinners.  Sin holds out all of unloveliness
    and undesirableness that can be in a creature.  The very mention of that removes all causes, all moving
    occasions of love whatever.  Yet, as such, have we the commendation of the Father's love to us, by a most signal
    testimony.  Not only when we have done no good, but when we are in our blood, does He love us; not because we
    are better than others, but because He is infinitely good.  His kindness appears when we are foolish and
    disobedient.  Hence He is said to 'love the world', that is, those who have nothing but what is in and of the world,
    whose whole lies in evil.  

Our love is consequential in both these regards:

    1.  In respect of the love of God.  Never did creature turn his affections towards God, if the heart of God were not
    first set upon Him.

    2.  In respect of sufficient causes of love.  God must be revealed to us as lovely and desirable, as a fit and
    suitable object to the soul to set up its rest upon, before we can bear any love to Him.  The saints (in this sense)
    do not love God for nothing, but for that excellency, loveliness, and desirableness that is in Him.  As the psalmist
    says, in one particular, 'I love the Lord, because!' (Psalm 116:1) so may we in general; we love the Lord,
    because!  Or, as David in another, 'What have I now done?  Is there not a cause?  If any man inquire about our
    love to God, we may say, 'What have we now done?  Is there not a cause?'


They differ in this also: the love of God is like Himself - equal, constant, not capable of augmentation or diminution; our
love is like ourselves - unequal, increasing, waning, growing, declining.  His, like the sun, always the same in its light,
though a cloud may sometimes interpose; ours, as the moon, has its enlargements and straitenings.  

The love of the Father is equal; whom He loves, He loves to the end, and He loves them always alike.  'The strength of
Israel is not a man, that he should repent.'  On whom He fixes His love, it is immutable; it does not grow to eternity, it is
not diminished at any time.  It is an eternal love, that had no beginning, that shall have no ending; that cannot be
heightened by any act of ours, that cannot be lessened by anything in us.  I say, in  itself it is thus; otherwise, a twofold
regard it may admit of change:

    1.  In respect of its fruits.  It is, as I said, a fruitful love, a love of bounty.  In reference to those fruits, it may
    sometimes be greater, sometimes less; its communications are various.  Who among the saints finds it not [so]?  
    What life, what light, what strength - sometimes!-and again, how dead, how dark, how weak!  As God is pleased
    to let out or to restrain the fruits of His love.  All the graces of the Spirit in us, all sanctified enjoyments whatever,
    are fruits of His love.  How variously these are dispensed, how differently at sundry seasons to the same persons,
    experience will abundantly testify.

    2.  In respect of its discoveries and manifestations.  He 'sheds abroad His love in our hearts by the Holy Ghost'  
    (Romans 5:5) - gives us a sense of it, manifests it to us.  Now, this is various and changeable, sometimes more,
    sometimes less; now He shines, anon hides His face, as it may be for our profit.  Our Father will not always chide,
    lest we be cast down; He does not always smile, lest we be full and neglect Him: but yet, still His love in itself is the
    same.  When for a little moment He hides His face, yet He gathers us with everlasting kindness.

OBJECTION.  But you will say, 'This comes near to that blasphemy, that God loves His people in their sinning as well as
in their strictest obedience; and, if so, who will care to serve Him more, or to walk with Him to well-pleasing?'

ANSWER.  There are few truths of Christ which, from some or other, have not received like entertainment with this.  
Terms and appellations are at the will of every imposer; things are not at all varied by them.  The love of God in itself is
the eternal purpose and act of His will.  This is no more changeable than God Himself: if it were, no flesh could be
saved; but it changes not, and we are not consumed.  What then?  Loves He His people in their sinning?  Yes; His
people - not their sinning.  Alters He not His love towards them?  Not the purpose of His will, but the dispensations of His
grace.  He rebukes them, He chastens them, He hides His face from them, He smites them, He fills them with a sense of
[His] indignation; but woe, woe would it be to us, should He change in His love, or take away His kindness from us!  
Those very things which seem to be demonstrations of the change of His affections towards His, do as clearly proceed
from love as those which seem to be the most genuine issues thereof.  'But will not this encourage to sin?'  He never
tasted of the love of God that can seriously make this objection.  The doctrine of grace may be turned into wantonness;
the principle cannot.  I shall not wrong the saints by giving another answer to this objection: detestation of sin in any
may well consist with the acceptance of their persons, and their designation to life eternal.

But now our love to God is ebbing and flowing , waning and increasing.  We lose our first love, and we grow again in
love; scarce a day at a stand.  What poor creatures are we!  How unlike the Lord and his love!  'Unstable as water, we
cannot excel.'  Now it is, 'Though all men forsake you, I will not;' anon, 'I know not the man.'   One day, 'I shall never be
moved, my hill is so strong;' the next, 'all men are liars, I shall perish.'  When ever was the time, where ever was the
place, that our love was one day equal towards God?

And thus, these agreements and discrepancies do farther describe that mutual love of the Father and the saints, in
which they hold communion.  Other instances as to the person of the Father I shall not give, but endeavour to make
some improvement of this in the next chapter.


COMMUNION WITH GOD, John Owen, Copyright 2007, Christian Focus Publications.