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Wolfgang Musculus on the Love of God: General and Special

March 24, 2008

Of the Lovingness of God towards Man.1

The Holy Scripture does not only attribute goodness unto God, but love also: besides that the nature of goodness is such that love as fire can not be without warmth, so the goodness cannot be without love. Wherefore the matter itself seems to require, that after we have spoken of the goodness of God, we should consequently also speak of his love. For they be so naturally linked together, that the one does immediately follow the other. Wherefore the Apostle also when he would commend the love of God declared Christ Jesus, he did place his goodness before, saying: “But when the goodness and love of God our saviour appeared,” &c. So he did set forth the goodness and the love of God, to be jointly considered in the work of our redemption, and why he did so, we will declare hereafter when the place serves for it in this treatise.

Whether that Love do agree unto God.

First we must consider whereas the love is attributed unto God, whether that the same may agree unto the Majesty of God or no. For if we consider the affection of love, whereby he which loves, is wholly drawn unto the service of him whom he loves, so that he does seem to pertain more unto him whom he loves than to his own self, it should seem that love does not agree unto his Majesty, who is the Lord of all, so for the estate of his Majesty, he is most free of all. Besides that, if we do consider the goodness of God not severally,2 but jointly with his Majesty, it seems to be rather convenient that it should be loved and served, than it should love and be bound unto him whom it does love. These things may be imagined, when we have respect unto the most excellent Majesty of the Godhead, and those affections of love, be attributed unto God when he does love, which doe chance unto man when man loves.

Therefore let us consider, what is to be considered in this matter, first of the Majesty of God, secondly of his goodness severally, and then jointly, and thirdly, how men’s affections be attributed to God.

1 First, it is convenient in any wise, that we do attribute unto God’s Majesty, no base, nor vile thing, no bond of service unto any, but all things most principle, high, excellent, free and Godly. Now the Holy Scripture does attribute unto it, love. “For so God loved the world,” (says the only begotten of God), “that he gave his son,” &c. And in the first epistle of John: “Let us love God, for as much as he loved us first, yea God says he, is love”(1. John. 4.): for the love is no base, vile and servile matter, but rather high, excellent, free, and not unmeet for the Majesty of God. It is altogether more noble & praiseworthy to love, than to be loved: like as to do good also, is more godly and noble than to receive a good turn. And who will say, that it is unfit for God to be loved, whereas he does receive it of his people, saying: “Thou shalt love the Lord God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy strength”? &c. So that if the same which is of less commendation be not mis-liked of the Majesty of God, how should he despise that, which is a more excellent thing, and deserves more commendation? Should a king disdain to love his subjects, because that he is in much higher estate than they? whereas this virtue when it is sound in a king, does purchase him more praise, than if he being exceedingly beloved of his subjects. So that the excellency of Majesty does nothing hinder the nature of God, but that love may well become it, and well agree withal.

2 Secondly, if we do consider the goodness of god, there is almost nothing that does better agree unto it, than the love which seems to spring out of the same. For like as the nature of naughtiness is such that the proper quality thereof is to hate all things, and to be maliciously disposed towards all men, so the nature of goodness is contrariwise, so that it is the properly thereof to love, and to be kindly disposed towards all. Wherefore either we must first bereave goodness from the nature of God, or else therewithal attribute love unto him. For the one cannot be sequested from the other, because of their natural and inseparable conjunction.

But if you consider the goodness and Majesty of God jointly, I beseech you, what can be more agreeable for the good God and Prince of all, to love his subjects, whereas malice and Majesty be joined together, there no doubt is more place for hatred, than for the love of the subjects, which we see betides in tyrants. Let us therefore learn on the other side contrary unto that what we ought to consider of the joining together of God’s goodness and his Majesty.

3 Thirdly, as touching men’s affections which do go with the love of man, it is not meet that we should refer them unto the nature of God in that sort as they be found in men. In the nature of man, love does believe all things, does trust all things, does weep with them which do weep, and is weak with them which be weak, is it convenient, that the like be referred unto the love of God? The Scripture does attribute many things unto God by figure and similitude of man’s affections, which do not so agree unto the nature of God, as they do unto our nature. And yet for all that, it is not without reason, that it does speak unto men in this wise of God, to apply itself unto our capacity. The discrete and godly person must wisely make his difference betwixted those things which do agree unto the nature of God, and those things which cannot agree therewithal, & in the speeches of the Holy Scripture, not to wrest the words, but reverently to embrace those things, which be set forth to be understood after the meaning of the Spirit.

Which be the kinds of God’s Love.

As there is not in God a diverse and sundry goodness, so there is not him a diverse and sundry love: but as there is in him one simple and self-same goodness, so there is also in him one simple and self-same love. And yet that self-same love of his, is destinated and ordered in his kinds. The self-same love, as touching the persons of the Holy Trinity, is Father, and secondly maker of all things that be, and thirdly saviour of mankind. As Father, he loves his only begotten son, as creator, he loves all things which he has made, as Saviour of mankind, he loves men: wherefore he is by the Greek word called philanthropos, and this love of his towards mankind is distinated. For he loves his son, & generally he loves all creatures, & all mankind, and he has a singular favour unto them, whom he chose unto him before the making of the world: and he loves the good. One self-same good man of a house, as the good husband, does specially love his wife, and as a good father he loves his children above others, and as a good householder he loves all his household, as a good neighbour he does use him lovingly among his neighbours, and generally as a good man, he loves all men, and hates no man: and yet for all that, as there is in him one self-same goodness, so there is also in him one self same virtue and distination or division all one in general, and yet ordered and distinated & divided by diverse sorts and kinds. So that by this love we do find sorts in the love of God, as the love of his son, the love of his creatures, and the love of man, the love of the elect3, and the love of the good.

The first sort of God’s love.

The Schoolmen do trample to determine what manner of love the Holy Trinity, much more busy to search things hidden in the Holy Trinity, than furnished to open those things which be set forth in the Holy Scriptures. And herein their questions be, whether the Father and the Son do love one another in the Holy Spirit? and whether that love be essential, or intellectual or of property? and given & recompensed? The Master of the Sentences4 does move a question __[word unreadable] the mutual love of the Father and the Son, which for all that he does plainly confess, that he is not able to expound & declare. Therefore let us leave the scrupulosity of the Schoolmen, and fall to the simplicity of the Holy Scriptures. That the Father loves the Son, and the Son himself does testify, where he says: “The Father loves the Son,” (John. 5.). And: “Therefore the Father loves me,” (John. 10.). And again: “Like as the Father loves me, so I do love you also,” (John. 15.). “Thou has loved them, as thou has loved me, and that the love whereby you loved me, be in them, and I also in them,” (John. 17.). And the Father himself does testify, that he loves his Son, saying from heaven: “This is my beloved son, hear him.” And when John the Baptist heard this voice from heaven, then Christ himself testified also and said: “The Father loves the Son, and has given him all things in his hands.” Thus much we have in the Scriptures of the Gospel, whereby we be simply taught, and without all scrupulosity, that the Son is loved of the Father. And that the Father is also beloved again of his Son, it is chiefly declared by that, that the Son became obedient unto him, unto the death of the cross. So the Son himself said: “But to the intent that the world may know that I love the Father, and that as my Father has given me commandment, so I do,” (John. 14.): “Arise, let us go hence.” And how much good it does to the confirmation of our faith, if we do absolutely and without doubt believe, that Christ the only-begotten of God is loved of the Father, we have declared in another place in our commentary upon John, where we have noted such things as do belong unto this consideration of the love of God, touching his Son, which we make the first sort and kind of the love of God.

The second sort of the Love of God.

This is the love wherein God as creator loves his creatures, inasmuch he created them all very good at the beginning, according unto that: “and God saw all things he had made, and they were very good.” Both these should be far from the nature of God, if he should either make evil things, and love them after they were made: either make good things, and not love them when they were made: Neither is it to be imagined, that he loves his works at that time when he first made them, and that afterwards this love decayed by the process of so many hundred years, and fell to a loathsomeness. God forbid. For the love of God is as immutable, as his very nature and goodness is immutable. Neither does it hinder this love at all, that the creature is subject unto vanity and bondage of corruption. For whatsoever it is, it is his work, for he made it subject unto vanity by his most wise and unsearchable purpose unto us. For the Apostle does not say simply, Each creature is vain, but each creature is subject to vanity: And he adds not willingly, because of him who made it subject in hope. Of which words we have noted in our Commentaries upon the Epistle unto the Romans. Therefore it is not without reason, that the author of the book of Sapience says in this wise: “Thou loves all things that be, & hate none of those things which though has made.”

Of this place there is double profit to be taken, for the first it serves to this intent, that we also in respect that we be his creatures, may believe that we be esteemed & well regarded of him. Secondly, that we consider upon the using of the creatures, that we use them not after our fleshly lust, or handle any of them after an evil demeanour, for that cannot please the creator of them whom they be issued as his workmanship. It is incredible to see how great an abuse of the creatures follows of that, that there be very few which consider them to be the workmanship of God, and to be beloved of him.

The third sort of the Love of God.

This we said is the love towards man, where he loves specially above other creatures all mankind in general, which favour is worthy of all reverence and admiration. If it were reported of God that he loves his Angels, it were not great wonder, because of the heavenly nature, purity, excellency and estate of the Angels. And yet for all that it is in no place of Scripture so said, that he loves his Angels, as he has declared to love man. Surely he loves his Angels which he created, and would have them to be his special ministers: but he loves men above them, and therefore he would rather be called the lover of men, than the lover of Angels, he made man even at the beginning like unto his own image, & adorned him to the likeness of God, & set him above all other creatures, which special dignity, and worthiness does also declare his special love to man. We call him commonly a horse-master, which takes pleasure in breeding, & bring up horses, & takes such a desire in the race, that neglecting all other pastimes he gives himself wholly thereunto. So God is called the man lover, for because he has not given so great worthiness unto Angels, nor to any other of his creatures, as he has given unto man. This love of God towards man the Prophet considered in the viii Psalm, where with an administration he cries out, saying: “What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou does visit him? And though has diminished him a little from GOD, thou has crowned him with glory and honour.5 Thou has made him ruler over all the works of thy hands, & laid all under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and the cattle of the field the fouls of the air, and the fish of the sea. O Lord our Lord, how noble is thy name in the whole earth?” (Psalm. 8.). In which words his consideration is bent wholly unto those things which we read in Genesis, of the creation and glorifying of man (Gen. 1.). Wherein is declared the first argument of God’s love towards man: whereof we have spoken in our Commentaries upon Genesis and upon Psalms.

2. The second argument of God’s love towards mankind is, that he forsook us not after our fall, when we were worthy to have been forsaken and lost, but does so provide for us in all points, that we have not only where withal to live, but also to live well and orderly, which part of his love we may rightly call the providence of God toward us. That same the Prophet does touch in two words, when he says, “That thou art mindful of him, and that thou does visit him,” and he means nothing else thereby but the special providence of God, wherein he declares himself to be careful of the estate of and case of men. And the Apostle in the Acts, does by the way touch this providence (Acts. 14. & 17.), for as much a was convenient to the Gentiles. And how special care he had of the Israelites the Holy Scriptures do testify, and Moses does knit it up in few words, saying, the portion of God is his people, and Jacob the cord of his inheritance, he found him in a desert land, in a place of terror and waste of wilderness, he brought him about and taught him, and kept him as the ball of his eye. Like an Eagle enticing his young ones to fly, and as he flew over them, he covered them with his wings, and he lifted him up and carried him upon his shoulders (Deut. 32.). But this matter of God’s providence towards mankind is so infinite, that we may better express the same in one word, than in many books, if we say from our heart that GOD has care of us.

3. The third argument of God’s love towards man is most excellent, and wonderful passing the capacity of all man’s wisdom. This was declared in the dispensation, and bestowing upon us of the word incarnate, wherein God was made man, to the end that man should be advanced into the fellowship of God’s nature. “The Word,” (says he), “was made flesh, and dwelt in us, and we saw his glory, as the glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The truth and excellency of the love of God towards man, could have been declared by no more evident argument, than by the incarnation of the word, where God taking upon him not the nature of Angels but a man. Could there have betided any greater dignity unto our nature by the love of God, in the only begotten Son of God? Man could not have drawn any nearer unto the Godhead, unless he had been altogether changed into it. Which had not been convenient for the natures neither of God nor of man.

4. The fourth argument of the love of God towards man, is in the death of the only begotten, whereunto he was delivered for the redemption of our kind. “For as much as children,” says the Apostle, “has to do with flesh, and blood, he was also like made partaker of them, to the intent that by his death, he might abolish him, who had the rule of death, that is the Devil,” &c. And whereupon came this? In this says John appeared the love of God towards us, that he sent his Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins. And the Apostle: “God,” (says he) does set forth his love towards us in that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5.). “If God be fore us, who is against us, who spared not his own Son, but gave him for us all, and how is it possible but that he should give us all things also with him,” &c. “Who shall disseaver6 us from the from the love of God?” And the only begotten of God himself says: “So God loved the world,” (says he), “that he gave his only begotten Son, that everyone which believes in him, should not perish, but have life everlasting,” (John. 3.). So that by the world he means all mankind.

5 The fifth argument of God’s love toward man, is in the dispensation or distributing of our redemption, wherein is comprehended the general calling, in that by the Gospel of his kingdom he calls all nations of the whole world unto heavenly grace, and promises everlasting life unto all that do believe in his Son. The Prophet when he would set forth the grace and favour of God specially declared unto the Israelites, he cried out he has not done the like to any nation, and we may justly cry out he has not done the life unto the Israelites only, but unto all other nations of the world also. Thus much briefly of the third part of God’s love, which we called the love of mankind.

The fourth kind of God’s love.

We do call this that love of God wherein he does specially love them, which be chosen to be his flock, and to the adoption of children, before the establishment of the world, as we may see in the first and second chapter to the Ephesians, where he says: “For his great love whereby he loved us,” &c (Ephes 1.). And to the Romans: “I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau.” In this love we do also comprehend all the rest of things, which by it do befall to the elect in the matter of our salvation, as predestination, calling, the gift of faith, and of the Spirit, justification, regeneration, and renewing of our mind and life. Indeed the Apostle does refer all these things unto the goodness and love of God, where as he says unto Titus: “But after that the goodness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us not by works of righteousness which we had one, but through his mercy, by the bath of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us abundantly by Jesus Christ our Saviour, to the end that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according unto the hope of everlasting life,” &c (Titus.). So that indeed those things which he rehearses here, do not belong unto the general love of God towards man, but unto the special love of the elect,7 only, which only be also partakers of the same.

The fifth kind of God’s Love.

This we have said, is the love of the good, because that they be good. So he loves a pleasant giver (2. Cor. 9.). And I do call good, the just, honest, gentle, meek, mild, and merciful, &c., all which he loves in that, that they be such as loving of true goodness, being himself most good. For it is not possible but that he which is good, must love goodness, and exceedingly delight in them that be good, for the goodness sake, according unto our old saying, “Like to like.”

But you will say: “Ergo there is a occasion ministered[?] unto God from us, wherefore he does love us, so that it comes more of our desert, than of his goodness & peace, that he loves us. Now then did he love us before8 we[?] were[?] _____[?]? Now when we were yet sinners, and nothing less than good? And he we does the Apostle set not our goodness, but God’s, before his love __[?] yea he says expressly, “Not of works which we have done, but according unto his mercy he has saved us;” if God do love the good, because that there be good?

I answer, these points be not contrary one to another. The love of God whereby we be saved, has no cause of ours, but of his goodness. Wherefore, the Apostle did of purpose set his goodness before, as the cause of his love towards man, to the intent that nothing herein might be ascribed unto our strength. For this principal and original love of God, which comes of no other but his goodness, by which we be made good when we be evil, does not hinder the disposition and nature of goodness in God, but that he may also love the good, which he himself makes good by his Spirit. For he which is infinite goodness does love us without cause, he should not he love us yet the more, taking a cause to love us? He which is so good to love us before we be yet good, how should he not love us the when we be made good? He which loves us when we be yet ungodly, will surely love the more when we be godly. He which loves his enemies and back friends, who will not believe, but that he will love his friends & fellows in house? Does not the covetous man esteem the silver before it be fined and tried? & who doubts but that he will set more store by it, if it be once tried and fined? Wherefore there is no reason that either because of the inescapable love of God, the occasion whereof is not in ours, but in his goodness, as we said we should deny the love of God towards the good, and thinks it in vain, so to so love goodness, and justice, either because of the love of God towards the good, to refuse the grace of God’s love toward man, by which only we be saved, and attribute to causes of our salvation not unto him, but unto our own righteousness.

Therefore we must consider the love of God towards us in that he loves us of his own mere goodness, upon no cause receives us, not only as the work of his hands, but also as men, which he loves particularly above all other his creatures, and not as men only, but as elect, when he chose unto him not yet born, before the making of the world, and whom he redeemed by the death of his only begotten Son, and justified and saved by his free mercy: in all which things there is none of our own whereupon we may glory, but like as we be altogether the work of his hands, so all our life also, all our conservation, redemption, justification, and salvation, does depend upon his frank and free love.

1. This first consideration of the love of God towards man, if it be earnest and assured, and taken in the lively and true sense thereof, does wipe clean out of our hearts all doubt of our salvation, so that we may boldly say with the Apostle, “What then? If God be on our side, who is against us?” “Who did not also spare his own Son, but gave him for us all, how will he not also give us all things with him?” “Who shall make complaint against the elect8 of God?” “It is God which does justify, who is it that condemn?” It is Jesus Christ which is dead, yea which is also risen up again, which is at the right hand of God, which does also make means for us.

2. Secondly, it shall make us inseparable from so exceeding love of God, so that we cannot be drawn from it by any adversity, & that we may say with the Apostle:

Who then shall separate us from the love of God? trouble, or danger, or famine, nakedness, peril, persecution, or the sword? as it is written: ‘For thy sake we be mortified all the day, we be esteemed as sheep to the slaughter,’ but in all these we have the upper hand, because of him which loved us. For I am fast and sure, that neither death nor life, neither Angels, principates nor powers, neither things instant, nor things to come, neither might nor height, nor death, neither any other creature is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.9

3. Thirdly, it shall bind us also in a counter-love unto our loving God, to love him again with all our heart, whereunto his commandment does also call us, and the advice of the Apostle, which says: “Let us love God, for as much as he loved us first.”

The love of God is to be considered of us the second way, in respect that he loves the good, just, faithful and obedience persons unto him, &c., not that he loves none but such, but that he loves such yet so much the more. This consideration shall work thus in us, that we shall employ the grace of God’s love once received, and become the more studious in all kinds of goodness, godliness & justice, knowing that it is specially required of us, that the more benefits we do receive of God, not deserving any, yea rather deserving evil, & and that we receive them by his only love, we may so much the more study to be thankful towards him, and to make us the meeter to receive his love towards the good.

Wolfgangus Musculus, Common Places of Christian Religion, trans., by Iohn Merton (London: Imprinted by Henry Bynneman, 1578), 957-965.


 

1I have modernized some of the spelling and word-forms.
2Severally: separately, singly.
3Musculus uses the plural “elects.”
4Peter Lombard.
5C.f., Calvin on this verse. See: ‘Calvin on specific verses, Psalm 8’.
6Separate.
7Here again Musculus uses the plural “elects.”
8Text barely readable at this point.
8Musculus: “elects.”
9I have indented this extended Scripture quotation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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