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John Davenant on God’s General Love to Mankind

September 26, 2008

Davenant:

1) The general love of God towards mankind is so clearly testified in Holy Scripture, and so demonstrated by the manifold effects of God’s goodness and mercy extended to every particular man in this world, that to doubt thereof were infidelity, and to deny it, plain blasphemy: yet for all this, if any man shall go about to magnify the common love of God extended promiscuously to all men, that thereby he obscured the special love and mercy of God prepared for all eternity, and bestowed in due time upon elect men, this may lead the ignorant and unlearned into a dangerous error: And therefore obliquely to oppose the eternal free and absolute decree of Predestination or Election under the color of disproving an absolute decree for any man’s Damnation, befits not any Divine who acknowledges the truth of that doctrine which the Scriptures have delivered, St. Augustine cleared, and the Church of England established in the xvii Article.  John Davenant, Animadversions Written By the Right Reverend Father in God, John, Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon a Treatise intitled “God’s love to Mankind, (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 3. [Some spelling modernized.]

2) Now, to come to his Testimonies of Scripture. The question being, “Whether God’s eternal decree whereby men stand distinguished in Electos & Non-electos, or in Praedestinatos & negative Reprobatos, be an absolute prime decree, or a subsequent decree built upon men’s foreseen goodness and badness, all such testimonies as confound the judicial decree of man’s Damnation with the negative Reprobation, will be impertinent: For though the former be absolute, yet the latter is respective unto man’s sins. Again, all such men under this condition, “If they believe and persevere,” and of Damning of no man but for his inequity or infidelity, prove sufficiently that the temporal bringing of men unto eternal life, stands upon conditional decrees; and so likewise temporal adjudging of men unto eternal death: but they are of no force at all to prove that Election and Non-election are conditional decrees, or to disprove an absolute decree of negative Reprobation. Last of all, such places as prove a general love or a general mercy extending to every singular man in the world, do not overthrow the decree of absolute Non-election; because love and mercy may be shown even to the Non-elect. This is general.    John Davenant, Animadversions Written By the Right Reverend Father in God, John, Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon a Treatise intitled “God’s love to Mankind,” (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 165. [Some spelling modernized.]

3) Minist[er]. It is true, that God hates nothing which himself created; and yet it is most true, that he hates sin in any creature of his, and hates the creature infected with sin in such a manner as Hatred may be attributed unto God. But for all this he so generally loves mankind fallen in Adam that he has given his only-begotten Son, that what sinner soever believes in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. And this everlasting life or heavenly Kingdom is so provided for men by God, that no decrees of his can bring any man thither without faith and repentance, nor no decrees of his can keep any man out who repents and believes. As for the measure of God’s love exhibited in he external effects unto men, it must not be denied that God pours out his graces more abundantly upon some men then upon others, and works more powerfully and effectually in the hearts of some men then of others; and that out of his alone will and pleasure: But yet where this more special love is not extended, his less special love is not restrained to outward and temporal blessings only, (as you falsely imagine) but it reaches to internal and spiritual blessings, even such as will bring men to an eternal blessedness if their voluntary wickedness hinder not. John Davenant, Animadversions Written By the Right Reverend Father in God, John, Lord Bishop of Sarisbury, upon a Treatise intitled “God’s love to Mankind,” (London: Printed for Iohn Partridge, 1641), 357-358. [Some spelling modernized.]

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