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Edward Polhill (1622-1694) on God’s Love With Reference to John 3:16

August 6, 2009

Polhill:

4. Grace is in a very eminent manner lifted up in the gospel. Grace gives Christ, and faith to believe in him. Grace justifies and sanctifies. Grace saves, and crowns with a blessed immortality. Everywhere in the gospel sounds forth, grace, grace! but if God might not justly have stood upon the old terns, the giving of new ones to man was not grace, but debt; not mercy, but justice. Those novatores who say, that it would have been unjust for God to have condemned Adam’s posterity for the first sin, do thereby overturn the grace of the gospel. The apostle, who is much rather to be believed, says expressly, “That by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation,” (Rom. v. 18;) that is, according to the terms of the old covenant; but if the old terms might not have been stood upon, the new ones must be necessary and due to mankind, and so no grace at all. They who deny the justice of the old covenant, overturn the grace of the new.

God, as we see, might have stood upon the old terms, even to the utter ruin of fallen mankind. But oh! immense love! He would not; he would do so with angels, but he would not with men; an abasement was made to them, not afforded to those nobler creatures, once inmates of heaven. In the case of Sodom, God came down lower and lower, from fifty righteous persons to forty-live; and so at last to ten: “I will not do it for ten’s sake.” (Gen. xviii. 32.) But in the case of fallen man, when all had sinned, when there was none righteous, no, not one, God comes down from !the first terms made with man, to such lower ones as might comply with his frailty. Under the law there were sacrifices called by the Jewish doctors, gnoleh vajored, ascending and descending. The rich man offered a lamb; the poor, whose hand could not reach so far offered two turtle doves. While man was rich in holy powers and excellencies, God called for pure, perfect, sinless obedience; but after the fall, he being poor in spirituals, altogether unable to pay such a sum, God stoops and accommodates himself to human weakness; a faithful conatus a sincere though imperfect obedience, will serve the turn in order to man’s happiness. This is the first step which infinite mercy takes in raising up man out of the ruins of the fall; the old terms were not stood upon.

But now, that new terms might be made find established, that the second covenant might have an happier issue than the first, mercy goes on to give the Son of God for us: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John iii. 16.) This (so) is unutterable, this love immeasurable, diffusing itself, not to Jews only, but to a world, and that overwhelmed in sin; giving, and that freely, without any merit of ours, a Son, and an only begotten Son, that we through faith in him might have life eternal, and there enjoy him who is love itself, forever. Here is a mine of love too deep and rich for any creature to fathom, or count the value of it. But before I open it, I shall first remove the il use which the Socinians make of this love, to overturn Christ’s satisfaction. If God, say they,1 so loved us, as to give his Son for us, then he was not angry with us; and if not angry, then there was no need at all of a satisfaction to be made for us. Unto which I answer, anger and love are not inconsistencies; in Scripture hath are attributed unto God: He gave his Son for us: was not. that love, immense love? He wounded and bruised him for our iniquities: he made him to be sin and a curse for us: was not there wrath, great wrath? We have both together in one text: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John iv. 10,) The high emphasis of his love, was in giving his Son to be a propitiation for us: unless there had been a just anger, a propitiation would have been needless: unless there had been immense love, his Son should not have been made one of us. We have a plain instance in Job’s friends; God’s wrath was kindled against them, and yet in love he directs them to atone him by a sacrifice. (Job xlii. 7. 8.) God could not but be angry at the sin of the world, and yet in love he gave his Son to be an expiatory sacrifice.

Edward Polhill, “A View of Some Divine Truths,” in The Works of Edward Polhill (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1998), 19-20. [Some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

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1Soc. de Ser,” i,l, c, 7, Sclicting, cantr, Mein.

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