John Owen on the Love of God

Last night I was reading Communion with God, by the Puritan great John Owen, and I came across these amazing and humbling paragraphs. After showing the likeness between God’s love to believers and theirs to Him, Owen turns to explaining how these two loves differ:

There are sundry (various) things wherein they differ:—
1st. The love of God is a love of bounty; our love unto him is a love of duty.
(1st.) 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 blesseth us with all spiritual blessings. Loving is choosing, Rom. ix. 11, 12. He loves us and chastiseth 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 unto 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 infuseth into, and creates goodness in, the persons beloved. And this answers the description of love given by the philosopher. “To love,” saith he, “ἔστι βούλεσθαι τινὶ ἃ οἴεται ἀγαθά καὶ κατὰ δύαμιν πρακτικὸν εἶαι τούων,” – He that loves works out good to them he loveth, as he is able. God’s power and will are commensurate; — what he willeth he worketh.

(2dly.) Our love unto God is a love of duty, the love of a child. His love descends upon us in bounty and fruitfulness; our love ascends unto him in duty and thankfulness. He adds to us by his love; we nothing to him by ours. Our goodness extends not unto him. Though our love be fixed on him immediately, yet no fruit of our love reacheth him immediately; though he requires our love, he is not benefited by it, Job xxxv. 5–8, Rom. xi. 35, Job xxii. 2, 3. It is indeed made up of these four things:— 1. Rest; 2. Delight; 3. Reverence; 4. 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,” Mal. i. 6, “If I be a father, where is mine honour?” It is a deserved act of duty.

I pray that these words from God’s Word encourage you today as they do me. What a blessing it is to be loved by God! Nothing else is even in the same universe of comparison! His is the sun, all else is but a match!

(I plan on posting more of Communion with God, and you can read it or download it in its entirety here.)


About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

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