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Marshal could not declare, that it is their duty more exr pressly, than he docs, in the very words quoted by Mr. Bellamy himself. "The duties of love to God," says Mr. Marshal, " and of love to our neighbour for his w sake, are, in their nature, holy, just, good and meet •" for us to perform, because of our natural relation to *' our Creator and fellow creatures. So that they have
* an inseparable dependance upon the holiness of the 0 will of God, and an indispensable establishment u thereby. Even heathens are still obliged to the love "of God and their neighbour by the light of naturc 9 without any written law or supernatural revelation."
. 3. He represents it as the doctrine of his oppo*nents, that men may have faith in God as their reconciled God, and may love him, without regeneration.
* Your faith," says he, meaning that which is taughtby Mr. Marshal, " may exist in an unregenerate heart: f' from the principles of nature we may love God .« thus"-"
Here we may observe, that Mr. Bellamy's opponents teach that unregenerate men are warranted and -commanded to believe in Jesus Christ for their own salvation; and to love God above all things; but nof, that they either do so, or have ability to do so. But what seems to have induced Mr. Bellamy to bring this charge against these divines, is his displeasure with, them for teaching, that the faith of reconciliation with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, is necessary to our attainment of true love to God. This he denies ;for, says he, " in regeneration which is before faith,.'' our hearts begin to be right; therefore then, even at
♦ Dialog, ii. p. 79. Dial. i. p. 20.
£ that instant, we begin to love God for his own love'f liness." We answer, that we are indeed brought by regeneration to love God for his own loveliness. But then regeneration has this effect, as it produces faith. Regeneration proceeds from God as a reconciled God in Christ, and causeth us to regard him in that engaging light, as was shewn in the preceding. letter.
When we say, that faith is the means of attaining the exercise of love to God, what we intend by faith is not a dream of peace with God which is grounded upon the conceit of self-righteousness and other delusiveimaginations; and which may, no doubt, be found in unregenerate men; but such a faith of peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, as is grounded on. the gospel-promise and wrought in the heart by theHoly Spirit. Nor is it meant, that our act of believr ing, can, of itself, slay the enmity of our hearts and warm them with true love to God; but that the object, apprehended by faith, the virtue of Christ's death, and the grace of the promise, are effectual to that end. Faith is a self-emptying exercise; it makes no pretension to any wisdom, righteousness or power iri"itself j but finds all in its glorious object, Christ Jesus: particularly, it finds in him a sufficiency of grace to cir*cumcise the heart to love God, according to that promise, which we have in Deuteron. xxx. 6. The Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart to love the Lord thy God..
From'John iv. 19. We love him, because he first hrved us; Mr. Marshal observes, " that we cannot be "beforehand in loving God, before we apprehend his "love to us." But no, says Mr. Bellamy: " we begin "to love God before we know that he begins to. « love us." .
Answer. The special love of God to us may, in* deed, be inferred from our sincere love to him. But it will not follow, that there is no apprehension at all of the love of God in Christ to us, at the beginning of our exercise of love to him. For the love of God apprehended by the direct act of faith may begin that exercise; which may be afterwards promoted by reflecting upon the fruits and evidences of his love, as well as by the frequent renewing of that act. It cannot well be denied, that the text now quoted leads us to think, that the exercise of our love to God is begun by means of the direct act of faith, as it apprehends the preventing love of God in Christ. For this verse is to be understood in connexion with v. 16. where the apostle says, We have known and believed the love -which God hath to us: that is, the love manifested in Christ the Saviour of the world, v. 14. and the propitiation for our tins, v. 10. Hence it appears, that what is most immediately and directly intended by the expression, He first loved 'us, is not the secret love of God in eternal election, nor the secret operation of it in regeneration; but the publick manifestation of his love in. the gift of Christ as exhibited in the gospel; even that discovery of his love which is the object of the direct act of faith. This view of the text under consideration is confirmed by observing, that the apostle, in setting forth God as the object of our superlative love, uses this eminently sublime expression, God Is Love; intimating, that we cannot love God, till we know him to be love, pure love, without any mixture of wrath against us, in Jesus Christ, his beloved Son.
But Mr. Bellamy is positive, that this expression, We have known and believed the love which God hath to us, must be understood of a knowledge and belief funded on the consciousness of such good qualifications in ourselves as are certain evidences of our being the children of God. "What is the character," says lie, ".of the men who use this confident language? ft Were they saints or sinners? They knew, they were "the children of God, because they knew God, loved "him and kept his commandments, imitated the ex> "ample of Christ, loved the brethren, 8cc.*"
Answer. That such qualifications, as Mr. Bellamy enumerates, are the characters of those, who know and Relieve the love which God hath to them, is granted and abundantly taught by his opponents. But in order to overthrow the sense in which this text was understood by these authors, he should have shewn not only that, according to the apostle, these characters belong to those who truly know and believe the love of God to them; but also that the consciousness of such attainments is the only ground of that knowledge and belief. The context, as we have already observed, leads us to consider this knowledge and belief as proceeding upoa the ground of the gospel-testimony in verses 14 and 10. Calvin's observation on this verse appears to be solid. We have known and believed; that is, says he, " we "have known by believing. In a preceding verse the "apostle had represented faith as our believing, that "Jesus is the Son of God: but here he says, by faith "we know the love of God towards us." "Taught "by Jesus Christ we know and believe," says another expositer in Marlorate's collection, <* with our whole u heart, that the infinite Majesty of God loves usf *' does not reject the unworthy and the sinner; does * not abhor the unjust, nor despise the weak and con
* Dial. i. page 23,
* temptible. And why should we not know and believfe"all this; while we behold his own Son, the unspeakau bly precious pledge of Divine love, taking away our "sips by his death, and bearing us on his shoulders to a the Father." These commentators, as well as Mr.Marshal, understood the apostle's words here, of thedirect act of faith.
"If you leave," says Mr. Bellamy, "the glory of
* the Divine Majesty, as he is in himself, out of the
* account, and love and worship him merely for his
* love to you &c. how will you free yourself from the
* guilt of idolatry.*"
This objection, (which, in the various repetitions of it, runs through a great part of Mr. Bellamy's work,) was anticipated in the following passage of Mr. Mar* shal's treatise. "It is not legal or mercenary," saye he, " to he moved by the persuasion of the future en"joymcnt of everlasting happiness, while the persua» "sion itself is not gotten by the works of the law, but "by free grace through faith, Gal. v. 5. It is not that "carnal self-love, which the scripture condemneth as "the mother of sinfulness, 2 Tim. iii. 2. but an holy <' self-love inclining us to prefer God above the flesh "and the world, such as God directeth us unto, when "he exhortetri us to save ourselves, Act. ii. 40. I Tim. "iv. 16. It is so far from being contrary to the pure "love of God, that it brings us to love God more pure* "ly and entirely. He draweth us to love him by the u cords of a man, by such cords as the love of man •*• useth to be drawn by, even by his own love to us."
Mr. Bellamy's doctrine may accord with the speculations of some Platonick philosophers, but not with the.
• Dial. i. page 2J.