Monday, August 09, 2010

Can I know the love of God?

In The Matchless Love and In-being Richard Sibbes says Yes. We can and we ought to.

To know the love of God is the source of our thanksgiving to God:
"As the shining of the sun enlarges the spirit of the poor creatures, the birds, in the spring time, to sing, so proportionately the apprehension of the sweet love of God in Christ enlarges the spirit of a man, and makes him full of joy and thanksgiving. He breaks forth into joy, so that his whole life is matter of joy and thanksgiving."
If we do not know the love of God, we wont suffer for him.
"Who will abide anything for him that he loves not? What does set us to suffer all things that may be for God? The apprehension that he loves us. What makes a man willing to end his life, and to yield up his soul to God? He knows he shall yield his soul to him as to a father that loves him, that will save his soul. Can a man be willing to leave his home here, when he knows not whether he shall have a better or no? Can a man commend his soul to one that he knows not to be his friend? No. Can he commend such a jewel to one that he knows not but to be an enemy? Can he say with Simeon, 'Lord, let your servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen your salvation? Luke 2:29. Does not all joy and comfort come from the love of God in Christ?"
Moreover it is a develish doctrine to say that we shouldn't. Sibbes attacks the Roman Catholicism of 1629:
"...which teaches that we ought to doubt of God's love. It cuts the sinews of endeavour. Who will endeavour after the attaining of the love of God, and this assurance, when this is laid in the way that we ought not to do it? Are we not prone enough to distrust, but we must be taught it? Is not Satan malicious enough, but we must light a candle to him, and arm his malice with this doctrine, that we ought to doubt? He is the master of doubting; for the works of darkness, and all the discomfort and sin that he brings on us is in darkness, in this particular darkness, that we know not whether we be the children of God or no. So, some say, why should we leave our gain, our profit, and our present pleasures that we have? What does he aim at by the sins he tempts us to, but to shake our assurance of God's love? They teach the doctrine of devils in diverse things, amongst which this is one that strengthens the kingdom of Satan much, that people ought to doubt, and that there is no way or means to get assurance of God's love."
Such shaking and doubt persist in various forms today. But Sibbes shows that Jesus in John 17 says and prays "I have declared your love" and moreover that
So that a Christian
"...knows that God loves him. There is no truth in the world so illustrious, so gloriously and manifestly true, as this. Would you have a better pledge of his love than Jesus Christ, the Son of his love, to be given for us, the dearest thing that God has?
All of which makes me ask....
Do you/I know God's love? 
What happens if we don't? How can we know the love of God?
How's that definition of faith, and what are the implications of it?

Photo via: love photos. Sibbes sourced from Monergism - 56mb pdf, language modernised slightly and reformatted in this pdf: The Matchless Love & In-being (228kb)


  1. I remember from Ron Frost's dissertation his comparison between the Westminster definition of man's chief end and Sibbes'. A few decades before "Glorifying God and enjoying Him forever", Sibbes suggested "being swallowed in the love of Christ."

    I'll have to look up the references, but good huh?


  2. I'm hoping to receive a copy of Frost's stuff via my supervisor in a while. The idea of being swallowed in the love of Christ is very tasty.

    "we see the streams empty themselves into the sea. They are swallowed up there, where they have a more constant being than in themselves, namely, of the ocean, the true element and proper place of all waters ; and so our desires, if they be holy, as they are restless and growing, so at last they empty themselves into Christ, and join with God and happiness for the time to come ; for there is greater happiness for the souls of men, in God, in Christ, and in heaven, than there is in themselves, and there they are swallowed up." The Brides Longing, Vol 6 p544.