18 June 2016

Apprehending Divine Love

Read a book on the love of God recently. It was fine. True, faithful, careful. It has its place on our bookshelves.

But the ceiling on my wonder at God's love was not raised. It was analytical. Something about it was detached. Removed. The author tried to switch at times into explicit "devotional" mode, which just made the whole thing feel artificial. Why isn't the book devotional in its very nature, in every sentence?

At the same time I was reading Bunyan's The Saints' Knowledge of the Love of Christ, on the last few verses of Ephesians. Just the opposite. Heart-expansive reflection on Scripture. Vision-lifting. Why are books like this so rare today? Why are the Puritans so consistent on this point? I find the same thing in Sibbes and Goodwin. Soul-solidifying. No anecdotes, no jokes, just deep probing of the depths of the human heart's darkness, and bringing that darkness into the full light of divine mercy. I don't need a clever autobiographical hook to get me reading a book. I need immediate, to-the-point unfolding of the truth at hand.

It is common for equals to love, and for superiors to be beloved; but for the King of princes, for the Son of God, for Jesus Christ to love man thus: this is amazing, and that so much the more, for that man the object of his love, is so low, so mean, so vile, so undeserving, and so inconsiderable, as by the scriptures, everywhere he is described to be.

He is called God, the King of glory. But the persons of him beloved, are called transgressors, sinners, enemies, dust and ashes, fleas, worms, shadows, vapors, vile, filthy, sinful, unclean, ungodly fools, madmen. And now is it not to be wondered at, and are we not to be affected herewith, saying, And wilt thou set thine eye upon such a one? But how much more when He will set his heart upon us?

Love in him is essential to his being. God is love; Christ is God; therefore Christ is love, love naturally. He may as well cease to be, as cease to love. . . .

Love from Christ requireth no taking beauteousness in the object to be beloved. It can act of and from itself, without all such kind of dependencies. The Lord Jesus sets his heart to love them. . . .

Love in Christ decays not, nor can be tempted so to do by anything that happens, or that shall happen hereafter, in the object so beloved. 
--John Bunyan, The Saints' Knowledge of the Love of Christ, in Works, 2:16-17; emphasis original