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Bible Dictionaries
Love to God

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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To serve and obey God on the conviction that it is right to serve and obey him, is in Christianity joined with that love to God which gives life and animation to service, and renders it the means of exalting our pleasures, at the same time that it accords with our convictions. The supreme love of God is the chief, therefore, of what have sometimes been called our theopathetic affections. It is the sum and the end of the law; and though it has been lost by us in Adam, it is restored to us by Christ. When it regards God absolutely, and in himself, as a Being of infinite and harmonious perfections and moral beauties, it is that movement of the soul toward him which is produced by admiration, approval, and delight. When it regards him relatively, it fixes upon the ceaseless emanations of his goodness to us all in the continuance of the existence which he at first bestowed; the circumstances which render that existence felicitous; and, above all, upon that "great love wherewith he loved us," manifested in the gift of his Son for our redemption, and in saving us by his grace; or, in the forcible language of St. Paul, upon "the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness to us through Christ Jesus." Under all these views an unbounded gratitude overflows the heart which is influenced by this spiritual affection. But the love of God is more than a sentiment of gratitude: it rejoices in his perfections and glories, and devoutly contemplates them as the highest and most interesting subjects of thought; it keeps the idea of this supremely beloved object constantly present to the mind; it turns to it with adoring ardour from the business and distractions of life; it connects it with every scene of majesty and beauty in nature, and with every event of general and particular providence; it brings the soul into fellowship with God, real and sensible, because vital; it moulds the other affections into conformity with what God himself wills or prohibits, loves or hates; it produces an unbounded desire to please him, and to be accepted of him in all things; it is jealous of his honour, unwearied in his service, quick to prompt to every sacrifice in the cause of truth and his church; and it renders all such sacrifices, even when carried to the extent of suffering and death, unreluctant and cheerful. It chooses God as the chief good of the soul, the enjoyment of which assures its perfect and eternal interest and happiness: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee," is the language of every heart, when its love of God is true in principle and supreme in degree.

If, then, the will of God is the perfect rule of morals; and if supreme and perfect love to God must produce a prompt and unwearied, a delightful subjection to his will, or rather an entire and most free choice of it as the rule of all our principles, affections, and actions; the importance of this affection in securing that obedience to the law of God in which true morality consists, is manifest; and we clearly perceive the reason why an inspired writer has affirmed, that "love is the fulfilling of the law." The necessity of keeping this subject before us under those views in which it is placed in the Christian system, and of not surrendering it to mere philosophy, is, however, an important consideration. With the philosopher the love of God may be the mere approval of the intellect; or a sentiment which results from the contemplation of infinite perfection, manifesting itself in acts of power and goodness. In the Scriptures it is much more than either, and is produced and maintained by a different process. We are there taught that "the carnal mind is enmity to God," and is not, of course, capable of loving God. Yet this carnal mind may consist with deep attainments in philosophy, and with strongly impassioned poetic sentiment. The mere approval of the understanding, and the susceptibility of being impressed with feelings of admiration, awe, and even pleasure, when the character of God is manifested in his works, as both may be found in the carnal mind which is enmity to God, are not therefore the love of God. They are principles which enter into that love, since it cannot exist without them; but they may exist without this affection itself, and be found in a vicious and unchanged nature. The love of God is a fruit of the Holy Spirit; that is, it is implanted by him only in the souls which he has regenerated; and as that which excites its exercise is chiefly, and in the first place, a sense of the benefits bestowed by the grace of God in our redemption, and a well grounded persuasion of our personal interest in those benefits, it necessarily presupposes our reconciliation to God through faith in the atonement of Christ, and that attestation of it to the heart by the Spirit of adoption. We here see, then, another proof of the necessary connection of Christian morals with Christian doctrine, and how imperfect and deceptive every system must be which separates them. Love is essential to true obedience; for when the Apostle declares love to be "the fulfilling of the law," he declares, in effect, that the law cannot be fulfilled without love; and that every action which has not this for its principle, however virtuous in its show, fails of accomplishing the precepts which are obligatory upon us. But this love to God cannot be felt so long as we are sensible of his wrath, and are in dread of his judgments. These feelings are incompatible with each other, and we must be assured of his reconciliation to us, before we are capable of loving him. Thus the very existence of love to God implies the doctrines of atonement, repentance, faith, and the gift of the Spirit of adoption to believers; and unless it be taught in this connection, and through this process of experience, it will be exhibited only as a bright and beauteous object to which man has no access; or a fictitious and imitative sentimentalism will be substitute d for it, to the delusion of the souls of men.

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Love to God'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​l/love-to-god.html. 1831-2.
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