Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the money of our Lord Jesus Christ
unto eternal 1ife.
unto eternal 1ife.
These words are thought to represent the saints’ continuance in the love and favor of God, as conditional, depending on their obedience, care, and keeping of themselves; and that them is a possibility of their falling from it, and consequently that they are not absolutely elected to everlasting life. To which I reply;
1. That the saints’ continuance in the love and favor of God, does not depend on their obedience, or on any thing done by them; since his love to them is an everlasting one, which commenced from everlasting, and will continue to everlasting; is prior to all their obedience; was in his own heart towards them, and expressed by several acts before they had done either good or evil; and continued, notwithstanding all their disobedience, in an unregenerate state, and is the source and spring of all their love and obedience to him; nor is there anything in their best works that can entitle them to his favor, or secure the continuance of it; since, when they had done all they can, they are but "unprofitable servants." Nor is there any possibility or danger of real saints falling from the love and favor of God. They may, and sometimes are, left to do those things which are displeasing to him, and, was he a man or should he act men usually do such cries, would at once, and effectually turn them out of his favor; but the case is, he is the Lord, and not man, and changes not in his affections as men do; "and therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed." (Mal. 3:6.) In his severest providences towards his people, his love always remains the same, as when he hides his face from them, or chides and chastises them in a fatherly way; should it be otherwise, his love would not be everlasting, unchangeable, and from which there is no separation, as the; Scriptures represent it; and besides, would be contrary to the assurances he has given of the continuance of his love, both by word and oath (Isa. 54:9,10).
2. By the love of God, in this text, we are not to understand the love which God bears in his own heart to his people, or with which they are loved by him, but rather that love with which they love him, and of which he is the object; see Luke 11:42, which is a sense some interpreters on the other side of the question readily allow of; and then the meaning of the.214 exhortation, keep yourselves, eJautouv, one another, as it may be rendered, in the love of God, is, that though this grace of love cannot be lost, yet, inasmuch as the fervor of it may be shared, and the saints grow cold and indifferent in their expressions of it, it becomes them to make use of all proper means to maintain, increase, and inflame it, both in themselves and others, such as are mentioned in the context, as conversing together in an edifying way, about either the grace or doctrine of their most holy faith; praying either separately or together, under the influences of the Holy Ghost, and looking forward for the mercy of Christ unto eternal life. All which, with many other things, by the blessing of God, may serve to maintain and revive the grace of love, and flow it up into a flame. Though, perhaps, this phrase may chiefly design that love, peace, and concord, which ought to subsist among saints as brethren, and which they should be careful to preserve. This may be called the love of God, just as the same thing is styled the peace of God (Col. 3:15), because he calls them to it, it is of him, what they are taught by him, and in which he causes them to abound; and then the sense of the exhortation, keep yourselves, or one another in the love of God, is, endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the hold of peace; provoke one another to love and good works (Eph. 4:3; Heb. 10:24; Eph. 5:2); walk in love, both to God and among yourselves, as ye have Christ for an example; which sense is strengthened by the following words, of some have compassion, making a difference, and others save with fear. And hence it will appear that this text neither militates against the doctrine of absolute election, nor countenances the doctrine of the possibility of real saints falling from a state of grace and favor with God. But,
3. Admitting that by the love of God, is meant the grace and favor of God: the exhortation to the saints, to keep themselves in it, is, to set it always before them, to keep it constantly in view, to exercise faith on it, firmly believing their interest in it, and hence keep looking and waiting for the mercy of Christ unto eternal life; or to keep themselves in it, is to meditate on it, give themselves up wholly to the contemplation of it, and employ their thoughts constantly about this delightful subject, the love of God; which is the foundation of all grace here, and glory hereafter. Once more the words eJautouv ejn ajga>ph| Qeou~ thrh>sate may be rendered, preserve yourselves by the love of God, that is, against Satan’s temptations, the snares of the world, and the lusts of the flesh. Whenever Satan solicits to sin, any snare is laid to draw into it, and the flesh attempts to be predominate, betake yourselves to the love of God, as a strong hold, or preservative against sin; and reason thus, as Joseph did, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? (Gen. 39:9) who, when I look backward, has loved me with an everlasting love: and when I look forward there is the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Consider the words in either light, they neither prove a conditional election, nor a possibility of the saints falling from grace; against which, provision is made in Christ, who, in verse 24, is represented as "able to keep them from falling, and to present them faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy."
 Whitby, p 87. 398,422,458; ed. 2. 86, 188,410,411,438.
 Vorstius and Grotins in loc.