Part 2 Chapter 3

Section 7—John 15:13.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man laid down his life for his friend.

These words contain an argument in favor of the doctrine of particular redemption, taken from the greatness of Christ's love in laying down his life for men, and may be formed thus: Those for whom Christ died, he loves with the greatest love: but he does not love every individual man with the greatest love; therefore he died not for every individual man. In answer to this argument, it is said,[1]

1. That it “plainly supposes, that Christ died for none who shall not actually be saved; whence it must follow, that only the elect are, or can be guilty of sinning against the love of God in Christ Jesus.” To which may be replied, that we not only suppose but affirm, that Christ died for none who shall not actually be saved; and that for this reason, because Christ must have died in vain for such persons. But God forbid it should be said, that his death was in vain, in any one single instance. Nor are we afraid of the consequence of this affirmation, that only the elect are, or can be guilty of sinning against the love of God in Christ Jesus; since sin is properly against a law, sin is the transgression of the law.And though some men may be said to sin against the love of God in Christ, when they sin against God, notwithstanding their enjoyment of it, which is an aggravation of their sin, and in which sense they only car be guilty who do enjoy it; yet others may sin against providential kindness, and indeed against special love, when they despise the gospel, and ministers who publish it, and that itself, because it is discriminating.

2. That[2] “there is no assertion in the holy Scripture, that those for whom Christ died, he loved with the greatest love.Christ only says, that one man shows no greater love to another, than that of laying down his life for his friend. But this he neither did nor could say of the love of the Father, nor of himself: for God commended his love to us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us; and he died for the ungodly, the just for the unjust;and therefore this text is nothing to the purpose.” To which I reply, that though this assertion is not expressed in so many words in the holy Scripture, it may be easily proved by it; and is manifestly implied in the words of this text. For when Christ speaks of the love of one man to another, by laying down his life for his people, as the greatest instance of it, he tacitly hints at his own love in laying down his life for him; for in the preceding verses, he is speaking of his love to his disciples, which he represents as equal to his Father's love to him, and as a pattern and example of theirs one to another; and in the verses following, applies the character of friends unto them. And though Christ is said to die for his, while sinners,and for the ungodly and unjust;yet these are the same persons whom he calls friends,they being by nature as sinful and wicked as others. Which epithets and characters are made use of, not to express any greater, but the same act of love in dying for them, which is illustrated by their sinfulness and unworthiness.

3. “It is granted,[3] Christ showed the greatest love of benevolence to all for whom he died; but then it is added, that he shows his love of friendship and beneficence only to those that bear a true reciprocal affection to him.” Which love of friendship and beneficence, it is said, “depends on our repentance, conversion, faith, and obedience.” Now not to take any notice of the distinction of Christ's love, into that of benevolence and beneficence, being a groundless one, when, like himself, it is, the same yesterday, today, and for ever;Christ's death does not merely express a love of benevolence, or only shows that he wished them well for whom he died, or willed good things for them; but was an act of beneficence, or an actual doing good things for them; since by it he reconciled them to God, brought them near unto him, redeemed them from all iniquity, finished their transgressions, made an end of their sins, and brought in everlasting righteousness for them. Nor does what is called a love of beneficence, depend on our repentance, conversion, faith, and obedience: for though Christ loves them that love him, and grace is upon all them that do so, yet it is not their love that is the cause of his; but on the contrary, they love him, because he first loved them.Moreover, were there any foundation for this distinction of the love of Christ, yet his dying for men, which is styled his love of benevolence, is a greater expression of his love than the application of the salutary effects of his death, which is reckoned his love of beneficence; and he that has a share in the former, will certainly enjoy the latter; the apostle argues from the one to the other, as from the greater to the lesser; when he says, If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Rom. 5:10.)


[1] Whitby, p. 156; ed. 2.152.

[2] Ibid. ed. 2.152, 153.

[3] Whitby, p. 157; ed. 2.153; Limborch, p 327.

Gill Index