II. HOW LOVE RESPECTS THE DIVINE BEING AND CREATED BEINGS
God is Most Virtuous, Thus He Supremely Loves Himself
Since God is the most virtuous of beings – the fountain, head and source of all that is good – then it logically follows that God supremely loves Himself. If it be truly virtuous only when His creatures love the greatest and most beautiful of beings, then it would be ludicrous to suppose that the most virtuous of beings does not supremely love Himself. It would not be virtuous for God to superlatively love something other than the greatest and most beautiful of beings. This is where the indicative, “God is love” first and foremost takes on its primary meaning – i.e. there exists a perfect love between Father, Son, and Spirit, the triune God.
The idea of God loving Himself more than He loves others is shocking simply because His creatures are told not to apply the same principle to themselves. Edwards just finished a section condemning self-love; yet, there is no escaping this deduction: God must love that which has the most of being and the most of benevolence, and this happens to be Himself. Nevertheless, Edwards asserts that “God’s goodness and love to created beings is derived from, and subordinate to his love to himself.” Therefore, God’s benevolence towards His creatures is sourced only by God’s own love to Himself, just as His creatures’ love to others can only be virtuous inasmuch as it is subordinate to their love to God.
Edwards anticipates the resistance, and thus sets out to provide his readers with “the manner in which a virtuous love in created beings, one to another, is dependent on, and derived from love to God.” Here is Edwards’ progression.
- Love to particular people is the fruit of a benevolent inclination to being in general.
- To love being in general, one must love God supremely.
- Therefore, if one loves a particular person from that inclination – supreme love to God – it is of the nature of true virtue.
 Jonathan Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue (Ann Arbor Paperbacks) (University of Michigan Press, 1960), 23. This also was more comprehensively proved in The End for Which God Created the World.
 Ibid., 23.