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A Peaceful Preamble from Jonathan Edwards before we discuss the Doctrine of Justification

August 13, 2006

“How far a wonderful and mysterious agency of God’s Spirit may so influence some men’s hearts, that their practice in this regard may be contrary to their own principles, so that they shall not trust in their own righteousness, though they profess that men are justified by their own righteousness—or how far they may believe the doctrine of justification by men’s own righteousness in general, and yet not believe it in a particular application of it to themselves—or how far that error which they may have been led into by education, or cunning sophistry of others, may yet be indeed contrary to the prevailing disposition of their hearts, and contrary to their practice—or how far some may seem to maintain a doctrine contrary to this gospel-doctrine of justification, that really do not, but only express themselves differently from others; or seem to oppose it through their misunderstanding of our expressions, or we of theirs, when indeed our real sentiments are the same in the main—or may seem to differ more than they do, by using terms that are without a precisely fixed and determinate meaning—or to be wide in their sentiments from this doctrine, for want of a distinct understanding of it; whose hearts, at the same time, entirely agree with it, and if once it was clearly explained to their understandings, would immediately close with it, and embrace it:—how far these things may be, I will not determine; but am fully persuaded that great allowances are to be made on these and such like accounts, in innumerable instances; though it is manifest, from what has been said, that the teaching and propagating [of] contrary doctrines and schemes, is of a pernicious and fatal tendency.”

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2006 9:52 pm

    Wow, is this all one sentence? I’m confused, I think I need it a bit more succinctly

  2. August 14, 2006 2:15 am

    Feel free to correct and clarify, other readers, but I’m going to take a shot at simplifying. Also keep in mind that it’s 2 a.m., and I’m getting very sleepy. So, here goes nothing:

    God’s Spirit may influence some men’s hearts so far that they don’t practice what they preach. They say men are justified by their own righteousness, but do not trust in their own. Or they may believe the idea of justification by works in general, but not when it’s themselves they’re speaking of. This belief, which they may have come to by education or preaching, is contrary to what they actually believe and do. Some may seem to express this doctrine which is contrary to the Gospel, but only express themselves differently than others. Sometimes it’s caused by a simple difference in expressions- what we say is different, but what we mean is the same. Or they may just be vague, or perhaps just not understand the doctrine well. In their hearts, they understand it perfectly, and if it was explained well, they would get it right away. How many of these cases there are, I can’t say, but I’m persuaded that we should make allowances for many- although it should be clear that the teaching and propagating of false doctrines is bad, yo.

  3. August 14, 2006 9:42 am

    Thanks! I guess I understood more than I thought, but it’s nice to have a comprehensible explaination. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Jonathan Edwards. It’s just that his english and my english are sometimes very different.

  4. August 14, 2006 10:13 am

    I shared this website with mark the other night: http://www.stannespub.com. The most recent exposition is on controversy in the reformed church, particularly Presbyterianism. There’s one interview that focuses on controversy within the Westminster assembly. I guess there was some really heated debate regarding the doctrine of justification – so much so that the minutes note speeches of repentance as various theologians recognize their error and sin. Thought you and the readers may appreciate the segment.

  5. August 14, 2006 10:43 am

    do you think Edwards had certain traditions in mind?

    I think Edwards has a gracious and upright perspective: “make allowances for many” and not to shrink back from recognizing and declaring false doctrine (and loose doctrine, on something like justification) as particularly harmful.

    Thanks for the summary Jade.

  6. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    August 14, 2006 8:24 pm

    Being a bit pugnacious and having a slight tendency towards aggressiveness, I occasionally have to remind myself that we ought to make the doors of the church no narrower than the gates of heaven (stealing a phrase from a smart fella’). But at the same time, the teaching of the church is to be jealously guarded against error (I Tim 6:3-6, II Tim 2:1-2, 15, lots of other passages). Men are saved by grace, but their false teachings disrupt the church and poison the unity we have in Christ. There can be no true unity without purity as its foundation.

  7. Bethlen Gabor permalink
    August 14, 2006 8:58 pm

    Great quote, by the way, I’m back on the site to cut and paste it for another conversation.

    Going back to work tomorrow, may get a bit more scarce. Y’all are still cool and all, though.

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