Sunday, January 6, 2008

Jonathan Edwards: Advice in Controversy

I am grateful to John Piper for including this quote from Edwards in his section on dealing with controversy in his new book The Future of Justification. This represents a delightful middle-ground which is surprisingly charitable. Maybe I've always just pictured Edwards as more of a hard-head than this:

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 contrary doctrines and schemes, is of a pernicious and fatal tendency.

Jonathan Edwards, "Justification by Faith Alone" in Sermons and Discourses, 1934-1938, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 19 [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001], 242.

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