Jonathan Edwards (theologian)

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The beauty of the world consists wholly of sweet mutual consents, either within itself or with the supreme being.

Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703March 22, 1758) was a colonial American Congregational preacher and theologian.

Quotes[edit]

  • Intend to live in continual mortification, and never to expect or desire any worldly ease or pleasure.
    • Diary (1723)
  • There is, therefore, no difficulty in answering such questions as these. What cause was there why the Universe was placed in such a part of Space? and, Why was the Universe created at such a Time? for, if there be no Space beyond the Universe, it was impossible that it should be created in another place; and if there was no Time before, it was impossible it should be created at another time.
    • The Mind (begun in September 1723; not completed)
  • They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and that she hardly cares for any thing, except to meditate on him— that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight for ever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do any thing wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.
    • Written in 1723; from The Works of President Edwards, vol. I, ed. Sereno B. Dwight, 1830
    • The young woman described here was Sarah Pierrepont, who became Edwards' wife in 1727
  • When I am giving the relation of a thing, remember to abstain from altering either in the matter or manner of speaking, so much, as that, if every one, afterwards, should alter as much, it would at last come to be properly false.
    • Diary (7 July 1724)
  • To mark all that I say in conversation, merely to beget in others, a good opinion of myself, and examine it.
    • Diary (10 November 1724)
  • The beauty of the world consists wholly of sweet mutual consents, either within itself or with the supreme being.
    • "The Beauty of the World" (c.1725), from the notebook The Images of Divine Things, The Shadows of Divine Things, The Language and Lessons of Nature (published 1948)
  • Almost all men, and those that seem to be very miserable, love life, because they cannot bear to lose sight of such a beautiful and lovely world. The ideas, that every moment whilst we live have a beauty that we take not distinct notice of, brings a pleasure that, when we come to the trial, we had rather live in much pain and misery than lose.
    • "The Beauty of the World" (c.1725), from the notebook The Images of Divine Things, The Shadows of Divine Things, The Language and Lessons of Nature (published 1948)
  • A little, wretched, despicable creature; a worm, a mere nothing, and less than nothing; a vile insect that has risen up in contempt against the majesty of Heaven and earth.
    • The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners (1734)
  • I often used to sit and view the moon for a long time; and in the day spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder-storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, if I may so speak, at the first appearance of a thunderstorm; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God's thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural for me to sing, or chant forth my meditations; or to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.
    • "Personal Narrative" (1739), from The Works of President Edwards (1830) Vol. I, edited by Sereno B. Dwight
  • The soul of a true christian, as I then wrote my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the sun’s glory; rejoicing, as it were, in a calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet fragrancy; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about; all in like manner opening their bosoms to drink in the light of the sun.
    • "Personal Narrative" (1739), from The Works of President Edwards (1830) Vol. I, edited by Sereno B. Dwight
  • Now shall the promises made to Christ by God the Father before the foundation of the world, the promises of the covenant of redemption, be fully accomplished. Christ shall now have perfectly obtained the joy set before Him, for which He undertook those great sufferings in His state of humiliation. Now shall all the hopes and expectations of the saints be fulfilled. The state of the church before was progressive and preparatory; but now she is arrived at her most perfect state of glory. All the glory of the church on earth is but a faint shadow of this her consummate glory in heaven.
    • A History of the Work of Redemption including a View of Church History (1839)
  • There are two sorts of hypocrites: one that are deceived with their outward morality and external religion; many of which are professed Arminians, in the doctrine of justification: and the other, are those that are deceived with false discoveries and elevations; which often cry down works, and men's own righteousness, and talk much of free grace; but at the same time make a righteousness of their discoveries, and of their humiliation, and exalt themselves to heaven with them. These two kinds of hypocrites, Mr. Shepard, in his Exposition of the Parable of the Ten Virgins, distinguishes by the names of legal and evangelical hypocrites; and often speaks of the latter as the worst. And it is evident that the latter are commonly by far the most confident in their hope, and with the most difficulty brought off from it: I have scarcely known the instance of such a one, in my life, that has been undeceived.
    • Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746), PART II : Showing What Are No Certain Signs That Religious Affections Are Truly Gracious, Or That They Are Not, Ch. 11: Nothing can be certainly known of the nature of Religious Affections, that they much dispose persons with their mouths to praise and glorify God
  • I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause.
    • The Freedom of the Will (1754)
  • This dictate of common sense.
    • The Freedom of the Will (1754)
  • Remember that pride is the worst viper that is in the heart, the greatest disturber of the soul's peace and sweet communion with Christ; it was the first sin that ever was, and lies lowest in the foundation of Satan's whole building, and is the most difficultly rooted out, and is the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all lusts, and often creeps in, insensibly, into the midst of religion and sometimes under the disguise of humility.
    • Letter to Deborah Hatheway (1741), in Letters and Personal Writings (1998), edited by George S. Claghorn, Vol. 16

Seventy Resolutions (1722-1723)[edit]

  • Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad's of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.
    • No. 1
  • Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.
    • No. 5
  • Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.
    • No. 6
  • Resolved, never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.
    • No. 7
  • Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.
    • No. 14
  • Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.
    • No. 16
  • Resolved, never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept.
    • No. 29
  • Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.
    • No. 41
  • Resolved, to confess frankly to myself all that which I find in myself, either infirmity or sin; and, if it be what concerns religion, also to confess the whole case to God, and implore needed help.
    • No. 68
  • Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.
    • No. 69

Justification By Faith Alone (1738)[edit]

As published in The Works of Jonathan Edwards (1834), Vol. 1, Ch. XIV Five discourses on the soul's eternal salvation., DISCOURSE I : Justification by Faith Alone ("delivered at Northampton, chiefly at the time of the late wonderful pouring out of the spirit of God there.")
  • A person is said to be justified, when he is approved of God as free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment, and as having that righteousness belonging to him that entitles to the reward of life. That we should take the word in such a sense, and understand it as the judge’s accepting a person as having both a negative and positive righteousness belonging to him, and looking on him therefore as not only free from any obligation to punishment, but also as just and righteous, and so entitled to a positive reward, is not only most agreeable to the etymology and natural import of the word, which signifies to pass one for righteousness in judgment, but also manifestly agreeable to the force of the word as used in Scripture.
  • The apostle Paul is abundant in teaching, that 'we are justified by faith alone, without the works of the law!' There is no one doctrine that he insists so much upon, and that he handles with so much distinctness, explaining, giving reasons, and answering objections.
  • Some that oppose this doctrine indeed say, that the apostle sometimes means that it is by faith, i.e. a hearty embracing the gospel in its first act only, or without any preceding holy life, that persons are admitted into a justified state; but, say they, it is by a persevering obedience that they are continued in a justified state, and it is by this that they are finally justified. But this is the same thing as to say, that a man on his first embracing the gospel is conditionally justified and pardoned. To pardon sin, is to free the sinner from the punishment of it, or from that eternal misery that is due to it; and therefore if a person is pardoned, or freed from this misery, on his first embracing the gospel, and yet not finally freed, but his actual freedom still depends on some condition yet to be performed, it is inconceivable how he can be pardoned otherwise than conditionally; that is, he is not properly actually pardoned, and freed from punishment, but only he has God’s promise that he shall be pardoned on future conditions. God promises him, that now, if he perseveres in obedience, he shall be finally pardoned, or actually freed from hell; which is to make just nothing at all of the apostle’s great doctrine of justification by faith alone. Such a conditional pardon is no pardon or justification at all, any more than all mankind have, whether they embrace the gospel or no; for they all have a promise of final justification on conditions of future sincere obedience, as much as he that embraces the gospel.
  • "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." -Romans iv. 5. The following things may be noted in this verse:...That justification respects a man as ungodly. This is evident by these words,—that justifieth the ungodly; which cannot imply less, than that God, in the act of justification, has no regard to any thing in the person justified, as godliness, or any goodness in him; but that immediately before this act, God beholds him only as an ungodly creature...
  • If Adam had finished his course of perfect obedience, he would have been justified: and certainly his justification would have implied something more than what is merely negative; he would have been approved of, as having fulfilled the righteousness of the law, and accordingly would have been adjudged to the reward of it. So Christ, our second surety, (in whose justification all whose surety he is, are virtually justified,) was not justified till he had done the work the Father had appointed him, and kept the Father’s commandments through all trials; and then in his resurrection he was justified. When he had been put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the spirit, 1 Pet. iii. 18. then he that was manifest in the flesh was justified in the spirit, 1 Tim. iii. 16.; but God, when he justified him in raising him from the dead, did not only release him from his humiliation for sin, and acquit him from any further suffering or abasement for it, but admitted him to that eternal and immortal life, and to the beginning of that exaltation that was the reward of what he had done. And indeed the justification of a believer is no other than his being admitted to communion in the justification of this head and surety of all believers; for as Christ suffered the punishment of sin, not as a private person, but as our surety; so when after this suffering he was raised from the dead, he was therein justified, not as a private person, but as the surety and representative of all that should believe in him. So that he was raised again not only for his own, but also for our justification, according to the apostle, Rom. iv. 25. “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” And therefore it is that the apostle says, as he does in Rom. viii. 34. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.
  • When it is said, that we are not justified by any righteousness or goodness of our own, what is meant is, that it is not out of respect to the excellency or goodness of any qualifications or acts in us whatsoever, that God judges it meet that this benefit of Christ should be ours; and it is not, in any wise, on account of any excellency or value that there is in faith, that it appears in the sight of God a meet thing, that he who believes should have this benefit of Christ assigned to him, but purely from the relation faith has to the person in whom this benefit is to be had, or as it unites to that mediator, in and by whom we are justified.
  • Eph. i.6. "Who hath made us accepted in the beloved.” Our being in him is the ground or our being accepted. So it is in those unions to which the Holy Ghost has thought fit to compare this. The union of the members of the body with the head, is the ground of their partaking of the life of the head; it is the union of the branches to the stock, which is the ground of their partaking of the sap and life of the stock; it is the relation of the wife to the husband, that is the ground of her joint interest in his estate; they are looked upon, in several respects, as one in law. So there is a legal union between Christ and true Christians; so that (as all except Socinians allow) one, in some respects, is accepted for the other by the Supreme Judge.(Edwards writes later in the sermon... "What is real in the union between Christ and his people, is the foundation of what is legal; that is, it is something really in them, and between them, uniting them, that is the ground of the suitableness of their being accounted as one by the Judge.")
  • As there is nobody but what will allow that there is a peculiar relation between Christ and his true disciples, by which they are in some sense in Scripture said to be one so I suppose there is nobody but what will allow, that there may be something that the true Christian does on his part, whereby he is active in coming into this relation or union; some uniting act, or that which is done towards this union or relation (or whatever any please to call it) on the Christian’s part. Now faith I suppose to be this act.
  • I do not now pretend to define justifying faith, or to determine precisely how much is contained in it, but only to determine thus much concerning it, viz. That it is that by which the soul, which before was separate and alienated from Christ, unites itself to him, or ceases to be any longer in that state of alienation, and comes into that forementioned union or relation to him; or to use the scripture phrase, it is that by which the soul comes to Christ, and receives him; and this is evident by the Scriptures using these very expressions to signify faith. John vi. 35-39. 'He that cometh to me, shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst...'"
    • Edwards later writes in this sermon... "The entire active uniting of the soul, or the whole of what is called coming to Christ, and receiving of him, is called faith in Scripture..."

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741)[edit]

Sermon delivered in Enfield, Connecticut (8 July 1741)
  • The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow.
  • The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours.
  • Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and switfly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a fallen rock.
  • You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • All the virtues which appeared in Christ shone brightest in the close of His life, under the trials He then met. Eminent virtue always shows brightest in the fire. Pure gold shows its purity chiefly in the furnace. It was chiefly under those trials which Christ endured in the close of His life, that His love to God, His honor of God's majesty, His regard to the honor of His law, His spirit of obedience, His humility, contempt of the world, His patience, meekness, and spirit of forgiveness towards men, appeared. Indeed, every thing that Christ did to work out redemption for us appears mainly in the close of His life. Here mainly is His satisfaction for sin, and here chiefly is His merit of eternal life for sinners, and here chiefly appears the brightness of His example which He has set us for imitation.
    • p. 67
  • A greater absurdity cannot be thought of than a morose, hard-hearted, covetous, proud, malicious Christian.
    • p. 106
  • All the graces of Christianity always go together. They so go together that where there is one, there are all, and where one is wanting, all are wanting. Where there is faith, there are love, and hope, and humility; and where there is love, there is also trust; and where there is a holy trust in God, there is love to God; and where there is a gracious hope, there also is a holy fear of God.
    • p. 119
  • What tranquillity will there be in heaven! Who can express the fullness and blessedness of this peace! What a calm is this! How sweet and holy and joyous! What a haven of rest to enter, after having passed through the storms and tempests of this world, in which pride and selfishness and envy and malice and scorn and contempt and contention and vice are as waves of a restless ocean, always rolling, and often dashed about in violence and fury! What a Canaan of rest to come to, after going through this waste and howling wilderness, full of snares and pitfalls and poisonous serpents, where no rest could be found.
    • p. 302
  • Every Christian that goes before us from this world is a ransomed spirit waiting to welcome us in heaven.
    • p. 304
  • Confess your nothingness and ill-desert before God. Distrust yourself. Rely only upon God. Renounce all glory except from Him. Yield yourself heartily to His will and service. Avoid an aspiring, ambitious, ostentatious, assuming, arrogant, scornful, stubborn, willful, levelling, self-justifying behavior; and strive for more and more of the humble spirit that Christ manifested while He was here upon earth.
    • p. 331
  • Love is the active, working principle in all true faith. It is its very soul, without which it is dead. "Faith works by love."
    • p. 396
  • Consider that as a principle of love is the main principle in the heart of a real Christian, so the labor of love, is the main business of the Christian life.
    • p. 396
  • By Christ's purchasing redemption, two things are intended, His satisfaction, and His merit. All is done by the price that Christ lays down, which does two things: it pays our debt, and so it satisfies; by its intrinsic value, and by the agreement between the Father and the Son it procures our title, and so it merits. The satisfaction of Christ is to free us from misery, and the merit of Christ is to purchase happiness for us.
    • p. 489
  • Whatever in Christ had the nature of satisfaction, was by virtue of His suffering or humiliation; whatever had the nature of merit, was by virtue of His obedience or righteousness.
    • p. 489
  • As God carries on the work of converting the souls of fallen men through all ages, so He goes on to justify them, to blot out all their sins, and to accept them as righteous in His sight through the righteousness of Christ. He goes on to adopt and receive them from being the children of Satan to be His own children, to carry on the work of His grace which He has begun in them, to comfort them with the consolations of His Spirit, and to bestow upon them, when their bodies die, that eternal glory which is the fruit of Christ's purchase.
    • p. 489
  • How great is your sin in rejecting Jesus Christ! You slight the glorious Person for whose coming God made such great preparation in such a series of wonderful providences from the beginning of the world, bringing to pass a thing before unknown, the union of the Divine nature with the human in one person. You have been guilty of slighting that great Saviour, who, after such preparation, actually accomplished the purchase of redemption, and who, after He had spent three or four and thirty years in poverty, labor, and contempt, in purchasing redemption, at last finished the purchase by closing His life under such extreme sufferings; and so by His death, and continuing for a time under the power of death, completed the whole. This is the Saviour you reject and despise. You make light of all the glory of His person, and of all the love of God the Father in sending Him into the world, and all His wonderful love appearing in the whole of His work.
    • p. 492
  • Religion, in its purity, is not so much a pursuit as a temper; or rather it is a temper, leading to the pursuit of all that is high and holy. Its foundation is faith; its action, works; its temper, holiness; its aim, obedience to God in improvement of self, and benevolence to men.
    • p. 494
  • Holy practice is the most decisive evidence of the reality of our repentance. "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance."
    • p. 509
  • If you seek in the spirit of selfishness, to grasp all as your own, you shall lose all, and be driven out of the world, at last, naked and forlorn, to everlasting poverty and contempt.
    • p. 538
  • If there be ground for you to trust, as you do, in your own righteousness, then all that Christ did to purchase salvation, and all that God did from the fall of man to prepare the way for it, is in vain. Consider what greater folly could you have devised to charge upon God than this, that all those things were done so needlessly; when, instead of all this, He might only have called you forth, and committed the business to you, which you think you can do so easily.
    • p. 540
  • What self-righteous persons take to themselves, is the same work that Christ was engaged in when He was in His agony and bloody sweat, and when He died on the cross, which was the greatest thing that ever the eyes of angels beheld. Christ could accomplish other parts of this work without cost; but this part cost Him His life, as well as innumerable pains and labors. Yet this is the part which self-righteous persons go about to accomplish for themselves.
    • p. 541
  • You trust in your own doings to appease God for your sins, and to incline the heart of God to you. Though you are poor, worthless, vile, and polluted, yet you arrogantly take upon you that very work for which the Son of God became man; and in order to which God employed four thousand years in all the great dispensations of His providence, aiming chiefly to make way for Christ's coming to do this work. This is the work that you foolishly think yourselves sufficient for; as though your prayers and performances were excellent enough for this purpose. Consider how vain is the thought which you entertain of yourself. How must such arrogance appear in the sight of Christ, whom it cost so much? It was not to be obtained even by Him, so great and glorious a person, at a cheaper rate than His wading through a sea of blood, and passing through the midst of the furnace of God's wrath.
    • p. 541
  • You that trust in your own righteousness, arrogate to yourselves the honor of the greatest thing that even God Himself ever did. You seem not only sufficient to perform Divine works, but such is your pride and vanity, that you are not content without taking upon you to do the very greatest work that ever God Himself wrought. God's works of providence are greater than those of creation. To take on yourself to work out redemption, is a greater thing than if you had taken it upon you to create a world.
    • p. 542
  • Christian practice is that evidence which confirms every other indication of true godliness.
    • p. 619

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