Jonathan Edwards on van Mastricht

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Stephen L Smith

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In a letter to to Joseph Bellamy, January 15, 1747, Jonathan Edwards made this statement:

"take Mastricht for divinity in general, doctrine, practice and controversy, or as an universal system of divinity; and it is much better than Turretin or any other book in the world, excepting the Bible, in my opinion.”

Now that van Mastricht's "Theoretical-Practical Theology" is been reproduced again, has any scholar been able to work out precisely why Edwards made that statement?
 

Seeking_Thy_Kingdom

Puritan Board Freshman
Since I have not read it I can not speak to it’s quality, but I have heard nothing but excellent reviews. Also every time I hear Mastricht’s name I remind myself I desperately need to pick this work up.
 
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TheInquirer

Puritan Board Freshman
I have only read about a chapter and a half in Van Mastricht vol. 2, so take my limited analysis with that in mind, but I will attempt to put in words what I am noticing.

Turretin is like reading an extremely detailed technical manual. His thoroughness and precision are astounding but he can be hard to follow in areas that demand a fairly good background in philosophy and logic. He is constantly refuting aberrant views and he does so with great thoroughness but it gets a bit tedious at times and it is easy to feel quite lost in the details. His language at times is extremely hard if you don't have a strong background in logic.

Van Mastricht, in the parts I have read, is not really interested in refutation that much (though he does handle objections in every chapter but does so fairly succinctly in comparison with Turretin whose elentic approach is obviously a primary objective) but focuses more on presenting doctrine about God to believers. He is philosophical in his argumentation (as all theologians must be), but the language is much clearer and I don't feel like I have to constantly look up terms to understand what is going on. He is more succinct. Imagine if you infused the succinct dryness of Berkhof with a more Augustinian feel. He doesn't quite have the devotional bent of a'Brakel but I find him more spiritually edifying to read than Turretin. I think he complements the other Reformed systematics extremely well and I am really tempted to put Turretin on hold and switch over to Van Matricht for a bit.
 
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jnslance

Puritan Board Freshman
I am currently working through Mastricht’s first Volume (Prolegomena). In the Translator’s Preface, Todd Rester himself notes that part of the draw of Mastricht over and against some of the other post reformational scholars i.e. Turretin is Mastricht’s unique approach of being highly academic in his method and approach, but not for the sake of being academic alone. His work is deeply pastoral and practical (that pun is not lost on me), with a genuine concern that not necessarily the layman himself grasp every nuance of his work, but that the pastor theologian do so. In that, the church would benefit at large in a truly beneficial way. That reasoning is primarily why Mastricht dedicates a substantial portion of his volume teaching effective homiletical method. I understand that doesn’t directly answer your question as such, but I can help but think in some aspects Edwards may have had this in mind, especially in juxtaposing Mastricht and Turretin in that fashion.

Hope you pick up this work! I believe Reformation Heritage still has it on sale.
 

Stephen L Smith

Moderator
Staff member
Turretin is like reading an extremely detailed technical manual. His thoroughness and precision are astounding but he can be hard to follow in areas that demand a fairly good background in philosophy and logic. He is constantly refuting aberrant views and he does so with great thoroughness but it gets a bit tedious at times and it is easy to feel quite lost in the details. His language at times is extremely hard if you don't have a strong background in logic.
Actually, in that same letter to Bellamy Edwards also said:
"Turretin is on polemical divinity, on the 5 points & all other controversial points, & is much larger in these than Mastricht, & is better for one that desires only to be thoroughly versed in controversies. "
 

Stephen L Smith

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That reasoning is primarily why Mastricht dedicates a substantial portion of his volume teaching effective homiletical method. I understand that doesn’t directly answer your question as such, but I can help but think in some aspects Edwards may have had this in mind, especially in juxtaposing Mastricht and Turretin in that fashion.
I think you might be on to something here. I have read part of vol 1 and I noted he treats theology with a four-fold approach "exegetical, dogmatic, elenctic, and practical." When Edwards refers to Mastricht's universal system of divinity I did wonder if he had that unique four fold approach in mind.

I guess as scholars digest his works as they come out, some scholarly reflections on Edward's letter may occur.
 

Stephen L Smith

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I have been reading some of the introductory material in volume one; this may provide insights as to why Edwards saw Mastricht as his 'overall' favourite.

I will summarise some of the key points that stood out to me:
  1. Mastricht sought to integrate exegesis and doctrinal theology, practical theology, church history, and homiletics - all these strands into one interwoven fabric.
  2. Theology is living to God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit
  3. Scripture is the foundational principle of the discipline in theology; reason is its servant. There is a real danger in a greater confidence in unregenerate human reason than reliance on the Holy Scriptures and of the Holy Spirit through regeneration.
  4. Mastricht places his saving faith between his prolegomena on Scripture and theology proper on God and the Trinity. This suggests he is communicating what is at stake for both serious students of theology and pastoral readers - the salvation of themselves and their hearers.
All this suggests a reason for Edwards special love of Mastricht. His exegetical, dogmatic, elenctic, and practical approach gave a holistic approach to theology and ministry. Mastricht's ability to integrate exegesis, theology, the clarity of the gospel, lessons from history, philosophy - and to put this together to enhance a preaching ministry - would certainly appeal to Edwards.
 

Regi Addictissimus

Completely sold out to the King
From the translator, Dr. Todd M. Rester:

I think Mastricht’s emphasis on preaching, saving faith, and practical godliness as part of the theological method appealed to both Edwards and Mather. In fact, if you read Turretin’s preface carefully, even Turretin lamented that his work only handled the debated questions necessary for seminarians in their academic exams. Turretin thought that theology should have a fuller orbed character as well. And that is where Mastricht fills a gap in the systems available at the time...

An excerpt from the following article:
 
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