Jonathan Edwards Opines

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bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Here are a couple of quotations from "A Sweet Flame": Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards", edited by Michael A. G. Haykin (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007). This is a volume in the publisher's Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series.

Here is Edwards on preferring, over all, Peter van Mastricht to Francis Turretin (from a letter to Joseph Bellamy dated January 15, 1747):

"...They are both excellent. Turretin is on polemical divinity, on the 5 points & all other controversial points, & is much larger than these than Mastricht, & is better for one that desires only to be thoroughly versed in controversies. But take Mastricht for divinity in general, doctrine, practice, & controversy, or as an universal system of divinity; & it is much better than Turretin or any other book in the world, excepting the Bible, in my opinion." (pp. 83-85)

And, here's Edwards on whether he could be a Presbyterian and an adherer to the Westminster Standards; the context of this letter is that Edwards was on the verge of being fired by his church, and is answering a question about if he could see his way to ministering in Scotland (from a letter to the Scots pastor John Erskine, dated July 5, 1750):

"You are pleased, dear Sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian form of church government, and to offer to use your influence to procure a call for me, to some congregation in Scotland. I should be very ungrateful, if I were not thankful for such kindness and friendship. As for my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to the Presbyterian government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of church government in this land. [Edwards was, remember, a Congregationalist.] And the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreable to the Word of God, and the reason and nature of things, though I cannot say that I think that the Presbyterian government of the Church of Scotland is so perfect that it cannot, in some respects, be mended." (pp. 119-120)

In this same letter to Erskine, by the way, he makes an interesting comment about himself:

"Nor have I any particular door in view that I depend upon to be opened for my future serviceableness. Most places in New England that want a minister would not be forward to invite one with so chargeable a family, nor one so far advanced in years - being forty-six the fifth day of last October. I am fitted for no other business but study. I should make a poor hand at getting a living by any secular employment." (p. 119)

Interesting comments by Jonathan Edwards.

By the way, I've read the volume on John Calvin in this series and am finishing up the one on Edwards. These books in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series are definitely worth your time.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
And, here's Edwards on whether he could be a Presbyterian and an adherer to the Westminster Standards; the context of this letter is that Edwards was on the verge of being fired by his church, and is answering a question about if he could see his way to ministering in Scotland (from a letter to the Scots pastor John Erskine, dated July 5, 1750):

"You are pleased, dear Sir, very kindly to ask me, whether I could sign the Westminster Confession of Faith, and submit to the Presbyterian form of church government, and to offer to use your influence to procure a call for me, to some congregation in Scotland. I should be very ungrateful, if I were not thankful for such kindness and friendship. As for my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession, there would be no difficulty; and as to the Presbyterian government, I have long been perfectly out of conceit of our unsettled, independent, confused way of church government in this land. [Edwards was, remember, a Congregationalist.] And the Presbyterian way has ever appeared to me most agreable to the Word of God, and the reason and nature of things, though I cannot say that I think that the Presbyterian government of the Church of Scotland is so perfect that it cannot, in some respects, be mended." (pp. 119-120)

You might want to pass this quote along to some commenters on the Heidleblog, who, inspired by Scott, have been *trying* to slice and dice JE on all sort of things, including that JE is "terrible on the confessions".
 

TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
The quote Edwards made regarding the Confession may support one of Prof. Scott's qualms with those who claim to hold to a confession. Edwards says he could subscribe the substance of the confession, which sounds similar to the "system of doctrine" position.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
The quote Edwards made regarding the Confession may support one of Prof. Scott's qualms with those who claim to hold to a confession. Edwards says he could subscribe the substance of the confession, which sounds similar to the "system of doctrine" position.

Highly doubtful--given Edwards' historical context in a congregationalist church and that the letter was sent to a Wesminsterian looking into calling Edwards to serve in a Wesminsterian church.

Although I'm not sure if Scott in fact has criticized Edwards as you suggest, it would be a bit amusing to consider him criticizing Edwards on that score, when Scott himself couldn't sign the original Westminster standards that Edwards was saying he had no problem with!
 

TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
The quote Edwards made regarding the Confession may support one of Prof. Scott's qualms with those who claim to hold to a confession. Edwards says he could subscribe the substance of the confession, which sounds similar to the "system of doctrine" position.

Highly doubtful--given Edwards' historical context in a congregationalist church and that the letter was sent to a Wesminsterian looking into calling Edwards to serve in a Wesminsterian church.

Although I'm not sure if Scott in fact has criticized Edwards as you suggest, it would be a bit amusing to consider him criticizing Edwards on that score, when Scott himself couldn't sign the original Westminster standards that Edwards was saying he had no problem with!

I'm not sure if Professor Scott's point is that we should all subscribe the original Westminster Confession. Rather, I think one of his points in RRC is that if we are confessional, we should subscribe a confession because it is Biblical, not in so far as it is Biblical.

The point I was making about Edwards saying he could subscribe the "substance" of the confession is that the "substance" of a confession really has no objective definition. It basically gives ministers who claim this position free reign to hold a wide variety of positions contrary to the confession they claim to subscribe.
 

mvdm

Puritan Board Junior
The quote Edwards made regarding the Confession may support one of Prof. Scott's qualms with those who claim to hold to a confession. Edwards says he could subscribe the substance of the confession, which sounds similar to the "system of doctrine" position.

Highly doubtful--given Edwards' historical context in a congregationalist church and that the letter was sent to a Wesminsterian looking into calling Edwards to serve in a Wesminsterian church.

Although I'm not sure if Scott in fact has criticized Edwards as you suggest, it would be a bit amusing to consider him criticizing Edwards on that score, when Scott himself couldn't sign the original Westminster standards that Edwards was saying he had no problem with!

I'm not sure if Professor Scott's point is that we should all subscribe the original Westminster Confession. Rather, I think one of his points in RRC is that if we are confessional, we should subscribe a confession because it is Biblical, not in so far as it is Biblical.

The point I was making about Edwards saying he could subscribe the "substance" of the confession is that the "substance" of a confession really has no objective definition. It basically gives ministers who claim this position free reign to hold a wide variety of positions contrary to the confession they claim to subscribe.

I understood the point. What I'm indicating is that based on that quote from JE's letter, it would be dubious indeed to reach the conclusion that Edwards fits the definition of what Scott criticizes in RRC.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
The quote Edwards made regarding the Confession may support one of Prof. Scott's qualms with those who claim to hold to a confession. Edwards says he could subscribe the substance of the confession, which sounds similar to the "system of doctrine" position.

Highly doubtful--given Edwards' historical context in a congregationalist church and that the letter was sent to a Wesminsterian looking into calling Edwards to serve in a Wesminsterian church.

Although I'm not sure if Scott in fact has criticized Edwards as you suggest, it would be a bit amusing to consider him criticizing Edwards on that score, when Scott himself couldn't sign the original Westminster standards that Edwards was saying he had no problem with!

I'm not sure if Professor Scott's point is that we should all subscribe the original Westminster Confession. Rather, I think one of his points in RRC is that if we are confessional, we should subscribe a confession because it is Biblical, not in so far as it is Biblical.

The point I was making about Edwards saying he could subscribe the "substance" of the confession is that the "substance" of a confession really has no objective definition. It basically gives ministers who claim this position free reign to hold a wide variety of positions contrary to the confession they claim to subscribe.

What is the difference between "Because it is Biblical" vs. "As far as it is Biblical", if you do not mandate a strict holding to the confession?

CT
 

TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
Highly doubtful--given Edwards' historical context in a congregationalist church and that the letter was sent to a Wesminsterian looking into calling Edwards to serve in a Wesminsterian church.

Although I'm not sure if Scott in fact has criticized Edwards as you suggest, it would be a bit amusing to consider him criticizing Edwards on that score, when Scott himself couldn't sign the original Westminster standards that Edwards was saying he had no problem with!

I'm not sure if Professor Scott's point is that we should all subscribe the original Westminster Confession. Rather, I think one of his points in RRC is that if we are confessional, we should subscribe a confession because it is Biblical, not in so far as it is Biblical.

The point I was making about Edwards saying he could subscribe the "substance" of the confession is that the "substance" of a confession really has no objective definition. It basically gives ministers who claim this position free reign to hold a wide variety of positions contrary to the confession they claim to subscribe.

What is the difference between "Because it is Biblical" vs. "As far as it is Biblical", if you do not mandate a strict holding to the confession?

CT

In very simple terms, I think by "because it is Biblical" Prof. Clark meant that no exceptions would be taken to the confession because it is thoroughly Biblical, whereas in the "as far as it is Biblical" approach exceptions are allowed and it is assumed that the confession is not Biblical in areas.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
I'm not sure if Professor Scott's point is that we should all subscribe the original Westminster Confession. Rather, I think one of his points in RRC is that if we are confessional, we should subscribe a confession because it is Biblical, not in so far as it is Biblical.

The point I was making about Edwards saying he could subscribe the "substance" of the confession is that the "substance" of a confession really has no objective definition. It basically gives ministers who claim this position free reign to hold a wide variety of positions contrary to the confession they claim to subscribe.

What is the difference between "Because it is Biblical" vs. "As far as it is Biblical", if you do not mandate a strict holding to the confession?

CT

In very simple terms, I think by "because it is Biblical" Prof. Clark meant that no exceptions would be taken to the confession because it is thoroughly Biblical, whereas in the "as far as it is Biblical" approach exceptions are allowed and it is assumed that the confession is not Biblical in areas.

And Prof. Clark would not have been able to say "because it is Biblical" to the same confession that Dr. Edwards had in front of him?

How would the confession have changed to something closer to what Dr. Clark believes is biblical without someone saying, "as far as it is Biblical" and taking an exception?

CT
 

TaylorOtwell

Puritan Board Junior
What is the difference between "Because it is Biblical" vs. "As far as it is Biblical", if you do not mandate a strict holding to the confession?

CT

In very simple terms, I think by "because it is Biblical" Prof. Clark meant that no exceptions would be taken to the confession because it is thoroughly Biblical, whereas in the "as far as it is Biblical" approach exceptions are allowed and it is assumed that the confession is not Biblical in areas.

And Prof. Clark would not have been able to say "because it is Biblical" to the same confession that Dr. Edwards had in front of him?

How would the confession have changed to something closer to what Dr. Clark believes is biblical without someone saying, "as far as it is Biblical" and taking an exception?

CT

I think what Prof. Clark says in RRC is that if we are subscribing "in so far as it is Biblical", why don't we modify it or write a confession that we can subscribe "because it is Biblical"?

From what I gathered from the book, he isn't against modifying old confessions or writing new confessions. I understood him to say that if we are going to be confessional lets really be confessional.
 

ChristianTrader

Puritan Board Graduate
In very simple terms, I think by "because it is Biblical" Prof. Clark meant that no exceptions would be taken to the confession because it is thoroughly Biblical, whereas in the "as far as it is Biblical" approach exceptions are allowed and it is assumed that the confession is not Biblical in areas.

And Prof. Clark would not have been able to say "because it is Biblical" to the same confession that Dr. Edwards had in front of him?

How would the confession have changed to something closer to what Dr. Clark believes is biblical without someone saying, "as far as it is Biblical" and taking an exception?

CT

I think what Prof. Clark says in RRC is that if we are subscribing "in so far as it is Biblical", why don't we modify it or write a confession that we can subscribe "because it is Biblical"?

From what I gathered from the book, he isn't against modifying old confessions or writing new confessions. I understood him to say that if we are going to be confessional lets really be confessional.

If that is his position, then is he saying when a small minority begins to disagree with their confession on a certain point, then they should splinter off into a new group? I am not sure of any confessional change that where the numbers required to change the confession appeared all at once at the beginning.

So for him to hold his position, someone had take exception, then wait for the numbers to prevail, and then amend the confession.

This type of person cannot use the confession as a battering ram. All a person has to do when a Prof. Clark type says, "X or Y is not Confessional, so it ought not be done/taught," is respond with, "It is not Confessional, yet"

CT
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
Van Mastricht is the next big translation project for the Dutch Reformed Translation Society.
 
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