The Works of President Edwards, Volume 2

Jonathan Edwards
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Proofs of the Doctrine from particular parts of Scripture. Observations on Texts chiefly of the Old Testament c. Observations on Texts principally in the New Testament. Containing observations on Rom v The true scope of Rom v 12 c. Concerning Sins first entrance.

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Of Gods Moral character. Spiritual delight is a simple idea or sensation like our ideas of color or extension. The dispositional property is a power objects have to produce these ideas in our understandings. Benevolence is the objective configuration underlying this power and corresponds to the microstructure of bodies that underlie their tendency to excite ideas of color or extension in minds like ours. For example, a conviction of Christ's sufficiency as a mediator depends on an apprehension of his beauty and excellency.

The new sense also helps us grasp the truth of the gospel scheme as a whole. Edwards' defense of the objectivity of the new spiritual sense has four steps. The world is an interconnected system of minds and ideas in which the only true substance and cause is an infinite and omnipotent love. Human benevolence is thus an appropriate or fitting response to reality.

Since benevolence is an appropriate response to reality, so too is benevolence's delight in benevolence. There is also an implicit theological defense of the spiritual sense's objectivity. There were Puritan precedents for these claims. Edwards is making two claims. First, the new spiritual disposition and tastes which God bestows on the soul are divine.

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The differences between God's love and joy and the love and joy that he bestows on his saints is a difference of degree, not of nature or kind. Hence, since God in some sense is reality or being itself, it follows that the spiritual sense is necessarily aligned with reality. Edwards thinks that reason can prove that God exists, establish many of his attributes, discern our obligations to him, and mount a probable case for the credibility of scripture. His view is briefly this. Since accurate reasoning about a subject matter requires attending to actual ideas of it, one can't accurately reason about religion if one lack the relevant actual ideas.

To have an actual idea of God, for example, one must have actual ideas of the ideas that compose it. But most of us don't. Those parts of the idea of God that everyone has ideas of knowledge, power, and justice, for instance either aren't attended to or, if they are, fail to elicit the appropriate affective reaction.

In addition, we can't fully understand ideas of affections which we haven't experienced and so can't properly understand God's benevolence if we aren't benevolent ourselves. And without the simple idea of true beauty, one can understand neither God's holiness nor the facts that depend on it. True benevolence remedies these deficiencies.

Because the desires of the truly benevolent are properly ordered, they attend to ideas of religion and are suitably affected by the ideas of God's attributes and activities that everyone has. They fear his wrath, for example, and are grateful for his benefits. Furthermore, they understand God's benevolence because their own benevolence mirrors it.

Finally, the truly benevolent delight in the benevolence in which holiness consists, i. Edwards' claim, then, is that to reason accurately about God one must have an actual idea of him, and to have that one must be truly benevolent.


Right reasoning about religious matters requires right affections. Edwards is an evidentialist. Rational religious beliefs are either properly basic or rest on good evidence. A belief that the gospel scheme exhibits true beauty is an example of the former. But most religious beliefs depend on evidence. Sometimes this evidence includes the idea of true beauty. Even when it does not, however, the right affections are needed to appreciate its force.

The Works of President Edwards (10 vols.)

In either case, only those with properly disposed hearts can read the evidence correctly. The trustees of the College of New Jersey invited Edwards to become its third president in In his reply Edwards gave a number of reasons why he hesitated to accept their offer. For creation and providence are subordinate to a redemption which is itself subordinate only to God's glory. Edwards' History would also have provided a fitting climax to his intellectual career as a whole. For it is in his work of redemption that God's sovereignty, holiness, and splendor are most fully displayed.

It is doubtful, however, that Edwards' work would have anticipated modern historiography as some claim. For one thing, the sermon series is essentially a doctrinal work. The section on Christ's earthly ministry, for instance, is a discussion of the incarnation and atonement, not a life of Jesus. Finally, Edwards doesn't restrict himself to natural causes in explaining events but also appeals to divine decrees and typology. Whatever novelty the sermon series possesses is literary and theological. It partly consists in the rich skein of images Edwards uses to connect the events of redemption history.

Protestant divines had tended to restrict typology to figures, actions, and objects in the Old Testament which in their view shadowed forth Christ as their antitype. Edwards interprets the New Testament typologically as well, arguing that relevant passages prefigure events in the church's later history. Most radically, Edwards construes nature typologically. Whether this constitutes a step towards Emerson and Thoreau, as some claim, is a moot point. Finally, Edwards' emphasis on the objective side of God's act of redemption is comparatively rare in a Puritanism which tended to stress the redemption's application to individual souls.

The subjective side is extensively treated in a number of works of the s and s, however, the most important of which is Religious Affections. Life 2. Metaphysics 2.

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Value Theory 3. Epistemology 4. Life Edwards was born into a family of prominent Congregational ministers in East Windsor, Connecticut in He saw that if modern divines…can maintain their peculiar notion of freedom, consisting in the self-determining power of the will, as necessary to moral agency…, then they have an impregnable castle, to which they may repair, and remain invincible, in all the controversies they have with the reformed divines concerning original sin , the sovereignty of grace, election…, and other principles of the like kind.

Original Sin , ; Edwards —, vol. Miscellany 94 identifies perfect entity and perfect activity: God is a pure act…because that which acts perfectly is all act, and nothing but act. There is an image of this in created beings that approach to perfect action. Edwards —, vol. Dwight ed. A widely available edition of Edwards' work. A reprint of the ed. Perry Miller vols. Smith vols. Stout vols. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Supersedes all earlier editions. The extended introductions are especially helpful.

Individual Titles

Secondary Sources Brown, Robert E. Cooey, Paula M. Crisp, Oliver D.

Danaher, William J. Daniel, Stephen H. Delattre, Roland A. Elwood, Douglas J. Holbrook, Clyde A. Jenson, Robert W. Jonathan Edwards. Albert Bledsoe. Lyman Beecher. Samuel Davies.

Volume 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723

Noah Porter. Samuel Hopkins. Francisco Palou. Gotthardt Bernheim. Mark Hopkins. Laurens Hickok. Charles Chauncy. Francis Hawks. Samuel Goton. William Stone. Daniel Kidder.