Great counsel from Jonathan Edwards’ classic Religious Affections

Forward to Christ

Forward to Christ 

When a newly-converted young lady from Connecticut wrote Jonathan Edwards a letter in 1741 seeking advice on growth in godliness and assurance, the venerable theologian wrote back and offered words that might be unconscionable in popular evangelical circles today.

Essentially, Edwards told her, “Don’t look back.”

In point 10 of his 17-point answer, Edwards advised the young matron regarding “times when you fall into doubts about the state of your soul” as follows:

It is proper to review your past experience; but do not consume too much time and strength in this way; rather apply yourself, with all your might, to an earnest pursuit after renewed experience, new light, and new lively acts of faith and love. One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face, will do more toward scattering clouds of darkness in one minute, than examining old experience, by the best marks that can be given, through a whole year.[1]

For Edwards, “looking back” did little or nothing to imbue the believer with unshakable assurance of salvation. Edwards held that the believer must, by God’s grace, persevere in bearing fruit and then the evidence of a sanctified life would effectively assure the believer of his or her standing before God. Edwards understood the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians and how he spoke of “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead:” the Christian pilgrimage is not a fifty-yard dash, but a rigorous marathon, fraught with obstacles and alternative dead-end paths. To stay such a treacherous course, Christians need objective marks of conversion, thus Edwards’ admonition for the young lady to apply herself to “new lively acts of faith and love.”

Read entire article by Jeff Robinson

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