My thoughts (and quotes) from the introduction to Part III
Before actually explaining the difference between true and false affections, Edwards wants readers to take note of three points.
- We cannot know with certainty who is saved and who is not . . . it was never God’s design to give us any rules by which we may certainly know who of our fellow professors are His, and to make a full and clear separation between sheep and goats. On the contrary, it was God’s design to reserve this to Himself as His prerogative.
- About saints who are not living lives worthy of the calling: No such signs are to be expected, that shall be sufficient to enable those saints certainly to discern their own good estate who are very low in grace . . .
He made no provision that such should certainly know the state that they are in, any other way than by first coming out of the ill frame and way they are in. In the lives of these believers, grace, being very small, cannot be clearly and certainly discerned and distinguished.
- Eg1 Although the body of a man and that of an animal are so easy to distinguish when grown, they are not that easy to distinguish just after conception in the womb.
- Eg2 Doves and Ravens are not easy to distinguish just after they hatch.
- Eg3 A star and a comet may look similar when seen through a cloud.
Sin makes it impossible for a saint living in it to see clearly. Even if the signs of assurance of salvation are explained to him, he cannot see them. It is like giving a man rules how to distinguish visible objects in the dark; the things themselves may be very different, and their difference may be very well and distinctly described to him; yet all is insufficient to enable him to distinguish them, because he is in the dark.
The way God wants us to become assured is not by sitting down and introspecting but more by actually running in the path of sanctification. It is not God’s design that men should obtain assurance in any other way than by mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace, and obtaining the lively exercises of it . . .
- Scripture1 forgetting the things that were behind , and reaching forth unto those things that were before, pressing towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; if by any means he might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
- Scripture1 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly.
. . . good rules to distinguish true grace from counterfeit, as we are about to study, may:
- tend to convince hypocrites
- are of great use to the saints. Towards the end of the next point, Edwards explains: Such rules may be of use to true saints, to detect false affections which they may have mingled with true; and be a means of their religion’s becoming more pure . . .
- but are not enough to assure saints who are in sin
- About hypocrites impersonating saints: The rules are of no use to hypocrites. Such hypocrites are so conceited of their own wisdom, and so blinded and hardened with a very great self-righteousness (but very subtle and secret, under the guise of great humility.)
[Tim Challies has a blog feature called Reading Classics, where he and many other online friends read a selected Christian classic in a synchronized way and share their views. The classic being studied currently is The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards.]