Jonathan Edwards On The Justice Of God -- By: Peter Aiken

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 06:2 (Jul 2014)
Article: Jonathan Edwards On The Justice Of God
Author: Peter Aiken


Jonathan Edwards On The Justice Of God

Peter Aiken

Increasingly in Christian churches today, the biblical teaching of the eternal damnation of sinners is questioned. The question is often raised how a loving God could eternally punish sinners. At the same time, the question of how God maintains His justice in pardoning sinners of their sins is rarely questioned. But both questions are integral to an understanding of the subject and both need to be addressed if the justice of God is going to be understood.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) wrote substantially on the subject of the justice of God, and he addressed both of these concerns in his writings. This paper will demonstrate that Edwards believed that God is just in all His actions towards mankind and that God is to be praised for all that He does. For Edwards, the glory of God is manifested in His justice, both in punishing the wicked for their sins and in saving His people from their sins. In a sermon entitled “All God’s Methods are Most Reasonable,” Edwards sought to show the justice of God in decreeing sin, in electing and reprobating, in making covenants, in giving commandments, in punishing, and in providential dealings in order to vindicate God of the charge of being unrighteous.1 This paper will limit its consideration of the justice of God principally to the issue of God’s justice in condemning the wicked and in providing salvation for the elect.

Jonathan Edwards

Edwards had a brilliant mind and has been labeled as America’s premier philosopher-theologian.2 But as Iain Murray points out, “The key to an understanding of Jonathan Edwards is that he was a man who put faithfulness to the Word of God before every other consideration.”3 He understood that it was the Christian’s business to honor God and that God will honor His truth and those who are faithful to it.4 While the notion of God’s justice pervades much of Edwards’s writings, he focused on the topic in a number of sermons, which include “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” “God is a Just and Righteous God,” and “The Justice of God in Making Satisfaction for Sin.” His treatment on the justice of God is important for consideration because of the vision of God that had obviously gripped Edwards in his reflection on biblical revelation and is presented through his writings. Whereas the human tendency is to focus on oneself, Edwards insisted on prioritizing the glory of God as the supreme goal of all study. He writes, “The g...

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