“Blessedness” In The Piety Of William Perkins: Objective Reality Or Subjective Experience? -- By: Stephen Yuille

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 01:2 (Jul 2009)
Article: “Blessedness” In The Piety Of William Perkins: Objective Reality Or Subjective Experience?
Author: Stephen Yuille


“Blessedness” In The Piety Of William Perkins: Objective Reality Or Subjective Experience?

Stephen Yuille

In Matthew 5:3 –12, Christ uses the term blessed nine times. What does He mean by it? According to John Stott, “Jesus is making an objective judgment about these people. He is declaring not what they may feel like (‘happy’), but what God thinks of them and what on that account they are: they are ‘blessed.’”1 John Blanchard agrees: “When the Bible tells us that someone is ‘blessed,’ it is not telling us what they feel but what they are.… Happiness is a subjective state, whereas blessedness is an objective state.”2

The objective nature of blessedness is confirmed in Romans 4:6-8, where Paul writes, “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.’”3 Here we find a three-fold description of the blessed man: (1) God forgives his iniquities; (2) God covers his sins; and (3) God does not impute sin to him. In other words, God does not take his sin into account. Instead, God credits Christ’s righteousness to him. Therefore, blessedness is rooted in the believer’s position in Christ; it is indeed an objective reality.

But does this necessarily exclude a subjective experience? Commenting on Matthew 5:3 –12, James Boice writes, “When Jesus spoke these words He was telling His listeners how they could be deeply,

spiritually, and profoundly happy and how they could maintain this happiness even in the midst of life’s disappointment and hard times.”4 Boice does not deny that blessedness is ultimately rooted in an objective state. However, he believes that our position in Christ leads to fellowship with God. For Boice, this fellowship is an essential component of blessedness.

John Calvin articulates a similar view, affirming that Christ’s aim in the Beatitudes is “to show where true peace of mind lies.”5 For Calvin, everyone desires “true peace of mind.” The problem is that most people err in their pursuit of it. Calvin speaks of the Stoics, who believe it is found in indifference — the impassionate acceptance of circumstance...

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