Jonathan Edwards and Justification by Faith (Part Two) -- By: Brandon G. Withrow
RAR 11:3 (Summer 2002) p. 98
Jonathan Edwards and Justification by Faith (Part Two)
As previously stated, in the first part of this article,a traditional Protestant understanding separates regeneration from justification. One is not justified in regeneration; rather, regeneration leads one to justifying faith and a legal acceptance before the judgment seat. However, these two elements of salvation are not so separated in Edwards’ presentation of the salvation process. He writes: “Supposing a man dies suddenly and not in the actual exercise of faith, ‘tis his [regenerated] disposition that saves him.”1 This passage is significant in that it appears to attribute saving righteousness to the regenerated disposition which has not been declared righteous until justification. Edwards believes that the righteousness of justification is an “intrinsic reality.”2 Does a saving disposition equal the justifying righteousness of Christ?3 No. But a saving disposition contains the faith by which one is united to Christ and declared righteous.
Edwards interacted on this issue with his grandfather Solomon Stoddard. Edwards writes, “A principle thing that made Mr. Stoddard think that there was no grace in humiliation (a principle of faith), was because he looked upon an
RAR 11:3 (Summer 2002) p. 99
explicit act of faith in Jesus Christ as evermore the first gracious act that ever was exerted.”4 Theologians like Stoddard asserted that a person “can’t be saved before he has actually believed,” or in other words, one is not saved in regeneration prior to the act of saving faith.5 In Miscellanies 77 Edwards disagrees: “What is held by some that none can be in a state of salvation before they have particularly acted a reception of the Lord Jesus Christ for a Savior, and that there cannot be sanctification one moment before the exercise of faith, as they have described it, cannot be true, as they explain the reception of Christ.”6 Edwards challenges Stoddard by saying that there are principles of faith that count as “acts of [saving] faith.”7 He reasons:
The graces of the Spirit, especially those that more directly respect God and another world, are so nearly allied that they include one another; and where there is the exercise of one, there is something of ...
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