“And Prophecy Shall Cease”: Jonathan Edwards On The Cessation Of The Gift Of Prophecy -- By: Philip A. Craig

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 64:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: “And Prophecy Shall Cease”: Jonathan Edwards On The Cessation Of The Gift Of Prophecy
Author: Philip A. Craig


“And Prophecy Shall Cease”:
Jonathan Edwards On The Cessation Of The Gift Of Prophecy

Philip A. Craig*

[*Philip A. Craig is General Editor of The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, Scotland.]

This article will trace out the development of the Reformed view of cessationism (the doctrine that revelatory “sign gifts” such as prophecy ceased with the early apostolic church), with particular emphasis on Jonathan Edwards rather than B. B. Warfield as the culminating figure in this development. Edwards invites our attention especially because he is considered by many the theologian of revival par excellence,1 and encountered a supposed revival of prophecy firsthand during the Great Awakening. This article will further buttress John D. Hannah’s recent claim that contemporary charismatics are misappropriating Edwards’s theology as they seek to justify prophecy as a continuing gift for today.2

Despite a renewal of interest in his theology, Edwards’s view of cessationism has been much neglected by evangelicals today. Edwards merits nary a mention, for example, in Wayne Grudem’s recently edited Are Miraculous Gifts For Today?: Four Views.3 This neglect may have come about because Edwards bases his case for cessationism far more on his understanding of redemptive history and canon than on his exegesis of disputed Scripture passages. I hope to demonstrate that Edwards’s position, a more full-orbed understanding of cessationism than has been suspected, has unfortunately been neglected, much to the endangerment of the contemporary evangelical church.

In order to unpack Edwards’s view of cessationism, I will examine a number of related strands: (1) his distinctive understanding of redemptive history, with the sign gifts operative during the period of the early church’s minority (or immaturity); (2) his understanding of Christian charity as the preeminent spiritual grace; (3) his view of canon and its implications for the supposed continuation of prophecy; (4) his repeated experience with failed prophecies during the Great Awakening; (5) his controversy with Whitefield and also with Davenport and Croswell over so-called revelatory impulses; (6) the Puritan view of prophesying

as being intimately connected with preaching as the preeminent means of grace; (7) the impact of the New England Antinomian Controversy on Edwards’s view; (8) his expressed fear that the extreme New Lights marked the emergence of a counterfeit evangelical Christianity; and (9) his view of Scripture’s ...

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