Wednesday, February 06, 2008

At last! Sure evidence of God's saving work in a person's life.

I was beginning to feel terrible about not having posted since Thanksgiving, until I realized that I have at least written more recently than the Blue Raja. And then I discovered that no less a personage than uberposter David Wayne, the JollyBlogger has also gotten bogged down when working through The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. There now, having stood on the shoulders of two of my betters, I feel better. Well not really. It’s pretty sad seeking justification through comparisons with others.

Kvetching out of the way, I have finally reached the place in The Religious Affections where Edwards begins to describe those affections which are “truly gracious and holy.” Oddly, (to me at least) this unveiling of the book’s central premise doesn’t occur until the middle of the book, pg. 160 in the Banner of Truth paperback version I’m utilizing. And not only does this significant matter finally apppear in the middle of the book, it turns up in the middle of a section head. One never knows what to expect from those wild and crazy Puritan writers.

I will say, though, it is worth the work to get there, much like a view you achieve only when reaching a mountain peak after an arduous climb. In this case, the material that precedes supports the conclusions and makes the arguments all the more compelling. Edwards has gone to such great care to demonstrate what are not sure evidences of a genuine conversion, that when he moves into the positive territory of what are true marks of God’s presence in a believer’s life, you are well equipped to quickly grasp the differences.

He begins his treatment of these positive indications of God’s saving work in a person’s life with the observation that a truly regenerate believer has received the Holy Spirit into their life, and notes that the Bible describes this employing the separate metaphors of a seal and a deposit. With his typical incisive reasoning, Edwards demonstrates that these two metaphors are functionally equivalent in that they both depict the same phenomenon, the reception of the Holy Spirit of God by the believer. Here’s how Edwards puts it:

“When God sets his seal on a man’s heart by his Spirit, there is some holy stamp, some image impressed, and left upon the heart by the Spirit, as by the seal upon the wax. And this holy stamp, or impressed image, exhibiting clear evidence to the conscience, that the subject of it is the child of God, is the very thing which in Scripture is called the seal of the Spirit, and the witness or evidence of the Spirit. And this mark enstamped by the Spirit on God’s children, is his own image. That is the evidence by which they are known to be God’s children; they have the image of their Father stamped upon their hearts by the Spirit of adoption.” (pg. 160; The Religious Affections; The Banner of Truth Trust,2004.)
Thus, the person who has truly become a Christian will have present within them something of the very nature of God. This indwelling of the Spirit will reveal itself in ways that are exclusive of any other cause. He goes on to point out that because this deposit/seal of the Spirit is a conveyance of God’s own nature, it is therefore impossible to be counterfeited by either man or demon. In Edwards own words,

“This is truly an effect that is spiritual, supernatural, and divine. This is in itself of a holy nature, being a communication of the divine nature and beauty. That kind of influence of the Spirit which gives and leaves this stamp upon the heart, is such that no natural man can be the subject of anything of the like nature with it. This is the highest sort of witness of the Spirit which it is possible the soul should be the subject of: if there were any such thing as a witness of the Spirit by immediate suggestion or revelation, this would be vastly more noble and excellent, and much above it as the heaven is above the earth. This the devil cannot imitate.” (p. 161; The Religious Affections; The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004.)
Aside from the concern about how to determine who is a truly regenerate soul, this truth about the Holy Spirit transferring to the believer something of the creator’s divine essence is wonderful to contemplate on its own. To think that when I placed my faith in Jesus, the Spirit transmitted to me something of God’s own nature, is wonderfully comforting, humbling and encouraging. What an incredible thought—Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Religious Affections Entry #1
Religious Affections Entry #2
Religious Affections Entry #3
Religious Affections Entry #4
Religious Affections Entry #5

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