John Edwards (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation

John_Edwards

 

In his The Doctrin [sic] of Faith and Justification set in a True Light, the Reformed Conformist John Edwards (1637-1716) extensively discusses the doctrine of double imputation, or, to use his parlance, mutual imputation. That is, the mutual imputation of the sin of believers to Christ on the cross and the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience to believers. Concerning the latter imputation, Edwards writes (spelling modernized):

“By Christ’s obedience we are esteemed by God as obedient: and in Christ’s undergoing the penalty of disobedience, we are looked upon as undergoing that penalty ourselves […] God accounts of it as if we had satisfied in our own persons.” (p. 292-293)

He goes on to discuss how this mutual imputation is founded on believers’ union with Christ by faith (p. 294):

“Believers are virtually the same with Christ: they are accounted as one person with him, and he with them. This near conjunction, or rather identity, is set forth by that of husband and wife (Eph. 5:31), of the head and its members (Eph. 4:15; Col. 2:19), of the vine and its branches (Rom. 11:17; John 15:1-2). As the husband and wife are but one legal person, as the head and members make but one body, and the vine and branches but one tree, so Christ and the regenerate are reckoned the same. They are not only one body (1 Cor. 12:13), but one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Yea, as the Father and Christ are one, so Christ and believers are one. That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us (John 17:21). That they may be one, even as we are one (v. 22). It must be a very true, real and strict union that is expressed to us by so many ways. Now, this near and intimate conjunction between Christ and his chosen, is the foundation of the reciprocal transferring of sin and righteousness. For Christ, and the faithful, being by their near union become one mystical person, there must needs flow from thence this interchangeable communication. By virtue of this coalition it is, that believers are reckoned to have done and suffered the very same things that Christ did and suffered. Not only their sins are transferred on him, but his obedience and death are esteemed as theirs. This is the natural result of Christ’s being made, by the Divine appointment and constitution, one person with us.”

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