John Edwards (1637-1716) on the necessity of doctrinal preaching

John_Edwards

 

Knowledge is as necessary as practice in religion, yea even in the Christian religion. Which I will evince from these three propositions:

1. Knowledge is a necessary ingredient or part of Christianity, and consequently unless divine principles and truths be taught us, which are the true matter of our knowledge, our Christianity is imperfect. There wants a main and essential part of it, such a part as is absolutely requisite to make the other parts useful. For this is certain, that the practical parts of Christianity will be wholly insignificant, if they be separated from this. The reason is plain, because fearing and loving of God and keeping his commandments, are duties that can’t be practised aright without a due knowledge. Therefore a preacher must make his people knowing in religion. This is not his trade, as some reproachfully term it, but it is that which the nature of his high calling and office requires of him. For truth is a talent committed to us, and we are the trustees of this precious depositum. All our hearers have a right to share in this sacred treasure, and we must with faithfulness impart it to them. We must beware of imaginary draughts of Christianity, of false schemes of the Gospel, of which there are sundry extant at this day. These we must carefully avoid, and be very frequent in insisting on the fundamental articles of our faith, because our religion consists in true principles as well as right practice.

2. We ought to be very solicitous and careful in this matter, because, if our knowledge and our principles be corrupted, our practice will be so too. It cannot be otherwise, because the former have so great and so immediate an influence on the latter. Knowledge and belief are the foundations of Christianity, and a Christian life is the superstructure that is erected on them: whence it follows that he who supplants the Christian truth, undermines the life of religion, and effectually subverts its morals. By overturning the faith he destroys the practical part of Christianity, And truly on some accounts the corruption of the Christian doctrines, and error in judgment are worse than in manners, for the depraving of the understanding, the leading faculty of the soul, is in some respects more dangerous than a debauching of the will, I mean as to some particular instances. Yea, ‘tis certain that even an indifferency about the principal truths of religion is of pernicious consequence, as every day’s experience informs us, for from this cold and indifferent temper many slip into atheism and all manner of irreligion and immorality. Wherefore there is a necessity of our being right in our opinions as to religious matters.

3. Knowledge of divine truths is a necessary condition of our happiness, and on that account (as well as the others before-mentioned) the preacher is obliged to instruct and inform men’s minds about the doctrinal part of religion. We must know then that our religion and our happiness answer to one another. As we cannot be said to be religious without understanding and knowledge, so neither can we be happy without them, for they are necessary ingredients of both. Which will easily be granted by those who have a true notion of happiness, which consists in the perfecting our understandings, as well as our wills and actions. Which confutes that prevailing opinion before-mentioned, that men of all persuasions and sects may be saved, which cannot be true if a right knowledge be necessary to happiness. And this is the profess’d doctrine of our Church [i.e. the Church of England] in her eighteenth article. Besides, it is required of us in order to our future blessedness, that we make open profession of our faith, with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, saith the Apostle in Rom. 10:10, and certainly this implies that we are bound to know the articles of our faith, and the doctrines and truths of our most holy religion. And this implies without doubt that we are to explain these to the people, and to study to remove from them all ignorance of the necessary points of religion, and to help them to a true and right understanding of all the fundamental and essential doctrines of Christianity. Our place and function exact this of us [as preachers], and we should be unfaithful to men’s souls if we should neglect this.

In brief, we must instruct the people in the sacred truths of the Gospel, and the whole body of its principles, or else we cannot lay claim to that character of being good ministers of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and good doctrine, that is well acquainted with and imparting unto others the knowledge of the principles of Christianity.

– John Edwards (1637-1716), The Preacher, 1:50-53.

For more on this theme, see this series of three years ago from the later Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on why all Christians must endeavour to become proficient in theology.

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Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690) on union with Christ, double imputation, and justification

Ezekiel Hopkins

 

In a previous post we looked at a snippet from John Edwards of Cambridge (1637-1716) on the believer’s union with Christ as the foundation of double imputation. The same doctrine can be seen beautifully treated by another Reformed conforming churchman, Ezekiel Hopkins (1634-1690), Bishop of Derry in Ireland, in his posthumously published The Doctrine of the Two Covenants (1712, p. 52-53):

…Faith gives us a title to the righteousness of Christ, and makes it ours not only by the promise of God, but as it is the bond of union between Christ and the soul. By faith it is that we are made mystically one with Christ, living members in his body, fruitful branches of that heavenly and spiritual vine. We have the communication of the same name. So also is Christ, saith the Apostle (1 Cor. 12:12), speaking there of Christ mystical, both his Person and his Church. We have the same relations, I ascend to my Father and to your Father (John 20:17). We are made partakers of the same Spirit, for if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his (Rom. 8:9), he that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). And finally, the very life that we live is said not to be ours, but Christ liveth in us, and that we live by the faith of the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). So that being thus one with Christ, his righteousness becomes our righteousness, even as our sins became his: and God deals with Christ and believers, as if they were one person. The sins of believers are charg’d upon Christ, as though they were his; and the righteousness of Christ is reckoned to believers as theirs: neither is God unjust either in the one, or the other imputation, because they are mystically one; and this mystical union is a sufficient ground for imputation. Yet from this union flows the participation only of the benefits of his mediatorship: for we are not hereby transubstantiated or deify’d, as some of late years have blasphemously conceited; neither the Godhead of Christ, nor his essential righteousness as God, nor his divine and infinite properties are made ours; but only the fruits and effects of his mediation: so that hereupon God graciously accounts of us as if we had done in our own persons, whatsoever Christ hath done for us, because by faith Christ and we are made one.

Later on he offers a further discussion of this doctrine, this time drawing on the biblical imagery of the marriage between Christ and believers (p. 186-188):

Faith makes the righteousness of Christ to be ours, as it is the bond of that mystical union that there is between Christ and the believing soul. If Christ and the believer be one, the righteousness of Christ may well be reckoned as the righteousness of the believer. Nay, mutual imputation flows from mystical union: the sins of believers are imputed to Christ, and the righteousness of Christ to them; and both justly, because being united each to [the] other by a mutual consent (which consent on our part is faith) God considers them but as one person. As it is in marriage, the husband stands liable to the wife’s debts, and the wife stands interested in her husband’s possessions, so it is here: faith is the marriage-band and tie between Christ and a believer; and therefore all the debts of a believer are chargeable upon Christ, and the righteousness of Christ is instated upon the believer: so that upon the account of this marriage-union he hath a legal right and title to the purchase made by it. Indeed this union is an high and inscrutable mystery, yet plain it is that there is such [a] close, spiritual, and real union between Christ and a believer. The Scripture often both expressly affirms it, He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17); and also lively illustrates it by several resemblances. It is likewise plain that the band of this union on the believer’s part is faith: consult Rom. 11:17 with 11:20. And therefore from the nearness of this union there follows a communication of interests and concerns: insomuch that the Church is called Christ (1 Cor. 12:12, so also is Christ), and their sufferings called the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24; Acts 9:4). So likewise from this mystical union the sins of believers are laid upon Christ, and his righteousness imputed unto them: see this as to both parts: He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21) and He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon us (Gal. 3:13-14). It is still upon the account of this union that Christ was reckoned a sinner, and we are reckoned as righteous. And therefore as faith is the bond and tye of this union, so it is, without more difficulty, the way and means of our justification. By faith we are united unto Christ; by that union we have truly a righteousness; and upon that righteousness the justice of God, as well as his mercy, is engaged to justifie and acquit us.

Edward Lake (1641-1704) on the remarkable faith of the thief next to Christ on the cross

Edward_Lake

Edward Lake (1641-1704) was a Church of England minister, chaplain and tutor to princesses Mary and Anne, Archdeacon of Exeter, and rector of the united parishes of St. Mary-at-Hill and St. Andrew Hubbard in London. In a sermon on Luke 23:43, Lake speaks about the remarkable faith of the thief next to Christ on the cross:

There are three famous conversions recorded in Scripture, which we most gratefully commemorate: St. Paul’s, Mary Magdalen’s, and this penitent thief’s. But among them all, this of the thief appears most illustrious: For Mary Magdalen had seen many of our Saviour’s miracles, had heard many of his sermons; and withal her sister’s good example might influence her, and work much upon her: And for St. Paul, he saw Christ surrounded with glory, more resplendent than the sun at noon day; he likewise heard his powerful voice calling upon him to return: but this convert never saw miracle, never heard sermon, never had seen the good example nor the glory of Christ; but only saw him in his humiliation and disgrace, rent and torn upon the cross, as if he had been as arrant a malefactor as himself. O wonderful change! That a man deservedly condemned to the cross, should in an instant turn and become a confessor. We may say of him, as our Saviour did of the Syrophoenician woman, Great is thy faith, which can see the sun under so thick a cloud, that can discover a Saviour under such a veil of misery, and call him Lord; that when he saw Jesus struggling for his own life, when no deliverer came to him, yet could cast himself upon him for his everlasting safety, Lord remember me. I question whether the apostles themselves reached in some particulars to such a faith; they acknowledged indeed Jesus to be Christ while he lived, but denied him upon his arraignment; and when he was dead, they spake diffidently, We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel; they could not tell what to make of it: but this man very stoutly confesseth him even while he was dying.

– Edward Lake (1641-1704), Sixteen sermons preached upon Several Occasions, p. 73-74