How Jonathan Edwards, Junior Relates to
Heresy of Decisional Regeneration
|Jonathan Edwards, Jr. (1745-1801) , sometimes called "the younger" to distinguish him from his famous father, was a typical second generation New Light Calvinist minister that called people to make an immediate decision for Christ. His biography is as exciting as The Last Of The Mohicans. In fact, much of his early life was spent with indians away from home and his father wrote letters frequently concerned for his salvation.|
Jonathan Edwards wrote his son in 1755 during the French and Indian War: "Always set God before your eyes, and live in his fear, and seek him every day with all diligence. For He, and He only can make you happy or miserable, as He pleases; and your life and health, and the eternal salvation of your soul and your all in this life and that which is to come depends on His will and pleasure". (3 years after he wrote this letter, Jonathan Edwards ironically died from a small pox inoculation he took to show the students at the College of New Jersey to use modern methods of science and not rely on prayer alone for God to prevent sickness and death).
"The week before last, on Thursday, David Died; whom you knew and used to play with, and who used to live at our house. His soul has gone into the eternal world. Whether he was prepared for death, we don't know. This is a loud call of God to you to prepare for death. You see that they that are young die, as well as those that are old. David was not much older than you. Remember what Christ said, that ye must be born again. never give yourself any rest, unless you have good evidence that you are converted & become a new creature. ...Your tender and affectionate father, Jonathan Edwards".
Young Edwards did not forget what his father told him. he went on to become a second generation New Light Calvinist minister. He also wrote letters to his children concerning the state of their souls, and sometimes they told him things that made him sad. This letter was written to him by his 21 year old daughter Jerusha in 1797: " If I could answer your letter so as to give any satisfaction, or make you less anxious for the state of my soul how great would be my lot but I fear I cannot. Far be it from me to wish to conceal the truth. The thoughts of death & eternity are often in my mind, that I am a sinner, & unworthy of the least of God's mercies I feel daily feel...How can I know whether God has ever bestowed his grace on me or not? If I could answer that to my own satisfaction, to myself, I could answer it to you Sir, but I can not...Do write to me Sir and in the plainest manner tell me my duty and the way of eternal life".
Edwards may well have written his daughter what he told a parishioner in similar condition 10 years before: "It is our duty to believe for the same reason as it is our duty to do anything else which God has not decreed to give us an inclination to do: for instance to read the scriptures, to pray, to worship God in any form, to pay our debts, to speak the truth, etc. If any man neglects any of these duties, this very neglect proves, that God did not decree to influence him to perform the duty neglected, but did decree to permit the neglect of it."
IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND PREDETERMINATION, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT EDWARDS IS TALKING ABOUT. SAMUEL HOPKINS PROVIDES THE MOST SUCCINT EXPLANATION. UNLESS YOU UNDERSTAND PREDETERMINATION, YOU CAN NOT UNDERSTANDING THE NEW LIGHT CALVINIST DECISION FOR CHRIST OR THE CONSECUTIONAL BASIS OF THE "ALTAR CALLS" OF NETTLETON, BEECHER AND FINNEY.
Jonathan Edwards Junior preached faith as a duty. The faith of people who came to the Inquiry Room before the Civil War was almost always common faith. It was only after the Civil War when fourth generation New Light Calvinists started to equate believing Scripture with saving faith that the understanding of common faith was gradually lost and "bare faith" became "saving faith" that caused de facto regeneration.
Jonathan Edwards Junior told young ministers: "Preach those doctrines and those duties which are immediately connected with (faith); such as the new birth, conversion, repentance unto life, Supreme love to God, real and direct benevolence to mankind, the divine efficacious grace and the sovereignty of it, the saint's perseverance, and endless rewards and punishments. Preach the dependence of man on God for faith as well as for grace in general; yet preach the duty of faith, even the duty of all men to whom the gospel is preached, to repent and believe the gospel, and that no man hath a right to procrastinate this duty at all".
Unlike the typical evangelical altar call of today, there was no assurance of salvation for those that performed an immediate duty of faith. But even though there was no absolute promise to the sinner who strives to fulfill the will of God, "the experience of all ages shows that while thus seriously pursuing and attending to the solemn truths of the gospel, he is in the most likely way that he can be in, to obtain the saving grace of God".
"God has furnished them (the non-elect) with such means for salvation that if they were heartily willing to accept the offer, no real obstacle would be in the way. Except giving them a willingness, he has done everything he could be expected to do, were he ever so desirous they would accept. But he is under no obligation to give them a willingness".
Jonathan Edwards, Junior lived in the homes of Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins, learning the theology of the two main Edwardsean schools of ministry.
He personally taught nearly 300 future ministers in his home. Among his most famous pupils was Timothy Dwight, who was also his nephew. We gain an an insight into second generation New Light Calvinism with exerpts taken from Edwards' Miscellaneous Observations on Preaching: "The antinomians are the most devout & zealous in the country & in the world. The Edwardsean almost all fail through want of zeal & devotion. Therefore, the zeal of the former is worthy of being imitated by the latter...The Edwardseans are too apt to run into argumentative & what is commonly called a metaphysical way of preaching".
This"metaphysical way of preaching" was inevitable with second generation New Light Calvinist, since their "altar call" was consecutional and based on predetermination.
Second generation New Light Calvinists had replaced "religious affections" with "disinetersted benevolence" as the first evidence of regeneration. There could be no more metaphysical evidence of regeneration than the willingness to go to hell if it be God's decree - the ultimate expression (according to Samuel Hopkins) of disinterested benevolence.