Edwards on Judging Whether Someone is Truly a Christian or Not

Edwards on Judging Whether Someone is Truly a Christian or Not

(from Marsden’s biography ‘Jonathan Edwards: A Life’)
 
“Perhaps most important for those who were alarmed at the awakenings’ excesses was that Edwards warned strongly against the censorious spirit that was becoming epidemic in the awakening. Following the lead of the itinerant, converts like David Brainerd were judging professing Christians to hypocrites who know nothing of true religion. Edwards argued with some passion that such judgments were unscriptural and unwarranted. Scripture left the separation of the wheat from the chaff until the last judgment. All the visible church could do in the meantime was to judge who were visibly saints “to be received as such in the eye of a public charity.” Edwards had much experience in this domain from the revival of 1734-5. “I once did not imagine that the heart of man had been so unsearchable as I find it is,” he confessed. “I am less charitable, and less uncharitable than I once was.” From hard experience of seeing a revival come and go, he now realized that the wicked may appear more godly than he had thought (hence he was less charitable in judging persons converted). And the godly might appear carnal and ungodly (hence he was less uncharitable in judging others unconverted). While he still searched for rules to tell the difference, humility was the best stance.” (234)
 
“Edwards showed that he had repeatedly said it was impossible to judge people’s hearts and that the church could deal only in probabilities in evaluating visible sainthood. Furthermore, he had explicitly said that some charity must be granted to people who had scruples about the evidence of their own godliness. So he was not requiring the highest evidence of godliness; all he was demanding was some believable evidence that a candidate was truly godly.” (368)

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