Friday, April 07, 2006

Beatific Vision III

A good question from a colleague has set me thinking about Edwards and union with Christ and the way he develops this theme in the context of the transition from earthly pilgrimage to heavenly glory. This quotation should serve as Edwards' own introduction to the unio mystica and some important conceptual distinctions. It runs as follows:

'The souls of true Saints, when absent from the Body, go to be with JESUS CHRIST, as they are brought into a most perfect Conformity to and Union with him. … And then the Saints Union with CHRIST is perfected. This also is begun in this World. The relative Union is both begun and perfected at once, when the Soul first closes with CHRIST by Faith. The real Union, consisting in the Union of Hearts and Affections, and in the vital Union, is begun in this World and perfected in the next. The Union of the Heart of a Believer to CHRIST is begun when his Heart is drawn to CHRIST, by the first Discovery of divine Excellency, at Conversion; and consequent on this Drawing and Closing of his Heart with CHRIST, is established a vital Union with CHRIST; whereby the Believer becomes a living Branch of the true Vine, living by a Communication of the Sap and vital Juice of the Stock and Root, and a Member of CHRIST’S mystical Body, living by a Communication of spiritual and vital Influences from the Head, and by a kind of Participation of CHRIST’S own life. But while the saints are in the Body, there is much remaining Distance between CHRIST and them: There are Remainders of Alienation, and the vital Union is very imperfect; and so consequently, are the Communication of spiritual Life and vital Influences: There is much between CHRIST and Believers to keep them asunder, much indwelling Sin, much Temptation, a heavy-molded frail Body, and a world of carnal Objects, to keep off the Soul from CHRIST, and hinder a perfect Coalescence. But when the Soul leaves the Body, all these Clogs and Hindrances shall be removed, every Separating Wall shall be broken down, and every Impediment taken out of the Way, and all Distance shall cease; the Heart shall be wholly and perfectly drawn, and most firmly and forever attached and bound to him, by a perfect View of his Glory. And the vital Union shall then be brought to Perfection. The Soul shall live perfectly in and upon CHRIST, being perfectly fill’d with his Spirit, and animated by his vital Influences; living as it were only by CHRIST’s Life, without any Remainder of spiritual Death, or carnal Life.'

Jonathan Edwards, True saints, when absent from the body, are present with the Lord (Boston, 1747), 11-12. Funeral Sermon for David Brainerd. Forthcoming in Works, 25.


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