Monday, April 09, 2007

Sacrament, signs, and understanding

'So the sacraments of the gospel can have proper effect no other way, than by conveying some knowledge. They represent certain things by visible signs. And what is the end of signs, but to convey some knowledge of the things signified? Such is the nature of man, that nothing can come at the heart but through the door of understanding: and there can be no spiritual knowledge of that of which there is not first a rational knowledge. It is impossible that anyone should see the truth or excellency of any doctrine of the gospel, who knows not what the doctrine is. A man cannot see the wonderful excellency and love of Christ in doing such and such things for sinners, unless his understanding be first informed how those things were done. He cannot have a taste of the sweetness and divine excellency of such and such things contained in divinity, unless he first have a notion that there are such and such things.'

'The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth', in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader Edited by Kimnach et al (Yale University Press, 1999), 32


Blogger jedidiah said...

In the middle of the 19th century John W. Nevin would criticize this very understanding of the way the sacrament works as "rationalist." His Mystical Presence (1848) is interesting in many respects one of which is to show just how influential Edwards's view on the relationship of grace and the understanding of human beings was for American theologians a century after Edwards's death.

2:40 pm  
Blogger Michael McClenahan said...


Thanks for your comment - can you give us a direct quotation from Nevin refuting Edwards? That would be interesting.

2:45 pm  

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