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Comments on Jonathan Edwards
“An Unpublished Essay on the Trinity”
Note concerning research of Jonathan Edwards’ miscellanies. Go to Google search “Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.” Click on “Research.” Choose “Miscellanies Index,” and you will find them all listed for your review.
1. Some years earlier than the writing of this essay in Miscellany 94 Edwards explains his perspective as to reason and Scripture. “1 There has been much cry of late against saying one word, particularly about the Trinity, but what the Scripture has said; judging it impossible but that if we did, we should err in a thing so much above us. 2 But if they call that which necessarily results from the putting [together] of reason and Scripture, though it has not been said in Scripture in express words—I say, if they call this what is not said in the Scripture, I am not afraid to say twenty things about the Trinity which the Scripture never said.”
2. He also said in “Miscellany 94”, “I think that it is within the reach of naked reason to perceive certainly that there are three distinct in God, each of which is the same [God], three that must be distinct; and that there are not nor can be any more distinct, 3 really and truly distinct, but three, either distinct persons or properties or anything else; and that of these three, one is (more properly that anything else) begotten of the other, and that the third 4 proceeds alike from both, and that the first neither is begotten nor proceeds.”
3. Edwards later in “Miscellany 1338” modified this priori approach to the Trinity to state, “Tis very needful that God should declare to mankind what manner of being he is. For though reason may be sufficient to confirm such a declaration after it is given, and see its consistent, harmony and rationality in many respects, yet reason may be utterly insufficient first to discover these things.”
4. In this Essay on the Trinity, Edwards starts with reason and then goes to Scripture to confirm. He would have done better to start with Scripture and from the Scripture deducted with Spirit-led reasoning.
Explanation of the Trinity:
1. God, the idea of God, delight in God. God subsists in direct existence in the Father. God subsists, in the knowledge of himself in the Son. God subsists in mutual delight of Himself in the Holy Spirit.
2. Read paragraph four, page five.
3. Review the Scriptures cited beginning on page two.
4. The Scriptures are consistent with Edwards’ understanding of the generation of the Son, but he is not able with the same clarity and exegesis to establish his understanding of the Holy Spirit.
“Miscellany 94” written earlier in Edwards’ life reveals his raw logic that he later refined, “An absolutely perfect idea of a thing is the very thing, for it wants nothing that is in the thing, substance nor nothing else. That is the notion of the perfection of an idea, to want nothing that is in the thing. Whatever is perfectly and absolutely like a thing, is that thing, but God’s idea is absolutely perfect.”
1. Edwards goes beyond the traditional view of each person in the Trinity fully possessing in themselves what they possess in each other.
2. Examine the first paragraph on page six.
The Personhood of the Holy Spirit:
Edwards in speaking of the generation of the second person does
not hesitate on page one, the fifth paragraph, to state, “And this
Person is the second person in the Trinity.” But in speaking of the Holy
Spirit he states, “There proceeds a most pure act, and an infinitely
holy and sacred energy arises between the Father and the Son in mutually
loving and delighting in each other...” (page two, second paragraph)
Although I have been somewhat negative, it must be recognized that Jonathan Edwards’ view of the Trinity exalts the love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father. His thinking in the delight of God begins here. In many ways all his thinking begins with the Triune God. God’s glory is experienced in the love of knowing Him. The mutual love between the Father and the Son appears to be what Jesus is praying for us to experience in John chapter 17. So let me say that the truth Jonathan Edwards champions should cause rejoicing, but let it be that truth that arises out of the Scriptures.