The Excellency of

Edwards believed that God knew the world by having ''the actual ideas of things. . . . at once in His mind, and all in the highest possible perfection of clearness, and all perfectly and invariably there without any transitoriness or fading in any part.'' For him this was more than a description of the divine omniscience; it pointed, as well, toward the divine sovereignty and the dependence of everything on God. While a graduate student at Yale, Edwards found that he could express the glory and sovereignty of God by tracing the implications of a form of philosophical idealism. He inaugurated the project with ''Of

Being,'' ''Of the Prejudices of Imagination,'' and ''Of Atoms and Perfectly Solid Bodies,'' essays that he began to write at Yale between 1720 and 1723 (though they remained unpublished until more than a century later). He continued it in his notes on ''The Mind.''24

In the essay on atoms, he took up themes that he probably discovered in his reading of Henry More's speculation about matter. Unlike More, however, Edwards defined an atom not as an ultimate unit of matter but as a body that infinitely resisted annihilation and therefore manifested the constant exercise of an infinite power. Its substance, rather than being a material substratum, could be no other than the infinite power that constituted it, so that ''speaking most strictly'' there was ''no proper substance but God himself'' in respect to the atoms that formed bodies. In ''Of Being'' he moved deeper into an idealist ontology by asserting that it was impossible to imagine that anything ''has any existence . . . but either in created or uncreated consciousness'' and that a universe devoid of ''created intelligence'' could exist only in ''the divine consciousness.'' By the time he wrote #27 of ''The Mind,'' he clarified the idea by noting that ''every knowing philosopher'' agreed that color was no more in the external world than pain was in a needle, and that figures and shapes were merely configurations of color. This left only resistance, or solidity, ''out of the [created] mind.'' But resistance was nothing other than the ''actual exertion of God's power'' in accord with ''a constant law or method'' in God's mind: ''And indeed the secret lies here: that which truly is the substance of all bodies is the infinitely exact and precise and perfectly stable idea in God's mind together with His stable will that the same shall gradually be communicated to us and to other minds according to certain fixed and exact established methods and laws.'' The visible and tangible world was ''therefore an ideal one,'' absolutely dependent on the stability of God's idea and volition.25

Edwards's idealism had affinities with that of George Berkeley and Samuel Johnson, and since Johnson taught at Yale when Edwards was a student there, an earlier generation of scholars speculated about the links between their ideas. But Edwards diverged from the Berkeleyan style of argument that Johnson emulated. Berkeley denied that abstract ideas like ''being'' properly referred to anything; Edwards thought that they did. Berkeley argued mainly from sensory experience; Edwards argued more often from a priori definitions and conceptions. Berkeley denied the absoluteness of space, fearing that unless space was seen as a function of the relations of ideas, it might appear to be as infinite and eternal as God; Edwards said, in his early speculation, that space was God, precisely because there could be only one infinite and eternal being, though he later defined space as one of God's ideas. Berkeley believed that finite things unperceived by human minds continued to exist because God perceived them; Edwards could also say, both at the beginning and at the end of his career, that ''all existence is perception,'' but he added his own distinctive note when he added that things also continued to exist because a divine ''determination'' — manifested in fixed laws through which God exercised a continual power of creation—maintained them in being. Berkeley's idealism supposed a divine Perceiver; Edwards agreed but placed much more emphasis than Berkeley on the divine Will. The two men read some of the same authors — Locke, Malebranche, the Cambridge Platonists — and worried over some of the same problems, but they proceeded in their own paths.26

Edwards shared with both Berkeley and Johnson, however, a desire to evoke a sense of divine presence by showing that the world depended, at each moment, on God's creative power. He therefore argued that no link of autonomous antecedent finite causes in the past could explain the present, for the moment an object vanished into the past it lost its causal efficacy: ''No cause can produce effects in a time and place in which it is not.'' That the world continued from moment to moment was owing entirely to its ''continued creation'' by God ''at each moment of its existence.'' In his ''Miscellanies'' he speculated that this continual creation also applied to finite spirits: ''we are created anew every moment.''27

The lawlike character of God's relation to the world did not preclude ''God's immediate and arbitrary operation.'' It was God's arbitrary action that had established the natural laws in the first place, and although they continued to direct his ''natural operation,'' God could disregard them at will. Most divine action was ''mixed,'' combining both natural and arbitrary operations, but the higher one ascended on the scale of creation, ''the more the manner of divine operation with respect to the creature approache[d] to arbitrary.'' It was especially ''beautiful and every way fit [and] suitable,'' he argued, that the gift of grace to the elect saints, for instance, should be ''arbitrary and sovereign,'' and that God's relationship to ''the man Jesus Christ'' should be ''infinitely above the laws of nature.''28

The idealist metaphysic meant for Edwards that God was ''the sum of all being,'' the substance of all that was. By virtue of both the divine perceptions and the divine will, God ''comprehended the entity of all His creatures; and their entity is not to be added to His, as not comprehended in it, for they are but communications from Him.'' The idealist metaphysic allowed him, as well, to conclude that ''being in order is all that we call God, who is, and there is none else besides him.'' It underlay his assertions in 1755 that God was ''Being in General'' or ''the Being of Beings,'' and that ''His existence, being infinite, must be equivalent to universal existence.''29 When Edwards wrote that he would admit of ''none else'' besides God, he sounded pantheistic, and some of the Neoplatonic language of his later writing intensified the seeming identity of God with the world of which God was the substance. In his Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World (1755), he spoke of creation as the communication of God's infinite fullness, an emanation from God, a diffusion of God's glory ad extra. The creation was an ''enlarging'' of the divine being through self-communication. But while Edwards thought that God ''included'' all things, he protected the distinction between God and the world. As utterly dependent on God, the world remained separate from God. The world of created spirits, especially, retained a separate identity, for even the elect saints, chosen for ''an infinitely perfect union'' with God in eternity, would never attain a perfect oneness. Even more, the reprobate in hell would eternally remain separate from the divine being.30

What most clearly marked the distinction between God and the world in Edwards's theology—and most clearly exemplified the force of the idea of excellency in his depiction of God—was his doctrine of the Trinity. Edwards began in 1723 to derive the Trinitarian character of God from God's reflection on and delight in his own excellency. Both in an unpublished essay on Trinitarian theology and in some of the longer ''Miscellanies,'' he made it clear that the threefold unity of God served for him as the supreme instance of excellency and that the excellency of the created world could be only a dim reflection of the divine beauty in the timeless relations among the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.31

Edwards believed that ''one alone cannot be excellent, inasmuch as, in such case, there can be no consent.'' Divine excellence therefore required a divine plurality. Though Edwards believed that Trinitarian theology consisted chiefly of deductions from biblical revelation, he thought that even ''naked reason'' could discover the divine tri-unity. It seemed rational that all knowledge, even God's knowledge, was ''by idea.'' God must have an ''idea of Himself,'' since otherwise God would lack self-awareness. But God's ideas were perfect, and ''an absolutely perfect idea of a thing is the very thing,'' for it lacked nothing that was in the thing. It followed that God's idea of Himself was God. The divine self-reflection begot the ''substantial image of God,'' the Son. And because the Father and the Son necessarily delighted in one another, the begetting of the Son issued in a perfect act of mutual love—or Spirit—which was distinct from both the Father and the Son. Edwards believed that his doctrine of an ''exact equality'' of the Spirit with the Father and Son improved on earlier Reformed theology that discussed the Spirit mainly as the agent who applied Christ's benefits.32

God created the world so that this divine excellency could be expressed, known, and admired. Here was the Calvinist conviction, expressed now in an aesthetic form, that the aim of creation was the glory of God. It was ''fit, suitable, and amiable in itself'' that the divine beauty should express and reveal itself. The ultimate end of creation was not human happiness but the diffusion of God's ''excellent fulness'' for its own sake. It was ''good in itself'' that supreme excellency should find expression in a manner that expanded the circle of consent to itself. In the diffusion of the divine beauty—an emanation — and in the creature's knowing and loving and delighting in that beauty — a ''remanation'' — God became his own end.33

Edwards found the definitive expression of the divine beauty in Christ. He still thought in terms of the traditional Reformed Christological topics—the person and work of Christ; his active and passive obedience; his three offices of prophet, priest, and king; his humiliation and exaltation—but he cast them in a form determined by his notions of excellency, fitness, and proportion. The second Person of the Trinity became incarnate in Jesus because only a divine-human mediator, united to both alienated parties, could suffer a punishment proportional to the offense of sin against God's infinite excellency. Both incarnation and atonement were ''fit and proper.''34

Edwards sometimes added that the atonement also maintained the divine law by providing a solution to human sinfulness ''in proportion'' to the seriousness of the legal offense. His disciples would develop this language into a distinctive ''governmental'' theory of atonement that they described as Ed-wardean, but unlike the later governmental theorists among his disciples, Edwards still thought of the atonement as an act of ''satisfaction,'' not merely as an act that maintained the integrity of the divine moral government. For him, Christ's death satisfied God's wrath and paid the infinite debt that a sinful humanity owed. The ''fitness'' and ''excellent congruity'' of this act — its ''suitableness'' — provided evidence of the divine wisdom.35

The consequence of atonement was, as Calvinists had always argued, the imputation to the faithful of Christ's active and passive righteousness. Christ's active righteousness was his perfect obedience to the divine law; the passive was his perfect submission to death on the cross. By the time Edwards wrote his sermon on ''Justification by Faith Alone'' (1734), English Arminians had begun to ridicule the notion of imputation. Edwards defended its reasonableness by reverting to notions of symmetry and fittingness. It was agreeable to the ''reason and nature of things'' that God would impute the righteousness of Christ to the faithful since a relation of ''union'' between a patron and a client would make it ''fit'' to impute the entire merit of one to the other. Like Calvin, he argued that imputation was the consequence of the believer's ''union'' with Christ. This was the meaning of Edwards's aphorism that ''what is real in the union between Christ and his people, is the foundation of what is legal.'' The union with Christ was the ground for God's willingness to acquit the offender for whom Christ had died.36

In dealing with Christological topics, Edwards returned often to the motif of excellence, expressed in images of fitness, harmony, and symmetry. Christ incarnated and revealed the divine beauty because he embodied ''an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.'' He was both Lion and Lamb. He harmonized glory and humility, majesty and meekness, obedience and dominion, sovereignty and resignation, and justice and grace. The gospel accounts impressed Edwards as narratives about how Jesus had brought opposites into harmonious unity. He was born of a poor virgin but also born by the power of the Spirit. He lay in a base manger but drew the worship of the wise. He radiated holiness yet bore the charge of guilt. He lived for the divine justice and suffered from the divine justice. He suffered the ''greatest degree of humiliation'' and yet in those sufferings displayed his glory.37

The purpose of this ''proportionable'' manifestation of divine excellency in Christ was that the Christian might have a ''proportioned'' regard to God. The revelation in Jesus was designed both to humble and to encourage the faithful, to display God as both Judge and Redeemer. The harmony of opposites in Jesus ensured that Christians would have no ''disproportionate'' view of either the love or the majesty of God. It was the beauty of Christ that governed, therefore, the harmony of affections in the believer.38

The Excellency of Grace

Edwards cherished the Calvinist doctrine of the sovereignty of grace. He agreed that Christ died only for the elect and that they alone would experience the supernatural and sovereign ''divine influence and operation, by which saving virtue is obtained.'' In his doctrine of the divine decrees, he held a supralap-sarian view of election and a sublapsarian view of reprobation. In other words, the decree to redeem the elect logically preceded the decree to create them or to permit their fall, but the decree to damn the reprobate ''supposed'' their sinful-ness in the sense that it presupposed a relation of ''fitness'' between sin and a damning decree. God created the elect in order to save them, but he did not create the reprobate in order to damn them. This was one of Edwards's few concessions to the eighteenth-century humanitarian temper.39

He conceded less on the embattled issue of original sin. In the last book he published during his lifetime, The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended (1758), he took on the English Arminian John Taylor with the argument that Christianity had to presuppose the doctrine of innate sinful-

ness. Because Taylor had criticized the doctrine as unscriptural, Edwards spent more than half the book arguing with him over biblical passages. Because Edwards's other main opponent, the English philosopher George Turnbull, had called for ''an experimental method of reasoning,'' Edwards also made a show of reasoning from ''experience and facts'' according to the rules of ''experimental philosophy.'' But for the heart of his argument he returned to the idea of harmony and proportion.40

Although he appealed to biblical and secular history to show the human tendency to sin, he thought that the doctrine of original sin would stand even if innocent actions outnumbered crimes. To speak of original sin was to designate a ''prevailing propensity'' of the heart, a ''prevailing liableness,'' that outweighed ''all effects or consequences of any supposed good.'' The crucial point was that God deserved infinite love and the creature stood under an infinite debt to the Creator. Sin therefore bore an ''infinite demerit''; any sinful propensity brought a guilt that outweighed all the good. Fallen human beings, moreover, never loved God in the proper ''proportion,'' since this would require loving God for his own sake, as ''infinitely excellent in himself,'' and not for any self-serving purpose. Edwards echoed the British moral rationalists by contending that the tendency of virtue was to ''treat everything as it is, and according to its nature.'' True virtue required a love of God proportional to God's excellence, but without grace no one loved God merely because God was ''infinitely excellent.''41

In explaining how Adam's successors bore the guilt of original sin, Edwards diverged from Reformed orthodoxy. In his idealistic ontology, the continuing identity of anything depended on an ''arbitrary divine constitution.'' The identity of humanity with Adam was merely one instance of this general truth; Adam and his posterity were one because God treated them as one. When Adam broke covenant with God, he lost the ''supernatural'' principle that enabled him to love God in proper proportion, leaving only ''natural'' principles, such as self-love. But because God constituted all humanity as one with Adam, all humanity shared in the sin and suffered the loss.42

The argument allowed Edwards to show the ''reasonableness'' of a doctrine that John Taylor found utterly unreasonable—the doctrine of the imputation of sin. Seventeenth-century Calvinist covenant theologians typically argued that God imputed Adam's guilt to his posterity because Adam was their legal representative. Taylor thought this unfair. In effect, Edwards conceded the point, but he still affirmed imputation. He proposed that God imputed the guilt of Adam's sin to men and women because they were truly guilty of it. This alternative resembled the doctrine of ''mediate imputation'' taught by the Amyrauldians at seventeenth-century Saumur and by the Swiss Reformed scholastic theologian Johann Friedrich Stapfer (1708-75), whose Institutiones Theologicae, polemicae universae (1743-47) Edwards read and admired, though Edwards's view also differed from theirs, since his metaphysical doctrine of identity entailed a view of sin as corporate in a distinctive manner. Nonetheless, conservative Calvinists in nineteenth-century America would never forgive him for this departure from the covenantal, or federal, tradition.43 The doctrine of original sin confirmed for Edwards that salvation required a ''supernatural and sovereign operation of the Spirit of God.'' ''Saving grace'' had to be ''infused.'' In saying this, Edwards positioned himself within a sixteenth-century debate that cut across the line dividing Protestants and Catholics. Jesuits and Arminians agreed that grace moved the will through ''moral suasion'' directed at the intellect. Thomists and Calvinists believed that grace moved the will ''physically,'' that is, immediately, and they expressed this belief with the metaphor of ''infusion.'' Petrus van Mastricht argued for infusion in his Theoretico-Practica Theologia, the book that Edwards once described as better than ''any other Book in the world, excepting the Bible.'' In any event, Edwards used the word ''infusion'' to emphasize that the new ''sense'' of divine things came as the immediate, irresistible gift of the Spirit, not merely by the Spirit's assisting the natural principles of the mind but by its imparting a ''new supernatural principle of life and action'' that transformed the will and understanding.44

While Edwards usually drew philosophically from some variant of Christian Platonism, he explicated the idea of infused grace by building on the seventeenth-century Protestant recovery of Aristotle. The scholastic authors whom he read — Burgersdyck, Heerebord, Mastricht, William Ames, and Francis Turretin (i623-87)—employed and revised Aristotelian concepts of habit, disposition, and principle to describe the operation of grace. Edwards pushed such notions to the forefront of theology, not only in his descriptions of the laws by which God maintained and governed the created world but also in his explanations of religious conversion and its fruits. Like Thomas Shep-ard, whom Edwards often cited, he thought of saving grace as the indwelling and activity of the Holy Spirit in the soul, issuing in the formation of a new habit or disposition. This new disposition, an inherent ''excellency,'' transformed the principle of human action even before it found public expression in ''gracious exercises.'' Edwards sometimes spoke of the disposition as prior to conscious awareness, as when he speculated that some infants might have a ''regenerated'' disposition before their later conversion.45

The new disposition was the fountain of all Christian virtues, but for Edwards the prime virtue was love. He could speak of love as not only the ''chief'' affection but also as the ''fountain'' of all other Christian affections. In 1738,

Edwards delivered a series of sermons titled Charity and Its Fruits. Delivered two years after the ending of the first Northampton awakening, the sermons should be read as an expression of Edwards's efforts to evaluate the revivals and their consequences. This was evident in their central theme: ''All that virtue which is saving, and distinguishing of true Christians from others, is summed up in Christian or divine love.'' Twenty years later, when he published his book on Original Sin shortly before his death, he made the same claim that religion ''summarily consists in love.'' The prominence of this claim in his thought exemplified again the importance for him of harmony — he referred repeatedly to the ''excellency'' of love—but it also allied him with a wider impulse in the eighteenth century to pursue ''the ethical transposition of doctrine'' by moving the themes of love and Christian practice closer to the center of theology.46

This impulse found further expression in Edwards's insistence that ''all grace leads to practice.'' During the revivals, Edwards produced a flurry of writings designed to state the criteria for discerning the ''gracious operations of God's Spirit.'' They included not only Charity and Its Fruits but also The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1742), and A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746). Their main purpose was to defend the revivals while disassociating them from the New Light separatists who seemed to depreciate good works by resting assurance of salvation solely on the immediate witness of the Spirit. Particularly in his treatise on the affections, he amplified his notion of excellency, arguing that gracious affections enabled the Christian to love the ''excellent and amiable nature of divine things, as they are in themselves'' and to emulate God's ''spiritual beauty'' through holiness of life. He listed numerous signs of grace, but ''the chief of all the signs'' was Christian practice, or holiness of life as shown forth in the keeping of Christ's commandments and the doing of good works, whether through inward piety or public activity.47

Some of Edwards's disciples would later conclude that Edwards's views about the indwelling Spirit, infused grace, and the necessity for love in the regenerate heart implied that love must precede both faith and justification in the order of salvation. They were willing, on Edwardean grounds, to redefine what had been the cardinal Protestant doctrine: justification by grace through faith alone. Their reading of Edwards was at least plausible. He did suggest, more than once, that justification followed upon the conversion in which the Spirit infused the saving disposition of love for God. He argued explicitly, from time to time, that the Christian graces were so closely linked that they implied one another and that love was the ''most essential ingredient in a saving faith,'' an argument suggesting that justification might require both faith and love. He avoided, however, the revisions that his disciples found necessary.48

One reason he could avoid them was that he became quite flexible about assuming any necessary sequence of stages in conversion. As a young man he worried that his own conversion had not followed the stages defined by earlier Puritan and Pietist theologians. He never relinquished the belief that God's ''ordinary manner in working salvation'' included a certain order of preparatory stages in which the Spirit convinced the soul of its distress, helplessness, and dependence as a prelude to conversion and sanctification. He observed such ''legal convictions'' during the revival at Northampton, and he urged revivalist preachers not to foreshorten them by offering premature comfort. But he moved away from the view that conversion could be assumed to follow ''the steps of a particular established scheme.'' He found the ''Spirit's proceeding'' to be ''often exceeding mysterious.'' As early as 1738 he decided that the various Christian graces—such as faith, love, repentance, and humility—were so closely ''united and linked together'' that rigid orderings of them missed the point.49

Yet he did distinguish faith from love, and he also continued—whether or not he was consistent in doing it—to insist on the Protestant doctrine of justification through faith. One of the sparks for the revival of 1734 in Northampton was his sermon on ''Justification by Faith Alone,'' in which Edwards argued, on the basis of Romans 4:5, that God justified the ''ungodly.'' In justification, God accepted the guilty as ''free from the guilt of sin and its deserved punishment'' and the unrighteous as having a ''title to that glory which is the reward of righteousness.'' But what then did it mean to speak of faith, a mark of godliness, as a condition of justification? And how was this justifying faith related to the disposition of love infused by the Spirit?50

Edwards's solution was to revert once more to the theme of harmony and relation. He explained that faith did not produce justification but merely made it ''fitting.'' God looked on it as ''fit by a natural fitness'' that a faithful relation to Christ should be ''agreeable'' to justification. It was not the excellency of either faith or love that justified. It was rather that faith, as a relation of union with Christ, rendered it ''meet and suitable'' that the believer should be justified. Christ initiated the relation, and the justification resulted from the excellency of the relation, not of the faith. And although no faith was genuine that was not united with love, Edwards could still say that the faith alone made justification suitable. He always opposed the view of the New England liberals and Anglicans that faith brought justification because it included moral obedience in its essence: ''In truth, obedience has no concern in justification.'' As his followers would later recognize, the solution did not entirely resolve the tension, but Edwards found it satisfying.51

The concept of love continued to occupy him throughout his career, and after his expulsion from Northampton he pursued it while catechizing the Indians in Stockbridge. Around 1753 he began work on two treatises, designed to complement each other, in which he debated with the moral philosophers of the British enlightenment. He probably completed both works in 1755, though they were not published for a decade, by which time Edwards was dead. The first, the Dissertation Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, argued from both reason and scripture that God's ultimate end in creation was to ''communicate his own infinite fulness of good'' so that there might be knowledge and esteem of his glory. God's end in creation was therefore God's own glory; it was to glorify the highest excellency. The second treatise, The Nature of True Virtue, argued primarily on rational grounds that true virtue was born of a consent of the heart to this divine excellency. A consent to ''Being in General'' made possible a ''general good will'' directed toward both God and the neighbor. In both treatises, the highest good and the ground of virtue was regard for the excellency of God as the ''Being of beings.''52

Edwards believed that the British moralists—Francis Hutcheson, George Turnbull, Samuel Clarke, William Wollaston, and others—had accurately described some features of the natural conscience, or moral sense, but failed to see that it could never attain to this level of true virtue. It could affirm the secondary beauty found in the order, symmetry, and proportion of natural objects or social relations, but it could not discern and love the excellency of being in general. Apart from grace, the natural conscience would always adhere to one or another ''private system,'' and the limited love that ensued would always be opposed to a truly virtuous consent to being in general. By implication, moral philosophy was misleading without theology. In this denial that ethics was an autonomous discipline, Edwards spoke as a conservative voice. He agreed with William Ames and Cotton Mather that ethics was a department of divinity and that it should not be detached from piety, either in conception or in practice.53

His interest in ethics was what moved Edwards to write the book that, above all the others, would evoke spirited rebuttals and revisions throughout the nineteenth century. In order to answer critics who believed that Calvinist theology made it impossible to assign moral blame and praise, he published in 1754 his Enquiry into the Modern Prevailing Notions of that Freedom of the Will, Which is Supposed to be Essential to Moral Agency, Vertue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame. Written from the Stockbridge frontier, the book was designed to defend an understanding of human freedom compatible with Calvinist theology and yet also consistent with the language of moral praise and blame.

Edwards understood the critics of Calvinism—among whom he included especially the English writers Daniel Whitby, Samuel Clarke, and Thomas Chubb — to be insisting that the will had to be self-determining or else there could be no moral agency. His typical argument was to accuse the critics of contradiction: if the will were self-determining, every free act of the will, including its first free act, had to be freely chosen, and this led either to an infinite regress of free choices or to the self-contradictory notion of a free choice prior to the first free choice. Nor could willing be ''indifferent,'' since willing was by its nature a preference or inclination. And it was also wrong to call the will ''contingent,'' for this implied that it made its choices for no reason whatsoever.54

His opponents did not espouse precisely the views that Edwards criticized, but for Edwards the main point was to show that a Calvinist form of determinism remained compatible with praise and blame. His view was that the will responded always to the strongest motive—defined as the agent's perception of the greatest apparent good as determined by the nature of the object, the liveliness of the perception, the likelihood of attaining it, and the agent's state of mind. The motive operated as the cause of the volition in the sense that any act of the will was an inclination toward one motive or another. But human beings were still free moral agents, for they could do as they pleased, or act as they willed. ''Let the person come by his volition or choice how he will,'' Edwards wrote, ''yet, if he is able, and there is nothing in the way to hinder his pursuing and executing his will, the man is fully and perfectly free, according to the primary and common notion of freedom.'' They could not indifferently select their volitions or determine what they would will, but they were free if they could act as they were moved to act. They did what they wanted to do, and they did it willingly, regardless of how they came by their volition.55

In making the point, Edwards employed a distinction that had long been common in Reformed circles, among both traditionalists like Turretin in Geneva or Cotton Mather in New England and revisionists like Amyraut at Saumur. He distinguished between natural necessity and moral necessity. He conceded the absence of freedom, and of moral accountability, when a ''natural necessity,'' a natural impediment external to the will, made it impossible for people to do what they willed. Moral necessity, however, meant only that the will could not defy its own inclination or disposition. Agents could not will, in a single act of volition, other than as they willed in that act. The will could not will two opposite things at the same time. But this moral necessity offered no impediment to freedom in its ''plain and obvious'' sense for it assumed the fact of choice and the natural ability to act.56

A distinction between natural and moral ability became one of the hallmarks of the Edwardean tradition. Other Calvinists often deplored it. Ed-wardean revivalists told the sinful that they had a natural ability to repent. They were therefore responsible if they failed to do it. While they lacked, apart from the assistance of special grace, the moral ability to repent, their failure to do it merely meant that they did not want to and could not choose against their predominant volition. They were naturally able but morally unwilling, and they were responsible for it. Edwards's followers made more of the distinction than he did, but he laid the groundwork, and it was one reason why some nineteenth-century Calvinists disliked his Freedom of the Will.

The Beauty of History

In addition to his passion for ethics, Edwards had a special interest in God's ''moral government'' of history, and his speculations on the course of history provided yet another occasion for him to display the ''excellence'' of God's works. He found in the Bible the clues to a ''Grand design'' that would bring all the world's diversity into a final unity. All history exhibited the ''beauty'' of Providence as God ordered all events toward a common end. This historical sense fed into Edwards's passionate interest in millennialism, and throughout his career he occupied himself with attempts to map the course of history toward the millennium and the creation of the ''new heaven and new earth.''57

In i723 he began writing his ''Notes on the Apocalypse,'' or exegetical comments on the book of Revelation, which he continued to expand until the end of his life. As an interpreter of the apocalyptic prophecies, Edwards carried forward a long-established project. He drew heavily from Whitby, the Cambridge don Joseph Mede, and Moses Lowman (1680-1752), a dissenting English pastor. Like them, Edwards found the clue to the course of history in the machinations of the Antichrist, which he assumed to be the Roman Papacy. Like numerous other Protestant predecessors, he correlated the prophetic forty-two months, or 1,260 days, of Revelation 11:2-3, each of which he assumed to be a year, with the events of western history. He decided that the forty-two-month period began in 606, when the Pope became the universal bishop, calculated that the year 1866 would bring the dethroning of the Papacy, and concluded, in agreement with Lowman, that the millennium would begin around the year 2000.58

Between his own time and the beginning of the millennium he anticipated years of struggle, marked by revivals and declensions, which he understood in accord with the ''afflictive model of progress'' that was common among eighteenth-century writers on eschatology. Progress would always alternate with adversity until the millennial era finally arrived. The revival in Northampton intensified his expectation, and his reading of Lowman's Paraphrase and Notes on the Revelation (1737) led Edwards to preach in 1739 a series of thirty sermons that were published long after his death as A History of the Work of Redemption (1774). He would later express an ambition to expand the sermons into a ''body of divinity in an entire new method, being thrown into the form of history,'' but he died before he could complete the project. Nonetheless, the sermons traced the work of redemption through three periods of history — from the fall of Adam to the incarnation of Christ, from the incarnation to the resurrection, and from the resurrection to the end of the world — and showed that the pattern of adversity and deliverance had remained constant as the kingdom of Christ gradually prevailed. He interpreted the third period as a time of ''the church's suffering state,'' but he felt that the world was now near the time of ''the glorious work of God's Spirit'' that would slowly begin to overthrow ''Satan's kingdom'' and end the reign of the Antichrist. Through revivals and the conversion of all the peoples of the world, this ''glorious work'' would eventually lead to ''the prosperous state of the church,'' an era of peace and love that would last for a thousand years.59

In 1742, when he published Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England, he even thought it ''probable'' that the ''work of God's Spirit,'' which he seems to have associated with the long period preceding the millennium, might begin soon with events in America, a view that invited ridicule from Charles Chauncy and others, who reminded Edwards of Joseph Mede's prediction that America would become the kingdom of Satan. Edwards complained that his critics misread him, and indeed he typically assigned no special place to America in the events of the last times. In any case, he anticipated at least another two and a half centuries of struggle before the millennial era began. In i743, he joined with ministers in Scotland to promote a concert of prayer for the advancement of God's kingdom, and in 1747 he contributed to the cause his Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God's People in Extraordinary Prayer. There he speculated that it might be plausible to expect 250 years of ''commotions, tumults, and calamities'' before the millennium.60

When he described the millennial era, Edwards employed the images of excellence, proportion, and beauty that pervaded the rest of his theology. Indeed, one thing that Edwards found most exciting about the prospect of the millennium was that it would display the unity hidden behind the diversity of history. When he wrote that ''all the motions of the whole system of wheels and movements'' in history tended toward one ''appointed time,'' he was thinking of the consent of the many to the one, and in the millennial age ''all the world'' would be ''as one church, one orderly, regular, beautiful society, one body, all the members in beautiful proportion.'' The church itself would be ''beautiful,'' marked by ''excellent order,'' and all the nations would unite in ''sweet harmony.'' For a thousand years, the peoples of the world would live in prosperity, increasing knowledge, vital religion, and happiness. All would ''agree in the sure, great and important doctrines of the gospel.'' It would be a time when ''this whole great society shall appear in glorious beauty, in genuine amiable Christianity, and excellent order . . . , 'the perfection of beauty' [Ps. 50:2], 'an eternal excellency' [Is. 60:15V61

Unlike Increase and Cotton Mather, Edwards thought that the millennial era would precede the final return of Christ, but he described the end times with a supernaturalism fully as intense as that of the Mathers. At the end of the millennium, Satan would be released from bondage, most of the world would fall into apostasy, and Christ would return ''in flaming fire to take vengeance.'' He would judge the nations, descending with the angels as the dead arose, the living were transformed, and the souls of the departed were reunited with their bodies. The saints would ascend to the ''new heaven and new earth,'' which would be located at some ''glorious place'' in the universe, at an immense distance from the solar system. The wicked would be cast into fire, and the saints would rejoice, for they would see only the glory of God, and God's glory would ''in their esteem be of greater consequence, than the welfare of thousands and millions of souls.'' Edwards thought this final judgment was ''entirely agreeable to reason'' because it was ''suitable'' that God's righteousness be displayed, that injustice be rectified, and that the godly be honored. The final judgment would be one more instance of ''due proportion.'' Even hell would be beautiful for those who had the eyes to see.62

Both Edwards's millennial vision and his descriptions of the last things could function as criticisms of Northampton's church and society, and by the mid-i740s he was becoming more critical. Anxious about the waning of revivalist zeal after 1742, irritated by a dispute over salary, embroiled in a quarrel over church discipline, rebuked by parishioners who refused to allow him to decide who could join the church, Edwards began, probably by the end of i743, to rethink the criteria for church membership that he had happily inherited from Stoddard. The signs of change were present in his Religious Affections (1746), but it was not until 1749 that Edwards was ready to defend, in his Humble Inquiry into the Rules of God Concerning the Qualifications

Requisite to a Compleat Standing and Full Communion in the Visible Christian Church, the conclusion that adults must make a confession of ''hearty consent to the terms of the gospel covenant'' before they could join the church, receive the Lord's Supper, or present their children for baptism. Edwards was turning his back on Stoddard's practice. He was also repudiating the halfway covenant and the popular piety in which the laity linked their church membership with their desire to have their children baptized. He refused to accept the separatist view that membership should require the public relation of a conversion experience, but he tightened the standards, and the congregation would have none of it.63

The controversy over admission revealed Edwards's lingering attraction to the covenant theology. Throughout his career, especially in his ''Miscellanies,'' Edwards still wrote on the covenant of redemption between the Son and the Father, the covenant of works between God and Adam, and the covenant of grace between the believer and Christ. The covenant metaphor allowed him to employ the familiar homiletic hyperbole declaring that salvation was an ''absolute debt to the believer from God,'' though in other sermons he reversed himself on this claim. Yet until 1749 the covenant was less prominent in his thought than it had been in earlier Puritan theology. In the Humble Inquiry he relied heavily on covenant thought, arguing that to own the covenant was to profess ''the consent of our hearts to it'' and that covenant privileges required such consent.64

His position required that he repudiate Stoddard's view of the Lord's Supper as a converting ordinance. It required as well that he soft-pedal the efficacy of baptism. Edwards defended infant baptism on familiar covenantal grounds — the sacrament sealed the covenant — but he viewed adult baptism as a token of regeneration, a position that aligned him more closely with Baptists than he would have wanted to acknowledge. Although Edwards thought that God used outward means of grace, he had always been cautious about saying that the means functioned as causes of faith: ''There are not truly any secondary causes of it; but it is produced by God immediately.'' In fact, he taught that when the unregenerate prayed, sang, and listened to sermons—and yet remained unregenerate — they intensified the guilt of their sin. A minor point in Edwards's theology, this idea would later produce intense debate between his followers and their opponents.65

Edwards's congregants persuaded Solomon Williams, the minister of Lebanon, Connecticut, to answer Edwards, and Williams charged him with ''indecent and injurious treatment of Mr. Stoddard.'' Edwards replied that his revisions of Stoddard's practice actually honored Stoddard's ''real sentiments,'' and it was true that both he and Stoddard aimed at conversion as the goal of their pastoral ministry. But both in his musings on the order of salvation and in his ideas about sacraments, the church, and membership, Edwards moved further and further away from Stoddard's theology. In part this was because the themes of excellence, proportion, and fittingness led him in new directions. In part it was because he was far more interested than Stoddard in the rational consistency of his theology. The irony, however, was that Edwards, the theologian of unity and harmony, split his congregation and that his ideas would help fracture Reformed theology in America for almost a century.66

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