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Miscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

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Edwards talks about morality and its association to the commandments.

4. Morality. The controversy about the morality of the Sabbath, or the sanctity of the first day of the week, is founded on the great stress put upon the word “morality,” and the arbitrary distinction that is made between moral duties and other duties. As much as if the morality of a duty were something given by God to us as a mark to know duties that are lasting from those that are but temporary, whereas morality is nothing but a mixed mode or idea, composed according to the will and pleasure of man, drawn only from a minute circumstance of a duty. If we consider actions without circumstances — and there is no action that is either moral or immoral but considers things with their circumstances — every duty whatsoever is a moral duty. A duty that the light of nature teaches is a duty of eternal reason, as much as any duty whatever. Thus the action of killing of a man is no wise a moral evil abstracted from its circumstances. And the action of circumcision is a moral good, and what the light of nature teaches us, and a duty of eternal reason, considered with its circumstances — considered with the circumstances that God has commanded it. For the light of nature teaches us as much that we ought to obey God as that we ought not to do the greatest injury of our fellow creatures from revenge and malice. And there is as much natural reason for the one as for the other. Circumcision is nonetheless a duty of eternal reason because it is a duty at one time and not another, any more than brothers and sisters marrying together is not an immorality of eternal reason because it is a sin at one time and not another. There is no need to wonder why the command for the observation of the Sabbath is put into the decalogue, because of which men call it the moral law; neither is there any reason to question whether baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be observed because men say, “Nothing but what is moral is duty under the gospel.” O, how is the world darkened, clouded, distracted, and torn to pieces by those dreadful enemies of mankind called words!

80. Morality. Vid. M 4. Only there is this difference, the morality of some duties is more immediate and direct than others; and even of those duties which are commonly called moral, there is a difference, so there are gradual steps from the most immediate to the most indirect.

1123. Moral Virtue. Moral virtue does not primarily and summarily consist in truth. For if it were so, love could not properly be said to be the sum of all the moral commands of God and of all moral duties. Then all moral virtues could not be ultimately resolved into love as their common fountain and summary comprehension: particularly the virtues of veracity and justice, and those commands of God that require us to speak the truth to our neighbors, and that require human judges to judge justly and according to truth, could not be properly resolved into the law of loving our neighbor as a general law that properly comprehends it, in the ground and reason of it. The virtue of love cannot [i.e., could not] be the comprehension and fountain and reason of those virtues. On the contrary, the love of truth is [i.e., would be] rather the sum and fountain and ground of the law of love. The great command of love does not stand in the place of the root and stock, and the law of truth in the place of branches from this general or common root. But, on the contrary, the law of truth is more general and original and stands in the place of the root, and the law of love is one of the branches from that root or common stock. Such is the case with moral virtues and duties, that general duties and rules contain the ground of particular duties that are, as it were, branches of the general. In particular, that general rule of doing justly implies the ground and reason of a great many particular duties and rules. As for instance, it is the duty of a man to pay his debts because that is to do justly. It is the duty of a judge to acquit the innocent and condemn him who is evidently guilty because that is to do justly, etc. And if this, therefore, were the case of all moral rules whatsoever with regard to truth — that all are summarily to be resolved into the law of truth as the most general law, comprehending all the rest — then this law or rule of acting according to truth would contain in it the reason of all other laws, and even the law of loving God and our neighbors. The reason why we ought to love God and our neighbors would be this: that we ought to act according to truth. And if so, the laws of speaking and acting according to truth, that forbid lying, etc., could not properly be represented as branches of the general law of love. And, this would not be the reason why we ought to speak and act according to truth — that we ought to speak and act according to love — but on the contrary, the reason why we ought to speak and act according to love would be this — that we ought to speak and act according to truth.

1168. Title to a Treatise. The nature of true virtue, and the way in which it is obtained.

Consider the following two works by Edwards that have been updated and republished for easy reading:

Ripe for Damnation: Sermons on the Book of Revelation – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). Are you hungry for more of Edwards’ sermons? On the book of Revelation? These new works are not found anywhere on A Puritan’s Mind, and there are new ones not found in his large 2 volume works. 4 deal with the plight of the wicked, and 2 deal with the bliss of saints in heaven. These sermons are powerful, practical, and biblical, glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ, and contain 2 never before published sermons.

Justification by Faith Alone – by Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758). In this classic work, Edwards covers the intricacies of how believers are made righteous only through Christ’s merits, and that this justifying righteousness is equally imputed to all elect believers. This is accomplished by the condition of faith as an instrument.

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