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The Providence of God

Miscellanies by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

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Edwards talks about providence and the outward benefits of God’s providence to the creature.

702. God’s Providence in Creation. God’s providence taken summarily or in general is an operation and work of his superior to the work of creation, for providence may in some respect be called the end of the work of creation, as the use and improvement any artificer makes of an engine, or the work he intends with it, is superior to his making the engine….

1299. Providence. The outward provision which God makes through the ages of the world for the temporal benefit and comfort of mankind, in causing his sun to shine and his rain to descend upon them, and in numberless other things, is a great argument that God is not a implacable enemy of mankind, in a settled and full determination finally to cast them off, and never again to admit them to favor. For these kind dispensations of heaven have an abundant show and appearance of goodness, kindness, and favorableness. They are as so many smiles of heaven on mankind, from which they might justly conceive a hope that God was placable, and was not determined to be their everlasting, irreconcilable enemy. For if this be the case, they are no tokens of goodness, kindness, or favor at all. If their Creator has wholly rejected them, and cast them off, determining never to receive them to favor any more, these things can do them no good. They can be of no significance to them, and they are not what they seem to be. The supposition would imply this horrid blasphemy in it: that these are all so may delusive and deceitful smiles. They have a show of fatherly care and tenderness, and of a disposition in God to favor mankind, but imply no such thing: men being indeed reserved for nothing but wrath and ruin without mercy, there being nothing but irreconcilable hatred hid under the disguise of these smiles. And if God be reconcilable, it will follow that he must make a revelation to mankind, to make known to them the terms and methods of reconciliation. For God, who is offended, alone can tell us on what terms he is willing to be reconciled, and how he will be a peace with us, and receive us to favor. And there surely is nothing which can be pretended to be any revelation of this kind, if the Holy Scripture is not.

Objection: The Scriptures are communicated to but few of mankind, so that if a revelation of the method of reconciliation be necessary, a very great part of those who enjoy these external benefits and bounties of Divine Providence, still have no opportunity to obtain reconciliation with God, not having the benefit of that revelation. So that, notwithstanding these seeming testimonies of favor and placableness, it is all one to them as if God was irreconcilable. For still, for want of the knowledge of the method of reconciliation, it is all one to them as though there were no such method, and as though no reconciliation were possible.

To this I answer:

First. The case of mankind is not just the same as if there were no such thing as reconciliation for mankind, or as though reconciliation were utterly impossible. For although the circumstances of a great part of the world be such that their reconciliation be very improbable, yet it is not utterly impossible. There is a way of reconciliation, and it is publicly known in the world. And God has ever afforded opportunity to the generality of the habitable world, that if the minds of men had been as much engaged in the search of divine truth as they ought to have been, they might have felt after God and found him, and might probably have come to an acquaintance with divine revelation.

Second. If there have been some parts of mankind, in some ages, for whom it was next to impossible that they should ever come to know that revelation which God has made, yet that hinders not the force of the argument for God’s placableness to sinners, and the existence of a revealed method of reconciliation. The common favors of Providence may be a proof that God intends favor to some among mankind, but yet be no proof that he intends that all shall actually have the benefits of his favor. None will deny, but that those outward blessings of God’s goodness were intended for the temporal benefit of mankind, and yet there are numbers who never actually receive any temporal benefit by many of them. None will doubt, but that God aimed at men’s outward good, in providing grain, and grapes, and other fruits which the earth produces for man’s subsistence and comfort in the world, as also the most useful animals. But yet a very great part of the world were for a long time wholly destitute of the most useful of these. All the innumerable nations that dwelt on this American side of the globe, were from age to age, till the Europeans came hither, wholly destitute of wheat, rye, barley, peas, wine, horses, neat cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, and many other useful animals and fruits, which abounded in the other continent.

And it is probable that some of those gifts of nature and Providence, which are most useful to mankind, were what all men remained without the benefit of for many ages: as metals, wine, and many things used for food, clothing, and habitations. The loadstone, with regard to its polar direction, was doubtless intended for the use of mankind, but yet it is but lately that any of them have had any benefit of it. Glass is a great gift of Providence, and yet but lately bestowed, and also some of the most useful medicines. And with regard to those things which are most universally useful, some have the benefit of them in vastly lesser degrees than others: as the heat of the sun, vegetation, etc.

If it should be further objected that if God’s true aim in these outward benefits of providence, which have the appearances of favor, be real favors to mankind, and so that the true happiness of mankind should be the consequence, one would think it would have the same effect in all places where those blessings are bestowed.

I answer that it will not follow. God may grant things in all parts of the world, the main design of which may evidently be the benefit of mankind, and yet not have that effect in all places where they are given. As the main design of Him who orders the existence of rain in the world, is making the earth fruitful, yet it does not follow that he designed this should actually be the effect in all parts of the globe where the rain falls. For it falls on the sea as well as the dry land, which is more than one half of the globe. But yet there it cannot answer this intention.

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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