"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Edwards and Newton: Battling Doubt

So do we merely accept doubt and unbelief? I was interested in searching for Edwards’ prescription for doubt and found it in his thoughts on those who take communion but have doubts:

“And though the pastor is not to act as a searcher of the heart, or a lord of conscience in this affair, ...but... to be helpers of their joy, and promoters of their salvation.”
-Qualifications for communion

And his Resolution 25: "Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it."

But how? Jay Bennett probably knows better as he has made Edwards the focus of his studies, but I like hymns, so Newton fills in the gaps vividly for me in "Begone Unbelief": look to Christ, not to your faith or will, by Christ is faith strengthened:

1. Begone unbelief, My Savior is near,
And for my relief Will surely appear:
By faith let me wrestle, with God in the storm
And help me my Savior, the faith to adorn

2. Though dark be my way, Since he is my guide,
'Tis mine to obey, and His to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, And creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken will surely prevail.

3. Why should I complain, Of want or distress
Temptation or pain? He told me no less

The heirs of salvation, I know from his word
Through much tribulation Must follow their Lord

4. Since all that I meet will work for my good,
The bitter is sweet, The medicine food;
Though painful at present, will cease before long,
And then, O! how glorious, The conqueror's song!

1 comment:

M. Jay Bennett said...

The classic treatment from Edwards on practical Christian living is his letter to Deborah Hatheway.

There he writes on doubt and fear:

"10. If at any time you fall into doubts about the state of your soul under darkness and dull frames of mind, 'tis proper to look over past experiences, but yet don't consume too much of your time and strength in poring and puzzling thoughts about old experiences, that in dull frames appear dim and are very much out of sight, at least as to that which is the cream and life and sweetness of them: but rather apply yourself with all your might, to do an earnest pursuit after renewed experiences, new light, and new, lively acts of faith and love. One new discovery of the glory of Christ's face, and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute, than examining old experiences by the best mark that can be given, a whole year.

11. When the exercise of grace is at a low ebb, and corruption prevails, and by that means fear prevails, don't desire to have fear cast out any other way, than by the reviving and prevailing of love, for 'tis not agreeable to the method of God's wise dispensations that it should be cast out any other way; for when love is asleep, the saints need fear to restrain them from sin and therefore it is so ordered that at such times fear comes upon them, and that more or less as love sinks. But when love is in lively exercise, persons don't need fear, and the prevailing of love in the heart, naturally tends to cast out fear, as darkness in a room vanishes away as you let more and more of the perfect beams of the sun into it, 1 John 4:18."