SIGNS OF GODLINESS – Jonathan Edwards (1730)

Jonathan Edwards’ short essay entitled, Signs of Godliness, sets forth a clear thesis that appears at the end of the work: “The grand secret of being real, thorough Christians lies in these two things: in cleaving to Christ as our only portion, so as therein to renounce the world; and in trusting in Christ as our only Savior, in a renunciation of our own righteousness.”

The Puritan divine supports his thesis by pointing to numerous signs of godliness which include:

  • Bringing forth fruit and keeping Christ’s commandments – what Edwards refers to as “universal obedience.”
  • Persevering through temptations and difficulties.
  • Mortifying the flesh.
  • Denying ourselves for Christ.
  • Bridling the tongue.
  • Believing the difficult, the spiritual and abasing doctrines of Christianity.
  • Hungering and thirsting after spiritual good.
  • Having the spirit of Christ.
  • A meek and forgiving spirit.
  • Love and charity which is “the primary fruit of the Spirit.”
  • Loving other Christians.
  • Believing and being heartily convinced that Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
  • Being faithful to God in our own sphere and particular calling.
  • Walking in newness of life and bringing forth the fruits of righteousness.
  • Trusting in God – “Scarcely anything is more frequently mentioned in the Old Testament as the distinguishing character of a godly man than trusting in God.”
  • Choosing and resting in God and Christ and spiritual and eternal good as our portion.
  • Fearing God.
  • A changed heart, which involves turning from sin and turning to God.
  • Humility, a broken and contrite heart, being poor in spirit, sensible of our own vileness and unworthiness, self-abasement before God, disclaiming all worthiness and glory, mourning for sin.
  • Seeing and knowing God and Christ and understanding divine things.
  • Spiritual knowledge.
  • Relishing, savoring and delighting in the Word of God.
  • A disposition to praise God.
  • A delighting and rejoicing in God.

Edwards props up each of these “signs of godliness”  with a host of Scriptures, intending to convince readers of their importance.  His work is a devastating critique of the free grace movement (almost 300 years before its inception) and any theological system that supports a non-lordship approach to Scripture.  One wonders how any antinomian would respond to Edwards’ clear and biblical assertions.

Signs of Godliness beckons Christians to live in a way that is consistent with their calling.  Christ-followers must be a people of humility, gentleness, patience, and love” (Eph. 4:1-3).

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