Spiritual Impulses, Errors, and Delusions (Edwards)

 Jonathan Edwards was around ten years older than George Whitefield.  Both were involved in the famous revivals of the 1730’s and 40’s.  Edwards and Whitefield did meet and were both interested in promoting revival, so they had common ground.  However, as George Marsden notes, Edwards was somewhat critical of Whitefield.  Below is Marsden’s summary of Edwards’ criticism:

“Never one to put politeness above principle, Edwards had already taken the young man aside and spoken to him privately about the danger of relying on ‘impulses.’  Whitefield and many of his fellow awakeners were following what they took to be direct leadings from God’s Spirit.  They would, after intense prayer about a decision, become convinced that God was directly telling them what they should do.  Edwards believed such ‘impressions’ were often products of the imagination rather than ‘impulses from above.’  He strongly favored prayerful spiritual intensity accompanied by wonderful images of God’s grace, and so forth.  But for Edwards, these ecstatic experiences had to be disciplined by the rational mind, informed by Scripture.  The point was crucial.  If everyone who had intense spiritual experiences could claim special messages from God, there would be no way of checking all sorts of errors and delusions.”

George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, p. 211-212.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015


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