JOHN WESLEY AND JONATHAN EDWARDS ON RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE:
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS
From the Wesleyan Theological Journal
Robert Doyle Smith
The tone of the eighteenth-century debate between Arminians and Calvinists finds apt description in John Wesley’s observation that to say, “This man is an Arminian,” was, to some, much the same thing as saying, “This man is a mad dog.”1
While Wesley himself sometimes descended to acrimony, it is noteworthy that he, a leading Arminian of the eighteenth century, believed that there was good reason to edit and publish the works of his contemporary, Jonathan Edwards, Sr., a leading American Calvinist.2 He apparently felt constrained to refer to Edwards’ Treatise on Religious Affections as “a dangerous heap, wherein much wholesome food is mixed with much deadly poison. . .,” but he chose to edit it and to make it generally available because it contained “many remarks and admonitions which may be of great use to the children of God.”3
In general, he abstracted the materials of Edwards and other Calvinists in an irenic spirit, reflecting his well-known conviction that on the issues of original sin and justification by faith, there is not a “hair’s breadth” difference between Wesleyans and Calvinists. More specifically, Wesley displayed his catholic spirit in his ready acknowledgment of Edwards as a brother in Christ and a colleague in the Christian ministry.4
The present study analyzes the theology and personal religious experiences of Edwards and Wesley with an underlying concern to answer the question: “What is the relationship between their religious experience and their theological formulations?” We shall proceed by way of examining the responses of each man to two subquestions, as it were: first, “What is the religious experience of the sinner prior to conversion?”; second, “What happens during conversion?” The results of these researches will be followed by a conclusion in which I will attempt to analyze some of the more striking differences and similarities between the respective responses of the two. The primary documentary basis for the comparison will be the sermons of both.5
I. PREPARATION FOR SALVATION
A. Acknowledging Human Sinfulness
Jonathan Edwards argued that we are born naturally blind to the things of God. So, the “natural man” is neither aware of his condition nor able to move toward God.6 “Natural man,” he says, “cannot see anything of God’s loveliness, his amiable and glorious grace, or anything which should attract their love; but they may see his terrible greatness to excite their terror.”7 So it was that he preached “terror sermons,” sermons designed to awaken sinners to their plight and to move them to flee from the wrath to come.8 The most famous of these, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” in which Edwards depicted sinners as spiders hung over the gaping mouth of hell, shaped his popular image.9
Edwards himself explains the necessity of the approach through terror. Conversion may occur only as the sinner experiences his or her condemnation. The sinner’s experience of condemnation awakens him or her to the awareness of the need of salvation and to the awareness that salvation comes only through Christ.10This, in turn, moves that individual to seek earnestly to “close the call” with God, the phrase being a commonly used metaphor which Edwards and Wesley employed to signify the necessity of seeking for conversion.11 Edwards’ recourse to “terror” is consonant with the pattern of conversion outlined by the sixteenth and seventeenth-century Puritan divines, who believed that an early step in preparation for conversion was humiliation. “Terror” was a means of inducing humiliation!12
As a first step in the process, Edwards emphasizes the sinner’s absolute dependence upon the will of a sovereign God. He tells his listeners that God would be quite justified in condemning all to hell because of their sin. It is only because of the grace of the divinely sovereign will that there is any hope at all.13
This emphasis grows out of Edwards’ own conversion experience, which he understood to have taken place only when he turned from his rejection of the idea and reality of God’s absolute sovereignty and election and submitted to it.14 Oddly enough, however, Edwards’ own conversion experience did not include the step of terror and humiliation.15
Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” finds a rather striking parallel in Wesley’s sermon, “The Way to the Kingdom” (1746), in which Wesley raises a series of penetrating questions and asserts the divine prerogative.
Art thou thoroughly convinced that thou deservest God’s wrath and everlasting condemnation? Would God do thee any wrong if he now commanded the earth to open and swallow thee up?
If thou wert now to go down quick into the pit, into the fire that never shall be quenched? If God hath given thee truly to repent, thou hast a deep sense that these things are so; and that it is of his mere mercy that thou art not consumed, swept away, from the face of the earth.16
Wesley, as Edwards, believes that we must acknowledge that we are dependent upon God alone for salvation. Wesley’s hard words, as those of Edwards, are intended to drive the sinner to just such a saving reliance.17 As does Edwards, Wesley describes the sinner as one who lives in a spiritual stupor, unaware of true spirituality. Worse, one in this stupor may substitute knowledge about religion, good works, or ritual for repentance and belief in the gospel; and one may believe that one is acting with liberty when, in fact, one is in bondage to sin.18 So it is that Wesley warns against trusting in our own righteousness. And, with Edwards, he tries to awaken all who will hear to the nature of true religion.
The doctrine of predestination/election is Edwards’ pivotal concept in emphasizing the helplessness of the individual before God.19 Because God is sovereign; we cannot decide for ourselves whether or when we will be saved.20 Acceptance of God’s sovereign freedom to elect leads one to abandon efforts to save oneself.21
Edwards challenges the Arminian assertion of human free will as an attack upon the freedom of a sovereign God to accomplish the divine will in a human life.22 He rejects the Arminian understanding that when the Bible speaks of predestination it is speaking of a way or method of salvation and of the order which the various aspects of the process of salvation follow, not of the essence of salvation itself. And he also rejects the Arminian understanding that the atonement secures an opportunity to respond to the grace of God, and that its efficacy, therefore, is not limited solely to the redemption of the elect.23
Of course, Edwards’ own view of the work of God in salvation raises serious questions. Is his doctrine of predestination/election intended to be a description of how things are (and have been and will be) or is it intended to be an explanation of how God has worked, works and shall work? That is to say, is it a description of effect or an explanation of cause? Edwards admits that God has provided varying levels of accessibility to the gospel. So, for instance, those born in New England are more likely to be saved than those born in Africa While the African and the New Englander are the same in nature, they differ in opportunity. Still, Edwards recognizes that some in the homes of good Christian New Englanders are unconverted and some in the homes of evil New Englanders are converted,24 and it is precisely that kind of fact, says he, which demonstrates that it is God alone who (which) determines anyone’s eternal destiny.25 The Arminian, examining the same phenomenon, would explain it in terms of human freedom to reject or accept the divine call.
Wesley, as most classical Arminians, does understand the problem here, however: that we must not affirm human moral freedom in terms that deny the sovereignty of God and the understanding that salvation is by grace alone. To resolve the issue, Wesley draws upon the Arminian understanding of prevenient grace and the venerable notion of the divine foreknowledge as foils to the idea that, except for the enigma of “common grace,” unless grace be soteriologically efficacious it is not gracean idea basic to the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination/election.
Edwards views the understanding of foreknowledge held by Wesley and others as unacceptable because it is, in his opinion, finally dependent upon human merit, i.e., God would elect those whom He foreknows would do good works.26 On this point, Wesley maintains a measure of agreement: he too would reject any understanding of salvation which would base it upon human merit. And, he tempers his insistence that we understand an absolute distinction between foreknowledge and foreordination by appealing to an Augustinian understanding of time as it applies to God. God, standing outside of time, as it were, views history as an eternal present. From that perspective, no event actually precedes another.27 In soteriological terms, no human act precipitates the divine proffering of grace; there is no human merit to incline God to grant saving grace. But Wesley would still insist on human moral freedom at the point of the divine offer of saving grace.
Questions may be raised concerning both Edwards’ and Wesley’s points of view. Edwards insists that God’s sovereignty is absolutely unqualified and unconditional; Wesley would agree, and would insist that human moral freedom is a gift of that sovereignty.28 For Edwards, human moral freedom, since the Fall, has been exercised in absolute contradiction of divine sovereignty and cannot now be exercised in any soteriologically efficacious way. But, the Fall in no way curtailed God’s freedom. God is absolutely free, and in soteriological terms this freedom applies especially, and negatively, to any such notions as foreknowledge (as distinct from foreordination) and human merit. Positively, it lies at the heart of Edwards’ doctrine of predestination/election.29
Wesley rejects such an understanding of divine freedom, and its expression in the doctrine of predestination/election, for three reasons: logically, it makes God the author of evil; ethically, it makes meaningless the commands and demands of the Scripture; and theologically, it nullifies the Biblical concept of human moral freedom. And here begin the questions: 1. While it may fairly be said that Edwards’ acceptance of a Calvinistic doctrine of predestination/election logically predetermines his understanding of religious experience, was that acceptance in fact propaeuduetic to his own conversion? In other words: Did Edwards come from Calvinism to conversion, and Wesley from Arminianism to conversion? 2. Or, is the order of things precisely the reverse of that just stated? That is to say: Did Edwards come from conversion to Calvinism; and Wesley from conversion to Arminianism?
Of course, the question whether theology prompts experience or experience prompts theology is, in some sense, a question-begging question. Will the hermeneutical circle be unbroken?
C. Free Grace
We may begin to respond to our question by reflecting on the differing understandings of free grace held by Edwards and Wesley. Edwards used the term to refer to God’s provision of saving grace to the elect.30 Wesley, in his sermon, On Working Out Our Own Salvation (1785), contended that because of prevenient grace, there was no such person as one in the state of mere nature, a person totally devoid of any divine grace.31 On the other hand, Wesley is careful to make it clear that prevenient (or preventing) grace is not a natural faculty but is a gracious and free gift from God.32 This, then, put the concept of human moral freedom in a category of which Edwards’ theology knew nothing, a category foreclosed by Edwards’ presuppositions regarding the nature and definition of divine sovereignty. For Edwards, the term “voluntary,” when applied to human moral activity, means “without restraint,”though one may have been predestined to act in the given way from before the creation of the world.33 Wesley objects to such a definition by insisting that an individual’s actions cannot be both predetermined and voluntary.34
Wesley was no less committed to a doctrine of absolute divine sovereignty than was Edwards, but unlike Edwards, he insisted that the justice of God would not allow Him to exercise His sovereignty in such a way as would violate human moral freedom, for that freedom is itself a divine gift.35 Nor would the justice of God allow Him to exercise sovereignty in such a way as to temper His call to all to repent and believe the Gospel (e.g., by some sort of election which would leave some without the grace necessary to respond one way or the other), for that call is itself issued from His sovereignty.36 “The sovereignty of God is then never to be brought to supercede his justice.”37
It is certainly important to note here that while Wesley did indeed argue for human moral freedom or “free will,” his primary theological category was free grace. It is finally free, prevenient grace which allows all to have free access to God. We do not, and cannot, come to God by nature.38
In affirming that salvation is solely the work of God in us, Edwards did not intend for his congregations simply to sit passively, awaiting God’s acting. In fact, he believed that one’s response to the call for repentance made a difference in one’s destiny. In this sense, people are responsible for their decisions,39 and salvation depends upon human activity.40 Moreover, one’s predestination/election was hereby linked to an experience of conversion.
On the other hand, Edwards rejected any view which seemed to limit the freedom of God to save whomever and whenever He would. So he disapproved the idea that God must save a given person whenever that person is disposed to ask for conversion.41 He exhorted his congregations to seek conversion, but at the same time he warned them that the search could be a lifelong quest in which one might come to no assurance of salvation.42
In 1738, in two sermons, Edwards had given conflicting responses to the question of whether God must respond to repentance.43 However, by 1746, the issue had shifted from the theological question of the divine response to repentance to the epistemological question of how one may know whether God has favorably received one’s repentance.44
In reflecting on the sinner’s condition prior to conversion, Edwards and Wesley show points of both convergence and divergence. They converge in their belief that conversion will occur only as one realizes one’s utter dependence upon God for salvation and responds to the divine offer of saving grace. From this basis, they draw similar conclusions concerning the nature of religious experience at the point of conversion and in consequence of it. The points of divergence are where we would expect them to be: in the discussions of the issues of predestination/election, foreknowledge, and grace.
Given the divergences and convergences, then, what is the relationship between the conversion experiences of Edwards and Wesley and what is the relationship between their respective theologies of conversion? How does the conversion experience of each relate to the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone, a doctrine which they hold in common? And, in the case of each, what is the relationship between his conversion experience, his doctrine of conversion/justification, and his personal religious experience more broadly considered? For example, how does Wesley generalize from his Aldersgate experience? Or, how does Edwards generalize from his conversion experience?
Wesley grounds conversion in the atonement provided by Christ. Justification itself, he defines as pardon or forgiveness of sins.45 The believer is freed from the guilt of sin and Christ’s righteousness is imputed as the believer “close(s) with Christ.” But this “closing” is not solely a human act and is certainly more than intellectual assent to the data of the life of Christ or to soteriological doctrine. It is an act of faith through which one trusts in Christ as Savior. And faith, thus the instrument of conversion, is a gift of God, a free gift of free grace. It is not a creation of the believer.46
Wesley sketches his personal pilgrimage in his account of his Aldersgate experience of May 24, 1738.47 His record of the event reports that his heart was warmed and that he realized that he did trust in Christ for his salvation. In addition he had an assurance that he had been saved. And, he seems to reflect this experience in his sermons from that period, especially in his understanding of faith.48
Yet, we must take into account other reports of his spiritual condition written within a year of Aldersgate. So, for instance, we read in his Journal for October 14, 1738, of his considerable spiritual uneasiness and of his belief that he lacked the witness of the Spirit;49 and in the entry for January 10, 1739 (assuming that Wesley is quoting himself), we read that he is still “not a Christian.”50
In fact, Wesley’s sermons do not accurately reflect his times of personal spiritual turmoil, especially that of 173839. It is noteworthy that in the published sermons neither he nor Edwards uses his own experiences as normative.51 And yet, it may be quite fair to ask whether Wesley does not reduce his personal experiences to standardized theological expression in his sermons.
Edwards, like Wesley, understands justification as pardon and freedom from the guilt of sin. But in developing his position on the role of faith in justification, he sharply criticizes Arminianism, and, by indirect implication, Wesley. Edwards denies that there is any saving connection between one’s obedience to the will of God and one’s personal conversion, nor is there any saving connection between the believer’s obedience and the perseverance of the saint52 Faith is the instrument of our union with Christ, it even brings us to Christ, but it is not the direct instrument of justification. Rather, it is Christ’s perfect obedience, imputed to us, and not our inevitably imperfect obedience, which secures our conversion. Christ’s atonement frees us from the penalty of sin, and the perfect obedience of Christ to the will of the Father (especially his submission to the authority of the Father), imputed now to us, secures our reward in heaven. Our own righteousness, ever imperfect, Edwards argues, could never obtain eternal reward.53
Wesley was no less sure than Edwards that no one may attain salvation on the basis of his/her own righteousness. Like Edwards, he recognizes both the fundamental role played in our salvation by Christ’s own perfect obedience to the will of the Father and (it goes without saying) the absolutely critical character of the atonement through Christ’s death and resurrection.
Unlike Edwards, however, Wesley does not see the significance of Christ’s perfect obedience to the will of the Father to lie in its securing our reward in heaven. Rather, Wesley emphasizes its imputation to the believing sinner in the conversion event.54 So it is that Wesley and Edwards agree that the sinner is dependent upon Christ’s righteousness for salvation, but their theological expressions of that fact differ considerably.
Edwards, in a personal narrative written in the 1740’s, describes several spiritual experiences across the years from his early childhood until his thirty-sixth year (1739). An awakening experienced as a boy, in his own father’s congregation, affected him for months. He prayed five times a day in secret and also joined some other boys in prayer in a special booth which they had built in a swamp. Yet, says he, this was not his conversion.56 Rather, using a metaphor which he will continue to use to describe experiences of the divine presence which especially affect him, he seems to believe his conversion to have begun with several encounters which caused a “sweet burning” in his heart. And the critical moment of conversion appears to have come during a period of contemplation in which his mind was overtaken by a “. . . sweet. . . sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God.”
Edwards often describes the experiencing of God’s presence in terms of “sense” or “sensing,”56 but not always. In describing the renewal of his baptismal covenant (January 12, 1723), he emphasizes the role of his will and of his having made a decision rather than speaking of a sense of the divine presence.57
I have been to God this morning, and told him that I gave myself wholly to him…. That I did receive the blessed Spirit as my teacher, sanctifier, and only comforter; and cherish all his motions to enlighten, purify, confirm, comfort and assist me. This I have done. And I pray God, for the sake of Christ, to look upon it as a self-dedication and to receive me now as entirely his own, and deal with me in all respects as such.58
Wesley, like Edwards, wrote a personal narrative of his spiritual pilgrimage, including its salient points in his account of Aldersgate.59 But in writing of significant spiritual events prior to Aldersgate, Wesley described a set of religious experiences quite different from that of Edwards. Edwards grew up under revivalist preaching, that of his father, Timothy, and his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard; Wesley grew up under the spiritual guidance and nurture of an Anglican mother.60 Wesley did not think in terms of conversion nor seek a conversion experience until he was in his mid-thirties.
Wesley believed that the great privilege of the converted is that they need not sin. Justification is more than simple pardon. It brings with it the new birth, and new birth involves the initial phase of sanctification. Technically speaking, justification has to do with freedom from the guilt of sin, sanctification with freedom from the dominion of sin.61 But this difference does not allow the implication that the justified believer sins while the sanctified believer does not. Wesley understands the demand upon the believer and the privilege of the believer to be the same at any point in the Christian pilgrimage: the believer is empowered not to sin.62
Wesley exhorts the believer to exercise this gracious gift of freedom from the necessity of sinning in holy living. Full devotion and total obedience to God should mark the Christian life. In fact, says Wesley, while faith is always the condition for persevering, the believer’s works provide an index of the status of one’s faith.63
“Let us fear sin more than death and hell,” Wesley admonishes.64 And in that godly fear, the believer clings to Christ.
Edwards speaks of the effect of the new birth in terms both similar to and quite different from those of Wesley:
Though the heart is not perfectly free from all sin, yet a freedom is begun . . . now the power of sin is broken, the strong bands by which it was tied and fastened to the heart are in a great measure loosed, so that corruption has no longer the possession and government of the heart at before.66
Edwards believed that conversion comes only when sin is destroyed or “mortified.” That is to say, conversion comes when sin loses its control over the life of believer.67 Still, “the heart is not perfectly free from all sin.” Not in this life. To put Edwards’ understanding in Wesleyan terms, the normal Christian life is one in which sin remains but does not reign.68
Edwards and Wesley agree that, in the life of the believer, sinning must end and there should be devotion to God. But, unlike Wesley, Edwards disconnects the ideas of righteous living and perseverance, which is to say, perseverance is not dependent upon the believer’s not sinning. Perseverance is dependent upon the grace of God alone, through the atonement, and the atonement covers the past, present, and future sins of the elect. So it is that, according to Edwards, believers have no need to pray for forgiveness, as in the Lord’s Prayer, for such debts, or trespasses, or sins, as the elect may commit are already covered by the atonement. Obedience, for Edwards, is in no way a condition for either entering into or continuing in the Christian life.69
In contrast, Wesley insists that unless one lives a life of holy obedience, one’s status as a believer is in peril and one’s salvation is at risk. He insists as forcefully as Edwards does that obedience is not the condition for acceptance or continuance as a Christian, but he also insists that it is an essential consequence of the uninterrupted working of divine grace in believers. We cannot save ourselves, but we may choose to forfeit our salvation.70 Thus, while obedience is not salvific, disobedience is damning.
Edwards qualifies this position somewhat. In Religious Affections, Edwards clearly rejects any notion of works as the cost of conversion, but he accepts the idea that works are a necessary sign of conversion.71
The personal religious experiences of Wesley and Edwards seem to reflect better than do their formal theological statements their respective understandings of the role of devotion or obedience in the life of the believer. For example, Wesley points to the increased attention to religious duties that arose out of the spiritual change in his life on May 24, 1738.72 And it may be observed that this concern for piety continued throughout his life. As late as 1787, in his sermon, “The More Excellent Way,” he speaks of the concern of one on the more excellent path of Christianity to be faithful in private devotion, moderate and disciplined in eating and conversation, amenable to proper diversions, and careful and charitable in the use of money.73 Edwards expresses himself somewhat differently, turning more to serious, perhaps even excessive, introspection in the development of a long list of roles for living. In Rule 41, he resolves to “ask myself at the end of every day,week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.” In Rule 56, he pledges himself “never [to] give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruption however unsuccessful I may be.”74 However, a more mature Edwards, writing the Religious Affections, suggests both the level of devotion which he expects of the converted and his frustration that it is not attained with sufficient frequency:
Passing affections easily produce words; and words are cheap; and godliness is more easily feigned in words than in actions Christian practice is a costly laborious thing. The self-denial that is required of Christians, and the narrowness of the way that leads to life, don’t consist in words, but in practice. Hypocrites may much more easily be brought to talk like saints, than to act like saints.75
Still, in the same context, Edwards cautions that there is no particular sign which absolutely verifies that one is a Christian, for we cannot see into the heart.76
No particular sign is the sure evidence that one is a Christian, says Edwards, but he still insists that there is a connection between conversion and good works, and here he breaks with his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, and with the majority within the Puritan tradition. Discontent with the dissonance he observed between the professions of faith made in times of revival and the low level of piety that accompanied them led him to contend that one should expect a devoted walk to attend conversion.77
So it is that both Wesley and Edwards insist that the authentically Christian life is marked by “total devotion to God” or “Christian piety.” Genuine believers practice spiritual disciplines; they are religious.
The comparison of the theological formulations and religious experiences of Jonathan Edwards and John Wesley concerning the relationship between conversion and discipline produces two basic observations
First: while the technical theologies of the two men differ greatly, they share very similar understandings of religious experience, and each wants to lead his respective audience into that experience. So it is that Edwards advocates a Calvinistic form of predestination, believes that free grace is limited to the elect, and teaches that growth in grace is the heart of holiness while Wesley affirms only foreknowledge, not foreordination, believes that free grace is offered to all, and that perfection in love is the heart of holiness and yet, the two agree that good works do not save, that the inner must take action to close God’s call to him or her, that God saves or converts, that conversion is an experience to be “sensed” or “felt,” and that holy living is an essential evidence or sign of conversion.
Second: both Edwards and Wesley evidence strong interaction between their personal religious experience and their technical theology in ways that move them toward each other’s understanding of the relationship. Edwards was influenced by conversionist preaching throughout his life. His experience of the necessity for holy living as attendant upon conversion was rather traumatic for both him and his congregation, and it led him to adjust his conversionist theology. In contrast, Wesley came to a conversionist theology after being brought up in an environment that thought and functioned in terms of spiritual nurture and growth in grace. His change in theological conviction led him to seek a conversion experience. And it may well be that his apparent spiritual confusion following Aldersgate has its roots in a trauma created by an attempt to reconcile the theological underpinnings of thirty plus years of believing that he had simply grown up Christian with his lately found conversionist theology. Be that as it may, Edwards adjusted his conversionist theology to his newly arrived-at conviction that the converted nurture holy lives, thereby qualifying the significance of the conversionist experience; Wesley refounded his “growth in holiness” theology in a conversion experience, thereby qualifying the significance of nurture or growth in grace.
BE The Bicentennial Edition of the Works of John Wesley. Frank Baker, editor-in-chief. Nashville: Abingdon, 1984ff (volumes 7, 11, 16, and 25 originally appeared under the general title, Oxford Edition of the Works of John Wesley. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 197585).
Jackson The Works of John Wesley. Thomas Jackson, ed. (14 vols.; 3d ed.). London: Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, 1872; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker,1979; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 195859; Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1979.
Telford The Letters of the Rev John Wesley, A. M. John Telford, ed. 8 vols.; London: Epworth, 1931.
Bohn The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Henry G. Bohn, ed. 10th ed.; 2 vols.; London: Henry G. Bohn, 1845.
Williams The Works of President Edwards. E. Williams and E. Parsons, eds.; 10 vols.; Reprint ed. New York: Burt Franklin, 1968. Original ed.; 8 vols.; Leeds: for James Black, 1806 11; vols. 9 and 10, Edinburgh, n.p., 1847. New ed.; 8 vols.; London: for James Black, 1817.
Miller The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Perry Miller, et al. eds. 9 vols.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957ff.
1John Wesley, “The Question, ‘What is an Arminian?’ Answered by a Lover of Free Grace,” Jackson 10:358.
2Cf. op. cit. 35960, where Wesley contends that the names “Calvinist” and “Arminian” should not be used as derogatory code words. But also see Wesley’s “List of Works Revised and Abridged from Various Authors . . . with the Prefaces by Which They are Accompanied; LXXXVII: A Treatise on Religious Affections; in Three Parts, by the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, A.M. ‘To the Reader,'” 13 (1773), Jackson 14:26970 for Wesley’s opinion of Edwards’ theological logic. See John Wesley, ed., Christian Library (30 vols.; London: J. Kershaw, 1827),30:91376 for Wesley’s abridgments of Edwards’ Narratiue of the Late Work of God in New England (30:911403; Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (30:141260); Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (30:261307); and A Treatise on Religious Affections (30:308376). Also see Charles Rogers, “John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards,” Duke Divinity Review 31:1 (Winter, 1966), pp. 2038. For discussions of Wesley’s practice of abstracting the works of Puritan and Calvinist writers, see Gregory S. Clapper, ” ‘True Religion’ and the Affections: A Study of John Wesley’s Abridgment of Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise on Religious Affections,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 19:2 (Fall, 1984), pp. 7789; Gregory Scott Clapper, “John Wesley on Religious Affections: His Views on Experience and Emotion and Their Role in the Christian Life and Theology” (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Emory University, 1985), pp.183204; Robert C. Monk, John Wesley: His Puritan Heritage (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966), 3167; and David Lowes Watson, “Justification by Faith and Wesley’s Evangelistic Message,” Wesleyan Theological Journal 21:1 and 2 (Spring-Fall, 1986), pp. 723.
3See John Wesley, “The Question, ‘What is an Arminian?’ Answered by a Lover of Free Grace,” Jackson 10:359; and Howe Octavius Thomas, Jr., “John Wesley’s Awareness and Application of the Method of Distinguishing Between Theological Essentials and Theological Opinions,” Methodist History 26:2 (January. 1988\. DD. 8497.
4In 1745, Wesley, referring to Edwards as a brother in Christ, recommended that he be invited to participate in an ecumenical program of prayer and praise. Cf. Telford 2:3334. For Edwards’ response, cú Bohn 2:278312. Also see Rogers, op. cit., p. 22. Albert Outler opined that “Edwards, always minus his Calvinism, was a major source of Wesley’s evangelical theology.” Cf. Albert Outler, ed., John Wesley in “A Library of Protestant Thought” (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), p. 16.
5See Steven Harper, “Wesley’s Sermons on Spiritual Formation,” Methodist History 26:3 (April, 1988), pp. 13138; and John H. Gerstner, Steps to Salvation: The Evangelistic Message of Jonathan Edwards (Philadelphia: Westminster, n.d.), pp.9295. Gerstner focuses on Edwards’ sermons and compares his message with that of Wesley.
6Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Williams 6:450~4.
7Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival,” Miller 4 :390)
8Jonathan Edwards, “Man’s Natural Blindness in the Things of Religion,” Sermons on Various Important Subjects (Northampton: Andrew Wright, 1804), pp. 176178.
9Jonathan Edwards, “God Makes Men Sensible of their Misery before he Reveals his Mercy and Love,” Williams 10:157.
10Ibid 158159; also, “Hope and Comfort Usually Follow Genuine Humiliation and Repentance,” ibid 17276.
11 See Jonathan Edwards, “Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment, to be Found in Christ,” ibid 427, 431; and John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith,” BE 1:121n37. The latter reference notes that such Puritan writers as George Whitefield (1724), Matthew Mead (1661), William Allen (1658), Richard Alleine (1676), William Guthrie (1766), and Thomas Ridgeley (1733) used the phrase.
12See Norman Pettit, The Heart Prepared: Grace and Conversion in Puritan Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), pp. 1821, 86124, 200 205; Frederick Dreyer, “Faith and Experience in the Thought of John Wesley,” American Historical Review 88:1 (February, 1983), p.20; Bill J. Leonard, “Getting Saved in America: Conversion Event in a Pluralistic Culture,” Review and Expositor 82 (Winter,1985), pp.113118; David Laurence, “Jonathan Edwards, Solomon Stoddard, and the Preparationist Model of Conversion,” Harvard Theological Review 72:34 (July-October, 1979), pp. 26674; and David L. Weddle, “The Image of the Self in Jonathan Edwards: A Study of Autobiography and Theology,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 43:1 (March, 1975), p. 73.
13See Jonathan Edwards, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” Williams 6:36670,394; and “The Sole Consideration, that God is God, Sufficient to Still All Objections to His Sovereignty,” 6:48587. “When God seems to turn a deaf ear to your cries; when he seems to frown upon you,when he shows mercy to others, your equals, or those who are worse, and who have been seeking a less time than you, be still” (ibid, p. 487).
14Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative,” in Samuel Hopkins, The Life and Character of Jonathan Edwards (Northampton: Andrew Wright, 1804), p. 26. Customarily, the personal reflections collected from Edwards’ papers and gathered on pp. 2329 of Hopkins’ biography are referred to as Edwards’ “Personal Narrative.”
15See “Personal Narrative,” in Hopkins, op. cit., p. 25, where Edwards comments, “But yet it never seemed to be proper to express my concern that I had, by the name of Terror….”; also see Bohn 1:1xxiii, where Edwards writes, “The chief thing, that now makes me in any measure to question my good estate, is my not having experienced conversion in those particular steps, wherein the people of New England, and anciently the dissenters of Old England, used to experience. Wherefole, [I am] now resolved, never to leave searching, till I have satisfying found out the very bottom and foundation, the real reason, why they used to be converted in those steps.” See Stephen Post, “Disinterested Benevolence: An American Debate Over the Nature of Christian Love,” The Journal of Religious Ethics 14 (Fall, 1986), p. 353. Post contends that Edwards was critical of the notion of “a willingness to be damned.” Also cf. Laurence, op. cit., pp. 26869, 27477; and Weddle, op. cit., p. 78.
16John Wesley, “The Way to the Kingdom,” BE 1:228.
l7See BE 1 :228229; also see John Wesley, “The Lord Our Righteousness,” BE 1:458, and “The Marks of the New Birth,” BE 1:419.
18John Wesley, “The Spirit of Bondage and Adoption,” BE 1:25066.
I9Jonathan Edwards, “Therefore Hath He Mercy On Whom He Will Have Mercy, And Whom He Will He Hardeneth,” Williams 10:213.
20″The Justice of God in The Damnation of Sinners,” Williams 6:397.
22See Williams 6:369 and “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, By the Greatness of Man’s Dependence upon Him in the Whole of it,” Williams 6:44748. There is a question as to the identity of Edwards’ Arminian enemies. Was he attacking Arminius, Wesley’s Arminianism, or Arminianism in some broad sense? Cú John F. Jamieson, “Jonathan Edwards’ Change of Position on Stoddardeanism,” Harvard Theological Review 74:1 (January, l9~1), pp.8182; and J. Steven O’Malley, “Recovering the Vision of Holiness: Wesley’s Epistemic Basis,” Asbury Theological Journal 41:1 (Spring, 1986), p. 11.
23See Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith Alone,” Williams 6:255, 264, 311; and “Christians a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a Peculiar People,” Williams 10:450.
24″Therefore Hath He Mercy On Whom He Will Have Mercy, And Whom He Will He Hardeneth”
25David R. Williams, “Horses, Pigeons and the Therapy of Conversion: A Psychological Reading of Jonathan Edwards’ Theology,” Harvard Theolgical Review 74:4 (October,1981), pp. 33752. Williams sees Edwards’ views of predestination as products of cultural conditioning, which is to say, then, that Edwards is really simply stating that conversion is a form of acculturation.
26″Christians a Chosen Generation, A Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, a Peculiar People,” Williams 10:448.
27See John Wesley, “Predestination Calmly Considered,” Jackson 10:210; and”On Predestination,” BE 2:417.
28See Clapper, ibid, p. 189, who concludes: “One might say that while Wesley and Edwards agreed about the sovereignty of God, Edwards expressed this sovereignty through his Calvinist doctrines of predestination and the bondage of the will, and Wesley expressed the same thing by emphasizing prevenient grace and the perfecting possibilities of the Spirit.” On the other hand, I see Wesley expressing sovereignty somewhat differently. Wesley links free grace (which would, of course, include prevenient grace~ and sovereignty as equal partners. The sovereign God. therefore. will not choose for the human being; rather, the sovereign God grants the gift of free will. That is to say, for Wesley, free will is a gift of sovereign grace, not a natural faculty.
29Cf., for instance, Jonathan Edwards, “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” Williams 7:149fú
30Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith,” The Works of President Edwards (4 vols.; New York: Leavitt and Allen, n.d.) 4:8991.
31John Wesley, “On Working Out Our Own Salvation,” BE 3:207. Also see Rogers, op. cit., p. 35, where he notes that Wesley understood free grace to refer to a sinner’s having a knowledge of good and evil which, in turn, provides that sinner knowledge of his/her own spiritual condition.
32John Wesley, “Predestination Calmly Considered,” Jackson 10:230.
33Jonathan Edwards, Freedom of the Will (reprint of Paul Ramsay, ed., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957; New York: Irvington Publishers, 1982), pp. 1536.
34See John Wesley, “Thoughts Upon Necessity,” Jackson 10:46369; and “A Thought on Necessity,” Jackson 10:479.
35″Predestination Calmly Considered,” Jackson 10:21720. Also see the discussion in Gerstner, op. cit., pp. 9394.
36See the carefully documented discussion of prevenient grace, especially the paragraphs regarding the sovereignty of grace, in Robert S. Chiles, Theological Transition in American Methodism, 179~1935 (New York, Nashville: Abingdon, 1965), pp. 14853.
37See “Predestination Calmly Considered,” Jackson 10:221.
38See “Predestination Calmly Considered,” Jackson 10:230; “On Working Out Our Own Salvation,” BE 3:207; and “Thoughts Upon God’s Sovereignty,” Jackson 10:362, from whence comes the following quotation: “This implies . . . that he [God] gives them various degrees of understanding, and of knowledge, diversified by numberless circumstances. It is hard to say how far this extends; what an amazing difference there is, as to the means of improvement, between one born and brought up in a pious English family, and one born and bred among the Hottentots. Only we are sure the difference cannot be so great, as to necessitate one to be good, or the other to be evil; to force one into everlasting glory, or the other into everlasting burnings. This cannot be, because it would suppose the character of God as a Creator to interfere with God as a Governor; wherein he does not, cannot possibly, act according to his own mere sovereign will; but, as he has expressly told us, according to the invariable rules both of justice and mercy.”
39See Jonathan Edwards, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” Williams 6:386.
40See Jonathan Edwards, “Pressing into the Kingdom of God,” Williams 6:334; “Hope and Comfort Usually Follow Genuine Humiliation and Repentance,” Williams 10:198200; “When the Wicked Shall Have Filled up the Measure of Their Sin, Wrath Will Come Upon Them to the Uttermost,” Williams 6:534; “Great Guilt No Obstacle to the Pardon of the Returning Sinner,” Williams 6:494; and “The Portion of the Righteous,” Williams 10:35355.
41See Jonathan Edwards, “God Makes Men Sensible of Their Misery Before He Reveals His Mercy and Love,” Williams 10:167; “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” Williams 6:378; “The Sole Consideration, that God is God, Sufficient to Still All Objections to His Sovereignty,” Dwight 6:48587; and “Therefore Hath He Mercy on Whom He Will Have Mercy, And Whom He Will He Hardeneth,” Williams 10:213.
42See Jonathan Edwards, “Pressing into the Kingdom of God,” Dwight 6:319, 33132; and “The True Christian’s Life, a Journey towards Heaven,” Sermons on Various Important Subjects, p. 367. In the latter, Edwards says, “All those that are converted, are not sure of it, do not know that they shall be always so; and [yet they are] still seeking and serving God with the utmost diligence, in the way to have assurance, and to have it maintained.” See Gerstner, op. cit., p. 95, who concludes that Edwards urged his congregation “to seek to be enabled to believe.” while Wesley preached for decisions.
43See Jonathan Edwards, “Pressing into the Kingdom of God,” Dwight 6:332; “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” Dwight 6:386. Also see Robert W. Jenson, America’s Theologian: A Recommendation of Jonathan Edwards (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 5859.
44Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, edited by John E. Smith (2 vols.; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), 2:11927. Also see Charles Rogers, op. cit., p. 30, who argues that Edwards focuses on distinguishing true from false religion rather than on reconciling the doctrine of election with the phenomenon of (apparent) backsliding.
45See John Wesley, “Justification by Faith,” BE 1:189; and David Lowes Watson, op. cit., pp. 723.
46John Wesley, “Salvation by Faith,” BE 1:120124. On faith as a gift of grace, cf “An Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion,” Jackson 8:56,4849. Cp. Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith Alone,” Dwight 6:218
47John Wesley, Journal, BE 25:24250 (24 May 1738).
48See esp. Journal, BE 25:24041,24950. Also see “Salvation by Faith,” BE 1:12021.
49See John Wesley, Journal, Jackson 1:160163 (14 October 1738); and Telford 1:26265 ~30 October 1738).
50John Wesley, Journal, Jackson 1:17072 (4 January 1739).
51See Outler, op. cit, pp. 5051; and Weddle, op. cit., p. 73.
52Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith,” Williams 6:255, 273. For an expanded treatment of Edwards’ understanding of justification by faith, cf. Jenson, op. cit., pp.5364; and Samuel T. Logan, “The Doctrine of Justification in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards,” Westminster Theological Journal 46 (1984), pp. 2652.
53Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith,” Williams 6:25964; and ibid. in The Works of President Edwards (4 vols.; New York: Leavitt and Allen, n.d.), 4:90105.
54John Wesley, “The Lord Our Righteousness,” BE 1:459.
55See “Personal Narrative,” in Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 2425; Paul David Johnson, “Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Sweet Conjunction,’ ” Early American Literature 16:3 (Winter, 198182), pp. 27177; and Weddle, op. cit., pp. 7377.
56″Personal Narrative,” in Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 26, 28. Both Wesley and Edwards speak of spiritual experience in terms of sensing or of having a sense of something. See James Hooper, “Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Psychology,” Journal of American History 69:4 (March, 1983), p. 862; and Dreyer, op. cit., pp. 1518.
57See Jonathan Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” in The Works of President Edwards (4 vols.; Leavitt and Allen, n.d.) 4:443, where, in a sermon, Edwards treats conversion theologically in the light of his own encounters with God.
58Cf. Hopkins, op. cit., p. 11.
59John Wesley, Journal, BE 25:24250 ~24 May 1738).
60See Leonard, op. cit., p. 123 for a discussion of the impact of nurture and conversion emphasized within the Southern Baptist tradition.
61John Wesley, “The Great Privilege of Those That are Born of God,” BE 1:432.
62See John Wesley, “The Great Privilege of Those That are Born of God,” BE 1:43143; and “On Sin in Believers,” BE 1:320.
63 John Wesley, “The Lord Our Righteousness,” BE 1:46263.
64John Wesley, “The Great Privilege of Those That are Born of God,” BE 1:442.
65John Wesley, “On Working Out Our Own Salvation,” BE 3:20911.
66Jonathan Edwards, “The Pure in Heart Blessed,” Williams 10:374.
67Jonathan Edwards, “The Pure in Heart Blessed,” Williams 10:374; “Ruth’s Resolution,” Dwight 6:35253; and “Hope and Comfort Usually Follow Genuine Humiliation and Repentance,” Williams 10:185.
68John Wesley, “The Repentance of Believers,” BE 1:337.
69Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith,” Williams 6:255, 273.
70John Wesley, Journal, BE 25:243 ~24 May 1738); “The New Birth,” BE 2:20001; and “The Lord Our Righteousness,” BE 1:26263.
71See Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. ed cit., 2:45661. Also see Hooper, op. cit., p. 862; Jamieson, op. cit., pp. 98 100; and Logan, op. cit., pp. 41, 47, who contend that Edwards walks between Arminianism and Antinomianism. Does Wesley walk between Calvinism and Antinomianixm?
72John Wesley, Journal, BE 25:24247 (24 May 1738).
73John Wesley, “The More Excellent Way,” BE 3:26377.
74Cf. Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 7, 9.
75Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, ed cit., 2411
76Jonathan Edwards, op. cit., 2:420.
77Jonathan Edwards, op. cit., 2:45661; and Pettit, op. cit., pp. 20712.