More on Edwards

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Please forgive me this last indulgence. Considering the overwhelming interest in the topic, I find it difficult to restrain myself. But for some reason this point is quite important to me. Edwards was a Calvinist, but he was not a monster. Too often, he is painted in the bleakest black--another Puritan--sour-faced, convinced of the damnation of a majority of the world, uncompromisingly bleak, and overall horrid. It is the story one would get regarding nearly any major Catholic figure of the Middle Ages from those ignorant of the real people behind some stories.

I reiterate, I do not hold to Calvinist doctrine. But even the Calvinist can be correct and inspiring at times.

from Many Mansions
Jonathan Edwards

Prop. II. There are many mansions in the house of God. By many mansions is meant many seats or places of abode. As it is a king's palace, there are many mansions. Kings' houses are wont to be built very large, with many stately rooms and apartments. So there are many mansions in God's house.

When this is spoken of heaven, it is chiefly to be understood in a figurative sense, and the following things seem to be taught us in it.

1. There is room in this house of God for great numbers. There is room in heaven for a vast multitude, yea, room enough for all mankind that are or ever shall be; Luke 14:22, "Lord it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room."

It is not with the heavenly temple as it often is with houses of public worship in this world, that they fill up and become too small and scanty for those that would meet in them, so that there is not convenient room for all. There is room enough in our heavenly Father's house. This is partly what Christ intended in the words of the text, as is evident from the occasion of his speaking them. The disciples manifested a great desire to be where Christ was, and Christ therefore, to encourage them that it should be as they desired, tells them that in his Father's house where he was going were many mansions, i.e., room enough for them.

There is mercy enough in God to admit an innumerable multitude into heaven. There is mercy enough for all, and there is merit enough in Christ to purchase heavenly happiness for millions of millions, for all men that ever were, are or shall be. And there is a sufficiency in the fountain of heaven's happiness to supply and fill and satisfy all: and there is in all respects enough for the happiness of all.

. . . I. Here is encouragement for sinners that are concerned and exercised for the salvation of their souls, such as are afraid that they shall never go to heaven or be admitted to any place of abode there, and are sensible that they are hitherto in a doleful state and condition in that they are out of Christ, and so have no right to any inheritance in heaven, but are in danger of going to hell and having their place of eternal abode fixed there. You may be encouraged by what has been said, earnestly to seek heaven; for there are many mansions there. There is room enough there. Let your case be what it will, there is suitable provision there for you; and if you come to Christ, you need not fear that he will prepare a place for you; he'll see to it that you shall be well accommodated in heaven.

Again, once can't get the real meaning from a mere excerpt. The complete sermon may be found here.

Edwards was undeniably Calvinist, but I do not read his Calvinism as saying that any are excluded from Heaven. They may well be by the provision made by God (in Calvinist doctrine) but we do not know who they may be, and the provision God has made is sufficient for all. Edwards believed in the possibility of the believer approaching God and repenting of sin and being made heaven-worthy through God's grace. He may have believed in predestination, but he urged everyone toward the gates of heaven. This to my mind is a preacher and a man who loved God. A man who has suffered much by the calumny of generations who have chosen to misconstrue his words and works and indeed the entire notion of faith.

At one time I believed Savanarola to have been an unparalleled monster, now I am a good deal less certain. Much depends upon the texts from which one derives one's information. In assessing doctrine, teaching, or idea, it is better not to trust redactors with an agenda, but to form one's own opinion on the basis of wide reading (if the matter is of sufficient interest and moment.)

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You should read what C.S. Lewis wrote about the Puritans vis a vis the Catholics. He wrote, and of course I'm paraphrasing, that at the time of the Puritan ascendancy it was the Catholics who were seen as the dour sorts, while the Puritans were thought of as being nearly libertines. Lewis of course had no ax to grind in the matter, being himself an Anglican closer in theology to Rome than Calvin's Geneva. (Of course asceticism is a Catholic "thing", not a Protestant prediliction anyway).

Always glad to hear someone isn't certain Savonarola was an unparalleled monster. There are plenty of Dominicans who hope for his canonization. And more than one -- Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, who took Girolamo as his name in the Third Order, comes to mind -- firmly convinced of his sanctity.

Dear Tom,

Thank you. I now know. And it has been by them that I am persuaded that there may be another side to the story. One learns what one learns, and Art History is not a good place to hear about Savanarola.

If nothing else the canonization might upset the Baptists and others who see Savonarola as a leading figure of anti-papacy (like it would be difficult to be anti-Alexander VI) and the leader of the reformation. Several fundamentalist sites refer to Savonarola's speeches and work as supporting a sola fide position.

And this sums up part of the position contra--"Bonfire of the Vanities" being a particularly sore point among art historians. Whether he was right or not, the best way to go about a thing is not necessarily to make emotions run high.

Finally, I do want to reemphasize the main point--one should not too easily condemn what one is not fully acquainted with--hence my example of Savonarola. (Ironically, he is compared with Jonathan Edwards in one of the posts above.)



Just a few misplaced thoughts. First, I was glad to see Edwards here. Carmel's hospitality at this blog is a great grace, and for that I am thankful. Second, there's so much more to Edwards even than this lovely sermon. The very thought that the nature of true virtue is the 'cordial consent to being' ought at least to give Edwards bashers a pause. (Just think about that, 'cordial consent to being,' for a moment, observing all the nuances of each word -- it's a stunningly beautiful thought.) Of course, none of this should suggest that there are no serious disputes between, say, Catholics and Calvinists (Edwards was, shall we say, an ODD sort of Calvinist, but that's for another day). It seems to me, anyway, that rather than either ignoring differences, or inventing caricatures of one another, folks should try to clearly think through what the actual disputes might be, and proceed from there. So, there, nothing earth shattering, just glad to see Edwards here, a great protestant mystic (I didn't even get to that). Again, you keep surprising us. Thanks for the time and space to ramble on here.

Peace to all.

Dear Thomas,

All people of good will and good faith have a voice here. I am not so holy or so advanced that I can afford to dismiss the advice of anyone, regardless of whether or not I see eye-to-eye with respect to theological issues. Where Christ is actively sought after, I truly believe that the truth will rise above doctrinal differences. I have always loved Jonathan Edwards--ever since I was first thrilled by the language and the message of "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." And I love Baxter and Flavel and Law and Charnock and a good many others whose views of the Catholic Church might have been somewhat dim, but who, nevertheless, regardless of their doctrinal positions, have much to tell me.

That's one of the reasons for making such a point. And Edwards is such a wonderful man to make a point for, as most people have labeled him with "Sinners" and know nothing of his other wonderful and inspiring work.

Thanks for your kind words. If you stop by again, would you mind leaving a reference for the "cordial" quote. CCEL has done an enormous amount of work and so there is an online complete Jonathan Edwards available.



That true virtue is the 'cordial consent to being' is, if memory serves, found in The Nature of True Virtue. The idea (and possibly the very phrase) crops up all over the place, like the sermon 'Much in Deeds of Charity,' 'Heaven is a World of Love,' and so forth. (By the way, the notion found in that last title ought to be common ground between Catholics and Protestants, but, alas, on my side of the Tiber too many folks seem to think it's some sort of reward for the good deed of being Protestant. I believe that's called Irony.)

May I also direct you to Marilynne Robinson's beautiful look at Calvin (Jean Cauvin) in her book The Death of Adam? For instance, 'John Calvin says that when a seed falls into the ground, it is cherished there, by which he means that everything the seed contains by way of expectation is foreseen and honored. . . . So a thriving place is full of intention, a sufficiency awaiting expectation, teasing hope beyond itself,' (p. 234, referring to Calvin's Commentary on Genesis, verses 1.11-12). This could even offer a different spin on that notorious predestination stuff, though we'd have to lop off eternal reprobation.

In any case, thank you once again for your hospitality. Peace to all.

There's a superb, long-out-of-print biography,'CHARLES SIMEON OF CAMBRIDGE' by Hugh Evan Hopkins, still available at It's a wonderful example of what Christianity was once considered to be, both in public and private life.

That site also has a lot of new and unplayed out-of-print Christian music cassette bestsellers, CDs, and hymn records from the 1980's and '90's. Try:

There's a substantial listing of other useful resources, too, on the huge main page, including their interesting list of exclusive reprints at



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 18, 2003 8:45 PM.

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