I love Edwards. Reading him is like taking a guided tour through the mountains. He pulls me along through the most rigorous logical theology, I’m huffing and puffing and sweating, and then he stops, and points off in the distance: “By the way…”
In Justification by Faith Alone, he has a section in which he is proving that “we are justified by faith only, without any manner of goodness of our own.” This is because “the nature of things will not admit of it,” because of “the infinite guilt that the sinner is under till justified.” Some argue against the infinite evil of sin like this: if sin is infinitely evil because it is against an infinite God, then in the same way love to God must be infinitely good because it is toward an infinite God. Edwards responds with a thick and technical line of reasoning. I think I had to read it four times, and even now re-reading it a fifth time for the sake of this post I think I grasped it even better. Our sin “is ill deserving in proportion to the distance there is between God and the creature; the greatness of the Object and the meanness of the subject, aggravates it.” But the reverse is true with regard to our respect toward God: “it is worthless (and not worthy) in proportion to the meanness of the subject [us]… The unworthiness of sin or opposition to God rises and is great in proportion to the dignity of the object and inferiority of the subject; but on the contrary, the value of respect rises in proportion to the value of the subject.” In other words, because God is so infinitely worthy of respect, the fact that we are so “mean,” or inferior in our ability to give Him the respect He is due, renders our respect of very little value at all. Our disrespect, or sin, on the other hand, is “evil and heinous in proportion to the degree of what it denies in the Object, and as it were takes from it.” He sums up: “Respect is valuable in proportion to the value of what is given to the object in that respect, which undoubtedly is great in proportion to the subject’s value, or worthiness of regard; because the subject in giving his respect, can give no more than himself: so far as he gives his respect, he gives himself to the object; and therefore his gift is of greater or lesser value in proportion to the value of himself.”
whew. pass me a towel, Jon, please?
and then he drops this:
Hence (by the way) the love, honor, and obedience of Christ towards God, has infinite value, from the excellency and dignity of the person in whom these qualifications were inherent. The reason why we needed a person of infinite dignity to obey for us, was because of our infinite comparative meanness, who had disobeyed, whereby our disobedience was infinitely aggravated. We needed one, the worthiness of whose obedience might be answerable to the unworthiness of our disobedience, and therefore needed one who was as great and worthy as we were unworthy.
and then he just passes on to “Another objection…”
I am learning from Edwards to find as many Christ-oriented “by-the-ways” as I can: while I read, while I think, while I live. Whenever I have worked hard to understand something better, or enjoyed something particularly intensely, or discovered some new thing, to then ask “and how does this relate to Jesus Christ, who He is, what He is like, and what He has done?”
“For of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things to Whom be glory forever Amen!”