A Self-Exalting Disposition

Jonathan Edwards writes in his Religious Affections:

“Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, bk. II, ch. 2, no. 11, says, ‘I was always exceedingly pleased with that saying of Chrysostom, ‘The foundation of our philosophy is humility,’ and yet more pleased with that of Augustine, ‘as,’ says he, ‘the rhetorician, being asked, what was the first thing in the rules of eloquence, he answered, ‘pronunciation’; what was the second, ‘pronunciation’; what was the third, still he answered, ‘pronunciation.’ So if you should ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, I would answer, firstly, secondly, and thirdly, and forever, humility.'”

And speaking of humility, see the following:




Edwards continues:

“This is the principal part of the great Christian duty of self-denial. That duty consists in two things, viz. first, in a man’s denying his worldly inclinations, and in forsaking and renouncing all worldly objects and enjoyments; and secondly, in denying his natural self-exaltation, and renouncing his own dignity and glory, and in being emptied of himself; so that he does freely, and from his very heart, as it were renounce himself, and annihilate himself. Thus the Christian doth, in evangelical humiliation. And this latter is the greatest and most difficult part of self-denial: although they always go together, and one never truly is, where the other is not; yet natural men can come much nearer to the former than the latter. Many anchorites and recluses have abandoned (though without any true mortification) the wealth, and pleasures, and common enjoyments of the world, who were far from renouncing their own dignity and righteousness; they never denied themselves for Christ, but only sold one lust to feed another, sold a beastly lust to pamper a devilish one; and so were never the better, but their latter end was worse than their beginning; they turned out one black devil, to let in seven white ones, that were worse than the first, though of a fairer countenance” (Edwards).

Whether or not the typical tolerant and fashionable Calvinists (e.g., James White, Douglas Wilson) have ever turned out a black devil, it is certain that seven white ones have taken up cozy residence.

“‘Tis inexpressible, and almost inconceivable, how strong a self-righteous, self-exalting disposition is naturally in man; and what he will not do and suffer, to feed and gratify it; and what lengths have been gone in a seeming self-denial in other respects, by Essenes and Pharisees among the Jews, and by Papists, many sects of heretics, and enthusiasts, among professing Christians; and by many Mahometans; and by Pythagorean philosophers, and others, among the heathen: and all to do sacrifice to this Moloch of spiritual pride or self-righteousness; and that they may have something wherein to exalt themselves before God, and above their fellow creatures” (Edwards).

Sadly, and ironically, Jonathan Edwards is one such professing Christian who had a strong, self-righteous, and self-exalting disposition. This Edwards’quote reveals that he was vigorously animated by a white devil, a glittering Satan:

“How far a wonderful and mysterious agency of God’s Spirit may so influence some men’s hearts, that their practice in this regard may be contrary to their own principles, so that they shall not trust in their own righteousness, though they profess that men are justified by their own righteousness–or how far they may believe the doctrine of justification by men’s own righteousness in general, and yet not believe it in a particular application of it to themselves–or how far that error which they may have been led into by education, or cunning sophistry of others, may yet be indeed contrary to the prevailing disposition of their hearts, and contrary to their practice–or how far some may seem to maintain a doctrine contrary to this gospel-doctrine of justification, that really do not, but only express themselves differently from others; or seem to oppose it through their misunderstanding of our expressions, or we of theirs, when indeed our real sentiments are the same in the main–or may seem to differ more than they do, by using terms that are without a precisely fixed and determinate meaning–or to be wide in their sentiments from this doctrine, for want of a distinct understanding of it; whose hearts, at the same time, entirely agree with it, and if once it was clearly explained to their understandings, would immediately close with it, and embrace it: — how far these things may be, I will not determine; but am fully persuaded that great allowances are to be made on these and such like accounts, in innumerable instances; though it is manifest, from what has been said, that the teaching and propagating [of] contrary doctrines and schemes, is of a pernicious and fatal tendency” (Jonathan Edwards, “Justification by Faith Alone,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 19 [New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001], 242).

That nefarious Edwardian nugget I discovered in hyperconditionalist heretic John Piper’s, The Future of Justification.