Applause of the Multitude

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on the applause of the multitude:

“As to what is alleged, that it is unworthy of great men to be governed in their conduct and achievements by a regard to the applause of the populace; I would observe…What makes their applause worthy of so little regard, is their ignorance, giddiness, and injustice. The applause of the multitude very frequently is not founded on any just view of things, but on humor, mistake, folly, and unreasonable affections. Such applause deserves to be disregarded. But it is not beneath a man of great dignity and wisdom, to value the wise and just esteem of others, however inferior to him. The contrary, instead of being an expression of greatness of mind, would show a haughty and mean spirit. It is such an esteem in his creatures, that God regards; for, such an esteem only is fit and amiable in itself” (Jonathan Edwards, A Dissertation Concerning The End For Which God Created The World; underlining mine).

Quoting influential unbelievers such as Jonathan Edwards serves various and sundry ends — that of riffing, adapting, spring-boarding; or perhaps that of facilitating memory, thoughts, or the following Scriptures:

“Isaiah said these things when he saw His glory, and spoke about Him. Still, however, even out of the rulers, many did believe into Him. But because of the Pharisees, they were not confessing, so that they not be put out of the synagogue. For they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God” (John 12:41-43).

“And you do not have His Word abiding in you, for [the One] whom that One sent, this One you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for you think in them you have everlasting life. And they are the ones witnessing concerning Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I have known you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in the name of My Father, and you do not receive Me. If another comes in [his] own name, you will receive that one” (John 5:38-43).

“He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion” (Psalm 147:10-12).

Unbelievers who adhere to certain rules of Biblical exegesis and logic can come up with insightful things that may be helpful to true believers (e.g., Jonathan Edwards’ comments on 2 Corinthians 11:4-6). It is quite true that all unbelievers without exception hold “the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18); but this fact does not prevent believers from discerning the difference between a merely orthodox shell, and a truly orthodox and unadulterated kernel.

“Then Jesus spoke to the crowd and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees have sat down on Moses’ seat. Then all things, whatever they tell you to keep, keep and do. But do not do according to their works, for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy and hard to bear burdens, and lay [them] on the shoulders of men, but they do not desire to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:1-4).

The above noted the unbelievers’ surface-level or orthodox-as-far-they-go, quotes. As for the utility of damnable quotes by renown and influential heretics — they may serve as a means or an occasion

1. To confute and confound unbelievers who have been unduly influenced by these heretics, and to show their damnable inconsistencies (i.e., their suppression of the truth in unrighteousness).

2. Whereby the absolutely sovereign Triune God of Scripture will providentially contrast these quotes with the true gospel, and thus regenerate His unregenerate elect by the true gospel; the Word of Truth (James 1:18).

3. To inform true believers around the world who call themselves “Calvinists” (or “Reformed”) that they are not true, genuine historical Reformed-Calvinists and should not, therefore, identify as such.

4. To show true believers the damnable heresies of the Calvinist-Reformed (also, “early Church Fathers”) whom they thought were orthodox (having read only orthodox quotes); thus preventing an ignorant endorsement of these untaught and unsettled men (cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

5. To proclaim the true gospel that edifies the saints, opens the eyes of the unregenerate elect, and hardens the hearts of the unregenerate reprobate.