In the History of Reformed Theology and Teaching





Man by his fall into a state of sin hath wholly lost all ability of Will, to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in Sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself; or to prepare himself thereunto. (1689 London Confession 9:3) (Westminster Confession 9:3)


The treatment due to an awakened sinner is a subject of extreme importance. To give wrong counsel when dealing with the convicted sinner may aid to cast him into despondency and despair, on the one hand, or open a door to the sinner's self delusion and false peace, on the other.

An entire chapter with this title can be found in William Sprague's Lectures on Revivals of Religion He states:

"Now you will readily perceive that it is a most responsible office to counsel and direct an individual in these interesting circumstances. The mind is in a state to be most easily influenced; and influenced on a subject that involves all the interest of eternity: there is a sort of balancing of the soul between religion and the world, between heaven and hell; and no one can be certain that the weight of single remark may not turn the scale one way or the other..." (1)

It is the purpose of this paper to examine some of the many writings of the pastors of reformed theology that have dealt with this subject in our past. More importantly, it is my purpose to examine if indeed a charge of "preparationism" can be applied to some of the counsels these pastors gave. It must be confessed at once that I am nervous about this subject. There are a couple of reasons for this: though this subject has occupied my attention often over the last 24 years, I am not comfortable with my former dogmatism. My present goal is to re-examine the evidence and assist others reading the same to come to a more certain conclusion when the statements by the great casuists of the past are weighed and pondered afresh.

The second reason I am not anxious to take up this subject is that I no longer possess many of the sermons and tracts that I formerly owned. The result will be that I cannot re-examine those sermons that led me to my former mind-set on this subject because I can no longer obtain them.

(1) Since writing this paper some years ago I received a great amount of light on the subject by reading John Gerstner's Rational and Biblical Theology, the theology of Jonathan Edwards. It has been difficult to develop this doctrine historically, but Gerstner was able to do so as well as any.

(2) This paper was written about 15 years ago. Since then there is an abundance of materials available on CD ROM and on the internet. Just as an example, the term "antecedents to regeneration" as I first became aware of it, came from a sermon of the same name by Timothy Dwight. Even Dwight's works and Edwards' are being sold on a single CD or Downloadable file .

However, I feel that I have a couple of advantages that move me to write on this subject that others may not have. The first is, that I do have access to some rare writings that may never be back in print, but yet can assist the writer and reader to form a more accurate conclusion. The second is that I have an interest in it. It is my conviction that the reason why this subject is not dealt with at length is because there is no longer the same love of experimental theology that there was in the days of our puritan forefathers. One must admit that our fast-paced age has added to this lack of desire. For often its very sentiment is to avoid this kind of speculation, and observation as the very bane of pleasure.

One has to admit, it is not a pleasant subject to trace out the inner workings of the human heart that is meditating on its own being under the wrath of God, and yet without an interest in Christ. But further, my own observation is that in many ways the mind of the reformed pastor is often already made up on this subject. So that the tendency may be either to suppose that it is an easier thing to come to Christ than often the awakened sinner finds it to be, or to suppose it is so rare and so difficult that only a handful ever find it. Thus, the pastor's counsels may tend to aim in one of these two directions.

It is important to distinguish between the qualifications for communion and the counsel due to the awakened sinner. It is always correct to act in the judgment of charity towards those who make a profession of faith and desire to be joined to the church. It is seriously wrong to bar one of our Lord's sheep, for which He died, from His table under a false sense of being cautious.

But that is not the subject of this paper. This paper is to examine how counsel was given to the awakened sinner through sermons, and through personal encounter with his pastor as he is seeking the way of salvation.

If I do not accomplish this desired goal, it may stir up someone who can see more clearly through the difficulties of this matter to address the subject themselves. I would be the first to show interest in what they have to say. But my desire is that it is not done superficially. To treat this subject like it is not important is to show that the person has not known what it was like be in a slough of despond with a heavy burden pressing in on their own back. For the person trying to find "yonder wicket gate" and crying out, "life, life, eternal life, it is the most important subject in the universe.

The Charge of Preparationism Defined.

It is necessary, at the outset, to define the term preparationism. When the term is employed, it is not used to define what it is that God does antecedently to the sinner's regeneration, but rather what the sinner does prior to His quickening. This will immediately raise an objection in one's mind, possibly, that the sinner can do nothing to aid in his regeneration. This is granted. But God may allow him to do much to show him that he can in no way prepare himself for salvation to show him his innate depravity which he is altogether too unaware of before.

In Edwards's book, A Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, this process is detailed most excellently:

"The drift of the Spirit of God in His legal strivings with persons, has seemed most evidently to be, to bring to a conviction of their absolute dependence on His sovereign power and grace, and an universal necessity of a mediator. This has been effected by leading them more and more to a sense of their exceeding wickedness and guiltiness in His sight; their pollution, and the insufficiency of their own righteousness; that they can in no wise help themselves, and that God would be wholly just and righteous in rejecting them and all that they do, and in casting them off forever. There is however a vast variety as to the manner and distinctness of such convictions."(2)

Various counsels were given to those who were under these convictions. The persons themselves were referred to as "anxious inquirers", "seekers", and "awakened sinners". An examination of the exhortations will establish very quickly that the pastor did not suppose it was an easy task, often, that was before the inquirer. Whole books were written to assist him to understand his case. These books include, A Guide to Christ - Solomon Stoddard, The Anxious Inquirer - John Angell James, and other books contained chapters to assist the awakened.

These exhortations can often be found in the writings of the Puritans. There was not only counsel given, which will be examined, but an analysis of the way God prepared the sinner scientifically laid out in a number of steps.

The concern that one has in approaching this subject is hinted at, but not developed, in the introduction to John Gillies' Historical Collections of Accounts of Revivals by Horatius Bonar. It is a statement which can easily be missed, but deserves a more detailed examination of his concern. Bonar, while extolling the virtues of the men God used in the Great Awakening, also expressed a concern:

"Perhaps they excelled more in the proclamation of the law, and its external penalties, than in the declaration of the glad tidings of great joy, through Him who finished transgression, and made an end of sin upon the cross. There is sometimes a lack of fullness and liberty in their statements of the gospel; there is a constraint about some of their sermons, as if they feared making the glad tidings too free; there is, in their dealings with inquirers, a tendency to throw them in upon their own acts, or feelings, or convictions, instead of drawing them out at once to what has been finished on the cross, leading them to look for some preparatory work in themselvesbefore rejoicing in the gospel..."{italics mine}.(3)

Having defined the term, and defining the charge or concern, next we will examine the evidence. Though it would be desirable to examine it in its historical development, it would make the paper quite long, and much more study needs to be done to do this properly. Such a development is more fit for a Ph.D. dissertation than an examination of this nature. However, it suits my purpose to examine the evidence by specific epochs in our church history.


My first acquaintance with the subject of this paper was in the appendix of the published sermons of Lloyd-Jones's exposition of Romans 7 - The Law and Its Functions. Lloyd-Jones supposed that in Romans 7:14-25, the Apostle was detailing the thoughts of an awakened sinner prior to his salvation. This view of chapter seven of Romans is quite unfortunate, but it introduced me to William Perkins' book, Cases of Conscience which laid the foundation for my understanding of many of the Puritans' thinking on this subject.

William Perkins (as well as other puritan writers whose books will be examined), divides conversion into a number of steps detailing the work of God in leading the sinner to His Son to embrace Him by faith in salvation. These steps are:

1: Humiliation.

[Action of grace #1] The ministry of the word [and with it] some outward or inward cross, to break and subdue the stubbornness of our nature, that it may be made pliable to the will of God.

[Action of grace #2] God brings the mind of man to a consideration of the law, and therein to see what is good and what is evil...

[Action of grace #3] God makes a man particularly to see and know his own peculiar and proper sins, whereby he offends God.

[Action of grace #4] God smites the heart with a legal fear, whereby when man seeth his sins, he makes him to fear punishment and hell, and to despair of salvation, in regard to anything in himself...

Perkins makes the statement that these are not yet the fruit of regeneration, and therefore states that a reprobate may proceed this far, and still be unregenerate.

But then he lays out the steps of faith in Christ.

[Action of grace # 5] stir up the mind to a serious consideration of the promise of salvation, propounded and published in the gospel.

[Action of grace # 6] kindle in the heart some seeds or sparks of faith, that is, a will and desire to believe, and grace to strive against doubting and despair.

[Action of grace # 7] soon as faith is put into the heart, there is presently a combat: for it fighteth with doubting, despair, and distrust [evidenced by] fervent , constant, and earnest invocation for pardon: and...a prevailing of this desire.

[Action of grace # 8] God in mercy quiets and settles the conscience, as touching the salvation of the soul, and the promise of life, whereupon it resteth and stayeth itself.' (4)

A number of other puritans and their successors divided the steps of conversion under various descriptions. William Guthrie, writing in 1658 A Trial of a Saving Interest detailed what was often called "The Law Work.' Thomas Boston, in his famous work, "Human Nature In Its Fourfold State' termed it the cutting off from the natural stock by the pruning knife of the law. Guthrie defines the term as follows:

"But before we begin to these, we will speak of a preparatory work of the law, of which the Lord does ordinarily make use, to prepare His own way in men's souls. This may have its own weight as a mark, with some persons. It is called the Work of the Law, or the Work of Humiliation. It has some relation to that 'spirit of bondage,' and does now under the New Testament answer unto it, and usually leadeth on to the 'Spirit of adoption.' (5)

Guthrie further describes this work of humiliation:

'This work is either more violent and sudden, or it is more quiet and gradual, so as to be protracted through a greater length of time, by which means the steps of it are very discernible. It is more violent in some, as in the jailer, Paul, and some other converts in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, on whom Christ did break in at an instant, and fell on them as with fire and sword, and led them captive terribly.' (6)

It is interesting to note that Guthrie also has eight steps expounded on in his morphology of the conversion process. The fourth and fifth steps are given here:

4. When a man is thus in hazard of miscarrying, the Lord uses a work of preventing mercy towards him, quietly and underhand supporting him; and this is by infusing into his mind the possibility of his salvation, leading him to the remembrance of numerous proofs of God's free and rich grace, in pardoning gross transgressors, such as Manasseh, who was a bloody idolatrous man, and had correspondence with the devil, and yet obtained mercy (2 Chron. 33: 11, 13); and other scriptures bearing offers of grace and favour indifferently to all who will yield to Christ, whatsoever they have been formerly; so that the man is brought again to this,--"What shall I do to be saved.' which supposes that he apprehends a possibility of being saved, else he would not propound the question. He applies that or the like word to himself, "It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger.' (Zeph. 2: 3.) He finds nothing excluding him from mercy now, if he have a heart for the thing. The man does not, it may be, here perceive that it is the Lord who upholdeth him, yet afterwards he can say that, "when his foot was slipping, God's mercy held him up,' as the Psalmist speaks in another case. (Psa. 94: 17, 18.) And he will afterwards say, when he "was as a beast, and a fool, in many respects, God held him by the hand.' (Psa. 73: 22, 23.) 5. After this discovery of a possibility to be saved, there is a work of desire quickened in the soul; which is clear from that same expression, "What shall I do to be saved?'But sometimes this desire is expressed amiss, whilst it goes out thus,

'What shall I do that I may work the works of God?' (John 6: 28.) In this case the man, formerly perplexed with fear and care about his salvation, would be at some work of his own to extricate himself; and here he suddenly resolves to do all is commanded, and to forego every evil way (yet much misunderstanding Christ Jesus), and so begins to take some courage to himself, "going about to establish his own righteousness, but not submitting unto the righteousness of God.' (Rom. 10: 3.) Whereupon the Lord makes a new assault upon him, intending the discovery of his absolutely fallen state in himself, that so room may be made for the Surety: as Joshua did to the people, when he found them so bold in their undertakings: "Ye cannot serve the Lord,' saith he, "for He is a holy God, a jealous God.' (Josh. 24) In this new assault the Lord--1. Shows the man the spirituality of the law; the commandment cometh with a new charge in the spiritual meaning of it. (Rom. 7: 9.) The law came, saith Paul, that is, in the spiritual meaning of it. Paul had never entertained such a view of the law before. 2. God most holily looseth the restraining bonds which he had laid upon the man's corruption, and suffereth it not only to boil and swell within, but to threaten to break out in all the outward members. Thus sin grows bold, and spurns at the law, becoming exceedingly sinful. "But sin taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law, sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. Was then that which is good made death into me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.' (Rom. 7:8-13)

The Lord discovers to the man, more than ever, the uncleanness of his righteousness, and the spots of his best things. These things kill the man, and he dies in his own conceit (Rom.7:0), and despairs of relief in himself, if it come not from another source.' (7)

Probably the most well-known Puritan description of the stages of conversion are in Bunyan's famous allegory, "Pilgrim's Progress.' Many testimonies in our day do not follow the pattern of this "pilgrim.' It is probably advantageous to understand the characters and their struggles in light of the puritan mindset of conversion.

A commentary on some of the statements follows. The comments will be provided by inserting the descriptions of the awakened sinner in Jonathan Edwards's "Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God.

Pilgrims Progress: "I cannot go so fast as I would, by reason of this burden that is on my back."

Narrative: Persons are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature, the danger they are in of perishing eternally, and that it is of great importance to them that they speedily escape and get into a better state.

Those who before were secure and senseless, are made sensible how much they were in the way to ruin, in their former courses. Some are more suddenly seized with convictions-it may be, by the news of others' conversion, or some thing they hear in public, or in private conference-their consciences are smitten, as if their hearts were pierced through with a dart. Others are awakened more gradually, they begin at first to be something more thoughtful and considerate, so as to come to a conclusion in their minds, that it is their best and wisest way to delay no longer, but to improve the present opportunity. They have accordingly set themselves seriously to meditate on those things that have the most awakening tendency, on purpose to obtain convictions; and so their awakenings have increased, till a sense of their misery, by God's Holy Spirit setting in therewith, has had fast hold of them. Others who before had been somewhat religious, and concerned for their salvation, have been awakened in a new manner; and made sensible that their slack and dull way of seeking, was never like to attain that purpose.

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS: Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk they drew near to a very miry slough, that was in the midst of the plain; and they, being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.

NARRATIVE: Persons are sometimes brought to the borders of despair, and it looks as black as midnight to them a little before the day dawns in their souls. Some few instances there have been, of persons who have had such a sense of God's wrath for sin, that they have been overborne; and made to cry out under an astonishing sense of their guilt, wondering that God suffers such guilty wretches to live upon earth, and that he doth not immediately send them to hell. Sometimes their guilt doth so stare them in the face, that they are in exceeding terror for fear that God will instantly do it; but more commonly their distresses under legal awakenings have not been to such a degree.

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS: Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone: but still he endeavored to struggle to that side of the slough that was still further from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate; the which he did, but could not get out, because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him, What he did there?

NARRATIVE: When they begin to seek salvation, they are commonly profoundly ignorant of themselves; they are not sensible how blind they are; and how little they can do towards bringing themselves to see spiritual things aright, and towards putting forth gracious exercises in their own souls. They are not sensible how remote they are from love to God, and other holy dispositions, and how dead they are in sin. When they see unexpected pollution in their own hearts, they go about to wash away their own defilements, and make themselves clean; and they weary themselves in vain, till God shows them that it is in vain, and that their help is not where they have sought it.

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS: Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, "Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the City of Destruction to yonder gate, is it that this plat is not mended, that poor travelers might go thither with more security?" And he said unto me, "miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended; it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond; for still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there ariseth in his soul many fears, and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place. And this is the reason of the badness of this ground."


NARRATIVE: That calm of spirit that some persons have found after their legal distresses, continues some time before any special and delightful manifestation is made to the soul of the grace of God as revealed in the gospel. But very often some comfortable and sweet view of a merciful God, of a sufficient Redeemer, or of some great and joyful things of the gospel, immediately follows, or in a very little time: and in some, the first sight of their just deserts of hell, and God's sovereignty with respect to their salvation, and a discovery of all-sufficient grace, are so near, that they seem to go as it were together.

These gracious discoveries given, whence the first special comforts are derived, are in many respects very various. More frequently, Christ is distinctly made the object of the mind, in His all-sufficiency and willingness to save sinners; but some have their thoughts more especially fixed on God, in some of His sweet and glorious attributes manifested in the gospel, and shining forth in the face of Christ

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS: He knocked, therefore, more than once or twice, saying

"May I now enter here?

Will he within Open to sorry me, though I have been

An undeserving rebel?

Then shall I Not fail

to sing his lasting praise on high."

At last there came a grave person to the gate, named Goodwill, who asked who was there? and whence he came? and what he would have?


Here is a poor burdened sinner. I come from the City of Destruction, but am going to Mount Zion, that I may be delivered from the wrath to come. I would therefore, Sir, since I am informed that by this gate is the way thither, know if you are willing to let me in?

"I am willing with all my heart," said Goodwill; and with that he opened the gate.

So, when Christian was stepping in, the other gave him a pull.

Thomas Boston's - Human Nature in it Fourfold State - conversion steps number twelve in all. One cannot read the entire process that Boston details without realizing that many persons would be weighed in the balance and found short. Or to put it another way, if Boston is correct, it must be assumed that many persons have taken up a profession while still trusting to their own righteousness. However, it would be difficult to prove that the process he details may not rather be a part of sanctification. But that is at the heart of the whole argument that has taken place historically on this subject. Whether what is being described are the consequents or antecedents of regeneration.

Before detailing the problems associated with either view, a quote from Boston shows the nature of the analysis in question. Step 9 of Boston's description is a good example, for the person in question is still trusting to his own merits - in Boston's estimate - and not giving himself wholly to Christ.

'What can he do who must needs pay, and yet has not enough of his own to bring him out of debt; nor can borrow so much, and is ashamed to beg? What can such an one do, I say, but sell himself, as the man under the law that was become poor? (Lev. 25:47). Therefore, the sinner, beat off from so many holds, attempts to make a bargain with Christ, and to sell himself to the Son of God, if I may so speak, solemnly promising and vowing that he will be a servant of Christ as long as he lives, if he will save his soul. And here, the sinner often makes a personal covenant with Christ, resigning himself to Him on these terms; yea, and takes the sacrament, to make the bargain sure... In this the soul finds a false, unsound peace, for a while; till the Spirit of the Lord gives another stroke, to cut off the man from this refuge of lies likewise..'(8)

If Boston is correct at this point, then the cautious pastor who must oversee his flock has a dilemma. For it must be admitted that in most of the testimonies one reads of persons' conversions, it is a very difficult thing to ascertain if the applicant to church membership may be resting in his own righteousness. The comfort that he can know comes from the fact that he is not required to exercise anything more than the judgment of charity when recommending that the church receives the applicant. At the same time, he also has a duty to assist in cases of conscience, and determining what advice to give one who is examining himself whether are not he is in the faith. The conclusion cannot possibly be drawn from the testimony that a person can give a most excellent account that his conversion so much resembles the various steps Boston, or Guthrie detail at length. The conclusion must rather be drawn from the evidences of regeneration as laid forth in Scripture.

Does that mean that such analysis has no place at all, and should not have been the subject of such analysis? The Puritans did not think that it was unnecessary. There may have been a number of reasons for this. There is one that will be focused on in this paper. The pastor has a duty to guard against his own self deception, and the unconscious hypocrisy of the members of his flock. When a member of the church has shipwrecked from the faith, and become an open apostate, the reformed pastor cannot reason that the person was a believer and has lost his salvation. Thus the Puritan detailed at great length the difference between the true believer and what he called the 'temporary believer'.

One can site many examples of their sermons on this subject. Many titles have now become famous to anyone familiar with their writings. The Sincere Convert, Parable of the Ten Virgins, and the Sound Believer from Thomas Shepard. The Almost Christian Discovered, from the pen of Matthew Mead. The Touchstone of Sincerity, by John Flavel. And a sermon that is as searching as any, "The Way to Know Sincerity and Hypocrisy Cleared Up.' by Solomon Stoddard.

' A course of internal sin proves a man to be an hypocrite. Though he washes his hands, if he does not cleanse his heart he is ungodly. The external conversation of some hypocrites may exceed the conversation of some saints; but if there is a way of internal sin their pretenses to godliness are vain. There are two sorts of internal sins which men may live in a way of, and is a witness against them. One is a way of corrupt thoughts and affections. If men allow themselves in malice, envy, wanton or profane thoughts, that will condemn them.'

In Volume 6 of Goodwin's Collected Works, this subject is the matter of book VII,

'Of the Difference of the Works on Temporary Believers, and Those Truly Called, and that they differ in their nature and kind...' This discourse opens up another whole subject on what they called the Common Influences of the Spirit on the unregenerate. The work of the Spirit that is experienced by the non-elect, they would say, has a restraining influence. It also explains the difficult passages of the "falling away' mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6.

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

One only has to peruse a commentary such as William Gouge 1578-1653 on these passages to see how this doctrine was established at great length. In a sermon preached at Cripplegate in 1661, John Sheffield answers the question: "What relapses are inconsistent with grace?" based on the same text. Thomas Goodwin appeals to it in book 7 of his Work of the Holy Spirit, "of the difference of the works on temporary believers and those truly called, and that they differ in their nature and kind.

In the 1930's A.W. Pink wrote on these verses in his commentary on Hebrews in the spirit of the Puritans. The chapter is called, "The Twofold Working of the Spirit.' His comments are so typical of the Puritan's analysis that a sample is included here.

"Now let us take note of how the Holy Spirit may work upon these natural principles of the human soul, mightily raising them, and yet not changing a man's heart. Just as the rays of the sun shining upon plants in the garden adds no new nature to them, but serves to aid their best development, so the Holy Spirit, when He deals with the reprobate communicates nothing new to them, yet raises their natural faculties to their highest point. The principles of the faculties of man's soul are capable of being wrought upon without the impartation of regenerating grace....'(9)

Another subject must be kept in mind in order to understand the various counsels the puritans and their successors gave to the awakened sinner. The Puritans did not think it an easy thing to come to Christ. That is, experimentally, not doctrinally. For they knew it was an impossible thing to come to Christ without Divine intervention. John 6:44. It is important to note this to assist us to understand the counsel given to the awakened sinner. This is excellently illustrated in Owen's Discourse on the Forgiveness of Sin - the Prefatory Note:

"THE circumstances in which this Exposition of Psalm 130. originated are peculiarly interesting. Dr Owen himself, in a statement made to Mr. Richard Davis, who ultimately became pastor of a church in Rowel, Northamptonshire, explains the occasion which led him to a very careful examination of the fourth verse in the psalm. Mr. Davis, being under religious impressions, had sought a conference with Owen. In the course of the conversation, Dr. Owen put the question, "Young man, pray in what manner do you think to go to God?' "Through the Mediator, sir," answered Mr. Davis.' That is easily said,' replied the Doctor, "but I assure you it is another thing to go to God through the Mediator than many who make use of the expression are aware of."(10)

Thomas Goodwin develops this subject at some length in volume 8 of his collected works, the outlines follow. Part III. Of the Properties of Faith. Book II. The difficulty of faith. That it is above all the powers and faculties in man. That all which is in man is so far from enabling him to believe, that it doth withstand his believing. That faith is the work of the alone mighty power of God. Book III. Though faith be a difficult work, yet we ought to use our endeavors to believe. What those endeavors are. Cautions about using them. Book IV. Though faith be a difficult work, above our power, yet God commands us to use our utmost endeavours to believe. - The reasons why Gods commands us so to do, and how the infinite power of God in working faith, and our own endeavors, are very well consistent together. Discouragements removed, which may arise either from our own inability to believe, or from the sense of our great sinfulness, or from the thoughts of an absolute decree of election, resolving to save only some particular persons. Directions to guide us in our own endeavors to believe.(11)

Again, before examining the directions themselves that were given to the inquirer, an overview of the historical context and controversies about this subject should be examined. In the writings of the Puritans, there existed a difference of opinion about how extensive the preparation is prior to the reception of grace. This division is evident in statements made about Thomas Hooker's writings by pastors such as Thomas Goodwin and Phillip Nye. In their introductory essay for the posthumous first edition of The Application of Redemption, The Ninth and Tenth Books (1656), they said that Hooker:

"urged too far and insisted too much upon that as preparatory, which includes indeed the beginning of true faith.' But others sided with Thomas Hooker and his emphasis. Such predecessors as Richard Greenham, Richard Rogers, William Perkins, William Ames, and Richard Sibbes, all of whom had, with varying degrees of emphasis and always with less elaborate insistence than Hooker, taught their congregations and their reading audiences that the corrupt human heart is in no condition to experience grace without some degree of preparation.'(12)

The Writings of Thomas Hooker on Preparation for Grace

Having established some underlying presuppositions of the Puritan doctrine on this subject, we move into an examination of those treatises and sermons that detail the counsel that was given.

Thomas Hooker

Born in 1586 in Leicestershire, England, Thomas Hooker studied theology at Cambridge and became a lecturer and an assistant to the clergyman in Chalmsford.

The writings of Hooker on this subject are quite voluminous and were not without controversy. Nathaniel Ward said of Hooker, "Mr. Hooker, you make as good Christians before men come to Christ as ever they are after; would I were but as good a Christian now as you make men while they are but preparing for Christ.'(13)

Hooker's emphasis on this doctrine may have added to the criticism. His writings on the subject total more than 4000 pages, or about two thirds of his published writings. Goodwin and Nye inform us that he preached the subject at least three times in the stages of his career. See for example, The Soul's Preparation for Christ

'But more striking than the physical bulk of these sermons is his characterization in them of the way it feels to be a sinner engaged in such a soul-searching enterprise as the pursuit of grace...' Whereas Perkins speaks of the first stage of salvation as a stage in which the sinner is passive"inwardly the eyes of the mind are enlightened' and "the heart and ears opened that he may see, hear, and understand the preaching of the word of God,"(14) Hooker amplifies how the sinner is desperately involved in the process: "Arise, arise, therefore ye secure and dead hearted sinners, and come away... come to Him who so kindly invites you, who promises to accept you, who is able and willing to save you." (15)

"Though God is always the prime mover, the sinner's whole mind and all his senses must be focused on the task before him.'(16) "

"While with Perkins, God's role as initiator and bestower of grace so thoroughly influences the way the redemptive process is described that it tends to sound like an inevitable course of events through which the soul is carried by the Holy Spirit, Hooker pictures, from ground level, a rocky road full of pitfalls over which he is forever urging the poor doubting souls in his congregation to clamber."(17)

The author goes on to describe the difference between Perkins and Hooker as the difference between the theologian and pastor. He also states that Ames wrote more with a textbook approach to the subject.

It is careful to avoid a charge that the puritans thought that this type of preparation guaranteed them salvation. Hooker never stated, "follow these steps and I guarantee that you will be saved." The charge being examined here is whether or not the sinner was being thrown too much upon his own efforts. This distinction will be made again in this paper.

There is a so much more that could be said about Hooker's approach, but would make this analysis far too lengthy. Examples of other puritan directives are helpful as a more varied approach will give a better over all answer to the charge of preparationism.

Solomon Stoddards Book, "A Guide to Christ."

This book is worthy of notice, if for no other reason, because it was instrumental in assisting David Brainerd who went through a conversion that would be called a text book case in puritan casuistry, so excellently did it follow the pattern. The reader familiar with his history will remember that his conversion followed a false profession that would be considerable in our day.

'Sometime in April, 1738, I went to live with Rev. Mr. Fiske, of Haddam, and continued with him during his life. I remember he advised me wholly to abandon young company, and associate myself with grave elderly people; which counsel I followed. My manner of life was now wholly regular, and full of religion, such as it was; for I read my bible more than twice through in less than a year, spent much time every day in prayer and other secret duties, gave great attention to the word preached, and endeavored to my utmost to retain it. So much concerned was I about religion, that I agreed with some young persons to meet privately on Sabbath evenings for religious exercises, and thought myself sincere in these duties; and after our meeting was ended I used to repeat the discourses of the day to myself; recollecting what I could, though sometimes very late at night. I used occasionally on Monday mornings to recollect the same sermons; had sometimes pleasure in religious exercises, and had many thoughts of joining the church.'(18)

This appears most hopeful if witnessed by a pastor receiving one into membership, but in Brainerd's estimation it was a spurious conversion. He continues:

"In short, I had a very good outside, and rested entirely on my duties, though I was not sensible of it. "After Mr. Fiske's death I proceeded in my studies with my brother; was still very constant in religious duties, often wondered at the levity of professors, and lamented their carelessness in religion. Thus I proceeded a considerable length on a self-righteous foundation; and should have been entirely lost and undone had not the mere mercy of God prevented."

"Sometime in the beginning of winter, 1738, it pleased God, one Sabbath morning, as I was walking out for secret duties, to give me on a sudden such a sense of my danger, and the wrath of God, that I stood amazed, and my former good frames presently vanished. From the view which I had of my sin and vileness, I was much distressed all that day, fearing that the vengeance of God would soon overtake me. I was much dejected; kept much alone; and sometimes envied the birds and beasts their happiness, because they were not exposed to eternal misery, as I evidently saw that I was. Thus I lived from day to day, being frequently in great distress: sometimes there appeared mountains before me to obstruct my hopes of mercy; and the work of conversion appeared so great, that I thought I should never be the subject of it. I used, however, to pray and cry to God, and perform other duties with great earnestness; and thus hoped by some means to make the case better."

As he proceeds in his personal narration, we find him wallowing in the slough of despond much like Bunyan's pilgrim.

"The many disappointments, the great distress and perplexity which I experienced, put me into a most horrible frame of contesting with the Almighty; with inward vehemence and virulence finding fault with his ways of dealing with mankind. My wicked heart often wished for some other way of salvation than by Jesus Christ. Being like the troubled sea, my thoughts confused, I used to contrive to escape the wrath of God by some other means. I had strange projects, full of Atheism, contriving to disappoint God's designs and decrees concerning me, or to escape his notice and hide myself from him. But when upon reflection I saw these projects were vain, and would not serve me, and that I could contrive nothing for my own relief, this would throw my mind into the most horrid frame, to wish there was no God, or to wish there was some other God that could control him. These thoughts and desires were the secret inclinations of my heart, frequently acting before I was aware; but, alas! they were mine, although I was frightened when I came to reflect on them. When I considered, it distressed me to think that my heart was so full of enmity against God; and it made me tremble, lest his vengeance should suddenly fall upon me. I used before to imagine that my heart was not so bad as the Scriptures and some other books represented it. Sometimes I used to take much pains to work it up onto a good frame, a humble submissive disposition; and hoped there was then some goodness in me. But, in a sudden, the thoughts of the strictness of the law, or the sovereignty of God, would so irritate the corruption of my heart that I had so watched over and hoped I had brought to a good frame, that it would break over all bounds, and burst forth on all sides, like floods of waters when they break down their dam."

After struggling for a considerable time, he becomes acquainted with Solomon's Guide to Christ.

"I could not find out what faith was; or what it was to believe and come to Christ. I read the calls of Christ to the weary and heavy laden; but could find no way in which he directed them to come. I thought I would gladly come, if I knew how; though the path of duty were never so difficult. I read Stoddard's Guide to Christ, (which I trust was, in the hand of God, the happy means of my conversion,) and my heart rose against the author; for though he told me my very heart all along under convictions, and seemed to be very beneficial to men in his directions; yet here he seemed to me to fail: he did not tell me any thing I could do that would bring me to Christ, but left me as it were with a great gulf between me and Christ, without any direction how to get through. For I was not yet effectually and experimentally taught, that there could be no way prescribed, whereby a natural man could, of his own strength, obtain that which is supernatural, and which the highest angel cannot give."

Stoddard's book opens the door to the heart of this discussion - what were the actual counsels given by the puritans to the awakened sinner.

Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729) was born in Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1662 and was ordained in 1672. He pastored the church there from 1672-1729, and was succeeded by Jonathan Edwards, his grandson.

The subtitle of his book is interesting. The Way of Directing Souls That Are Under the Work of Conversion Compiled for the Help of Ministers, and may be serviceable to private Christians, who are enquiring the way to Zion.

The 'prefix' was written by Increase Mather, which alone is interesting because the two crossed swords on the Halfway Covenant controversy. His introductory comments are important since he states that there is no preparatory work which is saving before faith. I suppose him to mean part of the ordo salutis, and the point is that it nowhere succeeds the effectual calling, but such a work is prior to that. He well states,

"It has been an error (and a tyrannical one) in some preachers that they have made their own particular experiences a standard for all others when as God is pleased to use a great variety in bringing His elect home to Christ, although conversation, as to the subject of it, is the same in all who are brought into a state of salvation."(19)

Mather quotes, at some length, a work by John Norton called the Orthodox Evangelist. His purpose in doing so is to dispel the teaching that a man must be so many years or months under a spirit of bondage before he can believe in Christ. Again, he mentions Thomas Goodwin's introduction to a book by Thomas Hooker in which Goodwin observes that "a man may be held too long under John the Baptist's water' and that 'some have urged too far and insisted too much on that as preparatory which includes the beginning of true faith.'

Whether Thomas Goodwin may have thought that Hooker went too far in this direction himself is not clear. Mather quotes Hooker as stating that he believed that God usually 'excercises them with heavy breakings of heart before they are brought to Christ' and gives his reason, 'Especially if it is so if the Lord intends to make use of them in great services for His name.'(20)

A doctrine that Mather is trying to establish is that great sinners are usually brought to Christ by great terrors. But is this conclusion accurate? That this is sometimes the case, we need not deny. There is, however, a difference of opinion about this, that will be examined in more detail later. Suffice it to say that God's ways are so very various that great sinners such as John Newton did not experience great terrors prior to conversion, and yet his letters and sermons are still in demand and he once stated that he did not know of a quarter of an hours doubt of his conversion for the last 25 years! Charles Spurgeon, on the other hand, did not live a life of profligacy growing up, and yet reflects in his own autobiography that his awakening was very sharp and terrible. So much so that he compares the work of the law on his heart to a plow digging furrows in the ground.

An error which we can be thankful Mather took the time to refute was the idea that a sinner must be willing to be damned before he could be said to be sufficiently prepared to come to Christ. He shows that this error was falsely implied as a teaching of Thomas Hooker from a misapplication of some of Hooker's statements. This error also resurfaced in the teachings of the New School theologians, for example in the teachings of Nathaniel Emmons. This was due to their definition of virtue as 'disinterested love.' The result was that it was a taken as a positive sign that someone had been indeed born again if they could detail a desire to be eternally punished so long as God was glorified. This error was attacked with a battering ram in the reviews of Emmons sermons published in the Biblical Reportory and Princeton Review.

The works of Nathanael Emmons, D. D., late Pastor of the Church in Franklin, Mass., with a Memoir of his life. Edited by Jacob Ide, D. D. Boston: Crocker & Brewster. 1842. Six volumes, 8vo.: pp 529-561

The reason for this error being attributed to Hooker is that some of his sermons were taken down in notes by a listener "an unskillful hand' as he was called. The sermons were then released to the press without his permission.

Mather next draws the reader to the attention of Thomas Shepard's "Sincere Convert' in reference to some passage in it. These statements caused some "great disquietment in some godly minds, and made them afraid to believe on Christ when deeply sensible of their misery without them. It is recorded that Thomas Shepard wrote a letter to a Mr. Firmin dated Dec. 27, 1647 in which Shepard states they were published without his consent, and that he did not like to see the book. It has been released to the press altered from the original.

Since this same book has been republished in the collected works of Thomas Shepard, we trust the publishers paid attention to this detail. The writings of Thomas Shepard are very searching and must be read with caution as it is, without something being added to their contents. Unless it is from the pen of a pastor who would guard against a misunderstanding of Shepard's statements. Someone who would diligently guard against the breaking of a bruised reed, or quenching of a smoking flax.

The Preface to Stoddard's Book

The first paragraph to Stoddard's preface is somewhat confusing to this writer.

"The work of regeneration being of absolute necessity unto salvation, it greatly concerns ministers especially, in all ways possible, to promote the same; and in particular that they guide souls aright who are under a work of preparation.'(21)

It may be unfortunate that Stoddard mentions regeneration and preparation in the same sentence. For if he is teaching that something is preparatory to regeneration, it would set him apart from other puritan writers of his age. Doubtless Stoddard was too well instructed to teach anything other than that regeneration is monergistic, the sinner being dead in sins and trespasses not being able to prepare himself in any way that would move God to take notice of him. He defines his term, as may be supposed, in the next sentence by stating, 'There are some who deny any necessity of the preparatory work of the Spirit of God in order to a closing with Christ.' If Stoddard is teaching that conviction of sin usually precedes saving faith, we agree with him. It only appears, to this writer at least, that for Stoddard and others of this school to avoid confusion, they should have taught that regeneration and conversion are two separate things, the sinner being active during his conversion.

It may be argued that these terms were not so carefully defined at this time. For sometimes the term "effectual calling' includes those things that are now called, more accurately conversion. So our confession states "enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God;'(22)

It is true that the terms may have been more carefully defined by Turretin and others, but the confession states, "being wholly passive therein, being dead in sins and trespasses, until being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit;(8) he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it, and that by no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.(9).

This clearly shows that God's work is cause, conversion is effect {answering the call}, and that therefore the mention of "preparation" is out of place when defining what happens at regeneration.

Stoddard's scriptural evidences to prove that there must be preparation for Christ before our closing with Him' are interesting and will be examined. He mentions the Apostle Paul in Acts 9:4-5. Also the Phillipian Jailer, Acts 16:29-31. Then he states:

'It also appears from such doctrines as are held forth in Scripture that some sinners are near the kingdom of God, and some are far from it. Mark 12:34 shows that some men are in a more prepared way, and more hopeful to receive it, than others. So that doctrine that some are not in a present capacity to come to Christ because they are under the power of a carnal design, John 5:44, shows that men must be broken off from their carnal designs before they come to Christ.'(23)

Stoddard further aims to prove his doctrine by showing that men must strive - Matthew 8:13, Luke 13:24, by the prophecy of our Savior, that God will first prepare men and then bring them to Christ, John 16:8. He shows that the call of the gospel is sometimes given to all, and at other times to them who are prepared. Mat. 11:38, Isaiah 55:1, Rev. 22:17.

In examining his statements, however, it appears his words could have been chosen more carefully. For the very doctrine that must be avoided is that there must be something in man first, by preparation or otherwise, before he will be in a condition to come to Christ. His statements are...'that some men are in a more prepared way, and more hopeful to receive it, than others,' and "...intimating the good condition that men must be in before they receive it.'

Stoddard clears himself of any misunderstanding later on in his preface:

...There is no necessity in nature of any preparation before the infusion of grace. Christ changed the water into wine and raised the dead to life without any previous preparation, so He can do it in this case. The work of preparation does not make the work of the new creation the easier, for after men have a work of preparation, sin reigns in them as much as before.'(24)

The question that this raises, however, is whether the awakened sinner may not secretly suppose he is now more likely to receive the "implanting grace' since their "preparations' have placed them in what Stoddard called a "good condition?'

The awakened sinner can find this book very helpful if he keeps in mind that conviction of sin serves no other purpose than to cause him to prize the Savior when he understands the gospel aright. God is pleased to show the sinner his desperate condition that it will be the more manifest what a glorious salvation God has revealed to man.

Two things happen during this awakening, or preparatory process. (1) The sinner is made to see from all that he has experienced that so far from being in any condition now that may recommend him to God, or make it more probable that he will receive the grace of God, he is actually more guilty! Because, until he turns to Christ in faith from a holy affection, he is still withholding his heart from Christ though receiving more gospel light than he has ever presently had! (2) The desperate enmity of his heart against God becomes more manifest and he understands that if God does not mercifully intercede, he will inevitably perish. Any supposition that he is anyway in a more favorable condition is surely a sign that the conviction was not effectual, adding to all his other sins, the deep sin of self-righteousness.

"See to it that the operation be such upon the will or heart, not on the Imagination, nor on the speculative understanding or motions of the mind, though they draw great affections after them as the consequence.

That the trouble of mind be reasonable, that the mind be troubled about those things that it has reason to be troubled about; and that the trouble seems mainly to operate in such a manner, with such a kind of trouble and exercise as is reasonable: founded on reasonable, solid consideration; a solid sense and conviction of truth, as of things as they are indeed.

That it be because their state appears terrible on the account of those things, wherein its dreadfulness indeed consists; and that their concern be solid, not operating very much by pangs and sudden passions, freaks and frights, and a capriciousness of mind.

That under their seeming convictions it be sin indeed; that they are convinced of their guilt, in offending and affronting so great a God: One that so hates sin, and is so set against it, to punish it, etc.

That they be convinced both of sins of heart and life: that their pretenses of sense of sin of heart be in it without reflection on their wicked practice; and also that they are not only convinced of sin of practice, but sin of heart. And in both, that what troubles them be those things wherein their wretchedness has really chiefly consisted. (25)

There are two things needful in a person, in order to these strong resolutions; there must be a sense of the great importance and necessity of the mercy sought, and there must also be a sense of opportunity to obtain it, or the encouragement there is to seek it. The strength of resolution depends on the sense which God gives to the heart of these things. Persons without such a sense, may seem to themselves to take up resolutions; they may, as it were, force a promise to themselves, and say within themselves, I will seek as long as I live, I will not give up till I obtain, when they do but deceive themselves. Their hearts are not in it; neither do they indeed take up any such resolution as they seem to themselves to do. It is the resolution of the mouth more than of the heart; their hearts are not strongly bent to fulfill what their mouth says. The firmness of the resolution lies in the fullness of the disposition of the heart to do what is resolved to be done. Those who are pressing into the kingdom of God, have a disposition of heart to do everything that is required, and that lies in their power to do, and to continue in it. They have not only earnestness, but steadiness of resolution: they do not seek with a wavering unsteady heart, by turns or fits, being off and on; but it is the constant bent of the soul, if possible, to obtain the kingdom of God.(26)

By pressing into the kingdom of God is signified greatness of endeavor. It is expressed in Ecclesiastes 10:10. by doing what our hand finds to do with our might. And this is the natural and necessary consequence of the two aforementioned things. Where there is strength of desire, and firmness of resolution, there will be answerable endeavors. Persons thus engaged in their hearts will strive to enter in at the strait gate, and will be violent for heaven; their practice will be agreeable to the counsel of the wise man, in Proverbs 2 at the beginning, My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. Here the earnestness of desire and strength of resolution is signified by inclining the ear to wisdom, and applying the heart to understanding; and the greatness of endeavor is denoted by crying after knowledge, and lifting up the voice for understanding; seeking her as silver, and searching for her as for hid treasures: such desires and resolutions, and such endeavors go together.(27)

If they are violent, they are only working violently to entangle themselves, and lay blocks in their own way; their pressure is not forwards. Instead of getting along, they do but lose their time, and worse than merely lose it; instead of fighting with the giants that stand in the way to keep them out of Canaan, they spend away their time and strength in conflicting with shadows that appear by the wayside. Hence we are not to judge of the hopefulness of the way that persons are in, or of the probability of their success in seeking salvation, only by the greatness of the concern and distress that they are in; for many persons have needless distresses that they had much better be without. It is thus very often with persons overrun with the distemper of melancholy: whence the adversary of souls is wont to take great advantage. But then are persons in the most likely way to obtain the kingdom of heaven, when the intent of their minds, and the engagedness of their spirits, be about their proper work and business, and all the bent of their souls is to attend on God's means, and to do what he commands and directs them to. The apostle tells us, 1 Corinthians 9:26. that he did not fight as those that beat the air. Our time is short enough; we had not need to spend it in that which is nothing to the purpose. There are real difficulties and enemies enough for persons to encounter, to employ all their strength; they had not need to waste it in fighting with phantoms.(28)

I am sensible that by this time many persons are ready to object against this. If all should speak what they now think, we should hear a murmuring all over the meeting-house, and one and another would say, I cannot see how this can be, that I am not willing that Christ should be my Savior, when I would give all the world that he was my Savior: how is it possible that I should not be willing to have Christ for my Savior when this is what I am seeking after, and praying for, and striving for, as for my life? Here therefore I would endeavor to convince you, that you are under a gross mistake in this matter. And, First, I would endeavor to show the grounds of your mistake. And Secondly, To demonstrate to you, that you have rejected, and do willfully reject, Jesus Christ.

First, That you may see the weak grounds of your mistake, consider,

There is a great deal of difference between a willingness not to be damned, and a being willing to receive Christ for your Savior. You have the former; there is no doubt of that: nobody supposes that you love misery so as to choose an eternity of it; and so doubtless you are willing to be saved from eternal misery. But that is a very different thing from being willing to come to Christ: persons very commonly mistake the one for the other, but they are quite two different things. You may love the deliverance, but hate the deliverer. You tell of a willingness; but consider what is the object of that willingness. It does not respect Christ; the way of salvation by him is not at all the object of it; but it is wholly terminated on your escape from misery. The inclination of your will goes no further than self, it never reaches Christ. You are willing not to be miserable; that is, you love yourself, and there your will and choice terminate. And it is but a vain pretense and delusion to say or think, that you are willing to accept of Christ.

There is certainly a great deal of difference between a forced compliance and a free willingness. Force and freedom cannot consist together. Now that willingness, whereby you think you are willing to have Christ for a Savior, is merely a forced thing. Your heart does not go out after Christ of itself, but you are forced and driven to seek an interest in him. Christ has no share at all in your heart; there is no manner of closing of the heart with him. This forced compliance is not what Christ seeks of you; he seeks a free and willing acceptance, Psalm 110:3.(29)

The reader of Edwards's sermons must certainly come to the conclusion that he believed in the difficulty in the way of sinners, and that there are few that are saved. In addition to this, he wrote whole books to expose the error in the foundation of a hypocrite's profession, also learned by the great advantages he gained through personal observation.

This is evident, foremost, in his Treatise On Religious Affections. Allen, an early biographer of Jonathan Edwards, wrote:

'it has been said that any one who can read Edwards's Religious Affections, and still believe in his own conversion, may well have the highest assurance of its reality.'(30)

His method in this treatise is to show, first, what neither proves nor disapproves that a profession is true in 12 examples, though these are commonly trusted in as positive signs. Next, he establishes fourteen distinguishing signs of truly gracious and holy affections.

It may be well known that this caused no little consternation to John Wesley. He tried to show that Edwards went too far in this. But then he took the liberty to republish the same treatise in a condensed form! Archibald Alexander wrote that the 12 positive signs could have been narrowed to 6, and that the whole was difficult for personal application.

Something else must be kept in mind to avoid prejudice against Edwards at this point: while we are tempted to think he went to far, in the judgment of Charles Hodge, who examined his writings very closely, he may have not went far enough!

What follows is a very lengthy quote from Hodge's chapter "The Great Revival' in his Constitutional History of the Presbyterian Church '

The revival of 1740-2, was considered still more pure and wonderful. What was the state of considered still more pure and wonderful. What was the state of religion in this highly favored place, soon after all these revivals ?

In the judgment of Edwards himself it was deplorably low, both as to Christian temper and adherence to sound doctrine. In 1744, when an attempt was made to administer discipline somewhat injudiciously, it is true, as to the manner of doing it, it was strenuously resisted. The whole town was thrown into a blaze. Some of the accused "refused to appear; others, who did appear, behaved with a great degree of insolence, and contempt for the authority of the church, and little or nothing could be done further in the affair." * From 1744 to 1748, not a single application was made for admission to the church. # In 1749, when it became known that Edwards had adopted the opinion that none ought to be admitted to the Lord's Supper but such as gave satisfactory evidence of conversion, "the town was put into a great ferment; and before he was heard in his own defense, or it was known by many what his principles were, the general cry was to have him dismissed.## That diversity of opinion between a pastor and his people on such a practical point, should lead to a desire for a separation, might not be very discreditable to either party. But when it is known that on this occasion the church treated such a man as Edwards, who not only was an object of veneration to the Christian public, but who behaved in the most Christian manner through the whole controversy, with the greatest injustice and malignity, it must be regarded as proof positive of the low state of religion among them. They refused to allow him to preach on the subject in dispute ; they pertinaciously resisted the calling of a fair council to decide the matter ; they insisted on his dismission without making any provision for his expensive family; and when his dismission had taken place, they shut their pulpit against him, even when they had no one else to occupy it. On the unfounded suspicion that he intended to form a new church in the town, they presented a remonstrance containing direct, grievous, and criminal charges against him, which were really gross slanders.'

Life of Edwards, p. 300. #Ibid. p. 438. # Ibid. p. 306. ' Ibid., p. 421. See the whole details of this extraordinary history, pp, 288-404.

This was not the offence of a few individuals. Almost the whole church took part against Edwards.* Such treatment of such a man certainly proves a lamentable state of religion, as far as Christian temper is concerned. With regard to orthodoxy the case was not much better. Edwards in a letter to Erskine, in 1750, says, there seemed to be the utmost danger that the younger generation in -Northampton would be carried away with Arminianism as with a flood; that it was not likely that the church would choose a Calvinist as his successor, and that the older people were never so indifferent to things of this nature.# The explanation which has been proposed of these extraordinary facts, is altogether unsatisfactory. It is said that the custom which had long prevailed in Northampton, of admitting those to the Lord's Supper who gave no sufficient evidence of conversion, sufficiently accounts for all this ill conduct on the part of the church. But where were the three hundred members whom Edwards regarded as "savingly brought home to Christ,"## within six months, during the revival of 1744-45? Where were all the fruits of the still more powerful revival of 1740-42 ? The vast majority of the members of the church had been brought in by Edwards himself, and of their conversion he considered himself as having sufficient evidence. The habit of free admission to the Lord's table, therefore, by no means accounts for the painful facts above referred to. After all that had been published to the world of the power of religion in Northampton, the Christian public were entitled to expect to see the people established in the truth, and an example in holiness to other churches. Instead of this, we find them resisting the administration of discipline in less than eighteen months after the revival; alienated from their pastor; indifferent to the truth, and soon driving from among them the first minister of his age, with every aggravating circumstance of ingratitude and injustice. It is all in vain to talk of the religion of such a people.

* In one place it is said, about twenty heads adhered to their pastor, (Life, p.164;) in another, that only twenty-three, out of two hundred and thirty male members of the church, voted against his dismission. p. 410. # Ibid. p. 411. Compare his Farewell Sermon. ## Works, vol. iv. p. 28:

This fact demonstrates that there must have been something wrong in these revivals, even under the eye and guidance of Edwards, from the beginning. There must have been many spurious conversions, and much false religion which at the time were regarded as genuine. This assumption is nothing more than the facts demand, nor more than Edwards himself frequently acknowledged. There is the most marked difference between those of his writings which were published during the revival, and those which appeared after the excitement had subsided. In the account which he wrote in 1736, of the revival of the two preceding years, there is scarcely an intimation of any dissatisfaction with its character. Yet, in 1743, be speaks of it as having been very far from pure;* and in 1751, he lamented his not having had boldness to testify against some glaring false appearances, and counterfeits of religion, which became a dreadful source of spiritual pride, and of other things exceedingly contrary to true Christianity.# In like manner, in the contemporaneous account of the revival of 1740-42, he complains of nothing but of some disorders introduced towards the close of the year 1742, from other congregations; whereas, in his letters written a few years later, he acknowledges that many things were wrong from the first. This is, indeed, very natural. While in the midst of the excitement, seeing and feeling much that he could not but regard as the result of divine influence, he was led to encourage many things which soon brought forth the bitter fruits of disorder and corruption. His correspondence affords abundant evidence how fully sensible be became of the extent to which this revival was corrupted with false religion. When his Scottish friends had informed him of the religious excitement then prevailing in some parts of Holland, he wrote to Mr. Erskine, June 28, 1751, expressing his anxiety that the people might be led to "distinguish between true and false religion; between those experiences which are from the saving influence of the Spirit of God, and those which are from Satan transformed into an angel of light." He wished that they had the experience of the church of God in America, on this subject, as they would need all the warning that could be given them.

*Life, p. 168. # Ibid. p. 465.

"The temptation," he adds, "to religious people in such a state to countenance the glaring, shining counterfeits of religion, without distinguishing them from the reality," is so strong that they can hardly be restrained from committing the mistake. In reference to the wish of the Dutch ministers to have attestations of the permanently good effects of the revivals in Scotland and America, he says, "I think it fit they should know the very truth in the case, and that things should be represented neither better nor worse than they are. If they should be represented worse, it would give encouragement to unreasonable opposers; if better, it might prevent a most necessary caution among the true friends of the awakening. There are, undoubtedly, very many instances in New England, in the whole, of the perseverance of such as were thought to have received the saving benefit of the late revivals of religion, and of their continuing to walk in newness of life as becometh saints ; instances which are incontestable. But I believe the proportion here is not so great as in Scotland. I cannot say that the greater portion of the supposed converts give reason to suppose, by their conversation, that they are true converts. The proportion may, perhaps, be more truly represented by the proportion of the blossoms on a tree which abide and come to mature fruit, to the whole number of blossoms in the spring." * In another letter, dated Nov. 23, 1752, he expresses his conviction that there was a greater mixture of evil with good in the revival in Holland, than the ministers there supposed; that the consequences of not distinguishing between true and false religion would prove worse than they had any conception of. He then refers to the history of the revival here, and adds that it is not to be expected that "the divines of Europe would lay very much weight on the admonitions which they received from such an obscure part of the world. Other parts of the church of God must be taught as we have been, and when they see and feel, then they will believe. Not that I apprehend there is in any measure so much enthusiasm and disorder mixed with the work in Holland, as was in many parts of America, in the time of the last revival of religion here."##

* Life, p. 459. ##Ibid p. 508

These passages give a melancholy account of the results of the great religious excitement now under consideration. In the preceding estimate, Edwards does not speak of those who were merely awakened, or who were for a time the subjects of serious impressions, but of those who were regarded as converts. It is of these, he says, that only a small portion proved to be genuine. If this be so, it certainly proves that, apart from the errors and disorders universally reprobated by the judicious friends of the revival, there were serious mistakes committed by those friends themselves. If it was difficult then, it must be much more so now, to detect the causes of the spurious excitement which then so extensively prevailed. Two of these causes, however, are so obvious that they can hardly fail to attract attention. These were laying too much stress on feelings excited through the imagination, and allowing, and indeed encouraging the free and loud manifestation of feeling during public or social worship.

It is one office of the imagination to recall and reconstruct conceptions of any object which affects the senses. It is by this faculty that we form mental images, or lively conceptions of the objects of sense. It is to this power that graphic descriptions of absent or imaginary scenes are addressed ; and it is by the agency of this faculty that oratory, for the most part, exerts its power over the feelings. That a very large portion of the emotions so strongly felt, and so openly expressed during this revival, arose not from spiritual apprehensions of divine truth, but from mere imaginations or mental images, is evident from two sources; first, from the descriptions given of the exercises themselves; and, secondly, from the avowal of the propriety of this method of exciting feeling, in connection with religious subjects. Had we no definite information as to this point, the general account of the effects of the preaching of Whitefield and others would satisfy us that, to a very great extent, the results were to be attributed to no supernatural influence, but to the natural powers of oratory. There is no subject so universally interesting as religion, and therefore there is none which can be made the cause of such general and powerful excitement; yet it cannot be doubted that had Whitefield selected any worthy object of benevolence or patriotism, he would have produced a great commotion in the public mind. When therefore he came to address men on a subject of infinite importance, of the deepest personal concern, we need not be surprised at the effects which he produced. The man who could thaw the icy propriety of Bolingbroke; who could extort gold from Franklin, though armed with a determination to give only copper; or set Hopkinson, for the time being, beside himself; might be expected to control at will the passions of the young, the ignorant, and the excitable. It is far from being denied or questioned that his preaching was, to an extraordinary degree, attended by a divine influence. That influence is needed to account for the repentance, faith, and holiness, which were in a multitude of cases the result of his ministrations. It is not needed, however, to account for the loud outcries, faintings, and bodily agitations which attended his course.

These are sufficiently explained by his vivid descriptions of hell, of heaven, of Christ, and a future judgment, addressed to congregated thousands of excited and sympathizing hearers, accompanied by the most stirring appeals to the passions, and all delivered with consummate skill of voice and manner. It was under such preaching, the people, as he tells us, soon began to melt, to weep, to cry out, and to faint '. That a large part of these results was to be attributed to natural causes, can hardly be doubted; yet who could discriminate between what was the work of the orator, and what was the work of the Spirit of God? Who could tell whether the sorrow, the joy, and the love expressed and felt, were the result of lively imaginations, or of spiritual apprehensions of the truth ?

The two classes of exercises were confounded; both passed for genuine, until bitter experience disclosed the mistake. It is evident that Whitefield had no opportunity of making any such discrimination ; and that for the time at least, he regarded all meltings, all sorrowing, and all joy following his fervid preaching, as evidence of the divine presence. It is not, however, these general accounts so much as the more particular detail of the exercises of the subjects of this revival, which shows how much of the feeling then prevalent was due to the imagination. Thus Edwards speaks of those who had a lively picture in their minds of hell as a dreadful furnace, of Christ as one of glorious majesty, and of a sweet and gracious. aspect, or as of one hanging on the cross, and blood running from his wounds.* Great stress was often laid upon these views of "an outward Christ," and upon the feeling resulting from such conceptions. Though Edwards was from the beginning fully aware that there was no true religion in such exercises;# and though in his work on the Affections, written in 1746, he enters largely on the danger of delusion from this source, it is very evident that at this period he was not properly impressed with a sense of guarding against this evil. Just after stating how commonly such mental pictures were cherished by the people, he adds, " surely such things will not be wondered at by those who have observed, how any strong affections about temporal matters will excite lively ideas and pictures of different things in the mind."## In his sermon on the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit. of God, he goes much further. He there says, "Such is our nature, that we cannot think of things invisible without some degree of imagination. I dare appeal to any man of the greatest powers of mind, whether he is able to fix his thoughts on God, or Christ, or the things of another world without imaginary ideas attending his meditation."'

By imaginary ideas, he means mental images, or pictures.## "In the same connection, he adds, "the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong will the imaginary idea ordinarily be."

* Works, vol. iv. p. 55. # See his account of the revival in 1734-5, written in 1736. #Works, vol. iv. p. 55. ' Ibid. vol. iii. p. 567. ##This is plain from his own account of them. In his work on the Affections, he says, "All such things as we perceive by our five senses, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling, are external things; and where a person has an idea or image of any of these sorts of things, when they are not there, and when he really does not see, hear, smell, taste, or feel them, that is to have an imagination of them, and these ideas are imaginary ideas.". P. 236 of the Elizabethtown edition.

Hence, he insists, "that it is no argument that a work is not a work of the Spirit of God, that some who are the subjects of it, have been in a kind of ecstacy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported in a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven, and there saw glorious sights."Works, vol.3. p. 568.

It is not to be denied that there is a legitimate use of the imagination in religion. The Bible often addresses itself to this faculty. The descriptions which it gives of the future glory of the church, and of heaven itself, are little else than a series of images; not that we should conceive of the millennium as of a time when the lion and lamb shall feed together, or of heaven as a golden city, but that we may have a more lively impression of the absence of all destructive passions, when Christ shall reign on earth, and that we may learn to think of heaven as a state of surpassing glory. In all such cases, it is the thought which the figure is meant to convey, and not the figure itself, that the mind rests upon in all truly religious exercises. When, on the other hand, the mind fixes on the image, and not upon the thought, and inflames itself with these imaginations, the result is mere curious excitement. So far then as the imagination is used to render the thoughts which the understanding forms of spiritual things distinct and vivid, so far may it minister to our religious improvement. But when it is made a mere chamber of imagery, in which the soul alarms or delights itself with specters, it becomes the source of all manner of delusions.

It may still further be admitted, that images borrowed from sensible objects often mix with and disturb the truly spiritual contemplations of the Christian, but this is very different from teaching that we cannot think of God, or Christ, or spiritual subjects, without some pictorial representations of them. If such is the constitution of our nature that we must have such imaginary ideas of God himself, then we ought to have and to cherish them. But by the definition, these ideas are nothing but the reproduction and varied combinations of past impressions on the senses. To say, therefore, that we must have such ideas of God, is to say that we must conceive of him and worship him under some corporeal form, which is nothing but refined idolatry, and is as much forbidden as the worship of stocks or stones. It certainly needs no argument to show that we cannot form any pictorial representation of a spirit, and least of all, of God; or that such representations of Christ or heaven cannot be the source of any truly religious affections. what have such mental images to do with the apprehension of the evil of sin, of the beauty of holiness, of the mercy of God, of the merits of Christ, or with any of those truths on which the mind acts when under the influence of the Spirit of God ?

From the accounts of this revival already quoted, from the detail given of the experience of many of its subjects, and especially from the arguments and apologies just referred to, it is evident that one great source of the false religion, which, it is admitted, then prevailed, was the countenance given to these impressions on the imagination and to the feelings thus excited. It was in vain to tell the people they must distinguish between what was imaginary and what was spiritual; that there was no religion in these lively mental images, when they were at the same time told that it was necessary they should have them, and that the more intense the religious affection, the more vivid would these pictures be. Under such instruction they would strive to form such imaginations; they would dote on them, inflame themselves with them, and consider the vividness of the image, and the violence of the consequent emotion, as the measure of their religious attainments How deeply sensible Edwards became of the evil which actually arose from this source, may be learned from his work on the Affections. When an "affection arises from the imagination, and is built upon it, as its foundation, instead of a spiritual illumination or discovery, then is the affection, however elevated, worthless and vain. "Religious Affections, p. 320. And in another place he says, "When the Spirit of God is poured out, to begin a glorious work, then the old Serpent, as fast as possible, and by all means, introduces this bastard religion, and mingles it with the true; which has from time to time, brought all things into confusion. The pernicious consequence of it is not easily imagined or conceived of, until we see and are amazed with the awful effects of it, and the dismal desolation it has made. If the revival of true religion be very great in its beginning, yet if this bastard comes in, there is danger of its doing as Gideon's bastard, Abimelech, did, who never left until he bad slain all his threescore and ten true-born sons, excepting one, that was forced to flee. The imagination or fantasy seems to be that wherein are formed all those delusions of Satan, which those are carried away with, who are under the influence of false religion, and counterfeit graces and affections. Here is the devil's grand lurking-place, the very nest of foul and delusive spirits."* Religious Affections, p. 316.

If Edwards, who was facile princeps among the friends of this revival, could, during its early stages, fall into the error of countenancing the delusions which he afterwards so severely condemned, what could be expected of Whitefield and others, who at this time, (dates must not be neglected, a few years made a great difference both in persons and things,) passed rapidly from place to place, neither making nor being, able to make, the least distinction between the effects of an excited imagination, and the exercises of genuine religion? That they would test the experience of their converts by its fruits, is not denied; but that they considered all the commotions which attended their ministrations, as proofs of the Spirit's presence, is evident from their indiscriminate rejoicing over all such manifestations of feeling. These violent agitations produced through the medium of the imagination, though sufficiently prevalent, during the revival in this country, were perhaps still more frequent in England, under the ministrations of Wesley, and, combined with certain peculiarities of his system, have given to the religion of the Methodists its peculiar, and, so far as it is peculiar, its undesirable characteristic. "

We can see from this lengthy analysis that Hodge was not impressed with the results of the Great Revival, in some respects, and supposed that the cautions Edwards were employed were far from being unnecessary and may not have went far enough. True, Hodge was employing a 'damage control' in his writings because of the attack of some of the men's sermons such as Gilbert Tennent's famed Nottingham sermon on the low state of piety in the Presbyterian pulpits in that day. And yet there is much to be gleaned from his statements.

But next we will examine Edward's methodology and counsels.

To examine Edwards's counsels and make any kind of comment on them, it is important to start with his use of the deprecatory sermon.


It is not difficult to understand why a number of secular biographers would misrepresent the theology of Jonathan Edwards. Examples of this are not hard to find. It does not take a lot of persuasion to show that Ola Winslow and Perry Miller are not safe guides to assist us to understand the mind of Edwards. But it is more of a challenge to assist the orthodox student to understand why Edwards seemed to preach those sermons that were alarming and terrifying.

An example of how he is misunderstood can be noted in the words of Robert Doyle Smith, a Wesleyan author. Smith wrote a paper titled, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards On Religious Experience: A Comparative Analysis.' The author writes,

"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. This, in turn, moves that individual to seek earnestly to close the call' with God, the phrase being a commonly used metaphor which Edwards's and Wesley employed to signify the necessity of seeking for conversion. Edwards's recourse to terror is consonant with the pattern of conversion outlined by the 16th and 17th century Puritan divines, who believed that an early step in preparation for conversion was humiliation. 'Terror' was a means of inducing humiliation!"

It is apparent by Smith's use of the exclamation mark that he finds this at least interesting, if not shocking. However, the student of casuistry must define what is meant by humiliation. It does not mean that the terror was a means of creating a tractable teachable disposition that is ready now to accept Christ on his terms. For the puritan believed that this terror was very much consistent with a heart that was still at enmity against God. Nor did they assume that all such terrors resulted in evangelical humiliation. One of the delusions that Edwards aimed to expose was the idea that terrors and convictions following in a certain order, yea even attended with joy was a proof that a change had taken place in the heart. And if persons have had great terrors which really have been from the awakening and convincing influences of the Spirit of God, it doth not follow that their terrors must issue in true comfort. The unmortified corruption of the heart may quench the Spirit of God, (after He has been striving,) by leading men to presumptuous and self-exalting hopes and joys, as well as otherwise.'

The student of Edwards has a great advantage in our day in that a lot of the work of systematizing his writings has been done for us by John Gerstner. One of Gerstner's early works dealt with Edwards's methods of evangelism. The purpose of the deprecatory sermon is explained and defended in the chapter titled, 'Justifying a Scare Theology.' Gerstner answers the hypothetical question,

'If Edwards recognized that a preview of hell would set men blaspheming, why did he not conclude that the preaching of hell would do the same?' Gerstner's responses include, 'But...God ordains such preaching because the sotted sinner is not interested in the things of the Spirit. Therefore...he must be shown the danger of his present condition and the impending doom that hangs over him.' Edwards own words to vindicate his scare theology would open up an excellent topic for discussion: 'Some talk of it as an unreasonable thing to fright persons to heaven, but I think it is a reasonable thing to fright persons away from hell.'

These quotes, however, do not give a satisfactory reason for the deprecatory sermon. The more important reason was to arouse the sinner to a sense of his serious condition to cry out, 'what must I do to be saved?' It will, doubtless, be objected that this would merely stir up selfish motives. But Edwards would argue that the sinner is so natively blind to his own tendencies to self righteousness, that it pleases God to leave him alone in his fear and wrestling to show him how unable he is to prepare his heart aright. This is something he knew theoretically at first, and now he learns by experience what difficulties are in his way. The description of this will be detailed more accurately in the quotes of the writings of the 19thcentury theologians, especially Shedd. But it must be established here that this was one goal that was aimed at. Again, we must keep in mind the words of Horatius Bonar, as to whether or not this threw the sinner back upon his own efforts too much. But by examining the many various sermons of Edwards during the great revival, one can hardly suppose that Edwards limited himself to the use of the deprecatory sermon, far less did he suppose God's ways were so limited. This has already been proven in the above quotes in his Narrative of Surprising Conversions.

Some more quotes from Edwards's writings on counseling the awakened sinner will assist to get a fuller idea of the errors that he aimed to avoid. First there is the warning against leading a sinner into a presumptuous hope which he is altogether too ready to entertain.

' Whatever minister has a like occasion to deal with souls, in a flock under such circumstances, as this was in the last year, I cannot but think he will soon find himself under a necessity, greatly to insist upon it with them, that God is under no manner of obligation to show mercy to any natural man, whose heart is not turned to God: and that a man can challenge nothing either in absolute justice, or by free promise, from any thing he does before he has believed on Jesus Christ, or has true repentance begun in him. It appears to me, that if I had taught those who came to me under trouble any other doctrine, I should have taken a most direct course utterly to undo them. I should have directly crossed what was plainly the drift of the Spirit of God in His influences upon them; for if they had believed what I said, it would either have promoted self-flattery and carelessness, and so put an end to their awakenings; or cherished and established their contention and strife with God, concerning His dealings with them and others, and blocked up their way to that humiliation before the Sovereign Disposer of life and death, whereby God is wont to prepare them for His consolations.' (31)

This is succeeded by a word of encouragement lest the sinner despair:

' And yet those who have been under awakenings have oftentimes plainly stood in need of being encouraged, by being told of the infinite and all-sufficient mercy of God in Christ; and that it is God's manner to succeed diligence, and to bless His own means, that so awakenings and encouragements, fear and hope, may be duly mixed and proportioned to preserve their minds in a just medium between the two extremes of self-flattery and despondence, both which tend to slackness and negligence, and in the end to security.' (32)

All of the counsel that is given in Edwards's sermons is found consistent with those corollaries already established in such treatises and The Freedom of the Will.

' Corol. 1. Hence it may be inferred, that nothing in the reason and nature of things appears from the consideration of any moral weight of that former kind of sincerity, which has been spoken of, at all obliging us to believe, or leading us to suppose, that God has made any positive promises of salvation, or grace, or any saving assistance, or any spiritual benefit whatsoever, to any desires, prayers, endeavors, striving, or obedience of those who hitherto have no true virtue or holiness in their hearts; though we should suppose all the sincerity, and the utmost degree of endeavor, that is possible to be in a person without holiness.'(33)

Perhaps the uncomfortableness that arises from reading statements like this is due in part to the close analysis of the length of time between when the sinner is awakened to his need of salvation and his awareness of his innate inability. Also, it must be admitted that any Alength of time' that is mentioned in testimonies one reads in our day is certainly not long, let alone days, months and maybe even years. Again cases can be cited in which this doctrine has been abused, and some of these it is the writer's purpose to examine. But our tendency may be to desire to dismiss what he is saying too quickly simply because of the difficulty of reconciling this with the doctrine that it is the sinner's immediate duty to repent and believe the gospel. To determine if there is now an tendency to err in our own counsels, on the one hand, or to assess how much our reformed forefathers may have erred in the past, one must inevitably go to the bottom. The evidence must be examined and re-examined, and it is easy to not have the patience for that which is admittedly a painful subject. But there is still more to glean from Edwards before moving on, as so little of what he has said on this subject has even been stated in a few quotes.

Lastly, our view of God's willingness to save the seeking sinner, though a precious doctrine, has tended to press us into the idea that God does not, for His own purposes, allow the sinner to try his own hand to prepare himself for saving mercy in order that he may more thoroughly know his utter impotence to frame a holy affection, or a correct volition did not God mercifully interpose. But Edwards did not so reason. The opposite truths, rather, are taught in such sermons as ' God Makes Men Sensible of Their Misery , etc.' Therefore he goes on to say:

' Some object against God's requiring, as the condition of salvation, those holy exercises which are the result of a supernatural renovation: such as a supreme respect to Christ, love to God, loving holiness for its own sake, etc.; that these inward dispositions and exercises are above men's power, as they are by nature; and therefore that we may conclude, that when men are brought to be sincere in their endeavors, and do as well as they can, they are accepted; and that this must be all that God requires in order to men's being, received as the objects of his favor, and must be what God has appointed as the condition of salvation: concerning which I would observe, that in such a manner of speaking of Amen's being accepted because they are sincere, and do as well as they can,' there is evidently a supposition of some virtue, some degree of that which is truly good, though it does not go so far as were to he wished. For if men do what they can, unless their so doing be from some good principle, disposition, or exercise of heart, some virtuous inclination or act of the will, their so doing, what they can, is in some respect not a whit better than if they did nothing at all. In such a case, there is no more positive moral goodness in a man's doing, what he can, than in the wind-mill's doing what it can; because the action does no more proceed from virtue, and there is nothing in such sincerity of endeavor, or doing what we can, that should render it any more a proper or fit recommendation to positive favor and acceptance, or the condition of any reward or actual benefit, than doing nothing; for both the one and the other are alike nothing, as to any true moral weight or value.'(34)

As was stated previously, it was a firm conviction to such men as Edwards that since salvation was a great thing, and much to be prized; it pleases God to make men sensible of how great a mercy it is to have it bestowed. Therefore in his sermon, It is God's manner to make men sensible of their misery and unworthiness, before he appears in his mercy and love to them, he states as his doctrine:

' This is God's ordinary way before great and signal expressions of his mercy and favour He very commonly so orders it in his providence, and so influences men by his Spirit, that they are brought to see their miserable condition as they are in themselves, and to despair of help from themselves, or from an arm of flesh, before he appears for them, and also makes them sensible of their sin, and their unworthiness of God's help.'(35)


As one reads the writings of Edwards on this subject, it is of interest to observe his observations to objections that he had either heard or anticipated as he thought through this subject. A possible objection that would come to mind is that the histories that we read about in the Book of Acts do not seem to parallel to what is being described by the puritans and Edwards in their writings. For example, there were 3,000 conversions in one day and on that same day they were joined to the church and partook of the Lord's Table. Edwards's answers this foreseen objection in his Treatise on the Qualifications for Communion:

'If any should here object, that when such multitudes were converted from Judaism and heathenism, and received into the Christian church in so short a season, it was impossible there should be time for each one to say so much in his public profession, as to be any credible exhibition of true godliness to the church: I answer, this objection will soon vanish, if we particularly consider how the case was with those primitive converts, and how they were dealt with by their teachers. It was apparently the manner of the first preachers of the gospel, when their hearers were awakened and brought in good earnest to inquire what they should do to be saved, then particularly to instruct them in the way of salvation, and explain to them what qualifications must be in them, or what they must do in order to their being saved, agreeable to Christ's direction, Mark xvi. 15, 16. This we find was the method they took with the three thousand, in the second chapter of Acts, ver. 37-40. and it seems, they were particular and full in it: they said much more to them than the words recorded. it is said, ver. 40. Awith many other words did Peter testify and exhort.' And this we find to be the course Paul and Silas took with the jailer, chap. xvi. Who also gave more large and full instructions than are rehearsed in the history. And when they had thus instructed them, they doubtless saw to it, either by themselves or some others who assisted them, that their instructions were understood by them, before they proceeded to baptize them. for I suppose, non with who I have to do in this controversy, will maintain, from the apostles' example, that we ought not to insist on a good degree of doctrinal knowledge in the way and terms of salvation, as requisite to the admission of members into the church. And after they were satisfied that they well understood these things, it took up no great time to make a profession of them, or to declare that they did, or found in themselves, those things they had been told of as necessary to their salvation. After they had been well informed what saving faith and repentance were, it took up no more time to profess that faith and repentance, than any other. In this case not only the converts' words, but the words of the preacher, which they consented to, and in effect made their own, are to be taken into their profession. For persons that are known to be of an honest character, and manifestly qualified with good doctrinal knowledge of the nature of true godliness, in the more essential things which belong to it, solemnly to profess they have or do those things, is to make as credible a profession of godliness as I insist upon. And we may also well suppose, that more words were uttered by the professors, and with other circumstances to render them credible, than are recorded in that very brief history, which we have of the primitive church in the Acts of the Apostles; and also we may yet suppose one thing further, viz. that in that extraordinary state of things so particular a profession was not requisite in order to the church's satisfaction, either of doctrines assented to, or of the consent and disposition of the heart, as may be expedient in a more ordinary state of things; for various reasons that might be given, would it not too much lengthen out this discourse.(36)

Many such answered objections can be found in Edwards's book, "The Thoughts on the Present Revival of Religions.' PART III. SHOWING, IN MANY INSTANCES, WHEREIN THE SUBJECTS, OR ZEALOUS PROMOTERS, OF THIS WORK HAVE BEEN INJURIOUSLY BLAMED.

'Another thing that some ministers have been greatly blamed for, and I think unjustly, is speaking terror to them who are already under great terrors, instead of comforting them. Indeed, if ministers in such a case go about to terrify persons with that which is not true, or to affright them by representing their case worse than it is, or in any respect otherwise than it is, they are to be condemned; but if they terrify them only by still holding forth more light to them, and giving them to understand more of the truth of their case, they are altogether to be justified. When consciences are greatly awakened by the Spirit of God, it is but light imparted, enabling men to see their case, in some measure, as it is; and, if more light be let in, it will terrify them still more. But ministers are not therefore to be blamed, that they endeavour to hold forth more light to the conscience, and do not rather alleviate the pain they are under, by intercepting and obstructing the light that shines already. To say any thing to those who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to represent their case any otherwise than exceeding terrible, is not to preach the word of God to them; for the word of God reveals nothing but truth; but this is to delude them. Why should we be afraid to let persons who are in an infinitely miserable condition, know the truth, or bring them into the light, for fear it should terrify them? It is light that must convert them, if ever they are converted. The more we bring sinners into the light, while they are miserable, and the light is terrible to them, the more likely it is that afterward the light will be joyful to them. The ease, peace, and comfort, which natural men enjoy, have their foundation in darkness and blindness; therefore as that darkness vanishes, and light comes in, their peace vanishes, and they are terrified. But that is no good argument why we should endeavour to hold their darkness, that we may uphold their comfort. The truth is, that as long as men reject Christ, and do not savingly believe in him, however they may be awakened, and however strict, and conscientious, and laborious they may be in religion, they have the wrath of God abiding on them, they are his enemies, and the children of the devil; (as the Scripture calls all who are not savingly converted, Matt. xiii. 38. 1 John iii. 10.) and it is uncertain whether they shall ever obtain mercy. God is under no obligation to show them mercy, nor will he, if they fast and pray and cry never so much: and they are then especially provoking to God, under those terrors, that they stand it out against Christ, and will not accept of an offered Saviour, though they see so much need of him. And seeing this is the truth, they should be told so, that they may be sensible what their case indeed is.(37)


If it can be objected that Edwards may have went to an extreme in this teaching, it also must be kept in mind that few authors were at such pains to carefully answer the objections and establish his doctrine by an appeal to Scriptures and common sense. Still we are left with a nagging feeling that there was some counsel that went beyond Scripture. The summation of what Edwards taught on this subject is found in the book by John Gerstner, Steps to Salvation.(38)

A biographer of Edwards states,

'It has been said that any one who can read Edwards's Religious Affections and still believe in his own conversion, may well have the highest assurance of his faith's reality. But how few there were in Edwards's time who gained the assurance, may be inferred from the circumstance that Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Emmons, disciples of Edwards and religious leaders in New England, remained to the last uncertain of their conversion.' He can attribute this only to the semi deistic spirit of the time, with its distant God and imperfect apprehension of the omnipresence and omnipotence of Christ.'(39)

It would extend this paper to too great a length to critique Edwards's counsel on this subject, and John Gerstner's commentaries on the same. A thorough critique is needed. The author needs to address such subjects as, for example, is it proper to tell the awakened sinner that by using the means of grace to his utmost he is assured minimally that he will have a more tolerable place in hell than one who throws restraints to the wind and lays the reins upon the neck of his lusts. The application that is made in this case is by a deduction, that is from our Lord's teaching on more or fewer stripes reserved for the servant who did not do his master's will. But it appears, at least to this writer, that it was misapplied and has no scriptural warrant for being pressed on the conscience of someone who is near despair and crying out as the Phillipian Jailor, 'what must I do to be saved.' Acts 16:31

If Jonathan Edwards held the doctrine of a prior law-work as the usual antecedent to regeneration, it must be established that he was certainly not alone. It was a theme that was enlarged in evangelical books in that day. An example of this is found in the title and chapter description in Phillip Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.'


1--4. The case described at large.--5. As it frequently occurs.--6. Granting all that the dejected soul charges on itself.--7. The invitations and promises of Christ give hope.--8 The reader urged, under all his burdens and fears, to an humble application to him. Which is accordingly exemplified in the concluding Reflection and Prayer.(40)

An important comparison between the reformed writings of the 17ththrough 19th century and our century would underscore an important fact that, though disturbing, cannot be ignored. There were differences of opinion about insisting on whether a law-work commonly was antecedent to regeneration. There were various opinions about counseling the awakened. However they were commonly agreed that God's ways of drawing out His elect were numerous as well as mysterious. Thus to insist on a pattern for all to have followed or to be able to have observed in their own conversion would have been absent from the writings of most reformed pastors. But the conviction that can not be escaped and the study of this subject will reveal, it appeared more common in a by-gone day for testimonies of many to reflect that their coming to Christ was with great difficulty and God showed them their extremity and magnified His mercy. This is so much so that it could very much account for the lack of interest in this subject.

Though the preaching methods and writings were quite different between a Charles Spurgeon and a Jonathan Edwards, there was at least common agreement on this subject. That commonly it was noted that a time of 'bondage and fear' was quite common before the Day Star would arise in the soul. Archibald Alexander, commenting on this subject, states dogmatically:

'The above is not given as a course of experience which ALL real Christians can recognize as their own, but as a train of exercises which is very common. And as I do not consider legal conviction as necessary to precede regeneration, but suppose there are cases in which the first serious impressions may be the effect of regeneration, I cannot, of course, consider any train of exercises under the law as essential. It has been admitted, however, that legal conviction does in fact take place in MOST instances prior to regeneration' {Emphasis mine}(41)

If Alexander is correct, there is a difference in his day and ours that should cause us to not too hastily say that the conversions that were described were the result of the effect of the Spirit being much more present during a revival of religion. The difficulty is, we have to avoid going to the other extreme. As discerning Christians who read testimonies of our brethren, the judgment of charity will only allow the conclusion that where there is no evidence of a pattern of bad fruit, the issue in each case is the same. Whether the professing Christian passed through a dark valley, a slough of despond, or not.

To return to the main intent of examining the counsels that were given, however, there were differences of opinion that need to be noted, so that what was excellent can be imitated and the rest avoided. The hymnist Joseph Hart wrote:

Law and terrors do but harden,

All the while they work alone;

But a sense of blood-bought pardon

Soon dissolves a heart of stone. (42)

As we examine these excellent words, again we have to wonder if the laws and terrors were too much preached upon during the Great Awakening. One has to ask if there was not a need for more preaching on the sense of blood-bought pardon. It is not helpful at this point to insist upon God's sovereignty in the way the sinners is brought from darkness to light. From a human standpoint we bear a responsibility in preaching the gospel to others. The result is that great discernment must be exercised to know when to emphasis more the sense of blood bought pardon. If Jonathan Edwards and others erred on the former side, they can at least be excused in one sense: they would have concluded that though it is far less comfortable for a person to thoroughly examine himself, one can make the case for it being safer.



The life and ministry of Nettleton is so important to examine at this point for two reasons: the first is that there is a lot of information in his biographical accounts about how the awakened were counseled. The second is that his ministry during the second great awakening was marked with a conflict that illustrated the evolution of two completely different approaches to this subject. The conflict was of course with Charles Finney and the New Measures. Inevitably one must also examine the many discourses that frequented the pages of the Princeton Review during this period. Though it would lengthen this paper too greatly to enlarge on this, a bibliography from the Princeton Review is given in the footnotes.(43)

When one examines the conversion of Nettleton, it appears as another text-book case of the type of conversions that were much commented on previously:

'From my earliest age, I endeavored to live a moral life, being taught that God would punish sinners; but I did not believe that I should suffer for the few offenses of which I had been guilty. Having avoided many sins which I saw in others, I imagined all was well with me, till I was about eighteen years old, when I heard a sermon preached upon the necessity of regeneration, which put me upon thinking of the need of a change of heart in myself. I did not, however, well receive the discourse at the time for I was sensible I knew nothing about such a change neither did I wish to know, for I believed myself as good us others without it, and to be equal with them, I thought would be sufficient. However, the thought troubled me considerably from day to day, and caused me to think of praying, which I had never done, except repeating some form as a little child, and doing it to remove the stings of a guilty conscience when I considered myself in imminent danger. Sometime after this, I heard another sermon that convinced me I had quenched the spirit, which occasioned the most alarming fears that I should forever be left to eat the fruit of my own ways. Supposing I was alone in the thoughts of eternity, I separated myself from all company, and determined to seek an interest in Christ. I concluded something must be done to appease God's anger. I read and prayed and strove in every possible way to prepare myself to go to God, that I might be saved from his wrath. The more I strove in this selfish way, the more anxious I was, and no hope was given.'(44)

From the pilgrimage he passed through himself, he was able to counsel others. There also appeared in Nettleton to a great degree an unusual reluctance to give any awakened sinner hope too soon. If the awakened sinner was to be deluded, it was not going to be owing to Nettleton's speaking comfort to soon, or peace when there was no peace. A biographical account of one such person under Nettleton's counsel is given in the prementioned book, an article published in the New York Observer 18 years after the fact reflecting back on the 1826 incident. The author was already a professor of religion, who had conducted himself blamelessly, but avoided with great zeal the subject of self-examination. Part of this autobiography will show the care Nettleton had in his counsels, and the unwillingness to falsely give comfort.

'I continued to ride with him {on horses} once or twice a day; but although I was anxious to converse, he said but little to me, except occasionally he would drop a remark calculated to make me feel worse instead of better - at times greatly deepening my distress. Some months afterwards, I spoke to him about this part of our intercourse. He said he did it intentionally, for he had reason to believe many an awakened sinner had his convictions all talked away, and he talked into a false hope.'(45)

This narrative proceeds at some length and details a surprising reluctance on the part of Nettleton, sometimes even to spend time with the friend. There is mention of one of A. N. frequent inquiry meetings where the awakened were counseled and addressed. A most observing footnote is found to this effect:

"He was painstaking in no ordinary degree, in arranging such meetings. A Christian friend, who frequently had him under his roof in Glasgow, at the time of his short visit to this country, remarked that "he seemed to do nothing, were it no more that crossing the floor of the apartment, without keeping in view how it might affect the souls of those present''(46)

The auto-biographical account continues:

'When at length he entered the room {of an inquiry meeting}, I threw my arms around his neck, told him I was in perfect agony, and that I should die if he did not in some way comfort me. I told him it seemed as if I could not live another hour in such distress.'

'I can't help you my dear friend; you must not look to me:' and then he burst into a flood of tears.'(47)

The account continues and states that Asahel Nettleton dismissed him with prayer. The biographer wrote another important observation in the footnote, as if not knowing what to make of A. N.'s conduct.

'There must evidently have been a peculiarity in this case, that called for this reserve on Dr. N.'s part. Every moment of this person's anguish was caused by positive unbelief; so that it was most undesirable to keep him in it; for to do so was to keep him resisting the Spirit, who glorifies Christ - rejecting Christ, who waited to be gracious.' (48)

Tyler stated this in charity, but it is not uncharitable as well to wonder if Nettleton may not have emphasized God's sovereignty in the matter to an imbalance or lack of proper mention of Christ's willingness to receive sinners. There appears to be the charge of Bonar being justified in this case that the man was thrown too much upon his own efforts. For though he states, 'You must yield your heart to Christ,' Nettleton adds: 'I do certainly think your situation a very alarming and dangerous one.' We are forced to ask how Nettleton came to this conclusion. Was the person's situation any more or less dangerous than any other person's who is in an unconverted state? It is a patent fact of this writer's own observation that in most cases when the awakened hear their duty and their danger, their hope and their precarious position, they seize upon the latter with an undue avidity and maintain hope only with the greatest reluctance.

However the letters to the author of Lectures On Revival that are added to the appendix several years after Nettleton, confirm that some caution was necessary.

'Many of those who become truly pious, entertain for a while, hopes, which they afterwards are convinced to be unfounded; and to pronounce such persons converted at once, and hurry their admission to the Lord's Table would be the most effectual method of preventing their saving conversion. There may be an error on the other side, of too long a delay, and of discouraging real believers from approaching the table of the Lord; but the error is on the safest side.' Dr. Archibald Alexander(49)

'But the great, shall I say the fatal error in the management of revivals, is the hasty admission of the subjects to the privileges of the church. Convictions, we have reason to apprehend, are often mistaken for conversion; - a momentary impulse for Athe renewing of the Holy Ghost,'without which no man can see the Lord.' -Dr. Proudfit

'Another remark I would make, is, that we have carefully guarded against a speedy admission to the privileges of the church. Seldom in times of revival have we admitted persons to communion in less than six months after they first became serious.' Dr. McDowell.'

'The whole number received into the church, during my ministry, is six hundred and seventy-four. None of these have presented themselves for examination, under two and three months, after they began to cherish a hope of having passed from death unto life. Neither have I seen it to be proper, even in seasons of the greatest excitement, to call impenitent sinners, either in our public meetings, or in the inquiring room, to manifest their determination to seek religion, or to give any pledge that they would do it.' Dr. Hyde.(50)


The gathering of awakened sinners during the second great awakening often was termed as an inquiry meeting. It is not my present purpose to chronicle how this became abused by Finney and others because the purpose of this paper is to examine the practices and methods of those men who were solidly reformed in their theology. That these meetings were common is evident by the frequent mention of them in histories of the revivals of religion in those days, as well as tracts published by the American Tract Society.

Some examples of the use of this term in the various writings may assist us. The term is used 15 times in Heman Humphrey's Revival Sketches and Manual.(51) It is mentioned three times in The Christian Pastorate, by Daniel Kidder. It is even mentioned in Shaff's Church History .(52)

In his book, Revival Sketches and Manual, there are 20 conversations between a pastor and an inquirer. Though it is supposed the account is fictitious, it appears to be added at the end of the book as an example of the types of conversations that would have taken place in such a meeting. The titles are interesting and thus follow:

A Delaying Inquirer

An inquirer satisfied with preparatory work

Inquirer's plea that he had done all he could do.

Plea that he had not been long enough under conviction.

Waiting for the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Fearing he had committed the unpardonable sin.

Desponding and ready to give up hope of repentance.

Indulging a trembling hope.

Afraid of religious excitement.

Excuse that he had once obtained a hope which proved fallacious.

Had attended all the meetings, and was discouraged.

That all his resolutions of future repentance proved futile.

Fears that the privileges enjoyed will but aggravate his doom.

Excuse from the fear that hopes suddenly obtained may be delusive.

Excuse from the inconsistency of professors.

Gains no relief and comes to the pastor as a last resort.

Clinging to a hope that may not abide.

Tests of a well grounded hope.

Great doctrines of the gospel urged by a caviller.

Serious questions for self-examination.(53)

When one examines the conversations that are recorded in this volume, there are no grounds in this case to conclude that the sinner was thrown upon his own efforts. The opposite appears to have been the case. The inquirer is urged away from false anxieties on the one hand, self righteous refuges on the other. Though it is a lengthy quote, it is very important to the subject at hand to give an example from this book. It can only be concluded that the counsel given in this case would be typical of counsel during that age. The differences of opinion between good reformed pastors will be examined after.

PASTOR. (in the inquiry room.) I am glad to see you here once more, this evening, and hope you have come with a new heart, and a new song in your mouth.

INQUIRER. I wish I could say that I have; but I do not see that I make any progress at all. All my struggling and striving does not bring me a step nearer to the kingdom of heaven.

PASTOR. Indeed, I am more and more alarmed for you. You have held out a great while. The Spirit of God will not always continue to strive. Excuse yourself as you may, the sin lieth at your own door. And why, my dear young friend, will you not throw down the weapons of your rebellion, and submit unconditionally to Christ?

INQUIRER: I have no power to submit, and how can I get the power?

PASTOR.Have no power to submit! What power does it require to submit-to leave off contending with God to cast yourself down at the foot of his throne as a perishing sinner? It is the prerogative of power to resist, not to submit. What would you think were a garrison, when closely besieged and reduced to the last extremity, to use this plea for not surrendering the fortress-we have no power to submit? Thousands have had no power to hold out against a besieging enemy; but who was ever too weak to surrender at discretion? How strangely would it sound in your ears were a perverse and rebellious child, when under chastisement, to plead as an excuse for not confessing his fault and promising amendment, that he has no power to submit I & And yet, when God commands you to repent, to submit at the foot of the cross as a poor sinner, you try to quiet your conscience by pleading that you have no power to yield. When, the difficulty with you is, that you have too much power, as you have hitherto used it. You have a power of resistance which is perfectly astonishing, and which nothing short of Omnipotence can overcome.

You have held out, day after day and week after week, against motives which one would think must be willing to conquer a world-against threatening and irritations and promises the most urgent and alluring that were ever addressed to rebels under the curse of God's holy law. What you need is, to have this terrible power of resistance overcome. All you want is the right disposition, a "humble and contrite heart;" and that you lack this is your own fault.

INQUIRER: I cannot answer your arguments; but although I begin to see the subject in a new light, it does still appear to me that I have been honest and sincere in trying to do all I can; and will not a God of infinite compassion pity my weakness, and make up the deficiency ?

PASTOR:. God will never give up his rightful claims. He will never cease to command, however you may refuse to obey; and if you die in your sins, he will justify the reasonableness of your condemnation before the assembled universe. Admitting the, validity of your plea, there will be a great wonder in the day of judgment: you, of all the countless millions of the human family, will stand alone, as one that did all he could to comply with the conditions of salvation - and yet was not saved.

Every one who perishes will be self-condemned. "Thou hast destroyed thyself," willing louder and louder in his cars, as he sinks deeper and deeper in "the blackness of darkness for ever."

INQUIRER.What more, then, can I do? I am sure I am willing to do every thing that God requires, cost what it will.

PASTOR. No, my young friend, you are not willing. Here lies the fatal mistake. You deceive yourself. You want to be saved. You shrink back from the bottomless gulf, upon the brink of which you are standing. You would doubtless give the world, if you owned it all, for the ransom of your soul; but you will not give your heart to God - you will not repent - "you will not come to Christ, that you might have life." If there is any thing in the way but your own obstinate and wicked heart, do tell me what it is. Does God stand in the way? do I stand in the way? do any of your Christian friends? do your sinful companions ? They may try to dissuade, but they cannot hinder you from coming to the cross. The difficulty is within, and not without. (54)

There are a number of lessons that can be concluded from this counsel. The pastor pressed the sinner with a conviction that his own destruction would not rest in the sovereignty of God but in the indetermindedness of his own will. Secondly, it was not concluded that it was a more hopeful sign that the inquirer had long been under the spirit of bondage and fear, but the pastor concluded that it was actually adding to his danger. Against more light than ever he was still withholding his heart from God. Finally, it must be concluded that the pastor would not allow passivity on the part of the inquirer or any Awaiting upon God' in such a way as to avoid his immediate present duty. But rather the conclusion was that the inquirer was to use the gospel means as diligently as if their were no doctrine of God's sovereignty, for all inability in the end was his own fault.

This counsel was common in the writings of the early 1800's, displaying a unity of mind on this subject. In his book, God's Way of Peace, by Horatius Bonar, the same objections are answered:

'You say, I cannot believe. Let us look into this complaint of yours.

I know that the Holy Spirit is as indispensable to your believing, as is Christ in order to your being pardoned. The Holy Spirit's work is direct and powerful; and you will not rid yourself of your difficulties by trying to persuade yourself that his operations are all indirect, and merely those of a teacher presenting truth to you. Salvation for the sinner is Christ's work; salvation in the sinner is the Spirit's work. Of this internal salvation he is the beginner and the ender. He works in you, in order to your believing, as truly as he works in you after you have believed, and in consequence of your believing.'

'This doctrine, instead of being a discouragement, is one of unspeakable encouragement to the sinner; and he will acknowledge this, if he knows himself to be the thoroughly helpless being which the Bible says he is. If he is not totally depraved, he will feel the doctrine of the Spirit's work a hindrance, no doubt; but as, in that case, he will be able to save himself without much assistance, he might just set aside the Spirit altogether, and work his way to heaven without his help!'

'The truth is, that without the Spirit's direct and almighty help, there could be no hope for a totally depraved being at all.'

'You speak of this inability to believe as if it were some unprovided difficulty; and as if the discovery of it had sorely cast you down. You would not have so desponded had you found that you could believe of yourself, without the Spirit; and it would greatly relieve you to be told that you could dispense with the Spirit's help in this matter. If this would relieve you, it is plain that you have no confidence in the Spirit; and you wish to have the power in your own hands, because you believe your own willingness to be much greater than his. Did you but know the blessed truth, that his willingness far exceeds yours, you would rejoice that the power was in his hands rather than in your own. You would feel far more certain of attaining the end desired when the strength needed is in hands so infinitely gracious; and you would feel that the man who told you that you had all the needed strength in yourself, was casting down your best hope, and robbing you of a heavenly treasure.'(55)

This common theme appeared in the writings of the best pastors and their sermons throughout the 19th century. Another excellent example can be cited from the sermons on Charles Spurgeon.

"Many remain in the dark for years because they have no power, as they say, to do that which is the giving up of all power and reposing in the power of another, even the Lord Jesus. Indeed, it is a very curious thing, this whole matter of believing; for people do not get much help by trying to believe. Believing does not come by trying. If a person were to make a statement of something that happened this day, I should not tell him that I would try to believe him. If I believed in the truthfulness of the man who told the incident to me and said that he saw it, I should accept the statement at once. If I did not think him a true man, I should, of course, disbelieve him; but there would be no trying in the matter. Now, when God declares that there is salvation in Christ Jesus, I must either believe Him at once, or make Him a liar. Surely you will not hesitate as to which is the right path in this case, The witness of God must be true, and we are bound at once to believe in Jesus."(56)

A well known title from the early 19th century that had for its aim the counsel due to the awakened sinner is the book titled, "The Anxious Inquirer," by John Angell James. Many self-imposed difficulties are found in the way of the "inquirer," and James - as was the common spiritual physician's remedy of that day, details them. The chapter is called, "perplexities which are often felt by inquirers." The common perplexities, such as an objection that the inquirer may not be one of God's elect, are answered in this book. But there is an interesting perplexity that is answered that has not yet been addressed in this paper. It is one that is so common that this subject cannot be addressed with any kind of fullness without mentioning it. That is, the fear that one has committed the unpardonable blasphemy of the Holy Ghost.

The subject is treated in the prementioned book by Heman Humphrey in the REVIVAL CONVERSATIONS, BETWEEN A PASTOR AND INQUIRERS the 6thdialogue. The subject comes out continually in the written testimonies of the saints of the past who went on to be greatly used of God. It is also a curious fact to discover that the awakened may have been raised in Christian homes and never knew a time when they did not know what the message of the gospel included. Thomas Halyburton is given as an example of a person brought up under religious discipline and instruction, and under constant restraint, whose convictions were, for all that, "exceedingly pungent and awful."

In the case of Asahel Nettleton, previously mentioned, all the typical fears seemed to mark his course as he pressed on to "yonder wicket gate."

" The fear of having committed the unpardonable sin, now began to rise in my mind, and I could find no rest day nor night.-When my weary limbs demanded sleep, the fear of awaking in a miserable eternity prevented the closing of my eyes, and nothing gave me ease. No voice of mirth, or sound whatever was heard, but what reminded me of the awful day when God shall bring every work into judgment. All self-righteousness failed me; and having no confidence in God, I was left in deep despondency. After a while, a surprising tremor seized all my limbs, and death appeared to have taken hold upon me. Eternity, the word eternity, sounded louder than any voice I ever heard, and every moment of time seemed more valuable than all the wealth of the world. Not long after this, an unusual calmness pervaded my soul, which I thought little of at first, except that I was freed from my awful convictions and this sometimes grieved me, fearing I had lost all conviction. (57)

It is an obvious conclusion that the devil does indeed shoot his arrows at those who are entering in to the wicket gate. He is exceedingly loathe to give up this weapon, to drive the inquirer to the conclusion that there is no hope for him because he has committed the unpardonable sin. God is so often pleased to mercifully interpose and not let the inquirer utterly sink, however, in the slough of despond.

Inevitably, such teachings as came from the pulpit and pens of the men of that day would meet with full opposition in the teachings of Finney and his followers. An excellent example of this controversy can be found in an article by Dr. John Woodbridge:

"They repudiate and abjure in the most fierce and intemperate strain, as fatal to their operations, every mode of belief which does not imply in man a perfect capacity and aptitude to be savingly affected with the truths of the gospel, whether regenerated by the Spirit or not; if he will only resolve to be a Christian. On this point, we suppose that no man is a more standard authority with all this class, or a more correct representative of their opinions, than was Mr. Finney before he got mired in the abyss of Perfectionism, on the verge of which, judging from the following and many other passages, he must have been for a long time treading with fearful presumption and temerity. We quote from his Lectures on Revivals, which must of course be taken as a formal and authentic ex position of his sentiments on this subject. He says, p. 351, And I am persuaded there never would have been such multitudes of tedious convictions, and often ending in no. thing after all, if it had not been for those theological per-versions that have filled the world with cannot-ism. In Bible days, they told sinners to repent, and they did it then. Cannotism had not been broached in that day. It is this speculation about the inability of sinners to obey God, that lays the foundation for all the protracted anguish and distress, and perhaps ruin, through which so many are led.' It is enough to say of this wild raving, that it can reach none for whom it was intended, without first dashing against Paul and Christ as their shield. Says Paul, Rom. viii. 7, 8, Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, NEITHER indeed CAN be. So then they that are in the flesh CANNOT please God.' Says Christ, John vi. 44, No MAN CAN come unto me except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him.' Now we submit whether the above extract be any thing better than a railing accusation against the word of the Lord. We beg our readers also to observe how the preparatory law-work of conviction of sin is scouted as not only needless but pernicious, and likewise how evident it is that Mr. Finney gets rid of this by use of his doctrine that there is nothing in spiritual religion which man cannot at once bring to pass by the might of his own will. Again he says, p. 352, Afraid of sudden conversions! Some of the best Christians of my acquaintance were convicted and converted in the space of a few minutes. In one quarter of the time that I have been speaking, many of them were awakened, and came right out on the Lord's side, and have been shining lights in the church ever since, and have generally manifested the same decision of character in religion, that they did when they first came out arid took a stand on the Lord's side.'

While all things are possible with God, and the suddenness of a conversion is not per se proof that it is spurious, yet it may safely be declared to be God's ordinary method of dispensing grace, to occupy a longer or shorter time with the preparatory work of the law in the soul, to the end that the sinner slain thereby, may come to Christ and have life. And it may be added that most true penitents spend a considerable season in considering their ways, before they have comfortable evidence that they have turned their feet to God's testimonies. But what deserves special notice in the preceding passage is, that conversion is spoken of, not as a coming to Christ, or to God by Christ, not as a loathing and renunciation of sin, and walking in the divine commandments; but it is held up solely in the attitude of " taking a stand, or coming right out on the Lord' side' Can aspect most favorable to the idea of sinking it into a mere resolution to serve the Lord, such as the natural man can put forth, in the utter neglect of those spiritual affections and graces, that inward renovation of the heart, which lie at the root of all evangelical piety. This, it is well known, is a grand point with all modern revivalists to explain away religious experience into a mere purpose, resolution, or determination to live and act religiously. The idea of continuing any time in a state of conviction, or of supposing that in order to the acceptable performance of religious duties, there must be a prior change of the heart or affections or feelings wrought by the Holy Ghost, is thrust at by these men on the right hand and the left, as a fatal stumbling block to all their operations.(58)

Whether one agrees with Dr. Woodbridge or not, there appears to be a theme reiterated here that was touched on before: that many of these men appeared to teach that sudden conversions were the exception and not the rule. It is also important to note that there is laid, in Finney's theology, the foundation for much of the mischievous new measures that mark the evangelical church in our day.

It is not difficult to see how such clichés as of 'taking a stand, or coming right out on the Lord' side,'

May not lead to the expressions presently given during the 'invitation' or 'alter call.'

An interesting estimate of the difference between the second great awakening in the first can be found in a book titled, Lectures on Revival by Edward Norris Kirk:

'The first consideration I would suggest is this: conviction at Calvary is of a higher type than conviction at Sinai. The groans of an unpardoned sinner at the latter are pressed out by fear; sometimes, indeed, by aspirations after holiness; but the tears of a pardoned sinner at the foot of the cross where his guilt was expiated spring from a noble fountain. It is true that some of the most eminent examples of piety are those who passed through a long law-work, as it has been denominated. Luther and Bunyan, like Jonah, Acried out of the belly of hell.' They, and other eminent leaders of the Church, were moulded to statures of great moral grandeur when poured like molten iron from the furnace into the gospel-mould. But Saul of Tarsus is not represented as going through such a process. And many in our own day might be named, who have done eminent service for Christ, who had neither such long nor such agonizing convictions.'

'Then, if we have less doctrinal preaching, I believe we have more biblical preaching, than formerly. This statement needs explanation. Theology is the classification of revealed truth, and the metaphysical vindication of that truth. It deals with the understanding and the logical faculty alone. It consequently removes all the poetic elements of inspiration, takes truth out of the connections in which inspiration placed them, and foregoes all the power of Scripture imagery, or the representation of spiritual truths under material forms.'

'That this is an immense loss to an audience assembling constantly to hear the gospel is to me manifest. If we have less law now, I am inclined to believe we hear more of the gospel.'

'Yet here must be suggested a caution, and an exhortation to vigilance. A free salvation by faith without works, a Christ offered to the sinner freely, every moment: this is the gospel. But this may become so misapprehended by our audiences, that we shall be compelled again to thunder the law, in all the rigid purity of its requirements and its tests, and in its awful unveiling of the wrath of God. Our piety becoming effeminate, we may need a strong tonic. If so, bring it out, and in firmness and kindness apply it.'(59)

William Shedd on the term "preparatives"

It was obvious from the beginning, as I commenced gathering sources and thoughts for this subject, that Shedd would be one of the most important theologians to consult. His writings are very helpful in defining certain terms. Further, he seems to follow a pattern that runs through the writings of many reformed pastors on this topic.

When defining the term "preparative," he writes about the term preparative as employed by the Calvinist and Augustinian to mean "conviction of sin, guilt, and helplessness," and quotes Witsius in his Covenants, III, vi 27, when he says,

"Let not think it absurd that we now speak of means of regeneration, when but a little before (III. Vi. 10,12) we rejected all preparatives for it." Owen, on the other hand, denies "means" and asserts "preparatives" of regeneration. Yet Owen and Witsius agree in doctrine. In the Calvinistic system, a "preparative" to regeneration, or "means" of it, is anything that demonstrates man's total lack of holy desires and his need of regeneration. It is consequently not a part of regeneration, but something prior and antecedent to it. There is a work performed in the soul previous to the instantaneous act of regeneration, as there is a work performed in the body previous to the instantaneous act of death. A man loses physical life in an instant, but he has been some time in coming to this instant. So man gains spiritual life in an instant, though he may have had days and months of a foregoing experience of conviction and sense of spiritual death. This is the ordinary divine method."(60)

The next interesting comments establish that using the means of grace, or "seeking" did not have its origin in the teachings of John Gerstner.

"Man's work in respect to regeneration is connected with this {common or prevenient grace}. Moved and assisted by common or prevenient grace, the natural man is to perform the following duties, in order to be convicted of sin, and know his need of the new birth."

This are named as, Reading and hearing the divine word, (2)Serious application of the mind, and examination of the truth to feel its force. (3) Prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, LK. 11:9,13. He cautions that these "preparatives" of conviction do not make the sinner deserving of regeneration. Then he says:

"One thing is important, therefore, in giving advice to an unregenerate person: namely, to remind him of the danger of legality and self-righteousness."(61)

Shedd also, in a similar pattern as Edwards and others, explains that the use of means in such preparation does not end in "an infallible certainty," but that the sinner must proceed on "a probability." He quotes Jonathan Edwards's sermon "Pressing Into the Kingdom," and follows with Samuel Davies and continues explaining his doctrine for 11 more pages! Of all of the 19th century theologians that had published Systematic Theology works, Shedd is the fullest on this subject.(62)

Miscellaneous quotes from this period.

That usually a conviction of sin takes place previously to a change of heart, is a fact of common experience: and there seems to be a solid reason for this, that the sinful moral agent may be sensible of his miserable condition before he is delivered from it. As man naturally seeks to justify himself by his own righteousness, it is necessary that he should be cut off from this dependence on a broken law, which is now "weak through the flesh,' and cannot bring him to life; and that he should see and feel that he is already justly condemned, and must despair of relief from the law. God permits the awakened sinner to try what he can do towards saving himself, until wearied with his own ineffectual efforts, he is brought to feel that he is indeed a lost sinner, and that there is no hope for him but in the sovereign mercy of God, on which he has no claim. It is suitable that when so great a benefit as pardon and eternal life is bestowed, it should be so conferred, as that the unworthy recipient should be fully convinced that it is a free gift, and an undeserved favour which might be most justly withheld. Otherwise the saved sinner would not feel a deep sense of his obligations; and his gratitude for free grace through eternity would not be so ardent.(63)

It is God's usual method to awaken them, and bring them to despair of salvation by their own righteousness, before He reveals Christ to them. So it was with the jailor. So it was with Paul; he was blind three days. A faithful minister must lay himself out for this. Plough up the fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Men must be brought down by law work to see their guilt and misery, or all our preaching is beating the air.(64)

As long as an awakened sinner has hope of saving himself, as long as he thinks that self-reformation, weeping over past sins, and resolving against future ones, will clear him before God so long his heart is calm; but when the fatal news comes, that all he does is done out of a sinful heart, that even Ahis righteousness are as filthy rags,' that Aby the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified,' then does the heart of the sinner die within him. He says, AIt is done now, it is all done now, I never can do anything to justify myself.'(65)

This difficulty is presented in its most interesting form, by the question, whether an anxious sinner conscious of an unrenewed state, may begin to pray with an expectation of answer. Some professed Calvinists have been so embarrassed, as to give a very unscriptural answer. They have argued that without faith it is impossible to please God'; and as faith is a result of regeneration, it is the unrenewed sinner's duty to abstain from praying, until conscious of the saving change. But Scripture commands sinners to pray. See Acts 8:22; Rom. 10:13. Man's logic is vain, against God's express word. Again, it is wrong to command any one to abstain from prayer (or any other duty) because he is in a state of unbelief, because it is wrong for him to be in that state. It is preposterous reasoning, which makes a man's own sin an exemption for him. Do we then, in commanding the unbeliever to begin praying, tell him to offer an unbelieving prayer. By no means. We intend that he shall so begin, that by God's grace that prayer, begun in the impotency of nature, shall instantly transform itself into the first breathing of a living faith. We say to him, begin praying, and be no more faithless, but believing.' It is most instructive to notice how Christ Himself encourages the anxious sinner to pretermit the obstacle of this seeming paradox. The parables by which He inculcates prayer are evidently constructed with a view to encourage the awakened soul to waive the question whether it is renewed or not.(66)


There are three subjects to mention about 20th century reformed theology before bringing this subject to a close. They are (1) the differences between the Protestant Reformed Theologians and Netherlands Reformed Theologians, (2) the teaching of David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and (3) the teachings of John Gerstner on this subject.

The teachings of the Protestant Reformed Churches.

One does not need to read very far along in the writings of the Protestant Reformed theologians to discover that they had little patience with the puritan view of conversion. This sets them in antithesis from the Netherlands Reformed churches on this subject. If the former would dismiss out of hand the teaching of the law-work in Puritan evangelism, the latter would tend to count any conversion as suspect that did not follow the several steps of William Perkins case book model mentioned at the beginning of this paper. This may appear to be a sweeping generalization, but an examination of their writings may help to prove the point.

In an paper entitled, "Ought the Church to Pray for Revival" by Professor Herman Hanko, a surprising negative answer is given. Broad and sweeping generalizations are given with little care to establish the charge that is being made by proper quote or historic context. Hanko writes:

" It is very striking that that Roman Catholic idea of mysticism found a certain analogy in the thinking of the Puritans. Now, I know when I say anything bad about the Puritans it is almost as if I am beating a sacred cow. And I do not want to leave the impression that the Puritans are of no value. The works which they produced, especially the early Puritans, can be read even today by any child of God with a great deal of pleasure and spiritual benefit, so much so that I would urge you to read Puritan literature. And, in fact, I can think of little devotional literature that is better to read than Puritan literature. That does not alter the fact, however, that they were wrong, desperately wrong, in their conception of Christian experience. What the medieval mystics called the "dark night of the soul" became, in Puritan thinking, "the conviction of sin" or "being under the conviction of sin."

"But the mysticism of Roman Catholicism was carried directly into Protestant thinking through the revivals of John Wesley in the 18th century. It may surprise you to know that prior to his Aldersgate experience, at which time John Wesley considered himself to have been converted, he steeped himself deeply in the writings of Roman Catholic, medieval mystics, read them avidly, devoured them, as he says, and was even instrumental in publishing a great number of these Roman Catholic works. That mysticism stayed with him all his life. Robert G. Tuttle, in a book entitled Mysticism in the Wesleyan Tradition,points this out very clearly. Tuttle, by the way, is himself a Methodist, an admirer of John Wesley, and is pleased and thankful for the fact that Roman Catholic mysticism became a part of Protestant thinking through the work of John Wesley."

John Wesley and the Puritans are the fathers of revivalism. In fact, so much is that so that an acknowledged authority on revivalism goes so far as to say: "The Puritans gave to the English-speaking world what may be called the classical school of Protestant belief in revival" (The Puritan Hope, lain Murray; The Banner of Truth, 1971, p.4). "(67)

Since Finney and Wesley are lumped together in this essay with Dr. Lloyd-Jones and the Puritans, one might well ask Professor Hanko how these men may have differed in their view of the work of the Spirit in Revivals and regeneration. Or we may ask what antipathy Lloyd-Jones may have had towards the mysticism of Wesley.

Again, this lack of knowledge of the history that Hanko is a professor of is manifest:

" Once again I have to go back to the Puritans, specifically the later Puritans, the Puritans at the time of the Marrow controversy in the early part of the 18th century, including the so-called Marrow men: Thomas Boston, the Erskine brothers, and others. They emphasized that when the law was preached in the church then the Holy Spirit could make the law and the preaching of the law instrumental in bringing people under the conviction of sin. Read, for example, the diary of Robert M'Cheyne, an old Puritan divine of this school, and you will find a diary that is filled with this sort of thing. Under the preaching of the law, men came under the conviction of sin. That conviction of sin manifested itself in all of these strange phenomena which we described. Sometimes this happened to a greater degree than others, but all agree that law-preaching manifested itself especially in such terrible fears of hell and of damnation which so gripped the soul of a man that he was overcome by them. He saw that his condition was hopeless; he understood that the only way of escape was by a power greater than himself. This was how the Spirit worked, first of all, through the preaching of the law. "(68)

None of the men in question were "puritans," McCheyene having lived in the early part of the 19th century! But leaving aside the question of terminology, we are interested in knowing what part of these men's teaching is in error?

We are not left long in doubt, for the next paragraph states:

" The wrong of this was that this conviction of sin was apart from the work of regeneration. It was what the Puritans called, "preparatory grace." It was what sometimes was called the "work of the Spirit in His prompting," a phrase that carried with it the idea that the sinner was prompted to seek Christ. Or, it created a man who was sometimes called "a seeker" - not regenerated, not converted, not saved, not a child of God, but one who possessed that work of the Holy Spirit which, as a preparatory grace, enabled him to "seek" for salvation. To that man had to be directed the preaching of the gospel which brought the urgency of taking Christ, taking hold of Christ, or, as the Puritans were wont to express it, "closing with Christ." But whether one under the conviction of sin would actually "close with Christ" was not certain. He could feel deep sorrow for sin. He could experience the torments of a guilty conscience. He could long for deliverance and salvation. But the outcome remained uncertain and the possibility existed that he could still go to hell. "

We have to wonder then at Professor Hanko's ordo salutis. According to this paragraph, we are to suppose to understand that there is no such thing as conviction of sin that is not regeneration or issued therein! " The wrong of this was that this conviction of sin was apart from the work of regeneration." What about those whose conviction of sin did not have a saving effect, i.e. Saul, Judas, Felix? To be fair, we need for the professor to amplify what he means by the term "possessed" and "enabled." If he supposes that the theologians in question taught that there was any change in the governing disposition - enabled, or any thing OTHER THAN the common influences of the Spirit upon the unregenerate - possessed - this we do plainly deny.

The real issue that Hanko is at odds with is the doctrine of the sincere call of the gospel to all mankind:

"The preaching of the gospel, therefore, which urged one to take Christ into his life, was preaching that made salvation dependent upon the individual, who was put in this state of preparatory grace, whether or not at that crucial point in his life he would indeed take Christ into his heart. What he did would result in his salvation or in his damnation. Such a one, in other words, who had these promptings of the Spirit, who was prepared -- the Puritans, as you know, developed a theory of "preparationism" -- by the Spirit, and put in a spiritual frame of mind either to accept Christ or reject Him, is now left with a decision resting in his hands. " (69)

This language is completely unfair to summarize the teachings of the men who are being so charged. The idea that the promptings of the Spirit enabled a man to make a decision for Christ was complete foreign in the writings of these men . We would be most happy to have Professor Hanko establish for us that these men did indeed teach this. He goes on to state:

"Revivalism adopts this same view of conversion and thus holds to the false doctrine that salvation rests in man's hands. I know that they would dispute this because they want to appear as proponents of sovereign grace. Nevertheless, they teach that there is a common grace worked by the Spirit in the hearts of all, which grace puts all in a spiritual position to accept or reject Christ. Christ is presented through the preaching as eminently desirable, as the one who can deliver them. And they, on their part, though thirsting for deliverance, though seeing the riches of Christ, though understanding that in Him alone is escape from sin, though even praying to be regenerated, may nevertheless still go lost." (70)

Professor Hanko will search in vain for any such teaching by these men. On the contrary they would have agreed with Jonathan Edwards who established:

"Hence it may be inferred, that nothing in the reason and nature of things appears from the consideration of any moral weight in the former kind of sincerity, leading us to suppose, that God has made any positive promises of salvation, or grace, or any saving assistance, or any spiritual benefit whatosever, to any Desires, prayers, Endeavors, striving, or obedience of those who hitherto have no true virtue or holiness in their hearts; though we should suppose all the sincerity, and the utmost degree of endeavor, that is possible to be in a person without holiness."

And again:

"For if men do what they can, unless their so doing be from some good principle , disposition, or exercise of heart, some virtuous inclination, or act of the will; their so doing what they can is, in some respect, not a whit better than if they did nothing at all."(71)

If it is objected that Hanko has not been given the opportunity to respond for himself, a letter was sent to the person who maintains the website with his writings and this letter has gone unacknowledged for over 18 months. The letter asked for their views of the treatment that they believe is proper for the awakened sinner.


When I began this paper almost two years ago, I sought to gather information online from reformed discussion groups. It was pointed out to me from a Christian brother in the Netherlands that if I was going to discuss the Netherlands Reformed Churches, I must distinguish between the American and Netherlands churches. This appears correct, and therefore it is the American churches' teaching on this subject that is of interest here.

This could even be narrowed again to a discussion of the church's history in Grand Rapids. It is interesting to note a remark in the Reformed News Service upon the formation of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.

" Grand Rapids may not always deserve its reputation as the "New Jerusalem" of the Dutch Reformed world, but it surely must be the only American city to have three Dutch Reformed seminaries."(72)

Though this is the first I have heard of the term "New Jerusalem" when referring to the Dutch Reformed settlement of Grand Rapids, admittedly the history of Grand Rapids and the history of the Netherlands Reformed Churches are very much linked.

It is with regret that I confess that the reading materials necessary to deal with the extremes witnessed in the older Netherlands Reformed churches are not yet accessible to me. They need to be gathered, analyzed, and added to this writing, but will not be at the present time.


A superficial approach to the subject of this paper would lead many writers to not analyze Gerstner's writings on this subject. It is easier to dismiss it as extreme, as such teaching is subject to misapplication. I cannot accept this approach because though I am very uncomfortable with some of the statements that are made, the aspersion is also cast upon Jonathan Edwards. We can disagree with Edwards's experimental theology in some details, but to not carefully and painstakingly do it with some anxiety indicates more about the person writing the critique than it does about Jonathan Edwards. It is not the greatest danger of our day that professing Christians of the church will have too much pre-occupation with self-examination and making their calling and election sure. If Edwards erred, it could be argued that his path was safer. When heaven and hell hang in the balance, how can fault someone for desiring nothing less than the highest assurance of their faith's reality?

On the other hand, the error in the doctrine of seeking is gaining some momentum, and it should at least be evaluated. John Gerstner is now with the Lord, but his writings on this subject are again being distributed through the publishing efforts of Soli Deo Gloria.

An excellent case in point is the recent publication by the Rev. Don Kistler, "Why Read the Puritans Today?"(73)

Kistler writes,

"The sinner, then, ought to do all in his natural power to make his heart less hard than it already is. Every sin hardens the heart all the more. This seeking is still sin - since the sinner can do nothing but sin - but at least it's not as much sin as if he didn't do it! He's not making himself pleasing to God by his seeking (since he's doing it out of self-interest), but he is making himself less offensive to God rather than more offensive. And even if God doesn't save him, his punishment in hell will be less." AMPLIFICATION, in case you missed it, AT LEAST HIS punishment in hell will be less."

A statement such as this should be greatly qualified, and it is interesting to me that Kistler just states it and goes on. First of all, Gerstner would not have denied that it is the sinner's immediate duty to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." He would not have a problem with DUTY FAITH, as we have often termed it. But what was maintained by Gerstner is that the awakened sinner, having tried to put forth faith in Christ, realizes that his heart is "as hard as the nether millstone" as the puritans would say. He cannot believe, he cannot trust, he realizes the truth of that which he knew only theoretically before, that he has a "total inability."

The question then comes to the pastor who has to assist the anxious inquirer through the labyrinth of anxious thoughts about what he can do, since he cannot believe. The answer of Gerstner is to assist him to "seek" the Lord. A distinction is made between the "seeking of the Lord with all your heart" that the Scriptures speak of.

This "seeking" is from a wrong end, and from a wrong motive, and all done in unbelief. He has not MORAL ABILITY, but his ears are not plugged that he can't hear the sermon, his legs are not broke that he cannot attend the sermon, he can pick up his Bible and read, he can use the means in which God has appointed since faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

The inquirer is told that the "probability is" that if he uses the means in this way, this is the normal way that God grants ability. AT NO TIME is it supposed that any selfish "seeking" places God under any obligation to hear the selfish cries of the awakened. As Dabney states, the cries of the awakened for mercy, until he has a new heart, are no more virtuous, then a sow's cries for help that has its head caught in the fence.

From the divine view point, they would say that man's extremity is God's opportunity and God is pleased to allow the sinner to try his own might to see how utterly indisposed he is to in any way prepare his own heart for a saving response to the gospel.

Now, admittedly, some of these statements are certainly not wrong. It was certainly the case with Christian in Bunyan's Pilgrims Progress, that he struggled long and hard before finding "yonder wicket gate." That is not the concern we have. The concern is the counsel given to this "awakened sinner." Where do we have any kind of Scriptural support to tell someone "that if he will hold on and use the means, AT LEAST he will be assured of a more comfortable place in hell than if he threw restraint to the wind, and went on in his wicked course." This doctrine is a DEDUCTION from certain passages such as the servant who knew his master's will and would not do it. But the deduction should not lead to this becoming part of the counsel to the awakened sinner.

And yet one only has to listen to a number of Gerstner's sermons, or read his "Steps to Salvation" to realize that this was as much a part of his counsel to the awakened sinner, as the steps of the Roman's Road, or God's Plan for Your Life is a part of the message of the fundamentalist!

Do we blame God's sovereignty for the fact that some people were in Edwards's congregation for 20 years and still were only "seekers," having never - in their estimation - been granted a new heart in Christ? Will it give them hope to press on if we tell such that they are doing their duty and to persevere in this path will AT LEAST make him "less offensive to God?" {And probably he will find mercy - granted they stated this.}

The doctrine of "seeking" as it is now termed has, in this case, its foundation in the writings of Jonathan Edwards and systematized in a book published in 1960, "Steps to Salvation" by John Gerstner.(74)

This book has been mentioned previously under the subject of the definition and use of the deprecatory sermon. But it needs to be examined in more detail. It must be emphasized again that there are certain presuppositions that mark this teaching. The first is that the authors did not deny that it is the sinner's immediate duty to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be a caricature of them and misrepresent them to suppose that they did not emphasize this doctrine prior to teaching the doctrine of "seeking."

The doctrine of "seeking" is the effect of the inability the awakened becomes conscious of to do just that. To quote Gerstner about obeying the gospel,

"This, to be sure, is not in man's present disposition, but he may seek for a new heart. How a person finds this new heart we must continue to investigate." (75)

But before the investigation is commenced, the inability must again be reiterated. A. H. Strong wrote:

"Conviction of sin is an ordinary, if not invariable, antecedent of regeneration. It results from the contemplation of truth. It is often accompanied by fear, remorse, and cries for mercy. But these desires and fears are not signs of regeneration. They are selfish. They are quite consistent with manifest and dreadful enmity to God. They have a hopeful aspect, simply because they are evidence that the Holy Spirit is striving with the soul. But this work of the Spirit is not yet regeneration; at most it is preparation for regeneration. So far as the sinner is concerned, he is more of a sinner than ever before; because, under more light than has never before been given him, he is still rejecting Christ and resisting the Spirit. The word of God and the Holy Spirit appeal to lower as well as higher motives; most men's concern about religion is determined at the outset by hope or fear."(76)

Strong then makes a statement that has to be read with caution:

"All these motives, though they are not the highest, are yet proper motives to influence the soul; it is right to seek God from motives of self-interest, and because we desire heaven. But the seeking which not only begins, but ends, upon this lower plane, is never successful. Until the soul gives itself to God from motives of love, it is never saved. And so long as these preliminary motives rule, regeneration has not yet taken place."(77)

A couple of qualifications are in order: that these motives are "right" does not mean that they are virtuous. (2) Strong also warns that there is a danger of confounding regeneration with preparatory influences of God's spirit. All that in this sense is termed antecedent to regeneration is not itself regeneration, and the theologians explain that even hypocrites experience such "antecedents."

In the following chapters, Gerstner warns about "A Fatal Backward Step: Hardening." But here Gerstner leaves a statement from Edwards's sermons out that, to the present writer, appears to be one of his most important on this subject of hardening:

"There are probably some here present that are now concerned about their salvation, that never will obtain. It is not to be supposed that all that are now moved and awakened will ever be savingly converted. Doubtless there are many now seeking that will not be able to enter. When has it been so in times past, when there has been times of great outpourings of God's Spirit, but that many who for a while have inquired with others what they should do to be saved, have failed, and afterwards grown hard and secure?

All of you that are now awakened have a mind to obtain salvation, and probably hope to get a title to heaven, in the time of this present moving of God's Spirit: but yet, (though it be awful to be spoken, and awful to be thought,) we have no reason to think any other, than that some of you will burn in hell to all eternity. You all are afraid of hell, and seem at present disposed to take pains to be delivered from it; and yet it would be unreasonable to think any other, than that some of you will have your portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Though there are so many that seem to obtain so easily, having been but a little while under convictions, yet, for all that, some never will obtain. Some will soon lose the sense of things they now have; though their awakenings seem to be very considerable for the present, they will not hold; they have not hearts disposed to hold on through very many difficulties. Some that have set out for heaven, and hope as much as others to obtain, are indeed but slighty and slack, even now, in the midst of such a time as this. And others, who for the present seem to be more in earnest, will probably, before long, decline and fail, and gradually return to be as they were before."(78)

In the next chapter Gerstner warns about a number of other wrong steps, such as supposing that the desired end is already obtained, when it is not, and the awakened cling to and trust in a false assurance. This is succeeded by a chapter on An Evangelistic Appeal to an Unworthy Motive. Since this has been discussed at length previously, little needs to be said now by way of reiteration . It is the ninth chapter that is to be the main focus of a critique. This chapter is called, "Seeking Salvation." The key to understanding this counsel is in Edwards's distinction between moral and physical ability. The awakened have not the former, Edwards meticulously proved, but are to use the latter as the "ordinary" means that God blesses to the end of giving salvation. This was discussed previously in the mentioning of Edwards's sermons, God makes men sensible of their misery and unworthiness, before he appears in his mercy and love to them.

Gerstner has done the student of Edwards a great service in examining the many sermons on this subject to answer a vital question. What did Edwards believe about probability and the issue of using these means?

"I examined fifty or more sermons that dealt with this subject to see the general tenor of his preaching about the outcome of seeking salvationY of these 27 were clear in their answers to this question. {Of the 27} I found that twelve taught that the sinner would probably be successful, five that the outcome was uncertain, and three that the seeker would certainly find, if some specific conditions were met."(79)

The reader can raise his own objections at this point, but the concern that is of interest to me is the fact that members of his own congregations, by Gerstner's own admittance, had 'sought' for twenty years and had not obtained. This can hardly be called, "Encouragement for Reluctant Sinners," the title of the chapter. In examining the counsels given, there seems to have been some evolution between this teaching in the First Great Awakening and that of the pastors of the 19th century. But whether or not Edwards and his followers went too far or not, in one thing they did not differ from the great puritan theologians of John Owen who wrote:

" This discovery of forgiveness in God is great, holy, and mysterious, and which very few on gospel grounds do attain unto."

"All men, indeed, say there is; most men are persuaded that they think so. Only men in great and desperate extremities, like Cain or Spira, seem to call it into question. But their thoughts are empty, groundless, yea, for the most part wicked and atheistical. Elihu tells us, that to declare this aright to a sinful soul, it is the work of "a messenger, an interpreter, one among a thousand," Job xxxiii. 23; that is, indeed, of Christ himself. The common thoughts of men about this thing are slight and foolish, and may be resolved into those mentioned by the psalmist, Ps. 1. 21. They think that "God is altogether such an one as themselves;" that, indeed, he takes little or no care about these things, but passeth them over as slightly as they do themselves. That, notwithstanding all their pretences, the most of men never had indeed any real discovery of forgiveness."(80)

It doesn't appear correct to object that Owen is talking about the difference between just doubting one's salvation, and the full measure of assurance. It can only be the difference between the hope of the hypocrite and genuine conversion that is being expounded. And if Edwards went too far, one must admit that he held a deep conviction that man was more self-righteous by nature than often his testimony will show that he is knowledgeable of. When the wise man wrote the following, what it appears he has in mind is self-deception in trusting in our own righteousness subtlety and secretly.

Proverbs 14:12 & There is a way which seemeth right to a man, but the end of it are the ways of death.

Proverbs 16:25 & There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end of it is the ways of death.

A quote may show how at least one pastor felt that this theme may have been taken too far.

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

"Christ is THE MINISTER'S GREAT THEME, in opposition to a thousand other things which most men choose. I would prefer that the most prominent feature in my ministry should be the preaching of Christ Jesus. Christ should be most prominent, not hell and

damnation. God's ministers must preach God's terrors as well as God's mercies; we are to preach the thunder of God's law. If men will sin, we are to tell them that they must be punished for it. If they will transgress, woe unto the watchman who is ashamed to say, "The Lord cometh that taketh vengeance." We should be unfaithful to the solemn charge which God has given us if we were wickedly to stifle all the threatenings of God's word.

Does God say, "The wicked shall be cast into hell, with all the nations that forget God?" It is our business to say so. Did the loving Savior talk of the pit that burneth, of the worm that never dieth, and of the fire that can never be extinguished? It is ours to speak as he spake, and not to mince the matter. It is no mercy to men to hide their doom.

But, my brethren terrors never ought to be the prominent feature of a minister's preaching. Many old divines thought they would do a great deal of good by preaching this. I do not believe it. Some souls are awakened and terrified by such preaching; they however, are but few. Sometimes, right solemnly, the sacred mysteries of eternal wrath must be preached, but far oftener let us preach the wondrous love of God. There are more souls won by wooing than by threatening. It is not hell, but Christ, we desire to preach. O sinners, we are not afraid to tell you of your doom, but we do not choose to be for ever dwelling on that doleful theme. We rather love to tell you of Christ, and him crucified. We want to have our preaching rather full of the frankincense of the merits of Christ than of the smoke, and fire, and terrors of Mount Sinai, we are not come unto Mount Sinai, but unto Mount Zion-where milder words declare the will of God, and rivers of salvation are abundantly flowing.(81)

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones 1898-1981

It was in the published sermons of Lloyd-Jones that I first discovered the doctrine of what is commonly called, "the law-work." D.M.L-J discusses this at length in his unsatisfactory exposition of Romans 7:14-25, but continues the description in his exposition of Romans 8:15. In his own words:

"That 'spirit of bondage', which I have been describing, always precedes the 'Spirit of Adoption.' (82)

He reiterates his belief that the man in Romans 7:14-25 is

"not the full grown Christian at the height of his Christian experience. No, he is a man who is only under a state of conviction, 'under the law.'(83)

Though Lloyd-Jones is, thankfully, almost unique in his exposition of the Romans 7 verses, he is not a pioneer in his conviction that the spirit of bondage and fear is the work of Spirit antecedent to regeneration. He brings forth the testimonies of a number of Puritans to undergird his position. Immediately he quotes John Preston, "If thou never hadst the spirit of bondage, certainly thou hast not received the spirit of adoption."(84) Next, he establishes that John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, and Thomas Horton expound this verse the same way.

Lloyd-Jones is helpful in his analysis by distinguishing this 'spirit of bondage and fear' from agitation many feel under the preaching of the word:

"But someone asks, "What of non-Christians who have often been frightened under the preaching of the gospel?" My reply is that they still have not known the 'spirit of bondage and fear.' They have known merely a temporal alarm."(85)

It is not difficult to agree with D.M.LJ in his categories of conviction, but it is apparent that he is establishing that there is a stage that is in between the state of being a natural and being quickened. This is a serious charge, so it must be defended. There are three states defined in the sermons of L-J. The natural man, the awakened man, and the new man in Christ:

"The natural man never has such a feeling {that the law is spiritual but I am carnal sold under sin}; he has no knowledge of such an experience."(86)

Many more quotes can be cited from his exposition of the previous chapter, but it would cause us to deviate from the doctrine at hand. What is more to the point is his answers to objections that would commonly be asked in our day.

"An objection is often put forward at this point. Someone says, 'Very well I am prepared to accept that in general, but what about the case of people who have been brought up in Christian homes? Do you really postulate that they should know this spirit of bondage and fear?'"

As would be expected, L-J answers that even persons who have all their life been brought up under the light of the gospel may know this spirit of bondage and fear. He argues his case with six proofs, and the fifth is quite interesting:

"Revival comes to people who have been members of the Christian church perhaps for fifty years, and there is no doubt about their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. They have also realized something of their sinfulness. Suddenly the Spirit is outpoured upon them. Their testimony is that their first experience is one of terrible and awful sinfulness. They can scarcely believe it, they are horrified at the sight."(87)

The sixth argument in this commentary is also most observant; that those who have not known the spirit of bondage and fear also profess that they do not enjoy the spirit of adoption.


It is important to establish that Lloyd-Jones was not stating that such a stage was necessary in all cases antecedently to conversion. But it is also important to ask ourselves a question based on the many expositions, testimonies and statements we have read from the writers of the last 400 years. That there is an extreme to be avoided in counseling the awakened has, I trust, been established. But another conclusion that cannot be escaped is that such a "law-work" was never thought of as the exception to the norm, but in fact was thought of as normal.

The wrong conclusion would be to insist upon it as a necessary antecedent to conversion. But it is an interesting observation, at least to this writer, that those who are commonly uncomfortable with some of the statements such men as Owen and Goodwin make are often persons who had no lengthy time of "awakening" themselves.

Persons who have been raised in Christian homes and cannot trace the time of their conversion to any day or even year appear, at least to me, to be uncomfortable with the emphasis of the theologians on the past of the "law-work" or antecedents to regeneration.

It is right that they avoid the error that some in our day and in the past have fallen into: i.e. creating a methodology of counseling the awakened based on certain presuppositions that they suppose they have derived from the doctrine of total inability. But is the answer to this dilemma another extreme of dismissing Thomas Boston and Joseph Alleine as "teaching a subtle form of preparationism" and therefore warning people to avoid their writings upon this subject? And yet it is my own observation that this is precisely what is being done.

Evidence of this can be seen in a recent discussion on the internet. It was clear that few would sympathize with the Puritan statements even if they did not fully agree with them. It was even more clear that some of the pastors in our own movement have never even studied this subject, or are familiar with the more famous writings of the past upon it. It generates little interest, agitates passions when it is introduced - usually against the puritans, and such talk as the treatment due to the awakened sinner is almost never introduced as a topic for discussion.

Thus, the reason for this paper. If I had set out merely to establish that I was in agreement with even my own pastors on every doctrine, why write for 50 plus pages to prove my point about this one? Why not just introduce their writings and sermons to everyone I know and state that this is my own position? But that is not the conviction that I have about this subject. I don't think it has been addressed adequately in light of historical theology, and therefore it was important to re-examine the writings even though I am aware that I have but done so quite superficially.

The issue seems quite weighty to me, and calls for such an examination. Our Lord has given the church a charge to "take heed to the flock" etc. This paper, it is fully admitted, is hardly sufficient for such a serious matter. But since it is published on the internet and has had some access, if it serves to at least get some to carefully ponder their own position and presuppositions, it has gained the desired effect. No vigorous effort on my part has been exerted to persuade a reader one way or another. Only to introduce what some men have said about this subject in the past.

The foundation for the charge of preparationism being examined was a quote by Horatius Bonar from his preface to a book by John Gillies. We share Bonar's concern:

Perhaps they excelled more in the proclamation of the law, and its external penalties, than in the declaration of the glad tidings of great joy, through Him who finished transgression, and made an end of sin upon the cross. There is sometimes a lack of fullness and liberty in their statements of the gospel; there is a constraint about some of their sermons, as if they feared making the glad tidings too free; there is, in their dealings with inquirers, a tendency to throw them in upon their own acts, or feelings, or convictions, instead of drawing them out at once to what has been finished on the cross, leading them to look for some preparatory work in themselves before rejoicing in the gospel."

It is also, however, the conclusion of at least this writer that the estimate of these men's characters by Bonar are also correct and worthy of imitation.

They were in earnest about the great work of the ministry on which they entered.

They were bent upon success. Here he quotes Gilbert Tennant,

"It pleased God to afflict me about this time with sickness, by which I had affecting views of eternity. I was then exceedingly grieved that I had done so little for God, and was very desirous to live for one half year more, if it was His will, that I might stand upon the stage of the world, as it were, and plead more faithfully for His cause, and take more earnest pains for the conversion of souls. The secure state of the world appeared to me in a very affecting light."

They were men of faith.

They were men of labor.

They were men of patience. They were not discouraged, though they had to labor long without seeing all the fruit they desired.

They were men of boldness and determination.

They were men of prayer.

They were men whose doctrines were of the most decided kind, both as respects law and gospel.

There were men of solemn deportment and deep spirituality of soul.(88)

There is not a lot to add to Bonar's words but find in these descriptions those things worthy of imitation whether we are in the pulpit or the pew, whether we lead a flock, or merely a foot-soldier in the army of Christ.


1Lectures on Revivals of Religion - Daniel Appleton & Co. 1833 edition

2A Narrative of the Surprising Work of God - Works Vol. 1 B. of T. p.351

3Accounts of Revival, B. of T. Editor's Preface page X.

4William Perkins, Cases of Conscience , as quoted by Joel Beeke - Assurance of Faith - p.110.

5The Christian's Great Interest - William Guthrie. B. of T. p. 37

6Ibid p.43

7Ibid p. 47-49

8 Human Nature In Its Fourfold State - B. of T. p. 274

9An Exposition of Hebrews: Baker 1954 A. W. Pink

10A Practical Exposition of Psalm 130 - Prefatory Note - John Owen Works Vol 6.

11Volume 8 Thomas Goodwin, Justifying Faith, B. of T. 480-593

12The Writings of Thomas Hooker - Spiritual Adventure in Two Worlds. Sargent Bush Jr. The University of Wisconsin Press. 1980

13Quoted in Giles Firmin, The Real Christian (London 1670) p. 19.

14William Perkins, A Golden Chain

15Thomas Hooker The Application of Redemption, The first eight books, pp 252-53.

16Spiritual Adventure in Two Worlds, Sargent Bush, p. 150


18The Life of David Brainerd, Baker Book House Summit Books edit. 1978

19A Guide to Christ - To the Reader - Soli Deo Gloria Publications


21Preface: A Guide to Christ - Solomon Stoddard - S.D.G.

22London Confession, para. 1

23Ibid Preface p. xvii

24Ibid Preface p. xviii

25Sermon on Directions for Judging of Person's Experiences

26Pressing Into the Kingdom - Edward's Works Hickman Ed. Vol. 1 p. 655


28Pressing Into the Kingdom - Edward's Works Hickman Ed. Vol. 1 p. 655

29The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners, Works of Jonathan Edwards Vol 1, p. 675

30As quoted in A. H. Strong's Systematic Theology, Judson Press, p. 846

31Narrative of Surprising Conversions


33 On The Freedom of The Will, Sincerity of Desires and Endeavors Works Vol. 1. P53

34 On The Freedom of The Will, Sincerity of Desires and Endeavors Works Vol. 1. P53

35Seventeen Occasional Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, Works Vol. II

36Qualifications For Communion

37Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion

38Jonathan Edwards, the Evangelist. This book was originally published by Westminster Press in 1960, under the title Steps to Salvation: The Evangelistic Message of Jonathan Edwards. Dr. Gerstner says it is the most extensive treatment anywhere on the Puritan doctrine on seeking, or preparation for salvation.

ISBN 1-57358-006-6. Paperback, 192 pages.

39 As quoted in A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Page 846, Judson Press 1907

40 Phillip Doddridge, "The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul ," PUBLISHED BY THE AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY, 150 NASSAU STREET NEW-YORK. D. Faushaw, Printer.; [article on-line];

41Archibald Alexander, "Thoughts on Religious Experience', Banner of Truth Trust, third edition 1967

42 As quoted in Charles Spurgeon's "All of Grace.'

43 A sample list of articles in which Finney’s theology and methodologies were examined follows:{Note, if you have a computer with the internet set up, clicking on any link in this list will take you to the reference mentioned on the internet.}

44Bennett Tyler, A Memoir of the Life of Asahel Nettleton,' published 1844, taken from - Internet.


46Bennett Tyler, Memoir of the Life and Character of Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D. published in 1854' p. 258 Banner of Truth ed. 1975


48ibid, remarks of Bennett Tyler

49William Sprague, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, New York: Daniel and Appleton 1833, Appendix letter 1.


51Heman Humphrey Revival Sketches and Manual.' American Tract Society, no publishing date mentioned.

52Phillip Shaff AA sketch of the political, social, and religious character of the United States of North America, in two lectures, delivered at Berlin, with a report read before the German church diet at Frankfort-on-the-Maine, Sept., 1854. By Dr. Philip Schaff. Tr. from the German.'

53Heman Humphrey, Revival Sketches and Manual' American Tract Society 1859. Table of Contents

54Heman Humphrey, Revival Sketches and Manual' American Tract Society 1859 p. 432-433

55God's Way of Peace, Horatius Bonar, Book On Line (Internet)

56Charles Spurgeon, All of Grace, {Book On Line} available at, (Internet)

57Bennet Tyler, Memoir of the Life and Character of Rev. Asahel Nettleton, D.D. " The Conversion of Asahel Nettleton (1783-1844)" [Article online] (Internet).

58Revivals: or the Appropriate Means of Promoting True Religion. A Sermon preached in the South Congregational Church in Bridgeport, Conn., on the Lord's day morning, June 20, 1841. By John Woodbridge, D. D.p 18

59Lectures on revivals. Publication Date: 1875, Boston, Publisher: Congregational publishing society, Pages: 350

60William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980 Vol II, page 511-512

61ibid, p. 516

62Admittedly, I have not read Thornbury's theology and cannot comment upon it.

63Princeton Review, March 1836, Practical View of Regeneration

64A.A. Bonar, Memoirs and Remains of R.M. McCheyne, (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation) 1997.

65A.A. Bonar, Memoirs and Remains of R.M. McCheyne, (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation) 1997.

66R. L. Dabney, Topical Lectures on Scripture, (Simpsonville, SC: Christian Classics Foundation) 1997.

67Herman Hanko, Professor of Church History at the Protestant Reformed Theological School, Grand Rapids, MI "Ought the Church to Pray for Revival, Online at (Internet).




71Jonathan Edward's "On the Freedom of the Will" Collected Works Vol. 1. B.of T. edition. P. 53

72United Reformed News Service, Grand Rapids, MI. August 29th, 1995

73Don Kistler, Why Read the Puritans Today?, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1999

74John Gerstner, Steps to Salvation, Westminster Press, 1960

75ibid, p. 32

76Augusting H. Strong, Systematic Theology, Judson Press, 1979, p. 826

77ibid, p. 827

78Jonathan Edwards, Pressing Into the Kingdom, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, B. of T. Vol. 1 p.660

79John Gerstner, Steps to Salvation, Westminster Press, 1960 p. 96

80John Owen, An Exposition of Psalm CXXX, Collected Works, Vol. 6. B. of T. p. 386

81Charles Spurgeon, On line at:

82D.M. Lloyd_Jones "Romans - Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17, The Sons of God, Zondervan 1975 p. 205


84ibid p. 207

85D.M. Lloyd_Jones "Romans - Exposition of Chapter 8:5-17, The Sons of God, Zondervan 1975 p. 206


87ibid p. 213

88Horatius Bonar, Editor's Preface to Historical Collections and Accounts of Revival - John Gillies - First Banner of Truth Trust Edition 1981