Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Distinguishing Strange Fire from a True Work of the Spirit (Part 3)

In today's post I plan to list in rather short form three of Edwards' negative signs of a true work of the Spirit. Please keep in mind that Edwards is arguing that these signs neither confirm, nor exclude, a true work of the Spirit. They are simply phenomena that may exist in the midst of true work of the Spirit or under a false spirit. This list begins with the second negative sign, as I already covered the first in my last post.

1. "A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tremblings, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength." Edwards speaks of the connection of soul and body. He argues that these effects on the body may be a result of the work of the Spirit. If a man captures a glimpse of the Hell that awaits him, or the glory of God, he may have many of these effects in his body. These also may be outward effects of false religion. One simply cannot judge a false or true spirit based upon these phenomena.

2. "It is no argument that an operation on the minds of people is not the work of the Spirit of God, that it occasions a great deal of noise about religion." Edwards' argument here is that an outward and ostentatious display of religious fervor is not a sign of whether a work is a false or true work of the Spirit. The Pharisees caused no little stir with their false religion. The disciples also caused quite a stir in Jerusalem at Pentecost.

3. "It is no argument that a work is not of the Spirit of God, that some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy, wherein they have been carried beyond themselves, and have had their minds transported into 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." Edwards argues that great experiences of the imagination may be present during a work of the Spirit. They also may be present during the work of a false spirit. He particularly believes these may be present among those whose faculty of imagination is "too strong and the other faculties too weak." Those who have less developed intellects and discernment may be subject to their own imaginations. He does not believe their imaginations equate to the visions of the prophets and apostles. But he does believe the imaginations of some can be so overwrought by their sense of the beauty and love of Christ that their imaginations are affected.

I hope tomorrow to cover at least 3 mores negative signs provided by Edwards. I hope these posts are helpful to spur you to think more carefully about the work of God's Spirit.

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