Jonathan Edwards, The Early, Accidental Dispensationalist

While studying today, I came across a list of Jonathan Edwards’ fascinating answers to objections about who can take the Lord’s Table. Edwards’ is answering this objection: “If sinners ate the OT Passover, why can’t they take the NT Lord’s Table? Why can’t all men and children take the Lord’s Table today the same way all men and children ate the Passover then?”

Edwards gave a long answer, but this paragraph summarizes it well.

“Whatever was the case with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the Old-Testament dispensation, I humbly conceive it is nothing to the purpose in the present argument, nor needful to determine us with respect to the qualifications for the sacraments of the christian dispensation, which is a matter of such plain fact in the New Testament. … But yet all allow that the Old-Testament dispensation is out of date, with its ordinances; and I think, in a matter pertaining to the constitution and order of the New-Testament church—a matter of fact, wherein the New Testament itself is express, full, and abundant—to have recourse to the Mosaic dispensation for rules or precedents to determine our judgment, is quite needless, and out of reason. There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ, as the stating of the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and of Christ. And probably the reason why God has left it so intricate, is, because our understanding the ancient dispensation, and God’s design in it, is not of so great importance, nor does it so nearly concern us. Since God uses great plainness of speech in the New Testament, which is as it were the charter and municipal law of the christian church, what need we run back to the ceremonial and typical institutions of an antiquated dispensation, wherein God’s declared design was, to deliver divine things in comparative obscurity, hid under a veil, and involved in clouds?”

  1. Edwards uses the word “dispensation.”
  2. Edwards’ speaks of differences between the OT and the NT repeatedly.
  3. Edwards’ says that the NT is clear, full, plain regarding the church; and the OT is obscure, hid, and cloudy regarding the church.
  4. Edwards’ sees the difference and similarity of the OT and the NT as “perhaps” the most difficult in all of Scripture.  

I am not saying Edwards was a dispensationalist. I am saying that when he was confronted with applying the covenant of grace consistently to the Lord’s Table, he suddenly begins talking very clearly about the great differences between the OT and the NT.  

This is all my dispensationalism: A pastor focuses his church, his preaching, and his shepherding on differences between the OT people and the NT people. 

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2 Responses to Jonathan Edwards, The Early, Accidental Dispensationalist

  1. Renee Buchko says:

    Good article but I had to look up the definition of dispensation! I’m not a scholar but when a topic gets too complicated I remember that God gave us the NT. The OT was to show us that it was impossible to attain a closeness to God without hard work. Now, we have Christ and the simplicity of accepting him. Amen!

  2. Caleb Meyers says:

    Wow, this is remarkable. What book did you find that?

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