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Is justification dependent upon perseverance?

March 12, 2009

Jonathan Edwards is here specifically addressing the question of whether justifying faith is a persevering faith:

. . . [I]t seems manifest that justification is by the first act of faith, in some respects, in a peculiar manner, because a sinner is actually and finally justified as soon as he has performed one act of faith; and faith in its first act does, virtually at least, depend on God for perseverance, and entitles to this among other benefits. But yet the perseverance of faith is not excluded in this affair; it is not only certainly connected with justification, but it is not to be excluded from that on which the justification of a sinner has a dependence, or that by which he is justified. . . .


God in the act of justification, which is passed on a sinner’s first believing, has respect to perseverance, as being virtually contained in that first act of faith and ’tis looked upon and taken by him that justifies, as being as it were a property in that faith that then is: God has respect to the believer’s continuance in faith, and he is justified by that, as though it already were, because by divine establishment it shall follow; and it being by divine constitution connected with that first faith, as much as if it were a property in it, it is then considered as such, and so justification is not suspended; but were it not for this it would be needful that it should be suspended, till the sinner had actually persevered in faith. (from Justification by Faith Alone in Yale-Works 19:201-202, 203 [emphasis mine])

Edwards goes on to note that the justification which takes place at a sinner’s conversion “has respect to” a persevering faith since that justification also has a certain respect to future sins and “infirmities.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 12, 2009 11:52 pm

    I would think sanctification is Dependant on perseverance, not justification. Jesus said He would Keep all the Father put into His hand, but sanctification takes lack of rebellion to the Holy Spirit. Just my thoughts.

  2. March 14, 2009 10:59 am

    It seems scripturally that Perseverance depends upon Justification and not the other way round. It also seems that Jonathan Edwards here (I haven’t read anymore than what you have excerpted) is proving that.

    Just the feeble thoughts of a humble old Presbyterian.

  3. March 14, 2009 11:59 am

    I make clear a distinction in the body of the post that is not present in the somewhat deliberately provocative title. Edwards is speaking of a persevering faith rather than “evangelical obedience” per se. The faith that justifies is a persevering faith Edwards is arguing, although in a “peculiar” way the initial act of faith (not as a work, but in the soul’s uniting to Christ) fully secures the benefits of justification. In no way is our justification conditioned upon good works, but are the “effective expressions” of faith.

  4. March 14, 2009 12:38 pm

    I’ve got the point being made now! Sorry if i have misconstrued this argument. I presumed the emphasis was upon some kind of reverse link between declarative justification and actual justification.

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