Why the knowledge of doctrine is intended and very necessary for „everyone” by Jonathan Edwards

Edwards makes 3 main points here
1) None of the things which God hath taught us in his word are needless speculations, or trivial matters; all of them are indeed important points.
2)  When God hath opened a very large treasure before us, for the supply of our wants, and we thank him that he hath given us so much; if at the same time we be willing to remain destitute of the greatest part of it, because we are too lazy to gather it, this will not show the sincerity of our thankfulness.
3) However diligently we apply ourselves, there is room enough to increase our knowledge in divinity, without coming to an end.

In this 18 page sermon, Jonathan Edwards observes two things. First, that Paul reproves the Hebrews of „dullness and backwards in understanding”  because Paul’s expectation at that point they should have known enough of divinity and the Holy Scripture to be able to understand matters such as he would have liked to engage in (i.e. Melchizedek). Second, Paul observes that every christian should make a business of endeavoring to grow in knowledge of divinity (doctrine). As Edwards points out: The short answer for the „why is knowledge of doctrine necessary?” It is because, as seasoned christians, we all should be teachers by now, as Paul reproved the Hebrews in 5:12.

Jonathan Edwards goes on to show:

Theologian Jonathan Edwards

1. What divinity is.
2. What kind of knowledge in divinity is intended.
3. Why knowledge in divinity is necessary.
4. Why all Christians should make a business of endeavoring to grow in this knowledge.
Sermon is from ccel.org

A Sermon by Jonathan Edwards

[from Works (Worcester reprint), IV:1-15.]
Hebrews 5:12 – For when, for the time, ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.

Christian Knowledge or The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth

If the print in this reader is too small you can either click on the link below the reader to view it on Scribs, or you can click here to read it at ccel.org.

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My personal notes and highlights from the sermon:

(Note: Edwards is not  indicating that this endeavor for acquiring this knowledge of doctrine involve anything other than God’s revealed Word in the Old Testament and New Testament. He is not referring to church creeds or church history, although he believes it very profitable for the christian to read as much as possible on each of those subjects.)

  •  There is an order of men whom Christ has appointed on purpose to be teachers in his church. They are to teach the things of divinity. But they teach in vain, if no knowledge in these things is gained by their teaching. (According to Edwards, the fault here lies not with the teacher (on occasion this may be the case), but mostly the fault is with the learner, whose duty is to learn, just as the teacher’s is to teach. This brings to mind the  visible biblical illiteracy of some of the modern churches. How many christians even find and bring a/their Bible to church service on Sunday? How many even pick up the one that is sitting on the back of the pews? If this is indeed an indication, it would prove Edwards premise that these christians are failing in their duty as learners)
  • By divinity is meant, that science or doctrine which comprehends all those truths and rules which concern the great business of religion. There are various kinds of arts and sciences taught and learned in the schools, which are conversant about various objects; about the works of nature in general; as philosophy; or the visible heavens, as astronomy; or the sea, as navigation; or the earth, as geography; or the body of man, as physic and anatomy; or the soul of man, with regard to its natural powers and qualities, as logic and pneumatology; or about human government, as politics and jurisprudence. But there is one science, or one certain kind of knowledge and doctrine, which is above all the rest, as it is concerning God and the great business of religion: this is divinity; which is not learned, as other sciences, merely by the improvement of man’s natural reason, but is taught by God himself in a certain book that he hath given for that end, full of instruction.
  • This is the rule which God hath given to the world to be their guide in searching after this kind of knowledge, and is a summary of all things of this nature needful for us to know. Upon this account divinity is rather called a doctrine, than an art or science.
  • There are many truths concerning God, and our duty to him, which are evident by the light of nature. But Christian divinity, properly so called, is not evident by the light of nature; it depends on revelation.
  • It is only the word of God, contained in the Old and New Testament, which teaches us Christian divinity.
  • 1. That there are two kinds of knowledge of the things of divinity, viz., speculative and practical, or in other terms, natural and spiritual. The former remains only in the head. No other faculty but the understanding is concerned in it. It consists in having a natural or rational knowledge of the things of religion, or such a knowledge as is to be obtained by the natural exercise of our own faculties, without any special illumination of the Spirit of God. The latter rests not entirely in the head, or in the speculative ideas of things; but the heart is concerned in it: it principally consists in the sense of the heart. The mere intellect, without the heart, the will or the inclination, is not the seat of it.
  • 2. Neither of these is intended in the doctrine exclusively of the other: but it is intended that we should seek the former in order to the latter. The latter, even a spiritual and practical knowledge of divinity, is of the greatest importance; for a speculative knowledge of it, without a spiritual knowledge, is in vain and to no purpose, but to make our condemnation the greater.
  1. It should not satisfy them that they know as much as is absolutely necessary to salvation, but should seek to make progress.
  2. They should make it part of their daily business….. There are no things so worthy to be known as these things….
  3. Such things as these have been the main subject of the study of the holy patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, and the most excellent men that ever were in the world, and are also the subject of the study of the angels in heaven; 1 Pet. 1:10,11,12.
  4. The things of divinity not only concern ministers, but are of infinite importance to all Christians. It is not with the doctrines of divinity as it is with the doctrines of philosophy and other sciences.
  5. The doctrines: this nearly concern every one. They are about those things which relate to every man’s eternal salvation and happiness. The common people cannot say, Let us leave these matters to ministers and divines; let them dispute them out among themselves as they can; they concern not us: for they are of infinite importance to every man. Those doctrines of divinity which relate to the essence, attributes, and subsistencies of God, concern all; as it is of infinite importance to common people, as well as to ministers, to know what kind of being God is. For he is the Being who hath made us all, „in whom we live, and move, and have our being;” who is the Lord of all; the Being to whom we are all accountable; is the last end of our being, and the only fountain of our happiness.
  6. The doctrines also which relate to Jesus Christ and his mediation, his incarnation, his life and death, his resurrection and ascension, his sitting at the right hand of the Father, his satisfaction and intercession, infinitely concern common people as well as divines.
  7. The same may be said of the doctrines which relate to the manner of a sinner’s justification, or the way in which he becomes interested in the mediation of Christ. They equally concern all; for all stand in equal necessity of justification before God. That eternal condemnation, to which we are all naturally exposed, is equally dreadful. So with respect to those doctrines of divinity, which relate to the work of the Spirit of God on the heart, in the application of redemption in our effectual calling and sanctification, all are equally concerned in them. There is no doctrine of divinity whatever, which doth not some way or other concern the eternal interest of every Christian. None of the things which God hath taught us in his word are needless speculations, or trivial matters; all of them are indeed important points.
  8. Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls, and in order to practice. If applause be your end, you will not be so likely to be led to the knowledge of the truth, but may justly, as often is the case of those who are proud of their knowledge, be led into error to your own perdition. This being your end, if you should obtain much rational knowledge, it would not be likely to be of any benefit to you, but would puff you up with pride: 1 Cor. 8:1, „Knowledge puffeth up.”
  9. Seek to God, that he would direct you, and bless you, in this pursuit after knowledge. This is the apostle’s direction, James 1:5: „If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God, who giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not.” God is the fountain of all divine knowledge. Prov. 2:6, „The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” Labor to be sensible of your own blindness and ignorance, and your need of the help of God, lest you be led into error, instead of true knowledge. 1 Cor. 3:18, „If any man would be wise, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”

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