Legal vs. Evangelical Humiliation

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In Jonathan Edwards’ Treatise on the Religious Affections, he distinguishes between two types of humiliation:  “legal humiliation” and “evangelical humiliation,” explaining that being humiliated, even under God’s law, is not enough to judge whether grace be in the heart of a person.  Paul also distinguishes between these in 2 Corinthians 7, calling them “wordly grief” and “godly grief.”  Edwards explains the difference:

In legal humiliation, men are brought to despair of helping themselves; in evangelical, they are brought voluntarily to deny and renounce themselves:  in the former, they are subdued and forced to the ground; in the latter, they are brought sweetly to yield, and freely and with delight to prostrate themselves at the feet of God.  Legal humiliation has in it no spiritual good, nothing of the nature of true virtue; whereas evangelical humiliation is that wherein the excellent beauty of Christian grace does very much consist.  Legal humiliation is useful, as a means in order to evangelical; as a common knowledge of the things of religion is a means requisite in order to spiritual knowledge.

Which brings him to his main point:

Men may be legally humbled and have no humility; as the wicked at the day of judgment will be thoroughly convinced that they have no righteousness, but are altogether sinful, exceeding guilty, and justly exposed to eternal damnation–and be fully sensible of their own helplessness–without the least mortification of the pride of their hearts.  But the essence of evangelical humiliation consists in such humility as becomes a creature in itself exceeding sinful, under a dispensation of grace; consisting in a mean esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether contemptible and odious; attended with a mortification of a disposition to exalt himself, and a free renunciation of his own glory. (emphasis mine)


Written by keywoodblog

April 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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