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Self-righteousness in believers – Jonathan Edwards

July 27, 2012

Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time, noted the great danger of falling into the sin of self-righteousness as a believer. He explained:

And let particular persons strictly examine themselves whether they hadn’t been lifted up with their particular experiences. I think, according to what observations I have made—as I have had [more] opportunity of very extensive observation than any other person in the town—that is has been a pretty prevailing error in the town, that persons are not sufficiently sensible of the danger of self-righteousness after conversion. They seem to be sensible that persons are in danger of it before they are converted, but they think that when a man is converted, he is brought off wholly from his own righteousness, just as if there was no danger of any workings of self-righteousness afterwards.

But this is from a great mistake of what is intended by a man’s being brought wholly off from his own righteousness when he is converted. ‘Tis not meant that a self-righteous principle is wholly done away, that there is no remains of such a disposition in the heart. There is as much of the remains of that as there is of any other corruption of the heart.

So a man is brought, when converted, wholly to renounce all his sins as well as to renounce all his own righteousness. But that don’t argue that he is wholly freed from all remains of sin. So no more is he wholly freed from remains of self-righteousness. There is a fountain of it left. There is an exceeding disposition in men, as long as they live, to make a righteousness of what is in themselves, and an exceeding disposition in men to make a righteousness of spiritual experiences, as well as other things;…a convert is apt to be exalted with high thoughts of his own eminency in grace.1

1. Jonathan Edwards Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003) pp. 255-256 vol. 22


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