Edward’s Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God

There has been some kerfuffling online lately regarding John MacAruthur’s Strange Fire conference and the pushback it has received. I have nothing to add to that debate, but I did want to point out what I have found to be one of the best and most insightful articles on the issue of what the Spirit of God does among us today. Jonathan Edwards ministered during the time of the Great Awakening. Edwards saw the emotional exuberances that manifested themselves during this time, and sought to bring a mediating voice between the pro-revival “New Lights” and anti-revival “Old Lights.” I commend to your reading on this issue the commencement speech given at Yale College in September 1941 entitled “Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God.”

In it, Edward gives us five distinguishing Scripture evidences of the work of the Spirit of God:

  1. Jesus is magnified – “When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God.”
  2. Satan’s interests are opposed – “When the spirit that is at work operates against the interests of Satan’s kingdom, which lies in encouraging and establishing sin, and cherishing men’s worldly lusts; this is a sure sign that it is a true, and not a false spirit.”
  3. There is a greater regard for Scripture – “The spirit that operates in such a manner, as to cause in men a greater regard to the Holy Scriptures, and establishes them more in their truth and divinity, is certainly the Spirit of God.”
  4. There is greater concern for truth and sound doctrine – “Another rule to judge of spirits may be drawn from those compellations given to the opposite spirits, in the last words of the 6th verse, “The spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
  5. There is greater love God and for one another – “If the spirit that is at work among a people operates as a spirit of love to God and man, it is a sure sign that it is the Spirit of God.”