From Yale's Edwards manuscripts, this response to the paedocommunionist novelty...

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As an example of the value of online searches of Jonathan Edwards's works, here is an extended excerpt from Edwards's sermons against the full communing of the unregenerate which had been instituted in his Northampton congregation by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, who was his predecessor as Northampton's pastor. After succeeding his grandfather, for years Edwards followed his grandfather's sacramentalist practice, serving the Lord's Supper to those who made no claim to being regenerate. His grandfather believed that the Lord's Supper was a converting ordinance, and thus his practice of the indiscriminate communing around the Lord's Table of regenerate and unregenerate alike.

In time, orthodoxy won and the communing of children of the covenant who made no claim of saving faith or regeneration was stopped. Sadly, though, Jonathan Edwards lost the battle in his own church and was fired as Northampton's pastor. The people were so committed to allowing their unregenerate children to come to the Lord's Table without hindrance of any sort that they wouldn't even allow Edwards to preach to them on the subject. Hence this work is called "lectures" rather than "sermons."

As I said, this is just an excerpt from the lectures, but you can read the entire set of lectures here. (Edwards did other work against the error, also.) 

Why, from all Edwards's works, have I chosen this?

Because modern proponents of infant communion (commonly and confusingly called "paedocommunion") including most notoriously Jeff Meyers (PCA), Peter Leithart (CREC), and Rob Rayburn (PCA) make the same arguments made by Edwards's opponents centuries ago... 

So, for instance, the infant or paedocommunionists tell us the Old Testament Passover celebration is their justification for not barring their children from the Lord's Supper. All Israelites ate the Passover together, whether regenerate or unregenerate.

This same argument was made by the parents in Edwards's congregation. Corrupted by Solomon Stoddard's sacramentatlsm, they too demanded their unregenerate children be seated at the Lord's Table just as the unregenerate Children of Israel, young and old, were seated at the Passover.

Reading Edwards's responses to such fallacious arguments, I find myself wishing the Rev. Dr. Robert Rayburn had done his homework before reporting to the 16th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America that the treatment of paedocommunion by Reformed theologians through the centuries has been superficial. So, for instance, in his Minority Report to the PCA General Assembly, after acknowledging that Reformed churches and theologians since the Reformation have universally condemned paedocommunion, Rayburn dismissed the Reformed church's universal opposition to the practice with the bodacious claim that "the common opinion of the Reformed church on this matter was and remains ill-considered," and "the common position of [Reformed] churches cannot be sustained unless supported by better arguments than those which have historically been advanced on its behalf".

Rayburn, though, repeats arguments used by Edwards's opponents, but without a single indication he knew and was familiar with Edward's exhaustive work taking those arguments apart, piece by piece. So, for instance, Rayburn supports the communing of unregenerate covenant children with the statement, "the fact that, after all, the supper, as the passover before it, is a meal ought to alert us to the unlikelihood that it is the intention of the Lord Jesus Christ that the adults eat while the little ones watch them eat," and "the Lord's disciples [were] accustomed in their day to circumcised infants and children at the passover table." Thus, says Rayburn, as at the Passover Table, so at the Lord's Table today, the "welcome which is extended to our children in the church of God [must be] unqualified."

So Rayburn uses the same arguments used by Stoddard's idiosyncratic followers to get their unregenerate children at the Lord's Table; he disses all previous generations of Reformed theologians for having, as he puts it, mere "opinions" which were "ill-considered"; and yet Rayburn makes no mention of Edwards, nor does he give the slightest evidence of having read Edwards on the matter.

We need not be so sloppy. Here's a sample of Edwards's thorough, deep, carefully-considered, precise, Biblically faithful arguments against the Stoddardists of his own day and the paedocommunionists of our own day. As you read, keep in mind that this is just a very small part of Edwards's work against Stoddardism, and therefore just a small part of his work which can be employed to answer the mirror-image errors of paedocommunionists today.

 "Lectures On The Qualifications For Full Communion In The Church Of Christ"

Thus saith the Lord; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel. Ezekiel 44:9.

Objection I.9 The first objection I shall take notice [of], is the objection from the Jewish ordinances of the Passover and circumcision. The objection is, that all the Jews were to be circumcised, and all were required to come to the Passover that were not ceremonially unclean or in a journey; and all were wont to come, and we never find'em blamed for so doing. This I take to be [the] grand objection, the greatest of all objections that ever have been made, against my doctrine.

First Answ. Whatever was the case with respect to the qualifications for the Jewish ordinances, 'tis not what should determine us with respect to the qualification for the sacraments of the dispensation we now live under, in which is a matter of such plain fact in the New Testament. There are two dispensations, and each have their distinct ordinances, and each have their distinct laws about those ordinances: there is an Old Testament dispensation and Old Testament ordinances, and the rules about'em are contained in the Old Testament; and there is a New Testament dispensation and New Testament ordinances, and the rules about these are contained in the New Testament. And1 as long as the rules about the latter in the New Testament are so full and clear and abundant, and God's declared design is to use great plainness of speech, how needless and improper is it for us to forsake those plain facts, and run back to the ceremonial, typical institutions of an antiquated dispensation, wherein God's declared design was to deliver things in comparative obscurity and hid under a veil, giving many ordinances and rules about'em, the designs of which never have been understood to this very day.

If it be asked whether the Christian sacraments don't come in the room of the Jewish, I answer, in some respects they come in the room of them, but not so as to fill no more than their room, or to have no more in them. They don't so come in the room of them as one equivalent comes in the room of another, but as a far more excellent thing may come in the room of a meaner, as a spiritual thing may come in the room of a carnal, and as a heavenly thing may come in the room of a weak and beggarly one.

The Apostle calls the ordinances of the Old Testament "carnal ordinances," and "weak and beggarly elements" (Galatians 4:9). But the sacraments of the New Testament are not carnal ordinances, but more spiritual; and therefore God, if pleased, might appoint more excellent qualifications for them.

The Jewish ordinances were wrapped up in darkness. The Jews themselves, who attended them from year to year, knew not the meaning of them. And the qualifications required is a matter very much involved in darkness, and there is as much difficulty with regard to the moral qualifications as with respect to spiritual qualifications. And seeing the New Testament is so abundant in this matter concerning qualifications, and God uses great plainness of speech, to forsake this and run back into those ancient clouds that are abolished, is not the way to light, but darkness. We have no more need to go to search among the dark revelation and carnal ordinances of the Old Testament to know {that they should not determine us in qualifications for ordinances}, than to know [that the New Testament is a clearer rule].

Second Answ. If it should be allowed to be just and proper arguing for the Old Testament ordinances in this case, the argument won't avail: for nothing that has hitherto been produced, either from the history or commands of the Old Testament, proves that it was lawful for persons to come to the Passover without grace.

It don't follow because such did commonly come and we don't read of their being reproved for it. It is ill arguing in such cases from fact to right. It will not follow that because such were commonly wont to come in fact, and the people went on in such a way, and God winked at it, that therefore it was right and what ought to be, any more than it will follow that because it was [a] common thing under the Old Testament to have many wives, and a common thing for them to put away their wives, and these things were tolerated and winked at, and not reproved for many ages, that therefore this was right.

God designedly winked at many things under that dark dispensation that were wrong, for the greater honor and glory of the Messiah, and introducing a dispensation of greater light and purity. The times of the gospel are therefore called "times of reformation" by the Apostle, because it brought in greater purity and spirituality in the ordinances and worship of God. Hebrews 9:10, "which stood in diverse meats, and drinks, and carnal ordinances, […] until the time of reformation." And'tis often foretold by the prophets that there should be a reformation in the times of the gospel in this respect. So 'tis in the text: "the uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh," shall no more [enter] "into my sanctuary, to pollute it"; intimating that it had been a common thing before [Ezekiel 44:7, Ezekiel 44:9]. So Ezekiel 20:37–38, "And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: and I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me." And Zechariah 14:21, "and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord."

And here I would by the way observe that God's winking so much at irregularity and laxness in attending ordinances under the New Testament, as he did under the Old, don't make the dispensations of grace more strait under the New Testament than under the Old.

The law and will of God is, in a great many respects, more clearly revealed in its strictness under the New Testament than it was under the Old, and the straitness of the paths of duty more manifested, and men's obligations to strict walking many ways increased, and the times of ignorance and laxness not near so much winked at as formerly; but yet this don't at all diminish the privileges of God's people. Though the more our light is increased, the less sin is tolerated, and the more is sin aggravated; yet to be in a state of darkness is no privilege. An increase of light will always show men more the strictness of God's commands and the narrowness of the way of duty, and yet an increase of light is an increase of privilege, and no diminution of it. That greater and more full revelation of the strictness of the law under these days of the gospel, increases the privileges of God's people, though it ties'em up shorter in many respects than the ways that God winked at before.

In the Old Testament, God tolerated his people in having many wives, because of the hardness of their hearts; and they therefore then might go to heaven, and yet live all their days in that way. But now it is not so, under the clearer light of the gospel. And yet, the light of the gospel don't make the way to heaven narrower than it was under the Old Testament. But'tis an increase of privilege, and a great mercy, that now God has made known our duty more fully, and shown us the straitness of the path of duty, more fully than of old.

'Tis no more privilege for a man that don't love God to be winked at and tolerated in coming to sacraments, than for an adulterer to be tolerated in it.

Thus I have shown that it don't follow from the history {of the Old Testament}, I now {proceed to show that it don't follow} from the institution.

God never, by any institution of his, did any more allow a man to come to the Passover under reigning enmity against him, than it allowed one that lived in gross wickedness. Though God commanded all Israel to keep the Passover, yet it will no more follow that it was lawful for men to come having no grace, than it will follow that [those] that lived secretly in adultery might come. For such were as much commanded to come as they that had no grace. Their living in wickedness did not at all excuse'em; it was their duty to forsake their sin and come. Yea, if they could not forsake their sin without extraordinary assistance, if their eyes were full of adultery, they could not cease from sin. We read of many of the Israelites that God gave up to their own hearts' lusts, and many of them so accustomed to do evil, that it was as hard for them to reform as it was for2 the Ethiopian to change his skin or the leopard his spots; and yet they are not excused by the command that required all Israel to keep the Passover. For though they could not reform without extraordinary assistance, yet it was nevertheless strictly required of'em to reform immediately, and come.

And so God required all sinners to repent and be converted, and love him with all their hearts, and come.3 There is no distinction in the law of Moses that some commands have more of a dispensation in this case than others. That command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind," [is] delivered just in the same manner as that, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." And obedience to one of those commands is just so much connected with ordinances as the other.

Third Answ. This objection can be nothing to the purpose in the present controversy, because it is no more against me than it is against those with whom I have to do in this dispute. If it be a good argument that men may come to Christian sacraments without grace, because the law expressly required all the Jews to be circumcised, without making any exception of the unconverted; then it is also a good argument that men may come to Christian sacraments without moral sincerity, and living in ways of known wickedness—that the law required all the Jews to be circumcised, without making any exception of the morally insincere. There is no more exception of such as had not moral sincerity in any one law about circumcision, than of such as had not grace; and there [is] nothing at all in the law any more forbidding the morally insincere, than then unconverted.

And if we not only consider the law, but the custom and practice of the Jews, there is no more appearance in the history of the Old Testament of any [greater] exception made in one case than the other. The Jewish nation were not, all of them, morally sincere through all their generation. On the contrary, they were a stiff-necked people, bent on backsliding, set on mischief; and very often the bigger part of the people were corrupting themselves with gross sins, and corrupt times were more common among them than good times. But we have no account of their forbearing circumcision at such times, no more account of forbidding the children of immoral parents. Nor do we anywhere find the Jews blamed for coming to circumcision without moral sincerity, any more than without grace. We have no reason to think but that Josiah was circumcised in the right of his father Amon [2 Kings 22, 2 Chronicles 34].

And so as to the Passover, the argument in its full strength is as much against the scheme of my opponents as against the scheme I maintain. The difficulty is every whit as great as to the qualifications which they suppose requisite for partaking of the Lord's Supper, as those which I suppose necessary. I would observe this as to two qualifications in particular, viz. that doctrinal knowledge which they call "discerning the Lord's body," and moral sincerity. I say, the objection from the Passover is as great against the necessity of these two qualifications, as against the necessity of godliness.

The difficulty is as great as to that doctrinal knowledge that my opponents call "discerning the Lord's body." There is no more reason to think that all those that were allowed to come to the Passover, had the doctrinal knowledge to know that the body of the lamb signified the body of Christ, and that the death of the lamb signified the death of Christ, or that the people in general understood that, than we have to think that the people in general were converted. We never read of the people's being told that this was the meaning of it, or that Moses or any of the prophets instructed'em in it. We have a large account how they instructed'em that it signified their coming out of Egypt, but no account of their teaching them that it typified the death of Christ. The Jews used innumerable types of Christ that they did not understand the meaning of; for Moses, in this respect, put a veil over his face. We have no more reason to think the people doctrinally discerned the Lord's body in the Passover lamb, any more than in the manna that they eat in the wilderness. Yea,'tis certain that some that came and were allowed to come to the Passover, did not in this respect discern the Lord's body in it, as the twelve disciples. Christ was wont to go up from year to year to Jerusalem with his disciples, to the feast of the Passover, according to the law. We read of his being there with his disciples at that feast in the beginning of his public ministry (John 2:13 to the end). But the disciples at that time had not that doctrinal discerning of the Lord's body in the Passover. They did not know that it signified Christ's death: for'tis evident they were not aware that Christ was to die, till long after this, and were exceeding surprised when they first heard of it.

And as [to] the other qualification which my opponents suppose to be necessary, viz. moral sincerity, or a morally upright intention and endeavor to obey all God's commands: if the argument from the Passover has any strength in it, it stands as full against the necessity of this, as the necessity of true godliness. Its being said, "All the congregation of Israel shall keep it" [Exodus 12:47], no more proves that men might keep it that had no grace, than it proves that men might keep it that had no more sincerity.

We have an account in the Numbers 9, that on occasion of some being defiled by the dead body of a man, it was appointed that such as were unclean by such ceremonial uncleannesses might not keep the Passover. But there is nowhere a word mentioned of men's being forbid for moral uncleanness, any more than spiritual uncleanness.

The law required the whole nation from year to year, through all generations, to keep the Passover, though the greater part of the nation were very commonly without moral sincerity, corrupting themselves with idolatry or some other wicked practice, and it was but now and then such good times in Israel that they were generally strict in outward obedience. And'tis not to be supposed that there ever was a time wherein the whole nation were morally upright in obedience to God, and strictly avoided every known sin. When was there ever such a time in a nation of several millions of people, wherein there was none that lived in any way of allowed sin? And yet the law stood in force every year: "All the congregation of Israel shall keep it."

And we nowhere find people blamed in Israel for coming without moral sincerity, any more than without grace.

There is nothing in the Bible that makes it more evident that ever any Jew was allowed to come to the Passover without grace, than that Judas was allowed to come to the Passover without natural sincerity. Judas had no moral sincerity of obedience to Christ when he partook of the last Passover with Christ. We are told that he was a thief; he lived in gross wickedness; yea, he was at that very time in the very prosecution of a most horridly wicked design in betraying his Lord and Master to death. He had been just before, and had bargained, with the high priest to betray him, and now was seeking opportunity to betray him. And yet he was under the law that required all the congregation of Israel to keep the Passover. And Christ, who knew how it was with him, admitted him to eat the Passover with him, and fed him with some of it with his own hand, gave him the sop, which was a part of the feast of the Passover.

Now this is the argument of my opponents: that the Lord's Supper comes in the room of the Passover, and therefore persons may come to the Lord's Supper with the same qualifications with which they were allowed to come to the Passover. And either this is a good argument, or it is not; either what was commonly practiced and tolerated among the Jews with respect to the Passover, is a good rule to Christians with respect to the Lord's Supper, or it is not. If my opponents insist upon that as a good rule, then let'em stand to it, and then it will overthrow their own scheme as effectually as that which is opposed. If it be not a good rule, then let it be given up and no more insisted on. If it ben't a good rule in their case, then no more is it in my case.

Fourth Answ. The institutions of the Old Testament concerning the Passover and circumcision, if we thoroughly consider them, will appear to be a great confirmation of my doctrine, instead of any proof to the contrary.

I will consider each of them distinctly. First, the Passover. The Jews were strictly forbidden to keep the Passover with leaven, and were to put away all leaven out of their houses. That was the law, that he that eat the Passover with leaven, that soul should be cut off from the congregation of the Lord [Exodus 12:15].

From whence the Apostle argues that the Lord's Supper ought to be kept without spiritual leaven (1 Corinthians 5:7–8), and that is as much as to say the Lord's Supper must be kept with a renewed heart. Spiritual leaven is the corruption of the heart, consisting in enmity against God and men.

Here, if any shall say the ordinances of the Old Testament are no types of the ordinances of the New, and therefore'tis not good arguing from the external and typical qualifications for the former, to spiritual qualifications for the latter:

I answer, It is good arguing, because it is the way of arguing which the Apostle himself makes use of. His words are these: "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." Here the Apostle argues from the law of the Passover, that so strictly forbid keeping that feast with leaven, to the great necessity of keeping the feast of the Christian Passover, or Lord's Supper, without spiritual leaven. "Purge out," says he, "the old leaven. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," plainly referring to the law of the Passover. And he has reference to the purity of the Christian church that comes together at the Lord's table, for in the context he is speaking of excommunicating the incestuous man, etc.

By leaven the Apostle plainly means wickedness, or our natural corruption. "Not with the leaven," says he, "of malice and wickedness"; not only malice, but wickedness in general, consisting in enmity against God and men. And therefore, when he says "Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump," the words are equivalent to those, Colossians 3:9–10, "put off the old man," which is corrupt, "and put on the new man." Leaven signified hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), unleavened bread sincere godliness.

As the Jews were most strictly required to keep the Passover with unleavened bread, so the Apostle would have 'em keep the Christian Passover with "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth," i.e. with true grace, the truth in the inward parts; as John 18:37, "Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice," i.e. everyone that has true grace. So 2 John 3, "I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee," i.e. "the grace that is in thee."

Leaven evidently signified natural corruption. By its sourness, it was a fit type of the enmity of the heart against God and man. Leaven was a lively signification of natural corruption in this respect. Natural corruption is what we derive from our parents; one generation derives it from another. So leaven was some of the old lump of the former batch of bread, incorporated with the new lump in the first kneading and making of it; and so the leaven was communicated from the former lump to the next, and from that to the next, and so from lump to lump through all the various successions.

The Apostle has an evident reference to this very way of communicating leaven from an old lump, when he directs the Corinthians to come to the Lord's Supper without old leaven, that they be a new lump; i.e. that they should be new creatures, without the leaven of the old lump. Now the old leaven of natural corruption must be purged out by regeneration, by putting on the new man—not purged out perfectly, but purged out in an evangelical sense, that is, not by perfection but sincerity, as he explains himself to mean this way. "Let us keep the feast," says he, "with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

By this it is evident that we are as strictly forbidden to keep the feast of the Lord's Supper with unmetified corruption, as the Jews were to keep the Passover with leaven.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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