Edwards and Demons (Part III)

This is the third part of a series on Jonathan Edwards’ thought regarding the active work of Satan in the world.

Jump to:
Edwards and Demons Part I
Edwards and Demons Part II


Many of the specific signs which are presented as positive distinguishing marks are very similar to the ideas Edwards dismantled in Part Two. The below chart distinguishes three examples:

No Evidence (Part 2) Evidence (Part 3)
Persons did not excite them of their own endeavors (Sec 4) Arise from those influences and operations on the heart which are supernatural and divine (Sec 1)
Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another (Sec 6) Naturally beget and promote such a spirit of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy as appeared in Christ [Sec 8]
They make persons exceeding confident        (Sec 11) Attended with a conviction of the reality and certainty of divine things (Sec 5)

The distinguishing factor in each of these cases is one of motivation or object, and sometimes both. That a man did not have his affections excited by his own endeavors does not mean they are divine, for God is not the only supernatural being. Likewise, a man may be confident in himself by counterfeit grace as well as saving grace, but saving grace produces confidence that is founded in the person and work of Christ, not in the self.

Rounded out by the remainder of the factors, Edwards makes clear that grace which is counterfeit is naturally motivated by self-exaltation and personal gain rather than a response to the greatness of the person of God. This mercenary spirit is love to self, desiring blessings, rather than a love to God, desiring to magnify him because he is worthy of magnification. Thus, for example, true affections are attended by a self-abasing humility, while counterfeit humility desires to be seen and therefore have honor brought upon it.

This is a razor-thin trail of truth to walk upon. There is only one gospel by which we might be saved by, and it is a narrow and difficult way. The possibilities of delusion are very real, with catastrophic results for the blind traveller. We live in a culture that ignores the presence of the demonic, a spirit of the age that has heavily influenced the church. For the majority of believers, there most likely would be no little or no change in their practical Christianity if all of the references to the demonic element were deleted from the Scriptures. Even within “reformed” circles, we often focus upon self-deception to the exclusion of demonic deception, treating self-deception as though it was merely the construct of an individual mind isolated from any outside influence. Though self-deception ultimately is located in the self, that does not mean that there are no unseen powers pacifying the conscience and insulating that self-deception from opposition.

The Scriptures portray three broad categories which oppose the work of the Spirit. First is the intrinsic antagonism towards God within the fallen nature, inherited through Adam’s rebellion in the garden.  In Psalm 51:5 David laments that his own opposition to God began even before his own birth: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Peter urges those who have been saved and sanctified by Christ to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet 2:11). James likewise attributes the believers’ quarrels to “passions at war within you” (Jas 4:1). Though regeneration reverses the totally corrupt nature, it does not eradicate every rebel strand of thought and will. The fallen nature continues to wage guerrilla war against the conquering power of God. There is nothing external in this category, but rather it provides a friendly partner for the demonic cooperation.

The second category is the rather intangible concept of “the world.” The book of 1 John offers the most detailed treatment of this category in the Scriptures, making statements such as “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). There is a cunning power behind this system who constantly incites its continued rebellion against the Lord for, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

Satan does not influence the world only as a catalyst but also as a ruler. He is evil and directly does evil, but he is also a mastermind conspirator moving all of his servants to cooperate with his opposition to Christ’s kingdom. Jesus does not dispute Satan’s authority claims over this world during the temptation in the wilderness. Paul writes of blinded unbelievers, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers . . .” (2 Cor 4:4). To the Ephesians he writes regarding ungodly actions, “in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2).

The third category is the individualization of the second. Beyond being the governing authority (though illegitimately so) behind the world, Satan also is depicted in the Scriptures as a direct interactive agent in the world. The serpent encountered by Eve in the Garden was no mere reptile, but Satan Himself taking the body of a snake. Luke writes of the temptation of Christ as being a direct conversation between Jesus and Satan, though he does not elaborate if Satan appeared as a corporeal being or whether the conversation existed on a metaphysical plane. Perhaps most terrifying of all, Paul declares during a conversation about the existence of false apostles masquerading as righteous teachers, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).


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