Was Jonathan Edwards
the Founding Father of the Toronto Blessing?
Part 2: Positive
Tests of the Spirit's Work
by Nick Needham, Welling, Kent
After sketching these nine negative signs, which do not prove that a
religious movement either is or is not from God, Edwards then moved on
to present five positive signs - five evidences which, if present in a
movement or experience, prove that it definitely is from God. On the other
hand, if these positive signs are missing, Edwards would have us conclude
that such a movement or experience cannot be a genuine work of the Holy
Spirit. Edwards took these five positive signs from 1 John 4. So let us
look at Edwards' positive tests, and try to see how they might apply to
the Toronto blessing. This is particularly important in that Toronto advocates
positively challenge us to look at the "fruits" of the "blessing" and
to judge its authenticity from these fruits.
1st Positive Sign: Orthodox views of Christ
A true work of the Holy Spirit, Edwards argued, will always lead people
into true, orthodox, Scriptural views of the Lord Jesus Christ - Who He
is and what He has done. Edwards quoted 1 John 4:2-3:
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that
does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.
Edwards specified the following as essential ingredients in an orthodox
belief about Christ. One must accept:
- His virgin birth;
- His divine Sonship within the Trinity;
- the fact that He is the Saviour of mankind;
- His death on the cross;
- His Messiahship;
- the historical truth of the Gospel narratives 
The list was not meant to be exhaustive; presumably Edwards thought that
a belief in Christ's bodily resurrection was also fundamental. But Edwards'
point remains firm. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and He leads
people into truth - especially the truth about Jesus Christ, in Whom all
the Father's glory and purposes are treasured up. As the Saviour Himself
predicted in His "farewell discourse" in John 14-16:
When the Helper comes, Whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me....
He will glorify Me (15:26, 16:13).
A genuine work of the Spirit will focus and concentrate people's minds
on Christ, teaching them the truth about Him from the Scriptures. Any
seeming revival or renewal which does not give public pride of place to
orthodox, Biblical views of Christ stands self-condemned.
Edwards also insisted that this orthodoxy of belief about Christ will
be allied to "esteem and affection" towards Him. People will not just
believe rightly about Christ; they will also love Christ, glory in Him,
and revere Him. Mind and heart, belief and feeling, will be united in
embracing the truth of Jesus Christ, the unique eternal Word and Son of
Edwards warned people against the spiritual delusion of loving an imaginary
Christ. The Christ Who is loved, he said, must be the Christ of the Bible:
the person to whom the Spirit gives testimony, and for whom
he raises their esteem, must be that Jesus who appeared in the flesh,
and not another Christ in his stead; nor any mystical, fantastical Christ,
such as the light within. 
It is not enough that we should have a religious experience which kindles
our hearts with love towards someone. That someone must be the true Christ.
And that is why orthodox doctrinal belief, and its centrality through
Biblical preaching and teaching, are so crucial. It is the only way we
can tell whether it is really Christ we are loving, rather than some imaginary
spiritual figure we have dreamt up in our own minds, or been deceived
into accepting by false teaching or bogus experience. We remember the
apostle Paul's warning about accepting "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians
Here, then, was Edwards' first positive sign of a true work of the Holy
Spirit. Such a work will throw its spotlight on orthodox belief in the
Christ of the Bible, and enthrone that Christ in people's affections as
their true Beloved. The centrality of the Biblical Christ, His person
and saving work, doctrinally understood and spiritually loved, was (for
Edwards) an essential test of any religious experience or movement.
One hesitates to try to apply this test in some generalized way to all
charismatic experiences and movements of renewal. But certainly the overwhelming
impression one gains from the Toronto blessing is the centrality, not
of Christ, but of self. The spotlight is on the wonderful religious experiences
that self can have. "You too can get drunk on the Holy Spirit, and have
marvelous feelings of being appreciated and hugged and kissed by God":
this sort of thing tends to be the loudest note. In his Treatise concerning
Religious Affections, Edwards issued the following warning about spiritual
And hence it comes to pass, that in their rejoicings and elevations,
hypocrites are wont to keep their eye upon themselves; having received
what they call spiritual discoveries, their minds are taken up about their
own experiences; and not the glory of God, or the beauty of Christ. They
keep thinking with themselves, what a good experience is this! what a
great discovery is this! what wonderful things have I met with! and so
they put their experiences in the place of Christ, his beauty and fullness.
Instead of rejoicing in Christ Jesus, they rejoice in their admirable
Do Toronto-style meetings and writings focus people's minds on the sound,
orthodox, Scriptural doctrine of Jesus Christ's divine-human person and
atoning work? A particular experience, rather than the Christ of the Bible,
is central in this movement. Even its theology (such as it is) is mainly
an attempt to give theological justification for the all-important experience.
Sadly, therefore, one cannot escape the strong impression that advocates
of the Toronto blessing have fallen headlong into Edwards' trap, and "put
their experiences in the place of Christ."
Further, in view of Edwards' great emphasis on orthodox views of Christ,
extremely serious questions have to be asked about the Christology of
Rodney Howard-Browne, and others involved in the Toronto blessing. In
his teaching ministry, Rodney Howard-Browne, the human spearhead of the
Toronto blessing, sets forth a view of Christ which, by the standards
of classic orthodox Christology, is gravely in error. For example, in
his book The Touch Of God: A Practical Handbook on the Anointing, Howard-Browne
teaches that when the Son of God became man, he laid aside His divine
nature and effectively ceased to be God while He was here on earth. To
Nothing Jesus did was because He was the Son of God. The Bible
says He laid aside His royal robes of deity, and when He walked the earth
He did so as a prophet under the Abrahamic covenant. 
Howard-Browne's view of the incarnation reduces Christ to the status
of a mere prophet, a Spirit filled man. This is part and parcel of Howard-Browne's
view of the "anointing" of the Spirit. Jesus, the human prophet, was anointed
with the Spirit, and did all His mighty works simply as a Spirit-filled
man; we too can be anointed with the same Spirit, and do the same mighty
works as Spirit-filled men and women. This doctrine of the incarnation
effectively destroys the atonement, for if Christ offered Himself to His
Father, not as the Son of God, but only "as a prophet under the Abrahamic
covenant", such a mere human offering could not have saved anyone. Moreover,
Scripture assures us that Christ offered Himself, not only as the Son
of God (Galatians 2:20), but also in the power of the Spirit (Hebrews
9:14). The incarnate Christ did His mighty works both as the Son of God
and in the power of the Spirit. Son and Spirit cannot be disjoined. Howard-Browne
has disjoined them to the point of stripping Christ of His divine Sonship
altogether and degrading Him to the rank of a Spirit-anointed human prophet.
This is very far from being anything that Jonathan Edwards, or the early
Church fathers, or Reformers, or Puritans, would have recognized as even
remotely orthodox or Scriptural. It is deeply disturbing that such a false
Christology should lie at the heart of Rodney Howard-Browne's beliefs
about the work of the Spirit - and Howard-Browne is the fountainhead of
the Toronto blessing .
In fact, Howard-Browne's unorthodoxy about Christ should not surprise
us. His spiritual roots are firmly in the so-called "Faith Movement" of
Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, otherwise known as the "health, wealth
and prosperity gospel" or the "Rhema Bible Church." Many readers of this
book will probably have seen video footage of Howard-Browne and Copeland
speaking to and joking with each other "in tongues." What will probably
not be so well-known is that the Faith Movement's views of the person
and work of Christ are so grossly heretical that the movement - or at
least its leaders - ought to be stripped immediately of the title "Christian."
Hagin, Copeland and other Faith leaders openly deny that the blood and
cross of Christ have any saving or atoning power. Indeed, they display
an almost contemptuous attitude to the cross. According to them, what
happened on the cross was not at all that Christ atoned for our sins,
but that He lost His divine nature and received instead the spiritual
nature of Satan, which is why He cried out, "My God, why have You forsaken
Me?" Then, having died both spiritually and physically, Jesus (with His
new Satanic nature) went literally into hell, where He was tortured for
three days and three nights by demons. It was this spiritual and demonic
torment in hell, the Faith Movement teaches, which was the true atonement
for man's sin. (The Bible teaches that Jesus went to paradise, not hell,
after His atoning death, because Biblically speaking, the true work of
atonement by blood-sacrifice was finished on the cross. See John 19:30
and Luke 23:43.) At the end of the three days and three nights of spiritual
torture in hell, the Jesus of the Faith Movement was "spiritually born
again", the first man ever to experience the new birth, losing the Satanic
nature and re-acquiring the divine nature. Furthermore, every Christian
receives the divine nature in just the same sense that Jesus had it; we
too are incarnations of God - or, as Copeland puts it, "Jesus is no longer
the only-begotten Son of God." 
Let us speak plainly. These views are simply not Christianity. They are
a different religion. The denial of ChristD5s unique deity, and of the
atoning power of His blood and cross, and a belief that every Christian
is as much a divine incarnation as Jesus was, are deviations from truth
so grave that he who believes them without repenting will die in his sins.
Yet it was here, in this deeply heretical Faith Movement, that the Toronto
blessing was born. Many months before it reached Toronto, Copeland and
Howard-Browne were already dispensing the "blessing" to thousands in Faith
meetings. So inevitably one asks oneself: How can this be the Spirit of
Truth at work, if exactly the same spiritual experiences and phenomena
which are now sweeping believers off their feet originated with heretics
who cannot be considered Christians at all? It defies reason to think
that a euphoric religious experience that can be happily shared by believers
and heretical unbelievers alike (and began with the unbelievers) is consistent
with or a product of the one true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. After
all, if a strange religious movement began among the Mormons, and was
then transmitted to "evangelicals" through a man commissioned by the Mormons,
we would unhesitatingly regard it as spiritual deception and poison. The
Toronto blessing is no different: Rodney Howard-Browne, its leading figure,
was commissioned by Kenneth Copeland and is deeply implicated in the heretical
Faith Movement. Toronto apologists are fond of telling us to "look at
the fruits" of their movement. It is far more important for us to "look
at the roots." The tree is diabolically bad; any supposedly good fruits
which grow from this tree of poisoned experience, rather than from true
repentance and faith in God's Word, must be regarded as sweet but deceptive
counterfeits. So Jonathan Edwards would certainly have reasoned, with
his insistence on orthodox views of Jesus Christ as an indispensable sign
of a true work of the Spirit.
In one sense, it is of course deeply depressing that so many professing
believers are so breathtakingly doctrinally ignorant and undiscerning,
quite prepared to open up their minds to any spirit that promises peace
and joy and love. But in another sense, we should be glad that it has
happened. The Toronto blessing will force more and more people to think
and work out what they believe Christianity actually is. Is it a Scriptural
religion of understanding, believing, and obeying God's Word? Or is it
a content-free mysticism of emotional highs and spiritual blowouts, liberally
sprinkled with Christian language but lacking Christian substance? We
should not hesitate or be ashamed to take sides on this issue. Let us
take to our hearts (especially if we are in positions of Christian leadership)
the charge to newly ordained presbyters in the Anglican Book of Common
Prayer: "Will you be ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and
drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word;
and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations"? If we
are not ready, God will require it of us; and He will not be impressed
by specious excuses about not wanting to be controversial or to divide
the Body of Christ. The Toronto blessing has already divided and poisoned
the Body. The only question now is whether we will stand by and allow
our Lord's beloved Church to continue to be divided and poisoned by this
alien spirit. In these circumstances, the fearful price of woolly-mindedness
or cowardice is simply not worth contemplating, let alone paying.
2nd Positive Sign: Heavenly-mindedness
Edwards' second positive sign of an authentic work of the Spirit was
that it would draw people's minds and hearts away from this present world
and life, and focus them instead on the next - on heaven and eternity,
on second coming, final judgment, and new creation. Edwards quoted 1 John
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because
He Who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the
world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them.
The apostle John here, Edwards argued, continues his contrast between
those influenced by the Spirit of God and by false spirits. The contrast
now focuses on people's relationship to "the world." The Holy Spirit,
Edwards said, works to lessen men's esteem of the pleasures, profits,
and honors of the world, and to take off their hearts from an eager pursuit
of these things; and to engage them in a deep concern about a future state
and eternal happiness that the gospel reveals - and puts them upon earnestly
seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness... 
Edwards particularly insisted that the Spirit works in people's consciences
and creates a new sensitivity to sin. This present world of lost humanity
is marked by slavery to sin in its infinitely various forms; but those
awakened by the Holy Spirit become marked by the following antiworldly
- they see "the dreadfulness of sin";
- they become "exceedingly afraid of' sin because of its awful consequences;
- they become conscious of "their great need of deliverance from their
- they become "careful, inquisitive, and watchful to discern what is
sinful; and to avoid future sins." 
And therefore, if we see persons made sensible of the dreadful
nature of sin, and of the displeasure of God against it; of their own
miserable condition as they are in themselves, by reason of sin, and earnestly
concerned for their eternal salvation - and sensible of their need of
God's pity and help, and engaged to seek it in the use of the means that
God has appointed - we may certainly conclude that it is from the Spirit
of God, whatever effect this concern has on their bodies; though it cause
them to cry out aloud, or to shriek, or to faint; or, though it throw
them into convulsions, or whatever other way the blood and spirits are
We observe once more here the kind of bodily effects Edwards was prepared
to tolerate: the physical overflow of religious emotion, awakened by overpowering
convictions of Biblical truth. Truth shining from Scripture into the mind,
not hands of charismatic leaders waving over the body, constituted the
source of whatever bodily effects Edwards would permit. However, the real
question is whether we see in the Toronto blessing any of the spiritual
effects Edwards described Is the movement characterized by the way it
produces deep moral conviction of sin? Does it make people sharply aware
of God's infinitely holy hatred and wrath against sin? Does it grip people's
souls with the belief that the one supremely desirable blessing is eternal
salvation from the outer darkness of hell into the uncreated light of
heaven? Apparently not.
The influence of the Spirit of God is yet more abundantly manifest,
if persons have their hearts drawn off from the world, and weaned from
the objects of their worldly lusts, and taken off from worldly pursuits,
by the sense they have of the excellency of divine things, and the affection
they have to those spiritual enjoyments of another world, that are promised
in the gospel. 
Here is the positive spiritual quality Edwards looked for: not wonderful
feelings, not emotional euphoria, but an abiding consciousness of eternity.
He wanted to see people surrendering the sinful dream of any kind of heaven
on earth, whether through material possessions, pleasures, marriage or
any other temporary thing. He expected, in those truly influenced by God's
Spirit, a life governed by the anticipation of the next life, and a sense
of the supreme beauty, value and desirableness of "divine things" over
all worldly, created vanities. In short, Edwards thought a true work of
the Spirit would summon people to die to self and the world. There was
to be a death, in order that there might be a life. The sinful ego, addicted
to created things and self boosting feelings, must be crucified with Christ.
Only in such bloodstained soil could the new life flourish, where holy
love for a holy God (not our feeling of being loved by God) was the foremost
and finest flower. Is this the "experience" promoted by the Toronto blessing?
Again, apparently not.
3rd Positive Sign: Submission to Scripture
Edwards took his third positive sign from 1 John 4:6:
We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God
does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of
Edwards interpreted the "we" and "us" of this verse as a reference by
the apostle John to himself and the other New Testament apostles. By extension,
Edwards argued, the reference also includes all who, like the apostles,
were directly inspired by God to deliver infallible teaching to the Church
- all true prophets of both Old and New Testament times. Such prophets
and apostles were "of God", i e. appointed and sent by Him to be His authoritative
mouthpieces. The sign that a person "knows God" is that he listens to
God's truth, spoken through His inspired ambassadors. This test is still
valid today, because the prophets and apostles still speak today through
their inspired writings the holy Scriptures. For us, then, living in the
post-apostolic era, the mark of a person influenced by the Spirit of Truth
is his submission to Scripture. He "hears" the Scriptural witness of the
prophets and apostles - listens humbly and obediently, as a docile pupil.
He does not make up his own religion, but receives God's religion from
the inspired Word. "By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit
The Holy Spirit, then, according to Edwards, when He is genuinely at
work converting sinners or renewing saints,
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,
and He will beget a regard to that divine word which God has given to
be the great and standing rule for the direction of his church in all
religious matters, and all concerns of their souls, in all ages. 
Edwards quoted Isaiah 8:20:
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according
to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
A true work of the Spirit will make people stick close to Scripture,
accepting it as the only guide and authority "in all religious matters
and all concerns of their souls." Finally, Edwards maintained that the
Holy Spirit will also give people a deep love of Scripture, and a practical
commitment to study and understand it. People's "esteem" and "affection"
for the Bible will be raised high.
The centrality of Scripture in the Great Awakening and other similar
revivals is beyond dispute. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for
all too many modern charismatic renewal or revival meetings. The ones
the present writer has attended, especially the Toronto blessing conference
in Edinburgh in October 1994, have been marked by a notable absence of
Scripture, either read out or expounded. This is a common criticism made
of large sections of the charismatic movement and need not be dwelt on.
It is revealing, however, that some charismatic leaders themselves are
now coming to the same conclusion. The report Charismatic Crossroads,
recently put together by British charismatic leaders such as Clifford
Hill (editor of the magazine Prophecy Today, makes sobering if not chilling
reading for its critique of the ignorance of Scripture that marks many
One also wonders where exactly the distinctive manifestations of the
Toronto blessing fit into Edwards' belief that the Spirit always leads
people into submission to Scripture. When people laugh hysterically as
though "zapped" by spiritual laughing gas, does the experience make them
accept the Bible as the unique, all-sufficient guide "in all religious
matters and all concerns of their souls"? When people roar and crawl about
like lions, or crow and strut about like cockerels, does the experience
leave them with a new resolve to stick fast by Scripture as "the great
and standing rule" whose guidelines must never be overstepped? If that
were the result of these Toronto-style experiences, it would place those
affected in a curious position. Their first question would have to be,
'What does Scripture (the one and only spiritual guide to which I now
submit with a new love and docility) say about the experiences I have
just had?" The answer, of course, will be disenchanting, because it can
be summed up in the word "Nothing." This then leads people either to bizarre
misinterpretations of any and every Scripture verse that mentions laughter
or an animal, or to a rejection of the sufficiency of Scripture - "It
doesn't matter that Scripture says nothing about these things, because
this is a new work of the Spirit." Worst of all, it leads to the delivery
and acceptance of new theological revelations, as in the case of Glenda
Waddell and Holy Trinity Brompton. None of this is the fruit of submission
to Scripture that Edwards was looking for.
4th Positive Sign: Knowing the truth
For his fourth sign, Edwards dwelt on the last part of 1 John 4:6: By
this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
The Holy Spirit, Edwards stated, always operates as a Spirit of Truth.
He makes people understand, believe and prize the truth. The "truth" Edwards
had in mind was, of course, religious truth - the truth taught by Scripture
about God, man, sin and salvation. He then mentioned a number of the fundamental
religious truths of Scripture which the Spirit of Truth would always impress
on people's souls, if He was genuinely at work in them.
- the existence of God;
- the greatness of God;
- God's moral purity - "that He is a sin-hating God";
- the shortness and uncertainty of life on earth;
- the reality of eternity;
- the immortality of the soul,
- the certainty of divine judgment;
- our desperate sinfulness of nature and practice;
- our spiritual impotence to help or save ourselves. 
Edwards added that there were some other basic truths he had not specified
here - perhaps because he had already sketched them under Positive Sign
1, orthodox views of Christ.
One is struck once again by the awesomeness and seriousness of the truths
Edwards was so concerned about. If the Holy Spirit impressed the truths
listed above into someone's soul, one somehow doubts that the person would
respond by rip-roaring laughter or crowing like a cock.
Truth, however, is not at the centre of these irrational Toronto experiences.
But then, truth objective, Scriptural, doctrinal truth - has never been
very prominent in most forms of charismatic spirituality. One is reminded
of the rebuke which pioneer charismatic Edward Irving delivered to his
pastoral assistant David Brown, when Brown rejected the tongue-speaking
and prophecy of Irving's day: "Sir, your intellect has destroyed you."
 But mind and truth go together: like man and woman, they were made
for each other. It is not surprising that the suspicion and even hostility
shown towards the mind and rational thinking in much that passes for charismatic
spirituality, is linked with a general lack of concern for doctrinal truth,
and an often uncritical hunger for supernatural manifestations and mind-blowing
emotional highs. This tendency seems to have reached its climax in the
Toronto blessing. Not truth, but outlandish physical and emotional forms
of experience occupy centre stage, and what little Toronto theology exists
is devoted to defending and commending these experiences. It is difficult
to think that Edwards would have seen such a religious movement as satisfying
his fourth positive criterion of a true work of the Spirit of God.
5th Positive Sign: Love for God and man
Edwards' fifth and final sign of a true work of the Spirit was taken
from 1 John 4:7ff. When the Holy Spirit is at work, He always "operates
as a spirit of love to God and man": 
If someone says "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a
liar.... By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love
God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep
His commandments (4:20, 5:2-3.) Beloved, let us love one another, for
love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God....
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (4:7 11).
First, then. the Holy Spirit always promotes love for God. He brings
people to high and exalting thoughts of the Divine Being, and his glorious
perfections; and works in them an admiring, delightful sense of the excellency
of Jesus Christ; representing him as the chief among ten thousand, and
altogether lovely, and makes him precious to the soul.... 
In his Treatise concerning Religious Affections, Edwards went into more
detail about the nature of a true love for God. He particularly emphasized
that true love for God is not based on a feeling of how much God loves
us. It is based, rather, on a spiritual perception of the supreme beauty
of God Himself, regardless of whether He loves us. Edwards criticized
those who said that it is impossible in the nature of things for any man
to love God, or any other being, but that love to himself must be the
foundation of it. 
On the contrary, Edwards maintained,
the first foundation of a true love to God, is that whereby
he is in himself lovely, or worthy to be loved, or the supreme loveliness
of his nature.... God's nature, or the divinity, is infinitely excellent;
yea it is infinite beauty, brightness, and glory itself. But how can that
be true love of this excellent and lovely nature, which is not built on
the foundation of its true loveliness? how can that be true love of beauty
and brightness, which is not for beauty and brightness' sake? how can
that be a true prizing of that which is in itself infinitely worthy and
precious, which is not for the sake of its worthiness and preciousness?
True love for God is God-centred. It does not arise primarily out of
a feeling of God love for us. That, Edwards argued, is simply the natural
principle of self-love at work. He cited Luke 6:32: "If you love those
who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those
who love them."
Those in whom the Holy Spirit works savingly, Edwards maintained, love
God in a different manner. They do not first see that God loves them,
and then see that he is lovely; but they first see that God is lovely,
and that Christ is excellent and glorious; their hearts are first captivated
with this view.... The saints' affections begin with God. 
Edwards defined God's beauty as His holiness:
Holy persons, in the exercise of their holy affections, love
divine things primarily for their holiness; they love God, in the first
place, for the beauty of his holiness, or moral perfection, as being supremely
amiable in itself. 
It is crucial that we bear this in mind in any attempt to evaluate claims
that a religious experience has moved someone to love God more. Edwards
would have us ask: "Why does he love God more? Is it merely because he
has been overwhelmed with a feeling of being loved by God? Or is it mainly
because he has seen, in a new way, the stunning beauty of God's holy perfection?
Is it a basically God-centred love for God, or a merely self-centred love
for God?" Of course, Edwards may be wrong on this point. But we are dealing
with Toronto apologists who are appealing to Edwards' teaching In these
circumstances, one should not ignore such a central emphasis in Edwards'
whole conception of loving God.
This true love for God, Edwards taught, will give birth to several vital
- it will make us delight in God's attributes, "as revealed in the gospel";
- it will make us long for personal communion with the Father and the
Son, and hunger for Their presence;
- it will make us desire to be like Them - to be conformed to Their
pure, perfect, holy character;
- it will make the desire to please God as our Beloved into the chief
motive of our daily living. 
Edwards then outlined what he understood by a true love for our neighbor.
It involved three main elements:
- a general compassion and kindness to all people, especially a desire
- a desire to see sinners converted;
- a special delight in those who give evidences of being God's children
and Christ's disciples. 
Edwards proceeded to warn against a counterfeit brotherly love. This,
he said, was common among "enthusiasts" - those taken in by some spiritual
deception. They love each other simply because they agree with each other
and are brought together by being ridiculed by the rest of mankind. But
this is not Christian love at all; it is self-love. It is no different
in principle fromthe union and friendship which may be among a company
of pirates, that are at war with all the rest of the world.60 In order
to bring out the difference between true Christian love and its counterfeits,
Edwards suggested four distinguishing signs which will always mark the
love of the genuine Christian:
- It arises from spiritual causes, from seeing "the wonderful riches
of the free grace and sovereignty of God's love to us, in Christ Jesus."
- It is always allied to "a sense of our own utter unworthiness", and
a deep realization that we are "the enemies and haters of God by nature."
- It is accompanied by "a renunciation of all our own excellency and
righteousness" - the death of all self-centred claims to personal worth
and goodness in the sight of God.
- Above all, true Christian love is distinguished by humility - by "self-diffidence,
self-emptiness, self-renunciation and poverty of spirit." It is a love
pervaded all through by a sense of our own "littleness,vileness, weakness,
and utter insufficiency." It is a love which "renounces, abases, and
annihilates what we term self."  He cited Paul's "hymn to love"
in 1 Corinthians 13: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy;
love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own, is not provoked."
Edwards' insistence on the radical anti-self nature of the Holy Spirit's
work forms a striking contrast to much modern teaching on the psychological
necessity of self-love, self-worth and self-esteem. This notion, derived
from secular psychotherapy, has been embraced and "spiritualised" by large
sections of the evangelical world. It was reproduced at the Toronto blessing
meeting the present writer attended in October 1994, where the entire
content of the teaching offered by this supposedly Spirit-inspired movement
was on the need of self to feel loved, valued, appreciated, and "hugged
and kissed" by God - an experience which, it was proclaimed, would be
granted through the Toronto blessing. But from an Edwardian point of view,
this lop-sided, self-orientated attitude is a sure sign of spiritual disease.
True Christian love does not demand self-fulfillment. It "renounces, abases,
and annihilates" self. This is because the child of God has found Someone
else far more beautiful and desirable than petty self to gaze on; his
life now revolves around loving God and fulfilling His will. As Edwards
has already said, the desire to please the Beloved is the Christian's
chief motive in daily life. And the Beloved is not self, for the kingdom
of ego has beer dismantled and replaced by the Kingdom of Christ. The
search for self-fulfilling, self-pleasing religious experiences which
seems so prevalent in Toronto circles (although not only there) is the
polar opposite of what Edwards meant by true, self-annihilating Christian
love for God and one's neighbor.
Edwards concluded this section on positive signs thus;
And therefore when there is an extraordinary influence or operation
appearing on the minds of a people, if these things [the five positive
signs] are found in it, we are safe in determining that it is the work
of God, whatever other circumstances it may be attended with, whatever
instruments are used, whatever methods are taken to promote it; whatever
means a sovereign God, whose judgments are a great deep, employs to carry
it on; and whatever motion there may be of the animal spirits, whatever
effects may be wrought on men's bodies. 
Taken out of context, this passage is yet another weapon in the Toronto
armory, proving that Edwards might have favored the Toronto blessing.
But we have already seen what Edwards meant by an "extraordinary influence":
not bizarre manifestations, but unusually great conviction of sin, great
sense of God's reality and glory, great God-centred spiritual emotions,
and great numbers of unbelievers being converted. When Edwards says "whatever
other circumstances it may be attended with", and so on, we have seen
how he takes it for granted that the doctrinal content and spiritual experiences
of a revival must clearly be within the all-sufficient limits and guidelines
of God's Word - "the great and standing rule for the direction of his
church in all religious matters, and all concerns of their souls." The
"other circumstances" he outlined in his nine negative signs. And when
Edwards says "whatever effects may be wrought on men's bodies", we have
seen what sort of bodily effects Edwards was discussing. He did not mean
people being invaded and possessed by spiritual forces which make them
fall over, laugh hysterically or behave like animals. He meant the impact
of eternal truth on the mind and heart, so powerful that it kindles mighty
spiritual emotions towards God which affect the body.
Edwards' conclusion, rightly understood, means that the five positive
signs of a true work of God's Spirit, if they are present, show that a
religious movement or experience is genuinely from God. The five signs,
we recall, are orthodox views of Christ, heavenly-mindedness, submission
to Scripture, knowing the truth, and true love for God and man. These
must be the outstanding features which occupy centre-stage in any authentic
revival or renewal. These are the things it must overwhelmingly emphasize,
proclaim and promote. Such holy qualities, as Edwards expounded them,
seem to the present writer to be painfully inconsistent with the content
and effects of the Toronto blessing But the opinion of an individual is
not particularly relevant. The onus lies on those who have used the name
of Edwards as a shield to protect the Toronto blessing from criticism,
and give it respectability: Let them summon up the honesty and courage
to re-assess their beliefs, experiences and practices in the bright and
cleansing light of what Edwards really said. Then they might receive an
"Edwards blessing." It could change their lives.
Endnotes for Part Two:
- Distinguishing Marks, p. 266, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 266, col. 2. 'The light within' is a reference to the Quaker
teaching that Christ is mystically and inwardly present in every human
being, and can be discovered by journeying into the depths of one's
own spirit. Similar views exist today in New Age circles and even among
- Religious Affections, p. 277-8.
- The Touch of God, pp. 13-14.
- For the teachings of the Faith Movement (or Rhema Bible Church),
whose leaders include Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Fred Price, Ray
McCauley, Charles Capps, Marilyn Hickey, Robert Tilton, Buddy Harrison,
and to a lesser extent Benny Hinn (who claims to have renounced these
heresies, but still indirectly propagates them by publicly praising
and defending Faith teachers like Copeland as true men of God), see
D.R.McConnell's A Different Gospel (Hendrickson, 1988), and the collection
of essays edited by M.S.Horton, The Agony of Deceit (Moody, 1990). Most
of the Faith Movement's heresies were derived from E.W.Kenyon, who died
in 1948. Kenyon was st eeped in the anti-Christian spiritual ethos and
teachings of "Christian Science" and "New Thought".
- Distinguishing Marks, p. 267, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 267, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 267, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 267, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 267, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 268, col. 1.
- Brown had the last word. Only historians and scholars read the works
of Irving today, works disfigured by his unhappy and long-winded insistence
on the "fallen" state of Christ's human nature. But many ordinary Christians
continue to be edified by David Brown's contributions to the Jamieson,
Fausset and Brown commentary on the Bible, and by Brown's classic book
on the second coming, Christ's Second Coming: Will it be Premillennial?
(1846). We should replace Irving's tragic rebuke to Brown with a hearty
blessing: "Sir, your sanctified intellect has won you esteem and gratitude"
- Distinguishing Marks, p.268, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 268, col. 2.
- Religious Affections, p. 275, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 275, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 276, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 279, col. 1.
- Distinguishing Marks, p. 268, col. 2.
- Ibid., p. 268, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 268, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 268, col. 1.
- Ibid., p. 269, col. 1.The phrase 'animal spirits' in the 18th century
referred to chemical influences in the body which humans have in common
with animals. What Edwards would have made of humans being possessed
by 'animal spirits' in the sense of spiritual powers that induce animalistic
behaviour is another matter!
- Ibid., p. 271, col. 1.