Jonathan Edwards and Basil of Caesarea: A Shared Emphasis & Challenge


Compare these two statements:

“The Spirit of God is given to the true saints to dwell in them, as his proper lasting abode… The light of the Sun of Righteousness don’t only shine upon them, but is so communicated to them, that they shine also, and become little images of that Sun which shines upon them…”

“When a sunbeam falls on a transparent substance, the substance itself becomes brilliant, and radiates light from itself. So too Spirit-bearing souls, illumined by Him [i.e. the Spirit], finally become spiritual themselves, and their grace is sent forth to others.”

The first is from Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections (and yes Edwards wrote “don’t”—a different grammatical world!). The second is from Basil of Caesarea, On the Holy Spirit 9.23. Did Edwards read Basil? I have never seen anything to suggest he did. He clearly knew Augustine—how many of the other Patristic authors needs further researching. But I have never seen a reference to Basil in any of Edwards’ writings.

But the resemblance between these two texts in terms of the core idea is striking: Christians are those who are so filled with divine glory that they become brilliant reflections of it to others. Both Basil and Edwards—despite clear differences in their theologies—had high expectations of the saints; they are to be vehicles of grace to others. The saints themselves are not the source of that grace: that is evident from the same metaphor that both use. But both of them are deeply convinced that the social dimension of fellowship is vital to Christian maturity. Are we?