Sanctification between Westminster and Northampton


  • Andreas J. Beck Evangelical Theological Faculty, Leuven.
  • Willem van Vlastuin VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam.


Northampton, Westminster, Sanctification


This article compares the structure of the doctrine of sanctification in the Westminster Confession and Jonathan Edwards’ theology. The Westminster Confession is characterized by a strong accent on the covenant of grace. This accent coheres with an explicit place for the law and the believer. The Westminster Confession is characterized by progressive sanctification, without compromising mortification.

In Edward’s theology the function of the outer covenant and law plays a less prominent role. His doctrine of sanctification is rather characterized by the indwelling of the Person of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit-centered doctrine of sanctification does not imply that the function of the human personality is weakened by the prominent presence of the Spirit. The human personality is respected because of the restoration of the image of God.

Other theological and spiritual consequences of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Edwards’ theology are the concentration on love, the eschatological character of the doctrine of sanctification, implicating a continuity between the spiritual life on earth and in heaven. The article ends with some considerations about the strengths and weaknesses of Edwards’ theological concept of the indwelling of the Spirit from a Reformed point of view.