As I have been reading through volume 2 of Mastricht’s work, I have been struck by the way in which both men constantly dealt with the importance of the economic Trinity. For instance, Edwards dealt extensively with the idea of the economic Trinity when speaking of the ad extra work of God in redemption.
In a letter to his disciple, Joseph Bellamy, Jonathan Edwards praised Petrus Van Mastrict’s Theologia Theoretico-Practica as being “much better than…any other Book in the world, excepting the Bible, in my opinion.”1
I have long wanted to compare Mastricht’s theology with that of Edwards’ in order to see where the scholastic theologian of the Great Awakening was influenced by the great scholastic theologian of the Dutch Second Reformation. As I have been reading through volume 2 of Mastricht’s work, I have been struck by the way in which both men constantly dealt with the importance of the economic Trinity. For instance, Edwards dealt extensively with the idea of the economic Trinity when speaking of the ad extra work of God in redemption. In his 1746 sermon, “Of God the Father,” Edwards wrote,
“The three persons of the Trinity, in the great affair of our redemption, act as a society united to carry on a great affair; and as a society that has an established order in it…one being chief and head of the society and others in their order subject and dependent. There is one of ’em that is first in the affair and head of all; another acts as second in the affair and as an intermediate person between the first and the last; the other acts as last and as subject to, and dependent on, the other two. There is this order [that] is observed by the persons of the Trinity in their acting in all affairs appertaining to the glory of the Godhead [and the] creation of the world. But it is more especially conspicuous in the affair of man’s redemption. The persons of the Trinity thus acting as a society in an established order is what divines call the “economy of the persons of the Trinity,” comparing it to the order of a family. The word “economy” signifies family order.”2
The idea that the persons in the Godhead are ordered in such a way in the work of redemption as to reflect an order of a family or society comes directly out of Van Mastrciht’s section on “The Most Holy Trinity” (Theoretical Practical Theology, vol. 2). In entry 482 of his Miscellanies, Edwards relays his dependance on Mastricht. He wrote,
“Concerning the Economy of the Persons of the Trinity and the Church’s Communion with God. See Mastricht, Lib. II, cap. 24, § 11.”3
Interestingly, the three editors (Beeke, Rester and Todd) of the new edition of Van Mastricht translation make the following important observation:
“By his own testimony (1.2.24. XI) Mastricht differs from his contemporaries in his more thorough treatment of the Trinitarian economy, which is woven into his broader consideration of God’s personal subsistence in chapters 24-27. It is particularly striking how he describes the three persons as members of a familia, a “household” (broader than the English “family”), all having within the household economy, according to their distinct modes of subsisting, distinct economic offices, periods, attributes, and worship. He uses this teaching to answer questions in Trinitarian theology found vexing even today, and also to encourage believers to serve the divine persons with distinct devotion according to their distinct economy.”