Jonathan Edwards is one of the largest dead influences in my life. Why? One grand reason.
Edwards has taught me that God is glorified the most when His glory His enjoyed the deepest. What do I mean? Read Edwards himself:
God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, his glory . . . both with the mind and the heart. He that testifies his having an idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation i.e., his heartfelt commendation or praise of it and his delight in it.
You see it? God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by His glory being rejoiced in.
In Psalm 27:4 David expresses this desire by only asking to bask in the beauty of the Lord. Out of all things he could’ve asked for he asked for the best thing – a glimpse of The Lord in His glory.
In Psalm 63:2 David says that He has seen God in His sanctuary and beheld Him in His glory and power. In the next verse (63:3) David then says in response “because Your love is better than life my lips will praise you.” Question – why would David not say “because Your glory is better than life?” I think the answer is quite revealing about the manner in which God loves mankind. Perhaps David saw the glory of God and rejoiced in that glory by praising the love of God because beholding God’s glory is the primary way God loves us.
This would mean that God’s love does not make much of us (man-centered view), but makes much of God Himself (God-centered view). God is beheld in His glory, God is then praised in response, man’s soul is filled with joy, and God is glorified and made much of. This displays that God is love precisely because He graciously gives the elect the greatest possession they could ever have – Himself! Jonathan Edwards has taught me this.
Here are a few more quotes from Edwards for you:
“I don’t think ministers are to be blamed for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with be only that which is worthy of affection…I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.”
“The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which also God is magnified and exalted.”
“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but the streams. But God is the ocean.”
“This is…the difference between the joy of the hypocrite, and the joy of the true saint. The hypocrite rejoices in himself; self is the first foundation of his joy. The true saint rejoices in God. True saints have their minds, in the first place, inexpressibly pleased and delighted with the sweet ideas of the glorious and amiable nature of the things of God. And this is the spring of all their delights, and the cream of all their pleasures. But the dependence of the affections of hypocrites is in a contrary order: they first rejoice…that they are made so much of by God; and then on that ground, He seems in a sort, lovely to them.”
“One new discovery of the glory of Christ’s face and the fountain of his sweet grace and love will do more towards scattering clouds of darkness and doubting in one minute than examining old experiences by the best mark that can be given a whole year.”
Edwards was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Timothy Edwards, pastor of East Windsor, and Esther Edwards. The only son in a family of eleven children, he entered Yale in September, 1716 when he was not yet thirteen and graduated four years later (1720) as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later.
As a youth, Edwards was unable to accept the Calvinist sovereignty of God. He once wrote, “From my childhood up my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty… It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me.” However, in 1721 he came to the conviction, one he called a “delightful conviction.” He was meditating on 1 Timothy 1:17, and later remarked, “As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before… I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven; and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever!” From that point on, Edwards delighted in the sovereignty of God. Edwards later recognized this as his conversion to Christ.
In 1727 he was ordained minister at Northampton and assistant to his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was a student minister, not a visiting pastor, his rule being thirteen hours of study a day. In the same year, he married Sarah Pierpont, then age seventeen, daughter of James Pierpont (1659–1714), a founder of Yale, originally called the Collegiate School. In total, Jonathan and Sarah had eleven children.
Solomon Stoddard died on February 11th, 1729, leaving to his grandson the difficult task of the sole ministerial charge of one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the colony. Throughout his time in Northampton his preaching brought remarkable religious revivals. Jonathan Edwards was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s.
Yet, tensions flamed as Edwards would not continue his grandfather’s practice of open communion. Stoddard, his grandfather, believed that communion was a “converting ordinance.” Surrounding congregations had been convinced of this, and as Edwards became more convinced that this was harmful, his public disagreement with the idea caused his dismissal in 1750.
Edwards then moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, then a frontier settlement, where he ministered to a small congregation and served as missionary to the Housatonic Indians. There, having more time for study and writing, he completed his celebrated work, The Freedom of the Will (1754).
Edwards was elected president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in early 1758. He was a popular choice, for he had been a friend of the College since its inception and was the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time. On March 22, 1758, he died of fever at the age of fifty-four following experimental inoculation for smallpox and was buried in the President’s Lot in the Princeton cemetery beside his son-in-law, Aaron Burr.