Happy Birthday Jonathan Edwards – 313 Today!

On October 5, 1703 Jonathan Edwards was born, and today 313 years later we are thankful and grateful for his life and ministry.

It’s a shame that all most Americans know of the Puritans is a few excerpts from Jonathan Edward’s famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God. It’s a great sermon, don’t get me wrong, but most American history texts that mention the Puritans at all usually only have a paragraph or two of this sermon in it. Taken out of context then, most people today believe the Puritans to be those who aim to ‘squash the pleasure and delight of anyone anywhere who is having any amount of fun.’

Nothing could be further from the truth. A simple reading of the whole of this famous sermon from Edwards shows that the reason he spoke so horrifyingly of hell was because he believed heaven to be so gloriously wonderful. Yes, Jonathan Edwards and his Puritan companions, took great delight in the many thing. It’s just that the things they took delight in really matter. And perhaps this is why we don’t understand the Puritans today, because we seem to be bent on doing the opposite by taking delight in everything that doesn’t matter. When an infinite ocean of glory is before our eyes in the pages of sacred Scripture, we fiddle around with the latest iPhone or the latest TV show on HGTV. It would do us good to step back from the pressure our society places on us to always be up to par with the latest trends and step into the world of Jonathan Edwards.

Take a moment to absorb a few of his quotes:

“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. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might be received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.”

“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.”

“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.”

See the great delight this man took in God? No one talks like this anymore, and to me, that’s a shame. It’s a fresh breeze to my modern soul to see a man take such deep pleasure in God and His truth. I’m challenged and I’m comforted every time I open up a Puritan work, especially one by Edwards. This is why his picture is hanging on my wall, and this is why his work will always hold a special place in my heart (and should be in your heart as well!).

Today, on his 313th birthday, may you be refreshed by this giant among men. Here are some free resources on Edwards – enjoy!

Free Book: A God Entranced Vision of All Things

Free Book: God’s Passion For His Glory

Conference Message: A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later

Conference Message: Jonathan Edwards: The Life, the Man, and the Legacy

Podcast: Happy Birthday, Rev. Edwards

A Lecture Series: Jonathan Edwards

A George Marsden Lecture: Jonathan Edwards for the Twenty-first Century

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Books vs the Bible?

If there is one thing you may not know about me is my love of books.

If you saw my library you’d see I have lots of books, from many different generations, different styles, different genres, different authors, different denominations, and those don’t even cover the ones on my Logos collection. Beginning in my early days in college at an interdenominational school here in Florida we were taught to think outside the box and read from many different authors who challenge our presuppositions about ministry, theology, doctrine, and practice. I’m very grateful for those early days. It trained me to think outside of my own theological spectrum. Now, not only did my time there teach me to think outside of my boundaries, it also taught me to appreciate the value that books have in forming the Christian life.

In literature and books we have great wisdom from men and women that have gone before us. We have their application of Scripture and encouragement for times of sorrow and times of joy. We have their instruction on how to think through hard issues. We have their synthesis of Scripture to point us to a fuller understanding of the text of Scripture. However, it is important to understand those books should never take the place of Scripture in your spiritual life.

In too many cases it is easy to become overwhelmed by the knowledge of those who came after the apostles rather than the apostles, the prophets, and Jesus Himself. We must never overlook the importance of Scripture alone as the foundation for our spiritual health. You are grown most fundamentally through the Word of God. Therefore when it comes to reading apart from it, it is important that we choose books that will encourage and inform us on the truth of Scripture. Books that will encourage and push us forward in our spiritual journey. This is especially true when it comes to selecting devotionals.

Do we choose resources that encourage and inflame our love for the Scriptures? Do we choose resources that encourage and push us back to know more about what the Word of God says, or do we select devotionals that point us back to ourselves and what we think about things?

Do not be deceived by false teachers that would put their words above God’s Word. In our day and age it’s very easy to be misled by false teachers through the books that we read, especially from books sold in Christian bookstores. Just because a Christian bookstore sells it does not make it Christian or Biblical in its application of Scripture or its understanding of God’s word. But I guess the question remains what do we read?

First and foremost read the Bible.

It is the only thing that gives us hope, that truly reveals an understanding of who God is. This is not to dissuade you from reading, but rather to make sure that our foundation is set first and foremost on our understanding of God. We must read with an aim to know and see God in His Word and in the words of others.

Second, read books that will encourage you in your walk with the Christ

Now these are books that can range from daily devotionals to theological works.  Most of us since early days in our Christian faith were encouraged to do a daily devotional. Throughout Church history many great men have written their own devotionals, such as Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening, which are still used by many even today. Aside from devotionals though you’d also find great spiritual encouragement through theological works such as J. C. Ryle’s classic Holiness, or even something slightly newer like Knowing God by J. I. Packer. 

On our own homepage we list the four theological works that each of us are currently reading. As you can see from the list currently both Adam and myself are reading books by Michael Horton. Adam, reading one of his newer works, Ordinary. This book encourages us to see that our lives, even though they may appear ordinary, are really the supernatural work of God. Myself, on the other hand, am reading a book that he wrote several years ago on our call to be disciple makers. Horton does this by walking us through the importance of the great commission and our job as believers to follow through with that call. You can see each of these books seek to further our knowledge of God and a reliance on Him through the Scriptures.

Third, Read a good biography

For many of you this third category seems obvious. Biographies are very common in our day and age so much so that their use to actually be a television channel dedicated to them. That should be no shock to you that we as believers should be encouraged to read good biographies especially about the lives of the saints of God who lived before us. You’d be amazed at the things that believers went through and how through the power of God they overcame their trials and temptation and found joy and contentment in Christ alone. Biographies are great blessing to the Christian as we see time and time again the work of the Lord in His saints. Now I am not saying to go out and buy the two volume George Whitefield biography collection by Arnold Dallimore, though it is a fantastic book series, but there are some great short biographies put out by Ligonier ministries, also John Piper on his website Desiring God wrote some short biographies on some great saints such as David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards that can bring great encouragement to your Christian walk. Mostly, biographies help us to know that we are not alone in our journey, we are not the first to experience the things that we’ve experienced, just as the Lord was faithful to them so too we can trust that he will be faithful to us.

Finally, (though not least in importance) enjoy a good work of fiction.

Now this being the last category that I’ll discuss for many of us it may be our favorite category. A good fictional novel  can range from some of the great works of the past like To Kill a Mockingbird, Oliver Twist or The Lord of the Rings to some of the newer works of fiction such as the works of Stephen King, Ken Follett, George R. R. Martin or maybe J. K. Rowling. Fictional works help to expand our imaginations. They can help us to see the world in a different light, especially for ministers, fictional novels help us to think differently about the world around us. Fictional novels can open our imaginations, broaden our visual vocabulary, and allow us to get a look into the way our culture thinks and acts by the way they write about the world.

In conclusion this is an encouragement to those of us who love books, who love our libraries, who love great authors and theologians, so much so that we spend great deals of time with them, to not lose sight of the truth of God in the midst of the words of others. And to those who don’t read as often, to see, in works of theology, works of Christian growth, stories of brothers and sisters who have walked the path before, an opportunity for you to grow in your understanding of the Scriptures and to grow in your understanding of the work of God through the lives of others.

Above all else again the Bible must be central to our understanding. While we can learn from great men and women through their writings as they have experienced the work of God in them, through them, and through their knowledge of Him, they are still but mortals. Their words are but temporary while the Word of the Lord is eternal.

A Long Post on a Dead Man: The Legacy of David Brainerd

David-BrainerdToday in 1747 David Brainerd, puritan missionary to the Native Americans, died.  He is my hero.  To honor this man, I’ve put together a long post detailing his life and thought.  In summary his life was one of ‘pleasing pain.’  To find out why read on:

John Piper says, “Hebrews 11 is a divine mandate to read Christian biography. The unmistakable implication of the chapter is that, if we hear about the faith of our forefathers (and mothers), we will “lay aside every weight and sin” and “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1). If we asked the author, “How shall we stir one another up to love and good works?” (10:24), his answer would be: “Through encouragement from the living (10:25) and the dead” (chap. 11). Christian biography is the means by which “body life” cuts across the generations.”

There are two ways of representing and recommending true religion and virtue to the world.  First, by doctrine and teaching, and the second, by example.  Both are used in the Scriptures. One example, David Brainerd, was not worthy of this world (Hebrews 11:38). But at the same time, David Brainerd’s story needs to be told to the world to see exactly what the world was so unworthy of.

It is true to say that no one would know who David Brainerd was if not for Jonathan Edwards. I say this because after Brainerd died, Edwards took Brainerd’s diary and made a book that has stood the test of time, ‘The Life and Diary of David Brainerd.’ Ed Reese made a great claim of this book, “In truth David Brainerd’s life and sacrifice reached out and touched the whole world, challenging more people into Christian service than perhaps any other man that ever lived.” Francis M. Dubose said, “Almost immediately upon (the Diary’s) publication, it captured the hearts of the protestant world. For over a century it was one of the most popular documents in evangelical circles. Its influence has been enormous.” Brainerd, a Congregationalist, lived a short life of only 29 years, from 1718 to 1747. For only being a Christian eight of those years, and a missionary to the Indians for only four, Brainerd’s life will not soon be forgotten.

Born on April 20, 1718, in Saddam Connecticut, Brainerd entered the world. In that year John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards turned fourteen, and Benjamin Franklin turned twelve and George Whitfield had his third birthday. Edwards commented once, “From birth, Brainerd was by his constitution and natural temper, so prone to melancholy and dejection of spirit…in which he exceeded all melancholy persons that ever I was acquainted with.” His father, Hezekiah, died when he was only nine years old, his mother, Dorothy died when he was thirteen. The parents were not the only ones to die early; his older brother Nehemiah, died when he was thirty-two, another brother Israel, died at twenty-three, a sister Jerusha, died at thirty four, and David himself died at twenty-nine. Brainerd said in his diary “I was from my youth somewhat sober, and inclined rather to melancholy than the contrary extreme…” Right before his mother’s death he was almost convinced to be a Christian, but was so distressed after her death that his religious concern began to fade away. He moved in with his sister, Jerusha, and after trying his hand at farming, grew a desire to attend Yale.

His language would sound very Christian to a modern believer, but puritans often described themselves as yearning to enter the ministry while they were unconverted. This was David’s experience as well. He struggled with his religious duties that he learned from his father and saw nothing in himself that would ever be pleasing to God. He was frightened so much at times he thought the ground would give way and send him to hell before he could make it home. He fought with his depravity, the law of God, the sovereignty of God, and the idea of faith but was brought by God to repentance and a right view of these things. Soon after these struggles he said this, “Thus God, I trust, brought me to a hearty disposition to exalt Him and set Him upon the throne, and principally and ultimately to aim at His honor and glory, as King of the universe.” He was now soundly converted and getting ready to prepare for his liberal education at Yale.

He entered Yale to prepare for the ministry but found it harder than he had anticipated. “There was hazing by the upperclassmen, little spirituality, difficult studies, and he got measles and had to go home for several weeks during that first year.” On his return after the measles had passed, during his second year, he had to return home again because he was so sick that he was spitting blood. He already had the tuberculosis that would take his life seven years later. He returned to Yale in 1740 and was happy to see that the campus had changed. George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, Ebenezer Pemberton, and James Davenport had been there to preach, and students were in awe of the gospel through their fiery preaching.

Then began what would eventually get Brainerd kicked out of Yale for good, never to return.

During the awakening on campus, tensions grew between the students and the faculty. The faculty brought in Jonathan Edwards to preach at a commencement ceremony with hopes that he would side with the faculty and tell the students they were out of line. He did not. He preached a sermon titled “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” Edwards tried to persuade that what was happening among the students was true, in spite of their seemingly unrestrained behavior. The students were so stirred up at this time they were rebuking the faculty by calling them unconverted men. That very morning the faculty had decided that if any student called them unconverted, they should have to make a public confession before Yale. If they did this twice, they would be expelled. David Brainerd was in the audience that day Edwards preached. Although his grades earned him a spot at the top of his class, he was expelled from Yale during his third year. Why? He was overheard saying two comments that enraged the faculty. First, he said that Chauncey Whittelsey, one of the tutors, “has no more grace than a chair.” Second, he had wondered aloud why the Rector had not dropped down dead for fining students for their evangelical zeal.

Because Brainerd was expelled from Yale, his entire life would change direction. He had wanted to be a pastor in a quiet town and left alone with his books. A law had been passed that you could not be a minister unless you had graduated from Yale, Harvard, or a European university. This severed the pastorate from Brainerd, even after several pleas by other men and himself for re-admittance.

Before we go on we must address two huge things that happened from Brainerd’s expulsion from Yale. First: directly after he left, he labored to make peace and get back into Yale. Jonathan Dickinson and Aaron Burr took up his cause with Yale as well. Yale stood their ground and would not let Brainerd back in. This news eventually got to the New York and New Jersey Presbyterian Synods. These two synods were fed up with Yale, and began a new school in 1746 called, The College of New Jersey, or later named Princeton. Dickinson and Burr were the first leaders of the new school. Later in life while Brainerd was ministering to the Iroquois Indians, which he moved on from due to lack of fruit and frustration, a man named Eleazar Wheelock got a hold of Brainerd’s journal during his time there and was so inspired he moved to the Iroquois and began to minister to them. Soon, after much success, Wheelock founded a school for the Indians and the Whites. He moved the school to Hanover, then to New Hampshire, where he named the school, Dartmouth College. Do you see the significance of this? If Brainerd had not been expelled from Yale, neither of these two universities would have been started. We see that God is always at work even in the darkest of times.

Second, John Piper comments on Brainerd’s ordeal with Yale by drawing out this massive lesson. “There is a tremendous lesson here. God is at work for the glory of His name and the good of His church even when the good intentions of His servants fail – even when that failing is owing to sin or carelessness. One careless word, spoken in haste, and Brainerd’s life seemed to fall apart before his eyes. But God knew better, and Brainerd came to accept it.”

This is right. God knew better. Brainerd struggled with it, but came to embrace it. God, behind the scenes of this horrible expulsion and agony of failure, was weaving a story out of a young man’s life that would shape history forever. I can say that because after leaving Yale, Brainerd began to sense a leading to give his life away for the sake of the gospel among those who have never heard it. He said in his journal that he “found himself willing, if God should so order it, to suffer banishment from my native land, among the heathen, that I might do something for their salvation, in distresses and deaths of any kind.” Why did young David begin to find “himself willing?” Because God was ‘so ordering it.’

David Brainerd spent the rest of his short life laboring among the Indians for their salvation. Under the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, he went to the most of the tribes around the Kaunaumeek and the Crossweeksung areas. He suffered the entire time due to his tuberculosis and eventually died on October 9, 1747 in Jonathan Edward’s home. Jerusha (Jonathan Edwards’ 17 year old daughter) was his nurse for 19 weeks, devoting herself with great delight because she looked on him as a powerful servant of Jesus Christ. During this time the two, Jerusha and Brainerd, fell in love. Five days before his death, October 4th, “he recorded this touching conversation with Jerusha, in appreciation of her constant companionship and love.

“Dear Jerusha…though, if I thought I should not see you, and be happy with you in another world, I could not bear to part with you. But we shall spend a happy eternity together.” Four months later, the saddened Jerusha, became sick and died on February 14, 1748. She was buried next to him. Jonathan Edwards knew Jerusha caught the disease that killed her from Brainerd, and was not bitter. He said, “I would not conclude my observations on the merciful circumstances of Mr. Brainerd’s death without acknowledging with thankfulness the gracious dispensation of providence to me and my family in so ordering that he…should be cast hither to my house, in his last sickness, and should die here: So that we had opportunity for much acquaintance and conversation with him, and to show him kindness in such circumstances, and to see his dying behavior, to hear his dying speeches, to receive his dying counsel, and to have the benefit of his dying prayers.”

Edwards later said, “It has pleased a holy and sovereign God, to take away this my dear child by death, on the 14th of February…after a short illness of five days, in the 18th year of her age. She was a person of much the same spirit with Brainerd. She had constantly taken care of and attended him in this sickness, for nineteen weeks before his death; devoting herself to it with great delight…”

Is it not awe-inspiring to see this come out of Edwards, in full view of the cost it would take on his daughter’s life? Remember, if Brainerd was never expelled from Yale, only God knows if this would have happened.

Now, I said earlier that no one would know who David Brainerd was if it weren’t for Jonathan Edwards. I say that because after Brainerd’s death, Edwards took all his journals and diaries and wrote what we now call ‘The Life and Diary of David Brainerd.’ I say we now call it that because in 1749 Edwards first called it; ‘An Account of the Life of the late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd, Minister of the Gospel, Missionary to the Indians, from the honorable Society in Scotland, for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, and Pastor of a Church of Christian Indians in New Jersey. Who died at Northhampton in New England, October 9, 1747, in the 30th year of his Age : Chiefly taken from his own Diary, and other private Writings, written for his own Use; and now published by Jonathan Edwards, A.M., Minister of the Gospel at Northampton.’ Gotta love long Puritan titles huh? To this book we now turn.

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd was published in 1749 and has never been out of print. In fact out of all the books that Jonathan Edwards wrote, this diary of Brainerd’s life has been reprinted more than any of his other books. John Wesley said, “Let every preacher read carefully over the Life of David Brainerd.” Henry Martyn, a missionary to India and Persia said while he was “perusing the life of David Brainerd, his soul was filled with a holy emulation of that extraordinary man; and after deep consideration and fervent prayer, he was at length fixed in a resolution to imitate his example.” The list of other people who were inspired by this book are: William Carey, Robert Morrison, Robert McCheyne, F. W. Robertson, Ion Keith Falconer, Francis Asbury, A. J. Gordon, Thomas Coke, John Mills, Frederick Schwartz, David Livingston, Andrew Murray, and Jim Elliot to name a few. Gideon Hawley, a missionary during the time of Jonathan Edwards wrote, “I need, greatly need, something more than human to support me. I read my Bible and Mr. Brainerd’s Life, the only books I brought with me, and from them have a little support.” John Piper says, “Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints who cry to Him day and night to accomplish amazing things for His glory.”

Clyde Kilby described it like this, “It is not Brainerd’s accomplishments as a missionary, significant as they were, that have perpetuated his influence. It certainly is not his perturbations of spirit or his sense of vileness or his flagellation “complex” or his morbidity. I venture to say that it is not even his diary so much as the idea back of all which eventuated in molding the man. In our timidity and our shoddy opportunism we are always stirred when a man appears on the horizon willing to stake his all on a conviction.”

The conviction Brainerd was willing to stake all on was not any conviction, but the conviction that we all must have. It was a desire for the glory of God in the salvation of the world.

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd has affected me in a substantial way. I have scarcely found the amount of interwoven passion and struggle in one man. You can not only understand what he is saying as you read, you can feel what he is feeling as he penned the words. Few writers have felt so close to my soul as David Brainerd has; the more I read him, the more knit to him I feel.

Here are my favorite quotes so far:

“Towards night, enjoyed some of the clearest thoughts on a divine subject (viz., that treated of 1 Cor. 15:13-16) that ever I remember to have had upon any subject whatsoever; and spent two or three hours in writing them. I was refreshed with the intenseness: My mind was so engaged in these meditations I could scarcely turn it to anything else; and indeed I could not be willing to part with so sweet an entertainment.”

“No poor creature stands in need of divine grace more than I, and none abuse it more than I have done, and still do.”

“At night God enabled me to give my soul up to Him, to cast myself upon Him, to be ordered and disposed of according to His sovereign pleasure; and I enjoyed great peace and consolation in so doing. My soul took sweet delight in God; my thoughts freely and sweetly centered in Him. Oh, that I could spend every moment of my life to His glory!”

“Saw so much of the wickedness of my heart that I longed to get away from myself. I never before thought there was so much spiritual pride in my soul. I felt almost pressed to death with my own vileness. Oh what a body of death is there in me…Oh the closest walk with God is the sweetest heaven that can be enjoyed on earth!”

The past four quotes are very good illustrations of what his life was like. Remember he was prone to depression, but his loathing over his own sin was profound, as was his praise. He always was either up or down in his spiritual life with God. Often he found himself very down or very high. Is this not so much like us? How often are we either very up in exultation and praise to Christ, and then the next day, (or next hour!) be very down in longing to get away from ourselves? This is one reason that history has so much to teach us, and why every Christian should dive into biographies. Because we are like people who have gone before us, and our struggles are not new. If they got through them, by God’s help, we can too. This is the whole point of Hebrews 11 – 12:1. That we would be encouraged to press on by seeing the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us.

Here are some other quotes:

“I saw so much of my hellish vileness that I appeared worse to myself than any devil. I wondered that God would let me live and wondered that people did not stone me, much more that they would ever hear me preach! It seemed as though I never could nor should preach anymore; yet about nine or ten o’ clock the people came over, and I was forced to preach.”

“God is unspeakably gracious to me continually. In times past, He has given me inexpressible sweetness in the performances of duty. Frequently my soul has enjoyed much of God; but has been ready to say, ‘Lord, it is good to be here,’ and so to indulge sloth while I have lived on the sweetness of my feelings. But of late, God has been pleased to keep my soul hungry almost continually, so that I have been filled with a kind of pleasing pain. When I really enjoy God, I feel my desires of Him the more insatiable, and my thirsting after holiness the more unquenchable. And the Lord will not allow me to feel as though I were fully supplied and satisfied, but keeps me still reaching forward. I feel barren and empty, as though I could not live without more of God; I feel ashamed as guilty before Him. Oh! I see that “the law is spiritual, but I am carnal.” I do not, I cannot live to God. Oh for holiness! Oh, for more of God in my soul! Oh, this pleasing pain! It makes my soul press hard after God…Oh that I may feel this continual hunger, and not be retarded, but rather animated by every cluster from Canaan to reach forward in the narrow way, for the full enjoyment and possession of the heavenly inheritance! Oh, that I may never loiter in my heavenly journey!”

So, I commend you to David Brainerd. That you may also feel the weight of this ‘pleasing pain’, and become intimate with what it’s like to feel that you cannot live without more of God.

Jonathan Edwards: Glorifying God by Enjoying the Glory of God

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.

Jonathan_Edwards

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.”

Brief Bio:

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.

Edwards Resolution-athon: Thank You!

Today marks the end of January’s Jonathan Edwards Resolution-athon.  I had fun, I hope you did as well.  Thank you for all who commented and kept up with it.  To end with a bang, I want to give you my favorite quotes from Edwards as a tribute to him.  Enjoy!

Thank you God, for Jonathan Edwards

“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. His glory is then received by the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that He might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory; and that it might [be] received both by the mind and heart. He that testifies his idea of God’s glory doesn’t glorify God so much as he that testifies also his approbation of it and his delight in it.”

“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 Resolution-athon: Day 26

Resolution 70:

Let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

This is the last day I’m going to give you a resolution.  Some of you may be happy about that!  Tomorrow I’ll give you one last gift about Edwards, but you’ll have to wait till then to find out exactly what it is.

Resolution 70 is a simple one, but one we all need to hear.  Our speech really matters.  There must be nothing unwholesome in it (Eph. 4:29).  Every idle word a man speaks he’ll give account of on the day of judgment (Matt. 12:36).  With it we have the ability to murder (Matt 5:21-22 ), with it we can destroy our neighbor or bring healing (Prov. 11:9, 12:18), and with it we too often bless God and curse men (James 3:1-12).  Our speech matters.

Therefore, when you use your tongue today, labor and work (Ecc. 12:10-11) to fill your speech with grace, kindness, benevolence, and love.  Have your tongue be strong in the “grace that is in the Lord Jesus.” (2 Tim. 2:1).  When this happens, your words won’t be wasted.

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 25

Resolution 67:

Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

We all go through hard times and trials.  But if your like me, you stop thinking about the trial when its over.  You’re just glad to be out in the light again!  Edwards, thankfully, did not want to do that.   He resolves here to think about what he gained in the trial after its done.  Two passages of Scripture come to mind from this resolution.  In order for Edwards to say this, he must have loved two truths:

a) Romans 8:28, “And we know that causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  This means God is at work, in the best possible way for our best possible good in every trial that comes our way.  How are we to know that good unless we think about the trial when its done?  How am I better because of this hard time?  What did I gain by it?  What good did God plan for me to have from this pain?

b) James 1:2-4.  My favorite version of this is the old Living Bible translation.  It says, “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations?  Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems.  For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”  This means God works wonders in us and grows us up through hard difficult times.  If God is doing this much work in us through trials, wouldn’t it be a good idea to stop and think after the trial how much we’ve changed because of it?  This was a profitable exercise for Edwards, and has been for me as well when I’ve done it.

Don’t just forget your trials when there gone, think long and hard about how God has changed you for the good in them.

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 24

Resolution 63:

On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time.

With only 4 days left in the Edwards Resolution-athon and many many resolutions left to discuss, I chose this resolution today because of its strange-ness.

It seems from first look that Edwards resolves a sort of competition Christianity or Olympic-spirituality, as if his faith was a race/contest with all other Christians.  Is this right for him to do so?  Is it right for Edwards to resolve to be the one true Christian in his generation?  Yes.  First because Paul calls us athletes in 2 Tim. 2:5.  Second, listen to Paul in 1 Cor. 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win.  Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.  They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

There you have it, “…run in such a way that you may win…”.  Paul and Edwards are not so much saying that our faith should be an individualistic Olympian-campaign.  They’re saying we should run (in our faith) as if we we’re running to win.  Think about it.  What if all Christians do this?  Imagine how loving, how humble, how gracious, how kind, how God besotted the Church would seem!  That would be awesome.  As I’m writing this, I’m wondering how many of you have even heard that your faith is like a race and that you’re to run to win.  I honestly think that many of you have not heard this before.  So I want to ask you all one question:

Are you running at all?  Run to win.

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 23

Resolution 56:

Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Edwards picks up a theme here that is almost absent in the modern Church.  VIOLENCE.

Did you know there is a violent mean streak in Christianity?  Did you also know that if you’re not violent than you’ll perish?  Jesus said in Matthew 11:12, “…the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and violent men take it by force.”

Yes, there is a violence in our faith, but we must ask, violence against who, or whom?  Not other people, not any non-Christian.  Then who?  We’re to be violent to every desire in us that wants to be violent to other people.  We’re to be violent against our sin.  Romans 8:12-13 says, “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

Yes.  You must be violent against your sin.  John Owen once said something similar, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”  How do you fight and put to death the deeds of the body?  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we wield the sword of God, His Word.  We must fight to get in it, fight to have it in us, fight to know and treasure Jesus through it, and fight to pray it.  I’m convinced that if you don’t fight for your faith, you’ll lose your faith.  Why?  Because fighting is not an option for us.  Satan, our enemy, has already picked up his weapons and is coming at us with worldly power.  It is not an option for us to take up God’s sword and fight back.

Lastly, notice that Edwards acknowledges that his fight may not always be successful.  You need to know this as well, that your fighting will fail at times.  When this happens, don’t worry.  Grace is present to lead you back to fighting as you ought.  Repent, and seek both the King and His Kingdom (see Lamentations 3:22-23, and Micah 7:8-9).

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 22

Resolution 52:

I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.

The most stunning thing about this resolution is that it rings true for every generation of mankind.

Every person on earth, in every time, and in every culture carries in it a desire to not waste their lives.  Now, what a wasted life looks like, is where most of our differences come from.  The wasted life of a person may be un-wasted life of another.  What did Edwards mean when he saw something in the elderly’s lives that he did not want in his own?

He meant that he did not want to get to the end of his life, and realize that he could have lived differently, better, bolder, stronger.  Now, Edwards did not believe in salvation by works and seek to work harder in life so as not to resent his living at death’s door.  He knew what Francis Asbury knew and said in 1779, “We should so work as if we were to be saved by our works; and so rely on Jesus Christ, as if we did no works.”  Edwards was moved from seeing the elderly’s wishes to spend his life to the full, making the most of his time for the kingdom of Jesus.

The hard question for us (that matters a lot for how you spend today) then is: “Will you regret how you lived at the end?”  If not, keep doing what you’re doing.  If so, it’s never to late to change everything.  Matter of fact, everyone can change something about their life, what’s stopping you from doing so in 2014?

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 21

Resolution 48:

Resolved, constantly, with the utmost niceness and diligence, and the strictness scrutiny, to be looking into the state of my soul, that I may know whether I truly have an interest in Christ or no; that when I come to die, I may not have any negligence respecting this to repent of.

I just have one question from this for you today.  Do you do this?  Do you examine yourself to see if you truly are in Christ or not?  This is Edwards desire in this resolution.  Is he just trying to be super spiritual?  No, he is trying to be Biblical, and I think you should as well.

We all must both be challenged and put into practice 2 Corinthians 13:5,“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves.  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?”

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 20

Resolution 45:

Resolved, never to allow any pleasure or grief, joy or sorrow, nor any affection at all, nor any degree of affection, nor any circumstance relating to it, but what helps religion.

This resolution goes perfectly with one of my favorite resolutions (# 22).  I say this because we see two sides of the coin of pleasure and affection in #22 and #45.  The side showing in #22 is pleasure and affection for the soul which is only to be found in Jesus.  The side showing in #45 is all the pleasures and affections of this world, trying to rob us of the true pleasures in Jesus.

Notice how Edwards calls these joy robbing desires  “pleasures”  here in #45?  Why does he do this?  Aren’t they bad and sinful?  YES!  But he knows what the author of Hebrews knows, that sin is pleasurable, for a time (Heb. 11:25-26).  We all see this in our lives.  We feel two competing desires almost constantly.  One telling us and luring us into the lasting delight that is to be had in Jesus, which can take some hard work to attain; and the other telling us and luring us into the passing delight of sin, which is easy to attain.

What are we to do with these two desires?  If we seek to kill one of these desires the other will reign in us.  The question is which one will you choose?  Which shall we choose?  We must deny tin to have gold.  We must run from copper with all our might so we can have silver!  Gold and silver end in eternal life, tin and copper end in destruction.  Gold and silver can only be had in Jesus.

Like Edwards, I desire to never allow tin and copper into my life to rob me of lasting, true, pleasure.  I want gold and silver.  I want Jesus, not sin.  What do you want?

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 19

Resolution 38:

Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord’s day.

This resolution is a little more characteristic of the “puritan lifestyle” most of us know from our high school history textbooks.  But before you assume that Edwards is crazy for never speaking anything funny or about sport on Sundays, let’s ask why he would resolve something like this.

He knew that Israel was commanded to have a Sabbath day dedicated to worship (Exodus 20:8-10), and he knew most Christians ignore this today, and skip over where it says the Sabbath day is still in effect (Hebrews 4:1-11).  So the question remains?  Why would he do this?  Because God commanded it, and he wanted to make sure his whole soul was fixed on God for the whole Sabbath day.

No matter whether you agree with him or not about sport or laughter on the Sabbath, the fact remains: a Sabbath day exists still, will you honor it and worship Jesus throughout that day?  Or ignore Him?

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 18

Resolution 36:

Resolved, never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call for it.

In our current culture it is highly frowned upon to speak evil of anyone in public.  Rarely do we ever see anyone do it, even if there is a ‘good call for it’.  Though, to be honest, people often speak evil of a person’s view or position very often these days and while not directly calling out the person holding this position they do speak of it in such a way as to show the foolishness of both the view in question and the person holding it.

Edwards and every other Christian is commanded to pursue peace with all men (Heb. 12:14, Rom. 12:18).  The world, Jesus said, should know us by our love (John 13:35).  Therefore we should strive to be people who love strongly and intensely.  But is there ever a time when we must speak evil of someone in love?  Yes.  What constitutes a good reason(s)?  When God is dishonored and people are hurt by the actions/words of another.

Paul did this in 2 Tim. 2:17,  and one thing I want to get across real clear today is that even when Paul did this, he did it in love.  Paul called out specific people in his letters, asking them to be delivered over to Satan, so that they may be saved in the end (1 Cor. 5:5).  His aim was not merely embarrassment or shame, it was repentance.  We are rebuked here.  How often do we Christians talk, gossip, blog, etc. about other people (who may be really wrong) merely for the sake of joining in the gossip?  Or merely for the sake of shaming and embarrassing a person(s)?

This is not to be so.  Anytime we open our mouths, we must honor God, and build up those who hear us (Eph 4:29-32).  The time will come in 2014 when you must speak about another person, will you do it in love?  Will you speak of their evil in an evil way?  Or will you speak of their evil, aiming at their repentance?

Edwards Resolution-athon: Day 17

Resolution 30:

Resolved, to strive to my utmost every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before.

Jonathan Edwards’ aim here is to be brought higher in religion.  Before we unload all of our baggage from the word ‘religion’, we must see that the word ‘religion’ in his day meant Biblical Christianity and nothing more.  It didn’t have the fowl connotations that it has today at all.  I’m glad that he further explains himself in the next phrase as to what he means by ‘religion’.  Being brought higher in ‘religion’ to him meant that he wanted to be brought to a higher experience and exercise of grace.

That’s interesting isn’t it?  Out of all the things he could have said here, he chooses grace?  He could have said that he wanted a higher discipline, a higher study, a higher prayer life, a higher conviction, a higher allegiance, a higher honor, a higher preaching, a higher pastoring; many things could have been said there.  But he chose grace, why?  Because that is what Christianity calls its followers to, grace.  

Paul did this same thing when he was instructing Timothy.  2 Timothy 2:1 says, “My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul, before Edwards, chose to instruct and call Timothy toward a higher grace.  The woman at the well met a Man who told her all the things she had ever done, and then gave her grace (John 4:1-26).  What did she do in return?  She went and invited more people to come and see this grace (John 4:27-45)!  Christianity is the sole source of grace on the planet.  How can I make such a claim?  Because Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is the only One full of grace and truth.  

Edwards loved this fact, and wanted to sink deeper into that grace week by week and called a deeper exercise in “religion.”  Do you know this grace?  It (or should I say HE as in Jesus) is not far from any of us.