Can you imagine if you had been there? What would it have been like to be with our Lord Jesus face to face? To walk with him and to listen to him for hours on end. To hear the tone of his voice. To ask him any question you want.
What if, instead of just being one of the disciples in the outer circles, you were one of the key players: Mary the humble mother of God; Peter the exuberant bumbler turned repentant leader; John the Baptizer, who leaped for joy at Jesus in Elizabeth’s womb and then was able to baptize his cousin and Lord.
But if you are in Christ, the reality is that things are better for you know than it would have been to be any of these folks who knew Christ in the flesh.
For example, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matt 11:11; cf. Luke 7:28).
Peter, recalling the Transfiguration and hearing the voice of the Father expressing pleasure in his Son, goes on to say that “we [including you and me] have the prophetic word more fully confirmed. . .” ( 2 Pet 1:17-19).
And at the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus tells his disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (John 16:7).Jonathan Edwards, in his landmark sermon series on 1 Corinthians 13, comments on this theme with a particular view to the blessed virgin Mary:
Great was the privilege which God bestowed on the blessed virgin Mary, in granting that of her should be born the Son of God; that a person who was infinitely more honorable than the angels, who was the Creator and King of heaven and earth and the great Savior of the world, should be conceived in her womb, born of her, and nursed at her breast, was a far greater privilege than to be the mother of the child of the greatest earthly prince that ever existed. But yet, surely that was not so great a privilege as it was to have the grace of God in the heart, to have Christ, as it were, born in the soul, as Christ himself does expressly teach us.
Edwards here cites Luke 11:27-28:
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
And once when some told him that his mother and brethren stood without desiring to speak with him, he thence took occasion to let them know that there was a more blessed way of being related to him than that which consisted in being his mother and brethren according to the flesh, viz. in having grace in the heart, and bringing forth the fruits of it in the life.
And here he cites Matt. 12:46-50:
While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
—Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love, ed. Kyle Strobel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 74-75.
Jonathan Edwards found human language almost inadequate to express the insidious nature of spiritual pride. It would take several metaphors even to begin describing this strategy of Satan. “This is,” he wrote, “the main door by which the Devil comes into the hearts of those who are zealous for the advancement of religion. ‘Tis the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind, and mislead the judgement; this is the main handle by which the Devil takes hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God. This cause of error is the mainspring, or at least the main support of all the rest. Till this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal all other diseases.”
Later, he writes:
“There is no sin so much like the Devil as this, for secrecy and subtlety, and appearing in great many shapes that are undetected and unsuspected, and even appearing as an angel of light: it takes occasion to arise from everything; it perverts and abuses everything, and even the exercises of real grace and real humility, as an occasion to exert itself.
It is a sin that has, as it were, many lives; if you kill it, it will live still; if you mortify and suppress it in one shape, it rises in another; if you think it is all gone, yet it is there still.
There are a great many kinds of it, that lie in different forms and shapes, one under another, and encompass the heart like the coats of an onion; if you pull off one, there is another underneath.
We had need therefore to have the greatest watch imaginable, over our hearts, with respect to this matter, and to cry most earnestly to the great Searcher of hearts, for his help. “He that trusts his own heart is a fool” [Prov. 28:26]
—Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England,” in The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 414, 416-417.
“Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom. 7:24-25)
How can we really say God is sovereign over all when there is so much chaos and pain in the world?
Nothing shall hinder his great design. God’s great ends will be obtained: all his ends will be obtained, and by his own means.
After all this seeming confusion and vast succession of strange and wonderful revolutions, everything shall come out right at last. There is no confusion in God’s scheme; he understands his own works and every wheel moves right in its place.
Not one mote of dust errs from the path that God has appointed it; he will bring order at last out of confusion. God doesn’t lose himself in the intricate endless moves of events that come to pass. Though men can’t see the whole scheme, God sees. The course and series of events in divine providence is like the course of a great and long river with many branches and innumerable windings and turnings which often seems to go backwards.
– Jonathan Edwards, 1744 sermon entitled “Approaching the End of God’s Grand Design,” in Works, 25:121
(HT: Dane Ortlund)
“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”
“God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.”
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”
“It is those who cannot come to terms with any concept of the wrath of God who repudiate any concept of propitiation… It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger by bearing it his own self in his own Son when he took our place and died for us.”
-John Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 167, 172
“God dealt with him as if he had been exceedingly angry with him, and as though he had been the object of his dreadful wrath. This made all the sufferings of Christ the more terrible to him, because they were from the hand of his Father, whom he infinitely loved… It was an effect of God’s wrath, that he forsook Christ. This caused Christ to cry out once and again, ‘My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?’”
–Jonathan Edwards, “Of Satisfaction for Sin” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2, p. 575
“Can you now think what a vast aggregate of misery there would have been in the sufferings of all God’s people, if they had been punished through all eternity? And recollect that Christ had to suffer an equivalent for all the hells of all His redeemed. I can never express that thought better than by using those oft-repeated words: it seemed as if Hell were put into His cup; He seized it, and, ‘At one tremendous draught of love, He drank damnation dry.’ So that there was nothing left of all the pangs and miseries of Hell for His people ever to endure. I say not that He suffered the same, but He did endure an equivalent for all this, and gave God the satisfaction for all the sins of all His people, and consequently gave Him an equivalent for all their punishment. Now can ye dream, can ye guess the great redemption of our Lord Jesus Christ?”
-Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “Particular Redemption”
“Jesus Christ our Lord, moved by a love that was determined to do everything necessary to save us, endured and exhausted the destructive divine judgment for which we were otherwise inescapably destined, and so won us forgiveness, adoption and glory. To affirm penal substitution is to say that believers are in debt to Christ specifically for this, and that this is the mainspring of all their joy, peace and praise both now and for eternity.”
-J. I. Packer, “What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution,”Tyndale Bulletin 25 (1974): 25.
“The words of [Romans 3:25-26] afford an insight into the innermost meaning of the cross as Paul understands it… It involves nothing less than God’s bearing the intolerable burden of that evil Himself in the person of His own dear Son, the disclosure of the fullness of God’s hatred of man’s evil at the same time as it is its real and complete forgiveness.”
-C. E. B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, 1:213-214
Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is good?
Have you, when you have thus been emptied of yourself and weaned from this vain world, found a better good?
Have you had those discoveries of Christ, or that sense of his excellency or sufficiency and wonderful grace, that has refreshed and rejoiced your heart, and revived it as it were out of the dust, and caused hope and your comfort to spring forth like the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain?
Has there been light let into your soul, as the light of the sun pleasantly breaking forth out of the cloud after a dreadful storm, or as the sweet dawning of the light of the morning after long wandering in a dark night, or the bright and beautiful day star arising with refreshing beams?
Have you had that divine comfort that has seemed to heal your soul and put life and strength into you and given you peace after trouble and rest after labor and pain?
Have you tasted that spiritual food, that bread from heaven, that is so sweet and so satisfying, so much better than the richest earthly dainties?
Have you felt something of the divine comfort and peace, which can’t be expressed and which passes all understanding?
Have you tasted that in Christ that has turned the stream of your affections that way and filled you with longings after more of him?
- Jonathan Edwards, “Like Rain Upon Mown Grass,” in Works, Yale ed., 22:315
(HT: Dane Ortlund)
As you read what Jonathan Edwards said about Scripture, ask yourself if it reflects your own point of view:
“I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders” (Personal Narrative).
How far removed this is from the declarations of boredom that I so often hear from people who describe their reaction to reading Scripture! I think what Edwards here refers to must be what the author of Psalm 119 had in mind when he spoke repeatedly of the impact of Scripture on his soul. Consider the following brief sampling, and ask yourself if such vivid and passionate language accurately portrays your attitude toward the glory and power of God’s Word:
“In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches” (v. 14).
“I will delight in your statutes” (v. 16).
“My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v. 20).
“Your testimonies are my delight” (v. 24).
“Behold, I long for your precepts” (v. 40).
“for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (v. 47).
“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (v. 72).
“Oh how I love your law!” (v. 97).
“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103).
“Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (v. 111).
“Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold” (v. 127).
“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil” (v. 162).
“My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly” (v. 167).
Justin Taylor posts:
From Kyle Strobel’s Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013), 62-64:
While we journey to glory we should learn to trust the path laid before us. Sometimes, no doubt, we find that the path is of our own making. Our natural affections have turned us off course onto other things we find beautiful. But, broadly speaking, grasping the path of glory is really just grasping onto Jesus. By focusing our attention on Jesus and the “Jesus Way,” we come to gain a “taste” for this way over others. Some of the fleshliness that used to taste so good is now bitter. We are walking a path of putting to death our sin by slowly conforming to God’s glory and beauty. In doing so, the sin that still wages war within us begins to die.
In Christ, our sight, hearing and taste are now sensitized to a different world, and therefore they help us trust in the way of the Lord. Many people saw Jesus but did not follow him. What did they not see that the disciples did? Why were the disciples affected by Christ and not so many others?
To explain this, Edwards turns to taste. The Spirit of God works within one’s heart to give them a divine taste—a taste of the ways of God. It is in this vein that the psalmist would say, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps 119:103). Without it, people cannot recognize God and his way as beautiful, “no more than a man without the sense of tasting can conceive of the sweet taste of honey, or a man without the sense of hearing can conceive of the melody of a tune, or a man born blind can have a notion of the beauty of the rainbow.” The disciples were given a divine taste, and so they sought to satisfy their longing by following Christ.
Edwards offers an illustration of two men, one of whom is born without the sense of taste. The man with the sense of taste loves honey, and he greatly delights in it because of its taste. The other man also loves honey, but, not having the sense of taste, he loves it because of its color and texture. The excellency and sweetness of honey is in its taste, Edwards argues, therefore the man who loves the honey because of its taste builds upon the foundation of honey’s true beauty. If you don’t “know” the taste of honey, you don’t truly “know” honey. Likewise, to know Jesus is to develop a taste for who he is and what he is about. If we return to our hiking analogy, we can say that a “taste” for the destination drives your journey. You hunger for it (Mt 5:6). Others may travel with you who only share your actions, and not your taste for the destination. They have the form but not the power of godliness (2 Tim 3:5). A taste of God is prioritizing God above all else.
For true religious affections, the object, God, is primary, and I am secondary. With false affections, the focus reverts to me. The one who seeks Christ alone will know the delight that only he can give.
One who goes looking for self-fulfillment will never find it. In other words, having a taste of divine things is what allows the heavenly destination to captivate your heart. Without that taste it is impossible to will God, and therefore it is impossible to actually walk the path to glory. This taste is the taste of heaven and is the taste that calibrates our souls to glory and beauty. This taste creates a hunger for divine things. This taste is not given in its perfection, but is a seed of grace in the soul. Cultivating this taste should lead to a deeper and deeper hunger for God and his glory. The ways of God, the calling of the church, the Word of God and the ordinances of God should all be tasty aspects of life. Ultimately, our taste should be oriented by God and his life of love, and therefore the hunger of our flesh should begin to be killed off. In this sense, our taste is similar to the compass whose needle seeks north. We can say that the needle has a taste for north. Around that taste all our other affections should fall into place—the west, east and south of our soul should be oriented by the true north of heaven—God and his life of love.
David, in Psalm 34, proclaimed, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8). In a sense, Edwards’s description of religious affection is a call to taste and see that the Lord is good (and continue to do so)! The light of God’s beauty and glory is given so that believers can actually see that the Lord is good. But sight alone does not comprehend the depths of the Christian experience. For that, Edwards turns to taste. Tasting and seeing that the Lord is good entails having the whole of one’s heart made alive to God in Christ by the Holy Spirit—it is communion with the three-personed God.
Tasting and seeing are the kinds of things that beget more tasting and seeing. Tasting and seeing beget desire. It is this desire that turns the Christian more and more fully to her Lord who is beautiful and glorious. It is a journey we will continue for eternity.
“The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness; to be with God, and to spend my eternity in divine love, and holy communion with Christ. My mind was very much taken up with contemplations on heaven, and the enjoyments there; and living there in perfect holiness, humility and love: And it used at that time to appear a great part of the happiness of heaven, that there the saints could express their love to Christ. It appeared to me a great clog and burden, that what I felt within, I could not express as I desired. The inward ardor of my soul, seemed to be hindered and pent up, and could not freely flame out as it would. I used often to think, how in heaven this principle should freely and fully vent and express itself. Heaven appeared exceedingly delightful, as a world of love; and that all happiness consisted in living in pure, humble, heavenly, divine love.”
I know what Edwards meant when he expressed his frustration in not being able to “freely and fully vent and express” his love for Christ. Physical pains hold us back. Relational struggles distract our thoughts. Fatigue limits how long we can praise. Fleshly impulses defile even our highest and most sincere declarations of love. This is one reason why heaven is so appealing and the anticipation of it so spiritually animating. One day, and forevermore, we will pray and praise and celebrate and rejoice and enjoy God without the slightest tinge of lust or greed or pride or weakness or boredom. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Edwards mentions, in passing, a time of pressure and emotional burden that weighed heavily on his soul, the remedy for which was “contemplations of the heavenly state.” He continues:
“It was a comfort to think of that state, where there is fullness of joy; where reigns heavenly, calm, and delightful love, without alloy; where there are continually the dearest expressions of this love; where is the enjoyment of the persons loved, without ever parting; where those persons who appear so lovely in this world, will really be inexpressibly more lovely, and full of love to us. And how sweetly will the mutual lovers join together, to sing the praises of God and the Lamb! How will it fill us with joy to think, that this enjoyment, these sweet exercises, will never cease, but will last to all eternity.”
“They that find Christ [discover that] though he be so glorious and excellent a person, yet they find him ready to receive such poor, worthless, hateful creatures as they are, which was unexpected to ‘em. They are surprised with it.
They did not imagine that Christ was such a kind of person, a person of such grace. They heard he was an holy Saviour and hated sin, and they did not imagine he would be so ready to receive such vile, wicked creatures as they. They thought he surely would never be willing to accept such provoking sinners, such guilty wretches, those that had such abominable hearts.
But behold, he is not a whit the more backward to receive ‘em for that. They unexpectedly find him with open arms to embrace them, ready forever to forget all their sins as though they had never been. They find that he as it were runs to meet them, and makes ‘em most welcome, and admits ‘em not only to be his servants but his friends [Luke 15:11-24]. He lifts ‘em out of the dust and sets ‘em on his throne; he makes them the children of God; he speaks peace to them; he cheers and refreshes their hearts; he admits ‘em unto strict union with himself, and gives the most joyful entertainment, and binds himself to them to be their friend forever.
So are they surprised with their entertainment. They never imagined to find Christ a person of such kind of love and grace as this. ‘Tis beyond all imagination or conception.”
Jonathan Edwards, ‘Seeking After Christ,’ in Works, Yale ed., 22:290
(HT: Dane Ortlund)
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
My advice to you is: Read Jonathan Edwards. Stop going to so many meetings; stop craving for the various forms of entertainment which are so popular in evangelical circles at the present time. Learn to stay at home. Learn to read again, and do not merely read the exciting stories of certain modern people. Go back to something solid and deep and real.
Are we losing the art of reading? Revivals have often started as the result of people reading volumes such as these two volumes of Edwards’ works. So read this man. Decide to do so. Read his sermons; read his practical treatises, and then go on to the great discourses on theological subjects.
—D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Jonathan Edwards and the Crucial Importance of Revival,”Puritans: Their
Origins and Successors (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 369-370.
Lloyd-Jones elsewhere explained the importance of this practice in his own ministry:
In my early days in the ministry there were no books which helped me more, both personally and in respect of my preaching, than the two-volume edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards. . . . I devoured these volumes and literally just read and reread them. It is certainly true that they helped me more than anything else. . . . If I had the power I would make these two volumes compulsory reading for all ministers!
(HT: Justin Taylor)
The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ has purchased. God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honour and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world.
The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the ‘the river of the water of life’ that runs, and the tree of life that grows, ‘in the midst of the paradise of God.’ The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them.
— Jonathan Edwards “God Glorified in the Work of Redemption” in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, et al74-75
(HT: Of First Importance)
In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Jonathan Edwards pulled out of 1 John 4 the biblical indicators that God is at work, even if the people involved are complicating it with their own sins and eccentricities. And we do complicate it. In this life, the work of the gospel is never pure, always mixed. But we do not need to be stuck in analysis-paralysis. The true gold of grace is discernible, within all the mess, in four ways:
- One, when our esteem of Jesus is being raised, so that we prize him more highly than all this world, God is at work.
- Two, when we are moving away from Satan’s interests, away from sin and worldly desires, God is at work.
- Three, when we are believing, revering and devouring the Bible more and more, God is at work.
- Four, and most importantly, when we love Jesus and one another more, delighting in him and in one another, God is at work.
Satan not only wouldn’t produce such things, he couldn’t produce them, so opposite are these from his nature and purposes. These simple and obvious evidences of grace are sure signs that God is at work, even with the imperfections we inevitably introduce.
If we hold out for perfection, we will wait until we are with the Lord. True discernment keeps our eyes peeled for fraudulence but also unleashes us, and even requires us, to rejoice wherever we see the Lord at work right now.
Don’t turn away because of the non-gold; prize the gold. Defend it. Rejoice over it. God is giving it.
This is great stuff by Edwards. In the 11th lecture of Charity and Its Fruit, Edwards convincingly declares that men’s practice will be according to their convictions. That is, if a man truly believes something, he will act on it and if he does not act on it, it seems that he is not really and entirely convinced of that truth.
Nowhere is this more true than in man’s dealings with the gospel. Gospel-truth is efficacious truth; if you believe it sincerely, your life is changed and this results in a change in the manner in which you live your life.
If a man hears important news that concerns himself, and we do not see that he alters at all for it in his practice, we at once conclude that he does not give heed to it as true; for we know the nature of man is such, that he will govern his actions by what he believes and is convinced of. And so if men are really convinced of the truth of the things they are told in the gospel, about an eternal world, and the everlasting salvation that Christ has purchased for all that will accept it, it will influence their practice. They will regulate their behaviour according to such a belief, and will act in such a manner as will tend to their obtaining this eternal salvation. If men are convinced of the certain truth of the promises of the gospel, which promise eternal riches, and honours, and pleasures, and if they really believe that those are immensely more valuable than all the riches, and honours, and pleasures of the world, they will, for these, forsake the things of the world, and, if need be, sell all and follow Christ. If they are fully convinced of the truth of the promise, that Christ will indeed bestow all these things upon his people, and if all this appears real to them, it will have influence on their practice, and it will induce them to live accordingly. Their practice will be according to their convictions.
Jonathan Edwards saw a direct cause and effect relationship between the faithful and fervent prayers of God’s people and the authenticity of heaven-sent revival.
“When God has something very great to accomplish for his church, ’tis his will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of his people; as is manifest byEzek. 36:37, ‘I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them’; . . . And ’tis revealed that when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out ‘the spirit of grace and supplication,’ Zech. 12:10” (Some Thoughts, 516).
“When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence as to shew [sic] his church their great need of it, and to bring ‘em into distress for want of it, and so put ‘em upon crying earnestly to him for it” (517).
So just how important is prayer in the lives of those who long for revival?
“There is no way that Christians in a private capacity can do so much to promote the work of God, and advance the kingdom of Christ, as by prayer. By this even women, children and servants may have a public influence. Let persons be never so weak, and never so mean, and under never so poor advantages to do much for Christ and the souls of men otherwise; yet, if they have much of the spirit of grace and supplication, in this way they may have power with him that is infinite in power, and has the government of the whole world: and so a poor man in his cottage may have a blessed influence all over the world. God is, if I may so say, at the command of the prayer of faith; and in this respect is, as it were, under the power of his people; as princes, they have power with God, and prevail [cf. Gen. 32:28]. Though they may be private persons their prayers are put up in the name of a Mediator, that is a public person, being the Head of the whole church and the Lord of the universe: and if they have a great sense of the importance of eternal things and concern for the precious souls of men, yet they need not regret it that they are not preachers; they may go in their earnestness and agonies of soul, and pour out their souls before One that is able to do all things; before him they may speak as freely as ministers; they have a great High Priest, through whom they may come boldly at all times [Heb. 4:14-16], and may vent themselves before a prayer-hearing Father, without any restraint.” (518)
In 1740 Edwards preached a sermon devoted exclusively to the children in the congregation, those up to age 14. He simplified his language but it is the same theologically rich vision of the loveliness of God.
The bulk of the sermon lists reasons why children should love Jesus. Here is the first.
There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ. He is one that delights in mercy; he is ready to pity those that are in suffering and sorrowful circumstances; one that delights in the happiness of his creatures. The love and grace that Christ has manifested does as much exceed all that which is in this world as the sun is brighter than a candle. Parents are often full of kindness towards their children, but that is no kindness like Jesus Christ’s. . . .
Everything that is lovely in God is in him, and everything that is or can be lovely in any man is in him: for he is man as well as God, and he is the holiest, meekest, most humble, and every way the most excellent man that ever was.
–Jonathan Edwards, ‘Children Ought to Love the Lord Jesus Christ,’ in Works, Yale ed., 22:171-72
(HT: Dane Ortlund)
As Gerald McDermott explains, Jonathan Edwards saw affections as “strong inclinations of the soul that are manifested in thinking, feeling and acting” (Seeing God: Jonathan Edwards and Spiritual Discernment, p. 31).
A common confusion is to equate “affections” with “emotions.” But there are several differences, as summarized in this chart from McDermott (p. 40):
|Consistent with beliefs||Sometimes overpowering|
|Always result in action||Often fail to produce action|
|Involve mind, will, feelings||Feelings (often) disconnected from the mind and will|
He explains why affections are different than emotions:
Emotions (feelings) are often involved in affections, but the affections are not defined by emotional feeling. Some emotions are disconnected from our strongest inclinations.
For instance, a student who goes off to college for the first time may feel doubtful and fearful. She will probably miss her friends and family at home. A part of her may even try to convince her to go back home. But she will discount these fleeting emotions as simply that—feelings that are not produced by her basic conviction that now it is time to start a new chapter in life.
The affections are something like that girl’s basic conviction that she should go to college, despite fleeting emotions that would keep her at home. They are strong inclination that may at times conflict with more fleeting and superficial emotions. (pp. 32-33)
Here is how Sam Storms explains the difference in Signs of the Spirit: An Interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’ “Religious Affections:
Certainly there is what may rightly be called an emotional dimension to affections. Affections, after all, are sensible and intense longings or aversions of the will. Perhaps it would be best to say that whereas affections are not less than emotions, they are surely more.
Emotions can often be no more than physiologically heightened states of either euphoria or fear that are unrelated to what the mind perceives as true.
Affections, on the other hand, are always the fruit or effect of what the mind understands and knows. The will or inclination is moved either toward or away from something that is perceived by the mind.
An emotion or mere feeling, on the other hand, can rise or fall independently of and unrelated to anything in the mind.
One can experience an emotion or feeling without it properly being an affection, but one can rarely if ever experience an affection without it being emotional and involving intense feelings that awaken and move and stir the body. (p. 45)
By virtue of the believer’s union with Christ, he doth really possess all things. That we know plainly from Scripture. But it may be asked, how doth he possess all things? What is he the better for it? How is a true Christian so much richer than other men?
To answer this, I’ll tell you what I mean by “possessing all things.” I mean that God three in one, all that he is, and all that he has, and all that he does, all that he has made or done–the whole universe, bodies and spirits, earth and heaven, angels, men and devils, sun, moon and stars, land and sea, fish and fowls, all the silver and gold, kings and potentates as well as mean men–are as much the Christian’s as the money in his pocket, the clothes he wears, the house he dwells in, or the victuals he eats; yea more properly his, more advantageously his, than if he could command all those things mentioned to be just in all respects as he pleased at any time, by virtue of the union with Christ; because Christ, who certainly doth thus possess all things, is entirely his: so that he possesses it all, more than a wife the share of the best and dearest husband, more than the hand possesses what the head doth; it is all his. . . .
Every atom in the universe is managed by Christ so as to be most to the advantage of the Christian, every particle of air or every ray of the sun; so that he in the other world, when he comes to see it, shall sit and enjoy all this vast inheritance with surprising, amazing joy.
- Jonathan Edwards, Miscellany ff.
(HT: Dane Ortlund)
“This light is such as effectually influences the inclination, and changes the nature of the soul. It assimilates our nature to the divine nature, and changes the soul into an image of the same glory that is beheld. 2 Cor. iii. 18. “But we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion. This light, and this only, will bring the soul to a saving close with Christ.
It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it causes the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Saviour: it causes the whole soul to accord and symphonize with it, admitting it with entire credit and respect, cleaving to it with full inclination and affection; and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.”
Jonathan Edwards – A divine and supernatural light
(HT: Of First Importance)
Jared Wilson posts:
Look ye blind, that ye may see
– Isaiah 42:18
“I come now . . . to show the truth of the doctrine; that is, to show that there is such a thing as that spiritual light that has been described, thus immediately let into the mind by God. And here I would show briefly, that this doctrine is both scriptural and rational . . .
First, It is scriptural. My text is not only full to the purpose, but it is a doctrine that the Scripture abounds in. We are there abundantly taught, that the saints differ from the ungodly in this, that they have the knowledge of God, and a sight of God, and of Jesus Christ. I shall mention but few texts of many. 1 John 3:6, “Whosoever sinneth, has not seen him, nor known him.” 3 John 11, “He that doth good, is of God: but he that doth evil, hath not seen God.” John 14:19, “The world seeth me no more; but ye see me.” John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” This knowledge, or sight of God and Christ, cannot be a mere speculative knowledge; because it is spoken of as a seeing and knowing, wherein they differ from the ungodly. And by these Scriptures it must not only be a different knowledge in degree and circumstances, and different in its effects; but it must be entirely different in nature and kind.”
“Stare at the glory of God until you see it.” – Ray Ortlund
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
The gospel is in these verses: “. . . as God in Christ forgave you.” The rest of it is how we are to be true to that gospel, how not to be a living denial of the very gospel we profess, how to be living proof of that sacred gospel.
Faithfulness to the gospel is more than signing a doctrinal statement. That’s a good thing to do. But faithfulness to the gospel is more. Far more.
Faithfulness to the gospel is also treating one another as God in Christ has treated us. It is not that hard to sign a piece of paper or take a vow that we stand for the gospel. Again, that’s a good thing to do. But it is far more demanding to bear living witness to the gospel by denying the demands of Ego and treating one another with the grace God has shown us in Christ.
When the gospel actually sinks in, we change. Winning no longer matters. Getting in the last word no longer matters. Payback no longer matters. We now perceive such things as contemptible, compared with the display of God’s grace in Christ.
Unbelieving people are not impressed by our official positions on paper. They will not pay attention – nor should they – until they see the beauty of the gospel in our relationships.
Jonathan Edwards, observing his wife under the influence of the Holy Spirit, noted this about her:
“There were earnest longings that all God’s people might be clothed with humility and meekness, like the Lamb of God, and feel nothing in their hearts but love and compassion to all mankind; and great grief when anything to the contrary appeared in any of the children of God, as bitterness, fierceness of zeal, censoriousness, or reflecting uncharitably on others, or disputing with any appearance of heat of spirit.”
Jonathan Edwards, Works (Edinburgh, 1979), I:377.