Posts Tagged ‘Jonathan Edwards’

For all you guys who jumped on the “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” bandwagon but never read him, here’s your chance.  You’ll find him enormously difficult in diction and thought, nevertheless terribly rewarding.  I remember when I finally fought my way through “The End for Which God Created the World,” which was nothing short of mind blowing.  These few paragraphs below are intellectually and spiritually enriching, where Edwards takes such opposing thoughts as “highness” and “condescension” or “justice” and “grace” and shows how they meet in perfect union in Christ Jesus.

There is a conjunction of such excellencies in Christ as, in our manner of conceiving, are very diverse one from another. Such are the various divine perfections and excellencies that Christ is possessed of. Christ is a divine person, and therefore has all the attributes of God. The difference between these is chiefly relative, and in our manner of conceiving them. And those which, in this sense, are most diverse, meet in the person of Christ. I shall mention two instances.

There do meet in Jesus Christ infinite highness and infinite condescension.
Christ, as he is God, is infinitely great and high above all. He is higher than the kings of the earth; for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is higher than the heavens, and higher than the highest angels of heaven. So great is he, that all men, all kings and princes, are as worms of the dust before him; all nations are as the drop of the bucket, and the light dust of the balance; yea, and angels themselves are as nothing before him. He is so high, that he is infinitely above any need of us; above our reach, that we cannot be profitable to him; and above our conceptions, that we cannot comprehend him. Prov. 30:4 “What is his name, and what is his Son’s name, if thou canst tell?” Our understandings, if we stretch them never so far, cannot reach up to his divine glory. Job 11:8 “It is high as heaven, what canst thou do?” Christ is the Creator and great Possessor of heaven and earth. He is sovereign Lord of all. He rules over the whole universe, and doth whatsoever pleaseth him. His knowledge is without bound. His wisdom is perfect, and what none can circumvent. His power is infinite, and none can resist Him. His riches are immense and inexhaustible. His majesty is infinitely awful.

And yet he is one of infinite condescension. None are so low or inferior, but Christ’s condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of them. He condescends not only to the angels, humbling himself to behold the things that are done in heaven, but he also condescends to such poor creatures as men; and that not only so as to take notice of princes and great men, but of those that are of meanest rank and degree, “the poor of the world,” James 2:5. Such as are commonly despised by their fellow creatures, Christ does not despise. I Cor. 1:28 “Base things of the world, and things that are despised, hath God chosen.” Christ condescends to take notice of beggars Luke 16:22 and people of the most despised nations. In Christ Jesus is neither “Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free” (Col. 3:11). He that is thus high condescends to take a gracious notice of little children Matt. 19:14. “Suffer little children to come unto me.” Yea, which is more, his condescension is sufficient to take a gracious notice of the most unworthy, sinful creatures, those that have no good deservings, and those that have infinite ill deservings.

Yea, so great is his condescension, that it is not only sufficient to take some gracious notice of such as these, but sufficient for every thing that is an act of condescension. His condescension is great enough to become their friend, to become their companion, to unite their souls to him in spiritual marriage. It is enough to take their nature upon him, to become one of them, that he may be one with them. Yea, it is great enough to abase himself yet lower for them, even to expose himself to shame and spitting; yea, to yield up himself to an ignominious death for them. And what act of condescension can be conceived of greater? Yet such an act as this, has his condescension yielded to, for those that are so low and mean, despicable and unworthy!

Such a conjunction of infinite highness and low condescension, in the same person, is admirable. We see, by manifold instances, what a tendency a high station has in men, to make them to be of a quite contrary disposition. If one worm be a little exalted above another, by having more dust, or a bigger dunghill, how much does he make of himself! What a distance does he keep from those that are below him! And a little condescension is what he expects should be made much of, and greatly acknowledged. Christ condescends to wash our feet; but how would great men, (or rather the bigger worms,) account themselves debased by acts of far less condescension!

There meet in Jesus Christ, infinite justice and infinite grace.
As Christ is a divine person, he is infinitely holy and just, hating sin, and disposed to execute condign punishment for sin. He is the Judge of the world, and the infinitely just Judge of it, and will not at all acquit the wicked, or by any means clear the guilty.

And yet he is infinitely gracious and merciful. Though his justice be so strict with respect to all sin, and every breach of the law, yet he has grace sufficient for every sinner, and even the chief of sinners. And it is not only sufficient for the most unworthy to show them mercy, and bestow some good upon them, but to bestow the greatest good; yea, it is sufficient to bestow all good upon them, and to do all things for them. There is no benefit or blessing that they can receive, so great but the grace of Christ is sufficient to bestow it on the greatest sinner that ever lived. And not only so, but so great is his grace, that nothing is too much as the means of this good. It is sufficient not only to do great things, but also to suffer in order to do it, and not only to suffer, but to suffer most extremely even unto death, the most terrible of natural evils; and not only death, but the most ignominious and tormenting, and every way the most terrible that men could inflict; yea, and greater sufferings than men could inflict, who could only torment the body. He had sufferings in his soul, that were the more immediate fruits of the wrath of God against the sins of those he undertakes for.

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Here are the top three posts from the month of December. Curiously enough, none of the posts dealing with the incarnation even made a dent. During Advent I thought that was a bit strange. Oh well!

  1. U.S. Teens of Somali Background dissapear and emerge in terrorist training camps.  This was an alarming and very sad story that I picked up on CNN. 
  2. Help Me Read My Bible Part I:  What I think Martin Luther’s advice would be for good Bible study.  There are now three posts in this category.  They include John Calvin, and a good piece guest written by Iain Boyd on Jonathan Edwards.  The Calvin and Edwards piece didn’t get too much attention but I think they’re worth your time, especially Iain’s piece on Edwards. 
  3. And finally, Governor Jindal tells his conversion story from Hinduism to Christianity…and also why he doesn’t think too much of the Episcopal Church.

One extra:  I think this post that I wrote on Dante, Sin, Repentance and Desire would have gotten in the top three if it had not been posted so late in the month.  Check it out here.

The Revelation to John

Dec 15:                        A Love Grown Cold                 (Rev 2.1-7)

 

“They that see God cannot but praise him.  He is a Being of such glory and excellency that the sight of this excellency of his will necessarily influence them that behold it to praise him.  Such a glorious sight will awaken and rouse all the powers of the soul, and will irresistibly impel them, and draw them into acts of praise.  Such a sight enlarges their souls, and fills them with admiration, and with an unspeakable exultation of spirit” –Jonathan Edwards, “Praise, One of the Chief Employments of Heaven” (Thanksgiving Sermon, Nov 7, 1734)

 

We begin today’s class with an important principle from Jonathan Edwards, namely that in beholding the excellency of God we are drawn into acts of praise that affect the deepest and most remote compartments of our soul.  That is why we do Bible study. That is why we take Bible study one step farther and do Biblical theology, and farther still to systematic theology.  These are an attempt to behold God, grounded in the revealed word that he has given us, that we might behold him and be given “an unspeakable exultation of spirit.”  I have said this many times before, and I say it again.  THE KEY to spiritual growth lies not in applying Biblical principles to your life, but in beholding God and having his majesty and the depth of his love, mercy, kindness and righteousness transform the heart and reorient our desires. 

 

And yet even this pursuit can be corrupted and turned from its original end, as we shall see in our reading today, we see a church whose love has grown cold.  What is striking about this, is that their love grew cold when they were so well equipped to behold the majesty of God.  So there is a lesson for us here.  When knowledge of God becomes more important than God himself, then our doctrine has become our idol, replacing our “first love” with cold dogma.  May God save us from this!  Let us see what Jesus has to say to the church in Ephesus, and see how we might be turned from this sad situation. (more…)

edwardsIain Boyd, Associate Rector for Christian Ed. at Trinity Church, Myrtle Beach, contributes to our “Help Me Read the Bible” series.  He is a fine preacher, wonderful pastor, and gifted theologian.  He’s also my best friend!  Check out his blog here

 

How would Jonathan Edwards tell us to read our Bibles?  Beyond telling us to read, pray, and journal, I’m not exactly sure.  But what I am sure of is what he might say the Holy Spirit does when we read our Bibles.  Jonathan Edwards understood that there is Common Grace and Special Grace.  That is, there are graces given to all of humanity, whether they have believed in Christ or not.  All of humanity can know, to some degree, what is right and what is wrong.  All of humanity can know that there is a God.  All of humanity can know that hard work pays off.  There are other truths, however, that God must give specially to believers which are uncommon amongst men.  Jonathan Edwards discussed these graces in his sermon, A Divine and Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God.  In this sermon, Edwards was not dealing directly with how to have a devotional life, but rather, how to tell true conversion, true revival, from mere emotionalism.  What is helpful from his exposition is that Edwards’ evidence for true work of the Holy Spirit is centered on God’s revelation of Himself from Holy Scripture.  In other words, true revival, true conversion, and true sanctification have always to do with the Holy Spirit’s work in illuminating Scripture.  So, what might Edwards say the Holy Spirit does for us when we read our Bibles? (more…)

Jonathan Edwards has a word for our time that could hardly be more pointed if he were living today. It has to do with the foundation of gratitude.

True gratitude or thankfulness to God for his kindness to us, arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what he is in himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation. The gracious stirrings of grateful affection to God, for kindness received, always are from a stock of love already in the heart, established in the first place on other grounds, viz. God’s own excellency.1

In other words, gratitude that is pleasing to God is not first a delight in the benefits God gives (though that is part of it). True gratitude must be rooted in something else that comes first, namely, a delight in the beauty and excellency of God’s character. If this is not the foundation of our gratitude, then it is not above what the “natural man,” apart from the Spirit and the new nature in Christ, experiences. In that case “gratitude” to God is no more pleasing to God than all the other emotions which unbelievers have without delighting in him.

You would not be honored if I thanked you often for your gifts to me, but had no deep and spontaneous regard for you as a person. You would feel insulted, no matter how much I thanked you for your gifts. If your character and personality do not attract me or give me joy in being around you, then you will just feel used, like a tool or a machine to produce the things I really love.

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