Each year we have a vision statement as a church. This year we are looking at Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 10- “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Whenever I’ve pondered that statement my mind has always gone to the pastor-theologian of the 18th century Jonathan Edwards. Of all the people that I have read he has written on the subject most powerfully. So on Sunday evening we did something slightly different- instead of our normal sermon I presented a biography of Edwards. You can listen to it here.

Because I used a lot of quotes in the talk I decided to post the handout that I used here. It might help if you are following the talk; alternatively you can read a pile of helpful Edwards quotes without having to listen to me. I’ve also taken the opportunity in the details below to correct a couple of small errors that I made in the original talk.

Jonathan Edwards

No man is more relevant to the present condition of Christianity than Jonathan Edwards” Lloyd-Jones


America- influence of Puritans; Birth- 1703; Graduated from Yale 1720; Converted 1721

Pastor for a year in 1722

Resolutions 1723

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake….

Resolved that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory and to my own good…”

“Resolved never to lose one moment of time.”

“Resolved to live with all my might while I do live”

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

“Resolved to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.”

“Resolved, very much to exercise myself…with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires and everything, and every circumstance.”

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

“Resolved in infirmity or sin to confess the whole case to God and implore needed help.”

(Later reflected on the “bottomless depths of secret corruption in his heart”)

MA Disputation 1724: a man is not justified in the sight of God except by the righteousness of Christ received by faith”

Became assistant pastor of church in Northampton, Mass. in 1727.

Assistant to his grandfather Solomon Stoddard (not Samuel as in audio)

Pastor in 1729

Long hours of study

One contemporary: “He sought to make his study itself a sanctuary and whether wrestling with Scripture, preparing sermons or writing in his notebooks, he worked as a worshipper.”

Sarah Edwards (married 1727) one biog entitled “Marriage to a Difficult Man”. 11 children

One contemp- “He was not a man of many words and was somewhat reserved among strangers.”

Revival in Northampton

Two main periods of revival:

1734/35 “Surprising Work of God” (1736)

“The assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the Word was preached, some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbours.”

More than 300 souls were seemingly brought home to Christ in this town in the space of half a year.”

Great Awakening 1740-42

Co-operation with George Whitefield

By the middle of December a considerable work of God appeared among those that were very young…so that in the Spring an engagedness of spirit about things of religion was become very general amongst young people and children, and religious subjects almost wholly took up their conversation when they were together.”

Sinners in the hands of an angry God 1741

One contemporary account of Edwards’ preaching:

Overwhelming weight of argument; intensity of feeling; solemn attention

Proposition; proofs; application

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 the truth.”

Based on Deut 32:35 “their foot shall slide in due time…”

There is nothing that keeps wicked me at any one moment out of hell but the mere pleasure of God”

(Partly based on his own experience. Fell seriously ill as a young man before conversion: “God shook me over the pit of hell.”)

One contemp: “Before the sermon was done there was great moaning and crying out through the whole house.”

Sarah Edwards’ experience:

I was greatly swallowed up in God as my only portion, and his honour and glory was the object of my supreme desire and delight. At the same time, I felt a far greater love to the children of God than ever before.”

Religious Affections- preached 1741-2; published 1746

True religion, in great part, consists in holy affections.”

Fear, hope, love, hatred of sin, joy, mourning, gratitude etc.

That which motivateS our wills towards action

“From a vigorous, affectionate and fervent love to God will necessarily arise other religious affections”

“They first rejoice in God as glorious and excellent in Himself and then secondarily rejoice in the fact that so glorious a God is theirs”

“Knowledge is the key that first opens the hard hearts and enlarges the affections, and so opens the way for men into the kingdom of heaven.”

Preached one sermon on growing in knowledge: answer to boredom/time wasting.

“He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.”

(Interesting implication for preaching:

The first and primary object of preaching is not to give information. It is…to produce an impression”)

“Spiritual understanding primarily consists in the sense or taste of the moral beauty of divine things.”

“The true martyrs of Jesus Christ are not those who have only been strong in opinion that the Gospel of Christ is true, but those who have seen the truth of It. They not only say that they think the Gospel is divine but that it is divine because they have seen it to be so.”

How does this happen?

“It is the power of a Creator only that can change the nature.”

(Preached earlier a sermon on Matt 16:17

A divine and supernatural light” )

Negative signs (not necessarily wrong but they don’t prove anything) – affections raised very high, impact on body etc.

There is no guarantee about any assessment:

“The true saints have not such a spirit of discerning that they can determine who are godly and who are not.”

However- there are ways to grow in assurance

“It is not God’s design that men should obtain assurance in any other way than by mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace and obtaining the lively exercises of it…assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as it is by action.”

Christian practice is the principal sign by which Christians are to judge both of their own and other sincerity of godliness.”

“In general a manifestation of the sincerity of a Christian profession in practice is far better than a relation of experiences.”

“The things that put it to the proof whether men will prefer God to other things in practice are the difficulties of religion.”

Knowledge (eyes opened by God) leads to affections leads to practice

What about a converted drunkard?

“He may be still most danger of these sins, yet they shall no longer have dominion over him.”

“Christian practice is the chief of all the signs of saving grace”

Dismissed from the church in 1750

Stockbridge 1751-57

Princeton 1758 (not 1759 as in audio); dies of smallpox innoculation

Edwards and the Glory of God

Personal Narrative

The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words in 1 Timothy 1:17- ‘Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever, Amen.’ As I read these words, there came into my soul…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.”

On Christ- “the beauty and excellency of his person and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him.”

“A sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God.”

“The divine excellency of the things of God.”

“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.”

“If I heard the least hint, of anything that happened, in any part of the world, that appeared…to have a favourable aspect on the interests of Christ’s Kingdom, my soul eagerly catched at it.”

“God has appeared to me a glorious and lovely Being.”

“Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health in 1737…to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension…This continued as near as I can judge, about an hour, which kept me the greater part of time in a flood of tears…”

The Fraternal Sermon of 1731

Based on 1 Cor 1:29-31

God is glorified in the work of redemption in this, that there appears in it so absolute and universal dependence of the redeemed on him.”

“We are dependent on Christ the Son of God, as he is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We are dependent on the Father, who has given us Christ and made him to be these things to us. We are dependent on the Holy Spirit, for it is of him that we are in Christ Jesus; it is the Spirit of God that gives faith in him, whereby we receive him.”

“Whatever scheme is inconsistent with our entire dependence on God for all…is repugnant to the design and tenor of the Gospel and robs it of that which God accounts its lustre and glory.”

“The End for which God Created the World” (1757)

Why does God make the world? Why does God redeem the world?

God desires His own glory to be manifested and praised

What is meant by the glory of God?

  1. The internal glory/weightiness of God
  2. The emanation of that in His works
  3. The return of that through the praise of His people

The glory of God is the emanation and true external expression or communication of the internal glory.”

A respect to himself, or an infinite propensity to and delight in his own glory, is that which causes him to incline to its being abundantly diffused, and to delight in the emanation of it.”

“As he values his own excellency, he must be well pleased in having it so manifested and so glorified.”

“As God is the first, efficient cause and fountain from whence all things originate; so he is the last, final cause for which they are made.”

The cross as a display of Christ’s glory

By Christ’s death his fullness is abundantly diffused in many streams and expressed in the beauty and glory of a great multitude of his spiritual offspring.”

The great end of God’s works, which is so variously expressed in Scripture, is indeed but one, and this one end is most properly and comprehensively called the glory of God.”

Biblical support: Isa 48:11; Ephesians 1; Philippians 2; John 12:23-24

Is this a problem? A kind of selfishness?

  1. See the importance of God being Trinity
  2. If God has respect to things according to their nature and proportions, He must necessarily have the greatest respect to himself.”
  3. “In created beings, a regard to self-interest may properly be set in opposition to public welfare…but this cannot be with respect to the Supreme Being, the author and head of the whole system, on whom all absolutely depend, who is the fountain of being and good to the whole.”

How does this fit with the love of God?

Edwards cites John 3:16; Mark 2:28

We may in like manner argue that all things were made for man, because the Son of Man is made Lord of all things”

“Christ has his delight, most truly and properly, in obtaining the salvation of his church, not merely as a means, but as what he rejoices in and is satisfied in, most directly and properly.”

The two are one

Both regards are like two lines which at the beginning appear separate, but finally meet in one.”

God’s respect to the creature’s good, and his respect to himself is not a divided respect; but both are united in one as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself”

The happiness of the creature consists in rejoicing in God, by which God is also magnified and exalted….Thus it is easy to conceive how God should seek the good of the creature…even his happiness with supreme regard for Himself”

Piper: “God’s passion for his glory and his passion for my joy are not at odds.”

Piper: “The love of God for sinners is not him making much of them, but his gracious freeing and empowering them to enjoy much of him.”

This is difficult but…

God in seeking his glory, seeks the good of his creatures; because the emanation of his glory implies…the happiness of his creatures. And in communicating his fullness for them, he does it for himself; because their good, which he seeks, is…in union and communion with himself. God is their good. Their excellency and happiness is nothing but the emanation and expression of God’s glory: God is seeking their glory and happiness seeks himself: and in seeking himself, i.e. himself diffused and expressed, he seeks their glory and happiness.”

“In the creature’s knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged; his fullness is received and returned.”

I do not suppose it can be said of any, that their love to their own happiness…can be in too high a degree.” The issue becomes where human beings seek their happiness

Implications of Edwards: A theocentric view of life

Human beings are made for God’s glory. Our happiness is at its greatest when we are rejoicing and glorifying Him.

God is the Redeemer and the price; he is also the good purchased”

“There is no such virtue as temperance in spiritual feasting.” (based on Song 5:1)

“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied…fathers and mothers, husbands, wives or children or the company of earthly friends are but shadows but God is the substance. They are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. They are but streams but God is the ocean.”

“Let God be your peculiar portion…let God be the object of your peculiar value and esteem…let God be your peculiar friends and value his friendship more than the respect and love of all the world…let God be your peculiar confidence.”