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What are the differences, if any, between the Diary and Resolutions, on the one hand, and the Personal Narrative on the other (stylistic? emphasis? theology? spiritual formation?). Edwards’ spirituality is essentially contemplative rather than active. He rarely if ever speaks of concrete acts of compassion or love toward others (which is not to say he would have opposed them). Traditionally scholars have argued that Puritan spirituality generally was more active ...Read More

The experience of Sarah Edwards (d. 1758), wife of Puritan pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards, is not normative for every believer.  But it is one instance of one soul “being filled to all the fullness of God.”  As her husband was to describe it, God had filled Sarah with “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (I Peter 1:8). Jonathan was so impressed and awed by what God had done in his wife that he prevailed upon her to write it down....Read More

The beauty of the world consists wholly of sweet mutual consents, either within itself, or with the Supreme Being. As to the corporeal world, though there are many other sorts of consents, yet the sweetest and most charming beauty of it is its resemblance of spiritual beauties. The reason is that spiritual beauties are infinitely the greatest, and bodies being but the shadows of beings, they must be so much the more charming as they shadow forth spiritual beauties. This ...Read More

Observations by Edwards on Two Wills in God ...Read More

Of all that Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) wrote, nothing provides the penetrating gaze into his own soul, together with his spiritual struggles and triumphs, as does his Personal Narrative. This is the closest thing in the vast corpus of Edwardsean writings to what we today would call a “personal testimony”. It was written sometime in 1740 and provides us with a remarkable view of the reflections and affections of Edwards on the nature of true spirituality. I ...Read More

Edwards was born and reared in a Puritan society and family where the Reformed faith was defended with vigor. But one should not assume from this that Edwards himself always embraced this perspective on Christianity. Although Edwards is known to history, and rightly so, as a relentless proponent of what is known as Calvinism, it was not always so. In this paragraph from early in the Narrative he describes his struggle and the transformation that occurred. “From my...Read More

Most people who know me are aware that I’m not the “outdoors” type! My idea of “roughing” it is a weekend at a rundown Holiday Inn. But my appreciation for nature, indeed my delight in it, was initially awakened by the following comments of Edwards in his Personal Narrative. George Claghorn, who edited the volume on Edwards’ letters and personal writings for the Yale edition of his collected works, contends that “for Edwards, con...Read More

Carefully read Edwards’ entry and then I’ll make five brief comments below. “I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Ps. 119:28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my hear...Read More

Do you love holiness? Is the word sweet and precious to you? Or does it conjure up images of a stern and inflexible God and a strict and joyless life? During the 19th century the National Holiness Movement labored for a return to the vibrancy and passion of John Wesley and the depth of commitment so evident in the original Methodist movement. Sadly, they were not always successful. Their version of “Holiness” often degenerated into a hideous form of legalism...Read More

“The heaven I desired,” wrote Edwards, “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 gre...Read More

“On January 12, 1723. I made a solemn dedication of myself to God, and wrote it down; giving up myself, and all that I had to God; to be for the future, in no respect, my own; to act as one that had no right to himself, in any respect. And solemnly vowed, to take God for my whole portion and felicity; looking on nothing else, as any part of my happiness, nor acting as if it were; and [to take] his law for the constant rule of my obedience: engaging to fight, with a...Read More

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In this way we are to pray, according to Jesus. Our hearts are to be riveted on the expansion of Christ’s lordship over all the earth, over every life, over every molecule, atom, and quark. Should we not then celebrate each time we hear of a newly converted soul, a renewed church, a law that is passed which respects life and purity and righteousness? Should we not then ...Read More

“In September, 1725, I was taken ill at New Haven, and while endeavoring to go home to Windsor, was so ill at the North Village, that I could go no farther, where I lay sick, for about a quarter of a year. In this sickness, God was pleased to visit me again, with the sweet influences of his Spirit. My mind was greatly engaged there, on divine and pleasant contemplations, and longings of soul. I observed, that those who watched with me, would often be looking out wi...Read More

“Since I came to this town [i.e. Northampton],” wrote Edwards, “I have often had sweet complacency in God, in views of his glorious perfections and the excellency of Jesus Christ. God has appeared to me a glorious and lovely Being, chiefly on account of his holiness. The holiness of God has always appeared to me the most lovely of all his attributes. The doctrines of God's absolute sovereignty, and free grace, in showing mercy to whom he would show merc...Read More

John Piper once said, “Sometimes what we need from the Bible is not the fulfillment of our dream[s], but the swallowing up of our failed dream[s] in the all-satisfying glory of Christ.” I’m convinced that the reason this doesn’t resonate with many souls or sound very encouraging is because few really believe that Jesus Christ is all-satisfying in such a way that they confidently trust in him on a daily basis to do what sin can’t. Merely tes...Read More

“Sometimes, only mentioning a single word caused my heart to burn within me; or only seeing the name of Christ, or the name of some attribute of God. And God has appeared glorious to me, on account of the Trinity. It has made me have exalting thoughts of God, that he subsists in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The sweetest joys and delights I have experienced have not been those that have arisen from a hope of my own good estate; but in a direct view of ...Read More

In an earlier installment in this series there appeared a statement by Edwards on the power of Scripture, about which I said nothing. I would like to return to it for a moment. Perhaps you remember these words: “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...Read More

Jonathan Edwards was a cessationist. Largely because of excessive and fanatical behavior associated with the revival known as the First Great Awakening, he was concerned with the way in which certain people justified unwise, even unbiblical, decisions by appealing to having heard “the voice of God”. He also opposed the contemporary validity of revelatory gifts (especially prophecy) because he believed, falsely in my opinion, that such would undermine the fina...Read More

One section in Edwards’ Personal Narrative has proved troubling to some Christians. They find Edwards’ description of his own sinfulness to be excessively introspective, unduly pessimistic, and downright morbid. I’ve heard it said that we may justifiably view ourselves in this way before our conversion, but once we have been born again, justified and forgiven, being as we are now new creatures in Christ, our perspective should take on a decidedly more p...Read More

Before reading this short paragraph, it might be a good idea to go back to the previous installment and take a closer look at Edwards’ sense of his own depravity. As I said in that lesson, he wasn’t driven to despair by the reality of his own sin, but was compelled to depend ever more urgently on the strong grace and sovereign good pleasure of God. He writes: “I have a much greater sense of my universal, exceeding dependence on God's grace and strength...Read More

Believe it or not, we are at the end. Here are the final two paragraphs of Edwards’ Personal Narrative. “Though it seems to me, that, in some respects, I was a far better Christian, for two or three years after my first conversion, than I am now; and lived in a more constant delight and pleasure; yet, of late years, I have had a more full and constant sense of the absolute sovereignty of God, and a delight in that sovereignty; and have had more of a sense of...Read More

Now that we have completed our devotional study of Edwards’ Personal Narrative, a few concluding observations are in order. First, Edwards’ spirituality is essentially contemplative rather than active. He rarely if ever speaks of concrete acts of compassion or love toward others. This isn’t to say he would have opposed them. I simply have in view his focus in the Personal Narrative. Countless sermons and other exhortations refer to the necessity of mer...Read More

In my previous discussion of Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Youth and the Pleasures of Piety”, I argued that the strategy for dissuading people from sinning that relies largely on religious intimidation, threats, fear, and shame-based appeals is seriously flawed. People are far more likely to forsake one pleasure when they are assured that another is sweeter and more satisfying. The basis of David’s utterance in Psalm 16:11 is not that your desire for...Read More

Typical of Edwards’ preaching style was to follow the exposition of some doctrine with the application, or what he often called the “improvement”. This is especially needful when the doctrine is the excellencies of God, for such are the “foundation of all religion” (425). If we don’t “believe the perfections of God, we shall never worship him and love him as he ought to be worshipped and loved” (425). Edwards proceeds to c...Read More

I’m glad I’m old. Some of you may be offended that I regard a person of fifty-four as “old”, so let’s agree that I’m speaking only for myself. Perhaps a better way of putting it is that I’m glad I’m not young. What the youth of today face is far worse, in my opinion, than anything my generation endured in the sixties and seventies. Without minimizing the social and sexual upheaval of those days, young people in the 21st cen...Read More

A few weeks ago (October, 2005) I attended the annual Philosophy Conference at Wheaton College. The topic this year was “Philosophers Think about Heaven and Hell.” I won’t go into detail other than to say that all viewpoints were represented: annihilationism, eternal conscious punishment, universalism, etc. One argument against the traditional doctrine of hell as eternal conscious punishment was mentioned on several occasions. It goes something like th...Read More

In our first installment in this brief series I noted that Jonathan Edwards appeals to Revelation 18:20 as evidence that the saints in heaven not only will be aware of the judgment of the unrighteous in hell but will also be called on to “rejoice” that such is the case. The identification of “Babylon” in Revelation 18 is one of the more controversial issues in the study of this book. My own opinion, as expressed in an earlier study of Revelation...Read More

One of the interesting things about Jonathan Edwards is how he thinks. Biblical authority plays a much more definitive role in his thought processes than in many who claim to be Christian. Let me illustrate. I began this series of studies because of what many perceive to be a problem with the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment. If hell exists forever, so they say, it would spoil the joy of heaven. Therefore, hell doesn’t exist at all, or only temporarily. I...Read More

Jonathan Edwards was keenly aware of the objections to his perspective on this difficult topic. For example, he acknowledges that now, in this life, we are fearful and apprehensive concerning the eternal destiny of those in unbelief. We lament and weep for their spiritual plight. It is proof of “a senseless and wicked spirit,” he notes, to look upon the lost condition of another and not feel sorrow. Nothing more perfectly illustrates this than Paul’s w...Read More

As many of you know, 2003 marked the 300th anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Edwards. During the course of that year, countless books and articles were published focusing on a variety of aspects of his life and writings and ministry (see The Theology of Jonathan Edwards on my website, www.SamStorms.com, for a brief summary of many of these books). The year 2004 saw only a handful of significant contributions to Edwardsean studies. Included among those would be Michae...Read More