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[1701 / Yale College established]   1703 / Born October 5, East Windsor, Connecticut   He had 10 sisters (no brothers), all of whom were at least 6 ft. tall! Jonathan’s paternal grandmother was a chronic adulteress who bore another man’s child. She was psychotic, often given to fits of perversity, rage, and threats of violence (her sister murdered her own child and her brother killed another sister with an ax). She eventually deserted her family...Read More

Fettered yet Free             Jonathan Edwards was right. If the concept of libertarian freedom can be established, Calvinist theologians (he called them “reformed divines”) will have lost all hope of defending their view of “original sin, the sovereignty of grace, election, redemption, conversion, the efficacious operation of the Holy Spirit, the nature of saving faith, perseverance of the saints,...Read More

What is glorifying God? “Now what is glorifying God, but a rejoicing at that glory he has displayed? An understanding of the perfections of God, merely, cannot be the end of the creation; for he had as good not understand it, as see it and not be at all moved with joy at the sight. Neither can the highest end of creation be the declaring God’s glory to others; for the declaring God’s glory is good for nothing otherwise than to raise joy in ourselves a...Read More

A Narrative of Surprising Conversions and The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God   Summary and Analysis   On May 30, 1735, Jonathan Edwards wrote a letter of eight pages to Dr. Benjamin Colman (1673-1747), pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, in which he described the nature of the revival he was seeing. Colman sent much of the letter to a friend in London where news quickly spread about what was happening in the Colonies. Edwar...Read More

A Narrative of Surprising Conversions and The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God   Summary and Analysis A.            The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God   The substance of this work was originally delivered by Edwards as the commencement speech to the faculty and student body of Yale University on September 10, 1741. Edwards expanded the work and published i...Read More

Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England Summary and Analysis   This lengthy volume is Edwards' most ambitious and comprehensive treatment of the revival. He completed work on it near the close of 1742. It was published in March of 1743. The work is comprised of five parts. ____________________   Part I   "Shewing that the extraordinary work that has of late been going on in this land, is a glorious work of God" (29...Read More

Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England Summary and Analysis   Part IV   "Shewing what things are to be corrected or avoided in promoting this work, or in our behavior under it" (409).   Edwards opens with this interesting comment:   "Many that are zealous for this glorious work of God are heartily sick of the great noise there is in the country about imprudences and disorders; they have heard it so often fro...Read More

At no time did Edwards believe or preach that America would be either the focus or the locus of the coming millennium. Rather, he suggested that, at best, America may be where those intermittent revivals would occur that eventually would bring on the millennium, the latter being at least 250 years away. Edwards believed in the concept of the “national covenant,” according to which God entered into covenant with a people or nation and blessed or punished them...Read More

[The reader is encouraged to read Edwards’ sermon before working through these short observations.]   What the “divine and supernatural light” is not:   1)            It is not to be identified with the conviction of sin that unregenerate people experience. The Spirit can act upon the soul of the unregenerate without communicating himself to or uniting himself with that person.  ...Read More

History, according to one cynic, is nothing but the succession of one d___ thing after another. Unfortunately, most Christians would agree, although one hopes they wouldn't use precisely the same terminology! The fact is, people wonder why the history of Christian theology is worthy of our time and energy. Facts, dates, and dead people do not inspire much excitement, and many doubt the practical value of spending time on something that cannot be changed. Alister McGrath ...Read More

Although it is to some degree artificial and inaccurate to break down the history of the Christian church into distinct periods or ages, it is, nevertheless, a helpful tool for envisioning the development of church life over the past two millennia. Most church historians recognize three general periods:   I.              Patristic Christianity - a.d. 95 to a.d. 590   (So called because of the ...Read More

It is fair to say that no doctrine of the Christian faith was subjected to as penetrating analysis in the early church as was the doctrine of God. This lesson will highlight the development of Trinitarianism in the patristic age.   The history of this doctrine falls into three stages.   ·First, there is the Pre-Nicene period, extending from the death of John the Apostle to a.d. 325.   ·The second stage focuses on the climactic encount...Read More

A. The Council of Nicea (a.d. 325): the Contribution of Arius and Athanasius to the Development of Trinitarian Thought   1. Arius and his Theology - The details of Arius’s life are unknown. Some speculate that he was born in what is now Libya in North Africa. Arius was a presbyter over the church district of Baucalis in Alexandria, who was asked by his bishop to explain Prov. 8:22-31. Arius affirmed, among other things, that "the son, born of the Father befo...Read More

A.            The “Doctrine” of the Holy Spirit in the Post-Apostolic Fathers   The fact is, there was no “doctrine” of the Spirit, per se. References to the HS were personal, experiential, catechetical, and doxological. The focus is on his activity and work but not his nature or relationship to Father and Son. For example:   Clement of Rome coordinates three persons in an oath: ...Read More

The relevance of the debate between Augustine and Pelagius may be seen from the following list of questions that emerged then and continue to be asked today:   ·Are infants born innocent or guilty? ·Are those who die in infancy saved or lost? ·Are people morally and spiritually corrupt? ·What affect did Adam’s fall have on the human race? On you? ·Is sin only an act of will or a character flaw? ·Is grace essenti...Read More

A. Augustine’s Theology   It will help if we review the main points in Pelagius' theology and then observe Augustine's point by point response.   ·First, Adam was created neither holy nor evil. His will was in a state of moral equilibrium or moral indifference.   ·Second, Adam would have died physically whether he sinned or not. Physical death is not a penalty for sin but is the inevitable corollary of being a creature.   &...Read More

A.            Medieval Theological Controversies   The first two controversies were particularly significant in terms of the role they played in dividing East from West (something we will address more thoroughly in our study of Eastern Orthodox theology).   1.             The Iconoclastic Controversy [The word iconoclastic = lit., "image-breake...Read More

  "When picturing Christ in the way I have mentioned, and sometimes even when reading, I used unexpectedly to experience a consciousness of the presence of God of such a kind that I could not possibly doubt that he was within me or that I was wholly engulfed in him. This was in no sense a vision: I believe that it is called mystical theology" (The Life of St. Teresa of Avila [Doubleday Books, 1960], 1.10; p. 119).  A. Towards a Definition of Mysticism Wh...Read More

There are @ 6 million people in the U.S. (among whom are Peter Gillquist and Franky Schaeffer) who identify with the Orthodox faith, and @ 200-215 million worldwide (70 million of whom are in Russia alone), all of whom are gathered into one of the 13 autocephalous or "self-governing" Orthodox churches throughout the world. The head of each autocephalous church is called a Patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople is given greater honor but has no authority to interfere ...Read More

Anselm (1033-1109)   Anselm was born at Aosta in Piedmont (northern Italy) two years before William the Conqueror became Duke of Normandy. He was a studious youth, amiable, and often displayed a profound tenderness for animals. In despair over his relationship with his father he left home at the age of 23 and traveled north to Bec in Normandy. After the death of his father (who finally converted), Anselm became a monk (1060).   In 1063 he succeeded Lanfran...Read More

Aquinas (1225-74)   Thomas Aquinas was born at Roccasecca in Italy. His father was Count Landulf of Aquino (thus the name Aquinas). He joined the Dominican order of monks in 1242 against his family’s wishes. His father sent his brothers to kidnap him in an attempt to “deprogram” the young man. They even tried, unsuccessfully, to lure him into sin with a prostitute, thinking that he would then regard himself as unfit for the ministry! Aquinas was...Read More

An Introduction to the Protestant Reformation   "The Reformation of the sixteenth century is, next to the introduction of Christianity, the greatest event in history. It marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of modern times. Starting from religion, it gave, directly or indirectly, a mighty impulse to every forward movement, and made Protestantism the chief propelling force in the history of modern civilization" (Philip Schaff, VII:1).   A.&...Read More

A.            The Early Life of Luther   1.             Early Academic Life - Luther was born on Nov. 10, 1483, at Eisleben in Prussian Saxony. He died in the same city while passing through it on Feb. 18, 1546. [Michelangelo was born in 1475.]   After the reformation began, Luther was frequently slandered by his RC opponents. In particular, ...Read More

1. The Sufficiency of Scripture - It was Luther's insistence on SOLA Scriptura, Scripture alone, that was crucial. Neither church fathers nor papal decrees nor ecclesiastical tradition nor church councils stood on a par with the authority of the Bible. This concept of Scripture has been misunderstood. Sola Scriptura is not meant to suggest that there is no other religious authority, but that there is no higher religious authority.   2. The Inerrancy of Scripture -...Read More

From the Early Church to the Council of Trent   A.        Justification in the Early Church   The early church fathers did not use the concept or vocabulary of “justification” to express their understanding of the nature of salvation. As Alister McGrath notes, “justification was simply not a theological issue in the pre-Augustinian tradition” (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Ju...Read More

The Life of John Calvin:   A.            Calvin's Early Life and Education (1509-1536)   1.             Home Life - Calvin was born on July 10, 1509, at Noyon in Northeastern France. Unlike Luther, Calvin was born into the professional class and received an excellent early education. [His name has come to us via a process: Cauvin is French; Cal...Read More

A.        The Institutes of the Christian Religion   "Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion," writes McNeill, "is one of the few books that have profoundly affected the course of history" (119). The first edition of 1536 contained only 6 chapters. The final edition of 1550 had 80 chapters.   The first edition had a two-fold purpose: 1) to explain the faith so as to exhibit its true essence as opposed to the caricat...Read More

Huldrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and the Swiss Reformation   and   The Anabaptists   A. The Reformation and Zwingli 1. Zwingli's Life Zwingli was born into a wealthy family, just 7 weeks after Luther's birth, on January 1st in Wildhaus, Toggenburg, in the eastern part of Switzerland. He began formal studies in Vienna (1500-02) and later studied at the University of Basel where he received his Bachelor of Arts (1504) and Master of Arts (1506) (Luther r...Read More

Roman Catholicism & the Reformation The Catholic Counter-Reformation & the Council of Trent   A.            The Catholic "Counter"-Reformation The term "Counter"-Reformation, when used of developments within the Catholic church of the 16th century, is somewhat misleading. Steven Ozment explains: "Modern historians interpret the Counter Reformation of the sixteenth century as less a reaction to the s...Read More

and the Anglican Tradition With the English Reformation we come to the fourth major tradition to emerge from the events of Oct. 31st, 1517 (Lutheran, Reformed [Calvinistic], and Anabaptist being the other three). The reformation in England differed from that on the continent in three ways: 1) The English reformation was dominated by political events. 2) There was no one figure who stood out in the way Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli did in Europe. 3) The struggle in England ...Read More

Protestant Scholasticism A. The Theology of Puritanism   Despite Elizabeth's efforts to unify the people of England, some did not think the spirit of the Reformation had gone far enough. The Puritans, as they came to be called, did not believe Elizabeth's attempt at compromise (Via Media ) was sufficient. Elizabeth's settlement "was based on the assumption that while Christian doctrine is found only in the Bible, such secondary matters as liturgy and Church org...Read More

The Nature of Theological Heresy   The founder of the Socinian movement was Faustus Socinus (or, Sozzini; 1539-1604), nephew of Laelius (Lelio) Socinus (1525-1562), whose writings were so inflammatory that they were never published. The best sources for understanding the Socinian system of thought are Faustus Socinus’s De Jesu Christo Servatore (1594), his commentary on the prologue to John’s gospel, and the Racovian Catechism, a manifesto of the Polis...Read More

Hugo Grotius and the Governmental Theory of the Atonement   Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was a distinguished Dutch jurist and statesman, theologically Arminian, who undertook a rebuttal of the Socinian theory of the atonement. Grotius is often thought to have sought a via media, a middle way, between the penal substitutionary theory of the reformed and the view of Socinus. Grotius himself, however, believed that he was simply defending the historical doctrine of the c...Read More

The Arminian Controversy   Up until 1525 those who turned to the Protestant faith in the Netherlands were followers of Luther. From 1525 to 1540 the Anabaptists gained a strong foothold through the influence of Menno Simons. From 1540 on the Calvinists grew in number. By 1560 the majority of Protestants were Reformed with a few Anabaptists and even fewer Lutherans.   Our main concern is with the theological developments that occurred. At a national synod in...Read More

The Reformation in France and the Amyraldian Controversy The Reformation initially reached France through the influence of Luther's writings. Protestants there were severely persecuted, the culmination of which came in the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day massacre (August 23-24, 1572) when nearly 20,000 were martyred. The Edict of Nantes granted toleration in 1598. Our concern is with the man Moise Amyraut (also read as Moses Amyraldus) (1596-1664). He was quite studious...Read More

Its Impact on Christianity   The Enlightenment was not a movement per se, but a cluster of ideas, conceptions and attitudes that were most dominant in Europe in the 18th century, primarily 1720-80. Some insist it began with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and ended with the Thirty Years’ War and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason in 1781 (others would more broadly date the Enlightenment 1650-1800).   The term enlightenment comes from the German Aufk...Read More

Christology: The Person of Christ   Our focus here is on the more significant post-reformation developments in Christology, specifically, the person of Jesus Christ. We begin by noting several important developments in 19th century German thought.   A. Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834)   Schleiermacher, often referred to as the father of modern liberal theology, sought to relocate the focus of true religion away from cognitive affirmation of orth...Read More

Christology: The Work of Christ   In this lesson, we will look at the significant post-reformation developments concerning the work of Christ, specifically, his atoning sacrifice.   A. Theologians and Theories Emphasizing the Objective Nature of Christ's Atoning Death   Perhaps the best example of this tradition is found in 19th century America among Reformed theologians.   1. William G. T. Shedd (1820-1894) - Shedd followed the reformers by ...Read More

Developments in the Doctrine of Scripture Although our focus is on post-reformation developments in the doctrine of Scripture, we must begin with the reformation itself. It is important to remember that the inspiration of the Bible was not the central issue at stake in the 16th century. The RCC fundamentally agreed with the reformers on the nature of Scripture but differed over the latter’s sufficiency. In other words, it wasn’t the noun Scriptura but the...Read More

The Emergence of Modern Theological Liberalism   The emergence of religious liberalism in America was the product of numerous forces, the more important of which are noted below.   A. The Origins of American Religious Liberalism   1. New England Theology - The emergence of New England Theology is generally dated from the death of Jonathan Edwards (1758). The principal contributors to the demise of Edwardsian Calvinism include:   ·Joseph...Read More

Liberation Theology Most forms of liberation theology were born in the social turmoil of the 1960s. It wasn’t the intellectual challenge posed by atheism and secularism that concerned these new thinkers but the social and economic and political oppression experienced by people in the present day. For liberation thinkers, theology needed to shift its focus from abstract speculation on the nature and existence of God to the concrete realities of how the gospel might...Read More

Black Theology   The emergence of black theology is owing largely to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The latter awakened in blacks a new self-consciousness and sense of personal dignity that was distinctly tied to their ethnicity and social plight. Grenz and Olson:   "Black theology was not concerned with the intellectual problems of secularized culture; its concern lay instead with the realities of the experience of Blacks in America. As a result, ...Read More

Feminist Theology Grenz and Olson point out that “late twentieth-century feminist theology shares certain similarities with North American Black theology and Latin American liberation theology. Like they, it begins with a situation of oppression, thereby becoming critical reflection on praxis – the experience of oppressed persons freeing themselves from domination” (225-26). The principal difference is found in the identity of the “oppressed&rd...Read More

Post-Reformation and Contemporary Developments in Evangelicalism The word is often used in a number of ways. Robert Webber (The Younger Evangelicals) notes four: (1)           Biblically - as a reference to the gospel (euangelion), i.e., the "good news" that God has acted savingly in Jesus Christ (2)           Historically - as a reference to any movement o...Read More

Post-Reformation and Contemporary Developments in Roman Catholic Theology A.            Seventeenth-Century Developments 1.             Jansenism – The movement was named after Cornelius Jansen (d. 1638), bishop of Ypres, Holland, and professor at Louvain University. Jansen was a thoroughgoing Augustinian/Calvinist whose theology was incompatible w...Read More

Post-Reformation and Contemporary Developments in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements   The influence of the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is so widespread and pervasive that some historians are beginning to speak of it as the third great epoch of church history, the first two being the Age of Catholicism (a.d. 100 to 1517) and the age of the Protestant Reformation (1517 to the present). Our survey will touch only the spread of the movement in America,...Read More

Alister McGrath has defined postmodernism as “the general intellectual outlook arising after the collapse of modernism” (Historical Theology, 244). Thus, if we are to understand the essence of postmodernism, we must first understand modernism, which it purports to succeed. Several factors are involved. (1)        The “modern” or “enlightenment” mind assumes the objectivity of reality. Reality is &ldq...Read More

We live in a world that is growing increasingly uncomfortable with religious exclusivism. The traditional Christian claim that Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" and that salvation is available only to those who consciously put their faith in Him is now regarded as both arrogant and offensive. The "scandal of particularity," as it is commonly called, may well be the most volatile and urgent issue facing the church in the 21st century. There are a number o...Read More

Books released in conjunction with the 300th Anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Edwards ...Read More

Open Theism in the Hands of an Angry Puritan: Edwards on Divine Foreknowledge Part One...Read More

Open Theism in the Hands of an Angry Puritan: Edwards on Divine Foreknowledge Part Two ...Read More

Insights from Jonathan Edwards on the Foreknowledge of God Part 3 ...Read More

Jonathan Edwards on Original Sin: Mediate or Immediate Imputation? ...Read More

Is Imputation Unjust? Jonathan Edwards on the Problem of Original Sin...Read More

Edwards on Revival - Part I - Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival: A Narrative of Surprising Conversions and The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God Summary and Analysis ...Read More

Edwards on Revival - Part II - Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival: A Narrative of Surprising Conversions and The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God ...Read More

Edwards on Revival - Part III - Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival: Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England ...Read More

Edwards on Revival - Part IV - Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival: Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England...Read More

“It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . . . Thus it is necessary, that God&rsquo...Read More

There are approximately 1,200 extant sermons, probably four-fifths of the original number. His favorite sermon texts, in order of preference: Matthew, Luke, Isaiah, Psalms, John, 1 Corinthians, Proverbs, and Romans. “Edwards considered every sermon to be, in a very literal sense, ‘occasional.’ That is, every sermon, despite the abstract tone resulting from the conventions of the traditional sermon, form, is a response to a specific situation...Read More

At no time did Edwards believe or preach that America would be either the focus or the locus of the coming millennium. Rather, he suggested that, at best, America may be where those intermittent revivals would occur that eventually would bring on the millennium, the latter being at least 250 years away. Edwards believed in the concept of the “national covenant,” according to which God entered into covenant with a people or nation and blessed or punished them...Read More

[1701 / Yale College established] 1703 / Born October 5, East Windsor, Connecticut He had 10 sisters (no brothers), all of whom were at least 6 ft. tall! Jonathan’s paternal grandmother was a chronic adulteress who bore another man’s child. She was psychotic, often given to fits of perversity, rage, and threats of violence (her sister murdered her own child and her brother killed another sister with an ax). She eventually deserted her family and was finally...Read More

[The reader is encouraged to read Edwards’ sermon before working through these short observations.] What the “divine and supernatural light” is not: 1)         It is not to be identified with the conviction of sin that unregenerate people experience. The Spirit can act upon the soul of the unregenerate without communicating himself to or uniting himself with that person. 2)      &n...Read More

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