[With this article I begin a new series of short, daily meditations on selected Psalms.]
In most instances I like to leave myself a little theological wiggle room, a loophole, if you will, a measure of flexibility that affords me the opportunity of qualifying some statement that I've made. In fact, it's often the failure to provide nuance and clarification to our declarations that gets us in trouble or boxes us in to a position that on more mature reflection clearly calls for less inflammatory language or more charity to those who might take a different stance.
I say this only to prepare you for something Jonathan Edwards declared in a remarkable sermon entitled, "Nothing upon Earth can Represent the Glories of Heaven." It is utterly lacking in nuance. Its boldness is breathtaking and its ramifications are profound. And it provides a perfect introduction to our series of meditations on selected psalms. Said Edwards: "God created man for nothing else but happiness. He created him only that he might communicate happiness to him" (Sermons and Discourses 1723-1729, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 14. Edited by Kenneth P. Minkema [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997], pp. 145-46).
Would you have preferred that he not say "nothing else" but happiness? Or would it have been easier to swallow had he chosen a word other than "only"? Well, that's Edwards for you.
I'm convinced that once we understand what Edwards meant by "happiness" and how our experience of it relates to the glory of God, objections will cease. By happiness Edwards didn't mean giddiness or frivolity or fame or fortune. Few of the things that constitute happiness for people today were in view when Edwards wrote and preached this sermon.
Let me define the term by appealing to what I wrote in Chapter One of my book One Thing>