The Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards - Part IV
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 heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and conversation with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of, than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life-giving good there is in them.”
(1) I often feel “vehement longings” for the Oklahoma Sooners to win football games. I’m vehement in my longings for a good movie, a steak medium rare, and other comforts and conveniences that I’m convinced I can’t live without. Why then am I not vehemently longing for the presence and glory and supremacy of Jesus? How is it that I have allowed my heart to be captivated by such lesser treasures? Why have I believed the lie that the pleasures they bring can fill my soul in a way that Jesus can’t? Oh, gracious Father, make known to me through your Spirit the beauty and majesty of Jesus that I might long for him, crave him, pursue him, and settle for nothing less than all that you are for me in him.
(2) Do you find it interesting that a Calvinist like Edwards would say, “I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace”? If God sovereignly determines when we turn to him in faith, how can Edwards lament that he did not turn to God sooner than he did?
Clearly Edwards never permitted his confidence in divine sovereignty to undermine his moral accountability to do all that God commands. If Edwards did not turn to God before he did, only Edwards is to be blamed. The fault for human sin and willful resistance to the overtures of grace in the gospel lies with the human heart. Edwards never compromised his belief in the ultimate sovereignty of God in accomplishing his will. But he did not conduct his life by speculating on what may or may not be God’s secret and decretive will. Nor did he sit passively waiting for some “divine seizure” to motivate, move or compel him to obey. The rule for human behavior is the revealed or preceptive will of God which commands all men everywhere to repent. If Edwards did not repent before he did, only he is to blame. Only you and I are at fault for failing to embrace the good news of the gospel before we did. If you struggle to reconcile these twin truths, don’t. Identify in Scripture what you are called to do, confess your reliance on divine grace for all good things, and then “work out your salvation in fear and trembling,” knowing that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
(3) How does the human soul come to savor the sweetness of Christ Jesus? Only by seeing him, only by fixing the eyes of the heart on the revelation of him in the Word and the World (creation). Edwards was entranced with the beauty of Jesus because his “mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them.” This doesn’t come easily, especially in a world that demands so much of our time and attention. Edwards was deliberate and resolute in his determination to spend time alone with God. He did it by spending every possible moment “in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and conversation with God.”
(4) He walked and talked with God as with a friend, vocalizing the sighs of his soul, giving vent in prayer, often brief but always poignant. Oh, how God longs for this time with us. Do you know how passionate God is for your undivided devotion, to hear every cry, every need, however small or great? He will never turn you away!
(5) Do you feel “delight” in the things of religion, as did Edwards? Or are they a burden, an intrusion into a life preoccupied with stuff and still more stuff? Here Edwards hints that the pleasure he felt in religious duties as a boy was not saving in nature. Listen again: “Those former delights [from his youth] never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life-giving good there is in them.” Does your pursuit of God arise from an awareness and relishing of his excellency or from an anticipation of the favors and gifts you hope he will bestow? Oh, dear friend, there is “soul-satisfying and life-giving good” in God and nowhere else. He is the gospel. He is the good news. Knowing him is what the mind was made for. Loving him is what the heart was made for. Being the temple of his abiding presence is what the body was made for.
“Oh, God, we plead for your Spirit to stir within our selfish and worldly hearts those vehement longings for your Son that we might see him in his glory, and smell the sweet fragrance of his presence, and rest secure in the loving embrace of his arms. May we, in knowing and prizing and praising him, be forever ruined for anything else!