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Holiness: A Calm Ecstasy to the Soul over which Angels Delight to Hover!

The Apostle Peter tells us that the entire scheme of our salvation, including our grace-empowered pursuit of practical holiness, is something “into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12b). Jonathan Edwards agrees (as we would expect!). Continue reading . . .

The Apostle Peter tells us that the entire scheme of our salvation, including our grace-empowered pursuit of practical holiness, is something “into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12b). Jonathan Edwards agrees (as we would expect!). In his first Miscellany, written when he was only 19 years old, he reflects on their eager desire to behold what God is producing in the lives of his redeemed children:

“Oh, how many angels stand, with pleased, delighted and charmed eyes, and look and look, with smiles of pleasure upon their lips, upon that soul that is holy; how may they hover over such a soul, to delight to behold such loveliness!” (Yale 13:163).

Edwards is known for many things, one of which is his copious use of analogies and word pictures to portray biblical truth. His paean of Christian holiness is no exception:

“How is it [holiness of life in the Christian] above all the heathen virtues, of a more light, bright and pure nature, more serene and calm, more peaceful and delightsome! What a sweet calmness, what a calm ecstasy, doth it bring to the soul! How doth it make the soul love itself; how doth it make the pure invisible world love it; yea, how doth God love it and delight in it; how do even the whole creation, the sun, the fields and trees love a humble holiness; how doth all the world congratulate, embrace, and sing to a sanctified soul!” (Yale 13:163).

Among the many ways Edwards gives expression to glorious spiritual truths is by comparing them to realities in the physical or natural realm. He writes:

“How is it possible that such a divine thing [holiness] should be on earth: it makes the soul like a delightful field or garden planted by God, with all manner of pleasant flowers growing in the order in which nature has planted them, that is all pleasant and delightful, undisturbed, free from all the noise of man and beast, enjoying a sweet calm and the bright, calm, and gently vivifying beams of the sun forevermore: where the sun is Jesus Christ; the blessed beams and calm breeze, the Holy Spirit; the sweet and delightful flowers, and the pleasant shrill music of the little birds, are the Christian graces” (Yale, 13:164).

Stop and read that again. Read it slowly and meditate on the imagery. Has he exaggerated? I think not. He then picks up again on this remarkable portrayal of holiness:

“Or [holiness is] like the little white flower: pure, unspotted and undefiled, low and humble, pleasing and harmless; receiving the beams, the pleasant beams of the serene sun, gently moved and a little shaken by a sweet breeze, rejoicing as it were in a calm rapture, diffusing around a most delightful fragrancy, standing most peacefully and lovingly in the midst of the other like flowers round about. How calm and serene is the heaven overhead! How free is the world from noise and disturbance! How, if one were but holy enough, would they of themselves and as it were naturally ascend from the earth in delight, to enjoy God as Enoch did!” (Yale, 13:164).

Let’s be certain we have not lost sight of what it is that Edwards is describing. He has in view the progressive transformation in the life of the believer as he/she is made more and more to look like Jesus! When I think of this, I must pause and take stock in my life. Do I look this way to others? Do I evoke in their minds the sort of imagery that Edwards employs? Have I defiled and defaced this “little white flower” with my selfish and sinful ways?

Few Christians that I know think of personal holiness in such terms. Perhaps that is one reason why it is not yet in full flower in our souls!

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