The Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards - Part VI
“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 great clog and burden, that what I felt within, I could not express as I desired. The inward ardor of my soul, seemed to be hindered and pent up, and could not freely flame out as it would. I used often to think, how in heaven this principle should freely and fully vent and express itself. Heaven appeared exceedingly delightful, as a world of love; and that all happiness consisted in living in pure, humble, heavenly, divine love.”
I know what Edwards meant when he expressed his frustration in not being able to “freely and fully vent and express” his love for Christ. Physical pains hold us back. Relational struggles distract our thoughts. Fatigue limits how long we can praise. Fleshly impulses defile even our highest and most sincere declarations of love. This is one reason why heaven is so appealing and the anticipation of it so spiritually animating. One day, and forevermore, we will pray and praise and celebrate and rejoice and enjoy God without the slightest tinge of lust or greed or pride or weakness or boredom. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Edwards mentions, in passing, a time of pressure and emotional burden that weighed heavily on his soul, the remedy for which was “contemplations of the heavenly state.” He continues:
“It was a comfort to think of that state, where there is fullness of joy; where reigns heavenly, calm, and delightful love, without alloy; where there are continually the dearest expressions of this love; where is the enjoyment of the persons loved, without ever parting; where those persons who appear so lovely in this world, will really be inexpressibly more lovely, and full of love to us. And how sweetly will the mutual lovers join together, to sing the praises of God and the Lamb! How will it fill us with joy to think, that this enjoyment, these sweet exercises, will never cease, but will last to all eternity.”
How do you comfort your soul when life is bad or a bore? Is it with thoughts of an eternity where joy is “full” and undiminished? When you struggle to like, much less love, a brother or sister in Christ, do you strengthen your resolve to bless them with thoughts that a day is coming that will bring “the enjoyment of the persons loved, without ever parting”? Even those in this world whom we do love will in that world “really be inexpressibly more lovely and full of love to us.” Better still, all of us who then will perfectly love one another will together, in perfect harmony of heart and voice, sing praises to God and the Lamb.
Perhaps Edwards’ greatest insight into the glory of heaven is that “this enjoyment, these sweet exercises, will never cease, but will last to all eternity.” But more than that, they will actually increase and intensify and expand! Whatever joy we experience in heaven will forever grow. Whatever pleasures we feel in heaven will forever deepen. We will never fully and finally arrive, as if once we have tasted such sweet delights we will have exhausted their capacity to satisfy our souls. It will only get better, forever. It will only taste sweeter, forever. It will only appear more beautiful, forever. With each joyful encounter we will have only touched a small measure of an even greater, perpetual, infinite and eternal increase!