The Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards - Part VIII
“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 rejoice when evil is defeated and dictators deposed and the hungry are fed and the homeless are clothed? Should we not then praise God when the gospel is preached and injustice is righted and good is vindicated?
Yes! Lord, let your kingdom come! Let your will be done!
Edwards was passionate about the kingdom of God. On many occasions he testified to having read anything he could lay his hands upon which reported of the advancement of Christ’s lordship over all peoples and nations and kingdoms. On two occasions in the Personal Narrative he describes his concern for the progress of the kingdom. Here they are:
“I had, then, abundance of sweet, religious conversation, in the family where I lived, with Mr. John Smith, and his pious mother. My heart was knit in affection to those in whom were appearances of true piety; and I could bear the thoughts of no other companions, but such as were holy, and the disciples of the blessed Jesus. I had great longings, for the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the world; and my secret prayer used to be, in great part, taken up in praying for it. If I heard the least hint, of any thing that happened, in any part of the world, that appeared, in some respect or other, to have a favorable aspect on the interests of Christ's kingdom, my soul eagerly catched at it [i.e., connected with it or responded to it favorably]; and it would much animate and refresh me. I used to be eager to read public newsletters, mainly for that end; to see if I could not find some news, favorable to the interest of religion in the world.
I very frequently used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of Hudson's River, at some distance from the city, for contemplation on divine things and secret converse with God, and had many sweet hours there. Sometimes Mr. Smith and I walked there together, to converse on the things of God; and our conversation used to turn much on the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the world, and the glorious things that God would accomplish for his church in the latter days. 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 often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.
My heart has been much on the advancement of Christ's kingdom in the world. The histories of the past advancement of Christ's kingdom have been sweet to me. When I have read histories of past ages, the pleasantest thing in all my reading has been, to read of the kingdom of Christ being promoted. And when I have expected, in my reading, to come to any such thing, I have rejoiced in the prospect, all the way as I read. And my mind has been much entertained and delighted with the scripture promises and prophecies, which relate to the future glorious advancement of Christ's kingdom upon earth.”
Why was Edwards so captivated by the earthly progress of the Christian faith? Because he was passionate about the supremacy of Christ in all things in the lives of all people in every country. Edwards was no crass triumphalist. He didn’t strut or boast or take pride in the cause of religion. He rejoiced in these reports because he heard in them the echo: “Jesus is Lord!” He saw in them evidence of the ever-increasing recognition on the part of men and women that Jesus alone is King, that Jesus alone is Ruler of the rulers of the earth.
Some have detected in these statements Edwards’ postmillennial eschatology, a belief that by means of the gracious and powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, expressed in and through the church, the kingdom of Christ will eventually conquer all rivals and subdue all enemies and issue in a global harvest of souls prior to the second coming of our Lord. Perhaps so.
But irrespective of our personal eschatological beliefs, we should each take heed to this concern for the kingdom of Christ and the ever-expanding embrace of his sovereign will.