Jonathan Edwards in Northampton…

cover_issue_27_en_USThere is some fascinating reading in the Jonathan Edwards Studies journal from Yale. University of Richmond professor Douglas Winiarski has worked through a mass of documents and detailed the events surrounding Edwards’ dismissal from the church in Northampton. A number of things stand out in the articles, not the least of which is to see congregational polity working in a very presbyterian manner. And, did you know that Edwards was open to and very close to affiliating with the Scots-Irish Presbyterians to set-up a new church in Northampton? The first four of five articles have been published…

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy I: David Hall’s Diary & Letter to Edward Billing

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy II: Relations, Professions, & Experiences, 1748-1760

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy III: Count Vivasor’s Tirade & The Second Council, 1751

New Perspectives on the Northampton Communion Controversy IV: Experience Mayhew’s Dissertation on Edwards’s Humble Inquiry 


Do you have times like this?

“Once as I rode out into the woods for my health in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view, that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love and meek, gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency, great enough to swallow up all thought and conception—which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud.” – Jonathan Edwards in his Personal Narrative

Christians worship the Lord Jesus Christ, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come” (Rev. 1:8).

Or, church-goer, do you serve a false god that reduces Jesus to religious rituals and conservative politics and philosophical concepts and cold logic?

Do you have times of pure adoration like that of Jonathan Edwards described above?

Do you love the Person Jesus Christ, living and incarnate?

Father, enlarge our hearts!

Some good $0.99 ebooks on Amazon…

…although many of the below can be had for free in html or pdf format at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, an excellent resource.

Augustine: City of God and Christian Doctrine

Baxter: The Reformed Pastor

Baxter: Saints’ Everlasting Rest

Berkhof: Summary of Christian Doctrine

Chesterton: The Complete Father Brown Mysteries Collection

Chesterton: Orthodoxy (annotated)

Edwards: The Freedom of the Will

Edwards: The Life and Diary of David Brainerd

Edwards: Religious Affections

Hodge: Systematic Theology Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3

Kuyper: Lectures on Calvinism

Lewis: The Abolition of Man

Luther: Bondage of the Will

Machen: Christianity and Liberalism

Owen: Sermons

Rutherford: Lex Rex

Ryle: Holiness

Spurgeon: The Beatitudes

Warfield: Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy

Watson: Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Watson: The Doctrine of Repentance

Watson: The Godly Man’s Picture

Jonathan Edwards’ A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections: My very brief summary…

rp_191px-Jonathan_Edwards_engraving.jpgJonathan Edwards was concerned with the faith of his flock. He knew that in order to be faithful to his calling he must constantly make judgments—judgments about the hearts and consciences of the people of his church. Edwards shepherded his flock during a time of revival (the First Great Awakening). When the Spirit works, Satan works, too, doing his counterfeiting work (2 Cor. 11:14). In his A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Edwards thinks through how we may discern between true religion and counterfeit religion. He works through some possible indications of whether someone has been truly converted by the Spirit or whether they have not been converted, though they be moral-spiritual-religious. Edwards wrote,

And so it is likely ever to be in the church, whenever religion revives remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair shows, and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited; the consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often inexpressibly dreadful. But this means, the devil gratifies himself, that multitudes should offer to God, under the notion of acceptable service, what is indeed above all things abominable to him. But this means, he deceives great multitudes about the state of their souls; making them think they are something, when they are nothing; and so eternally undoes them: and not only so, but establishes many in a strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who, in God’s sight, are some of the vilest hypocrites.

So, where does Edwards settle? What conclusions does he come to when addressing the question of how we might have some assurance that someone is truly converted or not, whether his heart (the seat of the affections) is fully devoted to God or not, whether he loves God or not, whether the love of God has been poured out in his heart or not (Rom. 5:5), whether his affections arise from himself or from God?

Well, in the middle of things (Part 2, Section 12), he states clearly that only God infallibly knows those who have regenerate hearts (1 Sam. 16:7):

How great therefore may the resemblance be, as to all outward expressions and appearances, between a hypocrite and a true saint! Doubtless, it is the glorious prerogative of the omniscient God, as the great searcher of hearts, to be able well to separate between these sheep and goats. And what an indecent self-exaltation and arrogance is it, in poor fallible dark mortals, to pretend, that they can determine and know, who are really sincere and upright before God, and who are not.

Nonetheless, Jesus, Edwards says, has given us rules by which we may form “our judging of others’ sincerity.” Those rules aren’t the ones the typical church of our day has enshrined.

He starts with the negative. Here are some things he says do not prove whether someone is truly converted or not (summarized in my own words):

1. Heightened emotions prove nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 1).

2. Heightened emotions which cause the body to react (fainting, falling to ground, jumping up and down, or walking down the aisle) prove nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 2).

3. Increased and intense talk about spiritual things proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 3).

4. A claim that a person did not produce these affections by his own efforts proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 4).

5. That Scriptures unaccountably come to mind proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 5).

6. That there is an appearance of love to Christ in our affections proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 6).

7. That there is a combination of intense affections (love, sorrow, fear, gratitude) proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 7).

8. That comfort and joy are said to be in the heart of a person proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 8).

9. That someone spends a lot of time at church, in Bible study, in worship, in private devotions, etc. proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 9).

10. That someone uses his mouth to praise God proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 10).

11. That someone is confident of God’s favor proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 11).

12. That someone gives a great testimony of God’s work proves nothing one way or the other (Part 2, Section 12).

You may be scratching your head after reading some of the above. Take the time to slog through Edwards’ arguments for each of them, and you’ll begin to understand why he put them on his doesn’t-prove-a-thing list. In a nutshell, all of the above twelve are actions we can do, think, feel, or manufacture ourselves. They can arise in any man, whether or not the Holy Spirit has gone to work on his dead heart.

What follows, on the other hand, are some indicators that Edwards says are “distinguishing signs of truly gracious and holy affections.” Here are my summaries:

1. The affections of the heart are changed from outside the self, by a spiritual, supernatural, and divine work (Part 3, Section 1).

2. The affections arise first or primarily from a view of God’s perfection, only secondarily from an understanding of what He has done for us (Part 3, Section 2).

3. Fundamental and essential to a genuine love for God is a love for His holiness (Part 3 Section 3).

4. The enlightened mind not only thinks right thoughts of God, but his mind is governed by the heart which “relishes” and “feels” God’s greatness (Part 3, Section 4). Here’s Edwards’ illustration of this: “…he that has perceived the sweet taste of honey, knows much more about it, than he who has only looked upon and felt it.”

5. A Christian has faith as it is defined in Hebrews 11 (assurance of things expected). Edwards writes, “They no longer halt between two opinions; the great doctrines of the gospel cease to be any longer doubtful things, or matters of opinion, which, though probable, are yet disputable; but with them, they are points settled and determined, as undoubted and indisputable; so that they are not afraid to venture their all upon the truth.”

6. A Christian knows his own despicableness and yet still approaches God as a gracious Father (Part 3, Section 6).

7. A Christian has undergone a change of nature (Part 3, Section 7). Edwards writes, “A man may be restrained from sin, before he is converted; but when he is converted, his very heart and nature is turned from it unto holiness: so that thenceforward he becomes a holy person and an enemy to sin.”

8. A Christian lives a life after the pattern of Jesus Christ—1 John 2:6 (Part 3, Section 8).

9. A Christian has an always-soft heart or an ever-tender conscience (Part 3, Section 9).

10. A Christian is well-balanced in his affections, neither always joyful nor always sorrowful (Part 3, Section 10).

11. A Christian has an ever-increasing appetite for holiness (Part 3, Section 11).

12. A Christian bears fruit through real obedience to God’s Word (Part 3, Section 12).

13. Holiness of life is the “chief sign” of grace in the Christian, visible to others—”You shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16) (Part 3, Section 13).

14. Holiness of life is a “sure evidence” of grace in the Christian, to a person’s own conscience—”Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3) (Part 3, Section 14).

In the end, Edwards concludes that holiness of life—real, tangible, visible obedience to God’s commands in His Word—is the ultimate distinguishing characteristic of the Christian.

Iain Murray…

Read everything written by pastor and historian Iain Murray…particularly Revival & Revivalism, Evangelicalism DividedJonathan Edwards: A New Biography, and his biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Everything else is good, too.

Here’s an interview with him that will give you a sense of his wisdom and zeal for the Church and her history.



Good books for nothing…

51x+ZB+3PLL._SL160_Looking around on the Amazon website for free stuff this morning, came across these free Kindle books. Not the best editions of these works out there…but at least you’ll have the text. If you don’t have a Kindle machine, you can use the Kindle app on many other devices…

Augustine: Confessions

Bunyan: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Bunyan: The Works of John Bunyan

Chesterton: What’s Wrong with the World?

Chesterton: Orthodoxy

Edwards: Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards

Fox’s Book of Martyrs

Josephus: The Wars of the Jews; or the History of the Destruction of Jerusalem

Knox: First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women

Luther: Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther

Milton: Paradise Lost

Ryle: Practical Religion Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians

Ryle: Sketch of the Life and Labors of George Whitefield


From the "Unchangeableness of Christ" to infanticide…

Princeton University’s motto: “Under God’s power she flourishes”

New Jersey College, later to be named Princeton University, began with strong connections to the Presbyterian church. Many of the men who had served at the Log College, including Gilbert Tennent, became trustees at the new institution. David Calhoun, in his wonderful two-volume history of Princeton Seminary, writes, “The purpose of the new school, they [the trustees] said, was not only to educate ministers of the gospel but also to raise up ‘men that will be useful in other learned professions—ornaments of the State as well as the Church.'” After Jonathan Dickinson and Aaron Burr, Jonathan Edwards was invited to be the third president of the school. Several weeks after he started his duties, Edwards was inoculated for smallpox and died. In the short time he served the school he was able to preach a few sermons in chapel, including a two-hour sermon on “The Unchangeableness of Christ.”

Time has not been kind to Princeton. We should understand this principle from looking at the history of Princeton: over the course of time an institution becomes the very thing it was founded to oppose (Christians have to be willing, therefore, to leave behind dead grandeur for new Log Colleges). For a moment, imagine Gilbert Tennent or Jonathan Edwards reading these words from the sophisticated and learned Peter Singer, currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University’s University Center for Human Values:

Q. You have been quoted as saying: “Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all.” Is that quote accurate?

A. It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without an understanding of what I mean by the term “person” (which is discussed in Practical Ethics, from which that quotation is taken). I use the term “person” to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future.  As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living.  That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do.  It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.

Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment.  That will often ensure that the baby dies.  My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection – but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.

Q. What about a normal baby? Doesn’t your theory of personhood imply that parents can kill a healthy, normal baby that they do not want, because it has no sense of the future?

A. Most parents, fortunately, love their children and would be horrified by the idea of killing it.  And that’s a good thing, of course.  We want to encourage parents to care for their children, and help them to do so. Moreover, although a normal newborn baby has no sense of the future, and therefore is not a person, that does not mean that it is all right to kill such a baby.  It only means that the wrong done to the infant is not as great as the wrong that would be done to a person who was killed. But in our society there are many couples who would be very happy to love and care for that child.  Hence even if the parents do not want their own child, it would be wrong to kill it.

[From Peter Singer’s FAQ Princeton website]

My hunch is that Tennent and Edwards would tell Professor Singer something about his incapability of anticipating his future…

Read Some Edwards This Summer…

If you are looking for some summer reading, add some Jonathan Edwards to your list…


Perhaps you read his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” back in high school English class (as I did in Charlotte, NC). I’d suggest that you return to it, reading it this time with the eyes of faith. Another convicting sermon I’d suggest reading is “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer.” More sermons can be found here and here.

Charity and Its Fruits: Christian Love as Manifested in the Heart and Life (online here). Edwards sermons on 1 Cor. 13. They culminate in the beautiful final sermon, “Heaven, A World of of Charity or Love.”

Theological Treatises

The Religious Affections (online here). Edwards answers these questions: “What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? Or, which comes to the same thing, What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?”

The Freedom of the Will (online here). This treatise is Edwards’ statement on human free will. How is the will of man free? “A man never, in any instance, wills anything contrary to his desires, or desires anything contrary to his will.”

Other Books

The Life and Diary of the Reverend David Brainerd (online here). This book, compiled and edited by Jonathan Edwards, is the journal of David Brainerd, a godly young man who was a missionary to the American Indians. His piety and affection toward God are a challenge to our luke-warm hearts.

Books about Edwards

Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain Murray. Virtually everything Murray writes is worth reading–this is no exception.

Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858 by Iain Murray. This book works through the history of the Great Awakenings, comparing and contrasting the First, which involved Edwards, and the Second. After reading R&R you will understand the American Evangelical landscape better than you did before.


Desiring God: Jonathan Edwards. Piper stole most everything he preaches from Edwards.

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. They keep up with everything Edwardsian and publish his complete works.


Jonathan Edwards: "Christ's love for sinners held out."

The excerpt below is from Jonathan Edwards’s sermon, “Christ’s Agony” on Luke 22:44: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

The strength of Christ’s love more especially appears in this, that when he had such a full view of the dreadfulness of the cup that he was to drink, that so amazed him, he would notwithstanding even then take it up, and drink it. Then seems to have been the greatest and most peculiar trial of the strength of the love of Christ, when God set down the bitter portion before him, and let him see what he had to drink, if he persisted in his love to sinners; and brought him to the mouth of the furnace that he might see its fierceness, and have a full view of it, and have time then to consider whether he would go in and suffer the flames of this furnace for such unworthy creatures, or not. This was as it were proposing it to Christ’s last consideration what he would do; as much as if it had then been said to him, ‘Here is the cup that you are to drink, unless you will give up your undertaking for sinners, and even leave them to perish as they deserve. Will you take this cup, and drink it for them, or not? There is the furnace into which you are to be cast, if they are to be saved; either they must perish, or you must endure this for them. There you see how terrible the heat of the furnace is; you see what pain and anguish you must endure on the morrow, unless you give up the cause of sinners. What will you do? is your love such that you will go on? Will you cast yourself into this dreadful furnace of wrath?’ Christ’s soul was overwhelmed with the thought; his feeble human nature shrunk at the dismal sight. It put him into this dreadful agony which you have heard described; but his love to sinners held out. Christ would not undergo these sufferings needlessly, if sinners could be saved without. If there was not an absolute necessity of his suffering them in order to their salvation, he desired that the cup might pass from him. But if sinners, on whom he had set his love, could not, agreeably to the will of God, be saved without his drinking it, he chose that the will of God should be done. He chose to go on and endure the suffering, awful as it appeared to him. And this was his final conclusion, after the dismal conflict of his poor feeble human nature, after he had had the cup in view, and for at least the space of one hour, had seen how amazing it was. Still he finally resolved that he would bear it, rather than those poor sinners whom he had loved from all eternity should perish. When the dreadful cup was before him, he did not say within himself, why should I, who am so great and glorious a person, infinitely more honourable than all the angels of heaven, Why should I go to plunge myself into such dreadful, amazing torments for worthless wretched worms that cannot be profitable to God, or me, and that deserve to be hated by me, and not to be loved? Why should I, who have been living from all eternity in the enjoyment of the Father’s love, go to cast myself into such a furnace for them that never can requite me for it? Why should I yield myself to be thus crushed by the weight of divine wrath, for them who have no love to me, and are my enemies? they do not deserve any union with me, and never did, and never will do, any thing to recommend themselves to me. What shall I be the richer for having saved a number of miserable haters of God and me, who deserve to have divine justice glorified in their destruction? Such, however, was not the language of Christ’s heart, in these circumstances; but on the contrary, his love held out, and he resolved even then, in the midst of his agony, to yield himself up to the will of God, and to take the cup and drink it.

Praise Jesus that his love for sinners held out.