Over the last month or so and for the next few months I am writing my thesis. It is one of the last large assignments left at DTS. A significant portion of it deals with the preaching of one of America’s most famous theologian and Christian figures, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards begin his ministry in the late 1720’s before dying in his early 50’s. At perhaps the pinnacle of his life and ministry the First Great Awakening spread throughout New England and the colonies. He played no small role in preaching and calling people to repentance.
Part of the focus of my thesis is looking at some of the sermons Edwards preached during this awakening period. I am going to focus look at one particular sermon that I am reading. The sermon is entitled, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” It was first delivered May of 1735 and reprinted and distributed a couple of years later. This was “in the thick” of the spiritual awakening in the New England area. This period was as Edwards put it, “the late wonderful work of God’s power and grace.”
In looking at this sermon, questions come to mind. How does he describe human’s state before God? As humans, are we entitled to blessings from God? What do we deserve from God?
Because this sermon is so long, I will not take the time to look at every part of it. But I want to give you some highlights.
The central scripture for this sermon is Romans chapter 3. In looking at this passage he focuses on Paul’s quotation of Psalm 14:1-3 in verses 10-12. The text says that there is no one who is righteous, not even one. There are none that understand, none that seek after God. Everyone has gone their own way. The next verses show that not only are all corrupt, but everyone is completely corrupt. As humans, we have despised and rejected God, and as a result, Edwards tells us, we are are corrupt to desperate degree. (I invite you to read Romans chapter 3 when you get a chance).
After establishing that we are completely corrupted by sin and thus enemies of God, Edwards does something that caught my attention. He explains that a crime is more or less worse based one’s obligation to do the opposite. He says it like this, “Our obligation to love, honor and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness and authority.” This means that if we are expected to highly honor and esteem someone, and we disrespect and hate them, the crime is more severe. As humans, we are obligated to submit to the infinitely lovely and honorable authority who created us. When we failed to do, we committed an infinite crime! Edwards lands on this point, “‘Tis just with God eternally to cast off and destroy sinners.”
Listen to more quotes within the sermon.
“If with man’s sinfulness, we consider God’s sovereignty, it may serve further to clear God’s justice in the eternal rejection and condemnation of sinners.”
“If God should forever cast you off, it would be agreeable to your treatment of him”
“When God converts and saves a sinner, it is a wonderful and unspeakable manifestation of divine love.”
“When a poor lost soul is brought home to Christ, and has all his sins forgiven him, and is made a child of God, it will take up a whole eternity to express and declare the greatness of that love.”
As humans, we must realize the desperate state of our sinfulness. We must also realize our infinite sin against a holy and beautiful God. We must understand that we deserve nothing but eternal punishment for that offense. We have no right to be saved by God. By his mercy and grace he saved us.
While we may “know” this, do we live like with this reality? Do we realize that any good thing that comes from us is a result of God’s power through the Holy Spirit? Do we think that we are somehow good within ourselves, and therefore entitled to receive God’s blessing?
I wonder, when we understand this, how will our mindset change? How will our actions change? It is my prayer that I am constantly reminded of the desperation of my situation and the love and mercy that took place when God saved me! I pray the same for you.