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The Personal Narrative of Jonathan Edwards - Part XVII

Believe it or not, we are at the end. Here are the final two paragraphs of Edwards’ Personal Narrative.

“Though it seems to me, that, in some respects, I was a far better Christian, for two or three years after my first conversion, than I am now; and lived in a more constant delight and pleasure; yet, of late years, I have had a more full and constant sense of the absolute sovereignty of God, and a delight in that sovereignty; and have had more of a sense of the glory of Christ, as a Mediator revealed in the gospel. On one Saturday night, in particular, I had such a discovery of the excellency of the gospel above all other doctrines, that I could not but say to myself, ‘This is my chosen light, my chosen doctrine;’ and of Christ, ‘This is my chosen Prophet.’ It appeared sweet, beyond all expression, to follow Christ, and to be taught, and enlightened, and instructed by him; to learn of him, and live to him.

Another Saturday night, (January 1739) I had such a sense, how sweet and blessed a thing it was to walk in the way of duty; to do that which was right and meet to be done, and agreeable to the holy mind of God; that it caused me to break forth into a kind of loud weeping, which held me some time, so that I was forced to shut myself up, and fasten the doors. I could not but, as it were, cry out, ‘How happy are they which do that which is right in the sight of God! They are blessed indeed, they are the happy ones!’ I had, at the same time, a very affecting sense, how meet and suitable it was that God should govern the world, and order all things according to his own pleasure; and I rejoiced in it, that God reigned, and that his will was done.”

What moves you to tears? For some, I fear it is the prospect of biblical obedience. They cringe under what they believe is the oppressive burden of divine law. They feel hemmed in, as if confined by a biblical straight jacket. God appears to them as a grumpy despot who wants everyone to be as unhappy as he is. The commandments of his word strike their souls as a deliberate strategy to deprive them of what little happiness and pleasure they’ve been able to achieve to this point in life. So, when they think of such words as “duty” and what is “right and meet to be done,” they weep.

For Edwards, walking “in the way of duty” was so “sweet and blessed” that he broke forth in such “loud weeping” that he had to shut himself away lest he be a disturbance to others! Where did this perspective on Christian living come from? It came from Edwards’ understanding of the heart of God and his purpose in creation. Consider the following, which I’ve lifted from my book, “Pleasures Evermore”.

Edwards was convinced that the goodness and generosity and grace of God shine forth with greatest brilliance in his commands to you and me. In his sermon entitled “Christian Happiness” (304), he explains:

“What could the most merciful being have done more for our encouragement? All that he desires of us is that we would not be miserable, that we would not follow those courses which of themselves would end in misery, and that we would be happy.”

Whoa! Stop! Did you hear that? I have to pause for a moment lest that statement slip by unnoticed. Read it again. All that God desires of us is that “we would not be miserable . . . and that we should be happy.” Does that sound like the God you’ve been “serving” these many years? It should. Now, let’s pick up with Edwards as he explains how God goes about fulfilling this great desire. You may find it surprising:

“God, having a great desire to speak after the manner of man, that we should not be miserable but happy, has the mercy and goodness that he forwards us to it, to command us to do those things that will make us so. Should we not think him a prince of extraordinary clemency, he a master of extraordinary goodness, he a father of great tenderness, who never commanded anything of his subjects, his servants, or his children, but what was for their good and advantage? But God is such a king, such a lord, such a father to us” (“Christian Happiness”, 304).

Every syllable of every statute, every clause of every commandment that ever proceeded from the mouth of God was divinely designed to bring those who would obey into the greatest imaginable happiness of heart. Why? Because God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him (Piper)! Don’t swallow God’s law like castor oil. For when you understand his intent, it will be like honey on your lips and refreshment to your soul and duty will appear “sweet and blessed” beyond all comparison.