WICKED MEN USEFUL IN THEIR DESTRUCTION ONLY (1744) – Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan_Edwards_engravingThe sermon is dated, July 1744.  Jonathan Edwards is thirty-one years of age.  The title of the message is Wicked Men Useful in Their Destruction Only.  The text is Ezekiel 15:2-4.

Doctrine

If men bring forth no fruit to God, they are wholly useless, unless in their destruction.

Edwards seeks to prove his doctrine with four points.

  1. That there can be but two ways in which man can be useful, viz. either in acting, or in being acted upon.
  2. That man can no otherwise be useful actively than by bringing forth fruit to God; serving God and living to his glory.
  3. That if he bring not forth fruit to God, there is no other way in which he can be passively useful, but in being destroyed.
  4. In that way he may be useful without bearing fruit.

The key to this sermon is perspective.  Jonathan Edwards bring a God-centered perspective that readjusts the worldview of the saints.  One example is Edwards’ encouragement to Christ-followers as they gaze upon the damned in eternity future:

When the saints in heaven shall look upon the damned in hell, it will serve to give them a greater sense of their own happiness.  When they shall see how dreadful the anger of God is, it will make them the more prize his love.  They will rejoice the more, that they are not the objects of God’s anger, but of his favor; that they are not the subjects of his dreadful wrath, but are treated as children, to dwell in the everlasting embraces of his love.  The misery of the damned will give them a greater sense of the distinguishing grace and love of God to them, that he should from all eternity set his love on them, and make so great a difference between them and others who are of the same species, and have deserved no worse of God than they.  What a great sense will this give them of the wonderful grace of God to them!  and how will it heighten their praises!  with how much greater admiration and exultation of soul will they sing of the free and sovereign grace of God to them!

Application

Four thoughts are offered by way of application by Jonathan Edwards:

First —We may learn, how just and righteous God is in the destruction of those who bring forth no fruit to him.

Second — This subject ought to put you upon examining yourselves, whether you be not wholly useless creatures.  

Third — Another use of this subject may be of conviction and humiliation to those who never have brought forth any fruit to God.

Fourth — May people bring forth fruit to God’s glory.

In typical Edwardsean form, the Puritan preacher calls people to fulfill the reason for their creation, namely – to glorify the great God of the universe!

 

THE NATURE AND END OF EXCOMMUNICATION – Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan_Edwards_engravingThe Nature and End of Excommunication is a timely and practical sermon.  For many churches in our generation simply refuse to exercise church discipline on the unrepentant.  This act of passivity is not only cause for grave concern; it is a violation of Scripture.

Edwards utilizes 1 Cor. 5:11 as his text:

But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11, ESV)

DoctrineThose members of the visible Christian church who are visibly wicked, ought not be tolerate in the church, but should be excommunicated.

Edwards explains and articulates three main headings which support the doctrine.

1. The Nature of Excommunication

Edwards wastes no time explaining the essence of excommunication: “It is a punishment executed in the name and according to the will of Christ, whereby a person who hath heretofore enjoyed the privileges of a member of the visible church of Christ, is cast out of the church and delivered unto Satan” (c.f. 2 Cor. 2:6).

Ultimately, church discipline is meant for the good of the person in question and seeks their repentance and restoration to the body of Christ.  Edwards, adds, “Excommunication itself is to be performed as an act of benevolence.  We should seek their good by it; and it is to be used as a means of their eternal salvation.”

2. The Proper Subjects of Excommunication

Those who walk through the process of excommunication are the “visibly wicked.”  Two things mark such a person:

  • By gross sin 
  • By remaining impenitent in their sin

3. The End of Excommunication

Three specific ends are delineated by Edwards:

  • That the church may be kept pure, and the ordinances of God not be defiled.
  • That others may be deterred from wickedness.
  • That the persons themselves may be reclaimed, and that their souls may be saved.

Application

5 points of application are set forth by the preacher from Northampton:

  1. That you tolerate visible wickedness in your members, you will greatly dishonor God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, the religion which you profess, the church in general, and yourselves in particular.
  2. Your own good loudly calls you to the same thing.  From what hath been already said, you see how liable you, as individuals, will be to catch the contagion, which is easily communicated by reason of the natural depravity, in a degree at least, remaining in the best of men.
  3. The good of those who are without should be another motive.
  4. Benevolence towards your offending brethren themselves, calls upon you to maintain discipline in all its parts.
  5. But the absolute authority of Christ ought to be sufficient in this case, if there were no other motive.

These powerful reminders should beckon every church to seriously consider the high calling of operating in a God-glorifying way.  Edwards wonders out loud, “Now, how can you be the true disciples of Christ, if you live in the neglect of these plain positive commands?”  He concludes, “If you strictly follow the rules of discipline instituted by Christ, you have reason to hope for his blessing; for he is wont to bless his own institutions, and to smile upon the means of grace which he hath appointed.”

In this short sermon, Edwards demonstrated the necessity of carrying out church discipline on unrepentant church members.  How very far are so many churches from this biblical model?  How long will it take to come in alignment with the teaching of Scripture?

UNBELIEVERS CONTEMN THE GLORY AND EXCELLENCY OF CHRIST

jonathan-edwardsThe 21st century ushered in a new emphasis that had an effect on ecclesiology and anthropology.  The so-called seeker-sensitive movement held that unregenerate people seek God.  However, the notion that unconverted people seek God is absent from the pages of Scripture.  Jonathan Edwards present the biblical case against such an idea in his sermon, Unbelievers Contemn the Glory of Christ.

The Doctrine

Unbelievers set at nought the glory and excellency of Christ.

Edwards sets forth two propositions that support his doctrine:

  1. They set at nought the excellency of his person.  Christ is a great and glorious person, a person of infinite worthiness, on which account he is infinitely esteemed and loved of the Father, and is continually adored by the angels.
  2. They set at nought his excellency in his work and office.  They are told how glorious and complete a mediator he is, how sufficient to answer all our necessities, and to save sinners to the uttermost; but they make light of it all; yea, they make nothing of it.

Four evidences are presented to support the doctrine:

  1. They never give Christ an honor on account of his glory and excellency.
  2. They have no love to him on account of his glory and excellency.
  3. Unbelievers have no desires after the enjoyment of Christ.
  4. They show that they set at nought the glory and excellency of Christ, in that they seek not a conformity to that glory and excellency.

Application

Edwards argues: “This doctrine may teach us the heinousness of the sin of unbelief, as this sin sets all the glory and excellency of Christ at nought.”

The sermon concludes with four practical applications, each of which are directed to unbelieving people.

  1. Hereby you may be convinced of the greatness of your guilt.
  2. Hereby you may be convinced of your danger.  You must needs think that such guilt will bring great wrath.
  3. You may hence be led to see how worthless many of those things in yourselves are, that you have been ready to make much of.
  4. Hence learn how justly God might forever refuse to give you an interest in Christ.  For why should God give you any part or interest in him who you set at nought, all whose glory and excellency you value not in the least, but rather trample it under your feet.

Jonathan Edward’s sermon is a vivid reminder about the serious nature of the sin of unbelief.  His heart for lost people shines brightly in this sermon.  And his love for God’s glory is manifest as well.

GOD THE BEST PORTION OF THE CHRISTIAN – Jonathan Edwards (1736)

Two hundred years after Calvin published his first edition of The jonathan-edwardsInstitutes, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon about being content in God.  The title of the sermon was God the Best Portion of the Christian.  Edwards’s text is Psalm 73:25:

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.

The central truth is set forth at the beginning of the sermon, in deductive fashion: It is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.

Two propositions comprise this short sermon

1. A godly man prefers God before any thing else in heaven.

Edwards presents the God-centered paradigm in this section by leading readers on the correct biblical path.  He notes, “Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there.  Heaven is his chosen country and inheritance.”

The godly man sets his affection on beauty, which is to say his heart is oriented to God and the things of God.  “Now the main reason why the godly man hath his heart thus to heaven,” writes Edwards, “is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High.  It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly.”

2. It is the temper of a godly man to prefer God before all other things on the earth.

The highest priority for the follower of Christ, according to Edwards is on the Triune God.  Three points highlight the heart of the Puritan preacher:

  1. The saint prefers that enjoyment of God, for which he hopes hereafter, to any thing in the world.
  2. The saints prefer what of God may be obtained in this life before all things in the world.
  3. The saints prefers what he hath already of God before any thing in this world.

Application

As usual, Edwards concludes his sermon with several points of application.  Five penetrating questions are posed:

  1. What is it which chiefly makes you desire to go to heaven when you die?
  2. If you could avoid death, and might have your free choice, would you choose to live always in this world without God, rather than in his time to leave the world, in order to be with him?
  3. Do you prefer Christ to all others as the way to heaven?
  4. If you might go to heaven in what course you please, would you prefer to all others the way of a strict walk with God?
  5. Were you to spend your eternity in this world, would you choose rather to live in mean and low circumstances with the gracious presence of God, to to live forever in earthly prosperity without him?

Jonathan Edwards offers perspective and godly wisdom in a sermon that directed his 18th century hearers heavenward and continues to beckon followers of Christ to the Celestial City.

THE MOST HIGH A PRAYER HEARING GOD – Jonathan Edwards (1735)

jonathan-edwardsPsalm 65:2 is Edwards text in the winter of 1735, January 8.

O you who hears prayer, to you shall all flesh come.

Doctrine – It is the character of the Most High, that he is a God who answers prayer.

Four headings drive the sermon.

1. The Most High is a God that Hears Prayer

Though he is infinitely above all, and stands in no need of creatures; yet he is graciously pleased to take a merciful notice of poor worms in the dust.

Edwards argues that God not only accepts the supplications of all the saints; he does so willingly with favor.  He adds, “While they are praying, he gives them sweet views of his glorious grace, purity, sufficiency, and sovereignty; and enables them, with great quietness, to rest in him, to leave themselves and their prayers with him, submitting to his will, and trusting in his grace and faithfulness.”

2. He is Eminently Such a God

Edwards provides several examples of how God answers prayer:

  • In his giving such free access to him by prayer.
  • That God is eminently of this character, appears in his hearing prayer so readily.
  • That the Most High is eminently one that hears prayer, appears by his giving so liberally in answer to prayer.
  • That God is eminently of this character, appears by the greatness of the things which he hath often done in answer to prayer.
  • This truth appears, in that God is, as it were, overcome by prayer.

3. Reasons for the Doctrine

A crucial point that Edwards makes is that God answers prayer because “he is a God of infinite grace and mercy.”

  • He hath by his blood made atonement for sin; so that our guilt need not stand in the way, as a separating wall between God and us, and that our sins might not be a cloud through which our prayers cannot pass.
  • Christ, by his obedience, has purchased this privilege, viz, that the prayers of those who believe in him should be heard.
  • Christ enforces the prayers of his people, by his intercession at the right hand of God in heaven.

Application

Edwards draws out many practical applications, the chief of which alerts the saints to make good use of prayer; to be prayer warriors in this wicked age.

“Seeing we have such a prayer-hearing God as we have heard, let us be much employed in the duty of prayer: let us pray with all prayer and supplication: let us live prayerful lives, continuing instant in prayer, watching thereuto with all perseverance; praying always, without ceasing, earnestly, and not fainting.”

 

THE UNREASONABLENESS OF INDETERMINATION IN RELGION – Jonathan Edwards (1734)

Jonathan_Edwards_engravingAnd Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kings 18:21, ESV)

The title of the sermon is The Unreasonableness of Indetermination in Religion.  Jonathan Edwards preached this sermon in the summer of 1734.

Doctrine: Unresolvedness in religion is very unreasonable.  

Two central propositions support the doctrine.

Proposition 1: Many persons remain exceedingly undetermined with respect to religion.

Edwards notes that some people never resolve the matter of truth.  That is to say, they cannot determine whether or not historic Christianity is true.  The point is fascinating when one considers the current postmodern milieu where some maintain that truth is either culturally conditioned or even non-existent.  Our culture views truth as a “power grab.”  The 18th century Enlightenment mind believed in truth and the necessity of propositions.  Edwards argues that many people merely wavered between two opinions.  A sad state of affairs.

All people have two options before them – heaven or hell.  Edwards in essence argues that one must decide: “There are but two things which God offers to mankind for their portion: one is this world, with the pleasures and profits of sin, together with eternal misery ensuing; the other is heaven and eternal glory, with a life of self-denial and respect to all the commands of God.”  One cannot have his cake and eat it too.  For such a man is like the one referenced by James 1:8 – “double-minded in all his ways.”

Proposition 2: To continue thus undetermined and unresolved in the things of religion, is very unreasonable.

Indeed, the choice before all men is clear: “He hath given man so much understanding, as to make him capable of determining which is best; to lead a life of self-denial, and enjoy eternal happiness, or to take our swing in sinful enjoyments, and burn in hell forever.”

Application

Edwards makes several applications, all of which are worth noting:

1. Inquire whether you have yet come to a full determination with respect to the truth of the things of religion.

2. Inquire whether you have ever yet come to a determination about religion with respect to the practice of it; whether you have chosen heaven with the way to it, viz. the way of obedience and self-denial, before this world and the ways of sin; whether  you have determined upon it as most eligible, to devote yourselves to the service of God.

Edwards highlights four signs that indicate his hearers are halting between two opinions:

  • To put off duty altogether.
  • It is a sign of the same thing when persons are strict and conscientious in some things, but live in the omission of others.
  • It is a sign that you halt between two opinions, if you sometimes are wont to be considerably engaged in religion, but at other times neglect it.
  • It is a sign that you are halting between two opinions, if it be your manner to balk your duty whenever any notable difficulty comes in the way.

In this case, Edwards argues, “You are in the state of the stony-ground hearers, you have no root in yourselves, and like a tree without root, are easily blown down by every wind.”

Edwards urges his readers to trust Christ – to stop halting between two opinions.  A final admonition leave his listeners in a tenuous position, with eternity hanging in the balance:

Those who live under the gospel, and thus continue undetermined about religion, are more abominable to God than the heathen.

The Unreasonableness of Indetermination is a classic Edwardsean sermon that highlights an 18th century mindset which is thoroughly biblical and Christ-centered.  Oh, that the 21st century mind would gain the strength and fervency of worldview and passion for preaching as demonstrated by Jonathan Edwards!