This evening, came across Jonathan Edwards’ account of his early years and testimony of his faith in Christ. He reminds me of the infinite riches and beauty of God’s grace and mercy with such eloquence, that I wanted to take notes for future reminder:
“My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge, or mountain over my head. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be, than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mouth, ‘Infinite upon infinite … Infinite upon infinite!’ When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell. And it appears to me, that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fulness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of his power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of his power, and in all the glory of his sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself; far beyond the sight of every thing, but the eye of sovereign grace, that can pierce even down to such a depth.” —Jonathan Edwards, “Personal Narrative”
I can relate. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “We read to know that we are not alone.” It’s immensely encouraging to read of great theologians or heroes of the faith writing with such transparency about the reality of human frailties and struggles in their own spiritual pilgrimage, because I could then perhaps learn something of their perseverance and growth in the Christian life by God’s grace.
2 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards’ Personal Narrative”
A few words about Edwards role in my coming to Christ and growing in Christ. Edwards was used mightily in waking me up to the power and prescence of sin in my life. The first time was when I read Hypocrites are Deficient In The Dury of Secret Prayer, and Religious Affections combining to show me indeed I was the Pharisee of Pharisees. This understanding of my condition brought forth a severe dose of God’s wrath against me and most of my sins. It was during this time that I read and poured over the works of Edwards on hell hoping to be convicted enough of sin to be saved .
Sadly I still had many years to go before the glory of Christ would shine into my soul. I also was reading Mathew Mead, The Almost Christian, Thomas Watson, Mischief of Sin, Joseph Alleine, Alarm To The Unconverted, and many other Puritans. From this fear, the fears were greatly increased with Sinners In The Hands of An Angry God, and Edwards frightening sermons on the Torments of Hell were most tormenting to me as I spent in time daily reading. For sadly it would be a long while until the same Edwards who was being used to make me fear hell, would give me such rich thoughts of Heaven and Christ I would be overwhelmed with mercy. For the beauty of Heaven, in A World Of Love can’t be measured as to its effect in my thinking. Also the same Sermon in Altogether Lovely which sent me to days of fears and torments now soothes my soul in the rich pleasures of Christ offered to His people.
One of the most fearful sermons I remember by a modern preacher was preached by Joel Beeke, when he spoke at a conference at my church. God’s Mysterious Providences shown as I got to spend a month at his school last year barely knowing anyone in arriving in one of the most difficult trials I had ever faced. My former Pastor Timothy Worrell wrote a chapter in his book A Puritan Theology, and is a good friend of Dr. Beeke.. In the book, Beeke in the acknowledgement section, says, thanks to all my co author friends, Ferguson…..Timothy Worrell. When I was in Michigan I got to work at RHB with Steve in going to get and stock the book, A Puritan Theology, A Doctrine For Life, when I didnt even know whem it was coming out, which was the best time I have had in ministry. Beeke is my favorite modern author, and one of my top preachers to listen to. For his preaching is not as awakening as Edwards, who’s is, but it does get down in to our souls and consciences, and he is not scared to tackle holiness. What are your thoughts on Beeke and howhas he helped steer you from sin and towards holiness? Have you read any of his books on holiness / Separation, if so how have they affected you in living separate from the world? Many Lord’s Day nights I have listened to him and sung Psalms before and after. How has listening to his messages drawn you to see God!s Holiness, like it has me or benefited your Lord’s Days. Thanks for any answers, great job on the site. May your Lord’s Day be full of Christ’s presence and filled with many blessings from your Heavenly Father as the Spirit brings you much comfort. When we look around at all the false worship even among some of those who have blessed us spiritually let us thank the Lord He has shown us fully out of Rome’s traditions and pray for our brethren that they see the light as Calvin tried to show his brother Luther in his day.
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Shortly before I went to Grand Rapids the Lord sent me a crushing blow in using the Larger Catechism exposition of the ten commandants to show me much self righteousness. It was during this time that the Lord was seeking to use the law of God to work a time of great humiliation upon my soul.
While meditating in the law of God daily I could see those sinful thoughts, words, and deeds, that had escaped my notice. Thankfully the Lord brought me to my knees for these cancers that sought to kill me. I can remember the tears for my sin which were bitter sweet, as they were bitter because of my sin, but sweet in that they were preparing me to have more of Christ. Some of the sweetest times are when we go down in tears for our sin, and get up with praises in our mouths for the Lord’s abundant faithfulness and mercies unto us .
This was the first of three huge humblings I would have from the Lord. This one had to do with the law of God in a way the next would be the most beautiful as God was about molding me more into Jesus Christ, however once we mortify one sin others that were concealed reveal themselves. Surely it this that keeps us fearful of our sin and more humble then we would be if we had no sin to mortify- indeed that is Heaven.
However I would be learning from Christ what I lacked which was much as I was having my heart revealed before me in the blessed Sermon On The Mount. I can remember sweet tears in seeing my sin that I finally was getting a sight of knowing that God shows it to us before mortifying it. For how do we pray for mortification when we have no eyes to see what needs mortifying. I was so glad to see this sin that needed removed like a cancer if I was going to have sweet meditations of Christ for now I saw my sin. How would I keep willful sin, indeed why would I keep it, I hated it, but was entangled in it.
Now I had my Mathew Henry commentary as I usually did and was examining in depth what Jesus said in the gospels in my own reading and then from the reading of Henry after sweet meditations of a few rich verses in being taught from the master Jesus Christ. He was now about making me very poor in Spirit seeing I had nothing in me to take pride in, only filled with sin to mourn for. This is is when we go to the rich springs of Christ who has a plentiful blessing to bestow upon us, for one reason Christ lets us go down in sorrow is that we can see His love for us when He lifts us, and glory in the cross alone knowing our inability to do anything. I love what Thomas Brooks say when we can’t go anymore we are right we cannot but Christ is about to lift us from this trial in deliverance. While certainly we are not promised we will be healed or get this or that, we are promised the peace and comfort of knowing Christ is with us which is more than anything material. For ito have the creator is wonderful and satisfying to our souls while to have the creature alone can never satisfy but leave us saying more more.
When this humbling was over the Lord was making me poor in Spirit but I couldn’t find any graces to the degree I expected. For Thomas Watson in the Beatitudes teaches that being poor in Spirit doesn’t necessarily make us look at all the graces we have but those we do not have. They were there but I was still to go through many more trials, first to see Christ being formed in me. Oh how true when Christ works His grace in us where we see Him at the same time we see our sin and fall at His feet in wonder that He would give us any good. Well the third humbling would come when Jonathan Edwards would rip me apart with the precision of a surgeon cutting out pride and putting humility and gentleness in. It was not until more trials than I can count and having to lose almost everything I ever had is about the time I met the Martens. It was then the Lord started to show me there graces and they helped strengthen my graces but at times how sinful I see myself and it just shows without Christ nothing good dwelleth in the flesh.
Thankfully we can wash in the blood of Christ and daily be cleansed from our sin and appeal to the spirit to pour the graces into us, and for the Fathers will to be to be done.
May The Lord bless you if my sinful failings and the Lord’s Spirit are any comfort to you.
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