Saturday, July 21, 2007

Jonathan Edwards is on to something

Still in the infant stages of working my way through Jonathan Edward’s The Religious Affections, (click here for entry #1) I’m discovering matters of high relevance both to my role as pastor and as a simple follower of Christ. In 1746 Edwards was exploring a vexing issue of pressing importance for the church today—the tendency (which I find in my own heart) to have more passion, focus and energy directed toward making our way in this world than investment in matters concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. Here’s how Edwards put it:

"And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters than in religion! In things which concern men’s worldly interests, their outward delights, their honour and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity. But how insensible and unmoved are most men about the great things of another world. "

(Page 51-52; The Religious Affections; The Banner of Truth Trust, 2004.)

I’m only to page 53, but this line of thinking has already made the book worthwhile to have worked through. I’m hoping Edwards goes on to propose some remedy for this state of affairs. In the meantime, I’m finding it valuable to simply meditate on this question: Why are most of us less interested and excited about what Christ has done (and is doing) for us than we are concerning the things of this world, which at best, provide meaning and satisfaction for but a season?


Boyd said...

Michael, did you see on
that a full-size reproduction of J. Edwards blank bible is available? I think it is $200 or more. But wouldn't that be good to have? Maybe his notes are available somewhere on-line. I'll have to search for that.

I am seriously considering making my own blank bible as discussed at

I want to adapt my old NASB Ryrie that way - it has so many of my notes in it that I hate to lose, and the pages are sticking together from my "finger grease". So I figure if I put a blank page between each printed page, I can solve the sticking problem, and I can still have my notes!


Bob W said...

The Edwards quote reminds me of Pascal, Lewis and others - what I call "bottom line thinking" or "what's wrong with this picture?" thinking. If Christ is Who He says He is then He is worthy of all we are and all we have and our lives should be devoted to Him - we should not live like functional atheists. Has our teaching and preaching lost this edge in North America?

Pastor Michael said...

Boyd and Bob, thanks for commenting,

The reproduction is "only" $246. On the pragmatic side, I wonder if I could make out Edward's handwriting. What I've seen is more daunting than his prose.

No question that preaching and teaching could be at fault, but I think other factors are in play as well. As noted in Carson's talk at the JEI conference, the nation's spiritual state could be so cold that even faithful preaching fails to arouse. Isaiah was faithful, yet the promised fruit didn't appear for hundreds of years.

I don't say this as justification for slackness in teaching and preaching, but rather as an encouragement to faithfulness when fruit is sparse.