“I tell you, brethren, if mercies and if judgments do not convert you, God has no other arrows in His quiver.” Robert Murray McCheyne
Psalm 119:160 reads,"The entirety of Your Word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever." The Word of God is eternal and true. When God spoke, on any subject, judgment was made on that situation. There is no room for argument, no room for debating the meaning, no room for compromising the outcome. Judgment had been declared by His Word. The consequences of that judgment, whether good or bad, continue from generation to generation. There is a lot of truth to that old saying, "God said it so I believe it." Human nature has always tried to find ways to skirt around the Word of God so as to live a "pretty good" life solely for oneself. The escape clause of the closet sinner is, "God knows my heart." That is so true, for judgment has been made on the heart of man through God's Word:
"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." (Matthew 15:18-19)
Judgment has also been made on the unrepentant wickedness of man:
"For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity (sin, wickedness) of the fathers upon the children to the third and forth generations of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands (generations) to those who love me and keep My commandments." (Deuteronomy 5:9-10).
I found it interesting to see the judgments of God played out in the lives of men. Take a look at this example of two men living at the same time, Max Jukes, an atheist, and Jonathan Edwards, a minister of the most-high God. I quote from Al Sanders in "Crisis in Morality":
"Max Jukes, the atheist, lived a godless life. He married an ungodly girl, and from that union there were 310 who died as paupers, 150 were criminals, 7 were murderers, 100 were drunkards, and more than half of the women were prostitutes. His 540 descendants cost the State one and a quarter million dollars in support.
The great American man of God, Jonathan Edwards lived at the same time as Max Jukes, but he married a Godly girl. An investigation was made of 1,394 known descendants of Jonathan Edwards of which 13 became college presidents, 65 college professors, 3 United States senators, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, 75 army and navy officers, 100 preachers and missionaries, 60 authors of prominence, one a vice-president of the United States, 80 became public officials in other capacities, 295 college graduates, among whom were governors of states and ministers to foreign countries. His descendants did not cost the state a single penny in support. Proverbs 10:7, ‘The memory of the just is blessed."
The memory of the just is blessed. Wow! Like I said, God spoke it and judgment has been made eternal on that subject. "Revive me, oh, Lord, according to Your Word." (Psalm 119:25)
Jonathan Edwards believed the Word of God. To him the Word was the final declaration on any subject. He believed in a literal heaven and an eternal tormenting, fiery hell. He preached the Word of God as an unwavering truth and his sermons went forth filled with the Spirit and power and America would never be the same. With one sermon he birthed a religious revival that swept over the entire British American colonies from Maine to Georgia that lasted from 1730 to 1745. It is known in history as the "First Great Awakening." It came in two spirit-filled waves of glory and had the colonists searching for the divine things of God. Edwards, who spearheaded the revival, wrote a letter on December 12, 1743, to the Reverend Thomas Prince in Boston, telling him about what was then the second wave of the Holy Ghost to sweep the colonies:
"Ever since the great work of God that was wrought here about nine years ago, there has been a great abiding alteration in this town in many respects. There has been vastly more religion kept up in the town, among all sorts of persons, in religious exercises and in common conversation than used to be before. There has remained a more general seriousness and decency in attending public worship. There has been a very great alteration among the youth of the town with respect to reveling, frolicking, profane and unclean conversation, and lewd songs. Instances of fornication have been very rare. There has also been a great alteration among both young and old with respect to tavern haunting. I suppose the town has been in no measure so free of vice in these respects for any long time together for this sixty years as it has been this nine years past...many societies for prayer and ...religion were all along kept up."
The time frame of this Legacy is the early to mid 1700s. The colonies in the Americas were still at this time wholly British. The seeds of revolution had not yet been planted in the hearts of men. Life in Colonial America, at this time, was raw and lacking in moral restraint overflowing with unhindered greed, lust and self-gratification. Deism was the growing belief of the upper-crust, a concept that God had little concern for His creation and seldom interfered in its affairs. The other half of society believed in a God who was far away and who was inconsequential in earthly affairs. The Church of that time had become impotent and weak doing little to change society. The New England colonies, where decades later would be a hot bed for revolution, still had glowing embers for the divine things of God. The years of Puritan influence and the spread of Calvinism kept the fires going, albeit low. But God was preparing his ministers for a mighty work. The well-known Puritan minister, Cotton Mather, had a stirring in his heart for a move of God throughout New England. He was an intercessor and a weeper so at the nudge of the Spirit he devoted 490 days and nights in intercession for revival in New England. Mather died in 1727 just short of the "First Great Awakening."
It would fall on Jonathan Edwards to carry the torch of revival to the colonies. It was Edwards who sparked the "Awakening" but his influence was mostly in the New England colonies so he never gained the popularity of his fellow laborer, George Whitefield, who travelled with the fire of revival to the rest of the colonies. He did not have the fiery oratory of Whitefield but Edward's words were with spirit and power. Some say his tone was low and monotonous but he was brutal in the pictures he painted in their minds of sinners dropping into a Christless eternity. His preaching was often interrupted as he wept over the sinners of his day. He grieved over the blindness of the hypocrites that sat in the pews every service convinced, in deception, that they were saved:
"Some sinners flatter themselves that they are already converted. They sit down and rest in a false hope, persuading themselves that all their sins are pardoned; that God loves them; that they shall go to heaven when they die; and that they need trouble themselves no more. ‘Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked' (Revelation 3:17)
He was adamant against the teaching of the day that painted Jesus as a weakling begging for His creation to please come to Him. He preached a Jesus of power and majesty and victory:
"So Christ, when he rose, rose as a man of war, as the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle."
As with all other mighty men of God, Jonathan Edwards prayed unceasingly:
"When I was a boy I used to pray five times a day in secret, and to spend much time in religious conversation with other boys. I used to meet with them to pray together. So it is God's will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one great and principle means of carrying on the designs of Christ's kingdom in the world. Pray much for the ministers of the church of God."
He later wrote in his memoirs:
"I was almost always in ejaculatory prayer wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of heart had vent...once as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly had been to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God. As near as I can judge, this continued about an hour, and kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust; to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love; to serve and follow Him; to be perfectly sanctified and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity."
He constantly stressed to his congregation, above all things, to get the Word of God in them. Let it be part of their thought pattern so when in need or in prayer they can return God's judgments and promises back to Him:
"Sometimes, while people are struggling...scriptures will come to their minds one after the other in answer to their difficulties. Such scriptures are highly pertinent to their circumstances. By this means, their darkness is scattered."
Jonathan Edwards was the only boy out of eleven children born to the Rev. Timothy and Ester Edwards on October 5, 1703. As a child he studied the Bible and Christian theology along with the classics and ancient languages. While at Yale College, Edwards added philosophy and metaphysics, his rule was to study thirteen hours per day. Being a top rated scholar with many rewards to his name, Edwards chose the ministry.
He could not have picked a better time. It was a time of destiny. The Church of that time had been bogged down with man-made doctrines and pomp, full of legalism and inertness, unable to affect the moral indecency of the people. God was about to pour out such a blessing upon the nations that had never before been witnessed. It would be such a move of the Spirit that it would bring about a world-wide spiritual awakening. It would be a time of enlightenment. It would be the rise of Evangelicalism. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9). And, oh, what loyal hearts He found. The players on God's scorecard for this season were better than "All Stars", John and Charles Wesley, Howell Harris, John Newton, William Wilberforce, The Countess of Huntingdon, Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf and the Moravians, Gilbert Tennant and, yes, Jonathan Edwards. The Church throughout the world, especially, England and North America would never be the same again.
In 1727, he was ordained a minister and served under his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, as co-pastor of the church in Northampton, Massachusetts, the largest and most influential church outside of Boston. He had a fervent desire for a move of God and remembered "outpourings" his grandfather had been instrumental in back in 1712 and 1717. But the church he now inherited was far from any "fire on the altar." The people being:
"very insensible to the things of religion...and experiencing a time of extraordinary dullness in religion."
In that same year he married Sarah Pierpont, a girl he knew since she was thirteen and he sixteen. Now she was twenty-one and he twenty-four and both right for each other. Sarah had a bright and cheerful disposition and a devotion to God. They would raise eleven children. After his grandfather died in 1729, Edwards became sole minister to the huge congregation. Concerned about the spiritual health of his people he would hold prayer meetings and get-togethers to familiarize himself with their walk in God. Many did not like his intrusions and would complain to one another, at which he would turn their complaint back around to prayer:
"If some Christians who have been complaining of their ministers had said and acted less before men and had applied themselves with all their might to cry to God for their ministers-had, as it were, risen and stormed heaven with their humble, fervent, and incessant prayers for them---they would have been much more in the way of success."
Edwards was now more than ever convinced that revival was a necessity if the Church were to survive in a vibrant state. Spiritual stagnation haunted him and the spiritual bankruptcy of the Church so grieved his heart that he refused to let go of God until an infusion of the Holy Spirit came upon him:
"Resolved to exercise myself in this all my life long, with the greatest openness to declare my ways to God, and to lay my soul open to God--- all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires and everything and every circumstance...It is my continual strife day and night, and my constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily... I went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to Christ."
In November of 1734, Edwards began preaching a two part sermon on "Our Justification is by Faith Alone" in which he departed from the standard belief of goodness and works brings salvation to "we are justified only by faith in Christ, and not by any manner of virtue or goodness of our own." This message was also being preached, by spirit led ministers, in different countries around the world. The results were staggering. Mark A. Noll in his book "The Rise of Evangelicalism reports on what happened:
"The response, evident by the end of December and growing stronger into the new year, was electric. As Edwards told it in his first report:
‘All seemed to be seized with a deep concern about their eternal salvation; all the talk in all companies, and upon occasions was upon the things of religion, and no other talk was anywhere relished; and scarcely a single person in the whole town was left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world...those that were most disposed to condemn vital and experimental religion, and those that had the greatest conceit of their own reason, the highest families in the town, and the oldest persons in the town, and many little children were affected remarkably; no one family that I knew of, and scarcely a person, has been exempt."
By the following spring the outpouring was to the point of threatening the business of the town. Shops and business were closed most of the day to attend religious meetings. In a short period of time over three hundred new members were admitted to the church. Edwards, as part of the effort to fan the flame, organized small groups , divided by age and gender, to meet in private homes for encouragement and Bible study. News was circulating rapidly and it wasn't long before the "Awakening "was touching other towns and counties. Reports of dozens and then hundreds of those "brought to a lively sense of the excellency of Jesus Christ and his sufficiency and willingness to save sinners and to be much weaned in their affections from the world" soon were appearing in the papers and circulars.
During the revival Edwards wrote "A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton." With this publication, revival fires were spread even more. Noll writes:
"In the towns touched by the revival...young people gathered to talk about Christ, Scripture was exalted, preaching was attended to with remarkable diligence, and people received vivid images of Jesus offering His blood for their sins. In all, about twenty-five communities throughout western Massachusetts and central Connecticut experienced in some measure what Edwards witnessed personally in Northampton...this stir was...widely spread, more intense and more out of control of the ministers."
Benjamin Colman, the minister of the Brattle Congregational Church in Boston caught wind of what was happening and asked Edwards for a report on whether it was all true. The response that Edwards sent him soon became a fire that spread across the ocean to England and Scotland. Of nearly equal effect was Edward's description of the changes brought upon converts by the Spirit of God:
"It was very wonderful to see after what manner of persons' affections were sometimes moved and wrought upon, what God did as it were suddenly opened their eyes and let into their minds a sense of greatness of His grace, and fullness of Christ, and His readiness to save, who before were broken with apprehensions of Divine wrath and sunk into the abyss under a sense of guilt, which they were ready to think was beyond the mercy of God. Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth in laughter, tears often at the same time issuing like a flood and intermingling a loud weeping; and sometimes they had not been able to forbear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration. In some even the view of the glory of God's sovereignty in the exercises of His grace has surprised the soul with such sweetness, as to produce the same effects."
By the end of 1737, the "Awakening" was spreading not only through the colonies but worldwide with mighty spiritual outbreaks in Wales, Germany and Great Britain. Edwards calling was in his sphere of the Connecticut River Valley so toward the end of 1737, the evangelist George Whitefield left London for New England to spend some time with Edwards and then spread the revival through the colonies as far as Georgia.
After Whitefield had visited Edwards in Northampton and preached four sermons and offered two exhortations in three days, Sarah Edwards summed up Whitefield's unforgettable presence:
"He makes less of doctrines than our American preachers generally do, and aims more at affecting the heart. He is a born orator. You have already heard of his deep-toned, yet clear and melodious voice. It is perfect music. It is wonderful to see what a spell he casts over the audience by proclaiming the simplest truths of the Bible. I have seen upwards of a thousand people hang on his words with breathless silence, broken only by an occasional half-suppressed sob."
This first wave of the "Awakening" began to wane and subside but only so it could catch its breath. The relapse was brief, and the Northampton revival was now birthed in 1739-1745 as the "Great Awakening." This second wave was sparked again by Jonathan Edwards as he preached his now famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in Enfield, Connecticut. It is sad to say that with the spiritual condition of the Church now if Edwards preached this sermon today he would be thrown out of the pulpit and accused as being condemning and judgmental. But thanks be to God that the church then had not gotten to where we are now and hundreds of thousands were saved and are before their Lord and Savior now in eternal glory because of that one message. Even at that time it was considered by some too harsh but it was an example of the "fire and brimstone" preaching that was so common in the colonial revivals. When was the last time hell was even mentioned in the Church of today. To Edwards, hell was a real place and he would continually warn his people to avoid it at all cost. But in the "Sinners" sermon fire and brimstone was not what he was all about. The two most important words in his sermons were heaven and love and he stressed to his congregation to come to the saving knowledge of God and His love.
The day Edwards preached this sermon was overcast and the church was darkened without sunlight through the windows. Candles were lit for light and Edwards carried a candle with him holding it close to the pulpit to see his text. His eyesight was not keen so he held the notes close to his face and with a monotone delivery he started, "Their foot shall slide in due time." (Deuteronomy 32:35). It was just a few minutes into the sermon when sobs and a few cries began to erupt. Before long the sounds of groaning and loud wailing and cries to God for forgiveness forced Edwards to admonish the congregation to quiet down so he could finish the sermon. This he had to do frequently. The cries of repentance were so overwhelming that he never did finish the message. People were crying aloud and falling on the floor or grasping the back of pews lest the ground open up and swallow them alive into hell. Women and men fainted, wept uncontrollably or shook like a leaf. One elder near the pulpit crawled to Edwards and pulling on his pant leg asked, "Brother Edwards! Is not God merciful?"
The message was for the unrepentant sinner and the hypocrite and self-righteous who attend church and will not bow their knee to the God who mercifully gives them the very next breath they breathe:
"The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire...is dreadfully provoked, His wrath towards you burns like fire...you have offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment...there is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking His pure eyes by your sinful manner of attending His solemn worship...
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be... there is reason to think that there are many...now hearing this discourse that will actually be subjects of this very misery for all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit...it may be that they are now at ease and hear all these things without much disturbance and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape...
If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation that was to be the subject of this misery...if we knew who it was...how might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! Instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell!...
...every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire...therefore, let everyone that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation...Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."
Edward's delivery lacked emotion and there were no gestures to excite the congregation. Yet the Holy Spirit did his work. Hundreds of thousands of copies were printed of the sermon and shipped throughout the colonies and wherever they were read the exact same reaction fell on every congregation. The colonies were in one accord for God. Edward's theme was not judgment but a call to repentance and an utmost compassion for the lost.
Many pamphlets were written by Edwards explaining the revival and its effects on surrounding communities and the colonies as a whole. In 1749, he published the memoir and diary of the saintly missionary to the American Indian, David Brainerd who had lived with the Edward family for several months and had died of tuberculosis while there in 1747. Edwards who watched over him all those months while Brainerd was slowly dying later said:
"I praise God that it was His Providence that he should die in my house, that I might hear his prayers, and that I might witness his consecration, and that I might be inspired by his example."
By 1749, some doctrinal disputes arose among the Congregationalists that Edwards belonged. Not seeing eye to eye on such matters a dignified parting of the ways was agreed upon and Edwards left the Northampton pulpit. Now that he was open to go anywhere in the world, offers came quickly. A parish in Scotland was available and even a large Virginia church. He declined all the offers and in 1750 he went as a missionary to the Housatonic Indians and preached salvation to them through an interpreter. In 1757, the Reverend Aaron Burr the husband of Edward's daughter Ester died. He was the father of the future United States vice- president Aaron Burr. The Reverend Burr, before his death, was president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Edwards reluctantly agreed to replace his late son-in law as the president. Immediately after becoming president of the College a smallpox outbreak swept the country. All of the Edwards family was inoculated against the disease. Jonathan Edwards a special man hand-picked by God to spark a world-wide revival in His church died from the inoculation on March 22, 1758.
To best relate the ministry of Jonathan Edwards these words from Leonard Ravenhill will suffice:
"When Jonathan Edwards "uttered" in the Spirit, the expressionless face, the sonorous voice, the sober clothing were forgotten. He was neither a dullard nor a sluggard. He was a devoted heart intent on rightly dividing the word of truth. But in doing it, Edwards flamed... The tongue of Edwards must have been like a two-edged sword to his attentive hearers. His words must have been as painful to their hearts and consciences as burning metal on flesh. Nevertheless, men gave heed, repented, and were saved."
2 Corinthians 5:11 "Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord. We persuade men."
JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church