'Thoughts on the Revival of Religion' - Jonathan Edwards - Volume 1.
Those who read my response to Bob Kauflin's adaptation of the "Screwtape Letters" will note that I made use of some quotes from Jonathan Edwards. Those quotes affected me so much that I went on and read his entire treatise on 'Thoughts on the Revival'. I am aware that Jonathan Edwards was used by many during the Toronto Blessing in 1994-96 and was indeed used by those both pro and against it, so I don't want to get into the danger of using a dead giant of the faith to support what I am trying to say. Therefore I am not actually going to say anything. The quotes stand for themselves and stand quite well alone! But they deserve a read and shouldn't be condemned to collecting dust on a bookshelf. Be challenged.
"The error of those who have had ill thoughts of the great religious operation on the minds of men ... seems fundementally to lie in three things. 1. First in judging of this work a priori. 2. Secondly, in not taking the Holy Scriptures as a whole rule whereby to judge of such operations. 3. Thirdly in not justly seperating and distinguishing the good from the bad".
1. We should not judge this work by the supposed causes but by the effects.
"We are to observe the effect wrought; and if, upon examination ofthat, it be found to be agreeable to the Word of God, we are bound to rest in it as God's work; and shall be like to be rebuked for our arrogance, if we refuse to do so till God shall explain to us how He has brought this effect to pass, or why He has made use of such and such means in doing it".
"We hear the sound, we perceive the effect and from thence we judge that the wind does indeed blow; without waiting before we pass this judgement, first to be satisfied what should be the cause of the wind's blowing from such a part of the heavens, and how it should come to pass in such a manner at such at time".
"We ought to take heed that we do not expose ourselves to the calamity of those who pried into the ark of God".
2. We should judge by the rule of Scripture.
"Those of who I am speaking (the critics of the revival) will indeed make some use of Scripture, so far as they think it serves their turn, but do not make use of it alone as a rule sufficient by itself, but make as much and a great deal more use of other things, diverse and wide from it, buy which to judge of this work".
"In their philosophy, the affections of the soul are something diverse from the will and not appertaining to the noblest part of the soul".
"And though they acknowledge that a good use may be made of the affections in religion, yet they suppose that the substantial part of religion does not consist in them, but that they are something adventitious and accidental in Christianity".
(Concerning the affections of the soul) "On the contrary, it seems to me that the very life and soul of all true religion consists in them".
"These gentlemen who make light of these raised affections in religion, will doubtless allow that true religion and holiness, as it has its seat in the heart, is capable of very high degrees and exercises in the soul. For instance, they will probably allow that the holiness of the heart is capable of being raised to a hundred times as great a degree of strength as it is the most eminent saint on earth, or to be exerted in a hundred times so vigorous exercises of the heart; and yet be true religion or holiness still. Now therefore I would ask them, by what name they call these high and vigorous exercises of the will or the heart? Are they not high affections? What can they consist in, but high acts of love; strong and vigorous exercises of benevolence and complacence; high, exalting, and admiring thoughts of God and His perfections; strong desires after God?".
"If we take the Scriptures for our rule, then the greater our exercises of love to God, delight and complacency in Him, desires and longings after Him, delight in His children, love to mankind, brokenness of heart, abhorrance of sin and self-abhorrance for it. The more we have of the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and joy in the Holy Ghost, unspeakable and full of glory; the higher our admiring thoughts of God, exulting and glorying in Him; so much the higher is Christ's religion or that virtue which He and His apostles taught, raised in the soul".
Sounds quite like Christian hedonism doesn't it?!
"God is pleased sometimes, in dealing forth spiritual blessings to His people, in some respect to exceed the capacity of the vessel in it's present scantiness; so that He not only fills itbut makes their cup to run over (Psalm xxiii 5) and pours out a blessing, sometimes in such manner and measure that there is not room enough to receive it".
"We cannot determine that God never shall give any person so much of a discovery of Himself, not only as to weaken their bodies but to take away their lives".
"It is a great fault in us to limit a sovereign all-wise God, whose judgements are a great deep and His ways past finding out, where He has not limited Himself and in things concerning which He has not told us what His way shall be".
3. Another thing that some make their mistake to judge of this work by, instead of the Holy Scriptures is history.
"Theirs (the critics of the revival) is a rule to reject this work which God has not given them, and they limit God where He has not limited themselves".
" .... may easily observe that it has been all along God's manner to open new scenes, and to bring forth to view things new and wonderful - such as eye has not seen nor ear heard, not entered into the heart of men or angels".
Edwards then goes on to discuss many different cases of people's experiences during the revival.
"Mr Perkins, minister of Christ in the university of Cambridge, was the subject of such terrors as threw him to the ground and caused him to roar with anguish. The pangs of the new birth were such, that he lay pale and without sense, like one dead".
"It was a frequent thing for many to be so extraordinarily seized with terror in hearing the Word by the Spirit of God convincing them of sin, that they fell down and were carried out of the church and they afterwards proved most solid and lively Christians".
See Jul ... we CAN be both!! ;)
"Mr Flavel gives a remarkable instance ... he had several trances of considerable continuance".
"There have been many instances before now, of persons in this town fainting with joyful discoveries made to their souls".