If you are a Christian, names like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, and Oswald Chambers (among many others) are known to be renowned men of God who had great zeal for the Word of the Lord. After reading Jonathan Edwards’ personal narrative, I felt like I could relate to his experience of frustration and “sweetness” in working out his salvation in Christ.
Before truly experiencing the presence of the Lord and the holiness of God personally, Edwards shared his frustration in how he “fell again into [his] old ways of sin” and “returned like a dog to his vomit, and went on in ways of sin” (387). There was such an inward struggle with Edwards in regards to sin that he finally resolves to make “seeking [his] salvation the main business of [his] life”. I think that many so called “Christians” in the 18th Century, and especially today, lack this conviction of sin that brought Edwards to meet God.
When I read Edwards’ personal narrative, his wife’s narrative, his letter to Rev. Dr. Benjamin Colman, and his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, I can’t help but to wonder “Wow... how did this guy get to this point where he could so boldly challenge the salvation of the majority of ‘believers’ and still be so lost in God’s love that he can describe it as ‘sweet peace’” I tried to circle all the times he wrote forms of “sweet” and “pleasant” in his writing and lost count! I think that is the amazing thing about Edwards’ relationship with God.
He knew what it meant to be in the presence of God. His desire was “to behold the sweet glory of God”, to “be more holy”, “that God might be all”, “that [he] might enjoy Him”, and it’s not because he was a fanatical Christian. Rather, there was a lack of conviction of sin in the generality of Christians then. He knew the attributes of God; that He is majestic, holy, omnipotent, sovereign, and just (400). And THAT is that led him to Christ.
Further, being the in the presence of God gave him the boldness to be a witness of Truth in his generation. People might think he’s too into “preaching hell fire”, but I think in these days, there is a lack of this Truth being presented in churches today. Reading Edwards was like a breath of fresh air for me because he presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is biblically.
I think he challenged the people of his time, as well as challenges Christians today to live a life of holiness (according to God’s standard). Because many Christians are too comfortable in their “faith” that they foolishly believe their “salvation” is guaranteed. Edwards stresses (the BIBLE stresses) that we are saved NOT by works or merit, but simply by the grace of God.