A True Spiritual Experience… Transforms the Heart!

Taken and adapted from, “How To Know If You Are A Real Christian”
Written by, Jonathan Edwards.
Dated, September 28, 1752.

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When a most wicked sinner is caused to see Christ’s divine loveliness, he no longer speculates why God should be interested in him, to save him.

Before, he could not understand how the blood of Christ could pay the penalty for sins. But now he can see the preciousness of Christ’s blood, and how it is worthy to be accepted as the ransom for the worst of sins. Now the soul can recognize that he is accepted by God, not because of who he is, but because of the value God puts on the blood, obedience, and intercession of Christ. Seeing this value and worth gives the poor guilty soul rest which cannot be found in any sermon or booklet.

When a person comes to see the proper foundation of faith and trust with his own eyes, this is saving faith. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (John 6:40) “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (John 17:6-8) 

It is this sight of the divine beauty of Christ that captivates the wills and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the outward greatness of God in His glory may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure. This will be seen on the day of judgment, when the wicked will be brought before God. They will be overwhelmed, yes, but the hostility of the heart will remain in full strength and the opposition of the will continue. But on the other hand, a single ray of the moral and spiritual glory of God and of the supreme loveliness of Christ shone into the heart overcomes all hostility. The soul is inclined to love God as if by an omnipotent power, so that now not only the understanding, but the whole being receives and embraces the loving Saviour. 

This sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God’s nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men.

The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Taken, edited and abbreviated from the Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1
Written by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758),

Resolved...

Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help…

I do humbly entreat Him, by His grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake. [I will] remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

Resolved…

That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence.

Resolved…

To do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved…

Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved…

to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved…

Never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved…

Never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved…

Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved…

To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved…

Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept.

Resolved…

To ask myself, at the end of every day, week, month, and year, wherein I could possibly, in any respect, have done better.

Resolved…

Never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.

Resolved…

After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Resolved…

Always to do that which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it. Let there be something of benevolence in all that I speak.

How to know if you are a real Christian. Or, True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils.

Written by Jonathan Edwards
Dated September 28, 1752

even-the-demons-believe

Introduction

“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.”
–James 2:19

How do you know if you belong to God? We see in these words what some people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism program in common use that asks people certain questions. One of the questions is, “Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?” A very common response is, “I believe in God.” Apparently the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in God’s favor, because I know these religious doctrines.

Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good, but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn’t believe in God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God! Certainly this would make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is only the start of good things because “anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb. 11:6.)

However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is definitely not proof that a person is saved.

What he means is this: “You say you are a Christian and you are in God’s favor. You think God will let you into heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell.” The demons believe in God, you can be sure of that! They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the demons “shudder” or tremble- they know God more clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God’s grace in our hearts.

This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have, or find within themselves, something of God’s saving grace-proof they would go to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.

Demons Have a Knowledge of God.

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they “shudder.” But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these thoughts and feelings are.

Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God’s existence is more concrete than any man’s knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn’t make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly that Jesus will judge them someday, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God’s grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

Knowledge of God alone is no proof of salvation.

We may make several conclusions based on these truths. First, that no matter how much people may know about God and the Bible, it is no sure sign of salvation. The devil before his fall, was one of the bright and morning stars, a flame of fire, one excelling in strength and wisdom. (Isa. 14:12, Ezek. 28:12-19) Apparently, as one of the chief angels, Satan knew much about God. Now that he is fallen, his sin has not destroyed his memories from before. Sin does destroy the spiritual nature, but not the natural abilities, such as memory. That the fallen angels do have many natural abilities may be seen from many Bible verses, for example Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” In the same way, the Bible says that Satan is “more crafty” than other created beings. (Gen 3:1, also 2 Cor. 11:3, Acts 13:10) Therefore we can see that the Devil has always had great mental ability and is able to know much about God, the visible and invisible world, and many other things. Since his job in the beginning was to be a chief angel before God, it is only natural that understanding these things has always been of first importance to him, and that all his activities have to do with these areas of thoughts, feelings, and knowledge.

Because it was his original employment to be one of the angels before the very face of God, and sin does not destroy the memory, it is clear that Satan knows more about God than just about any other created being.

After the fall, we can see from his activities as a tempter, etc., (Matt 4:3) that he has been spending his time increasing his knowledge and its practical applications. That his knowledge is great can be seen in how tricky he is when tempting people. The craftiness of his lies shows how clever he is. Surely he could not manage his deceit so well without an actual and true knowledge of the facts.

This knowledge of God and his works is from the very beginning. Satan was there from the Creation, as Job 38:47 shows: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand . . . while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?” So he must know much about the way God created the world, and how He governs all the events in the universe. Furthermore, Satan has seen how God has worked his plan of redemption in the world; and not as an innocent bystander, but as an active enemy of God’s grace. He saw God work in the lives of Adam and Eve, in Noah, Abraham, and David. He must have taken a special interest in the life of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of men, the Word of God incarnate. How closely did he watch Christ? How carefully did he observe his miracles and listen to His words? This is because Satan has set himself against Christ’s work, and it is to his torment and anguish that Satan has watched Christ’s work unfold successfully.

Satan, then, knows much about God and God’s work. He knows heaven first-hand. He knows hell also, with personal knowledge as its first resident, and has experienced its torments for all these thousands of years. He must have a great knowledge of the Bible: at the least, we can see he knew enough to try tempting our Saviour. Furthermore, he has had years of studying of the hearts of men, his battlefield where he fights against our Redeemer. What labors, exertions, and cares the Devil has used over the centuries as he has deceived men. Only a being with his knowledge and experience of God’s working, and the human heart, could so imitate true religion and transform himself into an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)

Therefore we can see that there is no amount of knowledge of God and religion that could prove a person has been saved from their sin.

A man may talk about the Bible, God, and the Trinity. He may be able to preach a sermon about Jesus Christ and everything He has done. Imagine, somebody might be able to speak about the way of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners, perhaps even enough to show others how to become Christians. All these things might build up the church and enlighten the world, yet it is not a sure proof of the saving grace of God in a person’s heart.

It also may be seen that for people to merely agree with the Bible is no sure sign of salvation. James 2:19 shows that the demons really, truly, believe the truth. Just as they believe there is one God, they agree with all the truth of the Bible. The devil is not a heretic: all the articles of his faith are firmly established in the truth.

It must be understood, that when the Bible talks about believing that Jesus is the Son of God, as a proof of God’s grace in the heart, the Bible means not a mere agreement with the truth, but another kind of believing.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (1 John 5:1) This other kind of believing is called “the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” (Titus 1:1) There is a spiritual holding to the truth, which will be explained later on.

Religious experiences are no proof of salvation.

Some people have strong religious experiences, and think of them as proof of God’s working in their hearts. Often these experiences give people a sense of the importance of the spiritual world, and the reality of divine things. However, these, too, are no sure proof of salvation. Demons and damned human beings have many spiritual experiences which have a great effect on their heart attitudes. They live in the spiritual world and see first-hand what it is like. Their sufferings show them the worth of salvation and the worth of a human soul in the most powerful way imaginable. The parable in Luke chapter 16 teaches this clearly, as the suffering man asks that Lazarus might be sent to tell his brothers to avoid this place of torment. No doubt people in hell now have a distinct idea of the vastness of eternity, and of the shortness of life. They are completely convinced that all the things of this life are unimportant when compared to the experiences of the eternal world. People now in hell have a great sense of the preciousness of time, and of the wonderful opportunities people have, who have the privilege of hearing the Gospel. They are completely aware of the foolishness of their sin, of neglecting opportunities, and ignoring the warnings of God. When sinners find out by personal experience the final result of their sin there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt 13:42) So even the most powerful religious experiences are not a sure sign of God’s grace in the heart.

Demons and damned people also have a strong sense of God’s majesty and power. God’s power is most clearly displayed in his execution of divine vengeance upon his enemies. “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath-prepared for destruction?” (Rom 9:22) Shuddering, the devils await their final punishment, under the strongest sense of God’s majesty. They feel it now, of course, but in the future it will show to the greatest degree, when the Lord Jesus “is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” (2 Thess 2:7) On that day, they will desire to be run away, to be hidden from the presence of God. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.” (Rev 1:7) So everyone will see him in the glory of His Father. But, obviously, not all who see him will be saved.

Objection #1- People are different from demons.

Now it is possible that some people might object to all this, saying that ungodly men in this world are quite different from demons. They are under different circumstances and are different kind of beings. An objector might say, “Those things that are visible and present to demons are invisible and future to men. Besides, people have the disadvantage of having bodies, which restrain the soul, and keep people from seeing these spiritual things first-hand. Therefore, even if demons do have a great knowledge and personal experience of the things of God, and have no grace, the conclusion does not apply to me.” Or, put another way: if people have these things in this life, it may very well be a sure sign of God’s grace in their hearts.

In reply, it is agreed that no man in this life has ever had the degree of these things as the demons have them. No person has ever shuddered, with the same amount of fear that the demons shudder with. No man, in this life, can ever have the same kind of knowledge that the Devil has. It is clear that demons and damned men understand the vastness of eternity, and the importance of the other world, more than any living person, and so they crave salvation all the more.

But we can see that men in this world can have experiences of the same kind as those of demons and damned people. They have the same mental outlook, the same opinions and emotions, and the same kind of impressions on the mind and heart. Notice, that for the apostle James it is a convincing argument. He claims that if people think believing in one God is proof of God’s grace, it is not proof, because demons believe the same. James is not referring to the act of believing only, but also to the emotions and actions that go along with their belief. Shuddering is an example of emotions from the heart. This shows that if people have the same kind of mental outlook, and respond from the heart in the same way, it is no sure sign of grace.

The Bible does not state how much people in this world may see God’s glory, and not have God’s grace in their hearts. We are not told exactly to what degree God reveals himself to certain people, and how much they will respond in their hearts. It is very tempting to say that if a person has a certain amount of religious experience, or a certain amount of truth, they must be saved. Perhaps it is even possible for some unsaved people to have greater experiences than some of those who have grace in their hearts! So it is wrong to look at experience or knowledge in terms of amount. Men who have a genuine work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts have experiences and knowledge of a different kind.

Objection #2- People can have religious feelings that demons cannot.

At this point, someone might answer these thoughts by saying, “I agree with you. I see that believing in God, seeing His majesty and holiness, and knowing that Jesus died for sinners is not proof of grace in my heart. I agree that demons can know these things as well. But I have some things they don’t have. I have joy, peace, and love. Demons can’t have them, so that must show that I am saved.”

Yes, it is true that you have something more than a demon can have, but it is nothing better than a demon could have. A person’s experience of love, joy, etc., may not be because they have any cause in them different from a demon, but just different circumstances. The causes, or origins, of their feelings are the same. This is why these experiences are no better than those of demons. To explain further:

All the things that were discussed before about demons and damned people, arise from two main causes, natural understanding and self-love. When they think about themselves, these two things are what determine their feelings and response. Natural understanding shows them that God is holy, while they are wicked. God is infinite, but they are limited. God is powerful, and they are weak. Self-love gives them a sense of the importance of religion, the eternal world, and a longing after salvation. When these two causes work together, demons and damned men become aware of the awesome majesty of God, whom they know will be their Judge. They know that God’s judgment will be perfect and their punishment will be forever. Therefore, these two causes together with their senses will bring about their anguish on that judgment day, when they see the outward glory of Christ and His saints.

The reason many people feel joy, peace, and love today, while demons do not, may be more due to their circumstances, rather than any difference in their hearts. The causes in their hearts are the same. For example, the Holy Spirit is now at work in the world keeping all of mankind from being as wicked as they could be (2 Thess 2:17). This is in contrast to demons, who are just as wicked as they can be all the time. Furthermore, God in his mercy gives gifts to all people, such as the rain for crops (Matt 5:45), heat from the sun, etc. Not only that, but often people receive many things in life to bring them happiness, such as personal relationships, pleasures, music, good health, and so on. Most important of all, many people have heard news of hope: God has sent a Saviour, Jesus Christ, who died to save sinners. In these circumstances, the natural understanding of people can cause them to feel things that demons never can.

Self-love is a powerful force in the hearts of men, strong enough without grace to cause people to love those who love them, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?

…For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32) It is a natural thing for a person who sees God being merciful, and who knows that they are not as bad as they could be, to therefore be sure of God’s love for them. If your love for God comes only from your feelings that God loves you, or because you have heard that Christ died for you, or something similar, the source of your love to God is only self-love. This reigns in the hearts of demons as well.

Imagine the situation of the demons. They know they are unrestrained in their wickedness. They know God is their enemy and always will be. Although they are without any hope, still they are active and fighting. Just think, what if they had some of the hope that people have? What if demons, with their knowledge of God, had their wickedness restrained? Imagine if a demon, after all his fears about God’s judgment, was suddenly led to imagine that God might be his Friend? That God might forgive him and let him, sin and all, into heaven? Oh the joy, the wonder, the gratitude we would see! Would not this demon be a great lover of God, since, after all everybody loves people who help them? What else could cause feelings so powerful and sincere? Is it any wonder, that so many people are deceived this way? Especially since people have the demons to promote this delusion. They have been promoting it now for many centuries, and alas they are very good at it.

True Spiritual experiences have a different source.

Now we come to the question, if all these various experiences and feelings come from nothing more than demons are capable of, what are the kinds of experiences that are truly spiritual and holy? What do I have to find in my own heart, as a sure sign of God’s grace there? What are the differences that show them to be from the Holy Spirit?

This is the answer: those feelings and experiences which are good signs of God’s grace in the heart differ from the experience of demons in their source and in their results.

Their source is…

…the sense of the overwhelming holy beauty and loveliness of the things of God. When a person grasps in his mind, or better yet, when he feels his own heart held captive by the attractiveness of the Divine, this is an unmistakable sign of God’s working.

The demons and damned in hell do not now, and never will experience even the tiniest bit of this. Before their fall, the demons did have this sense of God. But in their fall, they lost it, the only thing they could lose of their knowledge of God. We have seen how the demons have very clear ideas about how powerful God is, his justice, holiness, and so on. They know a lot of facts about God. But now they haven’t a clue about what God is like. They cannot know what God is like any more than a blind man can know about colors! Demons can have a strong sense God’s awesome majesty, but they don’t see his loveliness. They have observed His work among the human race for these thousands of years, indeed with the closest attention; but they never see a glimmer of His beauty. No matter how much they know about God (and we have seen that they know very much indeed) the knowledge they have will never bring them to this higher, spiritual knowing what God is like. On the contrary, the more they know about God, the more they hate Him. The beauty of God consists primarily in this holiness, or moral excellence, and this is what they hate the most. It is because God is holy that the demons hate Him. One could suppose that if God were to be less holy, the demons would hate Him less. No doubt demons would hate any holy Being, no matter what He was like otherwise. But surely they hate this Being all the more, for being infinitely holy, infinitely wise, and infinitely powerful!

Wicked people, including those alive today, will on the Day of Judgment see all there is to see of Jesus Christ, except His beauty and loveliness. There is not one thing about Christ that we can think of, that will not be set before them in the strongest light on that brilliant day. The wicked will see Jesus “coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13:26) They will see his outward glory, which is far, far greater than we can possibly imagine now. You know the wicked will be thoroughly convinced of all who Christ is. They will be convinced about His omniscience, as they see all their sins replayed and evaluated. They will know first-hand Christ’s justice, as their sentences are announced. His authority will be made utterly convincing when every knee will bow, and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord. (Phil 2:10, 11) The divine majesty will be impressed upon them in quite an effective way, as the wicked are poured into hell itself, and enter into their final state of suffering and death (Rev 20:14, 15) When that happens, all their knowledge of God, as true and as powerful as it may be, will be worth nothing, and less than nothing, because they will not see Christ’s beauty.

Therefore, it is this seeing the loveliness of Christ that makes the difference between the saving grace of the Holy Spirit, and the experiences of demons.

This sight or sense is what makes true Christian experience different from everything else. The faith of God’s elect people is based on this. When a person sees the excellence of the gospel, he senses the beauty and loveliness of the divine scheme of salvation. His mind is convinced that it is of God, and he believes it with all his heart. As the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 4:34, “even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” That is to say, as was explained before, unbelievers can see that there is a gospel, and understand the facts about it, but they do not see its light. The light of the gospel is the glory of Christ, his holiness and beauty. Right after this we read, 2 Cor 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Clearly, it is this divine light, shining into our hearts, that enables us to see the beauty of the gospel and have a saving belief in Christ. This supernatural light shows us the superlative beauty and loveliness of Jesus, and convinces us of His sufficiency as our Saviour. Only such a glorious, majestic Saviour can be our Mediator, standing between guilty, hell-deserving sinners such as ourselves, and an infinitely holy God. This supernatural light gives us a sense of Christ that convinces us in a way nothing else ever could.

A true spiritual experience transforms the heart.

When a most wicked sinner is caused to see Christ’s divine loveliness, he no longer speculates why God should be interested in him, to save him. Before, he could not understand how the blood of Christ could pay the penalty for sins. But now he can see the preciousness of Christ’s blood, and how it is worthy to be accepted as the ransom for the worst of sins. Now the soul can recognize that he is accepted by God, not because of who he is, but because of the value God puts on the blood, obedience, and intercession of Christ. Seeing this value and worth gives the poor guilty soul rest which cannot be found in any sermon or booklet.

When a person comes to see the proper foundation of faith and trust with his own eyes, this is saving faith.

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” (John 6:40) “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (John 17:6-8)

It is this sight of the divine beauty of Christ that captivates the wills and draws the hearts of men. A sight of the outward greatness of God in His glory may overwhelm men, and be more than they can endure. This will be seen on the Day of Judgment, when the wicked will be brought before God. They will be overwhelmed, yes, but the hostility of the heart will remain in full strength and the opposition of the will continue. But on the other hand, a single ray of the moral and spiritual glory of God and of the supreme loveliness of Christ shone into the heart overcomes all hostility. The soul is inclined to love God as if by an omnipotent power, so that now not only the understanding, but the whole being receives and embraces the loving Saviour.

This sense of the beauty of Christ is the beginning of true saving faith in the life of a true convert. This is quite different from any vague feeling that Christ loves him or died for him. These sort of fuzzy feelings can cause a sort of love and joy, because the person feels a gratitude for escaping the punishment of their sin. In actual fact, these feelings are based on self-love, and not on a love for Christ at all. It is a sad thing that so many people are deluded by this false faith. On the other hand, a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ causes in the heart a supreme genuine love for God. This is because the divine light shows the excellent loveliness of God’s nature. A love based on this is far, far above anything coming from self-love, which demons can have as well as men. The true love of God which comes from this sight of His beauty causes a spiritual and holy joy in the soul; a joy in God, and exulting in Him. There is no rejoicing in ourselves, but rather in God alone.

Genuine spiritual experiences have different results.

The sight of the beauty of divine things will cause true desires after the things of God. These desires are different from the longings of demons, which happen because the demons know their doom awaits them, and they wish it could somehow be otherwise. The desires that come from this sight of Christ’s beauty are natural free desires, like a baby desiring milk. Because these desires are so different from their counterfeits, they help to distinguish genuine experiences of God’s grace from the false.

False spiritual experiences have a tendency to cause pride, which is the devil’s special sin. “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” (1 Tim 3:6) Pride is the inevitable result of false spiritual experiences, even though they are often covered with a disguise of great humility. False experience is enamored with self and grows on self. It lives by showing itself in one way or another. A person can have great love for God, and be proud of the greatness of his love. He can be very humble, and very proud indeed of his humility. But the emotions and experiences that come from God’s grace are exactly opposite. God’s true working in the heart causes humility. They do not cause any kind of showiness or self-exaltation. That sense of the awesome, holy, glorious beauty of Christ kills pride and humbles the soul. The light of God’s loveliness, and that alone, shows the soul its own ugliness. When a person really grasps this, he inevitably begins a process of making God bigger and bigger, and himself smaller and smaller.

Another result of God’s grace working in the heart is that the person will hate every evil and respond to God with a holy heart and life. False experiences may cause a certain amount of zeal, and even a great deal of what is commonly called religion. However it is not a zeal for good works. Their religion is not a service of God, but rather a service of self. This is how the apostle James puts it himself in this very context, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” (James 2:19-20) In other words, deeds, or good works, are evidence of a genuine experience of God’s grace in the heart. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:34) When the heart has been ravished by the beauty of Christ, how else can it respond?

The sight of Christ’s beauty- God’s greatest gift!

How excellent is that inner goodness and true religion that comes from this sight of the beauty of Christ! Here you have the most wonderful experiences of saints and angels in heaven. Here you have the best experience of Jesus Christ Himself. Even though we are mere creatures, it is a sort of participation in God’s own beauty. “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.” (2 Pet 1:4) “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10) Because of the power of this divine working, there is a mutual indwelling of God and His people. “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)

This special relationship has to make the person involved as happy and as blessed as any creature in existence. This is a special gift of God, which he gives only to his special favorites. Gold, silver, diamonds, and earthly kingdoms are given by God to people who the Bible calls dogs and pigs. But this great gift of beholding Christ’s beauty, is the special blessing of God to His dearest children. Flesh and blood cannot give this gift: only God can bestow it. This was the special gift which Christ died to obtain for his elect. It is the highest token of his everlasting love, the best fruit of his labors, and the most precious purchase of his blood.

By this gift, more than anything else, the saints shine as lights in the world. This gift, more than anything else, is their comfort. It is impossible that the soul who possesses this gift should ever perish. This is the gift of eternal life. It is eternal life begun: those who have it can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It comes from heaven, it has a heavenly quality, and it will take its bearer to heaven.

Those who have this gift may wander in the wilderness or be tossed by waves on the ocean, but they will arrive in heaven at last. There the heavenly spark will be made perfect and increased. In heaven the souls of the saints will be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Amen.

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Originally titled True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils by Jonathan Edwards, 1752. This modern language version is Copyright 1994 by William Carson. Permission is granted for reproduction, so long as this file is not altered, this notice is included in any reproduction, and it is not sold for profit.

The Evilness of a Censorious Spirit

Taken and adapted from, “Charity and its fruits”
Written by, Jonathan Edwards
Edited and condensed for thought and space.

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1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love . . . thinketh no evil.”

The nature of censorious spirit is a disposition to think evil of others, or to judge evil of them, with respect to three things: their state, their qualities, their actions.

And,

1.  A censorious spirit appears in a willingness to judge evil of the state of others. It often shows itself in a disposition to think the worst of those about us, whether they are men of the world or professing Christians. In respect to the latter class, it often leads persons to pass censure on those who are professors of religion, and to condemn them as being hypocrites.

Persons are guilty of censoriousness in condemning the state of others, when they will do it from things that are no evidence of their being in a bad estate, or when they will condemn others as hypocrites because of God’s providential dealings with them, as Job’s three friends condemned him as a hypocrite on account of his uncommon and severe afflictions. And the same is true when they condemn them for the failings they may see in them, and which are no greater than are often incident to God’s children, and it may be no greater, or not so great as their own, though, notwithstanding just such things, they think well of themselves as Christians. And so persons are censorious when they condemn others as being unconverted and carnal men because they differ from them in opinion on some points that are not fundamental….

In all these ways, men often act, not only censoriously, but as unreasonably (in not allowing any to be Christians who have not their own experiences) as if they would not allow any to be men who had not just their own stature, and the same strength, or temperament of body, and the very same features of countenance with themselves. In the next place,

2.  A censorious spirit appears in a willingness to judge evil of the qualities of others. It appears in a disposition to overlook their good qualities, or to think them destitute of such qualities when they are not, or to make very little of them; or to magnify their ill qualities, and make more of them than is just; or to charge them with those ill qualities that they have not. Some are very apt to charge others with ignorance and folly, and other contemptible qualities, when they in no sense deserve to be esteemed thus by them. Some seem very apt to entertain a very low and despicable opinion of others, and so to represent them to their associates and friends, when a charitable disposition would discern many good things in them, to balance or more than balance the evil, and would frankly own them to be persons not to be despised. And some are ready to charge others with those morally evil qualities that they are free from, or to charge them with such qualities in a much higher degree than they at all deserve. Thus some have such a prejudice against some of their neighbors, that they regard them as a great deal more proud sort of persons, more selfish, or spiteful, or malicious, than they really are. Through some deep prejudice they have imbibed against them, they are ready to conceive that they have all manner of bad qualities, and no good ones. They seem to them to be an exceeding proud, or covetous, or selfish, or in some way bad, sort of men, when it may be that to others they appear well. Others see their many good qualities, and see, perhaps, many palliations of the qualities that are not good; but the censorious see only that which is evil, and speak only that which is unjust and disparaging as to the qualities of others. And,

3.  A censorious spirit appears in a willingness to judge evil of the actions of others. By actions, here, I would be understood to mean all the external voluntary acts of men, whether consisting in words or deeds. And a censorious spirit in judging evil of others’ actions discovers itself in two things:

First, in judging them to be guilty of evil actions without any evidence that constrains them to such a judgment. A suspicious spirit, which leads persons to be jealous of others, and ready to suspect them of being guilty of evil things when they have no evidence of it whatever, is an uncharitable spirit, and contrary to Christianity. Some persons are very free in passing their censures on others with respect to those things that they suppose they do out of their sight. They are ready to believe that they commit this, and that, and the other evil deed, in secret, and away from the eyes of men, or that they have done or said thus and so among their associates, and in the circle of their friends, and that, from some design or motive, they keep these things hid from others that are not in the same interest with themselves.

These are the persons chargeable with the “evil surmisings” spoken of and condemned by the apostle (1 Tim. 6:4 ), and which are connected with “envy, strife, and railings.” Very often, again, persons show an uncharitable and censorious spirit with respect to the actions of others, by being willing to take up and circulate evil reports about them. Merely hearing a flying and evil rumor about an individual, in such a thoughtless and lying world as this is, is far from being sufficient evidence against anyone, to make us believe he has been guilty of that which is reported; for the devil, who is called “the god of this world,” is said to be “a liar, and the father of it,” and too many, alas! of his children are like him in their speaking of falsehoods.

And yet it is a very common thing for persons to pass a judgment on others, on no better ground or foundation than that they have heard that somebody has said this, or that, or the other thing, though they have no evidence that what is said is true. When they hear that another has done or said so and so, they seem at once to conclude that it is so, without making any further inquiry, though nothing is more uncertain, or more likely to prove false, than the mutterings or whispers of common fame. A censorious spirit in judging evil of the actions of others, also discovers itself

Second, in a disposition to put the worst constructions on their actions. The censorious are not only apt to judge others guilty of evil actions without sufficient evidence, but they are also prone to put a bad construction on their actions, when they will just as well, and perhaps better, admit of a good construction. Very often, the moving design and end in the action is secret, confined to the recesses of the actor’s own bosom; and yet persons are commonly very willing to pass their censure upon the act, without reference to these: and this is a kind of censoriousness and uncharitable judging, as common, or more common, than any other. Thus, it is very common with men, when they are prejudiced against others, to put bad constructions on their actions or words that are seemingly good, as though they were performed in hypocrisy; and this is especially true in reference to public offices and affairs. If anything be said or done by persons wherein there is a show of concern for the public good, or the good of a neighbor, or the honor of God, or the interest of religion, some will always be ready to say that all this is in hypocrisy, and that the design really is, only to promote their own interest, and to advance themselves; and that they are only flattering and deluding others, having all the time some evil design in their hearts.

But here it may be inquired, “Wherein are the lines to be drawn?” To this I reply,

First, there are some persons that are appointed on purpose to be judges, in civil societies, and in churches, who are impartially to judge of others that properly fall under their cognizance, whether good or bad, and to pass sentence according to what they are; to approve the good, and condemn the bad, according to the evidence, and the nature of the act done, and its agreement or disagreement with the law which is the judges’ rule.

Second, particular persons, in their private judgments of others; are not obliged to divest themselves of reason, that they may thus judge well of all. This would be plainly against reason; for Christian love is not a thing founded on the ruins of reason, but there is the most sweet harmony between reason and love. And therefore we are not forbidden to judge all persons when there is plain and clear evidence that they are justly chargeable with evil. We are not to blame, when we judge those to be wicked men, and poor Christless wretches, who give flagrant proof that they are so by a course of wicked action. “Some men’s sins,” says the apostle, “are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after.” That is, some men’s sins are such plain testimony against them, that they are sufficient to condemn them as wicked men in full sight of the world, even before the coming of that final Day of Judgment that shall disclose the secrets of the heart to all. And so some men’s actions give such clear evidence of the evil of their intentions, that it is no judging the secrets of the heart, to judge that their designs and ends are wicked. And therefore it is plain, that all judging as to others’ state, or qualifications, or actions, is not an uncharitable censoriousness. But the evil of that judging wherein censoriousness consists, lies in two things: —

It lies, first, in judging evil of others when evidence does not oblige to it, or in thinking ill of them when the case very well allows of thinking well of them; when those things that seem to be in their favor are overlooked, and only those that are against them are regarded, and when the latter are magnified, and too great stress laid on them. And the same is the case when persons are hasty and rash in judging and condemning others, though both prudence and love oblige them to suspend their judgment till they know more of the matter, and all the circumstances are plain before them. Persons may often show a great deal of uncharitableness and rashness, in freely censuring others before they have heard what they have to say in their defense. And hence it is said, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Pro. 18:13 ).

And the evil of that judging which is censorious, lies in the second place, in a happiness in judging ill of others. Persons may judge ill of others, from clear and plain evidence that compels them to it, and yet it may be to their grief that they are obliged to judge as they do; just as when a tender parent hears of some great crime of a child with such evidence that he cannot but think it true. But very often judgment is passed against others, in such a manner as shows that the individual is well pleased in passing it. He is so willing in judging evil, and judges on such slight evidence, and carries his judgment to such extremes, as shows that his inclination is in it, and that he loves to think the worst of others. Such a happiness in judging ill of others is also manifested in our being willing to declare our judgment, and to speak as well as think evil of others. It may be in speaking of them with ridicule, or an air of contempt, or in bitterness or maliciousness of spirit, or with manifest pleasure in their deficiencies or errors. When to judge ill of others is against the inclination of persons, they will be very cautious in doing it, and will go no further in it than evidence obliges them, and will think the best that the nature of the case will admit, and will put the best possible construction on the words and actions of others.

And when they are obliged, against their inclination, to think evil of another, it will be no pleasure to declare it, but they will be backward to speak of it to any, and will do so only when a sense of duty leads them to it.

I will only add,

That a censorious spirit manifests a proud spirit. — And this, the context declares, is contrary to the spirit of love, or Christian love. A willingness to judge and censure others shows a proud disposition, as though the censorious person thought himself free from such faults and blemishes, and therefore felt justified in being busy and bitter in charging others with them, and censuring and condemning them for them. This is implied in the language of the Savior, in the seventh chapter of Matthew, “Judge not, that ye be not judged…And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite!” And the same is implied in the declaration of the apostle, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things” (Rom. 2:1 ).

If men were humbly sensible of their own failings, they would not be very willing or pleased in judging others, for the censure passed upon others would but rest on themselves.

There are the same kinds of corruption in one man’s heart as in another’s; and if those persons that are most busy in censuring others would but look within, and seriously examine their own hearts and lives, they might generally see the same dispositions and behavior in themselves, at one time or another, which they see and judge in others, or at least something as much deserving of censure. And a disposition to judge and condemn shows a conceited and arrogant disposition. It has the appearance of a person’s setting himself up above others, as though he were fit to be the lord and judge of his fellow-servants, and he supposed they were to stand or fall according to his sentence. This seems implied in the language of the apostle — “He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law; but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge” (Jam. 4:11 ). That is, you do not act as a fellow-servant to him that you judge, or as one that is under the same law with him, but as the giver of the law, and the judge whose province it is to pass sentence under it. And therefore it is added, in the next verse, “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who art thou that judgest another?” And so in Rom. 14:4 , “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth.” God is the only rightful judge, and the thought of his sovereignty and dominion should hold us back from daring to judge or censure our fellow-beings.

In the application of this subject I remark,

1.  It sternly reproves those who commonly take to themselves the liberty of speaking evil of others. — If to think evil be so much to be condemned, surely they are still more to be condemned who not only allow themselves in thinking, but also in speaking evil of others, and backbiting them with their tongues. The evil-speaking that is against neighbors behind their backs does very much consist in censuring them, or in the expression of uncharitable thoughts and judgments of their persons and behavior. And, therefore, speaking evil of others, and judging others, are sometimes put for the same thing in the Bible, as in the passage just quoted from the apostle James. How often does the Scripture condemn backbiting and evil-speaking! The Psalmist declares of the wicked, “Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son” (Psa. 50:19 , 20 ). And, says the apostle, to Titus, “Put them in mind… to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men” (Tit. 3:1 , 2 ); and again, it is written, “Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil-speakings” (1 Pet. 2:1 ). And it is mentioned, as part of the character of everyone that is a citizen of Zion, and that shall stand on God’s holy hill, that he “backbiteth not with his tongue” (Psa. 15:3 ). Inquire, therefore, whether you have not been often guilty of this; whether you have not frequently censured others, and expressed your hard thoughts of them, especially of those with whom you may have had some difficulty, or that have been of a different party from yourself. And is it not a practice in which you more or less allow yourself now, from day to day? And if so, consider how contrary it is to the spirit of Christianity, and to the solemn profession which, it may be, you have made as Christians; and be admonished entirely and at once to forsake it. The subject,

2.  Warns all against censoriousness, either by thinking or speaking evil of others, as they would be worthy of the name of Christians. — And here, in addition to the thoughts already suggested, let two or three things be considered.

And,

First, how often, when the truth comes fully out, do things appear far better concerning others than at first we were ready to judge. — There are many instances in the Scriptures to this point. When the children of Reuben, and of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh had built an altar by Jordan, the rest of Israel heard of it, and presently concluded that they had turned away from the Lord, and rashly resolved to go to war against them. But when the truth came to light, it appeared, on the contrary, that they had erected their altar for a good end, even for the worship of God, as may be seen in the twenty-second chapter of Joshua. Eli thought Hannah was drunk, when she came up to the temple; but when the truth came to light, he was satisfied that she was full of grief, and was praying and pouring out her soul before God (1 Sam. 1:12-16 ).

David concluded, from what Ziba told him, that Mephibosheth had manifested a rebellious and treasonable spirit against his crown, and so acted on his censorious judgment, greatly to the injury of the latter; but when the truth came to appear, he saw it was quite otherwise. Elijah judged ill of the state of Israel, that none were true worshippers of God but himself; but when God told him the truth, it appeared that there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. And how commonly are things very much the same now-a-days! How often, on thorough examination, have we found things better of others than we have heard, and than at first we were ready to judge! There are always two sides to every story, and it is generally wise, and safe, and charitable to take the best; and yet there is probably no one way in which persons are so liable to be wrong, as in presuming the worst is true, and in forming and expressing their judgment of others, and of their actions, without waiting till all the truth is known.

Second, how little occasion is there for us to pass our sentence on others with respect to their state, qualification or actions that do not concern us. Our great concern is with ourselves. It is of infinite consequence to us that we have a good estate before God; that we are possessed of good qualities and principles; and that we behave ourselves well, and act with right aims, and for right ends. But it is a minor matter to us how it is with others.

And there is little need of our censure being passed, even if it were deserved, which we cannot be sure of; for the business is in the hands of God, who is infinitely more fit to see to it than we can be. And there is a day appointed for his decision. So that, if we assume to judge others, we shall not only take upon ourselves a work that does not belong to us, but we shall be doing it before the time. “Therefore,” says the apostle, “judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God” (1 Cor. 4:5 ).

Third, God has threatened, that if we are found censoriously judging and condemning others, we shall be condemned ourselves. — “Judge not,” he says, “that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” And again, the apostle asks, “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Rom. 2:3 ). These are awful threatenings from the lips of that great Being who is to be our judge at the final day, by whom it infinitely concerns us to be acquitted, and from whom a sentence of condemnation will be unspeakably dreadful to us, if at last we sink forever under it.

Therefore, as we would not ourselves receive condemnation from him, let us not mete out such measure to others.

Demons Have a Knowledge of God

Taken and adapted from, “How To Know If You Are A Real Christian”
Written by, Jonathan Edwards
Dated September 28, 1752

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Demons Have a Knowledge of God…

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience, cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked. “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” (1 John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)

So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they “shudder.” But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these Demon’s thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God’s existence is more concrete than any man’s knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn’t make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly convinced that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God’s grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

THE ATONEMENT: Why it means WE ARE NOT SUPERMAN

Taken and adapted from, The Necessity of the Atonement and the Consistency Between that and Free Grace, in Forgiveness.
Written by, Jonathan Edwards

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If we could have atoned, by any means, for our own sins…

…it must have been either by our repentance and reformation, or by enduring a punishment, less in degree or duration, than that which is threatened in the law as the wages of sin. No other way for us to atone for our own sins appears to be conceivable. But if we attend to the subject, we shall find that we can make no proper atonement in either of these ways.

We could not make atonement for our sins by repentance and reformation. Repentance and reformation are a mere return to our duty, which we ought never to have forsaken or intermitted. Suppose a soldier deserts the service into which he is enlisted,and at the most critical period not only forsakes his general and the cause of his country, but joins the enemy and exerts himself to his utmost in his cause, and in direct opposition to that of his country; yet after twelve months spent in this manner, he repents and returns to his duty and his former service: will this repentance and reformation atone for his desertion and rebellion? Will his repentance and return, without punishment, support the authority of the law against desertion and rebellion, and deter others from the like conduct equally as the punishment of the delinquent according to law? It cannot be pretended. Such a treatment of the soldier would express no indignation or displeasure of the general at the conduct of the soldier: it would by no means convince the army or the world, that it was a most heinous crime to desert and join the standard of the enemy.

Just so in the case under consideration: the language of forgiving sinners barely on their repentance is, that he who sins shall repent; that the curse of the law is repentance; that he who repents shall suffer, and that he deserves no further punishment. But this would be so far from an effectual tendency to discourage and restrain from sin, that it would greatly encourage to the commission and indulgence of it; as all that sinners would have to fear, on this supposition, would be not the wrath of God, not any thing terrible, but the greatest blessing to which any man in this life can attain, repentance. If this were the condition of forgiving sinners,not only no measures would be taken to support the divine law, but none to vindicate the character of God himself, or to shew that he acts a consistent part, and agreeably to his own law; or that he is a friend to virtue and an enemy to vice. On the other hand, he would rather appear as a friend to sin and vice, or indifferent concerning them.

What would you think of a prince who should make a law against murder, and should threaten it with a punishment properly severe; yet should declare that none who should be guilty of that crime or should repent, and should be punished? Or if he did not positively declare this, yet should in fact suffer all murderers who repented of their murders, to pass with impunity? Undoubtedly you would conclude that he was either a very weak or a very wicked prince; either that he was unable to protect his subjects, or that he had no real regard to their lives or safety, whether in their individual or collective capacity.

Neither could we make atonement by any suffering short of the full punishment of sin. Because the very idea of atonement is something done, which to the purpose of supporting the authority of the law, the dignity and consistency of divine government and conduct, is fully equivalent to the curse of the law, and on the ground of which, the sinner may be saved from that curse. But no sufferings endured by the sinner himself, short of the curse of the law,can be to these purposes equivalent to that curse; anymore than a less number or quantity can be found equal to a greater. Indeed a lessor degree or duration of suffering endured by Christ the Son of God, may, on account of the infinite dignity and glory of his person, be an equivalent to the curse of the law endured by the sinner: as it would be a far more striking demonstration of a king’s displeasure, to inflict, in an ignominious manner, on the body of his own son, forty stripes save one; than to punish some obscure subject with death.

But when the person is the same, it is absurd to suppose that a less degree or duration of pain can be equal to a greater, or can equally strike terror into the minds of spectators, and make them fear and no more do any such wickedness. Deut. 13:11. Besides; if a less degree or duration of punishment, inflicted on the sinner, would answer all the purposes of supporting the authority of the divine law, etc., equally as that punishment which is threatened in the law; it follows that the punishment which is threatened in the law is too great, is unjust, is cruel and oppressive: which cannot be as long as God is a just being. Thus it clearly appears, that we could never have atoned for our own sins. If therefore atonement be made at all, it must be made by some other person: and since as we before argued, Christ the Son of God hath been appointed to this work, we may be sure, that it could be done by no other person of inferior dignity.

Coming to Christ in Your Own Utter Unworthiness, as With Ropes About Your Neck

Taken and adapted from, “Practical Sermons, Never Before Published”
Written by, Jonathan Edwards, Published 1787
Sourced from the “Dead Puritan Society” Website

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For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  

–Hebrews 4:15-16 (ESV)

They that come to God for mercy in a right manner, come not with a frame of mind disposed to quarrel with God, and find fault with his severity…

…but they come in a sense of their own utter unworthiness, as with ropes about their necks, and lying in the dust at the foot of mercy.  They must come to God for mercy in and through Jesus Christ alone.  All their hope of mercy must be from him, from the consideration of what he is, what he hath done, and what he hath suffered.  They must be sensible that there is no other name given under heaven, among men, whereby we can be saved, but that of Christ.  They must believe what the gospel tells us of Christ, the Mediator, that he is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world, having died to make propitiation for our sins.  They must have a spiritual discovery of Christ; and their souls must have an understanding of the way of salvation in him.  They must see his sufficiency; see that there is enough in him, that his blood cleanses from all sin, and that he is so worthy, that all sinners who are in him may well be pardoned and accepted; and from him they must take their encouragement.

It is impossible that any should come to God for mercy, and at the same time have no hope of mercy. Their coming to God for it implies that they have some hope of obtaining it, otherwise they would not think it worth the while to come.  But they that come in a right manner have all their hope through Christ, or from the consideration of his redemption, and the sufficiency of it.  If persons thus come to God for mercy, the greatness of their sins will be no impediment to pardon.  Let their sin be ever so many, and great, and aggravated, it will not make God in the least degree more backward to pardon them.

The mercy of God is as sufficient for the pardon of the greatest sins, as for the least; and that because his mercy is infinite.  That which is infinite, is as much above what is great, as it is above what is small.  That which is great comes no nearer to the bounds of that which is infinite, than that which is the least; because there are no bounds to it.  Thus God being infinitely great, he is as much above kings as he is above beggars; he is as much above the highest angel as he is above the meanest worm.  One’s finite measure doth not come any nearer to the extent of what is infinite, than another. So it is with respect to the mercy of God.  The mercy of God being infinite, it must be as sufficient for the pardon of all sin, as for one. 

If one of the least sins be not beyond the mercy of God, so neither are the greatest, or ten thousand of them.