In preparing a Bible study on the fruit of the Spirit, other than Scripture, one of the primary references that I consulted was an incredible book entitled Charity and Its Fruits, that compiled Jonathan Edwards’ sermons that he preached in the 18th century [edited from the original manuscripts with an introduction by Tyron Edwards, first published 1852 (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005)].
Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703 and lived until 1758. [Picture from Wikipedia article, Jonathan Edwards (theologian) and from the front cover of the book Charity and Its Fruits.]
He was a Puritan theologian, pastor, and devout Calvinist, whose conversion centered on his coming to the realization that God is sovereign over all things. Many consider him to be the most significant American churchman of the 18th century, as he was a Preacher who was a leading figure in the (first) Great Awakening of the United States.
While I was in high school, I read one of his sermons entitled “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” that had been reproduced in my American Literature class textbook. I suspect many people know of this sermon, in which Edwards says:
“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked.”
Clearly, his intent was to describe the reality and nature of Hell so that the hearer would turn to the Lord Jesus Christ. His writings are way more extensive than just that one sermon, however!
In Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s heart and virtually each page challenges us to live a life in the power of the Holy Spirit as we exhibit love [charity] to those around us.
Here are a couple of passages for you to consider today as you meditate on your Christian walk.
Regarding the Christian’s attitude about suffering and difficulties in this life.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 [ESV]
From Jonathan Edwards:
They that are truly Christians, have that faith whereby they see that which is more than sufficient to make up for the greatest sufferings they can endure in the cause of Christ. They see that the excellency in God and Christ, whom they have chosen for their portion, far outweighs all possible sufferings. And they see, too, that glory which God has promised to them that suffer for his sake – that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory which their sufferings for Christ’s sake work out for them, and in comparison with which, the heaviest sorrows and most enduring trials are but “light affliction, which is but for a moment.” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
- Do I gripe about the sufferings that I must go through in this life?
- Do I accept sorrows and trials in the knowledge that I am in God’s hands even then or do I search for answers to the “why me” questions that I posit?
- Do I even stop, for one moment, to consider the suffering that my Savior, Jesus Christ, endured form my sake?
- Do I count it a privilege to suffer for Jesus’ sake, or do I want my own creature comforts so much that I avoid suffering at all costs?
- Do I really believe that the “excellency in God and Christ … far outweighs all possible sufferings”?
On love as being the “sum of all Christianity”.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant … .
1 Corinthians 13:4 [ESV].
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Romans 1:28-32 [ESV]
From Jonathan Edwards:
A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God… If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming Christians. An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!
- Am I jealous of the position others possess, or of their possessions, or their families, or their figure?
- Am I hard-hearted, arrogant, boastful?
- Do I empathize with the injured or hurt person before me or do I simply nod my head and then move on to the next topic?
- Do I share of the abundance that God has given me or do I hoard it in case of a need down the road?
- Do I speak unkindly of those I hardly know, simply to put myself in a better position with those to whom I am speaking?
- Am I friendly to others, only to make malicious comments about them to my friends?
- Do I hinder love to man, and then expect God to accept my offering of love for Him?
When reading Jonathan Edwards, it seems as though he is speaking to me directly, notwithstanding the hundreds of years since he penned these words. It certainly is clear that the human experience has not improved in the intervening years! Once again, repentance is in order so that I can be cleansed so that the mirror of my life will reflect Christ’s love to those around me.
Do you see yourself in Edwards’ words?
If so, Beloved, repent and be restored to fullness of life in the Spirit of our Lord and Savior.
Sovereign God, thank You for giving us men such as Jonathan Edwards who gave us a clarion call for repentance, for devotion to your Son, Jesus Christ, and for guidance in living a life in grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Father, forgive me when I have ignored your Spirit and have acted in such a manner as to mar my witness for Jesus Christ. May these words be used to bring glory to You today.