Why is it impossible for self-love to be the foundation of genuine Evangelical spirituality?
4a. For Edwards there is no room for self-love in the believer as foundational. John 4:19 says, “We love him, because he first loved us.” God is the mover the first initiator to regenerate a man and therefore once a man sees the awesomeness, majesty, beauty, and holiness of God he should be captivated by it apart from its personal benefits. To see God as He really is should produce holy fear and humiliation in a believer’s heart thus seeing himself as he really is compared to the glories of God. Edwards, referring to John 4:19 gives three points to its support. (1) The saints’ love to God, is the fruit of God’s love to them; as it is the gift of that love. God gave them a spirit of love to him, because he loved them from eternity. (2) The exercises and discoveries that God has made of his wonderful love to sinful men, by Jesus Christ, in the work of redemption, is one of the chief manifestations, which God has made of the glory of his moral perfection, to both angels and men. (3) God’s love to a particular elect person, discovered by his conversion, is a great manifestation of God’s moral perfection and glory to him, and a proper occasion of the excitation of the love of holy gratitude… arising primarily form the excellency of divine things, as they are in themselves, and not from any conceived relation they bear to their interest.”
Is Edwards refusing to allow any place for self-love in our love to God?
4b. Edwards does allow a place for self-love but it is not anywhere as foundational to man’s authentic affection for God’s glory and beauty. This reality is touched by man’s self-love as explained in Psalm 116:1, “I love the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplication.” God first loves man and by this love man is changed and now loves God for who He is and because of this has godly gratitude for the personal benefits he receives from this great divine love.
What constitutes a “spiritual” person in the perspective of the New Testament?
3a. A spiritual person has the Spirit of God in him. The spiritual person means sanctified and gracious. This does not mean perfectionism, but it does mean the spiritual person is in a notable process of sanctification and grace. Christians are called “spiritual,” because they are born of the Spirit and because of the indwelling and holy influences of the Spirit of God in them, writes Edwards. The spiritual mind means to be graciously minded, Rom. 8:6. Because believers are spiritual God communicates Himself to the saints by His Spirit to their spirit. The affections of the Saints are acted upon, by influences that are spiritual and divine. According to the N.T. the spiritual person has the spirit of truth (John 14:17)
What are the differences between a “spiritual” person and a “natural” person?
3b. The natural man is different than the spiritual man because the natural man was born of the flesh and is therefore born of corruption with a corrupt nature. The natural man cannot understand spiritual things, to him they are utter foolishness. Regarding the Spirit’s affects on the natural man, Edward writes; “The Spirit of God, in all his operations upon the minds of natural men, only moves, impresses, assists, improves, or some way acts upon natural principles; but gives no new spiritual principle.” This reveals that if a natural man has a vision or a revelation of sorts there is nothing supernatural, spiritual or divine in it. The natural man can and does have many of the same gracious affections as the spiritual man in the sense that a love for God for the spiritual man is similar to the natural man’s love for his friend etc.
What are the implications of Edwards’ discussion in these pages for the designation of some Christians as “carnal Christians”?
3c. The “carnal Christian” is a bit of an oxymoron because Edwards quotes Rom. 8:6, “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Edwards connects carnal with unsanctified or rather the unspiritual man. The spiritual man has the special, gracious, and saving influences of the Spirit in his life where the natural, carnal man does not. Natural man will experience the influences of the Spirit but not in relation to the gifts, qualities, or affections that characterize the spiritual man.
What happened under Edwards’ ministry at Northampton during the winter of 1734–1735?
2a. A stirring of interest in the Lord began in the young people in 1734 and an outpouring of the Spirit began to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers,” (Mal. 4:6) The interest of the young people spread to their parents and God began to illuminate their hearts to the truth of the gospel and dead orthodoxy started to become alive as the people began to see a renewed vision of God’s glory.
What is the significance of Edwards’ works on revival?
2b. Edward’s contribution to the revivals was the theological groundwork that he laid down This theology was to explain how times of revival were to be seen not as a special season of extra-ordinary religious excitement but as a restoration to a normal spiritual life after an outpouring of the Spirit. This is necessary because; “Periods of spiritual decline occur in history because the gravity of indwelling sin keeps pulling believers first into formal religion and then into open apostasy.
What is the main structure of his teaching regarding revival?
2c. The main structure of Edward’s teaching on revival followed his postmillennial theology. “(1) The calling of the Gentiles at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; (2) the overthrowing of Roman persecution and the Christianizing of the empire in the Constantinian revolution; (3) the destruction of Antichrist [Roman Catholicism and all other pseudo-Christianity] and the establishment of a revived church in a new state of purity and glory to rule among the nations for a thousand years; and (4) the destruction of a final rebellion against God effected by the return of Christ and leading to the last judgment and to the establishment of the eternal state.” Each of these times would be met with God’s judgment and an outpouring of His Spirit. Edwards believed that a revived American church would become the base for the missionary expansion of the gospel. The Puritans at large also believed God would use England and the Colonies to impact the world and thus it has. This theology undergirded Edward’s view of revival.
How was the Evangelical Revival in New England attacked?
2d. The revival in England was attacked by disorders and confusion. The enemy attacked the subjects of revival directly and internally with despair and discouragement. This especially happened towards the end of 1734. The enemy also sought to create division among the revival leaders, produce zealous extremes called enthusiasm, and to sow tares in among the wheat. All of this work by the enemy was to discredit the work of the Holy Spirit. Men like Charles Chauncy directly criticized the revivals for evidence of, “donatism; separatism; presumptuous dependence on the Holy Spirit and despising the use of means including the Bible, scholarship and reason; and insisting that a knowledge of the time of one’s conversion was essential to assurance, and assurance necessary to salvation.”
How did Edwards generally respond to these attacks?
2e. Edwards generally responded to these attacks with biblical and reverential assessments of the happenings. Edwards was logical, methodically, confessional, and hopeful in all the happenings of the revivals. His response was to write a treatise, acknowledging the concerns and taking them quite serious. Edwards did not diminish the concerns but neither did he downplay the outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the people. The revival did have true spiritual effect that was from God and though there were abuses and scandals it was not to take away from the glories of God’s divine workings.
In a sermon on Proverbs 14:8, the Particular Baptist pastor, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815), looked long and hard at the virtue of godly wisdom. He extracted many helpful principles from this verse, and one of the most insightful comments he made was how to use the Word of God in getting wisdom. He says that the Word functions in two main ways in teaching us wisdom. It shows us what the destructive end will be of folly, from which wisdom deters us. Moreover, he makes an amazing observation about wisdom—the eye of wisdom should not chiefly look to the negative consequence of folly in order to avoid it; rather, the eye of wisdom should zealously fix its sight Christ who is worthy of its gaze. Such Christ-enamored wisdom is cultivated through meditation and prayer.
We shall read the oracles of God: the doctrines for belief, and the precepts for practice; and shall thus learn to cleanse our way by taking heed thereto, according to God’s word. It will moreover induce us to guard against the dangers of the way. We shall not be ignorant of Satan’s devices, nor of the numerous temptations to which our age, times, circumstances, and propensities expose us. It will influence us to keep our eye upon the end of the way. A foolish man will go that way in which he finds most company, or can go most at his ease; but wisdom will ask, “What shall I do in the end thereof?” To understand the end of the wrong way will deter; but to keep our eye upon that of the right will attract. Christ himself kept sight of the joy that was set before him. Finally, as holy wisdom possesses the soul with a sense of propriety at all times, and upon all occasions, it is therefore our highest interest to obtain this wisdom, and to cultivate it by reading, meditation, prayer, and every appointed means.
Andrew Gunton Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller, Volume 1: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc., ed. Joseph Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 465-66.
Here is a great sermon by Charles Spurgeon about the missionary calling and lifestyle. Here is a manuscript of this sermon. It is a much needed correction to the short-lived, anti-self-denial mood of 21st century missions: