Celebrating Past Beauty (3)
Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) Sermon
Jonathan Edwards (a strong supporter of Calvinist theology) is best known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But he nonetheless has written words about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ that beautifully capture the simultaneous majesty and humility of His Person.
I have attempted to address this aspect of our Savior’s character in Chapter 4 of my recently published eBook Christ and Cornelius: The Biblical Case Against Christian Pacifism (also available in PDF on this blog’s Documents Repository page). Compared to this sermon excerpt my work looks clumsy and unconvincing.
And here is not only infinite strength and infinite worthiness, but infinite condescension, and love and mercy, as great as power and dignity. If you are a poor, distressed sinner, whose heart is ready to sink for fear that God never will have mercy on you, you need not be afraid to go to Christ, for fear that he is either unable or unwilling to help you. Here is a strong foundation, and an inexhaustible treasure, to answer the necessities of your poor soul, and here is infinite grace and gentleness to invite and embolden a poor, unworthy, fearful soul to come to it. If Christ accepts of you, you need not fear but that you will be safe, for he is a strong Lion for your defense. And if you come, you need not fear but that you shall be accepted; for he is like a Lamb to all that come to him, and receives then with infinite grace and tenderness. It is true he has awful majesty, he is the great God, and infinitely high above you; but there is this to encourage and embolden the poor sinner, that Christ is man as well as God; he is a creature, as well as the Creator, and he is the most humble and lowly in heart of any creature in heaven or earth. This may well make the poor unworthy creature bold in coming to him. You need not hesitate one moment; but may run to him, and cast yourself upon him. You will certainly be graciously and meekly received by him. Though he is a lion, he will only be a lion to your enemies, but he will be a lamb to you. It could not have been conceived, had it not been so in the person of Christ, that there could have been so much in any Savior, that is inviting and tending to encourage sinners to trust in him. Whatever your circumstances are, you need not be afraid to come to such a Savior as this. Be you never so wicked a creature, here is worthiness enough; be you never so poor, and mean, and ignorant a creature, there is no danger of being despised, for though he be so much greater than you, he is also immensely more humble than you. Any one of you that is a father or mother, will not despise one of your own children that comes to you in distress: much less danger is there of Christ’s despising you, if you in your heart come to him.
Can anyone point to theological prose that more beautifully calls us poor sinners to repentance? Here is the work of a soul utterly captivated by Christ’s love. The Reverend Edwards here intermingles two apparently opposite and irreconcilable aspects of our Savior’s character in a passage that unifies them with grace and power. What non-Biblical words could more beautifully invite repentance and convince us that Christ has the power to save and protect?
It is a shameful fact that the name of Jesus Christ, let alone truthful meditation on His Person and purposes are so rarely found in contemporary PCUSA theological prose. I certainly don’t demand beauty (otherwise I’d need to stop writing myself). However, just to see that, regardless of the execution, hearts burn with thankfulness for and love of Christ Himself would be a wonderful relief.