Keller Channels Edwards [Edwardsisms]

I haven’t watched the whole sermon, but Tim Keller recently channeled Jonathan Edwards in a sermon at Newfrontiers in London. (HT: Justin Taylor)

Adrian Warnock has the video and notes on the sermon. He also throws up a couple of quotations by Edwards and Lloyd-Jones on the need to “change people in their seats” (Keller’s phrase). I can’t be sure, but I think the Lloyd-Jones quotation is building off of  one from Edwards in Some Thoughts Concerning the Reviving of Religion. Here’s the story:

During the Awakening, religious meetings were almost a daily practice and people would hear multiple sermons per week. Charles Chauncy and other opponents of the Awakening disparaged this practice because there was no way that people could remember what they heard in order to apply it to their lives. Edwards described this objection thusly:

The frequent preaching that has lately been, has in a particular manner been objected against as unprofitable and prejudicial. ‘Tis objected that when sermons are heard so very often, one sermon tends to thrust out another; so that persons lose the benefit of all: they say two or three sermons in a week is as much as they can remember and digest.

Edwards responded by making an incredibly profound statement on the benefit of preaching:

Such objections against frequent preaching, if they ben’t from an enmity against religion, are for want of duly considering the way that sermons usually profit an auditory. The main benefit that is obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered. And though an after remembrance of what was heard in a sermon is oftentimes very profitable; yet, for the most part, that remembrance is from an impression the words made on the heart in the time of it; and the memory profits as it renews and increases that impression; and a frequent inculcating [of] the more important things of religion in preaching has no tendency to raze out such impressions, but to increase them, and fix them deeper and deeper in the mind, as is found by experience. (Some Thoughts, Part III, in Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4, page 397)

That statement has been hugely influential for me as I approach not only preaching, but classroom teaching and listening to sermons. My primary goal in hearing a sermon is not to take copious notes for later reflection (as helpful as those may be). The main goal in hearing a sermon is to meet with the living God, to have his grace awaken my affections so that I am conformed to the image of his Son (Romans 8:29).

Such a view of preaching and teaching is hugely liberating because it means that my aim as a preacher is not that my hearers be able to pass a quiz two days (or 30 minutes!) later, but that they would encounter the triune God in the preached word and be transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).

Before this post gets too long, I’ll just direct your attention to one other place where Keller unpacks this view of preaching and contrasts it with common models today. In an issue of Cutting Edge, the Vineyard Church magazine, Keller had this to say about informational vs. experiential preaching:

The informational view of preaching conceives of preaching as changing people’s lives after the sermon. They listen to the sermon, take notes, and then apply the Biblical principles during the week. But this assumes that our main problem is a lack of compliance to Biblical principles when, in fact, our problems are actually due to a lack of joy and belief in the gospel. If that’s our real problem, then the purpose of preaching is to make Christ so real to the heart that in the sermon itself people have an experience of God’s grace such that false idols and false saviors lose their power and grip on us on the spot. That’s the experiential view of preaching we see in someone like Jonathan Edwards.

In any event, I think that the view of preaching set forth by Edwards, Lloyd-Jones, and Keller is worth deep reflection and meditation. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sarah Edwards: Christian Hedonist [Edwardsisms]

There was [in Sarah Edwards during her ecstatic experiences] a sweet rejoicing of soul at the thoughts of God being infinitely and unchangeably happy, and an exulting gladness of heart that God is self-sufficient, and infinitely above all dependence, and reigns over all, and does his will with absolute and uncontrollable power and sovereignty.

–Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion (Part 1, Section 5, Paragraph 6)

I think she’s a Calvinist too.:)

I’ll Have What She’s Having [Edwardsisms]

The person has more than once continued for five or six hours together, without interruption, in a clear and lively view or sense of the infinite beauty and amiableness of Christ’s person, and the heavenly sweetness of his transcendent lobe. So that (to use the person’s own expressions) the soul remained in a kind of heavenly Elysium, and did as it were swim in the rays of Christ’s love, like a little mote swimming in the beams of the sun that come in at a window. The heart was swallowed up in a kind of glow of Christ’s love coming down as a constant stream of sweet light, at the same time the sould all flowing out in love to him; so that there seemed to be a constant flowing and reflowing from heart to heart.

Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion (Part 1, Section 5, Paragraph 1), describing his wife Sarah’s experience, which occurred multiple times throughout her life. I’m not sure I even know what the “his transcendent lobe” is! But the last sentence sure sounds like a remanation to me.

Means of Grace to Raise the Affections [Edwardsisms]

…it is manifest we are not appointed in this duty [prayer] to declare God’s perfections,  His majesty, holiness, goodness, and all-sufficiency, and our meanness, emptiness, dependence, and unworthiness, and our wants and desires to inform God of these things, and prevail with Him to be willing to show us mercy; but suitably to affect our own hearts with the things we express…And the duty of singing praises to God seems to be appointed wholly to excite and express religious affections…God hath appointed a particular and lively application of His Word to men in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of the things of religion, and their own misery and necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; and to stir up the pure minds of the saints, and quicken their affections, by often bringing the great things of religion to their remembrance, and setting before them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already.

–Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (pp. 43-45)

This Convicts Me. What Moves You? [Edwardsisms]

God has given to mankind affections…that they might be subservient to man’s chief end, and the great business for which God has created him…And yet how common is it among mankind, that their affections are much more exercised and engaged in other matters than in religion! In things which concern men’s worldly interest, their outward delights, their honour and reputation, and their natural relations, they have their desires eager, their appetites vehement, their love warm and affectionate, their zeal ardent; in these things their hearts are tender and sensible, easily moved, deeply impressed, much concerned, very sensibly affected, and greatly engaged; much depressed with grief at losses, and highly raised with joy at worldly successes and prosperity. But how insensible and unmoved are most men about the great things of another world!

–Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (pp. 40-50)

Affections Make The World Go Round [Edwardsisms]

Take away all love and hatred, all hope and fear, all anger, zeal, and affectionate desire, and the world would be in a great measure motionless and dead; there would be no such thing as activity amongst mankind, or any pursuit whatsoever. It is affection that engages the covetous man, and him that is greedy of worldly profits, in his pursuits; and it is by the affections that the ambitious man is put forward in his pursuit of worldly glory; and it is the affections also that actuate the voluptuous man in his pursuit of pleasure and sensual delights. The world continues, from age to age, in a continual commotion and agitation, in a pursuit of these things; but take away all affection, and the spring of all this motion would be gone, and the motion itself would cease.

–Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections (pp. 27-28 )