The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister

The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister

This is a sermon by Jonathan Edwards at the ordination of another minister. He took John 5:35 as his text, noting Jesus’ description of John the Baptist as a “burning and a shining light.” Edwards shows that a “burning” light is one that is fervent, zealous, energetic, with a “holy flame enkindled in the soul.” A “shining” light is one that is pure and clear, that brings truth to the souls of men.

Edwards illustrates the need for both heat and light:

It is the glory of the sun that such a bright and glorious light, and such a powerful, refreshing, vivifying heat, are both together diffused from that luminary. When there is light in a minister…without a spiritual warmth and ardor in his heart, and a holy zeal in his ministrations, his light is like the light of an ignis fatuus, and some kinds of putrefying carcasses that shine in the dark, though they are of a stinking savor.

Truly excellent ministers must burn and shine. Edwards observes that, as we pursue both,

hereby our ministry will be likely to be as beneficial as our office is honorable.

Too many men love the honor of the office and do not consider if they are actually beneficial. They do not consider if their religion remains “only in the head,” or consists in “outward morality, or forms of religion” but if it “reaches the heart” and “burns there.” Those who fail in personal, spiritual fervency not only suffer an ineffectual ministry, they are also “so much the more hurtful and pernicious” to men and “the more abominable and inexcusable” before God.

Sweet Repentance

A week from today I leave to preach a series of messages about The Religious Affections of Jonathan Edwards for the students of Foothill Bible Church, pastored by my friend Micah Lugg. A week after that, I’ll be preaching a series of messages about Repentance and seeing sin for what it is for the students of Faith Bible Church, pastored by my friend Mike Brown (whose wife is due with their second child the week before camp begins). I listened to this message while running earlier today and the following quote hit my preparation sweet spot.

Though [repentance] be a deep sorrow for sin that God requires as necessary to salvation, yet the very nature of it necessarily implies delight. Repentance of sin is a sorrow arising from the sight of God’s excellency and mercy, but the apprehension of excellency or mercy must necessarily and unavoidably beget pleasure in the mind of the beholder. ‘Tis impossible that anyone should see anything that appears to him excellent and not behold it with pleasure, and it’s impossible to be affected with the mercy and love of God, and his willingness to be merciful to us and love us, and not be affected with pleasure at the thoughts of [it]; but this is the very affection that begets true repentance. How much soever of a paradox it may seem, it is true that repentance is a sweet sorrow, so that the more of this sorrow, the more pleasure.

—Jonathan Edwards, “The Pleasantness of Religion,” quoted in A God Entranced Vision of All Things, 30.

The Best Online Edwards Resources

In spite of the fact that the 06SR is over, I am hoping that many of you will desire to learn more about and from Jonathan Edwards. While curious readers may already have clicked through my Edwards delicious tags, it seemed like an annotated list of Edwards resources available online might help get you started.

Edwards' gravestonePhoto thanks to Tony Reinke

  • Jonathan Edwards.com | This is the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Edwards Web Site,” and even though it hasn’t been updated in quite a while, this is the best place to go for some of JE’s scientific and personal writings. You can also view most of JE’s major works unabridged, such as Original Sin, The Religious Affections, Freedom of the Will, and of course The Religious Affections. Sometimes the site is down, but it’s worth a quick look.
  • JE on Monergism.com | Monergism.com is one of the most helpful Bible/theology collection sites on the web in my opinion, and their page of Edwards materials does not disappoint. This is the best place to start, not only for primary Edwards material, but especially for biographical sketches and articles about his theology.
  • JE on the Bible Bulletin Board | This site is by far the best place to go for Edwards’ own writings on the web. It is organized by category and all the documents are in the same format. BBB is the first place I go to check for JE sermons and shorter works.
  • The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University | There is not a lot of content available yet at the Center, but if they upload half of what they claim, this will become the place to go period. I did find their biographical timeline the most complete available online.
  • JE: The Life of a Master Preacher | This is a (small) online exhibit that includes some pictures and brief biographical information.
  • A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards | This is a free online book available for pdf download from the Desiring God web site. The book includes chapters by various authors (like Piper, J.I. Packer, Mark Dever, Donald Whitney, etc.), originally presented at a conference by the same name held in October of 2003–Edwards’ 300th birthday. This is a terrific introduction to JE and his passion for the glory of God.
  • Of course if you’d rather listen than read, most of the God-Entranced Vision of All Things seminars are available as mp3 files. I listened to all of these messages prior to the retreat; many of them three or four times while I was jogging. Piper also has another message on Edwards, The Pastor as Theologian that was from an earlier pastor’s conference.

The above are not the only internet sites with JE material out there, but they are the online resources that I used and would recommend most. The audio and sermon notes for my messages at the 06SR are also available online.

The Religious Affections of Jonathan Edwards

  • Session 1 – Shock and Awe – An Introduction to Religious Affections
  • Session 2 – Logic on Fire – Jonathan Edwards and The Religious Affections
  • Session 3 – Heat and Light – The Nature and Importance of Religious Affections
  • Session 4 – No Sure Signs – Inconclusive Signs of Religious Affections
  • Session 5 – Known by Fruit – Distinguishing Marks of Religious Affections
  • Session 6 – The Body and Blood – The Examination of Religious Affections and the Lord’s Table