Thursday, June 15, 2006

Youth is like a flower that is cut down

The death in 1741 of a young man called Billy Sheldon gave Edwards the opportunity to preach this sermon on premature death. It is worth reading the whole sermon - it raises some very interesting questions about the nature of Edwards' approach to theodicy. Or maybe more accurately, his disregard for theodicy in this context. Phrases like 'He has cut down one flower after another- - just don't suggest an apologetic theodicy. Or 'God is pleased to cut down some to warn others.'

'So youth is an age wherein persons are commonly full of hopes and promises to themselves of the good and prosperity they shall see in the world. They are just entering upon the stage of the world, and they promise themselves much that they shall see and enjoy afterwards. And their parents and friends are also ready to promise themselves much future comfort in them, and are full of hop of seeing 'em settled, and oftentimes are full of hope of the figure they will make in the world. ...

What you have heard from the Word of God, you have lately seen verified in the providence of God. There have been several instances it in this town. God tells you in his Word, and has now been telling you, how that man "cometh forth as a flower, and is cut down"; and he has not only told you so, but he has been showing of you that it is so. He has cut down one flower after another of those that were but lately come forth, that were as it were just in the blossom. He has spoken not only once, but twice, nigh thrice. God is pleased to cut down some to warn others. ... It would be a stupid hardness and provoking obstinancy in you to disregard one such warning; but God has repeated his witness and has called to you with so awful and solemn a voice once, and again, and again. ...

He was young as you are. He was in like circumstances with many of you. A little while ago he appeared as likely to live as you. ... But yet now he is gone ... And you are yet spared. You as yet have an opportunity to prepare for death.'

Youth Is Like a Flower That Is Cut Down, Works, 22, 325-326.


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