Thursday, November 30, 2006

"repeated blows on the head" etc.

In between lashes from the hard-driving whip of Herr Minkema's demanding editorial review, we have quite a bit of fun at the Jonathan Edwards Center. And this afternoon was no exception. As we toiled away on the issues and problems of the day, without warning the silence was torn by a peal of laughter from the front room. Our Fulbright Fellow, Anna Svetlikova, had come across the following passage from Religious Affections:

"It is as impossible, in the nature of things, that a holy and Christian hope be kept alive, in its clearness and strength, in such circumstances, as it is to keep the light in the room, when the candle is put out; or to maintain the bright sunshine in the air, when the sun is gone down.
Distant experiences, when darkened by present prevailing lust and corruption, never keep alive a gracious confidence and assurance; but that sickens and decays upon it, as necessarily as a little child by repeated blows on the head with a hammer.
Nor is it at all to be lamented, that persons doubt of their state in such circumstances: but, on the contrary, it is desirable and every way best that they should. It is agreeable to that wise and merciful constitution of things, which God hath established, that it should be so. For so hath God contrived and constituted things, in his dispensations towards his own people, that when their love decays, and the exercises of it fail, or become weak, fear should arise; for then they need it to restrain them from sin, and to excite them to care for the good of their souls, and so to stir them up to watchfulness and diligence in religion: but God hath so ordered, that when love rises, and is in vigorous exercise, then fear should vanish, and be driven away; for then they need it not, having a higher and more excellent principle in exercise, to restrain them from sin, and stir them up to their duty."

The question here remains...does JE know that he's funny, or is it all a happy accident?

Inquiring minds want to know.

5 Comments:

Anonymous cozart said...

i seem to remember Gerstner saying that anytime something humorous was found in any of Edwards' writings, it should be a general rule to take it as unintentional humor, for Edwards was not one to engage in much jocularity.

i think that assessment fits pretty well with Marsden's scholarship on Edwards' personality, saying that he always maintained his pastoral role, even in friendly company, because of his high view of the calling of a preacher.

although resolution #38 would seem to indicate that he would speak "sportively" and speak things which were "matters of laughter" on other days other than the Sabbath.

i imagine Edwards was a pretty likable fellow, though, at times, probably far more intense than anyone i've ever met!

4:06 am  
Blogger Michael McClenahan said...

You can tell the man by his sermon illustrations!

7:55 am  
Anonymous M said...

Cozart refers to resolution # 38..."38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord's day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722."

The fact that he also says "ridiculous" along with sportive and matters of laughter could well mean that all three things were being lumped together as bad. If this is the case, we can't conclude that he was willing to engage in any of these on any day of the week- he is simply making a special point concerning the gravity of speech on the Sabbath. Isaiah 58, a very significant passage on Sabbath keeping, may have been in mind...

"If because of the Sabbath you turn your foot from... speaking your own word... then you will take delight in the LORD..."

11:01 pm  
Anonymous Matt Wienken said...

Cozart refers to resolution # 38..."38. Resolved, never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive, or matter of laughter on the Lord's day. Sabbath evening, Dec. 23, 1722."

The fact that he also says "ridiculous" along with sportive and matters of laughter could well mean that all three things were being lumped together as bad. If this is the case, we can't conclude that he was willing to engage in any of these on any day of the week- he is simply making a special point concerning the gravity of speech on the Sabbath. Isaiah 58, a very significant passage on Sabbath keeping, may have been in mind...

"If because of the Sabbath you turn your foot from... speaking your own word... then you will take delight in the LORD..."

11:02 pm  
Anonymous Jim O'Brien said...

I'm not as serious as Edwards, but I didn't see the humor, intentional or intentional in the comment. I suspect that the idea of bashing in a child's head with a hammer was intended to horrify the congregation. Edwards' point would be that as horrific as that would be, so also is indulging lusts that darken one's assurance. For Edwards, one's assurance of eternal bliss vs. eternal damnation is fundamentally important.

Or did I miss something?

Jim O'Brien
Greenville, SC

4:57 pm  

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