The History of Redemption – Jonathan Edwards, Part 1

On one of the blogs I followed, it was suggested that we in the modern age should read some of the men of ages past like Jonathan Edwards.  I have read Edwards before and must admit that it is a hard read because of the way language was used 250 years ago.  But I for some reason, I have found that his treatise on The History of Redemption is really not all that hard to read from a language perspective, but it is extremely hard to read if you don’t read it slowly and take some time to digest it.  What follows is not a pureed meal, this is steak that requires a lot of chewing to savor the flavor of what Edwards is talking about.  I hope you will journey along with me as I share a classic work by Jonathan Edwards. 

The History of Redemption

GENERAL INTRODUCTION AND DOCTRINE

 “For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever, and my navigation from generation to generation.”  Isaiah 51:8

Jonathan EdwardsThe design of this chapter is to comfort the church under her sufferings, and the persecutions of her enemies. The argument of consolation insisted on is, the constancy and perpetuity of God’s mercy and faithfulness towards her, which shall be manifest in continuing to work salvation for her, protecting her against all assaults of her enemies, and carrying her safely through all the changes of the world, and finally crowning her with victory and deliverance.

In the text, this happiness of the church of God is set forth by comparing it with the contrary fate of her enemies that oppress her. And therein we may observe,

1. How short lived the power and prosperity of the church’s enemies is, “The moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool,” i.e. however great their prosperity is, and however great their present glory. They shall by degrees consume and vanish away a secret curse of God, until they come to nothing. All their power and glory, and so their persecutions, shall eternally cease. They will be finally and irrecoverably ruined, as the finest and most glorious apparel will in time wear away, and be consumed by moths and rottenness. We learn who those are that shall thus consume away, by the foregoing verse, viz. those that are the enemies of God’s people, “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their reviling.”

2. The contrary happy lot and portion of God’s church, expressed in these words, “My righteousness shalt be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.” Who are meant as those that shall have the benefit of this, we also learn by the preceding verse, viz. They “that know righteousness,” and “the people in whose heart is God’s law,” or, in one word, the church of God. And concerning this happiness of theirs here spoken of, we may observe two things, viz. 1. Wherein it consists. 2. Its continuance.

(1.) Wherein it consists, viz. In God’s righteousness and salvation towards them. By God’s righteousness here, is meant his faithfulness in fulfilling his covenant promises to his church, or his faithfulness towards his church and people in bestowing the benefits of the covenant of grace upon them. These benefits, though they are bestowed of free and sovereign grace, are altogether undeserved. Yet as God has been pleased, by the promises  of  the  covenant  of  grace,  to  bind  himself  to  bestow  them,  so  they  are bestowed in the exercise of God’s righteousness or justice. And therefore the Apostle says, Heb. 6:10, “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love.” And so, 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So the word righteousness, is very often used in Scripture for God’s covenant faithfulness. So it is used in Neh. 9:8, “Thou  hast  performed  thy  words,  for  thou  art  righteous.”  So  we  are  often  to understand righteousness and covenant mercy for the same thing, as Psa. 24:5, “He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psa. 36:10, “Continue thy loving kindness to them that know thee, and thy righteousness  to  the  upright  in  heart.”  And  Psa.  51:14,  “Deliver me  from  blood guiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.” Dan. 9:16, “O Lord, according to thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away.” And so in innumerable other places.

The other word here used is salvation. Of these two God’s righteousness and his salvation, the one is the cause, of which the other is the effect. God’s righteousness, or covenant mercy, is the root of which his salvation is the fruit. Both of them relate to the covenant of grace. The one is God’s covenant mercy and faithfulness, the other intends that work of God by which this covenant mercy is accomplished in the fruits of it. For salvation is the sum of all those works of God by which the benefits that are by the covenant of grace are procured and bestowed.

2. We may observe its continuance, signified here by two expressions, forever, and from generation to generation. The latter seems to be explanatory of the former. The phrase forever, is variously used in Scripture. Sometimes thereby is meant as long as a man lives. So it is said, the servant that has his ear bored through with an awl to the door of his master, should be his forever. Sometimes thereby is meant during the continuance of the Jewish state. So of many of the ceremonial and Levitical laws it is said, that they should be statutes forever. Sometimes it means as long as the world shall stand, or to the end of the generations of men. So it is said, Ecc. 1:4, “One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.” Sometimes thereby is meant to all eternity. So it is said, “God is blessed for ever,” Rom. 1:25. And so it is said, John 6:51, “If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.” And which of these senses is here to be understood, the next words determine, viz. to the end of the world, or to the end of the generations of men. It is said in the next words, “and my salvation from generation to generation.” Indeed the Continue reading