This is an edited version of Jonathan Edwards’ Part IV, section 1 of “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England” (from The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth Trust, volume one, pp. 398-403). In this case, an edited version cannot do true justice to the whole essay, so it is highly recommended that you acquire this treatise and read the complete version yourself.
“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God” – Psalm 10:4
In this psalm we have a full length portrait of a careless, unawakened sinner, drawn by the unerring pencil of truth; and so perfect is the resemblance, that were it not for the blinding influence of sin, every such sinner would discover in it, as in a glass, his own image. Two of the features, which compose this portrait, are delineated in our text. The first is an unwillingness to seek after God. The second is pride, which causes that unwillingness. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God. In discoursing on this passage, we shall endeavor to show—that the wicked will not seek after God—and that it is the pride of their hearts, which prevents them from seeking him. It will be understood, that by the wicked, we here intend careless, unawakened sinners.
I. The wicked will not seek after God. The expression implies, not only that they do not seek after him, but that they will not. It is the settled, determined purpose of their hearts, not to seek him; and to this purpose they will obstinately and unalterably adhere, unless their wills are subdued by divine grace. With a view to illustrate and establish this truth, we observe
1. That the wicked will not seek after the knowledge of God. This the scriptures plainly assert. The wicked say unto God, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. It is also evident from the experience of all ages, that no careless, unawakened sinner, ever used any means, or made the smallest endeavors to acquire a knowledge of God. Our Savior explicitly declares, that all who seek, shall find. But the wicked do not find the knowledge of God; therefore they never seek it. They will not study the scriptures with a view to become acquainted with God. It is true, they sometimes read the scriptures; but they read them either in a formal, careless manner, or to quiet the remonstrances of conscience, or to find arguments in favor of some false system of religion, which may encourage them in sinful pursuits, and enable them to indulge delusive hopes of future happiness. They never look into the Bible with a sincere desire to find God there; nor study it with that humble, docile, childlike temper, without which it will ever be studied in vain. And while many thus read the scriptures with improper views, or wrong feelings, many also, there is reason to fear, scarcely read them at all. From week to week, and from year to year, their Bibles lie on the shelf unopened, while they know little more of their contents than of the Koran of Mahomet.
The wicked will not pray for the knowledge of God. It can never be said with truth of a wicked man, behold he prayeth. On the contrary, he invariably casts off fear, and restrains prayer before God. He may indeed, and, as we have already seen, often does, request God to depart from him, and like the evil spirits in our Savior’s time, he may cry, I beseech thee, torment me not. But never does he sincerely ask for divine instruction. Never does he cry after knowledge, or lift up his voice for understanding. If he did, he would infallibly obtain it; for every one that asketh, receiveth. Ye have not, says the apostle, because ye ask not.
The wicked will not improve those opportunities for acquiring the knowledge of God, which our public and private religious institutions afford. It is true that many of them attend frequently, perhaps constantly, on the instructions of the sanctuary; but it is equally true, that custom, curiosity, a regard to reputation, or a wish to pass away the time, and not a desire for divine knowledge, induces their attendance. That this is not an uncharitable supposition is apparent from their conduct. Often, while the most solemn and important truths are proclaimed in their hearing, their thoughts, like the fool’s eyes, are in the ends of the earth; and they literally hear as though they heard not. If at any time they listen more attentively to the preached word, it is not with a wish to understand, believe and obey it. Their whole aim in listening often appears to be, to find some real, Continue reading
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And shall we not rejoice and give thanks? Should we refuse, would not the stones cry out against us? Rejoice then we may and ought. But, O let our rejoicing be in the Lord and run in a religious channel. This, we find, has been the practice of God’s people in all ages. When he was pleased, with a mighty hand and out-stretched arm to lead the Israelites through the Red Sea, as on dry ground, ‘Then sang Moses and the children of Israel. And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand and all the women went out after her. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord. For he hath triumphed gloriously.’ When God subdued Jabin, the King of Canaan, before the children of Israel, ‘then sang Deborah and Barak on that day, saying, “Praise ye the Lord for the avenging of Israel.”’ When the ark was brought back out of the hands of the Philistines, David, though a king, danced before it.
And, to mention but one instance more, which may serve as a general directory to us on this and such-like occasions: when the great head of the church had rescued his people from the general massacre intended to be executed upon them by a cruel and ambitious Haman, ‘Mordecai sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the King Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to establish among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and the fifteenth day of the same yearly, as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow unto joy and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy and of sending portions one to another and gifts to the poor’ [Esther 9:20-22]. And why should we not go and do likewise? – George Whitefield