Jonathan Edwards would have been rightly horrified at the anti-intellectualism of the 21st century church; a rugged anti-intellectualism that has the church by the throat. When he preached the sermon, “A Divine and Supernatural Light” in 1734 he could have never predicted the opposition to the Christian mind in our days.
Edwards presents his doctrine in typical Puritan form: “That there is such a thing as a spiritual and divine light, immediately imparted to the soul by God, of a different nature from any that is obtained by natural means.”
A Description of the Light
Edwards begins negatively by showing what the light is not.
1. The spiritual and divine light is not common grace
“These convictions that natural men may have of their sin and misery, is not this spiritual and divine light … Common grace differs from special, in that it influences only by assisting of nature; and not by imparting grace, or bestowing any thing above nature.”
2. The spiritual and divine light is not an impression upon the imagination.
3. The spiritual and divine light is not a new truth or revelation.
Edwards proceeds to show what this spiritual light consists of.
1. It is a real sense of the excellency of Christ and the works of God revealed in the gospel..
“He that is spiritually enlightened truly apprehends and sees it, or has a sense of it. He does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart … There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.” John Piper has rightly noted that this involves “seeing and savoring” God.
Edwards adds, “But when a person has discovered to him the divine excellency of Christian doctrines, this destroys the enmity, removes those prejudices, sanctifies the reason, and causes it to lie open to the force of arguments for their truth.”
2. It helps the faculty of reason and removes hindrances to the faculty of reason.
The Originator of the Light
Edwards argues that God alone if the Originator of divine and supernatural light. He argues strenuously that such light is not obtained by natural means.
1. God makes use the natural faculties which receive the divine and supernatural light.
2. God reveals the divine and supernatural light through the gospel.
3. God uses means to reveal the divine and supernatural light. Here Edwards makes a strong appeal to the ministry of the Holy Spirit: “But the sense of the excellency of Christ by reason of that holiness and grace, is nevertheless immediately the work of the Holy Spirit.”
The Truth of the Doctrine
Edwards maintains this doctrine is both scriptural and rational. He adds, “Reason’s work is to perceive truth and not excellency.”
The conclusion of the Puritan divine as duly noted: “This knowledge will wean from the world, and raise the inclination to heavenly things. It will turn the heart to God as the fountain of good, and to choose him for the only portion … It conforms the heart to the gospel, mortifies its enmity and opposition against the scheme of salvation therein revealed: it conforms the heart to embrace the joyful tidings, and entirely to adhere to, and acquiesce in the revelation of Christ as our Savior … and it effectually disposes the soul to give up itself entirely to Christ.”
A Divine and Supernatural Light is a short and readable sermon that exposes the heart of Jonathan Edwards and his love for the gospel. Oh, that writers in our generation would write with the Christ-saturated joy of the man from Northampton.