Two hundred years after Calvin published his first edition of The Institutes, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon about being content in God. The title of the sermon was God the Best Portion of the Christian. Edwards’s text is Psalm 73:25:
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.
The central truth is set forth at the beginning of the sermon, in deductive fashion: It is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.
Two propositions comprise this short sermon
1. A godly man prefers God before anything else in heaven.
Edwards presents the God-centered paradigm in this section by leading readers on the correct biblical path. He notes, “Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there. Heaven is his chosen country and inheritance.”
The godly man sets his affection on beauty, which is to say his heart is oriented to God and the things of God. “Now the main reason why the godly man hath his heart thus to heaven,” writes Edwards, “is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High. It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly.”
2. It is the temper of a godly man to prefer God before all other things on the earth.
The highest priority for the follower of Christ, according to Edwards is on the Triune God. Three points highlight the heart of the Puritan preacher:
- The saint prefers that enjoyment of God, for which he hopes hereafter, to anything in the world.
- The saints prefer what of God may be obtained in this life before all things in the world.
- The saints prefer what he hath already of God before anything in this world.
As usual, Edwards concludes his sermon with several points of application. Five penetrating questions are posed:
- What is it which chiefly makes you desire to go to heaven when you die?
- If you could avoid death and might have your free choice, would you choose to live always in this world without God, rather than in his time to leave the world, in order to be with him?
- Do you prefer Christ to all others as the way to heaven?
- If you might go to heaven in what course you please, would you prefer to all others the way of a strict walk with God?
- Were you to spend your eternity in this world, would you choose rather to live in mean and low circumstances with the gracious presence of God, to live forever in earthly prosperity without him?
Jonathan Edwards offers perspective and godly wisdom in a sermon that directed his 18th-century hearers heavenward and continues to beckon followers of Christ to the Celestial City.