BOOK REVIEWS · JONATHAN EDWARDS · Jonathan Edwards · Theology

MEN NATURALLY GOD’S ENEMIES – Jonathan Edwards (Part 6)

imagesEdwards pens his concluding remarks by demonstrating how God may justly withhold mercy and by offering a brief section that he entitles, practical improvement (what we would call application).

7. God May Justly Withhold Mercy

The primary argument that Edwards sets forth is basic: Since unconverted men are naturally hostile to God and prove to be his enemies, it is just with God should he chose to withhold his mercy.  Whenever mercy is supposed to be mercy, it becomes non-mercy – for mercy is under no obligation, whatsoever.  Again, should mercy become obligatory, it ceased to be mercy.

Edwards rightly says, “This doctrine affords a strong argument for the absolute sovereignty of God, with respect to the salvation of sinners.  If God is pleased to show mercy to his haters, it is certainly fit that he should do it in a sovereign way, without acting as any way obliged … [He has] liberty to choose the objects of his mercy; to show mercy to what enemy he pleases, and to punish and destroy which of his haters he pleases.”

Edwards directs three closing arguments that are directed at enemies of God:

First, how causelessly you are enemies to God.  He reminds the unconverted about the Providential designs of God; how he has showered his common grace on those who hate him.

Second, consider how you would resent it, if others were such enemies to you, as you are to God.  He adds, “Consider therefore, if you, a poor, unworthy, unlovely creature, do so resent it, when you are hated, how may God justly resent it when you are enemies to him, an infinitely glorious Being; and a Being from whom you have received so much kindness!

Third, how unreasonable is it for you to imagine that you can oblige God to have respect to you by any thing that you can do, continuing still to be his enemy.

Practical Improvement (Application)

Edwards returns to the doctrinal affirmations in Romans 5, namely, that Christ died for the ungodly; he died for his enemies.  Two primary considerations guide the Puritan divine as he closes:

First, he directs the reader to contemplate the great wonder in Christ who gave his life for the sins of everyone who would ever believe.  Each one for who Christ died was an enemy.  But note: “How wonderful was the love of God the Father, in giving such a gift to those who not only could not be profitable to him, but were his enemies, and to so great a degree!”  Edwards continues, “Though they had enmity that sought to pull God down from his throne; yet he so loved them, that he sent down Christ from heaven, from his throne there, to be in the form of a servant; and instead of a throne of glory, gave him to be nailed to the cross, and to be laid in the grave, so we might be brought to a throne of glory.”  Edwards drives home the reality of God’s love that was demonstrated for sinners who despised him.  Oh, what a love!

Second, Edwards encourages believers to modify their perspective to towards their earthly enemies: “Seeing we depend so much on God’s forgiving us, we should exercise a spirit of forgiveness towards our enemies.

Men, Naturally God’s Enemies is a well-thought out treatment of the hostility that every natural man has toward the God of the universe.  Edwards work is a reminder that is needed in the 21st century church.  While most if not all Christ-followers are quick to give lip service to the doctrine of total depravity, some still refuse to embrace the biblical portrait of man; a portrait that when painted correctly reveals the utter hostility and enmity that the natural man has toward God.  There is a great need in the church to remind the lost of their true condition before God and to admonish them to flee to the cross to find forgiveness of all their sin.  Additionally, there is a great need in reminding Christ-followers of their former condition, which will at the end of the day, ignite a heart filled with worship for the God who demonstrates his love for us!


MEN NATURALLY GOD’S ENEMIES – Jonathan Edwards (Part 5)

In this fifth post, Edwards turns his attention to the reality of restraining grace.  Additionally, he imagesexplores the reasons why natural men refuse to come to Christ.

5. Restraining Grace a Great Privilege

Edwards poses a critical question: “If all natural men are God’s enemies, what would they not do, if they were not restrained?”  Chief in Edwards mind is the bondage to sin that each natural man faces.  Indeed, anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34).  So with the dominion of sin in the background, Edwards demonstrates the glorious work of God’s restraining grace in the lives of the unconverted: “In hell, God lets the wickedness of wicked spirits have the reins, to rage without restraint; and it would be in a great measure upon earth as it is in hell, did not God retrain the wickedness of the world.”  He proceeds, then, to show how God prevents the carnal man from falling prey to the “highest acts of sin.”

First, whenever men are withheld from sinning by the common influence of God’s Spirit, they are withheld by restraining grace.  Essentially, Edwards argues that the unconverted would commit sin in the most heinous degree were it not for God’s restraining grace.

Second, all the restraints that men are under from the word and ordinances, is from grace. 

Third, when men are restrained from sin, by the light of nature, this also is of grace.

Fourth, when God restrains men’s corruptions by his providence, this is from grace.

Edwards closes this section by turning his attention to regenerate men and urges them to consider their need for his restraining grace as well: “Let not the godly therefore be insensible of their obligations to the restraining grace of God.  Though they cannot be said to be enemies to God, because a principle of enmity does not reign; yet they have the very same principle and seed of enmity in them, though it be mortified.  Though it be not in reigning power, yet it has great strength; and is too strong for them, without god’s almighty power to help them against it.”

6. Why Natural Men Are Not Willing to Come to Christ, and Their Dreadful Condition

Edwards states the obvious here but personal experience teaches that many people (even Christ-followers) refuse to see it: “Hence we may learn the reason why natural men will not come to Christ.  They do not come because they will not come (emphasis mine).  Edwards appeals to John 5:40 which states the principle clearly.  His assertion goes to the heart of the problem of freewill, namely, natural men are free to come but they are unwilling to come.  They freely choose to reject Christ.  Edwards adds, “They see nothing in Christ wherefore they should desire him; no beauty nor comeliness to draw their hearts to him.”

Conversely, Edwards argues that when sinners come to Christ, they do so freely: “When men are truly willing to come to Christ, they are freely willing.  It is not what they are forced and driven to by threatenings; but they are willing to come, and choose to come without being driven.  But natural men have no such free willingness; but on the contrary have an aversion.  And the ground of it that which we have heard, viz. That they are enemies of God.”

So in a few sentences, Edwards summarizes the natural inability of sinners to come of their own freewill.  It is not for lack of invitation; it is not for lack of opportunity.  Rather is it because they freely turn away from the gospel.  Simply put, they are free to come – but they are unable to come apart from a divine work of grace.  Such an understanding of man natural inability appears to be missing in many churches.  That is to say, the semi-pelagian view of the will has gained the ascendency and as a result the gospel is weakened in hearts of many.

Edwards urges sinners to consider their ruinous path:

First, if you continue in your enmity a little longer, there will be a mutual enmity between God and you to all eternity.  Edwards draws the eschatological line in the sand and demonstrates the misery of anyone who opposes the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ: “If you should die an enemy to God, there will be no such thing as any reconciliation after death.  God will then appear to you in hatred, without any love, any pity, and any mercy at all.  As you hate God, he will hate you … If you be not reconciled so as to become his friend in this life, God never will become your friend after death.”  Edwards repudiates the notion of “so-called second chance evangelism and annihilationism in a stroke of the pen.

Second, if you will continue God’s enemy, you may rationally conclude that God will deal with you so as to make it appear how dreadful it is to have God for an enemy.  Edwards proceeds to show how God will manifest his holy justice on unrepentant sinners (Deut. 32:40-42).  “He will render vengeance to his enemies, and reward them that hate him … this is the terrible manner in which God will one day rise up and execute vengeance on his enemies.”


MEN NATURALLY GOD’S ENEMIES – Jonathan Edwards (Part 4)

imagesThus far, we have seen Jonathan Edwards description of fallen men and their natural hatred for him.  Indeed, fallen men are enemies of God.  We have seen in what respects natural men are God’s enemies.  We have examined the degree of men’s natural enmity to God.  And we have seen on what account men are enemies to God.  Note the fourth and fifth argument that Edwards provides:

4. The Objection, That Men Are Not Conscious of This Enmity, Answered

Edwards take a detour in the next two headings.  He is concerned to answer objections; in specific, objections that have to do with the knowledge that natural men have about their hatred of  God.  He speaks directly to those who would object in a series of seven responses:

First, if you do but observe yourself, and search your own heart, unless you are strangely blinded, you may be sensible of those things, wherein enmity does fundamentally consist.

Second, one reason why you have not more sensibly felt the exercises of malice against God, is that your enmity is now exercised partly in your unbelief of God’s being; and this prevents its appearing in other ways.

Third, if you think there is a God, yet you do not realize it, that he is such a God as he really is.

Fourth, your having always been taught that God is infinitely above you, and out of your reach, has prevented your enmity being exercised in those ways, that otherwise it would have been.

Fifth, you have always been taught what a dreadful thing it is to hate God, and how terrible his displeasure; that God sees the heart and knows all the thoughts; and that you are in his hands, and he can make you as miserable as he pleases, and as soon as he pleases.

Sixth, one reason why you have not felt more sensible hatred to God may be, because you have not had much trial of what is in your heart.

Seven, actions are the best interpreters of the disposition: they show, better than any thing else, what the heart is.  It must be because you do not observe your own behavior, that you question whether you are an enemy of God.

5. The Objections That They Show Respect to God, and  Experience Some Religious Affections, Answered

 Edwards labors to demonstrate that will the natural man may appear to show outward signs of respect as evidenced by prayers or acts of piety, these are at the end of the day mere acts of hypocrisy.  And again, he addresses the natural man forcefully: “You only cover your enmity with a painted veil.  You put on the disguise of a friend, but in your heart you are a mortal enemy.  There is external honor, but inward contempt; there is a show of friendship and regard, but inward hatred.”

So Edwards lays the natural man bare.  He calls his bluff and peels the works-based exterior, showing with stark clarity the wickedness that lies deep in the heart of the natural, unconverted man.


MEN NATURALLY GOD’S ENEMIES – Jonathan Edwards (Part 3)

imagesJonathan Edwards continues his discussion on natural man’s enmity with God.

3. On What Account Men Are Enemies of God

Edwards argues that the general reason that God is “opposite” to them has to do with their propensity to worship idols: “The apostasy of man summarily consists in departing from the true God, to idols; forsaking his Creator, and setting up other things in his room.”  The enmity between God and man has not always existed, for Adam was created in an innocent condition and expressed a love for God.  “But when men fell, he departed from the true God, and the union that was between his heart and his Creator was broken: he wholly lost his principle of love to God.”

Edwards holds that when natural men casts God aside, by definition he must naturally cling to an idol: “Man will necessarily have something that he respects as his god.  If man do not give his highest respect to the God that made him, there will be something else that has the possession of it.”  We know from personal experience that the human heart is prone to bow down to lesser things; the depraved human heart is vulnerable to the sin of idolatry.  Indeed, as Calvin notes, “The human heart is an idol factory.”  And when natural man clings to a foreign idol, enmity “necessarily follows.”

Edwards notes three ways in which God opposes idolators:

First, he manifests his utter abhorrence of their attachment to their idols.  Edwards exposes the idolator and reveals the true colors of one who casts aside the living God and replaces him with temporal pleasures.  In short, “They love their idolatry; but God does not approve of it, but exceedingly hates it; he will by no means be reconciled to it; and therefore they hate him.”

Second, he utterly forbids their cleaving to those idols, and all the service that they do to them.  Edwards sets forth the divine standard that God reveals to every creature: [God] demands that they should worship him; serve him only, and give their hearts wholly to him: without tolerating any competitor … He requires a final parting with their idols.”

Third, he threatens them with everlasting damnation for service of their idols.  Here, Edwards lists a host of warnings that thunder from the throne of God:

  • He threatens them for his past idolatry.
  • He threatens them with his everlasting wrath for all exercises of inordinate love of worldly profit.
  • He threatens them for that disposition they have in their hearts to cleave to other gods.
  • He threatens every future act of their idolatry.
  • He threatens them with everlasting torments for their self-exaltation.

MEN NATURALLY GOD’S ENEMIES – Jonathan Edwards (Part 2)

Jonathan Edwards continues his discussion that concerns the natural enmity that sinners have toward a holy God.

2. The Degree of Men’s Natural Enmity to Godimages

Once the groundwork is established which demonstrates the natural antagonism that sinners have for God, Edwards proceeds to stress the degree of hostility that is a part of the inner workings of every sinner apart from grace.

First, they have no love to God; their enmity is mere enmity without any mixture of love.  The carnal mind is deceived when it assumes that there is a natural love for God.  Edwards demonstrates that “a natural man is wholly destitute of any principle of love to God … the heart of a natural man is as destitute of love to God, as a dead, stiff, cold corpse.”  Jesus confronted the Jews who refused to come to him (John 5:40) and argues in the same vein as Edwards – “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you” (John 5:42).

Second, every faculty and principle of action is wholly under the dominion of enmity against God.  In what would have been heard from scores of Puritan pulpits, is in many ways repudiated in the modern American pulpit.  Edwards rightly says, “The understanding is under the reigning power of this enmity against God, so that it is entirely darkened and blinded with regard to the glory and excellency of God. The will is wholly under the reigning power of it.  All the affections are governed  by enmity against God: there is not one affection, nor one desire, that a natural man has, or that he is ever stirred up to act from, but what contains in it enmity against God.  A natural man is as full of enmity against God, as any viper, or any venomous beast, is full of poison.”

Third, the power of the enmity of natural men against God, is so great, that it is insuperable by any finite power.  Here Edwards is concerned to how deep the enmity goes toward God.  Even a godly friend or neighbor is powerless to persuade a natural man to turn from sin because the hatred for God is so pervasive.  Gracious invitations of ministers go unheeded due to the natural enmity in the heart of unregenerate man: “The tongue of men or of angels cannot persuade them to relinquish their opposition to God.”  The hardened sinner remains steadfast in his rampage against God.

Fourth, they are mortal enemies to God.  “Natural men are enemies to the dominion of God; and their nature shows their good-will to dethrone him if they could!”  That is to say, unregenerate people are entirely opposed to the kingdom of God and the sovereign government of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, he wishes that God did not exist.  This line of reasoning turns the attention of Edwards to Psalm 14:1 which he remarks from the original Hebrew, “The fool hath said in his heart, No God.”

Fifth, natural men are greater enemies to God than they are to any other being whatsoever.  Edwards concludes by showing how deep the “rabbit hole of sin” goes: “But natural men, without a mighty work of God to change their hearts, will never get over their enmity against God.  They are greater enemies to God, than they are to the devil.”

So Edwards does not leave the natural man without hope.  It is only a mighty work of God that can deliver him from his sinful condition.  “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Indeed, sovereign grace has the power to deliver the depraved and save him from the almighty wrath of God!

BOOK REVIEWS · Jonathan Edwards · Theology

MEN NATURALLY ARE GOD’S ENEMIES – Jonathan Edwards (Part 1)

images“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son …” (Rom. 5:10a) is the text that Jonathan Edwards has in mind when he sets out to write his miscellaneous discourse entitled, Men Naturally Are God’s Enemies. The book is arranged in eight sections. The Puritans were fond of presenting their sermons and treatises in two parts – doctrine and application. Hence, the first seven sections focus on doctrine. The eighth is devoted to application.

What follows is a six part post that will focus on Edwards’ notable assertions:

Edwards begins his treatment with a hopeful glance at the opening verses of Romans 5 by reminding readers of the blessed nature of their hope in Christ. He remarks, “The apostle’s argument is exceeding clear and strong. If God has done already so great a thing for us, as to give us Christ to die and shed his precious blood for us, which was vastly the greatest thing, we need not doubt but that he will bestow life upon us.”

The weightiness of Christ’s atonement for the people of God is set forth in vivid terms. As such, the author reminds his readers that anyone in Christ is a friend of God; he is no longer an enemy: “But in actually bestowing salvation on us after we are justified, we are not looked upon as sinners, but as perfectly righteous persons: he beholds no iniquity in us. We are no more enemies, but reconciled. When God gave Christ to die for the elect, he looked on them as they are in themselves; but in actually bestowing eternal life, he look on them as they are in Christ.”

Romans 5 clearly describes, then, the condition of sinners in and of themselves: they are without strength; they are ungodly; they are enemies of God. Edwards argues that most unregenerate people will admit the sinfulness of their hearts; most unregenerate people will admit their lack of love for God. But very few will acknowledge they are enemies of God. The concern of Edwards in this piece is to make the biblical point clear – Natural men are God’s enemies.

1. In What Respects Natural Men Are God’s Enemies

Edwards unpacks four specific ways that men demonstrate their opposition to God. Their antipathy to God is readily apparent. The language of their hearts is, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” The author shows the utter contempt of sinners for God which is in agreement with the Pauline assertion, namely, unregenerate men are God’s enemies.

First, they are enemies in the natural relish of their souls. They have an inbred distaste of God’s perfections.” Jonathan Edwards would have been rightly horrified with the modern notion of “seeker sensitivity” where pastors tone down the message and soften the hard edges of the gospel – all to accommodate “seekers.” Rather, sinners naturally oppose God; they have an aversion to him. Edwards notes, “The natural tendency of the heart of man is to fly from God, and keep at a distance from him, as far off as possible. A natural man is averse to communion with God, and is naturally disinclined to those exercises of religion, wherein he has immediately to do with him.”

Second, their wills are contrary to his will. Never let it be said that Jonathan Edwards rejected the notion of freewill. Nothing could be further from the truth! Edwards merely embraced the biblical reality that men choose according to their strongest inclination. Of course, the general direction of the unregenerate heart is to fly from God; the general direction of the unregenerate heart is to oppose God. Sinners turn away from God, by nature. And they do so freely! Edwards adds, “God’s will and theirs are exceeding cross the one to the other … They are not loyal subjects, but enemies to God … They are enemies to God’s authority.”

Third, they are enemies to God in their affections. Edwards rightly notes that the hatred sinners have for God often lies unexpressed, secret if you will. But there is “in every natural man a seed of malice against God … wherein the heart is like a viper, hissing and spitting poison at God.” It is not surprising that some will respond negatively to the Edwardsean assertion. But Edwards merely sides with Scripture and paints a portrait of the human heart apart from grace. Their hearts, will in the final analysis be laid bare: “When wicked men come to be cast into hell, then their malice against God will appear. Then their hearts will appear as full of malice, as hell is full of fire … A natural man has a heart like the heart of the devil; only corruption is more under restraint in man than in devils.”

Fourth, they are enemies in their practice. The Puritan divine wastes no time in describing the natural bent of the unregenerate heart: “In their enmity against God, they are exceeding active. They are engaged in war against God … They oppose themselves to his honor and glory: they oppose themselves to the interest of his kingdom in the world: they oppose themselves to the will and command of God … They list under Satan’s banner, and are his willing soldiers in opposing the kingdom of God.”