"How can God be truly virtuous, truly good in a meaningful way, and foreordain the fall of humanity into sin and certain individuals to eternal torment in hell? It is impossible to reconcile Edwards’s account of God and virtue and 'goodness' with what he believed as a Calvinist about God’s sovereignty with regard to reprobation." - Roger Olson
In the mid-1700s Jonathan Edwards was serving as the pastor of a thriving church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He had been a faithful and hardworking pastor for 22 years. Though his gifts were clearly more academic than pastoral, he loved his flock, served them, prayed for them, and preached some of the most influential sermons in history from their pulpit.
Edwards has been credited by historians as having a leading role in starting the Great Awakening in which 10s of 1,000s became genuinely and noticeably converted. His famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was the spark that ignited the movement. And yet he remained the faithful pastor of a relatively small congregation… until 1749, when something made him leave his flock after 22 years.
What happened? Simple: they fired him.
Edwards wanted to insist that communion could only be taken by people who had evidence that they were, in fact, Christians but this was against the church’s tradition of allowing anyone, no matter how blatantly unrepentant they were, to partake in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
Edwards was dismissed but then agreed to continue on as their pastor until they found a replacement, which took a year.
Can you imagine the hurt and betrayal he must have felt? Most of us would have spiraled into depression, cynicism, or bitterness. But Edwards remained cheerful, content, serene through the whole ordeal. How did Edwards survive the humiliating, unfair, and devastating dismissal?
His happiness was out of the reach of his enemies.
2 Chronicles 17:6, 30:14, 31:1, 34:3-5
King Jehoshaphat was clear about the prohibition of idol worship. So had all the other kings before him that had allowed it. But in 2 Chronicles 17:6, it tells us that Jehoshaphat did something about it. The text says, “His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord.” This courageous heart sought to obey the Lord in all things, including the destruction of the popular high places of worship and the Asherim.
For his part, King Hezekiah did similarly brave acts recorded in 2 Chronicles 30:14 and 31:1. And Josiah at the ripe young age of 20 likewise followed in the godly footsteps of these two kings (2 Chron. 34:3-5), making sure to defile the graves of the pagan priests.
There is no doubt that the church today needs revival. But not revival as it is sometimes defined: evangelistic tent meetings in which the Holy Spirit is scheduled to arrive on our set dates. Revivals or “awakenings” as they used to be called, mark a special time when God moves upon God’s people and there is evidence of the Spirit’s powerful work among His people and those He draws to salvation through the proclamation of the gospel message.
Today there is a lot of activity in the evangelical church—lots of money being spent, books printed, and conferences held, churches planted and sermons preached. With the technology of our day, there is more access to the Bible, sermons, and the gospel worldwide than ever before. We have in our country a majority of the world’s largest churches.
But would we say that there is revival happening in our nation or our churches? Most of us would say no, and I would heartily agree. There are victories and people are being saved but the Church today, especially in North America, is a long way from revival. Do you desire revival in our churches and our nation? I do, and I think that you do as well.