When Satan launches what Edwards calls “vexatious accusations of conscience” against believers, he is playing upon the believer’s resensitized conscience (awakened by the Spirit) while muting the believer’s full and free forgiveness (won by the Son). The way to combat these accusations from hell is therefore not to deny the first, but to remember the second. We should not downplay the reasonableness of our condemnation. We do deserve to be condemned. But another reality transcends our condemnation: the atoning work of Christ. This work not only frees us from accusation (negatively) but also renders us righteous (positively).
The gospel has defanged Satan. His bite is all gums and no teeth. When Satan accuses believers covered by the blood of Christ, he is (to switch metaphors) firing empty cartridges – his gun makes a bang, but it can’t ultimately hurt us. “Satan cannot hurt” true believers, Edwards preached. “All the powers of darkness, with all their spite and malice, can do them no harm, and the flames of hell cannot reach them.”
Dane Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life (pg. 151).
The Christian life is not an ascetic life, but a life in which every received pleasure draws the mind up to supreme Pleasure, Christ himself, in his resplendent beauty. Joy is fundamentally a vision of God. Edwards therefore saw what many writers and preachers today do not: that the way to cultivate joy in God’s people was not to talk about joy but to talk about God. If a New York park guide wants to help his band of tourists feel awe at the Niagara Falls, he doesn’t give a lecture on awe. He shows them the falls. If a Christian leader wants believers to feel joy in Christ, he doesn’t mainly tell them about joy. He shows them Christ. Joy sneaks unbidden in the back door.
Edwards teaches us, then, of the God-centerdness of all joy in this fallen world. He reminds us that the formula to joy is not God and _______ so much as God in _________. Christ is not one more element to fit into an already packed schedule – one more item on a growing grocery list of priorities. Knowing Christ means seeing all of life in a new way, with new glasses. Jesus Christ gives meaning to all priorities, not only heading the list but coloring every one with new and exciting meaning. To become a Christian is to make all of life sacramental.
Dane Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life (pg. 77).
I was in the foregoing part of this week. But now these thoughts seemed to be wholly dashed to pieces; not by necessity, but of choice: for it appeared to me, that God’s dealings towards me had fitted me for a life of solitariness and hardship; and that I had nothing to lose, nothing to do with earth, and consequently nothing to lose by a total renunciation of it. It appeared to me just right, that I should be destitute of house and home, and many comforts of life, which I rejoiced to see others of God’s people enjoy. And at the same time, I saw so much of the excellency of Christ’s kingdom, and the infinite desirableness of its advancement in the world, that it swallowed up all my other thoughts; and made me willing, yea, even rejoice, to be made a pilgrim or hermit in the wilderness, to my dying moment, if I might thereby promote the blessed interest of the great Redeemer.
David Brainerd, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd
If you think legalism is simply too much emphasis on the law, then you will think the antidote is to talk less about obedience and more about acceptance and forgiveness. If you think that antinomianism is simply too loose an attitude toward morality and law, you will assume the remedy is to talk less about mercy and acceptance and more about God’s righteousness and holy commands. In short, you will try to cure one with a dose of the other. That will be a disaster, because both of them have the same root cause. Both come from the belief that God does not really love us or will our joy, and from a failure to see that “both the law and the gospel are expressions of God’s grace.” For both the legalist and the antinomian, obedience to the law is simply the way to get things from God, not a way to get God, not a way to resemble, know, delight, and love him for his sake.
Tim Keller, Preaching (pgs. 54-55).
Can you truly say, that you have so far taken the everlasting enjoyment of God for your happiness, that it hath the most of your heart, of your love, desire and care; and that you are resolved, by the strength of Divine grace, to let go all that you have in the world, rather than hazard it; and that it is your daily, and your principal business to seek it? Can you truly say, that though you have your failings and sins, yet your main care, and the bent of your whole life, is to please God, and to enjoy him for ever; and that you give the world God’s leavings (leftovers), as it were, and not God the world’s leavings; and that your worldly business is but as a traveller’s seeking for provision in his journey, and heaven is the place that you take for your home?
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (pg. 248).
Scripture teaches that everything we own – everything appointed for our benefit – has been given to us by God’s kindness, so that all that we own is like a deposit for which we must one day give an account. Therefore, we should manage our possessions as if these words were constantly sounding in our ears: “Turn in the account of your management” (Luke 16:2). At the same time, we should remember who will receive the account we give – namely, one who has commended self-control, soberness, frugality, and modesty just as much as He has condemned luxury, pride, showiness, and vanity; one who has approved no use of possessions but that which is joined with love; one who has already condemned with His own mouth whatever pleasures drag man’s heart away from integrity and purity or muddle his thinking.
John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life (pg. 123).
The more a true saint loves God with a gracious love, the more he desires to love him, and the more uneasy is he at his want of love to him; the more he hates sin, the more he desires to hate it, and laments that he has so much remaining love to it; the more he mourns for sin, the more he longs to mourn; the more his heart is broken, the more he desires it should be broke: the more he thirsts and longs after God and holiness, the more he longs to long, and breathe out his very soul in longings after God. The kindling and raising of gracious affections is like kindling a flame; the higher it is raised, the more ardent it is; and the more it burns, the more vehemently does it tend and seek to burn.
Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (pg.303).
He who has no religious affection is in a state of spiritual death, and is wholly destitute of the powerful, quickening, saving influences of the Spirit of God upon his heart. As there is no true religion where there is nothing else but affection, so there is no true religion where there is no religious affection…If the great things of religion are rightly understood, they will affect the heart. The reason why men are not affected by such infinitely great, important, glorious, and wonderful things, as they often hear and read of in the Word of God, is, undoubtedly, because they are blind; if they were not so, it would be impossible, and utterly inconsistent with human nature, that their hearts should be otherwise than strongly impressed, and greatly moved by such things.
Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (pgs. 49-50)
Indeed, the believer should accept whatever comes with a gentle and thankful heart, because he knows that it is ordained by the Lord. Moreover, he must not stubbornly resist the rule of God into whose power he has placed himself and all his affairs.
So let the Christian make it his priority to drive from his breast that foolish and unfortunate comfort of pagans, who, in order to bolster their spirits against all adverse events, credit those events to fortune. They think it’s silly to be angry at fortune, since she is reckless, aimless, and blind – inflicting her wounds equally on the deserving and undeserving. In contrast, the rule of godliness is to recognize that God’s hand is the sole judge and governor of every fortune, and because His hand is not recklessly driven to fury, it distributes to us both good and ill according to His orderly righteousness.
John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life (pgs. 53-54)
Of course, none of us is capable of running swiftly on the right course while we remain in the earthly confinement of our bodies. Indeed, most of us are so oppressed with weakness that we make little progress – staggering, limping, and crawling on the ground. But let us move forward according to the measure of our resources and pursue the path we have begun to walk. None of us will move forward with so little success that we will not make some daily progress in the way. Therefore, let us keep trying so that we might continually make some gains in the way of the Lord, and neither let us despair over how small our successes are. For however much our success fall short of our desire, our efforts aren’t in vain when we are farther along today than yesterday. So let us fix our eyes on the goal with sincerity and simplicity, aspiring to that end – neither foolishly congratulating ourselves, nor excusing our evil deeds. Let us press on with continual striving toward that goal so that we might surpass ourselves – until we have finally arrived at perfection. This, indeed, is what we follow after all our lives, but we will only possess it when we have escaped the weakness of the flesh and have been received into His perfect fellowship.
John Calvin, A Little Book on the Christian Life (pgs. 16-17)