A dour, killjoy Puritan. This is the image many have of Jonathan Edwards. After all, he's that fellow who preached "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," hanging his listeners over hell by a slender thread, right?
His portrait seems to bear out the judgment. The Joseph Badger painting of Edwards (see p. 11) depicts a man deeply somber, even severe—as if he has never enjoyed a summer day or a chocolate bar.
Edwards, however, enjoyed not only summer days (see p. 40) and chocolate (see p. 2), but also, above all, the Christian life itself. He insisted that believers should expect joy from their religion.
"It would be worth the while to be religious," he preached in one of his favorite sermons, on Proverbs 24:13-14, "if it were only for the pleasantness of it."
Christianity, he argued, brings a new and delightful harmony to social relationships. It "begets love and peace, good will one towards another, brotherly kindness, mutual benevolence, bounty and a feeling of each other's welfare." It "sweetens" the fellowship of those who believe, and makes people "delight in each other."
Amazing Grace, how sweet
Edwards also taught that the Christian gains a new pleasure in the things of religion. He remembered how his own conversion, in the Spring of 1721, had given him an inward, "sweet" sense both of Christ and of the way of salvation.
"My soul," he reminisced, "was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged, to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ; and the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation, by free grace in him."
In these contemplations he experienced "a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world." No mere intellectual, abstracted ...