Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Edwards: Ministers Need the Power of God

Jonathan Edwards' second sermon in The Salvation of Souls is titled, "Ministers Need the Power of God." This is a fantastic meditation that all ministers should read. If I was teaching a preaching class, I would have all the students read and review this sermon.

We are told in the introduction to this sermon that Edwards most likely preached this at the time of his installation as pastor in Northampton. So, this sermon tells us a tremendous amount about his confidence in God at the beginning of his pastorate. He makes clear from the beginning his desire for God's power and his total inability to do anything useful apart from God's power. We are also told that this manuscript is incomplete because at least one (maybe more) of the pages have been lost. Where are those missing pages? They were probably used by Sarah for a grocery list or by one of the kids as a paper airplane or spitball. Oh well, the sermon is still powerful, even though it is incomplete.

Edwards bases this sermon on 2 Corinthians 4:7: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." He shares the context of this verse and then makes point after point about the sovereignty of God in salvation. He makes clear that humans (even ministers) cannot save anyone. He says, "ministers are utterly unable to help the soul in the lost condition except they can unite God to it again, except they bring God to them and make him dwell with them." Really, the doctrinal section of this sermon is a meditation on God's work of regeneration. Ministers cannot regenerate people because only God can. This is a message we need to be reminded of often. This should draw us to our faces in realization of our need for God's power.

God uses ministers often as the means of bringing about salvation to display his glory. Edwards' last application point is, "Let us give all glory to God when there is any success of the Gospel. This is what God designs by giving the treasure to earthen vessels, that we may acknowledge the treasure to be from God and not from the vessel itself, as we should be ready to think if the vessels were golden vessels."

I commend this sermon to you for your own review.

Richard A Bailey: If you are reading this, I would like to ask you a couple questions. Do these actual manuscripts contain the verse reference and translation at the beginning (like they are printed in the book)? If so, do you know if Edwards used his own translation or just the KJV? Also, did Edwards title these sermons or someone else?


Richard A. Bailey said...

First off, Justin, as I tell my students--Richard is fine. Second, JE generally wrote at least the scripture reference on his first page and usually included a portion of the passage. For the most part throughout these manuscripts, he seems to use the KJV or he paraphrases in very KJV-ish language. Finally, if memory serves me correctly, none of the sermon manuscripts with which I have worked have titles. JE perhaps supplied titles for those sermons published during his life. Or it is equally likely that the respective publishers provided the titles. In the case of the sermons in our volume, the titles are entirely of our creation--for better and for worse. Thankfully the sermons garner the most attention.

Russ said...

Can you imagine being the pastor to tens of thousands of people? Only by the power of God could a person even conceieve to handle that kind of responsibility. One such pastor, Dr. Adrian Rogers, died yesterday. He was the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, where I attended church through my high school years. What a great pastor, and a great example of what you're trying to describe here.

justin said...

Thanks Russ for letting me know about Adrian Rogers.

Richard, I think you guys did a great job on the titles of the first two sermons (very acurate). Could you tell us more about how you got involved with this project, the process, and benefits?

Richard A. Bailey said...

I must confess that it's not the most exciting story, Justin. I had the opportunity while serving as an assistant editor on a journal to work with Ken Minkema in editing and publishing one of JE's sermons. From there, a friend and Old Testament theologian made a phone call to Crossway and they like the idea. So, I asked Greg to work with me in editing these sermons that I had selected and cleared with Yale's Works of JE project. I then spent three or so years transcribing JE's manuscripts. This task was followed by Greg and I spending about a year editing, proofreading, and writing the intros. The final product ended up being a bit different than I had originally envisioned (mainly in that I aimed at an introduction that dealt more with JE's ideas about preaching and the call to ministry), but I think what we finally did features JE and his words even more prominently than a volume with a lengthy, focused introduction might have done. Besides, that gave me the opportunity to pursue those interests in other places. Benefits? Well, hopefully you'll know the main answer to that as you spend some time with the included texts. Other than that, I got to spend some great time with several fabulous historians. But certainly the time spent wrestling with the texts and the meanings of them stands out the most.