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?