In a sermon preached when he was a mere 19 years of age (1722), Jonathan Edwards exalted God’s glorious grace in remarkable ways. Not coincidentally the title of the sermon was Glorious Grace. I’ve been busy updating this great old masterpiece for today’s readers and in the process have discovered jewel after jewel and joy after joy.
When I was 19, I spent my time trying to figure out how to get my peers to not only accept me, but truly honor me. This was my focus. Edwards, on the other hand, was exploring the nuances of how God’s grace exalts every part of the gospel and makes them individually shine with high-level brilliance. He was doing this before a congregation in New York City.
In the following excerpt, Edward’s shines a light on God’s initial plan to save guilty sinners. Without the plan there would be no salvation. But without grace there would be no plan.
Read this and wallow in God’s glorious grace:
After the fall, God planned a way to rescue mankind. Free and glorious grace was the foundation of his plan. In fact without grace, God wouldn’t have had any reason to even consider the possibility of saving the guilty. The sinful rebels certainly didn’t deserve to be rescued. Humanity possessed nothing good that God would have felt obligated to accomplish our salvation.
However, he did make plans to save us, and he did it strictly on the basis of grace. There is an immense fountain of goodness in God. We know this for sure, because if there wasn’t, it wouldn’t have even crossed his mind to redeem us after our defection.
The Excellency of Christ:
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Just after creation, mankind was happy, and he could have stayed that way for all eternity if he’d wanted to. He wasn’t forced to fall into sin, but succumbed to it willingly. Had he not rebelled against God, he wouldn’t have been driven away from the garden like an unworthy wretch. But he chose the way of disobedience and was consequently forced from paradise.
God had been so kind to him, pouring blessings into his life. He was appointed as the head over the lower parts of creation, a ruler over all other creatures. God had planted a garden for him that was designed for his delight and joy. And God would have fixed him in a place of eternal happiness, so long as he obeyed the easy command of his Maker—only one very reasonable command.
But although God had blessed him with all of these wonderful things, Adam rebelled anyway. He turned away from God and turned to the devil. Why? He had a wicked ambition to be a god himself. He refused to be content as a mere man, though he was in such a happy condition. So he became a renegade against God’s authority.
Only a God of boundless grace would have entertained thoughts of recovering mankind in this condition. Anybody else would have been far too provoked by man’s disobedience to care about rescuing him. Anybody else would have left the man in the miserable condition which he had brought upon himself, leaving him to suffer the punishment he deserved. Anybody else would have abandoned him into the hands of the devil, since that is where the man had thrown himself. If he would not be content in the arms of his Creator, then anybody else would have resolved to help him no more.
But God is full of boundless grace. He did not abandon the man, even though the man deserved nothing but harsh treatment. Instead, God’s grace moved him to consider ways of saving him.
This fact is even more amazing when we remember that God has no need of us at all. He does not even need our praises. He has enough within himself to be fully and eternally satisfied. The great King neither needs nor desires any additions to his happiness.
But for the sake of argument, suppose he did need his creatures to worship him. Even then, he still would not need our worship, especially in our fallen and sinful state. Remember, he has thousands and tens of thousands of angels who worship him. If that were not enough angels, he could easily create more. Truly, God did not plan to save sinful human rebels because he somehow needed us.
Actually, God would have been perfectly just had he planned to punish all of us for all of eternity instead of planning to save us. Had he done that, he could have easily created some other type of being that would have been more perfect and glorious than man. These beings could have sung his praises without fail for all of eternity.
God could have done all of these things. But the truth is, in spite of all these other possibilities, God decided to save fallen humanity. He had no need of us or any obligation to us, but he planned our redemption anyway. This is glorious grace!
From Glorious Grace
by Jonathan Edwards
(Updated for Today’s Readers)