As I work my way through the sermons of Jonathan Edwards, besides paraphrasing the messages, I thought I could also try to capture some key brief insights that could easily be used in future sermons or conversations or probably more importantly, in every day life. Here, we look at the second sermon we have from Edwards, which has to do with the value of the salvation of the soul.
We are tempted to place a greater value on material possessions than they are actually worth. In his sermon, The Value of Salvation, Jonathan Edwards gives the following reasons we shouldn’t be as passionate about material possessions as unfortunately we so often are.
1. Stuff doesn’t last forever.
2. You aren’t going to enjoy your stuff forever.
“What good did it do Alexander Magnus when he was dying to think that he had conquered the whole world? He must leave his conquered world to him upon whom God in his providence pleases to bestow it: though he conquered the world, yet death must have a conquest over him at last, and he whom the whole could not contain must at last be confined to only a narrow grave. A few feet square of ground is large enough for him now, whom the earth was not broad enough for before.”
3. It’s actually pretty difficult to enjoy stuff very long at all.
“…there is but a little part of this life that man is capable of tasting worldly pleasures. Old age will certainly come on in a little time and the days wherein we shall say we have no pleasure in them…”
4. If you did have all the stuff in the world, it wouldn’t nearly be worth as much as you might think.
It can be difficult to believe that material possessions aren’t as valuable as we think, so Jonathan Edwards gives several proofs that even if we had everything, we wouldn’t really have much.
1. The more stuff you have, the more you want.
“Riches are given to men only for them to carry, to support them through the wilderness of this world in the way to heaven; and generally, the more riches the greater the burden, and that is but poor provision, generally to live upon through one’s life, that one is forced to take up with in a journey through a desolate wilderness. Neither would one be willing to carry that burden all one’s life that they may be willing to bear on a journey; and besides worldly riches are so far from bringing satisfaction with them, the more one has of them the more we want.”
2. The happiness you get from having people respect you, is only because other people think you are important and happy, and not because you actually are important and happy.
3. Sensual and physical pleasures make great promises but don’t really deliver. Even if you could enjoy them to their full, like fireworks, they really only last a moment, and usually leave you empty in the end.
“They are like shadows and phantoms which vanish as we endeavor to embrace them, and if one doth enjoy them to the full, their nature will allow them to last but a very short time, and after one is a little used to them they are loathed and hated.”
4. The best thing you can experience in this world is true friendship, but even that by itself, is pretty disappointing because the reality is the more you love someone the more pain you will experience when they fail you or when they leave you, because in the end they will.
He doesn’t say this to discourage us, but instead to point us to what is really valuable, and that is the salvation of the soul. There are a number of different reasons the salvation of the soul is more valuable than gaining the whole world.
1. Because of what the soul is saved from.
2. Because of what the soul is saved to.
What exactly is the soul saved from? In other words, what does it mean for a soul to perish?
1. The soul that is not saved will never again experience any sort of pleasure.
“They will have taken their leave, then, of all the riches, honors and pleasure of the world, which they used to hug and make a god of; their dear lusts, which were so dear to them that they would not part with them for heaven, that they would not let go of for God Himself, and all the happiness which God could bestow upon them: they must part with them for nothing now, never to enjoy anything like them again. If they have been used to please themselves by handling of silver and gold, with the shining of precious stones and jewels, they shall enjoy no more of them forever; if they have been used to gorgeous apparel and to deck themselves with shining and glistening robes, they shall never more be clothed with any other sort of garments but scorching and tormenting flames which will wrap themselves about their otherwise naked bodies forever; if they have been used to dwell in proud and stately palaces upon earth, they will have nothing for their habitation then but the bottomless pit and the dismal and doleful dungeon of outer darkness; instead of lying at ease in beds of down, they shall have nothing but a sea of liquid fire for their bed, flames instead of the wine and strong drink with which they used to intoxicate themselves: they shall have nothing but the cup of God’s wrath and fiery indignation which they shall be compelled forever to drink. Instead of that wicked company which they used so much to delight in, they shall have nothing but damned sprights for their company in hell; instead of their cursing and swearing, lewd and debauched conversation, they shall yell and roar out forever and ever under God’s dreadful wrath.”
2. The soul that is not saved will only experience pain.
3. The soul that is not saved will never again experience pleasure and only experience pain forever.
This is bad news, but what is the good news? What is the soul saved to?
1. The soul that is saved is saved from all sorts of evil. This means they will not experience temptation or affliction any longer. Ever.
“This life is a warfare to believers against these adversaries, and they must sometimes even agonize against them in order to overcome them, but there they shall be perfectly free from all these things; that life will be a sort of perpetual triumph over these enemies, instead of a warfare against them.”
2. The soul that is saved will be brought to the enjoyment of all good. Every single part of him will be completely satisfied.
“In heaven all the faculties of the soul shall be completely satisfied.”
“To see a God of infinite glory and majesty face to face, to see him as he is, and to know him as we are known, there to be admitted into the most intimate acquaintance with him, to be embraced as in his arms: this is such a privilege as Moses himself could not be admitted to while on earth. The vision and fruition of God will be so intimate and clear as to transform the soul into the likeness of God.”
3. The soul that is saved will not experience any suffering and will only experience all joy, forever.
If we need any more proof of the value of the salvation of the soul, we can look to the value God has placed on the soul. What demonstrations do we find that God values the soul?
1. He made the world for the sake of the soul.
2. He sent prophets into this world that souls might be saved.
3. He sent his own Son into this world to die for the sake of the salvation of the soul.
“What a price is here set upon the salvation of the soul – the blood of the Son of God!”
Given the value of the soul and the relative lack of value in material things, how should we then live?
1. We should be careful that we don’t lose our souls.
“If we look out into this city at any time, we may behold men of all kinds, earnest in pursuit of the world: and why should not men take as much care of that which is so much more valuable and precious, even the salvation of the soul, without which the world is good for nothing?”
2. We should do as much as we can so that others souls can be saved as well.
What steps can we take to guard our souls?
– We should not do things that will damage our souls.
-We should cry out to God to save our souls.
-We must work hard at the things that have to do with the good of our souls.
3. We must persevere in seeking the salvation of our souls.
“Is it not a great pity that things which are so precious as souls are, should be lost? Should we not, if we saw any man in distress of body and in great danger of dying, be willing to lend him a hand to save his life? Why, let us look about us and we shall see thousands of men in a sorrowful condition, and in danger of dying every moment. Should we see a man a-drowning, should not we be willing to afford him some assistance to help him out of the water? If we look about we may see thousands of poor souls drowning in sin and iniquity, and in danger of being drowned in the lake of fire and brimstone. Let us therefore do what we can for them; perhaps we may be instrumental of saving several souls from everlasting ruin and destruction. If each one here present should do what he could towards it, there is no doubt to be made that many souls might be saved by their means. Let us therefore do our utmost; don’t lest us be so inhuman as to see men sick and not help them.”