A Sense of the Gloriousness of God

George Marsden notes how Jonathan Edwards understood spiritual awakenings took place:

“God communicates to humans, he [Jonathan Edwards] explained in an immediate way that goes beyond anything that natural reason by itself can attain. What distinguishes saints from unconverted is that the Holy Spirit dwells within converted persons and so gives them the power to apprehend the things of God.

They have in effect a new spiritual sense.

This new sense is not an ability to have visions, or to gain new information that goes beyond Scripture, or to experience intense religious emotions. Rather, it is the power necessary to appreciate the spiritual light that radiates from God, the power to hear the communication of God’s love that pervades the universe. It is a power to appreciate beauty or excellency, specifically the beauty and excellency of Christ.

Such knowledge, Edwards spelled out to the Northamptonites, is qualitative and affective, not simply rational or theoretical. It is, in a familiar image, like the ‘difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness.’ Or more exactly, it is like ‘the difference between believing a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty.’ The ‘spiritually enlightened’ person does not ‘merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart.’”

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