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“Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.”

~ Jonathan Edwards 

 

“There is no spiritual awakening without the power of the Holy Spirit”

~ Quoted in Revive, Vol. 46, Issue 3: The Signs of a Jesus Revolution by Alvin L. Reid

Some today view journaling as a sentimental token of a bygone age. For others, it’s a distraction from getting things done amid our frenetic pace of life.

As one who has kept a journal for many years, journaling has been an invaluable means of grace in my Christian walk and a practical discipline with many benefits.

Here are seven quick reasons I commend the practice.

1. To keep a record of life’s journey.

In journaling one can remember the mundane, recall the funny, and not forget the humbling, painful, formative events of life. Pete Hamill, in his introduction to Edward Robb Ellis’s diary, explains: “The diarist has one essential goal: to freeze time. . . . This day will never come again, but here, in this diary, I will have it forever.” Likewise, diarist Andi Ashworth reminds us that with a journal “we have a notebook in which to be a student of life.” It’s one thing to remember the general contours of life, but a whole other thing to remember with specificity the dialogue, the smells, the laughs, and the tears.

Download / By Aleksi Tappura

2. To have a tangible account of God’s blessings.

We do not want to be like Israel and “forget” the Lord and all he’s done (e.g., Judg. 8:34; Ps. 106:21;Hos. 8:14). One of the beauties of corporate worship is coming together as God’s people to recite what God has done. D. A. Carson is right: “Believers who spend no time reviewing and pondering in their minds what God has done, whether they are alone and reading their Bibles or joining with other believers in corporate adoration, should not be surprised if they rarely sense that God is near.” Journaling is another means of “pondering what God has done,” of tangibly recording his unwarranted grace in my life. The words you write will either serve to spur you on toward greater faithfulness or will be a haunting reminder of an ungrateful life.

3. To serve as a reminder of the long-term sanctification process.

We all need constant reminders that we don’t become holy overnight; it takes time and holy sweat (cf. Phil. 2:12–13; 1 Tim. 4:15). Many know of Jonathan Edwards’s 70 resolutions and imagine a life of continual Edwardsean highs, but few realize how often he wrote of deep discouragement and defeat. George Marsden notes that Edwards “record[ed] many days of lows, ‘decays,’ and lengthy times of inability to focus on spiritual things.” In Edwards’s Diary we glimpse an honest picture: “I find by experience that, let me make resolutions, and do what I will . . . it is all nothing, and to no purpose at all, without the motions of the Spirit of God.” Edwards learned to depend on God’s grace. Journaling can serve as a mirror: it reminds us of resolutions we’ve made and broken, and how desperately we need God’s enabling grace to obey and honor him.

4. To aid in prayer and meditation.

Focused, meditative reading can be difficult in our age of texts, tweets, and posts. After reading two or three pages of an article or book, Nicholas Carr admits, “I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.” Journaling allows you to slow down and focus your thoughts, to unplug and disconnect as you pray and meditate on the Scriptures.

5. To practice the writing craft.

In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert in any field. While there are obvious qualifiers and exceptions to this rule, it reminds us writers that there’s no better way to improve than by writing. Whether you desire to write for a public audience or simply for writing’s sake, keeping a journal is a wonderful way to fine-tune the writing craft.

6. To keep a collection of odds and ends.

In journaling you can save quotes, articles, even undeveloped thoughts, and use them for a future sermon, lecture, or article. Though I’ve shifted some of this benefit on to Evernote in recent months, journaling is still my favorite means of collecting odds and ends of my own writing. You can track your thinking, see how it develops over time, and have the benefit of having your thoughts on paper. John Piper, summarizing Augustine, says it well: “I count myself as one of the number of those who learn as they write and write as they learn.”

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June 26, 2014 

History Could Happen AgainJonathan Edwards wrote a number of books that became famous, even during his own lifetime. One of his lesser-known works was a 1746 book titled An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer, For the Revival and Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. Edwards wrote the book after learning about a group of Scottish ministers who circulated a “memorial” in 1744 calling for seven years of prayer in anticipation of God’s coming kingdom on earth.

In An Humble Attempt, Edwards argued for all believers to engage in monthly “concerts of prayer” for worldwide revival and the conversion of the unreached peoples of the earth. As a postmillennialist, Edwards believed the salvation of the nations was one of the final signs that the millennium would soon begin. His prayer was that the transatlantic revivals that had occurred off and on for a generation would “go viral” and cover the entire earth.

Though its topic was inspiring, An Humble Attempt was not very influential during Edwards’s lifetime. It did not sell as many copies as The Diary of David Brainerd, did not influence theologians like Freedom of the Will, and did not define authentic spiritual experience like Religious Affections. Nevertheless, some scholars argue that Edwards could be considered the “grandfather” of the modern missions movement among English-speaking evangelicals because of how the Lord used An Humble Attempt in the generation following Edwards’s death.

The Missionary Awakening

In 1784, an English Particular Baptist pastor named John Sutcliff received a box of books from a pastor friend in Scotland. Included among the books was a copy of An Humble Attempt. After reading the book, Sutcliff began to circulate An Humble Attempt among his fellow Baptist pastors. Inspired by Edwards, Sutcliff and his friends issued a call for the pastors of the Northamptonshire Baptist Association to set apart the first Monday evening of every month for prayer for the heathen and the coming kingdom. The concerts of prayer became popular among the younger pastors in the association and continued well into the 1790s. Sutcliff eventually published a British edition of An Humble Attempt in 1789 and wrote an introduction to the treatise.

When the Evangelical Awakening began in Britain in the 1730s, few Nonconformists were vital participants. Most of the “Methodists” were revived believers in the Church of England who were influenced by the Wesley brothers, George Whitfield, or a host of less-famous preachers in England and Wales. Calvinistic Dissenters such as the Particular Baptists were often skittish about the Evangelical Awakening due to a variety of reasons such as class differences between Nonconformists and Anglicans, concerns about the Arminian theology of the Wesleys, and the deadening influence of High Calvinism, especially among London Particular Baptists. It was not until the next generation when revival finally came to British Nonconformists in the form of what I call the Missionary Awakening.

Several of the pastors who answered Sutcliff’s prayer call became early leaders in the Missionary Awakening. Robert Hall Sr. and Andrew Fuller wrote influential treatises against High Calvinism and argued for an evangelical view of Calvinism influenced by Jonathan Edwards. John Ryland Jr. became the principle of Bristol Baptist Academy; many of Ryland’s students became strong supporters of missionary advance. Most famously, William Carey authored his influential treatise An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens, wherein he argued that the Great Commission is a binding command on every Christian in every generation. In 1792, these men formed the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS). Fuller served as secretary of the BMS for over twenty years and Carey became its most famous missionary.

The Spreading Flame

From this small missions-minded “band of brothers,” the Missionary Awakening spread to other believers. Over the next decade or so, most of the Particular Baptists who had been influenced by High Calvinism rejected these views and owned the Great Commission as their own. The missions-minded Edwardsean Calvinism of Fuller and Carey became commonplace among most Particular Baptists. The Arminian Baptists also got in on the action. The recently revived General Baptists, led by the Baptist Wesleyan (!) Dan Taylor, formed their own mission society in 1816.

The Missionary Awakening also spread beyond the Baptist fold. In 1795, missions-minded Anglicans and Nonconformists formed the non-denominational London Missionary Society. Evangelical Anglicans associated with the famous “Clapham Sect” also formed the Church Missionary Society in 1799. Early leaders in the CMS included John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce. The CMS version of William Carey was Henry Martyn, who, like Carey, also served as a missionary to India and inspired many others to become missionaries.

By the early 1800s, the Missionary Awakening had crossed the Atlantic. Between 1800 and 1810, numerous local missionary societies were formed in the Northeast; many of these societies either supported the various British mission societies or focused on evangelizing Native Americans. In 1810, Congregationalists in New England formed a foreign mission society, followed by the Baptists in 1814. Adoniram Judson, the Congregationalist-turned-Baptist, was the central figure in the formation of each of these mission societies. In 1820, American Methodists established the Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society.

It Could Happen Again

Those who followed Jonathan Edwards advanced his original vision for prayer, spiritual awakening, and missionary advance. Between 1780 and 1820, entire denominations experienced revival, sound doctrine overcame soul-deadening error, numerous new benevolent ministries were launched (I have only referenced the mission societies), and English-speaking evangelicals became passionate about fulfilling the Great Commission. It could happen again.

Knowing how God has worked in the past can help us ask some key questions of ourselves in the present. Are we praying for revival in our own spiritual lives? Are we praying for the salvation of the nations? Are our churches setting aside a specific time for focused — even extraordinary — prayer for a global awakening through the advance of the gospel? Do we long for the Lord to move among us as he moved among those who came before us?

Like Edwards and his spiritual children, we should pray for global revival through the worldwide advance of the gospel.

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Prayer and Revival

A Compilation taken from materials found on the web, arranged and edited.

J. Edwin Orr

Dr J. Edwin Orr was a leading scholar of revivals who published detailed books about evangelical awakenings. His research discovered major spiritual awakenings about every fifty years following the great awakening from the mid-eighteenth century in which John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards featured prominently. This article, based on one of Edwin Orr’s messages, is adapted from articles reproduced in the National Fellowship for Revival newsletters in New Zealand and Australia.

There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.

Dr A. T. Pierson once said, ‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.’ Let me recount what God has done through concerted, united, sustained prayer.

Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution (following 17761781) there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.

What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennos, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.

The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’ Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.

Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on antiChristian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.

How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.

There was a Scottish Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh named John Erskine, who published a Memorial (as he called it) pleading with the people of Scotland and elsewhere to unite in prayer for the revival of religion. He sent one copy of this little book to Jonathan Edwards in New England. The great theologian was so moved he wrote a response which grew longer than a letter, so that finally he published it is a book entitled ‘A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of all God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, pursuant to Scripture Promises and Prophecies…’

Is not this what is missing so much from all our evangelistic efforts: explicit agreement, visible unity, unusual prayer?

1792-1800

This movement had started in Britain through William Carey, Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliffe and other leaders who began what the British called the Union of Prayer. Hence, the year after John Wesley died (he died in 1791), the second great awakening began and swept Great Britain.

In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States.

Churches knew that their backs were to the wall. All the churches adopted the plan until America, like Britain was interlaced with a network of prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each month to pray. It was not long before revival came.

When the revival reached the frontier in Kentucky, it encountered a people really wild and irreligious. Congress had discovered that in Kentucky there had not been more than one court of justice held in five years. Peter Cartwright, Methodist evangelist, wrote that when his father had settled in Logan County, it was known as Rogue’s Harbour. The decent people in Kentucky formed regiments of vigilantes to fight for law and order, then fought a pitched battle with outlaws and lost.

There was a ScotchIrish Presbyterian minister named James McGready whose chief claim to fame was that he was so ugly that he attracted attention. McGready settled in Logan County, pastor of three little churches. He wrote in his diary that the winter of 1799 for the most part was ‘weeping and mourning with the people of God.’ Lawlessness prevailed everywhere.

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“It is God’s will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people; as is manifest by Ezekiel 36:37. and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for His church, He will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication (see Zechariah 12:10).”

~ Jonathan Edwards

Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.

Jonathan Edwards

by Dr. RAY ORTLUND

Never give up praying

“It is very apparent from the Word of God that he often tries the faith and patience of his people, when they are crying to him for some great and important mercy, by withholding the mercy sought for a season; and not only so, but at first he may cause an increase of dark appearances.  And yet he, without fail, at last prospers those who continue urgently in prayer with all perseverance and ‘will not let him go except he blesses.’”

Jonathan Edwards, “A Call to United Extraordinary Prayer,” in Works (Edinburgh, 1979)


“It is God’s will through His wonderful grace, that the prayers of His saints should be one of the great principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ’s kingdom in the world. When God has something very great to accomplish for His church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people; as is manifest by Ezekiel 36:37. and it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for His church, He will begin by remarkably pouring out the spirit of grace and supplication (see Zechariah 12:10).”

~ Jonathan Edwards, Thoughts on the Revival in New England – 1740

Jonathan Edwards

“There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the kingdom of Christ as by prayer.”  

Jonathan Edwards

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