On this day 309 years ago Jonathan Edwards was born. He was a pastor, a theologian, and a missionary in colonial New England. Edwards wrote voluminously, preached widely, and pursued God and the truths of his Word vigorously. He is sadly most popularly known for his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” While worthy of attention, this one sermon does not adequately represent the mind or ministry of this pillar of the Christian faith. In fact, he spent much energy writing and preaching some of the most beautiful sermons and books about heaven and the love of God. In honor of Jonathan Edwards’ birthday and his legacy I would like share a snippet of one of his sermons, “Heaven, a World of Charity or Love”:
[The] God of love himself dwells in heaven. Heaven is the palace or presence-chamber of the high and holy One, whose name is love, and who is both the cause and source of all holy love. God, considered with respect to his essence, is everywhere – he fills both heaven and earth. But yet he is said, in some respects, to be more especially in some places than in others. He was said of old to dwell in the land of Israel, above all other lands; and in Jerusalem, above all other cities of that land; and in the temple, above all other buildings in the city; and in the holy of holies, above all other apartments of the temple; and on the mercy-seat, over the ark of the covenant, above all other places in the holy of holies. But heaven is his dwelling-place above all other places in the universe; and all those places in which he was said to dwell of old, were but types of this. Heaven is a part of creation that God has built for this end, to be the place of his glorious presence, and it is his abode for ever; and here will he dwell, and gloriously manifest himself, to all eternity.
And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love;” and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing he is an all-sufficient being, it follows that he is a full and overflowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love. And in that he is an unchangeable and eternal being, he is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love.
There, even in heaven, dwells the God from whom every stream of holy love, yea, every drop that is, or ever was, proceeds. There doth God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, united as one, in infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual, and eternal love. There dwells God the Father, who is the father of mercies, and so the father of love, who so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son to die for it. There dwells Christ, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace and of love, who so loved the world that he shed his blood, and poured out his soul unto death for men. There dwells the great Mediator, through whom all the divine love is expressed toward men, and by whom the fruits of that love have been purchased, and through whom they are communicated, and through whom love is imparted to the hearts of all God’s people. There dwells Christ in both his natures, the human and the divine, sitting on the same throne with the Father. And there dwells the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of divine love, in whom the very essence of God, as it were, flows out, and is breathed forth in love, and by whose immediate influence all holy love is shed abroad in the hearts of all the saints on earth and in heaven. There, in heaven, this infinite fountain of love – this eternal Three in One – is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it, as it flows for ever. There this glorious God is manifested, and shines forth, in full glory, in beams of love. And there this glorious fountain for ever flows forth in streams, yea, in rivers of love and delight, and these rivers swell, as it were, to an ocean of love, in which the souls of the ransomed may bathe with the sweetest enjoyment, and their hearts, as it were, be deluged with love! (Charity and Its Fruits, 326-28)
Our God is love and we do not have to wait until heaven to begin to enjoy and experience it. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and through faith we are united to the perfect, loving relationship of the triune God and to all believers of all times and places. We are to be eagerly awaiting the appearing of our Lord Jesus wherein he will deliver us unto that eternal existence of perfect love but even now we are ,with the love given first to us by God in Christ, to love those with whom God has united us in Christian fellowship, reflecting the perfect love and fellowship that is to come. As we do this, we will not only begin to experience more of the fullness of God’s love here but we will begin to long for that day when all sin and selfishness will depart and we will see him who first loved us, wounds and all, and dwell with him and all the saints forever.