Contemplate Heaven with Me for a Minute: Edward's "Heaven Is a World of Love", Pt. 3
The reason Edwards could write jewels like this was, in part, that he cultivated the habit--and it is a habit--of theological meditation. He did not simply read and then rush away. He read and then took a long horse-ride through the lush New England countryside to think on what he had read. As his horse canted softly through a fall forest scene, Edwards was mulling over the doctrine of original sin. As he rode past a lively stream, Edwards was transporting himself to the heavenly realm, pondering the relationships found there between God and God, God and man, man and man. Life for Edwards was not merely an exercise in study, then. It was also an exercise in meditation, in the refinement of thought, the cultivation of expression, such that when he wrote to instruct the saints, the riches flowed liberally, as they still do.
A Closing Picture of Heaven’s Beauty--And they shall know that they themselves shall ever live to love God, and love the saints, and to enjoy their love in all its fulness and sweetness forever. They shall be in no fear of any end to this happiness, or of any abatement from its fulness and blessedness, or that they shall ever be weary of its exercises and expressions, or cloyed with its enjoyments, or that the beloved objects shall ever grow old or disagreeable, so that their love shall at last die away. All in heaven shall flourish in immortal youth and freshness. Age will not there diminish anyone's beauty or vigor; and their love shall abide in everyone's heart, as a living spring perpetually springing up in the soul, or as a flame that never dies away. And the holy pleasure of this love shall be as a river that is forever flowing clear and full, and increasing continually. The heavenly paradise of love shall always be kept as in a perpetual spring, without autumn or winter, where no frosts shall blight, or leaves decay and fall, but where every plant shall be in perpetual freshness, and bloom, and fragrance, and beauty, always springing forth, and always blossoming, and always bearing fruit. The leaf of the righteous shall not wither (Psa. 1:3). And in the midst of the streets of heaven, and on either side of the river, grows the tree of life, which bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields her fruit every month (Rev. 22:2). Everything in the heavenly world shall contribute to the joy of the saints, and every joy of heaven shall be eternal. No night shall settle down with its darkness upon the brightness of their everlasting day.Read more in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Wilson Kimnach, Kenneth Minkema, and Doug Sweeney (Yale, 1999). You'll find in it this sermon and several other treasures that will, if you commit to reading them, transform your understanding of Edwards and, I'm confident, the Christian faith. The book is not long and is an inexpensive paperback. Wonderful reference tool, as well, for pastors and those looking to mine Edwards for their ministry.
Also, see the following accessible works related to Edwards:
- A Jonathan Edwards Reader, ed. John Smith, Harry Stout, and Kenneth Minkema. Another very useful Edwards work--a paperback collection of some of the key texts of the Edwards corpus, with readable sections from some of Edwards's most important philosophical-theological writings.
- Jonathan Edwards: A Guided Tour of His Life and Thought. By Stephen Nichols. A very quick little paperback introducing readers to the ideas and events of Edwards's life. Excellent resource, though if you want a really substantive, enriching read, get Marsden's magisterial biography (Jonathan Edwards: A Life).