True Believer by Jonathan Edwards PDF Print E-mail
In the Library

true believer

       America’s greatest theologian, and along with George Whitefield, the father of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards’s life and writings, most of which are sermons, exemplify the life of a True Believer. In fact, while studying his writings, Anne Belley gave us a book that further reiterated to us the compelling case for the evidence of grace in that of a True Believer. Contrasting the life of a hypocrite with that of a true believer and the false evidence of grace with the infallible evidence of grace, this well-written scriptural documentation of a genuine believer created a heart-rendering search of God’s grace in each of our hearts, as we examined them in light of God’s Word. So, although we have thoroughly appreciated each of Edwards’s works, I believe this book to be our favorite because it caused us to contemplate our walk with the Lord in a most compelling way. Thus, we would all concur that this is a must book for every family. And from one parent to another, I believe this book to be a very effectual tool in helping our children examine their hearts and actions, while also helping them discern other’s character when choosing friends.

      This book is actually a compilation of eight of Edward’s sermons entitled “Pardon for the Greatest of Sinners”; “True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils”; “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer”; “A Warning to Professors of Religion”; “Christians-a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Peculiar People”; “The Peace which God Gives His True Followers”; “True Saints, when Absent from the Body, and Present with the Lord”; and “The Portion of the Righteous.”

      The sermon entitled “True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils” was a particularly convicting chapter, which rendered my heart through the sieve of examination while making certain of my calling. I have often taught my children that profession of Christ does not necessarily guarantee one’s salvation, warning them that others often use individual verses to prove this point, when in fact we must use the whole of scriptures to interpret scriptures. It is foolish then on our part to think that someone is saved merely because they mention God now and then or tell us that they pray to God or discourse with us about doctrine or quote scriptures once in a while. Jon and I often refer to Talkative in Pilgrim’s Progress who could fall in with anyone and talk most effectively on almost any topic including spiritual matters, in a most convincing manner. I, like Jonathan, refer to the verse in James 2:19 which says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well. The devils also believe, and tremble.”

      There are not many that tremble at the holiness of God. And yet not only do the devils believe that there is one God, but as Edwards points out, they know that He is Holy and therefore hates sin; they know that He is an Almighty God and fulfills His threats, and they tremble. But what was even more striking to me was the revelation that they possess both a great knowledge of the scriptures and doctrines of religion. So, though we believe in one God, though we tremble in the presence of His Holiness, though we are convicted of our sins against Him and believe that our sins deserve punishment, though we know that He is faithful to fulfill His promises and threats, though we possess a great knowledge of the scriptures and the doctrines of faith, though we can discourse with others quite accurately on justification and the operation of God’s Spirit on our flesh through His grace, as Edwards emphatically states, “Yet all is no certain evidence of any degree of saving grace in the heart,” because in fact so do the devils. The stark reality is that many are deceived and retain a false hope, when in fact their faith is false, and their hope in vain. For all of these apparently good things cannot merit God’s favor. This revelation is indeed very helpful to us when impressing upon our children that only Christ’s righteousness reconciles us to the Father—only His righteousness merits His grace.

      The latter chapters of True Believer then go on to reveal infallible evidence of grace in believers, followed by the marvelous promises and glorious blessings God bestows on His children, providing both a hope and great comfort to all of those who are His. Edwards continues in saying: “The Scripture is abundant in expressly mentioning evidences of grace, and of a state of favor with God, as characteristics of true saints…. where do we find any other signs insisted on besides grace itself, its nature, exercises, and fruits? These were the evidences that…the Psalmist… insists upon as evidences of his sincerity, and particularly in the 119th Psalm, from the beginning to the end.” Psalm 119, then, reveals the fruit of sanctification and provides a model of a true believer. In essence, from David Brainerd’s own words preached by Edwards, “There is nothing in the world worth living for but doing good and finishing God’s work, doing the work that Christ did. I see nothing else in the world that can yield satisfaction besides living to God, pleasing Him, and doing His whole will. My greatest joy and comfort has been to do something for promoting the interest of religion, and the souls of particular persons.”

      There is no greater joy or comfort than to be certain of our eternal blessedness, to be able to stand on a firm foundation, knowing that nothing can separate us from the love of God. With this understanding, take time to read and study this book with your children, stopping along the way to examine your hearts in the light of God’s Word, for there is nothing more important than carefully attending to our souls.

      1 Thessalonians 5:23,24 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”