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Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Christian Pilgrim Or The True Christian's Life a Journey Toward Heaven - Part I of II ~ By Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

~ By Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Dated September, 1733
"And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country." -- Hebrews 11:13, 14

A Forward: TTUF Note: So that the reader is aware of the fact that Jonathan Edwards was a Calvinist after the Puritan sort, I point that out here; further, that TTUF does not agree with much of the Calvinist theology (and we have ample articles that treat this doctrine on our site under the Apologetics tab). Where there are false statements, false doctrines, false practices employed in the church, either present or past, we will point them out on Scriptural grounds.

That being said, we are all about the truth (AND grace! JOHN 1:17) in this ministry, and what I’ve read in this sermon by Jonathan Edwards has so moved me, that I’ve felt compelled to publish this work in two parts (Part I will include Sections One and Two; Part II will include Sections Three and Four).
In this current age of the church, particularly in America and generally in the West, I find this fixation on material prosperity and blessings abhorrent – not in and of themselves, but with the church’s fixation upon them, the preoccupation with them and the seeming covetous attitude with which the church desires to procure them as an ends in themselves, while leaving in the dust the true riches that come from Christ Himself, and the highest and greatest of all riches, Christ Himself!

Our aim is not to be the ‘here and now’ as our objective, but to employ all powers, materials, motivations, knowledge and time as the means of aiming at our objective – eternity; and receiving from Christ those rewards for faithful service in this life, our pilgrimage that we may then glorify GOD the Son with as the author and finisher of our faith (HEB 4:12). Without further ado then, here is the sermon by Jonathan Edwards:
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Subject: This life ought so to be spent by us as to be only a journey towards heaven.
The apostle is here setting forth the excellencies of the grace of faith, by the glorious effects and happy issue of it in the saints of the Old Testament. He had spoken in the preceding part of the chapter particularly, of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Having enumerated those instances, he takes notice that “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers,” etc. — In these words the apostle seems to have a more particular respect to Abraham and Sarah, and their kindred, who came with them from Haran, and from Ur of the Chaldees, as appears by the 15th verse, where the apostle says, “and truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.”

Two things may be observed here:
1. What these saints confessed of themselves, viz. that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. — Thus we have a particular account concerning Abraham, “I am a stranger and a sojourner with you.” (Gen. 23:4) And it seems to have been the general sense of the patriarchs, by what Jacob says to Pharaoh. “And Jacob said to Pharaoh, The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of years of my life been, and have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” (Gen. 47:9) “I am a stranger and a sojourner with thee, as all my fathers were.” (Psalm 39:12)
2. The inference that the apostle draws from hence, viz. that they sought another country as their home. “For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country.” In confessing that they were strangers, they plainly declared that this is not their country; that this is not the place where they are at home. And in confessing themselves to be pilgrims, they declared plainly that this is not their settled abode, but that they have respect to some other country, which they seek, and to which they are traveling.

SECTION I
That this life ought to be so spent by us, as to be only a journey or pilgrimage towards heaven.
HERE I would observe,

1. That we ought not to rest in the world and its enjoyments, but should desire heaven. We should “seek first the kingdom of God.” (Matt 6:33) We ought above all things to desire a heavenly happiness; to be with God and dwell with Jesus Christ. Though surrounded with outward enjoyments, and settled in families with desirable friends and relations; though we have companions whose society is delightful, and children in whom we see many promising qualifications; though we live by good neighbors, and are generally beloved where known; we ought not to take our rest in these things as our portion. We should be so far from resting in them, that we should desire to leave them all, in God’s due time. We ought to possess, enjoy and use them, with no other view but readily to quit them, whenever we are called to it, and to change them willingly and cheerfully for heaven.

A traveler is not wont to rest in what he meets with, however comfortable and pleasing, on the road. If he passes through pleasant places, flowery meadows, or shady groves, he does not take up his content in these things, but only takes a transient view of them as he goes along. He is not enticed by fine appearances to put off the thought of proceeding. No, but his journey’s end is in his mind. If he meets with comfortable accommodations at an inn, he entertains no thoughts of settling there. He considers that these things are not his own, that he is but a stranger, and when he has refreshed himself, or tarried for a night, he is for going forward. And it is pleasant to him to think that so much of the way is gone.

So should we desire heaven more than the comforts and enjoyments of this life. The apostle mentions it as an encouraging, comfortable consideration to Christians, that they draw nearer their happiness. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” — Our hearts ought to be loose to these things, as that of a man on a journey, that we may as cheerfully part with them whenever God calls. “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it; for the fashion of this world passeth away.” (1 Cor 7:29-31) These things are only lent to us for a little while, to serve a present turn, but we should set our hearts on heaven, as our inheritance forever.

2. We ought to seek heaven, by traveling in the way that lead thither. This is a way of holiness. We should choose and desire to travel thither in this way and in no other, and part with all those carnal appetites which, as weights, will tend to hinder us. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us.” (Heb 12:1) However pleasant the gratification of any appetite may be, we must lay it aside if it be a hindrance, or a stumbling block, in the way to heaven.

We should travel on in the way of obedience to all God’s commands, even the difficult as well as the easy, denying all our sinful inclinations and interests. The way to heaven is ascending. We must be content to travel up hill, though it be hard and tiresome, and contrary to the natural bias of our flesh. We should follow Christ: the path he traveled, was the right way to heaven.
We should take up our cross and follow him, in meekness and lowliness of heart, obedience and charity, diligence to do good, and patience under afflictions. The way to heaven is a heavenly life, an imitation of those who are in heaven in their holy enjoyments, loving, adoring, serving, and praising God and the Lamb. Even if we could go to heaven with the gratification of our lusts, we should prefer a way of holiness and conformity to the spiritual self-denying rules of the gospel.

3. We should travel on in this way in a laborious manner. — Long journeys are attended with toil and fatigue, especially if through a wilderness. Persons in such a case expect no other than to suffer hardships and weariness. — So we should travel in this way of holiness, improving our time and strength, to surmount the difficulties and obstacles that are in the way. The land we have to travel through, is a wilderness. There are many mountains, rocks, and rough places that we must go over, and therefore there is a necessity that we should lay out our strength.

4. Our whole lives ought to be spent in traveling this road. — We ought to begin early. This should be the first concern, when persons become capable of acting. When they first set out in the world, they should set out on this journey. — And we ought to travel on with assiduity. It ought to be the work of every day. We should often think of our journey’s end; and make it our daily work to travel on in the way that leads to it. — He who is on a journey is often thinking of the destined place, and it is his daily care and business to get along and to improve his time to get towards his journey’s end. Thus should heaven be continually in our thoughts, and the immediate entrance or passage to it, viz. death, should be present with us. — We ought to persevere in this way as long as we live.

Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Heb 12:1) Though the road be difficult and toilsome, we must hold out with patience, and be content to endure hardships. Though the journey be long, yet we must not stop short, but hold on till we arrive at the place we seek. Nor should we be discouraged with the length and difficulties of the way, as the children of Israel were, and be for turning back again. All our thought and design should be to press forward till we arrive.

5. We ought to be continually growing in holiness, and in that respect coming nearer and nearer to heaven. — We should be endeavoring to come nearer to heaven, in being more heavenly, becoming more and more like the inhabitants of heaven in respect of holiness and conformity to God, the knowledge of God and Christ, in clear views of the glory of God, the beauty of Christ, and the excellency of divine things, as we come nearer to the beatific vision. — We should labor to be continually growing in divine love — that this may be an increasing flame in our hearts, till they ascend wholly in this flame — in obedience and a heavenly conversation, that we may do the will of God on earth as the angels do in heaven, in comfort and spiritual joy, [and] in sensible communion with God and Jesus Christ. 

Our path should be as “the shining light, that shines more and more to the perfect day.” (Prov 4:18) We ought to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness: after an increase in righteousness. “As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the work, that ye may grow thereby.” (1 Peter 2:2) The perfection of heaven should be our mark. “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things that are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13, 14)

6. All other concerns of life ought to be entirely subordinate to this. — When a man is on a journey, all the steps he takes are subordinated to the aim of getting to his journey’s end. And if he carries money or provisions with him, it is to supply him in his journey. So we ought wholly to subordinate all our other business, and all our temporal enjoyments, to this affair of traveling to heaven. When anything we have becomes a clog and hindrance to us, we should quit it immediately. The use of our worldly enjoyments and possessions, should be with such a view, and in such a manner, as to further us in our way heavenward. Thus we should eat, and drink, and clothe ourselves, and improve the conversation and enjoyment of friends. And whatever business we are setting about, whatever design we are engaging in, we should inquire with ourselves, whether this business or undertaking will forward us in our way to heaven? And if not, we should quit our design.

SECTION II
Why the Christian’s life is a journey, or pilgrimage?

1. THIS world is not our abiding place. Our continuance here is but very short. Man’s days on the earth, are as a shadow. It was never designed by God that this world should be our home. Neither did God give us these temporal accommodations for that end. If God has given us ample estates, and children, or other pleasant friends, it is with no such design, that we should be furnished here, as for a settled abode, but with a design that we should use them for the present, and then leave them in a very little time. 
When we are called to any secular business, or charged with the care of a family, [and] if we improve our lives to any other purpose than as a journey toward heaven, all our labor will be lost. If we spend our lives in the pursuit of a temporal happiness, as riches or sensual pleasures, credit and esteem from men, delight in our children and the prospect of seeing them well brought up and well settled, etc. — all these things will be of little significancy to us.

Death will blow up all our hopes, and will put an end to these enjoyments. “The places that have known us, will know us no more” and “the eye that has seen us, shall see us no more.” We must be taken away forever from all these things, and it is uncertain when: it may be soon after we are put into the possession of them. And then, where will be all our worldly employments and enjoyments, when we are laid in the silent grave! “So man lieth down, and riseth not again, till the heavens be no more.” (Job 14:12)

2. The future world was designed to be our settled and everlasting abode. There it was intended that we should be fixed, and there alone is a lasting habitation and a lasting inheritance. The present state is short and transitory, but our state in the other world is everlasting. And as we are there at first, so we must be without change. Our state in the future world, therefore, being eternal, is of so much greater importance than our state here, that all our concerns in this world should be wholly subordinated to it.

3. Heaven is that place alone where our highest end and highest good is to be obtained. God hath made us for himself. “Of him, and through him, and to him are all things.” Therefore, then do we attain to our highest end, when we are brought to God: but that is by being brought to heaven, for that is God’s throne, the place of his special presence. There is but a very imperfect union with God to be had in this world, a very imperfect knowledge of him in the midst of much darkness: a very imperfect conformity to God, mingled with abundance of estrangement.
Here we can serve and glorify God, but in a very imperfect manner: our service being mingled with sin, which dishonors God. — But when we get to heaven (if ever that be), we shall be brought to a perfect union with God and have more clear views of him. There we shall be fully conformed to God, without any remaining sin: for “we shall see him as he is.” There we shall serve God perfectly and glorify him in an exalted manner, even to the utmost of the powers and capacity of our nature. Then we shall perfectly give up ourselves to God: our hearts will be pure and holy offerings, presented in a flame of divine love.

God is the highest good of the reasonable creature, and the enjoyment of him is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. — To go to heaven fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows. But the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. 

These are but streams, but God is the fountain. These are but drops, but God is the ocean. — Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey towards heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives, to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for, or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?

4. Our present state, and all that belongs to it, is designed by him that made all things, to be wholly in order to another world. — This world was made for a place of preparation for another. Man’s mortal life was given him, that he might be prepared for his fixed state. And all that God has here given us, is given to this purpose. The sun shines, the rain falls upon us, and the earth yields her increase to us for this end. Civil, ecclesiastical, and family affairs, and all our personal concerns, are designed and ordered in subordination to a future world, by the maker and disposer of all things. To this therefore they ought to be subordinated by us.


Here ends Part I; we shall publish Part II that contains Sections 3 and 4 as soon as possible. Until then - pilgrims - KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE SKIES and DON'T BELIEVE THE LIES - The LORD JESUS CHRIST RETURNS SOON FROM ON HIGH!

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