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A Vision of God's Glory

Rev. Sean Michael Lucas, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Hattiesburg, Mississippi has written a timely, well-researched and edifying book on New England's greatest theologian, Jonathan Edwards. Before I go on, I must divulge that I cut my teeth on the work of Jonathan Edwards in Lucas' class at seminary (Edwards was not an easy read then, nor is he now). Yet, the vision that Lucas casts concerning the life and work of Edwards is full in scope and touches upon both the life, ministry, and vision of Edwards. Reminiscent of John Murray's book title, Lucas' book is divided into two sections, the first being on redemption history (Edwards' biblical theology from creation to consummation), and the second is Redemption Applied (how does the fact of God's sovereign glory and grace through redemption apply to the workings and lives of the church and its people). Instead of a dry, arid and scholastic work, Lucas displays the essential elements of Edwards theological vision (reflection of God's glory back to himself, 40, and the great care Edwards takes to impart to his people an experiential grace of finding fullness in Christ).

One surprising note that came across in reading the book was regarding Edwards' view of creation. In chapter two, Lucas writes, "The most striking thing about Jonathan Edwards's sermon series "A History of the Work of Redemption" is that in his desire to present "divinity in an entire new method" ...he slighted the importance of God's work of creation" (35). Lucas goes on to quote Edwards again saying that "All other works of providence may be looked upon as appendages to this great work (the work of redemption" (36). Creation points to the point of redemption, yet it is not to be displayed as preeminent in importance. Lucas does not mean to state that creation was insignificant for Edwards, but rather it was secondary to the great work of redemption. Lucas is careful to point out the connection between the fall, original sin, and creation. Racked with guilt, sin, and the consequences of the fall, creation as a whole as a turned inward on itself, gratifiying the desires of the sinful nature. This leaving creation to secondary importance for Edward is striking all the more since we find creation and its aims given great weight through various Reformed strands of thought (Bavinck, Kuyper, Cornelius Plantinga, etc.).

One of my favorite sections of the book was the chapter on the The Christian Life as a Journey to Heaven. In this chapter, we find Lucas pulling together the thought of Edwards on the four stage of life. On one occasion as Edwards recounts in his Faithful Narrative, "four year old Phebe Bartlet..was moved by witness of another to engage in earnest prayer, desire to enjoy God, and long to serve him and gain an interest in him" (176). The change of life for Phebe was met with the witness of her older brother and the mighty preaching of Edwards. Edwards began to commit himself to hold meetings designed to call these children to Christ, to love him more than all else (including their parents) (177). What Lucas brings out is Edwards' commitment to instruct and care for these young children at all costs, because he believed that in order for people to continue in godliness, the best age to instruct them is early on. Edwards was careful to not only instruct about the primary importance of Christ, but also warn young people about the dangerous desires of the flesh. Lastly, Edwards carefully sought to help his people die well. Reminding me of Martin Luther's work on the same subject, Edwards said "when the life of a saint is at an end and they depart into another world, their works do follow them...There they shall reap the sweet fruit of them" (187). Looking heavenward in expectation, Edwards was able to be a source of great comfort for those struggling with the end of life.

Overall, this book was a great window into the vision of Jonathan Edwards, not only for the Bible, but for the daily concerns of his people in Northampton. In the end, though, this book extols the glory of God in the work of Edwards, not as bi-product of minstry but as the heart and soul of everything he did. I came away from reading this book with a greater vision for God's glory and a more zealous heart for Christ. My hope is that many others will see this book and delight to see God's glory more fully through the vision of Edwards.

Thanks to Crossway for the review copy of this work.


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