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Grace, Lightning Bolts, And The Pursuit Of Happiness


Jonathan Edwards describes his spiritual awareness and growth.

Part I


Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind; I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together: and when the discourse ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father's pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together: it was a sweet and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness: and awful sweetness: a high and great, and holy gentleness.
After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearence of every thing was altered: there seemed to be as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory in almost every thing. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, and the moon, and stars: in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees: in the water and all nature: which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for continuance: and in the day spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunderstorm rising: but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me, I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunderstorm: and used the oppurtunity at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God's thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged it always seemed natural for me to sing, or chan forth my meditations or, to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.

Part II


My sense of divine things seemed gradually to increase, until I went to preach at New York, which was about a year and half after they began: and while I was there, I felt them, very sensibly, in a much higher degree than I had done before My longings after God and holiness were much increased. Pure and humble, holy and heavenly Christianity appeared exceedingly amiable to me. I felt a burning desire to be in every thing a complete Christian; and conformed to the blessed image of Christ; and that I might live, in all things, according to the pure, sweet, and blessed rules of the gospel. I had an eager thirsting after progress in these things; which put me upon pursuing and pressing after them. It was my continual strife day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy, and live more holily, and more becoming and child of God and a disciple of Christ. I now sought an increase of grace and holiness, and a holy life, with much more earnestness than ever I had sought grace before I had it. I used to be continually examing myself, and studying and contriving for likely ways and means, how I should live holily with far greater diligence and earnestness, than ever I pursured any thing in my life; but yet with too great a dependence on my own strength: which afterwords proved a great damage to me. My experience had not then taught me, as it has done since, my extreme feebleness and impotence, every manner of way; and bottomless depths of secret corruption and deciet there was in my heart. However, I went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness, and conformity to Christ.

Part III


I have a much greater sense of my universal, exceeding dependence on God's grace and strength, and more good pleasure, of late, than I used to formerly have; and have experienced more of an abhorrence of my own righteousness. The very thought of any joy arising in me, on any consideration of my own amiableness, performances, or experiences, or any goodness of heart or life, is nauseous and detestable to me. And yet I am greatly afflicted with a proud and self-righteous spirit, much more sensibly than I used to be formerly. I see that serpent rising and putting forth its head continually, every where, all around me.
Though it seems to me, that, in some respects, I was a far better Christian, for two or three years earlier after my first conversion, than I am now: and lived in a more constant delight and pleasure; yet, of late years, I have had a more full and constant sense of the absolute sovereignty of God, and a delight in that sovereignty; and have had more of a sense of the glory of Christ, as a Mediator revealed in the gospel. On one Saturday night, in particular, I had such a discovery of excellency of the gospel above all other doctrines, that I could not but say to myself, "This is my chosen light, my chosen doctrine"; and of Christ. "This is my chosen Prophet." It appeared sweet, beyond all expression to follow Christ, and to be taught, and enlightened and instructed by him; to learn of him, and live to him. Another Saturday Night (January, 1739)I had such a sense, how sweet and blessed a thing it was to walk in the way of duty; to do that which was right and meet to be done; and agreeable to the holy mind of God; that it caused me to break forth into a kind of loud weeping, which held me some time, so that I was forced to shut myself up, and fasten the doors. I could not but, as it were, cry out. "How happy are they which do that which is right in the sight of God! They are blessed indeed, they are the happy ones!" I had, at the same time, a very affecting sense, how meet suitable it was that God should govern the world, and order all things according to His own pleasure; and I rejoiced in it, that God reigned, and that His will was done.


Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was a colonial American Congregational preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans. He is known as one of the greatest and most profound American evangelical theologians. His work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Calvinist theology and the Puritan heritage.
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