Jonathan Edwards: God’s Sovereign Grace in the Valley of Humiliation.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“ (Ephesians 2:1–5 (ESV)

“It is affecting to think how ignorant I was, when as a young Christian, of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy and deceit left in my heart.” – Jonathan Edwards

One of the most fertile places in the Christian’s pilgrimage is what Puritan John Bunyan called the Valley of Humiliation. It is in this so-called valley that the believer in Christ becomes acutely aware of the depths of their sinfulness prior to their conversion and the heights of God’s graciousness that brought about their conversion. It is in this valley that man’s erroneous perspective of free-will is finally discarded and God’s free and sovereign grace is fervently embraced and appreciated.

It was in this valley that Edwards began to acquire a deepening understanding of God’s sovereign and divine grace in salvation. Like many other before him, and after him, Edwards became aware of the real nature of sin, and fallen man’s inability to independently repent of sin and believe the Gospel unto salvation. He came to understand that God saves sinners according to His good pleasure and for the praise of His glorious and sovereign grace alone (Eph. 1:3-11).

As a youth, Edwards had no affection at all with the doctrine that God appoints men to salvation. However, as he grew in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), he acquired a heart-felt awareness of the power and depth of sin in the unconverted individual.

“Spiritual experience and sound theology go together. Accordingly, the Reformers, and the Puritans after them, had attributed opposition to the doctrines of grace as evidence of spiritual ignorance. Men must be saved by sovereign mercy or not at all, and the more he (Edwards) saw of this way of salvation – God giving grace to those who had no claim or right – the more he saw his own dependence upon it,” Edwards’ biographer Iain Murray explains,

“It appears to me that were it not for free grace, exalted and raised up to the infinite height of all the fullness and glory of the great Jehovah, and the arm of His power and grace stretched forth in all the majesty of His power, and in all the glory of His sovereignty, I should appear sunk down in my sins below hell itself – far beyond the sight of everything but the eye of sovereign grace that can pierce even down to such a depth, ”  Edwards wrote,

Edwards was deeply impacted by the biblical doctrine that God owes salvation to no one and that He may justly withhold pardon from any. To say otherwise, is to deny the very concept and definition of grace itself. For if anyone believes that grace is deserved, then it is no longer grace that they believe.

Have you had your own valley of humiliation? I pray you have as I have. May the Lord be glorified and praised by us today.

Soli deo Gloria!

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