Jonathan Edwards: A Borrowed Light.

On June 22, 1832 Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) wrote in his diary: “I bought Jonathan Edwards’ works.” It was a date McCheyne never forgot. The books were his companions for the rest of his comparatively short life.

In 1929, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones was waiting for a train in Cardiff, South Wales. He found that he had time to spare and as pastors are inclined to do, he made his way to a second-hand book shop.  It was the book store of John Evans. Lloyd-Jones wrote that he got down on his knees and in a corner of the shop, wearing his heavy overcoat, he found the two volume, 1834 edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards. He purchased the volumes for five shillings. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “I devoured these volumes and literally just read and read them.”  

When Robert Murray McCheyne began to read Edwards and to read about Edwards’ life, he had an experience that maybe we have all had. It can be quite discouraging to read or to hear the biography of another Christian. They appear to be so much more spiritual and godlier than we could ever hope to be.

“How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun. But, even his was a borrowed light and the same source is still open to me, ” wrote McCheyne.

“That changes the whole perspective, doesn’t it? If Jonathan Edwards could speak to us, he would tell us that we are wasting time to look at the borrowed light. We must go to the source and that is what we are seeking to do together. If you look at Edwards from the wrong standpoint, everything is wrong. Some people look at him in terms of a great 18th century figure, thinker, writer, preacher. And that is as far as they go. But we have to look at Edwards, first of all, as a sinner who, by the grace of God, was made a Christian and then called to be a minister of the Word of God. We have to see Edwards as a member of the kingdom of Christ and a teacher of divine Revelation. And when we come to him in that way, we find something that is abiding and permanent,”  one pastor explains,

“The wisdom of God was not given for any particular age, but for all ages,” Edwards said.

We all have our biblical and Christian heroes. For some, it is the Apostles Paul, Peter or John.  For others, it may be Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards. Contemporary examples of theologians and pastors worthy of respect include R. C. Sproul and John MacArthur.  

However, it is wise to remember that theirs is a borrowed light. We respect these men, and others like them, because they pointed us to the Light of the Word; Jesus Christ. May each of us, as believers in Christ, have the same vision.

Soli deo Gloria!

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