Jonathan Edwards and True Worship
According to Jesus, “true worship,” the kind of worship God, the Father, is seeking to make, always includes two necessary components. And these two necessary components are feelings for God in our hearts and truth about God in our minds. To offer an illustration of this kind of worship, listen to this account from the personal journal of Jonathan Edwards. Edwards, as some are aware, was a pastor who lived and served during the colonial period of American history. He possessed an extraordinary mind. He was a clear thinker. His preaching and pastoral leadership were instrumental in First Great Spiritual Awakening of the 18th century. In his own words,
“Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure, and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception – which continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour – which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love; to trust Him; to live upon Him; to serve and follow Him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. I have, several other times, had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.”
- Jonathan Edwards, Journals
Though his language may strike us as unfamiliar, the nature of his experience is, I believe, a profound example of true worship. It includes the necessary element of truth. His mind was clearly focused on Biblical truth about Jesus as mediator between God and man. His mind was fixed on Biblical truth about God’s grace and mercy. This is not surprising since Jonathan Edwards was full of Biblical truth.
But his experience may also be accurately described as worship in spirit. That’s because, as his mind is filled with Biblical truth about God, his heart is clearly captured with affections/feelings of joy and pleasure and delight – so much so, that for an hour or so, as far as he was able to judge, he was in a flood of tears. This, according to Jesus, is what true worship is. True worship is both in spirit AND in truth. And Jesus calls every believer (not just a small sub-group) to true worship, i.e., to worship in spirit and truth.
It is right and honoring to God for us to intentionally cultivate earnest, deep, heartfelt affections for God, commensurate to the person God has communicated Himself to be in His Word.
The woman said to him . . . “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus to said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”