A More Glorious Work

From “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” (1730)

There is an absolute and universal dependence of the redeemed on God for all their good. And, further, God is exalted and glorified in the work of redemption… The redeemed have all their good of God. God is the great author of it. He is the first cause of it; and not only so, but he is the only proper cause.

It is of God that we have our redeemer. It is God that has provided a savior for us. Jesus Christ is not only of God in his person, as he is the only-begotten Son of God, but he is from God, as we are concerned in him, and in his office of mediator. He is the gift of God to us: God chose and anointed him, appointed him his work, and sent him into the world. And as it is God that gives, so it is God that accepts the savior… The redeemed have all from the grace of God. It was of mere grace that God gave us his only-begotten Son…

The grace of God in bestowing this gift is most free. It was what God was under no obligation to bestow. He might have rejected fallen man… Those who are called and sanctified are to attribute it alone to the good pleasure of God’s goodness, by which they are distinguished. He is sovereign, and has mercy on whom he will have mercy… And we are not only indeed more dependent on the grace of God, but our dependence is much more conspicuous, because our own insufficiency and helplessness in ourselves is much more apparent in our fallen and undone state, than it was before we were either sinful or miserable. We are more apparently dependent on God for holiness, because we are first sinful, and utterly polluted, and afterward holy. So the production of the effect is sensible, and its derivation from God more obvious… We are more apparently dependent on God for happiness, being first miserable, and afterwards happy…

We are dependent on God’s power through every step of our redemption. We are dependent on the power of God to convert us, and give faith in Jesus Christ, and the new nature. It is a work of creation: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature,” ( Cor. 5:17). It is a more glorious work of power than mere creation, or raising a dead body to life, in that the effect attained is greater and more excellent. That holy and happy being, and spiritual life, which is produced in the work of conversion, is a far greater and more glorious effect, than mere being and life. And the state from whence the change is made — a death in sin, a total corruption of nature, and depth of misery — is far more remote from the state attained, than mere death or non-entity.

It is by God’s power also that we are preserved in a state of grace. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation,” (1 Pet. 1:5). As grace is at first from God, so it is continually from him, and is maintained by him, as much as light in the atmosphere is all day long from the sun, as well as at first dawning, or sun-rising. We are dependent on the power of God for every exercise of grace, and for carrying on that work in the heart, for subduing sin and corruption, increasing holy principles, and enabling to bring forth fruit in good works. We are dependent on divine power in bringing grace to its perfection, making the soul completely amiable in Christ’s glorious likeness, and filling of it with a satisfying joy and blessedness; and for the raising of the body to life, and to such a perfect state… These are the most glorious effects of the power of God, that are seen in the series of God’s acts with respect to the creatures…

We may here observe the marvellous wisdom of God, in the work of redemption. God has made man’s emptiness and misery, his low, lost, and ruined state, into which he sunk by the fall, an occasion of the greater advancement of his own glory, as in other ways, so particularly in this, that there is now much more universal and apparent dependence of man on God… All the glory evidently belongs to God, all is in a mere, and most absolute, and divine dependence on the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And each person of the Trinity is equally glorified in this work: there is an absolute dependence of the creature on every one for all: all is of the Father, all through the Son, and all in the Holy Ghost. Thus God appears in the work of redemption as all in all. It is fit that he who is, and there is none else, should be the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the all and the only, in this work.

Hence those doctrines and schemes of divinity that are in any respect opposite to such an absolute and universal dependence on God, derogate from his glory, and thwart the design of our redemption. And such are those schemes that put the creature in God’s stead, in any of the mentioned respects, that exalt man into the place of either Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, in anything pertaining to our redemption…

Faith abases men, and exalts God; it gives all the glory of redemption to God alone. It is necessary in order to have saving faith, that man should be emptied of himself, be sensible that he is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Humility is a great ingredient of true faith: he that truly receives redemption, receives it as a little child (Mark 10:15). “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of heaven as a little child, he shall not enter therein.” It is the delight of a believing soul to abase itself and exalt God alone: that is the language of it, (Psalm 115:1), “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to your name give glory.”

Let us be exhorted to exalt God alone, and ascribe to him all the glory of redemption. Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in, a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent and self-righteous disposition. Man is naturally and exceeding prone to exalt himself, and depend on his own power or goodness, as though from himself he must expect happiness. He is prone to have respect to enjoyments alien from God and his Spirit, as those in which happiness is to be found…

Yet, if anyone has hope that he is converted, and sanctified, and that his mind is endowed with true excellency and spiritual beauty, that his sins are forgiven, and he is received into God’s favor, and exalted to the honor and blessedness of being God’s child, and an heir of eternal life – then, let him give God all the glory who alone makes him to differ from the worst of men in this world or the most miserable of the damned in hell. If anyone has much comfort and strong hope of eternal life, let not his hope lift him up, but dispose him the more to abase himself, to reflect on his own exceeding unworthiness of such a favor, and to exalt God alone. If there is anyone who is eminent in holiness and abundant in good works, let him take nothing of the glory of it to himself, but ascribe it to God whose “workmanship we are, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.”

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a Congregationalist minister and theologian, whose powerful sermons helped to spark the Great Awakening. “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” was his first published sermon, preached shortly after he became senior minister of the church in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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