December 1, 2003
Piercing the heart of Job’s God: Jonathan Edwards on Suffering
Resolved: After afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them; what good I have got by them; and, what I might have got by them.
In this resolution, Edwards’ response to suffering perhaps seems cold, distant, analytical. “Inquire” into suffering? People usually want to forget the terrible things that happen to them and move on with their lives. “Better for them?” What good can come out of suffering? Clearly, man can eliminate most suffering today through technology- Edwards just lived at the wrong time. So people just ought to avoid suffering whenever they can. That’s what society, even Christian society, says today, right? Though the resolution may seem cold, as part of the human race, Jonathan Edwards suffered, and continued to suffer, even after becoming a Christian, until the end of his life. He knew the sting of affliction. This response then, comes out of careful study and wrestling with God. After such meditation, he responds to the above objections very clearly, saying that men suffer on account of their sin and God’s wrath and that even when a man becomes a Christian, he not only must still suffer, but must choose to suffer on behalf of Christ, who suffered for him. How can he say this? This paper proposes to get to the heart of the God of Job, Jonathan Edwards, and all the saints who have suffered past, present, and future by first examining how Edwards viewed Christ’s suffering; next, by defining suffering according to Edwards in the suffering both of the unregenerate and of the redeemed saint; and lastly, by taking comfort in the hope and exhortations he offers to the afflicted soul.
“Into Your Hands…”: A view of Christ’s suffering
And [Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Edwards claims, “There are conjoined in the person of Christ infinite worthiness of good, and the greatest patience under sufferings of evil.” In the passage above, Luke tells of the great anguish and sorrow that Jesus underwent even before his final suffering, in contemplating the end for which he had come to earth, namely to suffer for the sake of God’s glory and the salvation of sinful man. Edwards says, “Christ’s principal errand into the world was suffering.” If that is so, then an examination of the sufferings of Christ must prove beneficial to the faith and building up of the body of Christ, who need no other proof than experience to know that they suffer, and suffer greatly. For Peter said, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” An understanding of Christ’s suffering, then, provides the model by which all Christians should conduct their lives and the way in which they should respond to suffering.
The first important thing to remember when considering Christ’s suffering is to remember who Christ is, that neither was it necessary for him to suffer nor did he deserve to suffer. As Edwards wrote,
Our Lord Jesus, in his original nature, was infinitely above all suffering, for he was “God over all, blessed forever;” but, when he became man, he was not only capable of suffering, but partook of that nature that is remarkably feeble and exposed to suffering.
Jesus, as he is God, is in and of himself self-sufficient, depending on nothing outside of himself, being perfectly holy and worthy of good. And yet when he condescended among the men whom he created, and he took on a form that necessarily suffers, both emotionally and physically. In itself, that fact is quite remarkable, and yet, as evidenced by Scripture and Edwards’ analysis, Christ chose and submitted to a suffering of his mind and his body that no man’s suffering has exceeded nor will ever succeed.
Besides the everyday afflictions that Jesus faced (such as hunger or grief at loss, etc.), he experienced the highest suffering in those final hours of his life in which he saw the cup that he had to drink and then suffered its content. Although he is God, Christ underwent agony in his soul as he recognized his calling. Edwards describes his agony in the above passage thusly:
The word agony properly signifies an earnest strife, such as is witnessed in wrestling, running, or fighting. And therefore in Luke xiii.24. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able;” the in the original, translated strive, is agwnizesqe. “Agonize, to enter in at the strait gate.”…So that when it is said in the text that Christ was in an agony, the meaning is, that his soul was in a great and earnest strife and conflict.
Jesus Christ agonized. The Son of God had strife and conflict in his soul. He was not merely a man in his physical being, a human shell embodied with the Spirit of God. He was man in the deepest thoughts and struggles of his heart. All the desires of his humanity cried out to God that there might be another way, and yet he did not sin. With his affections ever melding with the heart of God, he strove to understand and to submit to the will of God. And Christ’s agony in the garden produced evidence for men and freedom for Christ, as Edwards points out,
Christ was going to be cast into a dreadful furnace of wrath, and it was not proper that he should plunge himself into it blindfold, as not knowing how dreadful the furnace was. Therefore that he might not do so, God first brought him and set him at the mouth of the furnace, that he might look in, and stand and view its fierce and raging flames, and might see where he was going, and might voluntarily enter into it and bear it for sinners, as knowing what it was.
Had he not known what it was that he was to suffer, one might plausibly say that Jesus had been duped- he had been a poor pawn in the eternal plan. Men might sympathize with his sufferings, but such sentiments would condescend the glorious power that Christ possessed. Because he saw the things to come, Jesus had the power to willingly suffer them.
Certainly Christ had the power to lay down his life, and yet what purpose overpowered his fleshly entreaties that he might have another way? Edwards answers that Jesus “chose rather that the inclination of his human nature, which so much dreaded such exquisite torments, should be crossed, that that God’s will should not take place.” Though he agonized greatly in viewing the hill he must climb, Jesus’ view of the weight and overpowering magnitude of God’s will changed his agonizing. Edwards says,
It is that God’s will might be done in that glory to his own name that he intended in the effects and fruits of his sufferings, that in seeing that it was his will that he should suffer, he earnestly prays that the end of his suffering, in the glory of God and the salvation of the elect, may not fail.
And it was that Christ saw that “sinners, on whom he had set his love,” might not be saved “agreeably to the will of God” in any other manner, and therefore, “he chose that the will of God should be done.”
And even so, Scripture demonstrates, as Edwards points out, “The sufferings which Christ underwent in his agony in the garden, were not his greatest sufferings; though they were so very great.” After his suffering in the garden, Jesus did not “flee to get out of the way of Judas and those that were with him” nor did he delay his suffering, “but that same hour delivered himself voluntarily into their hands.” And from that moment on, he endured much physical pain and misery at the hands of men until his crucifixion upon the cross upon which he died. To add to this pain, Christ who is worthy above all suffered his pains with an “extraordinary view of the hatefulness of the wickedness of those for whom those sufferings were to make atonement.” Edwards emphasizes his suffering even more when he says,
Christ suffered that which, as it upheld the honour of the divine law, was fully equivalent to the misery of the damned; and in some respect it was the same suffering; for it was the wrath of the same God.
Not only did he suffer at the hands of unworthy men, but at the same time Jesus felt the weight of the wrath of God upon himself. And yet, “Christ had an extraordinary sense of his dependence on God, and his need of his help to enable him to do God’s will in this great trial.”
In Christ, the Christian sees ultimate suffering, in which an innocent and worthy man gave himself up to the torture of wicked men in order that those same men might live through him. Jesus suffered because of their infinite sin and under the direction of God’s will, that determined that he should die in this manner. And though he agonized and struggled over the impending affliction, he submitted to God’s will out of love for God. Edwards describes Christ in this way,
In the person of Christ are conjoined absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation…But yet Christ was the most wonderful instance of resignation that ever appeared in the world. He was absolutely and perfectly resigned when he had near and immediate prospect of his terrible sufferings, and the dreadful cup that he was to drink.
In describing Christ’s response, Edward’s often uses words such as “extraordinary sense,” which implies that ordinary man does not possess such qualities. So then what have men to face their ills and sorrows? Edwards answers that question fully and argues that one must have Christ and his example always at the forefront of the mind. First, however, the Christian must understand the nature of suffering and its causes.
“Why are you downcast, O my soul?”: Suffering defined in human terms
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Why do the innocent suffer?” These questions pop up everywhere and everyone seems to have an answer. So what would Edwards say? Surprisingly, he would not be able to answer that question, because he would say those are the wrong questions to ask, founded upon incorrect theology. A large portion of his theology, as well as reformed theology, emphasizes the idea that one cannot call any man good, for “none is righteous, no not one.” Rather, Edwards found it profitable to explore why the “natural state of man” causes him to suffer, what future suffering he will incur if not saved from his natural state, and why even the regenerate man continues to suffer.
Suffering before conversion
All men suffer in the same manner before their conversion due to their own natures. Edwards says, “As men come into the world, their natures are dreadfully depraved.” To define this depraved nature, he says,
They have no principal that disposes them to anything that is good. Natural men have no higher principle in their hearts than self-love. And herein they do not excel the devils. The devils love themselves, and love their own happiness, and are afraid of their own misery. And they go no further.
Because natural man does not pursue anything that is good, he does not know God, who is perfect goodness, being “ignorant of the excellencies of God as the very beasts.” According to Edwards, “Men are ignorant of God, and ignorant of Christ, ignorant of the way of salvation, ignorant of their own happiness, blind in the midst of the brightest and clearest light, ignorant under all manner of instructions.” And because they cannot see the goodness of God, “they are stupidly senseless of the importance of eternal things” and “will commonly run the venture of damnation sooner than be convinced” about the reality of future things, both heaven and hell. Consequently, “they are without God in the world. They have no interest or part in God: he is not their God: he hath declared he will not be their God.”
In response to the fate of natural men, Edwards asks, “How can a creature be more miserable, than to be separated from the Creator, and to have no God, whom he can call his own God?” The unconverted do not have share in “any of God’s perfections. They have no God to protect and defend them in this evil world: to defend them from sin, or from Satan, or any evil. They have no God to guide and direct them in any doubts or difficulties, to comfort and support their minds under affliction.” Not only that, “the wrath of God abides upon them…There is no peace between God and them, but God is angry with them everyday.” And because they have no God to protect them, “they are liable to the power of the devil, to the power of all manner of temptation.” Furthermore, they are the children of the devil, and “they learn of him to imitate him, and do as he does, as children learn to imitate their parents.” In separation from God, the natural man suffers the consequences of his sin and becomes subject to the devil.
Suffering of the damned in hell
Without the grace of God, those “children of the devil” are bound for suffering far more miserable than their present state. For as a just punishment for their hatred for God, they will be sent to hell at the day of judgment, in which their miseries will only multiply in proportion to their malice toward God. This suffering is one in which the redeemed members of God’s family do not participate, and yet it serves as a reminder of the magnitude of grace which Christ has extended to them and as a tool by which to reach unbelievers.
All men, according to Edwards, suffer on account of their sin and their selfish desires and their separation from their Creator. He goes further in saying that at times, God pours out his wrath upon men on earth, but in a lesser degree than in hell. Such afflictions and judgments “God exercises on ungodly men in this world are warnings to them to avoid greater punishment. God often punishes men very dreadfully in this world; but in hell ‘wrath comes on them to the uttermost.’” In this, he actively punishes their wickedness. At other times, God in his wrath lets them to themselves, and in that “left to undo themselves, and work out their own ruin; he lets them alone in sin.” And in everything, they have the curse of God following them. And yet, all men suffer on this earth and it is difficult to tell whether they are direct judgments from God on the ungodly, or rather the result of a fallen creation. What Edwards says will be unmistakable is the death of the wicked and their eternal damnation.
Death is a far different things when it befalls wicked men, from what it is when it befalls good men; to the wicked it is execution of the curse of the law, and of the wrath of God. When a wicked man dies, God cuts him off in wrath, he is taken away as by a tempest of wrath, he is driven away in his wickedness.
The wicked man is driven away to his eternal suffering in hell.
Before he faces the manifold miseries in hell, the wicked man comes face to face with God. According to Edwards,
He will be made sensible that it is before an infinitely holy and dreadful God and his own final Judge; and will then see how terrible a God he is, he will see how holy a God he is, how infinitely he hates sin; he will be sensible of the greatness of God’s anger against sin, and how dreadful is his displeasure…This will fill the soul with horror and amazement.”
Then God will sentence him to hell, which Edwards emphasizes will, indeed, be eternal misery. He also adds that “eternal punishment is not eternal annihilation.” When the ungodly die, their “being and perception will never be abolished; yet such will be the infinite death of gloominess into which it will sink, that it will be in a state of death, eternal death.” They do not merely cease to exist, but must face eternal suffering. Edwards says, “Since God has undertaken to deal with impenitent sinners, they shall neither shun the threatened misery, nor deliver themselves out of it, nor can they bear it.” As the man on earth cannot completely eradicate his own suffering on earth, even less so will he be able to save himself from the torments of hell, for it “will be so great, so mighty, so vastly disproportioned to its strength, that having no strength in the least to support itself, although it be infinitely contrary to the nature and inclination of the soul utterly to sink; yet it will utterly and totally sink, without the least degree of remaining comfort, or strength, or courage, or hope.” These torments, Edwards describes as follows:
They will dwell in a fire that never shall be quenched, and here they must wear out eternity…And they never shall have any rest, nor any atonement, but their torments will hold up to their height, and shall never grow any easier by their being accustomed to them.
Those in hell will not be able to escape or bear the punishments that await them, after facing the just judgment of the holy God.
When examining Christ’s suffering, Edwards remarks that Christ’s agony was “fully equivalent to the misery of the damned.” And yet he notes that at the same time, Christ’s suffering differed “in nature and degree” from those in hell in four distinct ways. First, Christ “felt no gnawing of a guilty, condemning conscience,” for he had no sin, but was suffering for the guilt of wicked men. On the other hand, wicked men are subject to the guilt of their own sin. Second, Christ was not subject to “the reigning of inward corruptions and lusts,” whereas the damned are tormented through all eternity by their unrestrained lusts which bring upon them unrestrained punishment. Third, Christ saw his future glory, and yet the damned face the ultimate hatred of God. Last, Christ’s suffering had an end after which he ascended on high into eternal glory. But for the damned, there is despair and a knowledge that there will be no end to their misery. So what Christ tasted, the wicked will endure throughout all eternity.
As evident from what has been said about the nature of man in his depraved state, and about the sufferings of man in hell, sin is at the root of suffering and death. It is a heart that has turned its affections from God and God’s judgment upon sin is the ultimate cause of suffering. As Edwards says, “We by our sin have exposed ourselves to wrath, to a vindictive justice.” As stated above, Edwards believed that a view of the sufferings of the damned in hell gives Christians a tool and an incentive to evangelize (but of course, the content of their motive must always be the glory of God). In heaven, such a view will cause the Christian to more fully realize the great grace that has been extended to him. A definition of the sufferings of the natural man and of the man in hell also serves as a contrast of to the suffering of the saint on earth. First, the true saint will never experience the torments of hell, but he will continue to suffer on earth because of the depraved state of creation and his own sin nature. Often, such suffering will not appear different from the suffering of any other man, Christian or not, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” The suffering of the saint on earth can be divided into two categories: his suffering under sin, since he is not yet glorified, and his suffering under the temporal things of the world, such as illness and persecution.
“But if not…”: How should I respond to suffering?
“I don’t have time for pain,” says a recent television commercial, echoing the sentiments of the American mainstream. Edwards, as pastor and fallen man, knew that suffering is real both from experience and from his congregation, as he says,
We live in an evil world, where we are liable to an abundance of sorrows and calamities. A great part of our lives it spent in sorrowing for present or past evil, and in fearing those whish are future. What poor, distressed creatures are we, when God is pleased to send his judgments upon us! If he visit’s a place with moral and prevailing sickness, what terror seizes our hearts! If any person is taken sick, and trembles for his life, or if our near friends are at the point of death, or in many other dangers, how fearful is our condition!
Unlike the televisions commercial, Edwards offers no quick fixes to suffering, but he does point the Christian to the wellspring of compassion and power- Christ. Because man’s suffering springs from his own sinfulness, Edwards says that he must look to the atoning work of Christ and his example when facing affliction. The sorrowing Christian must first think of the worthiness of Christ as his one comfort, must the agonize in prayer with him as Christ did on earth, and then rely upon God’s sufficiency to undergo the afflictions, always working for the glory of God.
The Christian has a worthy comforter and shelter in Christ, for it is Christ that mediates between man and God, and it was Christ himself who suffered on earth for all men, and then purchased for men an eternal comfort and joy in heaven. Edwards says,
There is provision for the satisfaction and contentment of the thirsty longing soul in Christ, as he is the way to the Father; not only from the fullness of excellency and grace which he has in his own person, but as by him we may come to God, may be reconciled to him, and may be made happy in his favour and love.
Christ satisfies the first and foremost suffering among men in their natural state: separation from God. His suffering on the cross “is a way for a free communication between God and us; for us to come to God, and for God to communicate himself to us by his Spirit.” Having pity on men’s souls, Christ died chiefly to relieve “the miseries of men’s souls especially.” Christ is indeed a worthy comfort in the suffering of man in regard to sin, but he remains worthy in all other suffering besides. Christ’s atonement gives the example of the highest suffering, for “there is none on earth or in the heavens that ever has so much experience of sorrow as Christ: therefore he knows how to pity the sorrowful.” Edwards notes that those who suffer often like to tell their afflictions to someone who has experienced that same suffering, and in this, Christ proves the most worthy listener. Christ not only suffered to mediate between God and man, or only to experience suffering, but he is “a compassionate Saviour, who when upon earth, was so poor that he had not where to lay his head, and who became poor to make him [the Christian] rich.” Those riches are the eternal rest in heaven, as Edwards states,
It may to such an one be a comfort and an effectual support to think, that he has a Mediator, who knows by experience what pain is; who by his pain has purchased eternal ease and pleasure for him; and who will make his brief sufferings to work out far more exceeding delight, to be bestowed when he shall rest from his labours and sorrows.
Therefore, Christ has shown himself as a worthy comforter for those who suffer from sin and the world’s miseries in that he is the way to God by his own suffering and has prepared a place for his redeemed family in heaven.
Christ, in his worthiness as God and as a man who has suffered, offers to the Christian an equally worthy peace. He presents a peace that differs from the world’s peace “in that it is unfailing and eternal…It is what no time, no change, can destroy.” Edwards says that Christ establishes his peace in “light and knowledge, in the proper exercises of reason, and a right view of things.” This right view of things recognizes God as the Creator, man as a sinful being redeemed only through Christ, and Christ as the worthy comfort and support of all things. The Christian finds peace in seeing the truth and letting Christ be his strength. “But the peace that the saints enjoy in Christ, is not only their comfort, but it is part of their beauty and dignity. The Christian tranquility, rest, and joy of real saints, are not only unspeakable privileges, but they are virtues and graces of God’s Spirit, wherein his image partly consists.” Edwards also says,
You will not only find those spiritual comforts that Christ offers you to be of a surpassing sweetness for the present, but they will be to your soul as the dawning light that shines more and more to the perfect day; and the issue of all will be your arrival in heaven, that land of rest, those regions of everlasting joy, where your peace and happiness will be perfect, without the least mixture of trouble or affliction, and never be interrupted nor have an end.
In heaven, the peace of Christ will be perfected, but for those now on earth, it is still a worthy blessing, which his followers may seek after in him.
Both Christ’s mediation and suffering and his peace are worthy of the Christian’s notice in times of affliction, “therefore, it behooves all to haste and flee for their lives, to get into a safe condition, to get into Christ.” For though man has the “fear and danger of God’s wrath,” Christ has shown the worthiness of his gift of grace. Even as conversion, though, Christians “have so much remains of sin in their hearts [and] are liable still to many troubles and sorrows, and much weariness.” For sin, the Christian may run to Christ and therein find rest for Christ promised that he came into the world to destroy the devil and to rescue his children. But whether it is sin or whether some other sorrow, “God’s people, whenever they are scorched by afflictions as by hot sun-beams, may resort to him, who is as a shadow of a great rock, and be effectually sheltered, and sweetly refreshed.” God’s “power and his wisdom are as sufficient as his purpose, as answerable to his compassions.” Edwards describes Christ in his sufficiency as a river, which may feed one thirsty and yet still provide plenty for those who drink after him- he is never lessened. So the children of God, though weary and burdened, may look to Christ’s worthiness to satisfy their longings, for ‘though the earth be removed, and the mountains carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled; though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof: for God will be their refuge and strength: their hearts may be fixed, trusting in the Lord.”
Once a Christian has considered the worthiness and infinite grace and peace he has in Christ, he must then follow Christ’s example in the garden, and pour out his sorrows in prayer before God, for it is “the character of the Most High, that he is a God who hears prayer.” As Edwards says, “He sits on a throne of grace; and there is no veil to hide this throne, and keep us from it. The veil is rent from top to bottom; the way is open at all times, and we may go to God as often as we please.” When the Christian goes before the throne of God, he acknowledges that it is God’s power that moves situations and other people’s hearts, just as Edwards references Genesis 32, in which God changed the heart of Esau in answer to Jacob’s prayer. According to Edwards, prayer is “ but a sensible acknowledgement of our dependence on him to his glory” and “God requires prayer of us in order to the bestowment of mercy, because it tends to prepare us for its reception.” So a Christian may freely approach God through prayer in times of suffering and misery, as it leads to God’s glory and mercy toward men.
Though a suffering saint might approach the throne of God in earnest prayer, he may not find an immediate end to his suffering or that his prayer will be answered in his own timing or manner. Indeed, God at all times accepts and acknowledges prayers and yet “he exercises his own wisdom as to the time and manner of answering prayer.” Edwards says that just because God hears prayer does not mean “that the particular thing which they ask will certainly be given them,” or that they will know exactly what God will do to answer them. God may choose not to answer the pray immediately, and his delay only benefits his people, in that another time or manner may be the “best and fittest,” for reasons unknown to finite man. Often, men do not ask for what is good for them or may tend toward sin and lust, and so God will not give them that for which they ask, for “if [he] would hear such prayers, he would act as his own enemy, inasmuch as he would bestow them to serve his enemies.” But in his theology of prayer, Edwards maintains his high view of God’s sovereignty, as he says,
The mercy of God is not moved or drawn by anything in the creature; but the spring of God’s beneficence is within himself only; he is self-moved; and whatsoever mercy he bestows, the reason and ground of it is not to be sought for in the creature, but in God’s own pleasure.
Though he may not lean upon their own suppositions, the Christian “may confidently rest in his providence, in his merciful ordering and disposing, with respect to what they ask.” God is a “prayer-hearing God” and yet his answers are done to his glory and in so being, for man’s best interest as well. While the answers may not be what the Christian had in his own mind, he may rest on the promise of Christ’s sufficiency and the faithfulness of God to his own promises, for God will sustain him through his suffering.
Knowing that God is sincere in his promises concerning prayer, the Christian must also be sincere in his manner of prayer, as he observes the example of Christ. As explained previously, Christ agonized in the garden, pouring out his whole heart and soul to God. The Christian should likewise pour out his whole heart to God, wrestling to find understand his will and submit to his providence. As Edwards says,
This should teach us in what manner we should pray to God, not in a cold and careless manner, but with great earnestness and engagedess of spirit, and especially when we are praying to God for those things that are of infinite importance, such as spiritual and eternal blessings.
It is during such “engagedness of spirit” in prayer that God gives the Christian “sweet views of his glorious grace, purity, sufficiency, and sovereignty: and enables [him], with great quietness, to rest in him, to leave [himself] and [his] prayers with him, submitting to his will, and trusting in his grace and faithfulness.” In such a spirit Christ prayed and at the same time submitted God’s will. Concerning prayer, Edwards exhorts the all believers, and in particular those that suffer,
Finally, seeing we have such a pray hearing God as we have heard, let us be much employed in the duty of prayer: let us pray with all prayer and supplication: let us live prayerful lives, continuing instant in prayer, watching thereunto with all perseverance; praying always, without ceasing, earnestly, and not fainting.
Edwards does not say that the Christian’s response to suffering ends with prayer, but rather like Christ, the Christian must submit to God’s will and act in service to God, whether or not the suffering ceases. Christ did not delay his action, but immediately surrendered himself to Judas’ betrayal. While the Christian may not have a clear knowledge of the specific actions which God would have him take, he knows the standards by which God has called all his people to live and may conduct himself accordingly. He must understand that Christ has called Christians to a path with many difficulties, as Edwards says,
And so Christians have a great work to do, a service they are to perform to God, that is attended with great difficulty. They have a race set before them that they have to run, a warfare that is appointed them. Christ was the subject of a very great trial in the time of his agony; so God is wont to exercise his people with great trials.
God may exercise the Christian with trials to make him fit and reliant upon God, or the Christian may suffer the consequences of a fallen world and sinful nature, but in all things he must labor for Christ. “This labour and strife should be, that God may be glorified, and their own eternal happiness obtained in a way of doing God’s will.” Christ, after suffering extreme torment, obtained eternal glory and promises an eternal rest to all those who follow after him. As he exemplified, his way is a way fraught with suffering and yet in all trials and afflictions, the Christian should look to God “for his help to enable [him] to overcome.” He must persevere and “in this way [he] should hold out to the end as sChrist did.” In all things, the suffering Christian must look to Christ’s example and rest on the faithfulness and promises of God, through that power labor amid his suffering for God’s kingdom and his glory.
Edwards demonstrates that Christ, in his agony and execution, experienced suffering in the greatest degree, and at the same time gives Christians the model by which they should conduct themselves through suffering. Man in his natural state suffers as a result of sin, and the unredeemed man suffers even greater torment after his death when he spends eternity in hell. The redeemed man never suffers hell torments and yet still must live in a fallen world, battling sin and other suffering. He must look to the worthiness of Christ and his example, spread his sorrows before God in prayer, and trust in God’s provision to act submissively to God’s will. Finally, Edwards exhorts Christians,
Let us go to Jesus, and seek grace of him, that we may be faithful while we live, and that he would assist us in our great sorrow, that when we also are called hence, we may give up our account with joy and not with grief, and that hereafter we may meet those our fathers, that have gone before us in faithful labours of the gospel, and that we may shine forth with them, as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever.
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