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Jonathan Edwards on 1 Corinthians 13, Part 1



This past Sunday I introduced the message on 1 Corinthians 13 talking about Jonathan Edwards and his teaching on this passage during the Great Awakening. Here's more on that from a paper I wrote for my D. Min. seminary research project paper (this is part 1, with part 2 to follow). Click here for a more print-friendly version (5 pages in PDF followed by end notes) or click here for the rest of the audio and video message from last Sunday.








Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) is widely recognized as “the most influential American-born theologian of the 18th century.”[1] He has been called colonial American’s foremost revivalist.[2] As a “spiritual giant” on the landscape of church history,[3] no less than Martyn Lloyd-Jones said if he compared the Puritans to the Alps, and the Reformers to the Himalayas, he’d compare Edwards to “Mount Everest … this great peak pointing up to heaven,” which made him studying Edwards feel like a weak “little climber”[4] (much more so, this student writing this paper!).  Edwards is also regarded as the foremost philosopher in early America, and his extensive writings have impacted both evangelical and neorthodox movements.[5]  Even those in a 21st century youth movement who embrace the doctrines of grace can be seen sporting a “Jonathan Edwards is my homeboy” T-shirt.[6]


The most recent encyclopedia at a public library describes him as “the leading intellectual figure in colonial America.”[7] An earlier encyclopedia entry concludes: “Certainly the most able metaphysician and the most influential religious thinker of America, he must rank in theology … with Calvin … [with] Hume as the great English philosophers of the eighteenth century, and with Hamilton and Franklin as the three American thinkers of the same century of [wide] importance.”[8] In the last half century, scholars have literally written thousands of dissertations, theses, monographs, journal articles, book chapters, studies, and other works related to this 18th century Puritan, and “Dozens of conferences have been convened … hundreds of papers [read on Edwards] at the meetings of scholarly societies. Newer Edwards study centers have been established in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Poland, and South Africa …”[9] But his international impact began with his descendants born after him in this nation:

"From Edwards came a large and distinguished progeny: three hundred clergymen, missionaries, and theological professors; 120 college professors; 110 lawyers; more than sixty physicians … thirty judges; fourteen presidents of universities; numerous [leaders] in American industry; eighty holders of major public office; three mayors of large cities; three governors of states; three U.S. senators … and one vice president of the United States. It is hard to imagine that anyone else has contributed more vitally to the soul of this nation"[10]


While much can be said about his legacy in other areas, “Edwards is one of the most significant names in the history of American preaching,”[11] which is where this paper will focus.

A Yale University professor specializing in this study asks: “Why is Jonathan Edwards universally regarded as America’s greatest Protestant preacher?” While most famous to school children for his picturesque sermon on hell and God’s wrath, “Sinners in the Hand of Angry God,”[12] this professor notes that actually and more consistently over time, “‘Heaven’ and ‘love’ were the two most important words in Edwards’s sermons and he struggled weekly to bring those realities into the consciousness of his hearers. Edwards was far more concerned that his congregation come to a saving knowledge of God through an awareness of the beauty of God’s great and powerful redemptive love for them.”[13] These primary emphases of his come through Edwards’ sermons on love in 1 Corinthians.[14] This paper will analyze these sermons by 1) the audience and historical setting, 2) the argument, and 3) his application to Christ in conclusion.


The Audience and Historical Setting of this Sermon Series


In 1729 Edwards began pastoring the largest church in New England outside of Boston, the historic church in Northampton that had been pastored by his grandfather Solomon Stoddard.

Contrary to some portrayals of him as a stern and angry preacher, “personally he was warm and affectionate. And that is important to notice: warm affections were crucial for Edwards.”[15] Some have criticized Edwards as reading his sermons dryly in monotone, without gesture or animation, and with notes close to his face, or staring at the church bell rope in the back. But that “cannot be substantiated by the records which are extant. No clear eye-witness account exists that supports this tradition …  Like other preachers used mightily in the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards impacted lives, in part … by speaking directly to the people—urging them to act upon the message which came from a Sovereign God.”[16] His legacy for preachers is not in reading of sermons, but in blood-earnest pleading to sinners, compelled by Christ’s love (2 Cor. 5:14-21). 


The first revival of what was later known as the Great Awakening forms part of the historical backdrop for Charity and its Fruits. Edwards believed that in a six-month span (1734-36), more than three hundred in his town were brought to Christ, and soon most of the town’s adults were true Christians, as were many young people.[17] In a community of 1400 residents, Edwards received about 100 new believers into membership before one communion service, and another 60 at another, and spiritual transformations began in surrounding communities as well.[18] As Edwards preached on the gospel themes of original sin, justification by faith, and the sovereignty of God, there was indeed a great awakening in many to see their need as sinners before a holy God, and a quickening to what he called “religious affections.” In his own words:

"The Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in and wonderfully work among us ... Presently ... a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world, became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and of all ages. The noise among the drybones waxed louder and louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things were soon thrown by ... The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared pressing into it. The engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances. It was then a dreadful thing amongst us to lie out of Christ, of danger every day of dropping into hell ... and the work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more. Souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ."[19]


Through 1736 the Northampton church experienced this season of revival and growth that required a new church building to accommodate their bulging congregation, and this was completed in 1737. But with that growth of so many new believers came growing pains within the church body,[20] including a lack of charity that affected their unity and harmony. In 1738 from April to October, Edwards departed from his usual practice of topical or textual sermons to instead preach consecutively for several weeks through 1 Corinthians 13 in a series aimed in part to correct cold externalism.[21] This was the only time in his ministry he preached through a chapter verse-by-verse, much less did he ever preach through a biblical book that way,[22] but apparently he changed his pulpit approach in part as he didn’t see his people changing.


By the late 1730s Edwards was facing the disconcerting reality that … [despite the Great Awakening] many of his parishioners were returning to their old ways of greed and constant infighting … In response, Edwards preached … in attempts to correct the course his people were taking …  I Corinthians 13 seemed almost tailored for the town since its fourth and fifth verses (“charity envieth not,” etc.) addressed the very vices that so conspicuously plagued the ingrown community. Departing from his usual practice of choosing texts widely to suit various sermon topics, Edwards followed the order of the verses in I Corinthians, spending five sermons working through each phrase of verses four and five. The spirit of love of the truly regenerate, he emphasized to the Northamptonites, was the opposite of (in a sermon for each) envy, pride, selfishness, anger, and censoriousness.[23]


            By God’s grace this series on charity would bear fruit in their congregation, and another wave of revival would come, into the 1740’s (and with it, his famed Enfield sermon and the preaching of Whitefield). Later in his ministry, Edwards faced much difficulty and opposition, but the love of 1 Corinthians sustained him to his farewell sermon in 1750, where after much personal injury and unkind opinions were shared of him, he kept preaching to them the themes of this chapter: “Never think you behave yourselves as becomes Christians, but when you sincerely, sensibly and fervently love all men of whatever party or opinion, and whether friendly and unkind, just or injurious, to you, or your friends, or to the cause and kingdom of Christ.”[24]


The Argument of Edwards in Charity and Its Fruits


How Edwards Defines Charity


The argument of Edwards necessarily begins by defining both “fruits” and “charity” (from KJV of 1 Cor. 13). “Charity was a drumbeat everywhere in his work … By charity, Edwards sometimes meant tolerance, a welcoming spirit, and a Christian [disposition] toward friend or foe regardless of opinion … At other times he meant the kind of all-encompassing love (agape) that accompanies the experience of grace and binds congregations, communities …”[25] Charity and Its Fruits are “charitable” speaking and thinking,[26] not the “charity” of giving alms to the poor, or a modern “charity” such as a non-profit organization. The argument of Edwards is that charity in 1 Cor. 13 is a divine love, manifested in all believers by love for God and their fellow man.[27] It’s love from Him, to Him, and through Him to others. Rather than a mere cross-stitch of verses for a home, or a moralistic good rule for mankind, he argues agape in 1 Cor. 13 is God’s love in Christ He produces in those He saves, as a proof they are saved. The importance of a right definition of love and Edwards’ contribution to it is needed today, as DeYoung notes:

"love gets reduced to sentiment, sympathy, and Oprah-fied versions of acceptance and affirmation. By contrast, the love Edwards extols [in Charity and Its Fruits] is rich with theological reflection on the Trinity … love that only makes sense in the world of thought shaped by the whole counsel of God. Cheap imitations of biblical love … plunder the booty of traditional Christian vocabulary and employ [“love”] in such a way that everyone from Dolly Parton to the Dali Lama will nod in agreement. Edwards tells a different story, reminding us that heaven is a world where Trinitarian wrought, cross bought, sorrow easing, wrath appeasing, Christ-centered, church focused, overflowing, inexhaustible love wins."[28]


How Love Includes Affections and Feelings


Edwards doesn’t argue for love in sentimental or syrupy language, but nor does he explain love as an action of the will, rather than affections, or a choice rather than feeling. Affections and actions are linked to Edwards.[29] He’s concerned in love’s “purity of Christian feeling” and argues that there must be this feeling of love in the heart to be a Christian.[30] He later infers in the same volume “in pure love to others (i.e. love not arising from self-love), there’s … a disposition to feel, to desire, and to act as though others were one with ourselves.”[31]


Edwards clarifies agape “properly signifies love, or that disposition or affection by which one is dear to another” and it’s a “sweet disposition and affection of the soul,” but this love does need to be accompanied with convictions, and it’s not the feigned affection he says one might read “in a romance.”[32] Keeping with Edwards’ argument that 1 Cor. 13 is about God’s love in Christ produced by salvation, and as a proof of it, his 3rd sermon (on v. 3) notes that men may make sacrificial choices, do charitable actions, and “great performances … without sincere Christian love in the heart” and there must be saving “sincere love to God in the heart” or it’s in vain.[33] The introduction gives a scriptural summary of how charity is used in the book, as the Lord’s love that marks believers and makes them by grace to love the Lord and their neighbor.


How This Christian Love is Divine Love


'Love is the first outgoing of the renewed soul to God, “We love him because he first loved us.” It is the sure evidence of a saving work of grace in the soul, “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” It lies at the very foundation of Christian character; we are “rooted and grounded in love.” It is the path in which all the true children of God are found; they “walk in love”; the bond of their mutual union, their hearts are “knit together in love”; their protection in the spiritual warfare, they are to put on “the breastplate of love”; the fullness and completeness of their Christian character, they are “made perfect in love”; the spirit through which they may fulfill all the divine requirements, for “love is the fulfilling of law”; that by which they may become like their Father in heaven, and fitted for his presence, for “God is love” and Heaven is a world of Love.'[34]


This divine love is Trinitarian in its source and sustaining power, as the chief biographer of Edwards sums up how this relates to his broader thinking and writing:

"The Charity sermons, simple and practical, as they were, stood close to the heart of Edwards’ theological enterprise. The very essence of reality, he emphasized … was the intertrinitarian love of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit … to extend that love to other, imperfect beings … they would partake in the fountain of love that overflowed from the perfect love of the triune divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for each other … It followed, then, that evidences of love (or their absence) were the best test [of] … real Christian experience.”[35]


By the “fruits” of charity, Edwards draws on this metaphor of nature to picture charity as “the stock on which all good fruit grows.”[36] He also appears to deliberately use Paul’s language in Galatians 5:22.[37] Edwards scholar Kyle Strobel notes in his introduction to these sermons on charity: “Any talk about charity and its fruits, therefore, will parallel a discussion concerning the fruit of the Spirit … whether the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 is a menu of generally related items or an actual list of the ways the one fruit—love—plays itself out in the life of the believer (as joy, peace, patience, etc.).”[38] Edwards asserts “All the fruit of the Spirit, upon which we are to lay weight as evidential of grace, is summed up in charity or Christian love.”[39]

"What persons very commonly mean and understand by charity in their common conversation is a disposition to hope and think the best of persons, and to put a good construction on their words or behavior … But these things are only certain particular branches or fruits of that great virtue of charity … that charity in the New Testament is the very same as Christian love … by charity here we are doubtless to understand Christian love in the full extent of and with regard to all the objects of it, whether it be exercised towards God or our fellow creatures."[40]


The Northampton pastor begins in sermon 1 with charity/love as “the sum of all virtue,” and he asserts this doctrine “All that virtue which is saving, and distinguishing of true Christians from others, is summed up in Christian or divine love.” He then goes on to connect saving faith explicitly with love from Galatians 5 also (v. 6), where Paul states what counts to God is “faith working through love.” Edwards deduces (rightly in this student’s view) that love is the most essential and distinguishing ingredient in true saving faith, as opposed to demons who believe and tremble (as they don’t love the Lord as Savior).[41] As a recent summary of this classic work says, it “expounds true religion in its most practical expression. It brings us to the heart of God. It examines our heart.”[42] The argument of Edwards is indeed in keeping with Paul’s final chapter to the Corinthians exhorting such self-examination and application (2 Cor. 13:5, 11).


Edwards begins to speak of love for God, and how it’s exercised: having a high esteem of God, choosing God above all other things, desiring God, and delighting in God. Edwards is at his best as he speaks of God’s glory being enjoyed by holy affections, or the love that in v. 6 “rejoices in the truth” of God, which redounds to His glory.[43] He returns to “Christian love to man” within the doctrinal heads of this one sermon, but he has already begun to move Godward in this section, appealing in his applications to the “beauty and pleasantness … the loveliness of the ways of God.” He asks readers if you hunger and thirst after, love and long for and live for this?[44] 






[1] F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds., “Edwards, Jonathan,” in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 536.


[2] Richard Lischer, The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching, Augustine to the Present (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 120.


[3] Michael Haykin, “Jonathan Edwards and His Legacy,” Reformation and Revival 4, no. 3 (Summer 1995): 64.


[4] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors. Addresses Delivered at the Puritan and Westminster Conferences, 1959–1978 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 354–55. For more on Lloyd-Jones’ appreciation to Edwards, see lain H. Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The First Forty Years 1899–1939 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982), 253–54.


[5] Allen C. Guelzo, “Edwards, Jonathan,” in The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 2:67. Notable neorthodox scholars who praise Edwards include Richard Niebhur.


[6] That T-shirt is the cover image of the book by Collin Hansen, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008). Hansen traces the revival of interest in Edwards and his tradition among the young. Compare “The Resolved Conference” for young adults based on the resolutions of Edwards as a young man ( and the writings of Edwards popularized by Desiring God Ministries. See John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1998). This student was heavily impacted by this and its “End for Which God Created the World.” Piper writes “For over thirty years I have been trying to see and savor this God-centered, soul-satisfying, sin-destroying vision” (xiii).


[7] Mark Noll, “Edwards, Jonathan,” in World Book Encyclopedia (Chicago: World Book, Inc., 2007), 114. Warfield said he “stands out as the one figure of real greatness in the intellectual life of colonial America” in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 9:515.


[8] Harry Norman Gardiner and Richard Webster, “Edwards, Jonathan,” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), 9:4. He was also the most prolific author of the colonial era, as no other writer, “not even Benjamin Franklin or George Washington, has generated the literature from dissertations to popular articles and treatments as Jonathan Edwards has,” according to Stephen Nichols, “Jonathan Edwards: His Life and Legacy,” in A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 36.


[9] Nathan A. Finn and Jeremy M. Kimble, A Reader’s Guide to the Major Writings of Jonathan Edwards (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 20. They also note he has been called “America’s theologian” and “America’s Augustine,” and they trace the rise of positive publications regarding Edwards after 1949.


[10] Steven J. Lawson, The Unwavering Resolve of Jonathan Edwards (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 3. For more on the legacy of his family tree, see Elisabeth D. Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), 202–214.


[11] Clyde E. Fant Jr. and William M. Pinson Jr., A Treasury of Great Preaching (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995), 3:45.


[12] Often read in a negative light by American History classes. Note the caricature of this sermon even in Disney movies such as Pollyanna, where the town preacher who didn’t know how to preach God’s love, preached extensively from the manuscript of Edwards with anger and yelling and no gospel call at the end (unlike Edwards).


[13] Ernie Klassen, Revival Preaching: With 12 Lessons from the Preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Morrisville, NC: Lulu Publishing, 2016), 86, citing Harry S. Stout, Jonathan Edwards Professor of History at Yale University. Stout adds in that citation that heaven and love were more dominant meditations and sermon subjects for Edwards while “fire and brimstone … was emphatically not the subject that preoccupied his thoughts … Even a cursory scan of the titles of Edwards’ sermons will make this point forcefully.” Another writer noted “sweetness” has been called the favorite and most frequently recurring word in Edwards’ writing, but arguably “beauty” was Edwards’ most popular theme, according to Fant and Pinson, A Treasury of Great Preaching, 3:54.


[14] Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1969). This is a reprint of the 1852 first edition which was edited by his grandson, Tyron Edwards, sometimes edited quite freely with omissions or additions, as documented in the Yale edition mentioned below. The 2-volume works of Edwards compiled in 1834 do not include this notable work that was not then available. These sermons were published posthumously, as he evidently intended before his untimely death, but not published till 124 years after he preached them. For analysis of differences between the 1852 edits and an argument that copies in the Andover Collection (from earlier in the century) used by Yale are more reliable and true to the original, see Paul Ramsey, “Editor’s Introduction,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Ethical Writings (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 8:104-10.  


[15] This point was unpacked powerfully by Michael Reeves in a lecture to D. Min. students at The Master’s Seminary in 2020. See also Reeves, Theologians You Should Know: An Introduction (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016).


[16] Jim Ehrhard, “A Critical Analysis of the Tradition of Jonathan Edwards as a Manuscript Preacher,” Westminster Theological Journal 60, no. 1 (1998): 83-84. Based on sermon notes, outlines, mnemonic aids in his manuscripts, and testimonies of those closest to him who heard him preach, Ehrhard concludes Edwards didn’t read exclusively or even always rely on notes, and that he spoke powerfully, albeit quite differently than Whitefield. John Carrick, The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008) also debunks that caricature.  Likewise, Iain Murray lists several facts that bring into doubt the characterization of Edwards as motionless and monotone, or alleged minimal eye contact or little rapport with his congregation. See Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), 188–89.  Ehrard’s position is also suggested by Edwards’ scholar Wilson Kimnach in his introduction to the discourses and sermons of Edwards in the Yale Edition of his works, volume 10, contra Peter Marshall, Jr., Alan Heimart, Edward Collins, Lewis Drummond, John Gerstner, etc.


[17] Ezra Hoyt Byington, “Jonathan Edwards, and the Great Awakening,” Bibliotheca Sacra 55, no. 217 (1898): 123.


[18] John F. Thornbury, “Another Look at the 1st Great Awakening,” Reformation and Revival 4, no. 3 (1995): 21.


[19] “A Narrative of Surprising Conversions,” in The Works of President Edwards (New York: Levitt, Trow and Co., 1849), 4:134–35. Italics in original.


[20] Stephen J. Nichols, “Heaven Is a World of Love, Congregations Can Be Full of Strife: The Life of Jonathan Edwards and Handling Conflict,” Reformation and Revival 12, no. 3 (2003): 28-29. This is a very helpful article on the ideals of love that were not always achieved by the best of efforts in this best of preachers. Nichols rightly observes Edwards was not flawless in his handling of conflict, and suggests lessons we can learn from both while pursuing Edwards’ vision of love. For more on the history, see lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), 148–49, and his chapter on “Division and Discord” (201-30).


[21] Matthew Raley, “A Rational And Spiritual Worship:  Comparing J. S. Bach And Jonathan Edwards,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 62, no. 3 (2019): 587. As best this author can tell, Edwards is the only one of the Puritan era to write or preach an extended series through 1 Cor. 13. Compare later John Angell James, Christian Charity Explained (1829).


[22] John D. Hannah, “The Homiletical Skill of Jonathan Edwards,” Bibliotheca Sacra 159, no. 163 (2002): 101. Homiletical skill aside, Edwards’ homiletical style of being usually selective and subject-based in choosing what to preach (with different texts all over the place from week to week) is an area Edwards is not a good model, in this student’s judgment. One could wish God’s blessing on the 1 Corinthians 13 series would have encouraged Edwards to do other verse-by-verse series, to bless the church today. Topical preaching is an area where many in the Puritan tradition unfortunately departed from Calvin’s “consecutive approach—lectio continua—reflect[ing] the ancient Christian practice of preaching through entire books from beginning to end, guaranteeing that he address the whole counsel of God. In this disciplined manner, controversial subjects were unavoidable. Hard sayings were inescapable. Difficult doctrines could not be bypassed. Calvin chose to explain every truth of Scripture as it appeared in the text and to reveal its relevance to his listeners.” Steven J. Lawson, “The Biblical Preaching Of John Calvin,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 13, no. 4 (2009): 23.


[23] George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Biography (London: Yale University Press, 2003), 189-91.


[24] “A Farewell Sermon,” The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Douglas A. Sweeney, eds. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 238. Italics mine.


[25] Ronald Story, “Charity,” in The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia, Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Adriaan C. Neele, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017), 84.


[26] Ken Sande, “Judge Charitably,” in Journal of Biblical Counseling, Number 1, Fall 2002 21 (2002): 14..


[27] Italics in this student’s definition. For the nuance of this love as “holy love,” and for more explanation of what Edwards means by this, see Bruce W. Davidson, “Not From Ourselves: Holy Love In The Theology Of Jonathan Edwards,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 59, no. 3 (2016): 575.


[28] Kevin DeYoung, “Heaven is a World of Love,” (accessed May 29, 2021).


[29] He elsewhere described his preaching like this: “I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.” Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards - The Great Awakening, Volume 4 edited C. Goen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 387. Italics added.


[30] Works, 8:251, 396: “There are no evidences of a title to heaven but in feeling that which is heavenly in the heart. … heavenliness consists in love. Therefore the way to have clear evidences [assurance of heaven as your own] is to live a life of love, and so seek the continual and lively exercises of such a spirit” – in other words to love as we ought, we must seek to cultivate and exercise the feeling of love where it’s lacking in our actions of love.


[31] Ibid., 8:589.


[32] Ibid., 8:129, 8:136, 8:336. Italics added to emphasize love is both Godward and manward in 1 Cor. 13.

For more on distinctions between affections, see Edwards, Religious Affections (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1961).

[33] Sermon 3 of Charity and Its Fruits, doctrine I and II.


[34] Tyron Edwards, “Introduction,” in Works of Jonathan Edwards, 8:126. Italics in original and quotation marks designate phrases from scripture expounded in Charity and Its Fruits, and the final phrase is his final sermon.


[35] Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, p. 190-91. Edwards himself will fill this image out in depth and beauty of imagery in sermon 15 of Charity and Its Fruits.


[36] Jonathan Edwards, Works of Jonathan Edwards, 8:351.


[37] “But the fruit of the Spirit is lovepatience, kindness …” (note the same Greek words in italics from 1 Corinthians 13:4, italics added). All scripture citations, unless otherwise note, are from the ESV.


[38] Kyle Strobel, “Introduction,” in Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love, edited by Kyle Strobel (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 23. This edition is based on the Andover text in the Yale edition, rather than the 1852 first publication edited by Tyron Edwards. Note the singular rather than plural “fruits” in Galatians 5:22, which leads this D. Min. student to think of love as the fruit that is further defined as patient, kind, gentle, self-controlled, etc. Edwards himself cites Galatians 5:22 on p. 23, 94, and 97 of the Crossway reprint above.


[39] Paul Ramsey, “Editor’s Introduction,” in Works of Jonathan Edwards, 8:109, hereafter Works. This page notes that the Yale Edition’s earlier manuscript copy from the Andover text has the singular “fruit” whereas the 1852 edited text (published by Banner of Truth and others) has “fruits of the Spirit.” The “evidential of grace” language Edwards applied to charity/love in the above quote evokes his other works on “distinguishing marks” and “religious affections” that accompany saving grace, which he will develop in 1 Corinthians 13 as well.


[40] Jonathan Edwards, “Charity and Its Fruits,” in Works, 8:129-30.


[41] Ibid., 8:131, 139-40. Edwards doesn’t here cite these references but see James 2:19, John 13:34-35, 1 Cor. 16:22, etc. (cf. repeated statements in 1 John about loving brethren as a chief way to know eternal life is yours).


[42] Daniel Chamberlin, Love and its Fruits: Jonathan Edwards’ “Charity and its Fruits” Summarized for the 21st Century (self-published by Kindle Direct Publishing, 2020), 1.


[43] Compare what Jonathan Edwards wrote in his “Miscellanies” (private notebook, a-500): “God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Thomas Schafer, vol. 13 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994), 495, italics in original. This in turn inspired the memorable motto of Desiring God Ministries: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” (and to which, Edwards might add in this sermon, “in His love”?). John Piper connects this with divine love in God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God’s Love as the Gift of Himself (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005) and chapter 4 on love in Desiring God (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2003) where he interacts with Edwards’ view on self-seeking love in 1 Cor. 13.


[44] Charity and Its Fruits, Strobel ed., 213-23. Strobel adds this from Edwards on p. 220: “Divine love, as it has God for its object, may thus be described: ‘tis the soul’s relish of the supreme excellence of the divine nature, inclining the heart to God as the chief good” (Edwards, “True Grace,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1743-58, 173). Compare this rejoicing in the truth of God

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