Edwards and Self-Examination: Remembering Life Without Christ

We read in Ephesians 2:11-12 (ESV),

“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.”

Paul, encouraged the Gentile believers to constantly remember their estate before Christ. He wanted them to remember their hopelessness, so they could marvel at God’s amazing grace (see Ephesians 2:8-).

We, like the Gentile believers, are in need of remembrance. How easy is it to forget that we were once lost, completely blinded by sin, and spiritually dead! We are all prone to this forgetfulness. Which is why we need to obey Paul’s exhortation to remember.

I am currently reading through Iain Murray‘s biography on Jonathan Edwards. It is, second only to the Bible, my favorite book. I love Jonathan Edwards, and I am always personally challenged when I read about his life.

As I was reading, I came across this reference to Edwards’ dairy. Though it is long, I think it is helpful to reproduce here for our own edification. May we, as we read Mr. Edwards’ words, be propelled to contemplate on our own wickedness in order to marvel at the majestic grace of God. Edwards writes,

Often, since I lived in this town, I have had very affecting views of my own sinfulness and vileness; very frequently to such a degree as to hold me in a kind of loud weeping, sometimes for a considerable time together; so that I have often been forced to shut myself up. I have had a vastly greater sense of my own wickedness, and the badness of my heart, than ever I had before my conversion. It has often appeared to me that if God should mark iniquity against me I should appear the very worst of all mankind-of all that have been, since the beginning of the world to this time, and that I should have by far the lowest place in hell.

My wickedness, as I am in myself, has long appeared to me perfectly ineffable, and swallowing up all thought and imagination; like an infinite deluge or mountains over my hear. I know not how to express better what my sins appear to me to be than by heaping infinite upon infinite, and multiplying infinite by infinite. Very often, for these many years, these expressions are in my mind, and in my mount, ‘Infinite upon infinite…Infinite upon infinite!’ When I look into my heart, and take a view of my wickedness, it looks like an abyss infinitely deeper than hell.

I have greatly longed of late for a broken heart, and to lie low before God; and, when I ask for humility, I cannot bear the thoughts of being no more humble than other Christians. It seems to me, that though their degrees of humility may be suitable for them, yet it would be a vile self-exaltation in my, not to be the lowest in humility of all mankind. Others speak of their longing to be ‘humbled to the dust’, that may be a proper expression for them, but I always think of myself, that I ought, and it is an expression that has long been natural for me to use in prayer, ‘to lie infinitely low before God.’ And it is affecting to think, how ignorant I was, when a young Christian, of the bottomless, infinite depths of wickedness, pride, hypocrisy and deceit, left in my heart.

(Jonathan Edwards in Iain Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008 reprint), 101-102.

This kind of self-examination is needed. We need to remember what we were, but before Christ saved us and even after He saved us. We are all creatures of His exquisite grace, and were it not for His wonderful grace we would all perish under the righteous wrath of God.

Paul, shortly after penning the words found in Ephesians 2:11-12 (ESV), writes “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

Hallelujah! What a Savior!





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