Jonathan Edwards, Enthusiasts and the Brownsville Revival

This was going to be part of the review of Authentic Fire, but this bit of research ended up taking me longer than I thought.  Thanks to the people who pointed me to various resources for doing my research.  If my Authentic Fire review becomes an e-book at some point, this will likely be one of several appendixes.

 

I’m getting rather tired of charismatics calling on Jonathan Edwards to the defense of any number of absurd “manifestations” of the Spirit.  I first encountered the “Summon Forth the Edwards!” argument 2 decades ago and I’ve run into it continuously ever since.

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In my recent review of Authentic Fire by  Michael Brown, I encountered it again.  I noticed that Dr. Brown regularly reads his Charismatic experience back into the writing of Edwards and thus finds support where there would have been serious condemnation.  Dr. Brown frames the debate with some rather subtle rhetorical slight-of-hand says things like this:

To explain the background to this book, we need to remember that it is common during times of revival for there to be intense and unusual physical and emotional responses to the Spirit’s work, such as weeping, crying out, shaking, falling into trances, and the like. These can be disruptive, alarming, and unsettling, and not all of this activity can be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Is it demonic? Is it simply emotionalism? Or is it a genuine response to the Spirit? (Authentic Fire, Kindle Locations 2002-2005).

Now let’s unpack the statement “it is common during times of revival for there to be intense and unusual physical and emotional responses to the Spirit’s work, such as weeping, crying out, shaking, falling into trances, and the like…”

1.  When he’s talking about weeping, he’s likely talking about stuff like what happened at Brownsville; stuff that Dr. Brown himself experienced like what you see from 41:25 – 45:25: (or more, if you desire):

That kid has remorse over sin, but nowhere do you hear any evidence of repentance.  He thought he was a sinner and then God gave him a vision of a bunch of people, and then…that’s it.  Then he starts talking about bringing “revival” back to his home town.

Watch the following kids and listen closely.  The stories are similar.  There’s remorse over wrong, or admittance that there were hardened hearts, but no understanding of what needs to happen (outside of “revival” needing to be brought to their hometowns).  That’s not biblical repentance over sin; that’s remorse evidencing guilt.  Sure, they’re children and not professional theologians, but notice how Dr. Brown doesn’t correct them.  Instead, he yells “yes Lord” and asks “do you feel like you’re getting along with God a little better now?” (49:10)  Dr. Brown asks for fasting and prayer and talks about fruit but doesn’t help those kids move on from the pure emotion of the moment.

I weep for those kids.

I’ve been one of those kids: standing in front of a crowd facing tremendous pressure, sharing some experience I don’t understand and embellishing it due to the applause, being told by some “prophet/pastor” that I’m now closer to God because of it, being anointed with oil and receiving a “word from the Lord” that I would do something amazing for him in my home town/another town/another country/etc.

I’ve watched dozens of hours of Brownsville video by now and I’ve yet to see any clear conviction of sin and repentance.  I’ve heard lots of people mentioning other people’s sin, or recognizing that they were”sinners”, but recognition is not repentance.

That’s not what was happening in Edwards’ day:

– In the Journal of the life of David Brainerd (here’s one of the best introductions to the man I know of), Brainerd writes:

September 1. Preached to the Indians here from Luke 14:16-23. The Word appeared to be attended with some power, and caused some tears in the assembly.  Afterwards, preached to a number of white people present, and observed many of them in tears, and some who had formerly been as careless and unconcerned about religion, perhaps as the Indians.

September 4. Rode fifteen miles to an Irish settlement, and preached there from Luke 14:22, “and yet there is room.” God was pleased to afford me some tenderness and enlargement in the first prayer, and much freedom as well as warmth in sermon. There were many tears in the assembly: The people of God seemed to melt, and others to be in some measure awakened. Blessed be the Lord that lets me see his work going on in one place and another.

September 5. Discoursed to the Indians from the parable of the sower; afterwards, conversed particularly with sundry persons, which occasioned them to weep and even to cry out in an affecting manner, and seized others with surprise and concern; and I doubt not but that a divine power accompanied what was then spoken. Sundry of these persons had been with me to Crossweeksung, and had there seen, and some of them, I trust, felt the power of God’s Word in an effectual and saving manner. I asked one of them, who had obtained comfort and given hopeful evidences of being truly religious, why he now cried? He replied: when he thought how Christ was slain like a lamb, and spilt his blood for sinners, he could not help crying, when he was all alone; and thereupon burst out into tears and cries again. I then asked his wife, who had likewise been abundantly comforted, wherefore she cried; she answered, she was grieved that the Indians here would not come to Christ as well as those at Crossweeksung. I asked her if she found a heart to pray for them, and whether Christ had seemed to be near to her of late in prayer, as in time past (which is my usual method of expressing a sense of the divine presence). She replied: yes, he had been near to her, and that at some times when she had been praying alone, her heart loved to pray so that she could not bear to leave the place, but wanted to stay and pray longer.

September 8. Discoursed to the Indians in the forenoon from John 12:44-50; in the afternoon from Acts 2:36-39. The Word of God at this time seemed to fall with weight and influence upon them. There were but few present, but most that were, were in tears, and sundry cried out under distressing concern for their souls.

Notice how in an average week of his ministry, Brainerd saw weeping occurring in three contexts: (1) in response to the sermon and concern for one’s soul, (2) in reflection upon the death of Christ for sinners, and (3) in recognition of sinners being hardened against the gospel.  No mention of revival or various manifestations.  No mention of the outpouring of the Spirit in anything besides the conscience being quickened to the word that was preached.

Brainerd_preaching

What about Crossweeksung, the place that he mentions favorably?  What happened there?

October 5. Preached to my people from John 14:1-6. The divine presence seemed to be in the assembly. Numbers were affected with divine truths, and it was a season of comfort to some in particular.

Oh, what a difference is there between these and the Indians I had lately treated with upon Susquehanna! To be with those seemed like being banished from God and all his people; to be with these like being admitted into his family, and to the enjoyment of his divine presence! How great is the change lately made upon numbers of these Indians, who not many months ago were many of them as thoughtless and averse to Christianity as those upon Susquehanna! And how astonishing is that grace that has made this change!

Lord’s Day, October 6. Preached in the forenoon from John 10:7-11. There was a considerable melting among my people;the dear young Christians were refreshed, comforted, and strengthened, and one or two persons newly awakened.

In the afternoon I discoursed on the story of the jailer, Acts 16, and in the evening expounded Acts 20:1-12. There was at this time a very agreeable melting spread through the whole assembly. I think I scarce ever saw a more desirable affection in any number of people in my life. There was scarce a dry eye to be seen among them, and yet nothing boisterous or unseemly, nothing that tended to disturb the public worship; but rather to encourage and excite a Christian ardor and spirit of devotion.

Those who I have reason to hope were savingly renewed, were first affected and seemed to rejoice much, but with brokenness of spirit and godly fear; their exercises were much the same with those mentioned in my Journal of August 26, evidently appearing to be the genuine effect of a “Spirit of adoption”.

After public service was over I withdrew (being much tired with the labors of the day), and the Indians continued praying among themselves for near two hours together, which continued exercises appeared to be attended with a blessed quickening influence from on high.

I could not but earnestly wish that numbers of God’s people had been present at this season, to see and hear these things which I’m sure must refresh the heart of every true lover of Zion’s interest. To see those, who very lately were savage pagans and idolators, “having no hope, and without God in the world”, now filled with a sense of divine love and grace, and worshiping the “Father in spirit and in truth”, as numbers here appeared to do, was not a little affecting; and especially to see them appear so tender and humble, as well as lively, fervent, and devout in the divine service.

Interesting.  Notice how there was plenty of weeping at Crossweeksung, but yet Brainerd mentions explicitly that there was “nothing boisterous or unseemly, nothing that tended to disturb the public worship”.  Brainerd preached the word of God and people were “affected with divine truths” that led to “a Christian ardor and spirit of devotion”.

We could go on and on (and I’d encourage my readers to pick up The Diary and Life of David Brainerd), but I’ve sufficiently made my point.

Now some will point to that and say “That’s some guy named David Brainerd, not Jonathan Edwards!”

Okay.  What about Edwards?

Edwards(No, not the Olympian…if you aren’t super familiar with Jonathan Edwards, start here.)

Well, his famous sermon Sinners in the hands of an angry God was preached on July 8th, 1741 in Enfield.  The reverend Stephen Williams heard the sermon and wrote in his diary (page 191 of the pdf here):

We went over to Enfield where we met dear Mr. Edwards of Northampton who preached a most awakening sermon from these words, Deuteronomy 32:35, and before the sermon was done there was a great moaning and crying went out through ye whole House . . .“What shall I do to be saved,” “Oh, I am going to Hell,” “Oh, what shall I do for Christ,” and so forth.  So yet ye minister was obliged to desist, ye shrieks and cries were piercing and amazing . . .After some time of waiting the Congregation were still, so yet a prayer was made mand after that he descended from the pulpit and discoursed with the people, some in one place and some in another, and amazing and astonishing ye power of God was seen, and several souls were hopefully wrought upon that night, and oh ye cheerfulness and pleasantness of their countenances…
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So an eyewitness account of his famous sermon talks about moaning and crying out, but the people were crying out to God for salvation and in response to the sermon.  People were overcome by their own sin, having been made to feel the burden of their own rebellion against God, and when Williams says “the power of God was seen”, he directly is addressing the previously mentioned events.  Nobody was falling over as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit.  Nobody was crying out in pain, or screaming in general.  Nobody was shouting “woah!” or jumping around praising God.  People were asking about how to be saved and crying out in fear of divine judgment.
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2.  When he’s talking about shaking and crying out, he’s likely talking about stuff like what happened at Brownsville; stuff that Dr. Brown himself experienced like what you see from 4:02 – 6:40 (or more, if you desire):
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Notice how the woman basically has a seizure, and it’s while she’s trying to share something with the church.  It’s not in response to a sermon, and it’s not out of conviction of sin (that I can, in any way, see).  Does anyone honestly think that the puritans were doing that in church?  (Also, from 0:30-2:00 you hear that woman’s testimony of how she dealt with her “sin”.  Think about her weeping and point 1 and ask yourself, “does a person overcome years of pain from abuse by someone else waving their arm and ‘speaking a blessing’ over them?”  I dare say that’s just another example of an important theological error from a list that is really long.)

And the crying out?  Notice how the guy disrupted the service, jumped around completely ignoring everyone (order and edification, right?), and wasn’t doing so as a result of the preaching, or apparent personal conviction of sin?   Someone was sharing a testimony and that fellow was in his own little world, “letting the Spirit move”.  Does anyone honestly think that the puritans were doing that in church?  (Also note that he spoke in Spanish and Steve Hill gave a rough, uh, paraphrase.  Earthly language with no translation = that’s likely the closest thing to Biblical tongues that church has ever seen…)

That’s not what was happening in Edwards’ day.

3.  When he’s talking about “falling into trances”, he’s likely talking about stuff like what happened at Brownsville; stuff that Dr. Brown himself experienced like what you see from the beginning to around 2:17 (or more, if you desire):

Notice how the woman (same woman from the previous video; she was busy that day…) basically falls over, and it’s while she’s trying to share something with the church.  It’s not in response to a sermon, and it’s not out of conviction of sin (that I can, in any way, see).  Does anyone honestly think that the puritans were doing that in church?

That’s not what was happening in Edwards’ day…but we’ll get to that.

Point of interest #1 – watch from the beginning until 2:17, and notice Kilpatrick’s statement from 2:03-2:17.  Apparently he felt the Holy Spirit hitting the woman but he kept all composure when the Spirit apparently touched him too…is he suggesting that he’s immune to the Holy Spirit when he wants to be?  How exactly does that work?

Point of interest #2 – The woman in that video is Sandee Fields, and her husband’s name is Don; he’s the one talking after 2:17.  Interestingly enough, in those videos they had already been in ministry for 20[ish] years and Sandee talks about how she absolutely hated her church (around 0:24 in “honey where are we from?” 4/4)…and only a short time later in August of 1999 God told them to leave the church to feed the nations and fight world hunger.  In other words, in their lives the ultimate fallout was them abandoning the church for a “calling” of social activism towards unbelievers.  What kind of rotten fruit is that when a pastor abandons God’s church to feed starving unbelievers?  Those are hard words, I know, but we have to grow up and face reality: food doesn’t save sinners…and they don’t mention the gospel anywhere on their website, nor do they have any indications on their Facebook page or on the Youtube channel that they share the gospel with the people they feed.  I know these comments will make me a monster to some, but at some time we have to grow up and start asking the real hard questions.  Is social activism synonymous, in any way, with the gospel?  No.  Not for a second.  Will social activism be help either the giver or receiver before the Lord?  No.  Not for a second.  Doug and Sandee fields were betrayed by their theology and betrayed by Brownsville; they didn’t hear God tell them to leave the church and abandon gospel proclamation because God cannot tell anyone to do that; God’s biggest priority is the gospel and the center of his spiritual economy in the world is the church. (If I have to somehow prove something that obvious with biblical texts, ask me in the comments).

So what then about Edwards?  What was going on in his day?  Were people weeping, crying out, shaking, and falling into trances?

Well, I’ll restate what I’ve already written on this idea here.

Michael Brown says that Sarah Edwards “…sometimes fell into trances lasting hours at a time…” (Kindle Location 4413)

Well, according to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale, I’d suggest that she didn’t. The term “trance” only occurs in the entire extended corpus of Jonathan Edwards 12 times, and none of those references refer to Sarah being in a trance.  What’s interesting is that in Jonathan Edwards’ Letters and Personal Writings (page 120, Vol. 16), we find this interesting quote of when the recent seminary graduate Samuel Buell came to town to fill Edwards’ pulpit while he was away:

“Mr. Buell continued here a fortnight or three weeks after I returned: there being still great appearances attending his labors; many in their religious affections being raised far beyond what they ever had been before: and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects. But when the people were raised to this height, Satan took the advantage and his interposition in many instances soon became very apparent: and a great deal of caution and pains were found necessary to keep the people, many of them, from running wild.”

Interesting.

People fell into a “sort of trance” for up to twenty four hours, having their senses locked up but being very active in their imaginations.  They apparently had glorious visions of “delightful objects”, which doesn’t mean that they actually went to Heaven in a vision but were consumed in the thoughts of heavenly things…and it mostly turned out in people “running wild”.  Not necessarily a great testimony…

Going Crazy

…but that’s not the end of it.

In case there is some question about the specific nature of what happened while Jonathan Edwards was away and Samuel Bell was preaching.  Good thing Sarah Edwards wrote down her own original account of her “trance” experience.  It is here (starting on page 171).  Go read it, and pay close attention to what she says.

I dare you.

Hmmm.

Did Sarah Edwards experience her trances at a church service? No.

Did Sarah Edwards experience her trance as a response to music or prayer or preaching? No.

Did Sarah Edwards experience convulsions? No.

Did Sarah Edwards lose self control?  No.

Did Sarah Edwards lose her strength to stand up?  Yes, though she could still sit in a chair.

Did Sarah Edwards lose the ability to speak?  No…in fact, she discusses how she actually couldn’t stop talking about the glories of Heaven to anyone who was nearby.

There’s absolutely no parallel between what was happening to Sarah Edwards and what was going on at Brownsville.

None.

So let’s wrap this together:

Did people weep over their sin, during Edwards’ preaching?

Certainly.

Did people cry out during Edwards’ preaching?

Certainly.

Did people shake in response to Edwards’ preaching?

Certainly.

Did people fall into trances or do anything beyond that, like “fall out in the Spirit” (slain in the Spirit), speak in ecstatic speech and claim it was the spiritual gift of “tongues”, laugh hysterically, jerk around uncontrollably, etc. in response to Edwards’ preaching?

NO. 

Did people shake, cry out in pain, or weep as a demonstration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit?

Again, NO.

There was was both a limit of acceptability and a different explanation for the manifestations during Edwards’ day.  Michael Brown and the other charismatics who claim precedent for their “manifestations” on the basis of Jonathan Edwards are simply trying to make certain activities look far more spiritually respectable than they really are.

Flower Chi

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “Imagining Jonathan Edwards at Brownsville” Unger

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18 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards, Enthusiasts and the Brownsville Revival

  1. Hi,
    My AOG youth pastor took us down to Brownsville back in August 1997. Just before the start of my freshman year. That was the first time I was “slayed” in the Spirit, but I knew I pretty much fell on purpose, b/c everyone else was falling. I couldn’t tell you what Steve Hill preached, I wasn’t there for the preaching I was there for the “anointing”. I remember having a conversation with my youth pastor asking him in essence “How can I slay people in the Spirit” that’s pretty much what I got out of Brownsville ala Simon in Acts 8. I do remember people falling everywhere, Steve Hill and other leaders running around slaying people and spending 12 hours a day waiting in line before the “revival” started.
    Fruit? When our youth group got back (probably 25 of us went) we were placed in the front of the sanctuary (large church around 1,000) to show everyone how to “passionately” worship. That lasted a few weeks along with the the anointing. Many of the kids who went down there in Summer 1997 are sadly backsliders (as the AOG would call them). I would say false converts since many haven’t returned to the Lord. I even had a period of rebellion for about 8 years. My foundation was so wobbly, not rooted on God and His Word but rather on experiences and speaking in tongues.
    Do you know why tongues and these experiences are so stressed in the charismatic/pentecostal movement? Arminian Soteriology. Since they believe you can lose your salvation at any time, you desperately need to have experiences or encounters to validate your salvation (if you still have it). I suffered immensely in my early walk b/c of this mentality. I can’t tell you how many times I had to “rededicate” my life b/c of the sins I committed that week. Eventually, you get tried trying to perfect yourself “by your flesh” you become a two-fold son of hell. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known the past 15 years who (judging by experiences/so-called gifts of the Spirit) were “solid” believers who now hate God. Sad.
    Great blog. Spent hours upon hours reading through your guys review of “Authentic Fire”. Fantastic stuff. I imagine it took plenty of precious hours to write those reviews, it was well worth it, trust me. Many charismatic/pentecostal people will google “authentic fire review” and will be directed to this blog and the Cripplegate reviews. Keep up the good work, there are tons of people in those movements who are looking for answers to the crazy stuff they see, to the so-called prophecies they hear, and the bad preaching they sit through (like me who was in the AOG for 15 years), but by God’s grace (mainly by the internet and blogs like this) I was graciously brought out of the Pentecostal movement. Soli Deo Gloria!!

  2. Sorry to wander off topic, but Bryan hit the nail on the head regarding Arminian doctrine, which I think is at the root of many of the problems of the modern evangelical church. I have seen first hand the damage that comes when the church seeks to appeal to the culture and the world in the hope that they may just get them in the door so they can ‘convince’ them to be a Christian through human wisdom. These churches are on a hamster wheel of appealing to people’s latest whims and it never stops spinning until the hamster dies and/or the wheel runs out of grease. Reliance on the Bible as God’s inspired word and it’s prescribed method of conversion (Holy Spirit working in the heart of the elect to convict them of their sin through the preaching and public reading of the Word and pointing them to Christ for the Glory of God) is considered passe and something to be avoided as it may offend the conversion ‘target’s’ man based sensibilities and hurt the church’s attendance figures. The problem is you can never continually please all these fickle people, because they are, well, fickle and sooner or later they leave if they don’t get what they want. All glory be to God for his electing of sinners to be redeemed by grace in Christ Jesus. If a doctrine seeks to take even a mite of glory away from the creator of the universe, is that a minor doctrinal difference or a heresy a la the snake in the garden?

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  5. Eegads, returning from a break in potty training my littlest one to catch up on your blogs, and…oh my.. Those videos were heart breaking, and it disturbed me to the core. To be honest, the first thing I thought when I saw the young man crying out to the father in Spanish is that Satan is the “father of lies” and he seeks to counterfeit Gods glory. The people falling down reminded me of the times in the Bible demons tried to throw down those they possessed, trying to harm them. I can’t say if those people were influenced demonically or just faking it, but either way it had an appearance of evil.

    Maybe I am being too harsh, and if so, I’ll step back, but what I saw was not edifying or glorifying the God I have come to know and faithfully try to serve…

    May God free those people and may their eyes be opened..

    • Thanks for the thoughts Abby. Potty training? I’m doing that with my oldest right now too!

      It IS hard to see some of that stuff and wonder how it could not be demonic. I don’t know what is or what isn’t, but I do know what the Bible says about those sorts of “manifestations” and those certainly don’t look like what I see in the Bible.

      • Oh man, hang in there with the potty training! It can be rough at times…dont crack under the pressure..the end is sooo worth it. (Pun…yes, intended ha)

        And you are right, I think I did misspeak and I apologize. I was second guessing myself while I was writing it and should have thought more on it before commenting.

  6. Hello Everyone…my name is Sandee Fields and I am the Pastor’s wife on the video…the video that changed my life and the lives of countless people. We traveled for 5 years holding meetings all over the United States and watched God save and deliver soooo many people. We had alter calls at every service and experienced the loving, mighty hand of God upon those present. Salvations in every single meeting. We are feeding nations now and the salvations are numerous. Sorry to rain on your gossip parade. Should of been there before you make any comments about what did or didn’t happen in people’s lives. Good day!

    • Greetings Sandee, thanks for coming through and giving us some feedback. I’d love it if you could explain a little bit, from your perspective at least, the whole series of events in the videos and the subsequent fall out. If I’m way off and missing the mark biblically speaking, or if I’m essentially lying about you, I do need to be corrected whether I want it or not.

      I’m actually unsure how I’m not allowed to critique something without witnessing it; I’m guessing that you do that all the time (i.e. disagreeing with someone over an event you lack personal firsthand knowledge of), but I also know that when people critique something personally meaningful to anyone, it’s very abrasive and comes across as personally judgmental no matter how the language is couched.

      I also don’t know how I was gossiping about you…well, I’m guessing that you’d suggest I was lying/bearing false witness about what happened or the subsequent fall out or something. I’m curious as to where that is exactly?
      – Am I wrong to suggest that you left church ministry behind somewhere in the vicinity of 1999?
      – Have I missed some obvious place anywhere on your web presence where you explain the gospel that accompanies your food distribution? (I scoured your various websites and didn’t find anything)

      I did my best to cite you (or paraphrase accurately), and I honestly bear no ill will toward you. We’re in rather stark theological disagreement (i.e. you know that many people made professions of faith, but you cannot possibly know if anyone has actually been regenerated by the Holy Spirit as an outcome of your work…nobody has assurance of salvation for people other than themselves…), but I’m also neither angry or loathsome towards either Don or yourself.

      If you’re willing to take a step to interact, I’ll do my absolute best to be respectful and as gracious as I know how. I don’t know if your comment was a drive-by comment or if you’ll ever return here, but I hope that you do.

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  8. Hello friend,
    Maybe it really is helpful to some in the Charismatic movement to show them their folly, which I also believe it is, and haven’t seen an exception yet in it. But I am a little sad that those I would more naturally identify with seem to have discarded all immediate spiritual experience. John Macarthur, the doyen of the non-charismatic reformed movement, claims never to have felt the presence of God and that all testifying to such supposed experiences is useless. Our heros from the past thought not so. And sadly, one must go to past centuries to find likeminded souls, who, while soberminded, acknowledged there are valid spiritual experiences God vouchsafes to his tried ones from time to time, and spoke about them occasionally to encourage other Christians.

    Those words Song of Sol. 2:1 used to be abundantly with me, I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. The words seemed to me sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found from time to time an inward sweetness, that would carry me away in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart, an ardour of soul, that I know not how to express. – Jonathan Edwards

    Some saints do not expect to see Christ. They read the life of Madame Guyon, and her soul-enchanting hymns, and they say “Ah! a blessed woman this.” They take down the letters of Samuel Rutherford, and when they read them through, they say, “Enchanting epistles! a strange, marvellously good man this.” It does not enter into their heads that they may be Madame Guyons, and that they may have as much nearness to Christ, and as much enjoyment as Samuel Rutherford. We have got into the habit of thinking the saints gone by stand up in elevated niches for us to stare at them with solemn awe, and fancy that we can never attain to their elevation. Brethren, they are elevated certainly, but they beckon us to follow them, and point to a something beyond; they invite us to outstrip them, to get greater nearness to Christ, a clearer sense of his love, and a more ravishing enjoyment of his presence. You do not expect to see Christ, and therefore you do not see him, not because he is not there to be seen, but because your eyes are holden through your unbelief. – Spurgeon

    • Dan,

      I’m glad that you do find some merit in uncovering error in parts of Christianity that give it a welcoming home.

      But who discards all “spiritual experience”?

      I dare say that you seem to have swallowed up some vague vocabulary and allowed certain people to inject a foreign idea into certain terms and concepts.

      What people like MacArthur discard is cultivated and artificial euphoria that wrongly claims to be “an inward sweetness” or “wrapt and swallowed up in God”.

      Neither Edwards nor Spurgeon ever thought that an unusually sweet sense of closeness to Christ was the actual manifest presence of God in some new or novel way.

      I find my soul wrapt in delight in the Lord from time to time…but I’ve learned that such ab experience is far different from the delight one gets from a great Def Leppard concert.

      Chase Christ wholeheartedly, and enjoy the times when your devotion and prayer make him exceedingly sweet and near to you.

      Don’t confuse that with falling down and spasming in church or speaking in ecstatic speech.

  9. Mennoknight, no confusion – I don’t see God in any of the charismatic phenomena today, as I said. But don’t hear much if anything in detail from the non-charismatic reformed leaders about true spiritual experience either.
    If you are familiar with reformed preachers (non-charismatic types only, as I have no interest in charismatic nonsense) today who say things like the following please let me know who they are as I would like to correspond with them. I would be greatly in your debt in you could direct me to them 🙂

    We will this evening read in the one Book of the Bible which is wholly given up to fellowship; I allude to the Book of Canticles. This Book stands like the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and no man shall ever be able to pluck its fruit, and eat thereof, until first he has been brought by Christ past the sword of the cherubim, and led to rejoice in the love which hath delivered him from death. The Song of Solomon is only to be comprehended by the men whose standing is within the veil. The outer-court worshippers, and even those who only enter the court of the priests, think the Book a very strange one; but they who come very near to Christ can often see in this Song of Solomon the only expression which their love to their Lord desires.

    We shall need this same word of comfort whenever the Lord graciously reveals himself to us. His glory is such that we are not able to bear much of it. Its very sweetness overpowers the heart. Saints have had to ask for a staying of the intense delight which seemed to overbear their natural faculties. Those who have enjoyed those transporting manifestations can quite understand why John has written, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.” An awful delight—or shall I say a delightful awe?—throws the man upon his face. John had lain in Jesus’ bosom, and yet, when he had a clear manifestation of his glorified Saviour, he could not bear it till his tender Friend laid his hand upon him, and said, “Fear not.” So will it be with each of us when we are favoured with the visits of the Well-beloved, we shall greatly need that he should say to us, “It is I, your Brother, your Friend, your Saviour, your Husband; be not afraid. Great as I am, tremble not in my presence, for I am Jesus, the Lover of your soul.”

    I think every child of God must acknowledge how safe he has been when he has enjoyed the divine presence. When you get out of that presence you are liable to temptations which in the divine presence scarcely come to you, or, if they come, they are shaken off as trifles which have no power over you. When we dwell in God the baser passions lie still,—like the beasts in Noah’s ark, they cause no uproar; but when God is gone those baser passions rush to the front, and the inferior appetites and propensities try to get the mastery over us, and cause us all sorts of trouble. While we are in the presence of God, we may safely stand in the midst of wicked men if Providence calls us there, and we shall keep our tongue with a bridle, and baffle all their cunning.

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