Sunday, August 28, 2005

Marriage to a Difficult Man

Although I have no doubt that it may be true, the title of this blog entry does not refer to my wife’s situation but to the “uncommon union” of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards. It is actually the title of Elisabeth Dodds’ biography of Jonathan Edwards. She tells the story of Jonathan Edwards through the perspective of his dear wife, Sarah. As Dodds writes, “A genius is seldom an easy husband.” While it certainly was not easy for Sarah, their relationship was, by all accounts, a model of Christ-like love and affection.

The previously confirmed bachelor, George Whitefield, was so impressed with the Edwards family (“A sweeter couple I have not seen”), and Sarah in particular, that he could write,
Mrs. Edwards is adorned with a meek and quiet spirit; she talked solidly of the things of God, and seemed to be such a helpmeet for her husband, that she caused me to renew those prayers, which for some months, I have put up to God, that he would be pleased to send me daughter of Abraham to be my wife.
Sarah was indeed a remarkable lady.

One of the most touching aspects of their marriage transpired on the occasion of her husband’s untimely death. While Jonathan lay on his death bed, his last words were directed towards his wife,
Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God.

Sarah responded in kind, with a letter to her daughter Esther:

Oh My Very Dear Child,

What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. Oh that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. Oh what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God: and there I am, and love to be.

It is touching that they obviously both loved each other deeply, yet both held their earthly loves in palms open to their heavenly Father to do with as He seemed best.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A Sense of God’s Excellency

In addition to Piper’s mini-biography of Jonathan Edwards that I mentioned earlier on my blog, I have read three full-length biographies of this amazing man. For those interested in Edward’s life, both Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography and George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life are fantastic. Needless to say, I am always interested in reading more about Edwards’ life. I find his person fascinating and his theology deep and compelling. Consequently, I was excited to learn when I began to read Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War that E. Brooks Holifield devotes an entire chapter to my favorite theologian. I have not finished the chapter, yet, but I thought that I would share a paragraph that really caught my attention.

Dr. Holifield writes, “Like his Puritan predecessors, Edwards was interested mainly in a form of knowing that moved the will as well as the understanding. Only through this kind of ideal apprehension, which Edwards described as ‘sensible,’ could a person grasp the beauty of an object, or feel pleasure in it, or have longing for it. Some forms of sensible ideal apprehension grasped only natural objects, such as the beauty of a landscape, but to grasp the beauty of God required an ideal apprehension that was actual (consisting of more than assent to words), sensible (rather than speculative) and spiritual (created by the immediate activity of the Spirit). To know God in this way was to ‘have a sense’ of Gods’ excellency, or of the beauty of God as an end in itself. This intuitive perception of the divine excellency was the deepest form of divine knowledge available to human beings.”

To see and know God in this way is the goal of both my corporate and personal worship. In either case, the Holy Sprit must take the Words of God that are heard or read and make those things real, understandable, and beautiful to my entire being – my mind, will, and emotions. Here is how Edwards states it in his own words:

There is a divine and superlative glory in these things; an excellency that is of a vastly higher kind, and more sublime nature than in other things; a glory greatly distinguishing them from all that is earthly and temporal. He that is spiritually enlightened truly apprehends and sees it, or has a sense of it. He does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart. There is not only a rational belief that God is holy, and that holiness is a good thing, but there is a sense of the loveliness of God's holiness. There is not only a speculatively judging that God is gracious, but a sense how amiable God is upon that account, or a sense of the beauty of this divine attribute.

There is a twofold understanding or knowledge of good that God has made the mind of man capable of. The first, that which is merely speculative and notional; as when a person only speculatively judges that any thing is, which, by the agreement of mankind, is called good or excellent, viz., that which is most to general advantage, and between which and a reward there is a suitableness, and the like. And the other is, that which consists in the sense of the heart: as when there is a sense of the beauty, amiableness, or sweetness of a thing; so that the heart is sensible of pleasure and delight in the presence of the idea of it. In the former is exercised merely the speculative faculty, or the understanding, strictly so called, or as spoken of in distinction from the will or disposition of the soul. In the latter, the will, or inclination, or heart, are mainly concerned.

Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former, that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. There is a wide difference between mere speculative rational judging any thing to be excellent, and having a sense of its sweetness and beauty. The former rests only in the head, speculation only is concerned in it; but the heart is concerned in the latter. When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension. It is implied in a person's being heartily sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is sweet and pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Christ in Psalm 40, Part 3

One final thing to mention about Psalm 40 is the primary interpretation given to it by the author of Hebrews in 10:8-9:

When he said above, You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added “Behold I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. (ESV)

Often the Scriptures will deprecate the sacrificial offerings of man due to the hypocritical nature of the ones offering the sacrifice (e.g., Isa 1:11-15; Amos 5:21-27). Such is not the case here, however. These sacrifices were “offered according to the law” and there is nothing in this passage, either here or in Psalm 40, that would suggest that they were offered inappropriately. This observation is important because it means that even at their best these sacrifices were not ultimately satisfying to God. There was a build in obsolescence to the entire system due to the fact that they were but shadows of an ultimate reality (cf., Ex. 25:9, 40). Old Testament believers received subjective forgiveness and a “passing by” of their sins (Rom. 3:25) but an objective forgiveness did not come until Christ provided the final reality or fulfillment of those sacrifices.

That fulfillment took place when Jesus came and did God’s will. The author of Hebrews says that in so doing, Christ abolished the first in order to establish the second. The exegetical point is the observation from Psalm 40 that when the Messiah comes and does God’s will (i.e., everything written about Him in the scroll of the book), then that action will render the old covenant unnecessary and thus obsolete. Those OT sacrifices along with the whole ceremonial law will be done away with and in its place God will establish a new covenant based on the realities of a perfect and final sacrifice.

Isaac Watts has written two hymns from this section of Psalm 40. I quoted the first of those in a previous post. I would like to conclude this post with his second rendition of this psalm:

The wonders, Lord, thy love has wrought;
Exceed our praise, surmount our thought;
Should I attempt the long detail,
My speech would faint, my numbers fail,

No blood of beasts on altars spilt
Can cleanse the souls of men from guilt;
But thou hast set before our eyes
An all-sufficient sacrifice.

Lo! Thine eternal Son appears,
To thy designs he bows his ears,
Assumes a body well prepared,
And well performs a work so hard.

“Behold, I come,” the Savior cries,
With love and duty in his eyes,
“I come to bear the heavy load
Of sins, and do thy will, my God.

“ ‘Tis written in thy great decree,
‘Tis in thy book foretold of me,
I must fulfill the Savior’s part;
And lo! Thy law is in my heart!

I’ll magnify thy holy law,
And rebels to obedience draw,
When on my cross I’m lifted high,
Or to my crown above the sky.

“The Spirit shall descend and show
What thou hast done, and what I do;
The wondering world shall learn thy grace,
Thy wisdom, and thy righteousness.”

Saturday, August 06, 2005

12-Ball Challenge!

I love these puzzles that have shown up recently in the blogsphere. Ben Wright has had several “Guess the author” games over at Paleoevangelical and Larry Rogier has a logic riddle online now at his blog, Stuff Out Loud. These games are great fun, especially when you can figure out the answer. :)

My favorite puzzle is the one that my father-in-law posed one Thanksgiving dinner prior to my engagement and marriage to his daughter. Somehow we got on the subject of riddles and puzzles, everyone throwing out their own little puzzle when finally my future father-in-law challenged us with his puzzle and claimed that no one would be able to solve it without a hint from him! At the time, I was working as a cryptomathematician for the National Security Agency and I took it as somewhat of a professional challenge. I certainly wasn't going to ask for a hint without giving it a decent try on my own. Daphne and I worked on it together over Christmas as we flew out to California for her to meet my parents but we really didn’t get very far. It was indeed a tough puzzle. I don’t remember how or when but I finally figured out the trick that unlocked the solution. After our trip, I presented the puzzle to several of my colleagues at work, some of them PhD mathematicians. One said it was impossible to solve because it violated Shannon’s law of information theory. This particular individual was not happy when I showed him the solution.

At any rate, then next time I visited Daphne at her home, I sat down with her father and told him I had a solution to his puzzle. With a bit of skepticism, he listened to me as I not only solved the 12-ball problem but showed how it could be extended and solved up to 15 balls. He was both impressed and pleased, I think, that someone was able to solve his riddle. I wasn’t finished, though. I told him that I wanted a reward for solving his impossible puzzle – his daughter’s hand in marriage! Alright, I’m a geek. I admit it. But that is the story of how I secured my father-in-law’s permission to marry his daughter. By the way, his 6-year old grandson, JD, is pretty good at solving puzzles himself now, too.

Oh, here is the puzzle:

You have 12 balls. They are all the same in color and size. They all weigh the same except for one ball. The challenge – find the odd-weighted ball in 3 or less weighings using a balance scale.

You can probably find this on the Internet so no fair using Google!