Moving Light Is Connected to Seeing and Knowing

One of Edwards' best known works is The End for Which God Created the World. It was published, along with its twin dissertation The Nature of True Virtue, in 1765, after Edwards died. The following devotional is taken from The End for Which God Created the World: Updated to Modern English. Edwards' original is found online at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University. His original of the section quoted below is copied at bottom for easy comparison.


In the following quote, Edwards argues that God's glory is moving light that flows outward and strikes the eyes of people, which gives them knowledge of his glorious attributes and evokes praise from their hearts.

 

The glory of God can be received and viewed by others. As God exhibits his glory, people should behold it. His flowing light emanates outward and finds a relationship with the eyes of recipients. And as they behold his glory, they obtain knowledge of God’s excellent qualities.


Generally speaking, moving light is connected to both seeing and knowing. We see a luminous object by the light that flows from it, and when we see it, we come to know it.


In the Bible, knowledge is often expressed as light. Consider how the term glory regularly implies honor. To honor someone, we must have knowledge of their excellent qualities. Light must shine from them so that we can know the reasons to honor them.


Understanding the connection between glory, honor, seeing, and knowledge is essential when Scripture refers specifically to the glory of God: “But truly, as I live...all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14:21). Bearing in mind the context, here is a paraphrase of that verse: “Every inhabitant of the earth will see the manifestations of my perfect holiness, and my hatred of sin will be displayed before them. Thus, they will observe, know, and honor my infinite excellence.”


We see the same idea here:


Ezekiel 39:21–23 And I will set my glory among the nations, and all the nations shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid on them. The house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God...And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity.

When God communicates his glory, the nations “see” and people come to “know” that he is the Lord. Many other places in the Bible—where God either glorifies himself or is glorified by others—express the same pattern.

 

Edwards' Original


Again, the word "glory," as applied to God in Scripture, implies the view or knowledge of God's excellency. The exhibition of glory is to the view of beholders. The manifestation of glory, the emanation or effulgence of brightness, has relation to the eye. Light or brightness is a quality that has relation to the sense of seeing: we see the luminary by its light. And knowledge is often expressed in Scripture by light. The word "glory" very often in Scripture signifies or implies honor, as anyone may soon see by casting his eye on a concordance. But honor implies the knowledge of the dignity and excellency of him who hath the honor. And this is often more especially signified by the word "glory" when applied to God. Numbers 14:21, "But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord," i.e. all the earth shall see the manifestations I will make of my perfect holiness and hatred of sin, and so of my infinite excellence. This appears by the context. So Ezekiel 39:21–23, "And I will set my glory among the heathen, and all the heathen shall see my judgment that I have executed, and my hand that I have laid upon them. So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God. And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity." And 'tis manifest in many places, where we read of God's glorifying himself, or of his being glorified, that one thing directly intended, is a manifesting or making known his divine greatness and excellency.

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