The Boundless Grace of God to Sinners

This is from Edwards' sermon "Glorious Grace" (composed and delivered in 1722 in New York City). It has been updated for today's readers. Compare with the original below. The entire sermon has been updated and can be found in Many Mansions, Glorious Grace, and Christian Knowledge.

 

Just after creation, mankind was happy, and if he’d wanted to, he could have stayed that way for all eternity. He wasn’t forced to fall into sin but succumbed to it willingly. Had he not rebelled against God, he wouldn’t have been driven away from the garden like an unworthy wretch. But he chose the way of disobedience and was consequently forced from paradise.


God had been so kind to him, pouring blessings into his life. He was appointed as the head over the lower parts of creation, a ruler over all other creatures. God had planted a garden for him that was designed for his delight and joy, and God would have fixed him in a place of eternal happiness, so long as he obeyed the easy command of his Maker—only one very reasonable command.


But, although God had blessed him with all these wonderful things, Adam rebelled anyway. He turned away from God and turned to the devil. Why? He had a wicked ambition to be a god himself. He refused to be content as a mere man even though he was in such a happy condition, and thus he became a renegade against God’s authority.


Only a God of boundless grace would have entertained thoughts of recovering mankind in this condition. Anybody else would have been far too provoked by man’s disobedience to care about rescuing him. Anybody else would have left the man in the miserable state which he had brought upon himself, abandoning him to suffer the punishment he deserved. Anybody else would have discarded him into the hands of the devil, since that is where the man had thrown himself. If he would not be content in the arms of his Creator, then anybody else would have resolved to help him no more.


But God is full of boundless grace. He did not abandon mankind, though man deserved nothing but harsh treatment. Instead, God’s grace moved him to consider ways of saving his lost creation.


This fact is even more amazing when we remember that God has no need of us at all. He doesn’t even need our praises. He has enough glory and praise within himself to be fully and eternally satisfied. The great King neither needs nor desires any additions to his happiness.

But for the sake of argument, suppose he did need his creatures to worship him. Even then, he still would not need our worship, especially in our fallen and sinful state. Remember, he has thousands and tens of thousands of angels who worship him. If that were not enough angels, he could easily create more. Truly, God did not plan to save sinful human rebels because he somehow needed us.


Actually, God would have been perfectly just had he planned to punish all of us for all of eternity instead of planning to save us. Had he done that, he could have easily created some other type of being that would have been more perfect and glorious than man. These beings could have sung his praises eternally without fail.


God could have done all of these things, but instead he decided to save fallen humanity. He had no need of us, no obligation to us, and plenty of other options besides us, but he planned our redemption anyway. This is glorious grace!

 

Edwards Original: The entire sermon can be read at The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University.

 

First. It was of free grace that God had any thoughts or designs of rescuing mankind after the fall. If there had not been an immense fountain of goodness in God, he would never have entertained any thoughts at all of ever redeeming us after our defection. Man was happy enough at first, and might have continued so to all eternity, if he would; he was not compelled to fall. If he had not willfully and sinfully rebelled against God, he would never have been driven forth, like an unworthy wretch, as he was. But although God had been so overflowing in his bounty to him as to make him head over the lower creation and ruler of all other creatures, and had planted a garden on purpose for his delight, and would have fixed him in an eternal happiness only on the reasonable condition of his obeying the easy commands of his maker; but yet notwithstanding all, he rebelled and turned over, from God to the devil, out of a wicked ambition of being a god himself—not content in that happy state that he was in as man—and so rebelled against God's authority.


Now who but God of boundless grace, would not have been provoked, after this, to leave him as he was, in the miserable state into which he had brought himself by his disobedience; resolving to help him no more, leaving him to himself and to the punishment he had deserved, leaving him in the devil's hands where he had thrown himself, not being contented in the arms of his Creator; who, but one of boundless grace, would ever have entertained any thoughts of finding out a way for his recovery?


God had no manner of need of us, or of our praises. He has enough in himself for himself, and neither needs nor desires any additions of happiness, and if he did need the worship of his creatures, he had thousands and ten-thousands of angels, and if he had not enough, he could create more; or, he could have glorified his justice in man's eternal destruction and ruin, and have with infinite ease created other beings, more perfect and glorious than man, eternally to sing his praises.

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