The Missionary Vision of Jonathan Edwards
Authentic biblical spirituality always produces service and zeal in the life of a Christian. For instance, many consider Jonathan Edwards only as a theologian and pastor and give no credence to the fact that he was constantly concerned with the spread of the gospel around the world. They see his deep commitment to Calvinism and the sovereignty of God as a hindrance to his missionary vision. However, from the time he was the pastor of a small congregation in New York (1722–1723), Edwards’ missionary zeal can be seen in his writings and sermons. Edwards reflects in his Personal Narrative, written probably in 1740. He notes his early days as a believer:
I had great longings for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom in the world. My secret prayer used to be in great part taken up in praying for it. If I heard the least hint of anything that happened in any part of the world, that appeared to me, in some respect or other, to have favorable aspect on the interest of Christ’s kingdom, my soul eagerly catched at it; and it would much animate and refresh me.
…I very frequently used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of Hudson’s River, at some distance from the city, for contemplation on divine things, and secret converse with God; and had many sweet hours there. Sometimes Mr. Smith and I walked there together, to converse of the things of God; and our conversation used much to turn on the advancement of Christ’s kingdom in the world, and the glorious things that God would accomplish for his church in the later days.
Private prayer, conversation with others, and mediation were avenues by which Edwards gained a heart for the spread of the gospel around the world. His Calvinism spurred him to trust enough in the complete sovereignty of God to accomplish the missionary purpose. Edwards’ spirituality was the seedbed that produced a passion and zeal for the nations to be reached with the message of the gospel. If one’s spirituality does not produce such zeal for the mission of Christ, it is good for nothing.