Sleeping in Church (Jonathan Edwards)

This is one of those random posts I do specifically for preachers, though it may be helpful for others. I found this via one of my former (and favorite) professors, straight from the Yale archives of Jonathan Edwards, in a sermon on Acts 19:19, entitled When the Spirit of God has been remarkably poured out on a people, a thorough reformation of those things that before were amiss amongst them ought to be the effect of it. Somehow I find this encourage, though perhaps it shouldn’t be.

Could it be that Jonathan Edwards had folks sleeping during his sermons?:

6. The & the Last thing I shall maintain is sleeping

of [mu ting]. There is a thing that as been

found amongst us in times past, but

it may well be Expected that we should [ma stip]

G. with Great Reverance & Diligence since

G. has P. Remarkbaly Poured out his Sp.

upon amongst us.


if that he may [as is effectual] here [ ned]

there is an assembly that appears to be asleep

in their seats in the time of divine savlation marginal

this will be a thing that strangers will observe

those have had what a time there has been

an in the Town. when they [come] have with

naturally take notice how People appear as

their Publick was [sting] whether they seem

there seems to be an Evident & Remarkbabl

diff. between them & other People whether

they seem to Give better oftentimes & to at-

tend with Greater Reverance & dilig. &

whether they dont sleep as much as they

do at other Places if they observe that men

sleep at meeting as much as at other places

It will doubtless bring much discord it will

them an what they have heard of us Let me

theref. Indicate that this [moving] be laughly Re-

formed amongst us & Let I would desire the

that Persons would avoid Laying down than standing

in their seats in time of Publick

as it [stands]

worship tis a very [Inderant] Perfect marginal

& it opposes Persons to Go to [they] a [Gailva]

the Congregation [P asion] to think they are

asleep. & Let neighbors & [but] makes

[useo] [Redieane] to another as to when [Great]

other when asleep. & Let us rember


what it is Like to since G. has been so ab-

undantly mercifull to us Let us Labour

[for] him in a way the most decent &

Reverant manner & in the Becoming of


It would appear that Edwards had folks not only sleeping, but occasionally actually laying down in the pews. Ironically, it is a chapter later in the New Testament, in Acts 20, that we read of someone falling asleep, and falling out of a window, during a sermon of the Apostle Paul.


Banner of Truth Giveaway

Banner of Truth trust is giving away an entire set of Puritan paperbacks, an entire set of Lloyd-Jones’ commentaries on Romans, and Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students. The more referrals you make the more times you can enter the draw. So, by all means, please use my referral link if you’re interested. You have to answer one question. And I’ll give you a hint. Spurgeon was not from Australia or the United States. Here’s my link:

As a Dying Man to Dying Men

There is an article making the rounds in which David Letterman was asked if he ever ‘said a prayer’ before a show. He mentions an interview with Warren Zevon, who, at the time of the interview, had cancer:

I wouldn’t call it a prayer, but I would sometimes have a conversation with myself in the shower before the show. Warren Zevon was on years ago, and we all knew he was dying. I was at a loss because I couldn’t think of an entry point for a conversation with a dying man on a television show that’s supposed to be silly. “How are you doing? You look great!” doesn’t exactly work. I was really dissatisfied with my part of that conversation. I was ill-equipped to connect with a friend who was going through something like that.

Do you find it hard to imagine that a man who conversed for a living had difficulty talking to a dying man?

I spend more time in hospital rooms, and more time praying for the sick in general, than I prefer. But the lack of preference is for their illness, not for the inability to engage. Do you have something more than your wit to give to the dying?

Anyhow, the only reason I bring this up is because it reminded me of a famous quote from Richard Baxter:

I preached as never sure to preach again,
As a dying man to dying men.

Christ is all the comfort we have to give to dying men – and we are all dying men.

Duty to God and Neighbor (Poetry)

I recently discovered an old book by Isaac Watts (who incidentally was the inspiration for this blog) entitled Divine and Moral Songs for Children. There are some interesting poems that you might find helpful for children (or just helpful in general). A couple that I really like have to do with loving God and loving neighbor:

With all thy soul love God above.
And, as thyself thy neighbour love.


Love God with all your soul and strength,
With all your heart and mind:
And love your neighbour as yourself;
Be faithful, just, and kind.
Deal with another as you’d have
Another deal with you;
What you’re unwilling to receive,
Be sure you never do.

You can browse all the poems HERE.

John Owen on the Beatific Vision

This past week, I came across an interesting lecture on how John Owen ‘protestantized’ (or ‘reformed’) the doctrine of the Beatific Vision. That is, he took the teachings of Aquinas and applied and expanded them in order to apply them to his own day. It’s an interesting listen, if you’re in to that sort of thing. Owen’s idea of sanctification through ‘seeing’ Christ has been very influential for my own thinking on sanctification. You can click the link below:

Suzanne McDonald, Beholding God’s Glory: John Owen and the ‘Reforming’ of the Beatific Vision

Depart from Me

In The Great Divorce, Lewis has those famous lines: ‘There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it.’

Long before Lewis penned those words, Ralph Venning (1621-1673) wrote,

What is sin but a departure from God? And what is the doom of sinners but departure from God? It is as if God should say to them, You liked departing while you lived; now depart from me. You would none of me while you lived; now I will none of you or yours.

-Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin, p. 71


The Murder of the Soul

Oh, learn to pity your own soul, for he who sins offends and wrongs God, but also wrongs and destroys his own soul, or, as some read the text, despises his own soul (Proverbs 8.36). Oh, think of it! what! have you no value, no regard for your soul? Will you neglect and despise it, as if it were good for nothing, but to be damned, and go to Hell? Will you be felo de se, a self-soul-murderer? Shall your perdition be of yourself? Oh, look to yourself, for sin, notwithstanding all its flattering pretences, is against you, and seeks nothing less than your ruin and damnation.

-Ralph Venning, The Sinfulness of Sin, p. 37

The phrase ‘soul suicide’ has been banging around in my head for years. I couldn’t remember where I came across the phrase. Then I started re-reading The Sinfulness of Sin and there was the idea: ‘a self-soul-muderer.’

Law and Liturgy

Liturgies of the Western Church, by Bard Thompson, has been invaluable to me over the past few years as I consider the worship of the church. One of the more interesting things I gleaned from this book, with the help of a professor, comes from the liturgy of John Calvin’s churches in Strasbourg and Geneva.

Calvin, following Bucer, emphasized what has come to be known as the ‘third use’ of the law in worship:

In the main, however, as one can see in the liturgy of Grund und Ursach, Bucer used the law as Calvin also used it in worship: not to accuse sinners, but to bring the faithful to true piety by teaching them the divine will and exhorting them to obedience (p. 164).


In his Strassburg text, Calvin appointed the Ten Commandments be sung after Confession, even as Bucer had suggested in Grund und Ursach. Here he employed the Law according to its ‘third and principle use’; not to accuse and convict the sinner (in which case the Commandments would likely precede Confession) but to bring the penitents to true piety by teaching them the will of God and exhorting them to obey. ‘In this way the saints must press on’ (Institutes 2:7:12) (p. 191).

This seems like an insignificant point, but it had a marvelous effect on me. My home-church, for years, had a practice which has recently been changed. I really wish it hadn’t been changed; and I fear the reason it was changed was out of ignorance to this point. Let me explain.

During a service that involved the Lord’s Supper, we would recite the Apostles’ Creed followed by the Ten Commandments. Having learned the intentionality of Calvin’s liturgy, this bore a certain weight with me. I would reflect each service on the glory of faith before obedience, of accepting the gospel as the sole enabling for the keeping of the law, and as the sole source of forgiveness in my constant failure to do so.

The problem lies in the fact that many only see the law as either a) condemning and pointing us to Christ or b) something we can keep in our own strength. The Creed before the Law emphasizes that it is faith in Christ that leads to sanctification; that the gospel enables us to keep the law; that all our power for obedience is derived from what Christ has done for us. It drives us to Christ for forgiveness to be sure, but it also drives us to him to gain strength for obedience.

Calvin’s liturgy began with a confession of sin, yet the creed was sung before the law. This reflects a note that is missing in the modern church: the law condemns us and drives us to Christ, but once it has done so, faith in Christ now empowers us to new obedience. As John Flavel, Samuel Bolton, and others have said: the law sends us to Christ to be justified, and then Christ sends us back to the law to frame our way of life. But he never bids us keep the law under our own power. It is only Holy Spirit-wrought faith in him, living, dying, rising, that will empower us.

This is the indicative before the imperative played out in worship: to confess the faith before reciting the law; to confess our sins, to confess our faith, and then to confess the law anew as believers in Christ. Reciting the law before faith and reciting the law after faith are two totally different things.