When I conceived the Jonathan Edwards Conference for this fall, I had in mind a great all-church event for Bethlehem that we could share with others from around the country. There is room for over 3,000. I love the thought of many of us drinking from the same fountain of God-enthralled truth that Edwards saw 300 years ago. I think it would mightily empower us for our life and ministry together. So I invite you and urge you to register for the conference on October 10-12 (Friday evening through Sunday morning) at the Minneapolis Auditorium.
One of our heroes, J. I. Packer, will speak on "The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion." This is crucial because Edwards was the human kindling that God used to ignite the explosion of faith we call The Great Awakening in New England in the 1730s and '40s. Edwards was a pastor who exulted in the glory of God and the greatness of salvation through Christ. The Spirit fell in 1734. It spread through the Colonies. It was a sovereign work of God. Man could not bring it, and man could not sustain it. It came and it went as God willed. But Edwards believed there was a connection between the doctrines he preached and God's will to come in such converting power. J. I. Packer will take up this connection between the glory of God and Revival for our day. Oh, that God might do it again!
Iain Murray, from Scotland, has written one of the finest biographies on Edwards. I read it several years ago with joy and great encouragement. I recommend it to all. He will speak on "Jonathan Edwards: The Life, The Man, and the Legacy." No one tells a good biographical story like Iain Murray. I have listened to many of his tapes for the sheer joy of his personal and powerful way of narrating a man's life with penetrating insight.
Sam Storms, who teaches at Wheaton, will lift us into one of Edwards' most lofty themes: "Joy's Eternal Increase: Edwards on the Beauty of Heaven." So many people know Edwards only because of his famous sermon on hell, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." The record needs to be set straight: he knew heaven better than he knew hell. He had one foot already there. And what he saw was breathtaking.
He had his flaws. I am sure they will come out in the four seminars. Sherard Burns on "The Riches of Edwards for All Races" will show how to winnow the good from the bad in the life of an imperfect man whose stance toward slavery in his day was ambivalent. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., will explain "How Jonathan Edwards Got Fired, and Why It's Important for Us Today." Edwards was dismissed after he had served his church in Northampton the same number of years I have served Bethlehem (23). Don Whitney, who has written very popular books on the spiritual disciplines, will apply that wisdom to Edwards: "Pursuing a Passion for God Through Spiritual Disciplines: Learning from Jonathan Edwards." And Noël Piper will give us a window on the Edwards Home: "Sarah Edwards: Jonathan's Home and Haven."
One thing I especially look forward to is that on Friday and Saturday nights Mark Dever will do unrehearsed interviews with the speakers in a question-and-answer format that gets more personal and maybe more controversial. Best of all will probably be the God-entranced worship with 3,000 people who long to see and savor Christ.
I hope you will think it is worth it. Pray for us to be filled with the Spirit and with Truth.