The “church-camp-high” of the recent Awakening had faded. Pettiness was cropping up again in town. Corrosive greed and damaging indulgence were pulling people away from one another and away from God. What would the pastor, Jonathan Edwards, preach in such disappointing times? First Corinthians 13, the chapter on love. Such is the setting of his fifteenth sermon in the series, “Heaven is a World of Love.”
Edwards takes as his text 1 Corinthians 13:8-10,
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
-1 Corinthians 13:8-10
From this text, the big idea of his sermon is simply, “Heaven is a world of love.” What does this mean? It means that where God is, God’s nature soaks everything around, that where God most is, God’s nature most prevails. As Edwards says,
There this glorious God is manifested and shines forth in full glory, in beams of love; there the fountain overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love (370).
Such a love is the end of pride, for consider the state of the mighty there:
…their superior humility is part of their superior holiness. Though all are perfectly free from pride, yet as some will have greater degrees of divine knowledge than others, will have larger capacities to see more of the divine perfections, so they will see more of their own comparative littleness and nothingness, and therefore will be lowest based in humility….They will love those who are below them more than other saints of less capacity. They who are in highest degrees of glory will be of largest capacity, and so of greatest knowledge, and will see most of God’s loveliness, and consequently will have love to God and love to saints most abounding in their hearts (376).
Oh, what a world that will be, with
…none envying another, but everyone resting and rejoicing in the happiness of every other (385).
Granted the greatness of that day, why dedicate time to remember it today? Edwards goes on in his “Application” section to say,
…what we have heard of the happy state of that country and the many delights which are in it [is] enough to make us thirst after it, and to cause us with the greatest earnestness and steadfastness of resolution to press towards, and to spend our whole lives in traveling in the way which leads thither (393).
This is the truth of the matter: If we have seen the glory of the God who is love and tasted the promise of His unmitigated reign, we will even now set our faces toward that country. We will today set out on the path paved with the same bricks as those blessed streets: Faith, hope, and love. Admittedly,
That glorious city of light and love is, as it were, on the top of an high hill, an elevation which is exalted above the hill, and there is no arriving there without traveling uphill. Though this be wearisome, yet it is worth your while to come and dwell in such a glorious city at last (395).
By living a life of love, you will be in the way to heaven. As heaven is a world of love, so the way to heaven is the way of love. This will best prepare you for heaven, and make you meet for an inheritance with the saints in that land of light and love. And if ever you arrive at heaven, faith and love must be the wings which must carry you there (396-397).
Jonathan Edwards, “Heaven is a World of Love” in Ethical Writings (ed. Paul Ramsey; New Haven and London: Yale, 1989): 366-397.