Why Are People Worth So Much?

Tuesdays with Edwards!

Jonathan Edwards saw people as being of infinite value because every human being was personally, intentionally, and thoughtfully created by God. In this selection from a sermon he delivered at the ordination of Jonathan Judd titled The Great Concern Of A Watchman For Souls, Edwards sets up the high calling of a minister and sets the tone for the seriousness of that calling by showing the preciousness of every individual person has in the sight of God that a minister has in their care. Here Edwards begins to explain how he believed this worked out. I won’t be surprised if you end up wanting to read the whole thing. It is well worth it…it is one of my favorites, truth be told!

This selection is from The Great Concern Of A Watchman For Souls in Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758, ed. Wilson H. Kimnach, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 25 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006) pages 64-65. You can read the sermon in its entirety courtesy of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale here.


God is the creator of men in both soul and body; but their souls are in a special and more immediate manner his workmanship, wherein less use is made of second causes, instruments or means, or any thing preexistent. The bodies of men, though they are indeed God’s work, yet they are formed by him in a way of propagation from their natural parents, and the substance of which they are constituted is matter that was preexistent; but the souls of men are by God’s immediate creation and infusion, being in no part communicated from earthly parents, nor formed out of any matter or principles existing before. The Apostle observes the difference, and speaks of earthly fathers as being “fathers of our flesh,” or our bodies only, but of God as being the “Father of our spirits.” Hebrews 12:9, “Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh, which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?” Therefore God is once and again called “the God of the spirits of all flesh,” Numbers 16:22 and Numbers 27:16. And in Ecclesiastes 12:7, God is represented as having immediately given or implanted the soul, as in that respect differing from the body, that is of preexistent matter; “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” And ’tis mentioned in Zechariah 12:1, as one of God’s glorious prerogatives, that he is “he that formeth the spirit of man within him.” And indeed the soul of man is by far the greatest and most glorious piece of divine workmanship, of all the creatures on this lower creation. And therefore it was the more meet that, however second causes should be improved in the production of meaner creatures; yet this, which is the chief and most noble of all, and the crown and end of all the rest, should be reserved to be the more immediate work of God’s own hands, and display of his power, and to be communicated directly from him, without the intervention of instruments, or honoring second causes so much as to improve them in bringing to pass so noble an effect. ‘Tis observable that even in the first creation of man, when his body was formed immediately by God, not in a course of nature or in the way of natural propagation; yet the soul is represented as being in a higher, more direct and immediate manner from God, and so communicated that God did therein as it were communicate something of himself: “The Lord God formed man” (i.e. his body) “of the dust of the ground” (a mean and vile original), “and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (whereby something was communicated from an infinitely higher source, even God’s own living spirit or divine vital fullness), “and so man became a living soul” [Genesis 2:7].

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