Tuesdays with Edwards!
Spiritual things appear excellent and glorious things upon the account of the holiness of them to one that has spiritual light. God appears a glorious God to him upon the account, because he is so holy a God, and not only because he is a merciful God, and because he’s been so good and merciful as to pity, and help, and save them. And so Christ is a lovely and glorious Savior in his eyes, because he is the Holy One of God; and the way of salvation appears an excellent way, a desirable, lovely way to him, because it is so holy a way.
An hypocrite may be in some sort affected with some other of the attributes of God, as for instance with his goodness. An hypocrite may be affected with it, that God should be so good as to send Christ into the world to undergo so much for sinners. An hypocrite may have a kind of affection to God for his goodness to him, for his being so kind. He may suppose that God greatly loves him, that he is very dear to God, and may have an affection to God upon that account; that is, that natural gratitude in men that may be wrought upon, and work men up to a high degree of affection to God and to Jesus Christ. They may be affected with the thoughts of the dying love of Christ.
But an hypocrite can’t see the glory and excellency of the holiness of God and Christ, and of the gospel. He don’t love God for his holiness. They don’t delight and rejoice in the way of salvation by Christ, because ’tis an holy way. Holiness in the eyes of one that is spiritually enlightened is the chief beauty of all divine things: God and Christ [are] ravishingly beautiful upon the account of their infinite holiness. Holiness is the chief beauty of the way of salvation: holiness is the beauty of the Bible: holiness is the beauty of God’s commandment: holiness is the beauty of heaven that makes it seem a pleasant and happy place in the eyes of one that sees by a spiritual light.
Satan can no more easily imitate anything else in divine light than this, and that for these two reasons: first, because holiness is that which is most contrary to his nature; and second, then he can find no natural principle in men to work upon here; for holiness is the very thing that the corrupt nature of man is at direct enmity against. There is nothing so opposite to Satan’s nature as holiness, and that is nothing so opposite to the corrupt nature of man. There is a principle of nature to work upon to affect a man with the good, viz. a natural principle of gratitude; but there is no natural principle to draw his heart towards the holiness of God.
Jonathan Edwards, “False Light and True,” in Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738, ed. M.X. Lesser, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 19 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).139-140.