The next point in our conversation is the third and shortest point Edwards makes out of the initial eight. Remember that we’re still speaking in terms of negatives, that is to say, we are specifically mentioning examples of signs within works that can’t be used to prove that the effect is not a result of God directly intervening and operating in the lives of men. His third point is listed at the bottom of page 107.
(Quote pg. 107) “ It’s no argument that an operation that appears on the minds of a people, is not the Work of the Spirit of God, that it occasions a great ado (fuss or noise), and a great deal of noise about religion.” He goes on to say
“For tho’ true religion be of a contrary nature to that of the Pharisees, that was ostentatious, and delighted to set itself forth to the view of men, for their applause; yet such is human nature, that it’s morally impossible that there should be a great concern, and strong affection, and engagedness of mind amongst a people, that should be general, and what most of them agree in, yet there be but little said or done that should be publicly observable; or that it should not cause a notable, visible, and open commotion and alteration amongst that people.” (pg. 108)
This point really seems to be addressing a slightly different angle on the previous point regarding bodily effects, mainly the work of God on a collective people group inevitably results in an outpouring of Holy affection that can in no way manifest itself in a quiet and timid way. It would be a violation against the fundamental laws of human nature to assume such a thing to be possible. In respect to his point I believe we’re discussing the larger shift in thinking amongst a group of people who carry the effects of a work into there everyday life. Imagine if 25% – 30% of your city experienced revival. Imagine the level of excitement of those who were converted spilling out into their homes, businesses and places of leisure. This would cause a shift in collective thinking. The nature of casual conversation would change with those around you. Public discourse would be excitedly different and engaging as individuals under the influence of the Holy Spirit desired to share what they now knew with everyone around them. It would be utterly confusing to someone on the outside contemplating the change in the overall atmosphere and disposition of those they’ve known for so long. We must be very careful in our discernment of spiritual works that bring with them much noise and attention though. Pride often masks itself as humble spirituality. Often very open and public displays of humility, like that common amongst the Pharisees, is really a self-righteous display and counterfeit in every sense of the act. The Pharisees displayed prideful and legal humility not a Holy humility born of true saving affection. The root cause of these displays is of paramount importance and if a work is truly of God then the noise and clamor of it will be of a Holy nature and pleasing in His sight. Never the less we cannot discern whether a work is truly born of the Spirit of God or not based on the level of cultural noise and disruption it may cause.
Revival does not happen in an obscure corner. Spiritual and eternal things are superior in every conceivable way compared to fleshly and natural things. No arguments can be made that a work that moves people internally to an extreme degree cannot be an operation of the true Spirit of God. Remember that we should see reactions proportionate to the intensity and importance with which one is inwardly stirred. Edwards rightly asks the question as to how men could encounter something so great only to be moderately moved.
“And when was there ever any such thing, since the world stood, as a people in general being greatly affected, in any affair whatsoever, without noise or stir? The nature of man will not allow it.” (pg. 108)
What Edwards really ends up contemplating is the age old question that began with Jesus’s own ministry, just what exactly is the coming of the Kingdom of God supposed to look like? Jesus was a king yet he wore no crown of gold. His kingdom broke through on Earth and with it he had full authority over everything yet no city was set upon existing ones and no throne was established in any country from which He would rule. To this day when we look at what Jesus has to say about His kingdom men still get confused as to what exactly it entails and what it set in motion for the future. Edwards brings Luke 17: 20-21 and 24 into the picture.
“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The Kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed,nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘there!’ for behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21)
Edwards makes the point that these passages are not referring to the physical establishment of God’s kingdom as described in prophetic events yet to be fulfilled. The Old Testament is full of insight into the specifics of what the coming of the Christ’s Kingdom was supposed to bring with it. The Scriptures told of a coming ruler who would administer justice to the lawless, mercy to whom he chose and salvation to a chronically oppressed and abused people. The establishment of this Kingdom was supposed to set the Israelites free from bondage and oppression at the hands of all God’s enemies. But even as God Himself walked the Earth once more in the person of Jesus with full authority, men were powerless to see the spiritual reality in which God was working. Men are naturally unable to see spiritual implications without the help of God. What men did not and still do not understand is that just because the kingdom of God was not of the Earth that did not mean that it was any less real. God is the God of both the material domain and the spiritual domain. God is sovereign over all. The material Kingdom is in a state of rebellion and it has been cursed because of sin. It is in the midst of this rebellion that the Lord arrived with authority to establish rule setting his future church free from the rule of darkness. He displayed His power and authority by casting out demons and performing miracles verifying His message that through Him and only through Him could men receive salvation. The King was firmly established and although His Kingdom has not yet been consummated, we as Christians are called to bear witness to His rule and reign. We proclaim to the whole world, every ruler down to the last common man, that Jesus is King. We proclaim to the world that all men are subject to the rule of this spiritual kingdom and we specifically point to the events in scripture that detail its arrival.
“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.” (Luke 17:24)
Edwards says that “this is to distinguish Christ’s coming to set up his kingdom, from the coming of false Christs, which Christ tells us will be in a private manner, in the deserts, and in the secret chambers, whereas this event of setting up the Kingdom of God, should be open and public, in the sight of the whole world, with clear manifestation, like lightning that can’t be hid, but glares in everyone’s eyes, and shines from one end of heaven to the other. And we find that when Christ’s kingdom came, by that remarkable pouring out of the Spirit in the Apostles days, it occasioned a great stir and ado everywhere.” (pg. 107-108)
Edwards is making a distinction between the prophetic events of a physical Kingdom of God’s own design being firmly established upon the Earth highlighting that the very nature of just such an event would be impossible not to see, it will be undoubtedly visible, changing with it the state of affairs worldwide while everybody looks on in astonishment. This is not the case with false christs and the manner in which they operate. This is all said in order to make certain distinctions, but it is not said to insinuate that when the kingdom of God initially arrived that there should be no outward visibility of it whatsoever.
“when Christ’s Kingdom came, by that remarkable pouring out of the Spirit in the Apostles days, it occasioned a great stir and ado everywhere.” (pg. 109)
The coming of Christ’s Kingdom did not come in ways naturally expected. It did not appear visibly for all to see like prophecy indicates will happen yet, but that does not mean it came silently and without notice. As the Holy Spirit acted upon the hearts of men, the effects He brought to pass were noisy and the evidence of His work spread throughout the entire world and still continues to do so today. Silence will never be a byproduct of the expansion of the Kingdom of God in the world of men. What a glorious day we live in as Christians to carry with us a merciful and loving God who brought His Kingdom that we might be free from the rule of sin upon our hearts and a wicked and corrupt king of darkness. As believers and adopted members of this kingdom we are to attest to the present rule of Christ as we long for the eternal establishment of his kingdom in our material domain. Jesus is alive and sovereign.