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Charity and Its Fruits: Christian Love as Manifested in the Heart and Life Paperback – November 1, 1969
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The first lecture seeks to prove that "all the virtue that is saving, and that distinguishes true Christians from others, is summed up in Christian love." In this sermon, Edwards' familiarity with the breadth of Scripture is plainly evident. The second and third sermons seek to more fully expound the first three verses of I Corinthians 13 in which Edwards explains how love is more excellent than the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit and that anything which is suffered in the way of duty is vain if not permeated with love.
Lectures four through fourteen focus on the fifteen characteristics of love as described in verses four through seven of I Corinthians 13. Edwards' pastoral concerns are most evident here as he labors to show how love will be longsuffering, kind, unselfish, etc. Edwards' penetrating application lays bare the human heart in ways that I have rarely seen in other sermons.
The final two sermons deal with the last paragraph of I Corinthians 13 and are more theological in nature as Edwards contends that the Holy Spirit will forever be given to the saints in love and that Heaven will be a world full of love. Edwards' view of heaven and hell are described with poignant detail in this last sermon, which is one of the most beautiful and insightful treatises on heaven that I have ever read. Like all of Edwards' writings, Charity and Its Fruits is full of theological acumen, philosophical insight, and pastoral concern.
This is a powerful book. Read it. Study it. And, if you're a pastor, use it as the basis for a series of sermons on love. Your congregation will be challenged and blessed.
Edwards had a chance to practice what he preached after he wrote this book, and was kicked-out of his church. He refused to serve communion to those he considered to be non-believers. His biography (another book) reveals his long-suffering and forbearance with what seemed like grossly unfair treatment he received. I was really impressed with his evenness during this very trying period.
'Charity and its Fruits' is a series of sermons Edwards did on the 'Love Chapter' of 1st Corrinthians 13, while pastoring Northampton Church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He goes through each phrase and winnows it down to what it really means for you and me. He is unsparing in his expositions, giving you both the good news and the bad news, what you need to seek after, and what you need to wrestle with, alternating between being encouraging and being convicting. In the process, it is, in my view, as eloquent as anything you will read, short of the Scriptures themselves. The last chapter, which is about heaven, is easily some of the best prose I've ever been privileged to read; and it is all spiritual, with almost no physical references.
Brace yourself, but do yourself a favor, and read the book.