The Journal Entries of Jonathan Edwards – Don’t Let Your Feelings Deceive You

The Following is a Journal Entry from December 18, 1722:

This day made the 35th Resolution. The reason why I, in the least, question my interest in God’s love and favor, is, 1. Because I cannot speak so fully to my experience of that preparatory work, of which divines speak; 2. I do not remember that I experienced regeneration, exactly in those steps, in which divines say it is generally wrought; 3. I do not feel the Christian graces sensibly enough, particularly faith. I fear they are only such hypocritical outside affections, which wicked men may feel, as well as others. They do not seem to be sufficiently inward, full, sincere, entire and hearty. They do not seem so substantial, and so wrought into my very nature, as I could wish. 4. Because I am sometimes guilty of sins of omission and commission. Lately I have doubted, whether I do not transgress in evil speaking. This day, resolved, No.

In this brief journal entry Edwards explains why he questions God’s love and favor in his life. He lists out four things 1-He can’t give a good account of God’s preparatory work towards his regeneration (this was a typical Puritan worry), 2- He doesn’t “remember” experiencing regeneration, 3-he doesn’t “feel” the Christian graces enough, i.e. he doesn’t “feel” as though he has faith, he doesn’t feel as though he has really been growing spiritually, and 4- sometimes he is guilty of sin….

The first two problems that Edwards battled had to do with the Puritan standards for giving one’s own testimony. These are probably issues that don’t concern us as much in the church today. The fourth issue is a “duh” issue. Hey Jonathan you still struggle with sin? Wow you must not be saved… No that isn’t the way things work. We keep on struggling and sinning all of our lives. The fact that we are “sometimes guilty of sins” shouldn’t lead us to question our love towards God and God’s love towards us.

Its apparent that Edwards was a bit off the mark with some of his struggles…however for most of us we tend to be off the mark with our struggles. A lot of times when we struggle about whether or not God loves us or we really love God its because we are believing lies that the enemy is feeding us. One of these lies is that the way we feel is the way things actually are. It’s the lie of subjectivity. We tend to believe our feelings, or lack of feelings, over and above God’s truth…

Edwards says that he couldn’t remember his experience of regeneration. Would an “experience” have convinced him that he is regenerated? What about others who can’t point to an “experience?” I know a ton of people who didn’t “feel” anything when they got saved. Does that mean they aren’t saved? Certainly not. Our feeling of being saved, or being able to point the exact minute when we got saved, isn’t what saves us. It is Christ himself and his declaration of our righteousness in him that justifies and hence saves us.

Edwards also says that he doesn’t “feel” the Christian Graces enough. He says that “they do not seem to be sufficiently inward, full, sincere, entire and hearty.” If you have been a Christian for any amount of time you can resonate with this. I am sure that at some point you have felt as though you didn’t FEEL God and his work in you enough. Maybe you thought there was something wrong with you. I want to tell you don’t worry. Its part of being a Christian to feel that way at times. If Jonathan Edwards himself felt this, I’m pretty sure that you will feel it at times too. Don’t be discouraged! Your feelings don’t dictate reality! In his little book “The Cross Centered Life” C.J Mahaney talks about this. I want to leave you with some things that he said:

 “’We Think with our feelings, Ferguson has said. It’s true. We allow our feelings to guide our thinking, and we shouldn’t. Emotions are a wonderful gift from God, and our relationship with God should bring strong godly affections to our lives. But our emotions shouldn’t be vested with final authority. This should be reserved for God’s Word alone. Let me ask you: Where do you consistently direct your faith? What does it rest on? Is it your emotional state… or the objective realities that the Word of God and the Spirit of God have revealed?….Do you plan on continuing to submit everything ultimately to your feelings? Or will you instead trust God’s testimony?[1]

So today, if you are struggling with a lack of feeling God’s love in your life or if you feel as though you are stagnant, turn to God’s word and see the objective truth of how God really feels about you. Turn to God’s word and see that you have been justified by faith then hold on to that truth because your feelings don’t dictate your status before God.


[1] C.J. Mahaney. Cross-Centered Life, pages 41-42.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

One thought on “The Journal Entries of Jonathan Edwards – Don’t Let Your Feelings Deceive You

  1. Excellent Entry. I love to read Jonathan Edward .. He is such a deep (sometimes too deep) thinker. The word of God is truth! Our emotions lie to us as you so well pointed out .. The word is LIVING and it has the power to change us. We all struggle with sin as you have noted .. it will be such a wonderful day when we reach heaven’s shore and we are made holy.

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