Wit and Wisdom from John Hannah (7)

Part 1 – Monday’s quotes
Part 2 – Tuesday’s quotes

Part 3 – Wednesday’s quotes
Part 4 – Thursday’s quotes

Part 5 – Friday’s quotes
Part 6 – Saturday’s quotes

I thought I had finished the series “Wit and Wisdom from John Hannah” when I finished going through my miscellaneous lecture notes from the class, but as I was completing my final Winterim assignment and perusing two of the nineteen essays that made up Hannah’s syllabus, I realized that there are a few more quotes in each of those essays that are worth repeating.  Actually, in some of those essays there are a lot more quotes.  For those of you who enjoyed the quotes and benefited from them like I did, I’ll continue post them each week until I run out (which might be awhile).  I’m hoping that doing them once a week will guard against Edwards-Hannah burnout.  Either way, you’ll learn a lot more about Edwards and you’ll gain a lot of wisdom from Dr. Hannah, both of which are very worthwhile.

Below is Part 7.  These are loose-but-accurate quotes from Dr. Hannah’s biographical lecture on Edwards’ life and ministry.  I’ve provided the topic in bold.

Edwards’ family:  Edwards was a tall but frail man.  He had ten sisters (terrible thought) and they were all over six feet tall.

Edwards’ academics:  He was not great academically, although he was valedictorian.  He was a normal man whom God granted great endurance and tenacity and discipline.  While others slept, Edwards thought.  [I think Hannah understates Edwards’ giftedness here, but he’s trying to make the point that the legacy of Edwards’ life and ministry is due more to his relentlessness and tenacity than his natural mental ability.  I think it’s good to remember Edwards’ painstaking diligence and rigorous discipline instead of just saying, “Yeah, well, he was just really smart.”]

God:  If you asked Edwards to describe God, I think he would say “utter beauty.”  He anticipates the Enlightenment with his emphasis on aesthetics.

Edwards’ “Miscellanies” (thoughts on various subjects):  When Edwards went to prepare his sermons, he turned to his miscellanies.  He labeled them A, B, C, then AA, BB, CC, then 1 through 1,500+.

Puritan diaries:  Why did Puritans keep diaries?  For a biographical sketch of their lives?  No.  To think?  That’s part of it.  But why did they think? They thought hard in order to have assurance.  They wanted to know how they thought.  They didn’t believe that the recitation of words proved conversion.

Salvation:  God cuts no bargains.  He gives life.

Oops:  It’s said that 8 out of the 11 Edwards children were born on Sunday, and the presiding view of the day was that you were born on the day that you were conceived.  So for Sabbatarians, this was a problem.

Success in ministry:  Edwards would’ve said that it was better to have a slow ministry than one that grows quickly with weeds.  We love big numbers, and we propogate this mentality in our schools.  This is disastrous.

Revival:  If you think that an awakening will bring harmony and solve problems, you’re wrong.  It will just postpone them.

True religion:  Light without heat is no true religion.  Heat without light is error.  You must have both mind and heart.

David Brainerd:  Edwards indirectly helped start Princeton after David Brainerd was expelled from Yale.  He believed that a man of Brainerd’s quality should not be denied his degree, even though Brainerd was a psychotic.  Edwards didn’t believe that the mark of godliness was the absence or presence of mental health but a passion for the gospel.  Over time Brainerd ruined his health because he was so obsessive and driven.

Teaching:  If I’ve learned anything from Edwards about teaching, it’s to know your students.  The teacher, in order to teach, must understand the minds of his students and how they process knowledge.  If he doesn’t know that, how can he help them?  I got a lot of classes on how to preach, but no one ever told me how people actually think.

Student question:  Why did Edwards not preach verse-by-verse expository messages through the Bible?  Answer:  Why do we preach differently now than Luther and Calvin?  Because they operated in a world of extreme biblical knowledge.  You and I operate in biblical illiteracy.  It was a different world then.  Were they still preaching the Bible?  Of course they were.

Edwards’ audience:  These people heard 17,000 hours of preaching in their lifetime.  They heard three sermons and one lecture per week.

Spiritual life:  Two things about spiritual living: (1) know your God; (2) know yourself, and have the courage to not believe that God made a mistake.

Seminary students:  Most seminary students spend five years trying to be someone else.  Don’t try to be like your heroes.  Just learn from them.

4 thoughts on “Wit and Wisdom from John Hannah (7)

  1. Gunner,

    That makes sense. It seems like their writing had a specfic spiritual purpose and was a practical tool for self-examination. That is a rebuke and encouragement.

    In regards to this, Dr. Hannah didn’t happen to say anything about Edwards’ writing of the Religious Affections, did he? Namely, that ‘The Religious Affections’ was largly the fruit of Edwards’ own self-examinations that he stored away in his miscellanies for later use? I have wondered about this ever since I started reading and studying Edwards.


  2. Derek: That’s a good question. I don’t want to misrepresent Hannah, but I think what he’s trying to get at is that the Puritans were very serious about their thinking. They wanted to know their own souls and to know their true condition before God instead of just writing to express themselves or to think about their lives in an individualistic way.

    Since “they didn’t believe that the recitation of words proved conversion,” they wanted to think hard about their faith and their progress in that faith so that they could know that they truly belonged to the Lord. That desire to think hard came out in writing. But their writing wasn’t autobiographical or a therapeutic outlet for self-expression or the mind-organizing exercise of thinking on paper (like much of our writing can be). That’s the impression I got from Hannah’s comments and their context.

  3. Gunner,

    I am really enjoying these posts! Could you shed some light on what Dr. Hannah meant in the following quote:

    Puritan diaries: Why did Puritans keep diaries? For a biographical sketch of their lives? No. To think? That’s part of it. But why did they think? They thought hard in order to have assurance. They wanted to know how they thought. They didn’t believe that the recitation of words proved conversion.

    Thanks, brother-


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