Israel’s Rebellion

Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
~ Deuteronomy 32:1

Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.
~ Jeremiah 13:15

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
~ Isaiah 5:1-2

And in the wilderness, where thou hast seen how that the LORD thy God bare thee, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that ye went, until ye came into this place.
~ Deuteronomy 1:31

Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
~ Romans 9:4-5

In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
~ Isaiah 63:9-10

And at Taberah, and at Massah, and at Kibrothhattaavah, ye provoked the LORD to wrath. Likewise when the LORD sent you from Kadeshbarnea, saying, Go up and possess the land which I have given you; then ye rebelled against the commandment of the LORD your God, and ye believed him not, nor hearkened to his voice. Ye have been rebellious against the LORD from the day that I knew you.
~ Deuteronomy 9:22-24

A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?
~ Malachi 1:6

Rebellion in Israel, by Jonathan Edwards.

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken; I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.

The words consist of two things:

1. A solemn introduction calling on (the) heavens, (who) are thus called upon to hear for two reasons: the greatness of him that speaks (and) the remarkableness of the thing declared, which is the second thing in the text.

(2.) After this most solemn introduction, we have the great and remarkable declaration, “I have nourished and brought up (children, and they have rebelled against me).” The words are spoken of God’s people, Israel. They are often called his children; Ex. 4:22, “Israel is my son, even my firstborn.” Hos. 11:1, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” Deut. 32:19, “When the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.” They were his children, not only as he had brought them into being, but he gave them their being as his people. And he had as it were nourished and brought ’em up from their infancy, when they were very small and weak. “Few, yea, very few” (Ps. 105:12). (He) had wonderfully preserved them; he had provided them with temporal good things, (and) he had great provision for their spiritual good.

Thus, this solemn declaration of Jehovah was applicable to the Israelites. But my design at present is to consider the words as they concern us; and therefore (I) shall discourse from the words at this time,
I. By considering how we are the children of God.
3. At the top of the first page, JE wrote: “Lecture to young People Nov. 1746.”

II. God has nourished and brought us up as children. III. How heinous it is for such to rebel against God. And then make some improvement.

I. How we may be called God’s children. There are various senses in which persons are said to be the sons or children of God.

First. He has given us being in the world in his own natural image. Being.

Our spirits. Heb. 12:9, “(Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?).”

Second. As he has given us being among Christians, under Christian privileges, (and has) not only given us being in a natural sense, but also in a spiritual sense. (He has) made us in general the children of his visible people, dedicated to God and sealed as his children in our baptism. We have enjoyed the external privileges of those that are the children of God in the highest sense that ever mere men (have). We are as it were born in the house of God-given to God as our Father. God has brought us into covenant.

II. How God has nourished and brought us up as children.

First. He has preserved and defended us. Children need the care of their parents; but God (has) preserved us in being, preserved us from death (through) sickness, accidents, (and the attacks of) enemies: from such trouble (and) temporal calamities as many others (commonly suffer; but also from) spiritual calamities, spiritual enemies, (and) damnation, and so has brought us up.

Second. He has often delivered us. Third. (He) has provided for us. Fourth. (He) has instructed and counseled us.

Fifth. (He) has exercised fatherly government towards us, corrected (us and) dealt tenderly (with us).

III. How heinous a thing it is when children, that God has thus nourished and brought up, do rebel against God.

First. It appears in that God stands in the relation of a father. Mal. 1:6,
4. The concept of being was an early and enduring focus of JE’s theology. See the early meditations in “Of Being” (Works, 6, 202-7) and in “Excellence” (“The Mind,” Works, 6, 362-66). Whatever brief excursus JE might have given here would have at least reflected these more esoteric meditations.
5. See the same emphasis upon the concept of “image” in Of God the Father, above, p. 152.

“If I be a father, (where is mine honor)?” The unnatural iniquity (of such a rebellion is evident to reason). Some of the wiser heathen (were) sensible (of it). God stands in this relation in such a manner as brings an obligation infinitely stronger than that by which we are obliged to our earthly parents. We are much more (the beneficiaries) from him. How little and despicable, how unworthy (of such privileges, we are).

Second. If we consider how great and excellent a father he is, (we will appreciate) his wonderful condescension in making us his children.

Third. How great his goodness is in his nourishing and bringing us up! How universal our dependence on his goodness, care, and bounty! How constant is the exercise (of his love to us). How many the benefits; how various (the bounties)! The spiritual benefits (are of the greatest importance). How great (the) evil we are preserved or delivered from! How great (the) good we enjoy! How great (are our) advantages to be happy forever! How unworthy (are we of such favor)!

Fourth. How he has both made us his children and brought us up as such, to that end: that we might serve him. Thus Israel of old. Ex. 4:22– 23, “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: and I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.” And thus it is foretold concerning Christ’s people under the gospel. Is. 43:6-7, ( “I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; even everyone that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him”).


And here I might apply what has been said to all, were there time for it. But being limited to the compass of a single sermon, I shall apply myself only to the young people in this congregation: to whom these things may most properly be applied at this time on two accounts, viz. that this is agreeable to the special design of this lecture, and also because those that are in their youth have lately been brought up. The time of childhood, or the time when persons are growing till they come to men’s and women’s estate, is especially the time of their education or bringing up. Such as these, therefore, are those children that God has lately been nourishing and bringing up, and has now brought up to the state of men and women. I would therefore apply what has been said to the young people of this congregation in three uses:

I. (Use of Consideration.) Use may be to put them upon considering how God has dealt with them in their creation, and in nourishing and bringing them up as children. God, and God alone, is the author of your being. Only his power (and) his wisdom (have brought into being). He made you rational creatures; whatever natural endowments you have of body (or) mind that you value yourself upon, (are attributable to him). God has distinguished (you) from the brutes. (And though you) may value yourselves on your comeliness, (only God) distinguished you (from) some (who) come into the world (as) monsters. (You may value yourselves) on your understandings, (though but for God you might have been) born idiots. That you are born among a civilized people, born in a land of light, (and) not offered to the devil in your childhood (is by the grace of God. He has) preserved you in your infancy, distinguished you (from your inferiors, and) was gracious to you in your childhood. (You were brought up under) your parents’ care; (you were) not deprived of reason in your childhood by fits (or other such afflictions). (You) had a religious education (and were) taught to read; (you were) brought to the house of God (and) all along have been provided for. God caused you to increase in strength and stature, and in abilities of mind. (Moreover, God) preserved your lives hitherto. How many other children and young people have you known that are now dead?6 If it had not been for God’s distinguishing, preserving mercy, where would you now have been? How have you, one and another of you, been preserved in times of danger, (or) times of mortality, times when you, yourselves, have been in immediate danger (from) accidents (or) sickness? And what spiritual advantages have you all along enjoyed? How has God as a father instructed (you)? How has Christ, the Son of God, knocked (upon your door), and what strivings of the Spirit have you had? And still (you) are the subjects of God’s merciful care.

II. (Use) of Self-Reflect. Consider whether or no, notwithstanding (all that has been done for you), you han’t rebelled, and don’t now live in rebellion. I don’t mean whether you are not guilty of sin, but whether there are not known sins, i.e. sins that you have light enough to know to be sins. Are there not known duties? Don’t you, many of you, live for instance in known sin with regard to the duty of secret prayer? (Don’t
6. Eighteenth-century youth were always vulnerable to mortal illnesses, from the “throat distemper” of the 1730s (a regional diphtheria epidemic) to the period of sickness and death in Northampton at the time of this sermon, when about seventy persons had recently died (out of a population of a thousand or so) (Trumbull, History of Northampton, 2, 101).
7. MS: “are there.”

you) live in ways of sin with your tongue, (in the) way of vain, lewd conversation; talking in an unclean, unsavory manner, speaking of such things that it is a shame to speak of? Don’t you live, any of (you), secretly in unclean practices, practices by which you know you do from time to time stir up your own lusts? Don’t (you) live in neglect of God and Christ and salvation? (Don’t you) refuse to make religion your great business? Don’t you live in known violations of your solemn covenant obligations8—in ways of conversation that you can’t but know are contrary to such a serious, devout, and earnest, and thorough attendance on the duties of religion—in secret neglect of meditation (and) reading? (In) neglect of family prayer? (Do you) follow evil company, not resisting the temptations? (Is there) neglect of duty to your parents: not duly honoring them, neglecting their counsel and commands, and so rebelling both against an heavenly Father and earthly parents? Are there not some of you that live in backsliding? This is especially looked upon as rebellion.

III. Exh. to the young people of this congregation, not to live in rebellion against that God that has nourished and brought you up, but to behave themselves as his obedient children. Consider the heinousness and unreasonableness of rebelling {against God}. You see how God resents it in the text, and so he will resent it hereafter. (Such rebellion is) not only unreasonable injuriousness to the great God (who has nourished you), but it is the greatest folly and injuriousness to yourself. How foolish, as well as wicked, was the prodigal son! How did he not only most injuriously treat his father, but foolishly renounced his own good and comfort, and run himself into the most abject and wretched circumstances. You, if you continue (in this rebellion), will surely come to remediless misery: you may strive a while to fill your belly, but (you) will perish miserably at last; and though God’s patience has hitherto been lengthened out, yet (it will sooner than you suppose come to an end). He will disinherit you; he that made you will not have mercy on you. But now God waits to be gracious to you: he sends now as he did of old to invite rebellious children to return to him. Jeremiah 3:22, “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal (your backslidings).” Therefore, now do as the prodigal son did. You are like to perish with hunger, (yet) in your Father’s house there is bread enough and to spare. How happy may you be if you repent and return, and become obedient in an heavenly Father’s house. There you may be admitted as the children of God in a very high and honorable sense indeed: in some respects, in a higher sense than the angels. Be of the family of a great King and dwell in his house all the days of your life—yea, to all eternity. Acknowledge (yourselves) as true born children and not bastards, (and) so (you) shall abide in the house forever. (You may) be a pillar. Consider what excellent provision there is in the house of the heavenly Father. Here is peace and safety. Here are better enjoyments than those that you set your heart upon; here is bread enough and to spare. Here, from day to day, you may set down at the table of a King as his children. Here are royal dainties; here are princely robes for all the King’s obedient children. Here is riches and honor. (God will) make you set among princes and cause you to inherit the throne. How glorious is the family: how glorious and honorable are the members of it! Here you may spend your youth far more pleasantly; here are the best pleasures and delights. Here is the best company. You shall hereafter be owned as some of the children (of the house of God, as on the) day of (your) death, (the) day of judgment, (and) in heaven. Therefore, hearken. If you will return, God will be as the father of the prodigal. Hear what God says to the rebellious children in the context. Isaiah 1:16–20, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if you refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
8. JE here reminds all present of the solemn covenant he had insisted upon the church’s making in 1742 in an effort to preserve the fruits of the Great Awakening. The text of this most demanding covenant is contained in a letter from JE to Thomas Prince (Works, 16, 115–27).