Jonathan Edwards on God’s Grand Design


During one Sunday morning sermon in the winter of 1744, Jonathan Edwards articulated what he understood to be the culmination of all God’s works. Admittedly a lofty goal for a single sermon.

Edwards titled his message “Approaching the End of God’s Grand Design” and chose Revelation 21:6 as the text—“And he said unto me, It is done.” He believed this text revealed the τέλος, the end. Edwards argued that all of God’s activities will one day culminate and be fully achieved in a single goal. The divine work of creation, providence, and redemption all point to one grand design. It all points to a wedding.

Edwards’ sermon is worth quoting at length:


DOCTRINE. There is a time coming when God’s grand design in all his various works and dispensations from age to age will be completed and his end fully obtained… What is this one great design that God has in view in all his works and dispensations?

Ans. ‘Tis to present to his Son a spouse in perfect glory from amongst sinful, miserable mankind, blessing all that comply with his will in this matter and destroying all his enemies that oppose it, and so to communicate and glorify himself through Jesus Christ, God-man. This I take to be the great design of the work of creation [and the] work of providence…

…because it was a spouse to communicate his goodness to that he desired, therefore that she might be one fit not to give but receive good, one was pitched upon that was remarkably empty and poor in herself, not of the highest order of creatures, but mankind—and not man in his first and best estate, but in a fallen, miserable, helpless state: a state wherein his emptiness and need of goodness did more remarkably appear. And because it was his design to communicate his goodness, therefore that he might do it the more fully, those were chosen that were unworthy; because the more unworthy the more is free goodness exercised, and so Christ’s end the more answered in his seeking a spouse to communicate of his goodness to. Hence, not the angels but the miserable race, [the] ruined, sinful race of mankind, was pitched upon.

And because the design was that Christ should communicate goodness, therefore such an one was chosen that needed that Christ should suffer, and it was the will of Christ to suffer because suffering is the greatest expression of goodness and manifestation of kindness. The great design was that Christ in this way should procure or obtain this his spouse, bring her to come to him, present her to himself and make her perfectly beautiful, perfectly and unspeakably happy. Ephesians 5:25, “[Christ] loved the church and gave himself for it.” And this is the way that God the Father intended to glorify his Son: the world was created that from thence Christ might obtain this spouse. This was God’s portion and inheritance, [his] first fruits, his jewel, [his] darling. This was the great gift of God to the Son in the eternal work of redemption, the great promise of God to Christ, the joy set before him. These things seem very manifest by the holy Scripture, and God the Father in this way glorifies himself by thus glorifying his Son, Jesus Christ.

This spouse of Christ is that part of the creation which God has made for his glory in an eminent manner. Isaiah 43:7, “Everyone that is called by my name: for I have created [him] for my glory.” This is the way in which God presents elect men to him, viz. by presenting them to Christ. Being presented to Christ in perfect glory, Christ will present them to the Father. In subserviency to this design of thus presenting {the elect} are all things in heaven and earth managed, and that through all the varieties of God’s dispensations.

The great war that has been maintained between God [and] his enemies for the biggest part of six thousand years has been about that design. This is the design the elect angels were made to be subservient to, and this is the design about which is the continual opposition of the reprobate angels; and there is a very great probability that their first sin by which they fell was their opposing God in this affair. And ’tis probably also that special work to which the angels were appointed as the trial of their obedience. The eternal destruction of God’s enemies, both of devils and wicked men, is in subserviency to the design of his glorifying himself in his church in the manner that has been spoken of.

[He will] glorify his majesty, power [and] justice before his elect that they might behold the glory and so be happy in the sight of this glory of God, and that they might give God the glory due to him on this account, and that they might be the more sensible of the worth of {their} happiness and of the wonderfulness and sovereignty of God’s grace.

Thus the grand design of God in all his works and dispensations is to present to his Son a spouse in perfect purity, beauty and glory from amongst [mankind], blessing all [the elect] and destroying those [that oppose], and so to glorify himself through his Jesus Christ, God-man; or in one word, the work of redemption is the grand design of [history], this the chief work of God, [the] end of all other works, so that the design of God is one. Hence all the decrees of God are spoken of in Scripture as one purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:9–11). All decrees may one way or other be referred to the covenant of redemption: the grand subject of [the] revelations that God hath made, [the] subject of the words of God, [the] subject of prophecy, [the] great things insisted on in the contemplations and praises of saints and angels, and will be to all eternity.”

—Jonathan Edwards, sermon “Approaching The End Of God’s Grand Design,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Sermons and Discourses, 1743—1758 (Vol. 25), pages 111—126. Paragraph breaks were added for readability.

A sampling of biblical texts on this marriage for personal meditation include Isaiah 54:5, 61:10, 62:5, Hosea 2:19—20, Matthew 22:1—14, 25:1—14, John 3:25—30, Ephesians 5:22—33, Revelation 19:6—10, 21:1—9 (notice Edwards’ sermon text is sandwiched here between v. 2 and v. 9).


Photo © 2009, ronsho

2 thoughts on “Jonathan Edwards on God’s Grand Design

  1. This is where we start:

    therefore that he might do it the more fully, those were chosen that were unworthy

    And this is where we end:

    a spouse in perfect purity, beauty and glory from amongst [mankind],/b>



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