“The universe would not contain the books” by Jonathan Edwards

“‘And there are many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.’ John 21:25

If here, by the things that Jesus did, be not only meant the actions of Christ, but the things done or accomplished by those actions, we may suppose it to be literally true, that if they were written every one, the world itself is not large enough to contain the books that should be written.

There are other things that belong to what Christ did, besides merely the external action, that was immediately visible to the eye, or the words that might be heard by the ear, which we must suppose are included in what the evangelist means by the things that he did.

There was the internal manner of doing, the design with which it was done, what moved and influenced Christ in doing, the ends and events brought to pass by doing, that the evangelist does not mention.

The apostle John in this history mentions some of them, but to mention all, would be to write a declaration of all the glorious, wise purposes and designs of God’s wisdom and grace, and the love of Christ, and all that belongs to that manifold wisdom of God, and those unsearchable riches of wisdom and knowledge, in the work of redemption, that we read of in the Scripture, which, if they should be all written, it is probable the universe would not contain the books.

For here are the multitudes of God’s mercies that we read of in Psalm 5:7 and 51:1 and 69:13, 16 and 106:7 and 119:156. These works that the evangelist speaks of that Christ wrought, are the same with those spoken of:

‘Many, O Lord my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts, which are towards us; they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. Sacrifice and offering Thou didst not desire.

Then said I, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Thy will, O my God; yea, Thy law is within my heart. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, Thou knowest.

I have not hid Thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation. I have not concealed Thy loving-kindness and Thy truth from the great congregation.’

And Psalm 71:15. ‘My mouth shall show forth Thy righteousness and Thy salvation all the day: for I know not the numbers thereof.’

And Psal. 139:17. ‘How precious are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee.’

The wonderful things designed and virtually accomplished in what Christ did when on the earth, are so manifold as to be sufficient to employ the contemplation of saints and angels to all eternity, who will discover more and more of the manifold wisdom of God therein, and yet never will discover all.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “Notes on the Bible,” in  The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 2. Ed. Edward Hickman (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1834/1998), 2:794. The notes may be read here. Edwards is commenting on John 21:25.

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