New Book on Jonathan Edwards

This book on the preaching of Edwards fills a rather enormous gap. Although Marsden addresses the preaching of Edwards briefly, he does not do systematic justice to the subject. A book such as this has long been a desideratum.


  1. August 26, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    I’m reading it now. It is excellent!

  2. Jeff said,

    August 27, 2008 at 11:01 am

    I’m not reading it, yet. But probably will have to for his homiletics class at Greenville during the Winter. :)

  3. Roy said,

    August 27, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Marsden’s book left unstated much less unanswered what I think the biggest puzzle re Edwards: how did unitarianism follow him by nearly the next and certainly by a couple generations?

    Along with Samuel Logan, I found Edwards less than wonderful to read. I had read out loud to my wife “Charity and its Fruits”, “Narrative of Surprising Conversions”, and one more volume whose title slips me.

    After a lot of reflection, I changed from my initial appreciation. Eg, re Charity. While I continued agreeing with what Edwards said about the outworkings of Christian love, I also began to realize that his working definition left a lot out. Charity was disinterested benevolence, a love for the vast all. A Hindu might almost agree. The foundational principles had enough latitude, enough philosphical wordage surrounding them, that something other than principles clearly derived from scripture’s propositional truth served.

    For Clair Davis in the 1973 WTS winterum I did a research project with this title: Did Edwards Preach the Gospel? Relying on memory now as I loaned out my copy of the paper in the mid ’80s and it got accidentally lost.

    But I recall that for the project I first defined preaching (and sharing) the Gospel as having at least these characteristics: 1) Who God is (something about His attributes, character, holiness, claims); 2) Who man is (a creature, fallen, sinful); 3) Who Jesus is (God, man, sinless, sacrifice, king, judge); 4) A demand for submission, faith, repentance.

    Understand that my question was not Edwards’ style, not whether God used Edwards mightily, not whether Edwards’ preaching was an instrument leading many to believe, not whether Edwards’ theology was evangelical, nor even what his theology was. I only wanted to know what people listening to him heard. I wanted only to know if I would see in Edwards’ sermons the characteristics listed above. I was not concerned to find them in every single sermon, nor even all of them if I considered several sermons preached in sequence. I sought to see the flavor of the overall content.

    To accomplish the analysis I read every sermon of Edwards I could find via public access in Phila, specifically at WTS, at Univ of Pa, in the city library system. Then I read (scanned after a while) everything written by Edwards I could find in the same sources.

    Sometime in the year after that winterum I found a paperback of outlines of Edwards’ sermons that included some I had not seen before. A few of these clearly had the 4 characteritics I listed above.

    But what I saw in the rest of my research led to a tentative conclusion someting like this. 1) Edwards did not typically cover those 4 characteristics. Instead, 2) Edwards emphasized characteristics other than number 3 (who Jesus is). 3) I surmized Edwards analyzed his audience, realized they had been hearing the Gospel for the previous generation, but had not faced especially the challenge of the 4th characteristic (not enough to know, but must respond). 4) Edwards’ usual presentation of the 4th characteristic did not so much focus on clinging to Christ and the sufficiency of His sacrifice as it did on realizing and confessing the implications of the 1st (God) and 2nd (man) characteristic. People knew about the Gospel. They had not been warned to turn or burn.

    These series of observations led to another generalized observation: I thought Edwards preaching did not aim at nor result in his congregations growing in their recognition of truth as proclaimed in and by Scripture. They did not become soundly and solidly welded to the Word. (If that’s not a warning to preachers, I don’t know what might be.) I thought that same issue surfaced in the hundreds of pages I read in Edwards’ writings. One could read pages of esoteric philosphical discussion and not come across even a citation of scripture much less a clear explanation or application of a specific scripture. Even if he came to what I would agree were correct conclusions, even when making correct assertions, I could not discern much less easily see the steps from scripture to that conclusion or assertion.

    IMHO that’s what (in no more than about a generation) led to Bellamy and Hopkins claiming Edwards and nobody laughing at the absurdity of that claim.

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