Jonathan Edwards, often called America’s greatest theologian and philosopher and the last Puritan, was a powerful force behind the First Great Awakening, as well as a champion of Christian zeal and spirituality. Both Christian and secular scholarship concur on his importance in American history. The treasures from Edwards’s pen have been mined, pondered, and evaluated to the present day. His famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” is still being read and studied in America’s public schools as a specimen of eighteenth-century literature. Students of American history pay much attention to Edwards’s scientific, philosophical, and psychological writings; theologians and church historians regard Edwards’s work on revivals as unexcelled in analysis and scope. Christians continue to read his sermons with great appreciation for their rich doctrine, clear and forceful style, and powerful depiction of the majesty of God, the sinfulness of sin, and Christ’s power to save.
Still, not everyone agrees about Edwards’s place in the history of Christian thought. Scholars continue to debate his philosophical musings, his fidelity to certain historic Calvinist doctrines, and his influence upon subsequent generations. As Iain H. Murray notes, “Edwards divided men in his lifetime and to no less degree he continues to divide his biographers” (Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, p. xix).
As the huge body of his writings shows, Edwards was intellectually brilliant, multifaceted in his interests, and abundantly creative. Spiritually, he was profound, reflective, experiential, and intense. Early on, he developed the habit of self-mastery and a capacity for unremitting toil. Though laboring in places far from the cultural centers of his society, Edwards influenced many people while he lived and greatly impacted the generations to follow.
Jonathan Edwards was born October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut. He was the only son of eleven children born to Timothy Edwards and Esther Stoddard, daughter of Solomon Stoddard. Both Edwards’s father and maternal grandfather greatly influenced his education and career. Solomon Stoddard served for sixty years as minister of the parish church of Northampton, Massachusetts. He was a powerful force in the pulpit, a leader in the churches of western Massachusetts and along the Connecticut River, and a stirring writer. Timothy Edwards was highly educated and also well known as a preacher, and, like Stoddard, no stranger to religious revivals.
Like many other ministers in that day, Timothy Edwards conducted a grammar school in his home, preparing boys for Connecticut’s Collegiate School, known as Yale College after 1718. The school was founded in 1701 as an orthodox Congregationalist alternative to Harvard College, where the prevailing parties were hostile to the ideas proposed in John Cotton’s Way of the Churches of Christ in New England, or, at least, favorable to Episcopalianism.
Edwards received his early education in his father’s school, where he was nurtured and instructed in Reformed theology and the practice of Puritan piety. At age thirteen, he went on to the Collegiate School, which as yet had no permanent home. Several towns were competing for the honor of playing host to the fledgling institution. Edwards went to the nearest location, downriver from Windsor at Wethersfield, to begin his studies with Elisha Williams. When the college finally located at New Haven in 1716 under the rectorship of Timothy Cutler, Edwards went to New Haven, where the course of study included classical and biblical languages, logic, and natural philosophy. He was awarded the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1720, finishing at the top of his class, and then stayed at Yale to study for a master’s degree.
Edwards’s spiritual life was influenced by various factors. His parents, vibrant and intelligent Christians, offered a godly example and nurtured Edwards toward godliness. He went through several periods of spiritual conviction in his childhood and youth, which culminated in his conversion in 1721 after being impacted by the words of 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” He later wrote,
As I read [these] words, there came into my soul…a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense quite different from anything I ever experienced before…. I kept saying and as it were singing over those words of Scripture to myself and went to pray to God that I might enjoy Him…. From that time I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, in the beauty of his person and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in Him (from Jonathan Edwards, A Personal Narrative).
Edwards’s ministerial career began in 1722 with a brief sojourn of eight months in New York City. Frictions had arisen between the English members of the First Presbyterian Church and the Scots-Irish majority, led by Scottish minister James Anderson. The English eventually withdrew and began meeting separately. Edwards accepted their invitation to preach for them. Later he wrote: “I went to New York to preach and my longings after God and holiness were much increased. I felt a burning desire to be in everything conformed to the blessed image of Christ...how I should be more holy and live more holily…. The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness, to be with God and to spend my eternity in holy communion with Christ” (ibid.).
In April 1723, Edwards was persuaded by his father to return to Connecticut. After he had completed work for a master’s degree at Yale, he spoke at commencement exercises. The title of his address was “A Sinner is Not Justified before God except through the Righteousness of Christ obtained by Faith.” That November, Edwards took a call to the parish church at Bolton, about fifteen miles east of Hartford.
The following year, Edwards returned to New Haven to serve as tutor at the college. Yale was in upheaval due to the decision of rector Timothy Cutler in 1722 to abandon Congregationalism and revert to the Church of England. No suitable candidate would agree to take his place, so the college was in the hands of a temporary rector. Each local minister served for a month in rotation, while the forty or so students were left in the care of two tutors. The students were a disorderly lot, adding discipline to the heavy burden of Edwards’s teaching duties. Edwards remained there until 1726, when he received a summons from the people of Northampton, Massachusetts, to come upriver and serve as assistant to his aged grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. Edwards was installed there on February 15, 1727, and became sole minister of the parish church upon the death of Stoddard in 1729.
While at New Haven, Edwards had befriended Sarah Pierrepont, whom he met when he was sixteen years old and she was only thirteen. Friendship blossomed into romance, and the two were wed eight years later in 1727 after Edwards was settled at Northampton. Edwards later described his wife as a model of true conversion in Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion (1743). Their eleven children were the beginning of a large progeny that greatly affected the life and history of New England.
Edwards’s spiritual life was developed by various testings and difficulties. Sometimes he agonized over decisions; sometimes he suffered spells of exhaustion, depression, and serious illness; and often he faced problems and challenges in the pastorate as well as in his personal and family life. As a true Puritan, Edwards sought to discern the message of Providence in every event and to improve spiritually on all that befell him, good or bad.
Edwards’s first publication, based on a lecture given at Boston in 1731, was titled God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence upon Him in the Whole of It. Edwards there spoke of faith as “a sensibleness of what is real,” and as an “absolute and universal” dependence on God. Three years later, his Divine and Supernatural Light, Immediately Imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God described the work of true regeneration as producing a new “sense of the heart…above all others sweet and joyful.” This “new sense,” apprehended by faith, would become a key to Edwards’s theology.
People who heard Edwards’s sermons undoubtedly appreciated them, yet Edwards was still left with the problem of promoting godliness in a congregation that seemed to be lapsing into spiritual indifference. To correct the errors into which some had fallen during the last years of Stoddard’s pastorate, Edwards focused his preaching in the early 1730s on common, specific sins. He urged people to repent and to embrace the gospel by faith. That theme was repeated in a series of sermons Edwards preached on justification by faith in 1734 (published in 1738 as Five Discourses on Important Subjects), which prompted a significant awakening at Northampton.
Those sermons also set the stage for the forthcoming revival known as The Great Awakening.
In Faithful Narrative of Surprising Conversions, Edwards describes how, in the winter of 1734-1735, the young people and their parents responded to his preaching with renewed interest, wishing a genuine examination of their public and private behavior. People who visited Northampton noticed the change of spiritual climate and returned to their homes bearing Edwards’s message. Meanwhile, independently of Northampton, the Holy Spirit brought revival to other places as well.
After a lull in the late 1730s, Edwards was caught up in the Great Awakening, which began in 1740; he became one of the ablest instruments and defenders of the revival. He preached “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (Deut. 32:35) at Enfield, Connecticut, on July 8, 1741. The congregation was profoundly moved. A witness wrote, “Before the sermon was done, there was a great moaning and crying out throughout the whole house. What shall I do to be saved? Oh, I am going to hell! Oh, what shall I do for Christ?” Edwards asked for silence, but the tumult increased until Edwards had to stop preaching. A monument to the sermon stood until the twentieth century on the site of the Enfield meeting house (“The Diary of Stephen Williams” in Oliver Means, A Sketch of the Strict Congregation Church of Enfield, Connecticut [Hartford, 1899]).
Edwards worked hard to correct false notions of piety. His aim was twofold: he cared immensely about the spiritual welfare of his congregation’s souls, and he wanted to save the Awakening from disrepute. But when prominent church leaders denounced the revival, Edwards felt compelled to defend the Spirit’s authentic work in it. In September of 1741, Edwards explained the revival in a sermon titled “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” He insisted that non-traditional church services, unusual body movements, and strange fancies among the seemingly pious neither proved nor disproved claims of grace. After testing the revival for evidences of true piety, which essentially involved devotion to Jesus as Savior, reverence for and sound interpretations of Scripture, Edwards concluded that it indeed was the work of the Spirit of God. He cautioned that the devil could and would counter this work, however, using men’s own imaginations to produce irrational behavior.
By late 1742, New England Congregationalism was divided into two camps: the “Old Light” anti-Awakening group and the “New Light” pro-Awakening party. Colonial Presbyterians were also of two minds about the Awakening; “New Side” Presbyterians promoted the Awakening against the objections of “Old Side” traditionalists. In an effort to make peace within the clerical community, Edwards wrote Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion (1742), taking pains to denounce extremists on all sides. He even suggested that the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit in this Awakening could be ushering in the millennium. Pushing the argument from Distinguishing Marks a step further, he insisted that true spiritual life was a matter not only of intellectual assent, but also of the affections. “Now if such things are enthusiasm,” he wrote, “let my brain be evermore possessed of that happy distemper! If this be distraction, I pray God that the world of mankind may be all seized with this benign, meek, beneficent, beatifical, glorious distraction!”
The Old Lights, however, were not persuaded. Charles Chauncy, one of the greatest opponents of the revival, wrote Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England (1743), denouncing affections as carnal passions and necessarily profane. In response, Edwards published the Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746), which distinguished between true and false religious experience. It has long been regarded by many historians as his most influential work.
Edwards’s 1749 edition of the diary of a young missionary named David Brainerd was perhaps his most moving publication. Brainerd had been expelled from Yale for slandering a tutor during the Awakening. He was denied reinstatement despite Edwards’s support. He began working among the Delaware Indians in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but tuberculosis forced him to come home. He spent his final days at the home of Edwards, constantly attended by Edwards’s daughter, Jerusha. The loss of this young man, who was like a son to Edwards, moved him deeply. His Life of Brainerd was a tribute to true piety, and it also became a model for missionaries.
Meanwhile, in the late 1740s, Edwards became embroiled in controversy over who should partake of the sacraments. Solomon Stoddard had taught that the Lord’s Supper could be a “converting ordinance” to which any baptized person of blameless life should be admitted. Edwards opposed this view, saying that only people who professed to be converted and who were bringing forth the fruits of conversion in their lives should be received at the Lord’s Table. As a corollary, Edwards said that baptism ought to be administered only to the children of believers who had made a credible profession of faith. That was contrary to the long-established practice of the socalled “Half-Way Covenant,” a modified form of church membership used in some New England Congregational churches. Baptized adults who professed a historical faith without claiming to be converted and who lived uprightly would be regarded as “half-way” church members, so that they could therefore present their children for baptism, though they themselves could not participate in the Lord’s Supper or vote in church matters.
A moment of crisis was reached in 1748 when Edwards told two applicants that they lacked the saving grace necessary to partake of the Lord’s Supper. At the same time, Edwards published his An Humble Inquiry into the Rules of and Qualifications for Communion, which insisted that genuine conversion bears visible fruit and is essential for sacramental privileges. Many townspeople and ministers objected to The Humble Inquiry, concluding that Edwards had gone too far. When these objections were combined with false rumors of Edwards’s treatment of some young people and other complications resulting from several discipline cases, the members of Northampton voted to eject him from the Northampton pulpit. In his farewell sermon on June 22, 1750, Edwards suggested that the discipline cases had turned the town against him. Privately, however, he told a friend that he suspected the real issue was his refusal to baptize infants of members who could not profess saving grace. By a large majority, the Northampton church voted not to change its sacramental practices.
The following year, Edwards left Northampton with his family, taking refuge in the frontier settlement of Stockbridge, near the western border of Massachusetts, where he served as pastor to a small congregation and as a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. He learned to accommodate himself well to the level of understanding of the Native Americans. Here is a simple outline of a sermon preached to them on Hebrews 11:14-16: “(1) This world is an evil country; (2) Heaven is a better country.” His years in Stockbridge were complicated, however, by the outbreak of the French and Indian War, which reached the village in 1754, when several inhabitants were killed.
Though Edwards’s desire to witness revival among the Indians did not materialize, from another perspective these were his most fruitful years. Edwards is often remembered for spending thirteen hours a day in study. Modern readers may be inspired or appalled by that, but we should realize that most workers in those times spent nearly as much time pursuing their callings. Under such circumstances, Edwards would have appeared diligent and faithful to his calling, not overcommitted to study or unbalanced in his use of time. Out of those long hours in the study, and especially from the period of relative isolation at Stockbridge, came a vast body of Edwards’s writings. His greatest literary achievement from this period was Freedom of the Will (1754), in which Edwards argues that only the regenerate person can truly choose the transcendent God; that choice can be made only through a disposition that God infuses in regeneration. In this, Edwards rejected the materialism of the British philosophers along with the utilitarianism of free-will advocates. Logically, Edwards succeeds in making Arminianism an impossibility. Other important works completed during his Stockbridge years include Concerning the End for which God Created the World and The Nature of True Virtue (both published posthumously in 1765), and The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin (1758)—a tour de force against Pelagianism.
In 1758, Edwards agreed to become president of the College of New Jersey at Princeton. He left his family that January, as “affectionately as if he should not come again,” one of his daughters wrote; as he departed, he turned back to his wife and said, “I commit you to God” (Karlson and
Crumpacker, eds., The Diary of Esther Edwards Burr: 1754-1757, 1984, p. 302).
Edwards preached his inaugural sermon at Princeton on Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” The sermon was two hours long and made a great impact on its hearers. While at Princeton, Edwards hoped to complete two major treatises, one showing the harmony of the Old and New Testaments, and the other, a much-expanded treatise on The History of the Work of Redemption. However, Edwards did not live to complete these works. On March 22, 1758, after only a few months in Princeton, he died of complications from a smallpox inoculation.
The effect of this spiritual giant’s theological insight on New England Christianity has been immense and is often debated. Some say Edwards provided the impetus to move New England beyond the thought of its founders. In that sense, Edwards was a true philosopher. Others say Edwards was the last representative of Puritan theology and thought in the New World, where Puritanism would later be disdained. A third group finds little fault with Edwards or his theology, but accuses his followers of veering from the truths that inspired Edwards. Though Edwards himself stressed godly living, some of his successors discarded the biblically Reformed base which supported that godliness in their attempt to adopt Edwards’s more speculative views and methods. That, in turn, fostered a decline of both doctrinal and experiential Calvinism in New England. This group maintains that Edwards was a theologianphilosopher whose vision died with him, but that is certainly not true. Edwards’s vision continued at Princeton and many other places, and was alive in the Second Great Awakening.
Perhaps the most accurate assessment of Edwards is a combination of several views. Edwards was a profound theologian, as readers of The End for Which God Created the World can attest. Edwards was also a minister with great pastoral sensitivity—consider his Religious Affections. Recent scholarship has focused on Edwards’s metaphysics, gleaning primarily from his philosophical and scientific writings (e.g., Sang Hyun Lee’s The Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards  and Paul Helm’s Jonathan Edwards: Philosophical Theologian ). Whatever view one may hold, all agree that his writings, specifically his sermons, are profitable specimens of one of America’s best and last Puritans.
The Works of Jonathan Edwards (BTT; 2 volumes; 1,900 pages; 1974). This is the standard reference edition for pastors and laymen, while specialized scholars prefer the Yale edition, prompted by the work of Perry Miller in the 1950s (see below). The Hickman edition, from which the BTT edition is printed, contains most of Edwards’s published writings. The first volume offers “Freedom of the Will,” “Original Sin Defended,” “Religious Affections,” “Narrative of Surprising Conversions,” “Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England,” “Qualifications for Communion,” “History of the Work of Redemption,” “Five Discourses on the Soul’s Eternal Salvation,” a few minor treatises, and a 230-page biography of Edwards. The second volume contains “Life and Death of David Brainerd,” several dozen sermons, and some shorter theological works.
The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Yale; 23 volumes at present; 1957- ). Perry Miller (1905-1963), historian and literary scholar, proposed the Yale Edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards in 1953 after examining all of Edwards’s manuscripts. He wanted to offer a collection that could foster further inquiry into the mind of this eighteenth-century genius. Both conservative and liberal scholars continue to acknowledge their debt to Miller as hundreds of manuscripts come to press, which otherwise might have remained in the archives of Yale University.
Each volume in the Yale series has been thoroughly edited by scholars, and includes, on average, 35 to 150 pages of introduction. This series is essential for aspiring scholars of Edwards. Those interested in reading Edwards for devotional benefit could better purchase the two volume edition of his Works, since the Yale volumes are expensive.
Presently, twenty-three of the twenty-eight projected volumes have been published. Here is a summary of the set, volume by volume, adapted from Yale’s descriptions:
1. Freedom of the Will (494 pages; 1957, 1985), edited by Paul Ramsey (see below).
2. Religious Affections (526 pages; 1959, 1987), edited by John E. Smith (see below).
3. Original Sin (448 pages; 1970), edited by Clyde A. Holbrook. The controversy over human depravity that raged during the eighteenth century was an important phase of America’s philosophical understanding of human nature and its potential. In defending the hated doctrine of original sin, Edwards battled a heresy that had already engulfed much of Europe and was now threatening America. The Enlightenment, hailed as man’s greatest achievement, had nearly eradicated the notion of original sin.
John Taylor’s treatise, perhaps the most impressive assault on the doctrine of original sin, haunted Edwards throughout his years at Stockbridge. Ultimately, he wrote this rebuttal to Taylor, focusing on three major issues: the fact and nature of original sin, its cause and transmission, and God’s responsibility for humanity’s sinfulness.
First published in 1758, The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended went through at least thirteen editions and was later included in all collections of Edwards’s works. The text of the first edition has been adapted to the standards of the Yale series in making full use of all relevant manuscript materials. Holbrook’s introduction and notations provide detailed information about the sources, development, and reception of the work.
4. The Great Awakening (595 pages; 1972), edited by C.C. Goen. These writings on the Great Awakening theologically defined the revival tradition in America. Moving from descriptions of “the surprising work of God” in conversion to a quest for the essence of true religion, Edwards threads his way through increasing controversies over “errors in doctrine and disorders in practice.” He looks for an authentic core of evangelical experience, then examines it in light of biblical faith and experiential insight to defend it against overheated zealots and rationalistic critics. His writings (with related correspondence), presented here for the first time in accurate critical text, document a movement so significant that it has been called the American “national conversion.”
In the introduction, Goen explains the Arminian threat to which Edwards responded at the onset of the Awakening, and traces Edwards’s understanding of vital religion as it developed in the context of revivalism. Goen also sheds light on little-known aspects of “A Faithful Narrative” and describes the haphazard way in which that important work reached its audience.
5. Apocalyptic Writings (501 pages; 1977), edited by Stephen J. Stein. This is the first published text of Edwards’s private commentary on the book of Revelation. Written over a period of thirty-five years, Edwards’s notebook reveals his lifelong fascination with apocalyptic speculation (including its bizarre aspects) and his conviction about the usefulness of its visions in the life of the church. It was no small wonder, then, that Edwards viewed the sinking of several Spanish ships in the Atlantic as foreshadowing of the demise of the papal Antichrist.
This volume also contains the first complete edition since the eighteenth century of “Humble Attempt” (1748), which was Edwards’s response to the decline in religious fervor after the Great Awakening. In his introduction and commentary, Stein examines the development of Edwards’s apocalyptic interest in the events of his time, showing how Edwards’s private judgments on the book of Revelation affected his pastoral and theological activity. The texts and the introduction present a much-ignored facet of Edwards’s thought.
6. Scientific and Philosophical Writings (433 pages; 1980), edited by Wallace E. Anderson. This volume contains two notebooks by Edwards titled “Natural Philosophy” and “The Mind,” as well as a number of shorter manuscripts on science and philosophy. Several of the shorter papers have not previously been published, notably Edwards’s letter on the flying spider, an essay on light rays, and a brief but important set of philosophical notes written near the end of his life.
Each major work in this volume and group of related writings are preceded by a detailed discussion of manuscript sources and dates. Anderson makes these the basis for a revised account of the chronology of Edwards’s early writings and a deeper investigation of their biographical and historical context. Also included are a new appraisal of Edwards’s efforts and achievements in science and an analysis of the development of his philosophical views. Anderson concludes that Edwards was an enthusiastic, though untrained, investigator in the Newtonian tradition who grappled with the major metaphysical problems raised by this tradition. The papers reveal Edwards’s fertile mind that earned him recognition as the leading eighteenth-century philosopher-theologian.
7. The Life of David Brainerd (620 pages; 1985), edited by Norman Pettit (see below).
8. Ethical Writings (791 pages; 1989), edited by Paul Ramsey. In this comprehensive theological and philosophical work, Ramsey includes the two major ethical writings of Edwards. The series of sermons Edwards preached in 1738, known as “Charity and Its Fruits,” and “Two Dissertations: I. Concerning the End for Which God Created the World; II. On the Nature of True Virtue,” provide the principles of Edwards’s ethical reflections.
9. A History of the Work of Redemption (594 pages; 1989), edited by John F. Wilson. In 1739, Edwards preached a series of thirty sermons based on Isaiah 51:8. He intended to develop these into a major work explaining God’s progressive redemption of the world. This modern, authoritative text of those sermons is based on a new transcript of Edwards’s preaching booklets.
The first sermon deals with the doctrine and design of the work of redemption. The next eleven sermons show how God’s redemption became increasingly clear throughout the Old Testament era. Sermons 13-17 trace redemption in Christ’s life and ministry, and the next three sermons follow redemption through the rest of the New Testament era. Sermons 21-25 show God’s redemptive work through church history, from Constantine until Edwards’s day, focusing on Christ’s battles with the Antichrist. Sermons 26-29 offer Edwards’s eschatological views of what will happen until the fall of the Antichrist. The concluding sermon focuses on the character of God, the happiness of the church, and the misery of the wicked. The work as a whole is reminiscent of Augustine’s City of God.
10. Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 (670 pages; 1992), edited by Wilson H. Kimmach. This work contains the complete texts of twenty-three sermons preached by Edwards during the first years of his career. The previously unpublished sermons reveal one of the least explored periods of his life and thought. These fully annotated manuscripts include an editor’s preface that combines new information with fresh readings of related texts. The sermons cover topics such as man’s slavery to sin, poverty of spirit, and the necessity of true repentance as well as Christian happiness, Christian holiness, and Christian liberty.
11. Typological Writings (349 pages; 1993), edited by Wallace E. Anderson and Mason L. Lowance, Jr. This volume offers a comprehensive, readable, and annotated text of Edwards’s notebooks titled “Images of Divine Things,” “Types Notebook,” and “Types of the Messiah” (no. 1069 of the “Miscellanies”). These works show how Edwards developed his theory of typological exegesis. That theory helped him understand the relationship between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as well as correspondence between the natural and the spiritual worlds.
Edwards’s theories of typology have fascinated scholars from a variety of fields. These documents clearly show Edwards’s epistemology and his involvement in contemporary philosophical and exegetical trends. Introductions to the documents explain Edwards’s typology within the context of his period, and clarify some of the problems caused by his use of the types throughout his career. They also discuss his philosophical defenses of types against the claims of materialists, deists, and rationalists.
12. Ecclesiastical Writings (596 pages; 1994), edited by David D. Hall. This volume includes four documents of Edwards on the nature of the church. They show his views on ecclesiology, congregational autonomy, ordination, and admission to church membership and the sacraments. The first document, reprinted here for the first time since the eighteenth century, is Edwards’s defense of fellow Hampshire County ministers in the Robert Breck controversy of 1735-36.
The other three documents relate Edwards’s efforts to restrict admission to the sacraments at Northampton in 1749-50. Those actions ultimately led to his dismissal as pastor. “An Humble Inquiry” explains Edwards’s reasons for refuting the open admission policy of his grandfather and predecessor, Solomon Stoddard. “Misrepresentations Corrected” is Edwards’s response to the criticisms of his cousin Solomon Williams on Humble Inquiry. The third work is Edwards’s untitled narrative, available before only in Sereno Dwight’s 1829 edition. It offers details on Edwards’s final conflict with his Northampton congregation.
The introduction by Hall puts these writings in their theological and historical contexts, highlighting Edwards’s Puritan, Congregational heritage and the tensions between lay and clerical piety. It also reassesses Edwards’s relationship with Stoddard in light of Edwards’s experience during and after the Great Awakening.
13. The Miscellanies a–500 (596 pages; 1994), edited by Thomas A. Schafer. This is the first published collection of Edwards’s theological notebooks, called the “Miscellanies” or “commonplace books.” Throughout his ministerial career, Edwards filled private notebooks with writings on a variety of theological topics, numbering his entries—some 1,360 of them—in sequence. The entries in volume 13 were written during the early years of Edwards’s ministry (1722-31) and cover a variety of subjects. They reveal Edwards’s initial thoughts on topics such as original sin, free will, the Trinity, and God’s purpose in creation. Many entries also cover subjects not included in the main body of Edwards’s published writings. This volume includes Edwards’s index to the entire “Miscellanies.” This becomes a theological document in its own right in showing the relationship between the various components of Edwards’s theological system.
The editor’s introduction includes an essay linking Edwards’s growing body of entries in the “Miscellanies” with the main events in his life and career. It shows how, even before tutoring at Yale in 1724, Edwards had developed certain fundamental positions and distinctive elements in his theology. The introduction ends with an explanation of the methodology used to establish the chronology of the “Miscellanies.” The conclusions of this research are summarized in a chart that shows the chronological order of the miscellanies from “a to 500,” as well as the sermons, essays, and other manuscripts that Edwards wrote prior to 1731.
14. Sermons and Discourses, 1723-1729 (575 pages; 1996), edited by Kenneth P. Minkema. This book includes previously unpublished manuscript sermons from a crucial period in Edwards’s life: the years between the completion of his master’s degree at Yale College and the death of Solomon Stoddard. These sermons show the intellectual and professional development of young Edwards during his pastorate at Bolton, Connecticut; his Yale tutorship; and his work at Northampton. The sermons cover themes such as the pleasantness of religion, nobleness of mind, hearing the Word profitably, the threefold work of the Holy Spirit, and the torments of hell.
In his introduction, Minkema links the details of Edwards’s emerging career with concerns expressed in the sermons. He shows how Edwards addressed local and provincial concerns as well as the great theological debates of his day. He also shows how Edwards struggled to work out his innovative concept of “excellency” and to develop his definition of conversion as “spiritual light.”
15. Notes on Scripture (674 pages; 1998), edited by Stephen J. Stein. This is the first complete edition of the private notebooks on Scripture that Edwards compiled over a period of nearly thirty-five years. Notes on Scripture confirms the centrality of the Bible in Edwards’s thought. It balances earlier writings that appeared to emphasize scientific and philosophical elements while overlooking Scripture. In this critical edition, entries appear in the order that Edwards wrote them, beginning with a short commentary on Genesis 2:10-14 that he wrote in 1724, and ending with his last entry (on the Song of Solomon), written two years before his death.
Edwards’s entries cover the whole Bible, revealing his creativity in interpreting the text as well as his fascination with typology. The notebook also documents Edwards’s relationship with the intellectual trends of his day, particularly his response to the challenge of the Enlightenment regarding biblical revelation. Stein’s introduction reveals Edwards as a true exegete in biblical commentary within the world of eighteenth-century Western thought.
16. Letters and Personal Writings (854 pages; 1998), edited by George S. Claghorn. This volume contains all the letters of Edwards along with his personal writings. For more than three decades, Claghorn scoured America, Great Britain, and Scotland for these letters and documents. The result is a fascinating compendium of 235 letters, including 116 never before published or reprinted since Edwards’s death, and four autobiographical texts—Edwards’s meditation “On Sarah Pierpont,” his future wife; “Diary”; “Resolutions”; and “Personal Narrative.”
These writings reveal the private side of Edwards: his relations with parents, siblings, college classmates, friends, and family, as well as interactions with the political, religious, and educational leaders of his day. Included are letters that he wrote to Samuel Hopkins, Benjamin Colman, George Whitefield, Isaac Chauncy, Joseph Bellamy, Thomas Clap, Thomas Gillespie, John Brainerd, Thomas Foxcroft, Timothy Dwight, and Aaron Burr. The new documents include Edwards’s only known statement on slavery as well as letters showing Edwards’s interest in Native Americans and his efforts on their behalf.
17. Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733 (480 pages; 1999), edited by Mark Valeri. When he became pastor of the Northampton church, Edwards turned his attention to the religious and social activities of his congregation, shaping his preaching to practical, everyday occurrences in the lives of his congregants. This volume contains eighteen sermons that Edwards delivered in Northampton from 1730 through 1733, including such classics as “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” and “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” along with many previously unpublished sermons.
The sermons show Edwards’s development as a preacher and theologian. They provide unique insights into the development of themes that would one day develop into mature theological thought, such as the viciousness of the unregenerate life, the importance of evangelical humiliation as a religious exercise, and the necessity of a genuine conversion from worldliness to godliness.
18. The Miscellanies, 501-832 (578 pages; 2000), edited by Ava Chamberlain. This book, the second of four volumes devoted to “Miscellanies,” contains his entries from July 1731 to approximately January 1740, the eve of the Great Awakening. They record Edwards’s thoughts as he defended orthodox Calvinism, took a leadership role in colonial church politics, and became a crusader for revival in the Connecticut River Valley of 1734 and 1735.
Edwards used “Miscellanies” to jot down ideas that he intended to develop in future sermons and treatises. These entries thus contain the seeds of such contemporaneous works as Justification by Faith Alone and The History of the Work of Redemption. They also show how the Connecticut Valley revivals influenced Edwards’s thoughts on such important theological topics as perseverance, the nature of spiritual knowledge, justification by faith, rationality in the Christian religion, and the history of redemption, conversion, and the religious life.
19. Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738 (849 pages; 2001), edited by Ava Chamberlain. According to Chamberlain, Edwards mastered his preaching style and content between 1734 and 1738, while experiencing the first revival of his ministry and its aftermath. Edwards delivered probably four hundred sermons and lectures during that time. Less than half of those have survived, but the ones we have cover various theological doctrines, pastoral life, conversion, and, in due time, declension.
This volume also includes Edwards’s account of the Northampton revival, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, published in 1737 in London and Edinburgh. Within a year, the work was reprinted, issued in Boston in three printings, and translated into German. Finally, this volume also includes Edwards’s Discourses on Various Important Subjects, based on five sermons about the Awakening.
20. The Miscellanies, 833-1152 (592 pages; 2002), edited by Amy Plantinga Pauw. These are the notebook entries Edwards wrote during the tumultuous years of 1740-1751. During this time, Edwards led his congregation through the Great Awakening, which resulted in a series of controversies with his Northampton congregation that eventually led to his dismissal.
21. Writings on the Trinity, Grace, and Faith (592 pages; 2003), edited by Sang Hyun Lee. In this collection of writings drawn from his essays and topical notebooks, Edwards deals with key Christian doctrines. The volume includes long-established treatises of Edwards, newly edited from the original manuscripts, as well as several smaller documents never published before; in some cases, these documents reveal new aspects of his theology that still need to be studied.
22. Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742 (608 pages; 2003), edited by Harry S. Stout, Nathan O. Hatch, and Kyle P. Farley. The sermons and discourses in this volume, preached from 1739 to 1742, chart the rise and decline of the Great Awakening in Northampton and beyond. Several sermons included in this volume have never been printed before; also, the transcript of the original manuscript of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” is reproduced for the first time, along with the text of its first printed edition.
23. The Miscellanies, 1153-1360 (776 pages; 2004), edited by Douglas A. Sweeney. This fourth and final volume of miscellanies cover Edwards’s final years, from 1751 to 1758, a period when Edwards faced the challenges of ministering at the Stockbridge Indian mission and made his transition to the presidency at Princeton. In these entries, Edwards responds to modern naturalism and the Enlightenment, showing us how to make reason subservient to the Scriptures.
Altogether Lovely: Jonathan Edwards on the Glory and Excellency of Jesus Christ (SDG; 231 pages; 1998). These sermons, collected from Edwards’s Works, focus on the beauty and excellence of Christ. They are comforting and uplifting. They include “God the Best Portion of the Christian,” “The Excellency of Jesus Christ,” “Christ Exalted,” and “Praise One of the Chief Employments of Heaven.”
*The Blessing of God, edited by Michael D. McMullen (B&H; 390 pages; 2003). This volume consists of twenty-two previously unpublished sermons transcribed from a collection of Edwards’s papers held at the Beinecke Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library of Yale University. They cover a broad range of topics such as confessing and forsaking sin, delighting in exalting God, knowing the Redeemer, true conversion, and the way to receive God’s blessing. One remarkable sermon is titled, “In True Conversion Men’s Bodies Are in Some Respect Changed as Well as Their Souls.”
A Call to United, Extraordinary Prayer (CFP; 165 pages; 2003). Historically, this little paperback proved to be a very important book. It was first published by Edwards in 1747 as An Humble Attempt to promote an explicit agreement and visible union of God’s people through the world, in extraordinary prayer, for the revival of religion and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth. Edwards said he was motivated to write on “a concert ofprayer” for two reasons: first, he realized that the revivals of the mid-1730s and the early 1740s would not recur until God’s people engaged in earnest prayer for revival. Second, he wanted to provide additional theological support for a document simply called Memorial, written by some Scottish pastors.
In a helpful preface, David Bryant tells us the story of Memorial: “Rising out of scores of prayer societies already functioning in Scotland around 1740, especially among young people, by 1744 a committee of ministers determined it was time to do more. They decided to try a two-year experiment,’ uniting all prayer groups and praying Christians in their nation into a common prayer strategy. They called for focused revival prayer on every Saturday evening and Sunday morning, as well as on the first Tuesday of each quarter. By 1746 they were so gratified by the impact of their experiment that they composed a call to prayer to the church worldwide, especially in the colonies. However, this time the ‘concert of prayer’ was to be for seven years” (Memorial, pp. 16-17).
Citing Zechariah 8:20-22, Edwards says that God’s rich promises encourage us to expect great success from corporate prayer: “That which God abundantly makes the subject of his promises, God’s people should abundantly make the subject of their prayers.” He concludes that when believers persevere in united, concerted prayer, God will grant a fresh revival, which “shall be propagated, till the awakening reaches those that are in the highest stations, and till whole nations be awakened” (p. 18).
Edwards’s book had a limited influence during his lifetime. Republished late in the eighteenth century in England, it influenced William Carey (1761-1834) and his prayer group. It also affected John Sutclif (1752-1814), a well-known Baptist pastor in Olney, who led weekly prayer meetings for revival in the Baptist churches of the Northamptonshire Association, to which his church belonged. Those prayer meetings spread throughout the British Isles, particularly impacting eighteenth century revivals in Wales. Heman Humphrey writes in his Revival Sketches and Manual, “One of the most important revivals of religion, when the effects are considered, is that which occurred in the ‘Principality of Wales’ under Howell Harris and Daniel Rowlands; and this was carried forward and fostered by means of private societies for prayer and religious conference” (pp. 55-56). In the end, tens of thousands were converted throughout Britain from the 1790s to the 1840s (Erroll Hulse, Give Him No Rest: A call to prayer for revival, pp. 78-79).
Edwards’s treatise became a major manifesto for the Second Great Awakening around the beginning of the nineteenth century. It also fueled other awakenings in the late 1850s. Samuel Prime’s The Power of Prayer explains how corporate prayer ushered in the famous 1857-1859 revival (sometimes called the Third Great Awakening) along the eastern coast of the United States, then spread west, resulting in the conversion of hundreds of thousands of people.
In sum, Edwards’s book is a powerful call for united prayer in the worldwide church. It could have a powerful effect if church members would study it together and implement its suggestions in dependency on the Spirit.
*Charity and Its Fruits (BTT; 368 pages; 1988). Originally given in Northampton in 1738, these sixteen sermons on 1 Corinthians 13 were prepared for the press by Edwards. They were not published until 1851, however, under the editorship of Edwards’s great-grandson, Tryon Edwards. Edwards preached these sermons between the 1734 and 1740 revivals, shortly after a series on the wise and foolish virgins. To Edwards, the biblical principle of his text was clear: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Edwards shows the nature and virtue of love as the distinguishing mark of a true Christian—love, which manifests itself in preferring others beforeself. Throughout, he navigates skillfully between Arminianism and antinomianism. The series concludes with one of Edwards’s most popular sermons, “Heaven is a World of Love,” which has been called the most beautiful of all his writings.
Though somewhat repetitious, this work is among the best of Edwards’s practical writings. Richard Allen said Edwards repeated himself so often because he was “knocking on closed doors.”
*Day by Day with Jonathan Edwards, edited by Randall J. Pederson (HP; 398 pages; 2005). Featuring 365 thought provoking reflections accompanied by Scripture, this collection offers readers a daily measure of penetrating insight and thoughtful encouragement from the writings of Edwards. This book serves both as an introduction to the thought of Edwards and as a glimpse into a heart consumed by passion for God’s glory. Includes an introduction on Edwards’s life and ministry.
*Devotions from the Pen of Jonathan Edwards (SDG; 120 pages; 2003). First compiled by Ralph G. Turnbull and published in 1959 as Devotions of Jonathan Edwards, this expanded reprint includes 120 excerpts from Edwards’s writings. Notations at the bottom of each section inform the reader where the readings were taken from. The purpose of this small book is to “get people to read Jonathan Edwards,” says Don Kistler in the preface. The only downside of this book is that it only includes four months’ worth of daily readings, rather than a full year.
The Freedom of the Will (SDG; 325 pages; 1998). Many scholars believe this work, published in 1754, is the most important argument against Arminianism published in America. Freedom of the Will is divided into four parts. The first deals with terminology; the nature and determination of the will; the meaning of necessity, impossibility, and contingency; the distinction between natural and moral necessity; and the nature of moral agency and liberty. The second considers the possibility of self-determination. The third analyzes divine agency regarding human beings and the world. In the conclusion, Edwards anticipates the reception the work will receive.
Noteworthy is Edwards’s essential agreement with the empiricist John Locke that the question of whether or not the will was “free” was badly posed; the real issue, he said, is whether the person is free. The majority of the work, however, deals with the will’s freedom (in contrast to the freedom of the whole person) as it seeks to refute the Arminian notion of the will. For Edwards, the errors of the Arminians essentially resulted from denying God’s absolute sovereignty; in contrast to Calvinist orthodoxy, Arminians insisted that secondary causes could operate in the individual apart from the influence of the divine will. This notion of the will’s freedom had Pelagian roots, which Edwards rightly exposed. Furthermore, the refusal of the Arminians to acknowledge the individual’s total corruption promoted further error. The will cannot be free as the Arminians would have it, Edwards argued, for true freedom can only belong to God, who is self-sustaining and therefore free from other influences.
*The Glory and Honor of God (B&H; 387 pages; 2004). This is the second volume in a series of unpublished sermons by Jonathan Edwards, all taken from the Beinecke Rare Book Room and Manuscript Library of Yale University. There are twenty sermons: “That Wicked Men’s Sins Lie at Their Door” (Gen. 4:7); “The Glory and Honor of God Requires That His Displeasure Be Manifested Against Sin” (Num. 14:21); “’Tis a Blessed Thing to Some Persons That God Is to Be Their Judge” (Ps. 7:8); “That Wicked Men Be Not Apt to Be Sensible but That It Will Always Be with Them as It is Now” (Ps. 10:6); “God’s Manner Is First to Prepare Men’s Hearts and Then to Answer Their Prayers” (Ps. 10:7); “That This Present World Shall One Day Come to an End” (Ps. 102:25-26); “It’s a Very Decent and Comely Thing That Praise Should be Given to God” (Ps. 147:1); “Faith Renders Those Things That Are Most Terrible in Their Own Nature Harmless to Believers” (Dan. 6:23); “It Is What May Well Make Us Willing and Desirous to Go with God’s People, That God Is with Them” (Zech. 8:23); “When a Company or Society of Christians Have Christ Present with Them, ’Tis the Greatest Cause of Joy to Them” (Matt. 9:15); “That the Son of God by Appearing in Our Nature Laid a Glorious Foundation for Peace to the Inhabitants of This World” (Luke 2:14); “That Hearing and Keeping the Word of God Renders a Person More Blessed Than Any Other Privilege That Ever God Bestowed on Any of the Children of Men” (Luke 11:27-28); “Even As I Have Kept My Father’s Commandments” ( John 15:10); “Jesus Christ Is the Shining Forth of the Father’s Glory” (Heb. 1:3); “Those Who Love Christ Shall Receive of Him a Crown of Life” ( James 1:12); “It Would Have Been Better for Some Persons If Christ Never Had Come into the World to Save Sinners” (1 Pet. 2:8); “That a Christian Spirit Is of Great Price in the Sight of God” (1 Pet. 3:4); “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love” (1 John 4:16); “Christ Was Worthy of His Exaltation upon the Account of His Being Slain” (Rev. 5:12); “In Hell Is Inflicted the Fierceness of the Wrath of a Being That Is Almighty” (Rev. 19:15).
Growing in God’s Spirit (P&R; 160 pages; 2003). This is the inaugural volume in a series devoted to bringing Jonathan Edwards’s works to today’s reader in an easy-to-read format. It includes three of his greatest sermons, divided into selections of thirteen chapters. “A Divine and Supernatural Light” teaches what the divine work of the Holy Spirit is in the heart of man and the spiritual light He imparts through the Word of God. “Christian Knowledge” shows man’s responsibility in pursuing divine knowledge as his daily calling. “The Christian Pilgrim” calls the believer to live more in the prospect of eternity.
A History of the Work of Redemption (BTT; 448 pages; 2003). In this classic, consisting of thirty sermons preached in Northampton in 1739, Edwards reviews the whole panorama of human history from the fall of man to the end of time, concluding that everything in human history is subservient to Christ’s work of redemption. Here we catch Edwards’s optimistic vision of the irresistible advance of the cause of Christ in the world and gain encouragement for gospel labors.
Jonathan Edwards on Revival (BTT; 140 pages; 1984). This book contains “Narrative of Surprising Conversions,” “Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God,” and “An Account of the Revival in Northampton in 1740-42.” The first is Edwards’s early assessment of the 1735 revival. It includes a fascinating account of several conversions, including those of young children. The second, written several years later, examines the saving marks of grace according to 1 John 4:1. The final piece was initially a letter written to a minister in Boston in 1743 during the Great Awakening.
This is a good book to begin a study of Edwards’s view of revival, but it should be followed with a reading of Religious Affections, which is a more mature and realistic assessment of spiritual experience.
A Jonathan Edwards Reader, edited by John R. Smith, Harry S. Stout, and Kenneth P. Minkema (Yale; 335 pages; 1995). The selections in this book are divided into two major categories. The first tracks the public development of Edwards’s thinking from his early days as a Yale student to the end of his life and ministry. These writings consist of treatises and sermons he published, including Faithful Narrative, Religious Affections, and Freedom of the Will, as well as notes that remained in manuscript form until after his death.
The second category shows the personal side of Edwards in autobiographical writings, correspondence, and family papers. The family papers include a letter from Edwards to his daughter, Esther, who became the mother of Aaron Burr, Jr., vice president of the United States. Edwards expresses his hopes that “Mr. Burr and you would be frequent in counseling Timmy [Edwards’s eldest son] as to his soul concerns” (p. 313).
Jonathan Edwards’s Resolutions and Advice to Young Converts (P&R; 37 pages; 2001). Edited and introduced by Stephen J. Nichols, this small paperback contains Edwards’s personal resolutions for daily living as well as his lesserknown work, Advice to Young Converts. Resolutions shows a mature Edwards (though he was only age nineteen when he wrote most of this) reflecting the Puritan piety of the era. This small piece reveals what spiritual giants the Puritans were, even as young adults.
Justification by Faith Alone (SDG; 154 pages; 2000). This book is the substance of two lectures that Edwards delivered in 1738 to refute Arminianism, which was affecting Northampton, as well as antinomianism, which had persisted in the colonies since the days of Anne Hutchinson. With solid, scriptural reasoning, the work stresses that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). John H. Gerstner wrote of Edwards: “More sharply than any he saw the sense in which justification by faith alone rested ultimately on justification by works—the works of Christ.”
On Knowing Christ (BTT; 280 pages; 1991). This book contains ten sermons explaining the Spirit’s work in the conviction of sin and leading believers into an experiential acquaintance with Christ and the marvels of the Christian life. It includes several famous sermons, such as “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” “Pressing into the Kingdom of God,” “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and “Safety, Fullness, and Sweet Refreshment, to be Found in Christ.” In these sermons, Edwards is clearly evident as a God-centered thinker, searching preacher, precise theologian, and earnest pastor. This is a good book for those who wish to be introduced to Edwards.
*Knowing the Heart: Jonathan Edwards on True and False Conversion (IO; 441 pages; 2003). This volume consists of thirteen of Edwards’s sermons never before published, with one exception on the theme of the heart of man. Edwards shows that the natural heart of man is at enmity with God: depraved, deceitful, and proud. William Nichols, as editor, premises that effective evangelism is dependent upon a knowledge of how the heart works and understanding the signs of true and false conversion. Chapters particularly relevant for today include: “A Pretence of Trusting in Christ is Vain as Long as Men Live Wicked Lives”; “Particular Repentance is Necessary to Salvation”; and one that may surprise many in our prosperous day, “God gives Plenty of Earthly Things to Those He Hates.”
The Life and Diary of David Brainerd (Baker; 385 pages; 1989). This biography depicts life in pre-Revolutionary America, when religious revival swept the colonial frontier. From 1743 to 1747, Brainerd was a missionary to the Indians. Riding thousands of miles on horseback, he kept a journal of daily events until the week before he died at age twenty-nine at Edwards’s house. In the journal are entries professing Brainerd’s love for Edwards’s daughter, Jerusha. When Jerusha is frightened about moving among the Indians, Brainerd advises her, “If God would have you die by an arrow, you would want it no other way.”
Published in 1749, Life of Brainerd became a spiritual classic in its own time. It was the first popular biography to be published in America. It went through numerous editions and has been reprinted more times than any other work by Edwards. Recently scholars have suggested that Edwards substantially altered Brainerd’s original diary (cf. vol. 7 of the Yale Edition of Edwards’s works, where a surviving copy of Brainerd’s diary is compared with Edwards’s manuscript).
Regardless, Brainerd’s diary, which is on a par with Augustine’s Confessions, reveals the spiritual growth and intense personal struggles of a young man with great zeal for God. Both teenagers and adults should read this moving account. Brainerd’s selfless life of prayer and zeal is convicting and inspiring.
Our Great and Glorious God (SDG; 212 pages; 2003). This book is a compilation of material from Edwards’s sermons and “Miscellanies” on the existence and character of God, particularly His attributes of grace, sovereignty, wisdom, and justice. There are also chapters on God’s decrees and God’s glory. One of many savory quotations from the chapter on God’s glory is as follows: “God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those who see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul, by both the understanding and by the heart.”
The closing chapter, “Heaven is God’s House,” is a fitting capstone to the book. Edwards movingly raises our conceptions of God to higher levels, which is sorely needed in our day when most professing Christians are woefully deficient in understanding God’s nature and character.
Pressing Into the Kingdom (SDG; 350 pages; 1998). This volume contains many of Edwards’s sermons on seeking salvation. The eleven sermons include: “Pressing into the Kingdom of God” (Luke 16:16); “Preciousness of Time” (Eph. 5:16); “Procrastination” (Prov. 27:1); “Ruth’s Resolution” (Ruth 1:16); “The Folly of Looking Back in Fleeing Out of Sodom” (Luke 17:32); “God Makes Men Sensible of Their Misery” (Hos. 5:15); “Sinners in Zion Tenderly Warned” (Isa. 33:14); “The Manner in Which the Salvation of the Soul is to be Sought” (Gen. 6:22); “The Vain Self-Flatteries of the Sinner” (Ps. 36:2); “Christ’s Agony” (Luke 22:44), and “The Christian Pilgrim” (Heb. 11:13-14).
These sermons leave no excuse for spiritual slothfulness. Tender warnings combined with urgent exhortations are well designed to press sinners into the kingdom of God.
*The Puritan Pulpit: Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) (SDG; 285 pages; 2004). This book is comprised of sixteen sermons by Edwards. Fourteen of these sermons have never been published before in any edition. Some of the sermon titles are: “It is Good for Us that God is Not as We are,” “God Doesn’t Thank Men for Doing Their Duty,” “God Never Changes His Mind,” “Men’s Addiction to Sin is No Excuse, but an Aggravation,” “There is a Mutual Abhorrence Between God and Wicked Men,” and “Christ is the Christian’s All.”
Pursuing Holiness in the Lord (P&R; 215 pages; 2005). Holiness is something to be pursued, though never in our own strength. The three sermons of Edwards made accessible in this volume in thirteen chapters guide us past the rival pitfalls of lawlessness and works-righteousness to explore the believer’s role in God’s work of sanctification.
The Religious Affections (BTT; 382 pages; 2001). This work is often regarded as the leading classic in American history on spiritual life. Edwards here presents a more mature reflection of revival than in his Faithful Narrative, reflecting upon the strengths and weaknesses of the Great Awakening after it crested. Fundamentally, Edwards grapples with the questions: What makes a person a Christian? What is it about a person that would move others to recognize him as a Christian? What is the difference between true and false Christian experience? Edwards first considers the nature of affections and their importance in religion, answering the charges of Charles Chauncy. He views affections as the desires of the heart based upon intellectual reflections, and argues that true religion consists in the affections.
In the second part of his work, Edwards describes twelve signs of gracious affections that may not necessarily indicate saving faith. These include intense feelings; experiences that produce physical effects; fluency in spiritual matters; not causing one’s own affections; having verses of Scripture impressed upon the mind; the appearance of being loving; experiencing a variety of affections; being moved by affections to spend much time in religious matters; affections that move one to praise God; affections that lead to a strong sense of assurance of salvation; affections that lead one to act in ways that are accepted by the godly. Edwards goes on to argue that external signs motivated by religious affections neither deny nor confirm genuine religious experience. He takes a middle position between those who claimed the phenomena that took place in Northampton proved the revival true and those who said the phenomena showed it to be false.
In the final section, Edwards explains the true marks of genuine conversion, noting that they all arise from the illumination of God’s Spirit. He describes twelve true signs of gracious affections:
• A new birth, or regeneration
• A new transcendental perspective in daily life that focuses on God’s glory
• A love for the loveliness of divine things
• A “new taste” that combines “heat with light”; understanding is essential but insufficient by itself
• A deep conviction of an immediate sense of divinity and total control of self by the truths of the gospel
• An evangelical rather than legal humiliation
• A radical change of nature that results in conversion
• A genuine love for and meekness toward others
• A Christian tenderness toward others
• A kind of symmetry or proportion of all the foregoing affections
• A desire for a growing relationship with God
• A gracious love that manifests itself in behavior
*The Salvation of Souls: Nine Previously Unpublished Sermons by Jonathan Edwards on the Call of Ministry and the Gospel (Crossway; 190 pages; 2003). In this new collection of sermons, Edwards calls ministers to focus on the salvation of souls. They must not shrink from this important task but must persevere in denouncing sin and calling sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. They should not depend on their own wisdom but on the Holy Spirit as they faithfully preach the Word. This challenging yet comforting book is designed for ministers of the gospel.
Sermons include: “The Death of Faithful Ministers a Sign of God’s Displeasure” (Isa. 3:12); “Ministers Need the Power of God” (2 Cor. 4:7); “The Kind of Preaching People Want” (Micah 2:11); “The Minister Before the Judgment Seat of Christ” (Luke 10:17-18); “Deacons to Care for the Body, Ministers for the Soul” (Rom. 12:4-8); “Ministers to Preach Not Their Own Wisdom but the Word of God” (1 Cor. 2:11-13); “Pastor and People Must Look to God” (Acts 14:23); and “The Work of the Ministry is Saving Sinners” (Acts 20:28).
Seeking God: Jonathan Edwards’ Evangelism Contrasted with Modern Methodologies, ed. William C. Nichols (IO; 564 pages; 2001). This book reprints sixteen of Edwards’s evangelistic sermons and treatises. Each document is accompanied with a detailed editorial analysis of Edwards’s evangelistic methods in contrast to modern Arminian and naturalistic evangelistic methods. The editor repeatedly concludes that modern evangelism deceives the unsaved, for it does not tell impenitent sinners the truth about themselves as God’s enemies or about their impending eternity in hell if they fail to repent. By contrast, Nichols stresses Edwards’s stark biblical realism which focuses on the dreadfulness of man’s natural state as essential to God-honoring evangelism.
The goal of Edwards’s evangelistic method is to call people to seek God. Nichols concludes that Edwards’s concept of “seeking God”—which stresses waiting on God in His appointed means of grace such as reading, hearing, crying for mercy, praying for a new heart, and forsaking every known sin—appears in almost every sermon he preached. Though this book serves as a helpful antidote to much of modern evangelism, it needs to be balanced with Edwards’s equal emphasis on the Triune God seeking and finding sinners by means of His gracious invitations and glorious promises.
The Selected Writings of Jonathan Edwards (Waveland Press; 190 pages; 1992). Edited by Harold P. Simonson, this collection of essays and sermons demonstrates Edwards’s perspectives in theology, ethics, psychology, and aesthetics. Included are “Personal Narrative,” “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” and “A Farewell Sermon.” Edwards’s interpretations address current philosophical questions about the natural goodness of people and the growing need for accurate theology to inform philosophical musings.
*Selections from the Unpublished Writings of Jonathan Edwards, edited by Alexander Grosart (SDG; 212 pages; 1997). In 1854, Grosart, editor of the Nichols Series of Puritan reprints, began working with the unpublished manuscripts of Jonathan Edwards. Some of this material was published in 1865 as Selections. This work includes “A Treatise on Grace,” “Annotations on the Bible,” “Directions for Judging Persons’ Experiences,” and sermons on Matthew 7:14, 2 Timothy 3:16, Romans 6:1, Acts 24:25, and 1 Peter 3:19-20.
Sermons of Jonathan Edwards (HP; 400 pages; 2005). This is a collection of twenty of Edwards’s most famous sermons, many of which focus on the majesty and grandeur of God and the hopelessness of man’s spiritual reformation and revival apart from God’s grace. It includes “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence,” “Wicked Men Useful in Their Destruction Only,” “Pressing into the Kingdom of God,” “The Excellency of Christ,” “Pardon for the Greatest Sinners,” “Christ’s Agony,” and “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” This book would be a wise purchase for those who desire to be introduced to Edwards’s sermons.
*The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader (Yale; 281 pages; 1999). This anthology shows Edwards addressing a great variety of Christian experiences. The collection contains fifteen sermons (of the more than 1,200 that Edwards preached), including five that were not previously published. An introduction describes the sermons’ historical context (some were preached to predominantly English congregations, others to Native Americans; all were delivered in the period between the Salem witch trials and the American Revolution) and their literary structure. Each sermon starts with a Scripture text and brief interpretation; states a doctrine that will be explained; then proceeds with various defenses, applications, and uses of the doctrine in the lives of listeners.
One of the most interesting sermons, titled “The Way of Holiness,” was preached when Edwards was a teenager. It explains each step in the soul’s pilgrimage and urges believers to live in such a way that deepens the “likeness in nature between God and the soul of the believer.” Edwards’s personal journey, described in Resolutions, reveals his commitment to live as a teenager with all his might in the way of holiness he here preaches about.
Standing in Grace (SDG; 70 pages; 2002). In this work, Edwards examines the difference between common grace and saving grace. He shows the nature and qualities of saving grace, emphasizing how grace is given by the Spirit of God. Edwards also explains the nature of the Holy Spirit’s relationship to grace. This work was first published in 1865 by Alexander Grosart as A Treatise on Grace. It is a part of Selections from the Unpublished Writings of Jonathan Edwards.
Thoughts on the New England Revival: Vindicating the Great Awakening (BTT; 294 pages; 2005). D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones advises, “If you want to know anything about true revival, Edwards is the man to consult.” Edwards was uniquely qualified to write on the subject of revival because of his theological grasp and his first-hand experience of spiritual awakenings. In this volume, first published as Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1742), he expresses his thoughts on “the glorious work of God” in the Great Awakening, and shows why the Awakening should be promoted. Edwards defends this revival against its critics and the excesses of its friends. What is a revival? How is it to be recognized? Is it a
genuine work of the Spirit of God? If it is, then how is revival to be guarded against the spurious errors and unscriptural tendencies of its over-zealous promoters? What are we to make of
“outcries and bodily effects” in revival? How can spiritual pride, immediate revelation, and unjust censuring of others be avoided in revival? All these questions and more are ably answered
To All the Saints of God: Addresses to the Church (SDG; 401 pages; 2003). This collection of twelve sermons explains the role of the church and its relationship to God. Edwards considers
the issues of ecclesiology and membership from a practical standpoint. He also focuses on personal duties in the church. Such topics as prayer, dependence on God, bereavement, self-examination, and hope for the penitent are addressed with biblical fidelity and keen pastoral insight. Particularly helpful are “The Church’s Marriage to Her Sons and to Her God” (Isa. 62:4-5) and “The Nature and End of Excommunication” (1 Cor. 5:11). Edwards shows us that solutions to all church problems are always available by God’s gracious kindness but need to be practiced if the church is to be “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners”
*To the Rising Generation: Addresses Given to Children and Young Adults (SDG; 183 pages; 2005). During his Northampton tenure, Edwards preached thirty sermons to children and young adults. This new book contains thirteen of those addresses (nine of which are published for the first time), plus a letter to a young convert and a list of 115 Bible questions for children. For the most part, these messages focus on the importance of obedience, discipline, and seeking God. Chapter titles include: “Early Piety is Especially Acceptable to God,” “The Sudden Death of Children,” “The Sins of Youth Go With Them to Eternity,” “The Most Direct Way to Happiness,” “Children Ought to Love the Lord Jesus Christ above All Things in this World,” “Corrupt Communications,” “The Danger of Sinful Mirth,” and more.
Throughout this book, Edwards impresses on young people the constant need to repent of sin and live faithfully to the Lord. He stresses that when young people devote themselves to following Christ, they are able to serve the purposes of the kingdom for the majority of their years. “There is a peculiar honor done to God,” he writes, “when persons devote their youthful age to God.”
*Treatise on Grace and Other Posthumously Published Writings (JC; 144 pages; 2000). This collection contains Edwards’s famous work on grace, which shows how saving and common grace differ in nature and in fruits (see above). It also contains “Observations Concerning the Trinity and the Covenant of Redemption” (Edwards’s Miscellanies, pp. 573-88, prepared for publication by Edwards’s son), and “An Essay on the Trinity” (first published in 1903 and edited by G.P. Fisher), which provides an a priori argument for the existence of the Trinity. The book is edited by Paul Helm, who provides a succinct introduction to the work (23 pages), viewing Edwards from the perspectives of history, theology, and philosophy.
The True Believer: Sermons by Jonathan Edwards on the Marks and Benefits of True Faith (SDG; 315 pages; 2003). This anthology of eight sermons distinguishes between the marks of true and false converts. Included are “Pardon for the Greatest of Sinners,” “True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils,” “Hypocrites Deficient in the Duty of Prayer,” “A Warning to Professors of Religion,” “Christians a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Peculiar People,” “The Peace which God Gives His True Followers,” “True Saints, when Absent from the Body, are Present with the Lord,” and “The Portion of the Righteous.”
*Unless You Repent (SDG; 232 pages; 2005). Jonathan Edwards is famous for sermons such as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which vividly portray the reality of hell. But Edwards was no mere “hellfire and brimstone” preacher; he spoke of divine judgment because of his desire to see many come to Christ and be spared from God’s wrath. This volume contains fifteen previously unpublished sermons on the judgment awaiting the impenitent. Sermon titles include:
“Vengeance for Sin Properly Belongs to God,” “All Wicked Men Shall Go to Hell,” “The Torments of Hell are Exceedingly Great,” etc. We know of no more solemn volume ever published than this.
The Wrath of Almighty God: Jonathan Edwards on God’s Judgment Against Sinners (SDG; 390 pages; 1998). This contains eleven sermons and treatises from The Works of Edwards dealing with some aspect of hell or God’s judgment against sin. The sermons include “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners,” “Wrath to the Uttermost,” “The Eternity of Hell’s Torments,” and “The End of the Wicked Contemplated by the Righteous.”
When reading these sermons, keep in mind that Edwards should not be classified as a “hell-fire and brimstone” preacher. While he did preach regularly on hell, he did so not to scare people into the kingdom but to awaken slumbering sinners. If this book fails to make its unconverted reader tremble, despair of self-righteousness, and take refuge in Christ, the fault lies wholly with the reader.
Excerpt from Meet the Puritans
by Dr. Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson
Posted with permission on Monergism.com by Reformation Heritage Books