Jonathan Edwards is undoubtedly one of the greatest thinkers in American history. His deep religious devotion and richly reconceived Reformed theology lays at the very heart of religious conservatism. The most affordable edition of his works and letters is Banner of Truth edition.
Edwards' breathtaking analysis of the sovereignty of God will challenge
anyone with an open mind and heart who takes their Christian heritage seriously.
They are not only deeply thought but offers spiritual insight, profound
reflection, and personal renewal on the central issues of human life. It is a
challenge to read the works of Jonathan Edwards, given our liberal biases but
his work is at the political and religious core of American conservatism at its
best and most intense.
Edwards presents the absolute sovereignty of God with impeccable clarity, logic and argument. While also providing the clear strength of joy in God's grace through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. If read in faith, you will never be the same.
The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards by Sang Hyun Lee (Princeton
University Press) there is little doubt that Jonathan Edwards is one of the most
overlooked creative philosophers in the American tradition.
Given that the Yale edition of his collected works has now been completed, and
with the rise of the evangelical Christianity the importance of his vision of a
Christian nation cannot be underestimated. This volume offers
a announced introduction to the major theological themes evident in the remnants
of Edwards’ writings. One may quibble about emphasis or even a serious oversight
in some instances in these essays, but for someone who is beginning to approach
this major American philosophical theologian for the first time, these essays
offer that kind of balanced overview to orient the neophyte. It is hoped that
Jonathan Edwards will be more appreciated for his ethical vision as well as his
evangelical one and that the hellfire and brimstone view that most Americans
have of him can be corrected to embrace the cause of moral Christian vision of
the good society in a depraved world.
"This very fine volume is a true companion to Edwards's theology, one that students of Edwards can use to find clear and authoritative expositions on most of the major topics on which he wrote. Given that Edwards himself did not publish any systematic works, this book is a particularly valuable tool, providing a well-organized account of his doctrinal contributions, in which interest is greatest. Not only are the essays well-written but the editor has done a fine job of gathering a well matched set."--George Marsden, University of Notre Dame, author of Jonathan Edwards: A Life
"This book brings together an impressive group of scholars to provide a reliable and readable theological reference for a new generation of students of Jonathan Edwards. The Princeton Companion introduces key concepts in Edwards's theology, summarizes the history of the surrounding scholarship, and points the way toward major resources for further study."--W. Clark Gilpin, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of A Preface to Theology
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is widely recognized as one of the greatest
Comprising twenty essays by leading scholars on Edwards, the book will inform and challenge readers on subjects ranging from Edwards' understanding of the Trinity, God and the world, Christ, and salvation, as well as of history, typology, the church, and mission to Native Americans. It also includes a chronology of Edwards' life and writings that incorporates current research. Those familiar with Edwards' writings will find in these essays succinct expositions as well as bold new interpretations, and others will find an accessible, authoritative, up-to-date orientation to his multifaceted thought.
The essays are by Robert E. Brown, Allen C. Guezlo, Robert W. Jenson, Wilson H. Kimnach, Janice Knight, Sang Hyun Lee, Gerald R. McDermott, Kenneth P. Minkema, Mark Noll, Richard R. Niebuhr, Amy Plantinga Pauw, John E. Smith, Stephen J. Stein, Harry S. Stout, Douglas A. Sweeney, Peter J. Thuesen, and John F. Wilson.
Excerpt: JUST AS Jonathan Edwards is being studied more than ever before, the availability of his writings for scholars as well as the general public has dramatically increased. The historic publication of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale's twenty-seven-volume letterpress edition, is almost complete, and all of his writings, both those already issued in the letterpress edition and those that remain to be issued, will soon be electronically searchable. Scholars continue to add to the already enormous literature on Edwards, as M. X. Lesser's two-volume annotated bibliographies impressively testify. The reading and teaching of Edwards, as well as scholarly discussion of his thought, will probably increase for the foreseeable future.
The present volume is intended to be a source to which interested students, scholars, and others can turn and find a brief and yet instructive and authoritative introduction to the key ideas in Edwards' theology. Edwards' life and writings are multifaceted, and so is the interest in him today. He is studied as a theologian, a philosopher, a leader of the Great Awakening, a Puritan pastor, a literary figure, and certainly as a major influence in American culture and history. It would be agreed widely, however, that Edwards was most fundamentally a theologian. For this reason, the essays in this volume focus on his major theological ideas. It is hoped that scholars not directly working with Edwards' theology will find these essays a helpful and reliable source for his religious ideas. At the same time, it is also hoped that this volume may contribute to a more vigorous discussion of the theological and doctrinal issues in Edwards' thought.
Each of the essays includes at least some solid, though succinct, exposition of Edwards' views on a given theological topic. When there are interpretive debates or disagreements, authors were encouraged to mention them. Each essay, of course, reflects the interpretive point of view of the writer. All of the writers, however, are scholars who have worked on Edwards material for many years and are now recognized as experts. Their interpretive perspectives, therefore, are assumed to be certainly worthy of consideration. Readers could turn to this volume for a quick but reliable exposition of Edwards' views on the Trinity, freedom of the will, or typology or for an introductory orientation on Edwards' views on a particular topic before they do further research. There are also many other uses to which the essays in this volume could be put. It should be noted that in presenting Edwards' key theological ideas, the writers in this volume use three slightly different styles or approaches. The first is a kind of
intellectual history in which Edwards' ideas on a given subject are explicated in relation to other aspects of his thought and, as appropriate, to other thinkers of his times. All of the authors, except those of the essentially historical essays at the beginning and end of the collection, employ the intellectual history approach. A few of them, however, add to this basic strategy two others: the history of doctrine approach, in which Edwards' ideas are related to the classic Christian formulations of the faith, such as creeds, and the constructive approach, in which his ideas are considered as a resource for constructive efforts in our own time. Robert Jenson, writing on Edwards' Christology, for example, utilizes both the intellectual history and history of doctrine approaches and also discusses the relevance of Edwards' thought for today's concerns. Allen Guelzo, writing on the freedom of the will, also points out the relevance of Edwards' perspective for today's intellectual context. Mark Noll, writing on Edwards' influence for his posterity, appropriately combines a historical approach with a history of doctrine strategy. Amy Plantinga Pauw, writing on the Trinity, and Sang Hyun Lee, on God's relation to the world and soteriology, utilize both intellectual history and history of doctrine strategies.
We now move on to a brief description of the content of each of the essays in this volume. The first three provide a biographical and chronological context for the others. In "Jonathan Edwards: A Theological Life," Kenneth P. Minkema offers a succinct outline of the major events in Edwards' life, indicating when, and under what circumstances, his major works were written. The essay provides the reader with a brief and reliable account of Edwards' life and career as well as the background against which his theological works can be better understood. Minkema's account of how Edwards' shift of emphasis from justification and sola gratia to Christian practice and sanctification correlates with the ups and downs of the revival movement of the 1730s and 1740s is especially enlightening.
In "Edwards' Intellectual Background," Peter J. Thuesen takes a quick but balanced look at Edwards' rich and wide-ranging reading. Thuesen sees the "competing influences on Edwards as a thinker": on the one hand, the traditional sources (the Bible, Reformed scholastics, and Puritan writers, among others) and on the other, such representatives of the Enlightenment and the new learning as Locke, the Cambridge Platonists, and, of course, the deists and Arminians who were Edwards' lifelong opponents. Throughout his career, Edwards' reading thrust him, according to Thuesen, into "the fertile in-betweenness." But, Thuesen observes, this "conflicted" intellectual heritage "never developed into a simple 'either-or' proposition" for him but was instead utilized in his formulation of his own creative philosophical and theological perspective. Enriching Thuesen's essay is hisjudicious use of Edwards' "Catalogue," a list of some 720 books Edwards had either read or hoped to read.
Before plunging into a discussion of Edwards' major doctrinal focuses, this volume introduces the reader to his most fundamental philosophical concepts in Richard R. Niebuhr's "Being and Consent." After a half-century of studying and teaching Edwards, Niebuhr presents in a tightly constructed paper his observations on Edwards' ideas of being, consent, and plurality and draws some cautious but challenging conclusions about Edwards' overall metaphysical vision. Niebuhr's discussion of Edwards' most basic perspective on the nature of being leads naturally to the theological doctrine of the Trinity.
"The Trinity," by Amy Plantinga Pauw, begins a series of essays on the major elements of Edwards' theology. Pauw begins by noting how for Edwards the Trinity is not an abstract or merely speculative doctrine but rather a living doctrine about God's inner life, the foundation for God's redemptive activity in the world and thus for Christian piety and practice. Pauw then outlines the two analogies that Edwards uses in his articulation of the Trinity: the Augustinian personal and the Vitorine or social. Pauw also explains how both of these models function, sometimes harmoniously and sometimes rather disjunctively, in Edwards' understanding of the triune character of God's redemptive activity in the world. Pauw ends the essay with a discussion of how Edwards' doctrine of God as triune has to be understood as essentially related to his conception of being as self-communicating beauty or excellency.
Traditional western theology conceived of God as affecting the world or what happens in the world but not as being affected in any way by the world. Through this conception, theology tried to assert God's perfection and self-sufficiency (aseity). What is unsatisfactory in this way of thinking is that but a God who is absolutely unaffected by the world would not be consistent with the picture of God in the Old and New Testaments, and it becomes difficult to explain how such an impassible God is capable of activities such as creation and incarnation. "God's Relation to the World," Sang Hyun Lee argues that Jonathan Edwards conceived of God as at once perfect in actuality and self-sufficiency and also disposed to enlarge or repeat his internal fullness outside of himself—that is, in and through the world of time and space. Thus, for Edwards, the world increases God's being and beauty, and thus affects God. What Christians do in the world by God's grace, therefore, matters to God and participates in God's own life in time and space. Temporality and spatiality, concludes Lee, are taken seriously in Edwards' theology.
In "Christology," Robert W. Jenson focuses on the astonishing way in which Edwards regards as one agent the human Jesus who is also Son of God. First, according to Jenson, Edwards' soteriological concerns
(atonement and justification) made it inevitable that the one who comes in Christ to justify and sanctify the sinner is none other than God himself. So God the Son is Jesus, the historical human being, and Jesus is the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity. Thus, Edwards cross-predicates, as Jenson shows, "doings or characteristics ontologically appropriate to Jesus as a man to God the Son and doing and characteristics ontologically appropriate to God the Son to the man Jesus." For Edwards, there was a "communion of attributes" in Jesus Christ. Finally, Jenson analyzes Edwards' various discussions of the question, "How is the man Jesus thus one with the Logos?" Jenson offers his interpretation of Edwards' answer to this question. In this "postmodern" era, Jenson concludes, the church urgently needs Edwards' kind of Christology.
Robert E. Brown, in "The Bible," notes that Edwards not only made frequent references to the Bible in his writings but also wrote on the nature and authority of the Bible and used it as an essential source for constructive theological arguments. When Edwards writes about the Bible, Brown points out, Edwards' main concern is to answer the deistic challenges to the veracity of biblical religion. Brown also discusses the question of to what extent Edwards practiced modern historical critical analysis in his biblical interpretation. Brown shows that Edwards involved himself in critical historical analysis (e.g., on the question of whether Moses wrote the Pentateuch) but was typical of theologians of his times in that his primary attempt was to harmonize Scripture with the human knowledge of his day. Brown ends his essay with a call for further study of the various ways in which the biblical content influenced Edwards' constructive thought.
Edwards' understanding of the knowledge of God is taken up in John E. Smith's "Religious Affections and the 'Sense of the Heart.' " Smith stresses the holistic character of Edwards' view of human being and human knowing and demonstrates that, for Edwards, the understanding and the affections, the head and the heart, simply cannot be separated from each other. Smith carefully goes over what Edwards means by "understanding," "inclination," "will," and "affections," and his contrast of "notional" or "speculative knowledge" with "sensible knowledge." But Smith gives the greatest attention to what is perhaps Edwards' most important epistemological idea, "the sense of the heart." Drawing mainly from "Miscellanies," no. 782, Religious Affections, and the sermon called A Divine and Supernatural Light, Smith analyzes that concept from many different angles. He also does not fail to put Edwards' ideas in their historical contexts as well as in the context of Edwards' overall theological perspective.
Allen C. Guelzo begins his essay, "Freedom of the Will," with a brief
discussion of the general philosophical problem of free will and also of the
background, especially the challenge of Arminianism in
As the title suggests, "Grace and Justification by Faith Alone," by Sang Hyun Lee, treats two topics which are inextricably related but also distinguishable, both of which received special emphasis in the Reformed theological tradition. Lee focuses on Edwards' contention that saving grace is none other than the Holy Spirit himself indwelling in the regenerate "after the manner of " a disposition and points up the difference between this idea and the Roman Catholic (e.g., Thomistic) doctrine of "created grace." For Lee, the Holy Spirit acts in the regenerate according to a "general law" especially established by God. Edwards' idea of saving grace as a newly infused disposition, concludes Lee, must be distinguished from Thomas' idea of "created grace." A question also arises as to whether or not Edwards' doctrine of justification by faith alone is true to the Reformed tradition, for the latter stresses the Pauline doctrine that God's justification is of an entirely unmeritorious sinner while Thomas' view implies that prior to justification there is in the sinner a new qualification for it. Lee argues that Edwards held to a "forensic" doctrine of justification and that the new disposition does not count as a qualification for the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the sinner. Lee admits that Edwards has enlarged the meaning of sanctification but argues that his emphasis on the reality of the change in the regenerate has to be viewed in light of his larger perspective: that God created the world, and also redeems it, in order to repeat his glory in creation.
In "Christian Virtue and Common Morality," John E. Smith offers a quite comprehensive exposition of Edwards' ethical thought as represented in the sermon series Charity and Its Fruits and his treatise On the Nature of True Virtue. Smith carefully discusses Edwards' subtle handling of the relation between the love of God and "self-love." Edwards' central argument, as Smith points out, is that true virtue is the consent of beings to the Being in general, that is, to God. If this true virtue is the morality of grace, there is also the morality of nature, or the "common morality," such as a sense of duty, gratitude, conscience. Smith carefully discusses the continuity and discontinuity between these two moralities.
In spite of Edwards' long involvement in the pastorate, he never wrote a separate work dealing with ecclesiology. Perhaps this is one reason why Edwards scholars have given relatively little attention to this aspect of his thought. Douglas A. Sweeney's essay "The Church" is the result of his wide-ranging study of the relevant passages in Edwards' works. Edwards, according to Sweeney, had a strong doctrine of the church: the church is the "mystical body of Christ," the gathering of all those who were elected by God to participate in God's own activity of repeating in time and space God's internal glory or fullness. As such, the church has an ultimate significance. This high doctrine of the church is the theological background in light of which, according to Sweeney, Edwards' stand on the qualification for the communion and other ecclesiastical issues can be fully understood.
Typology, most narrowly defined, was a method of biblical interpretation. Old Testament events would be seen as types or prefigurations of those in the New Testament, centrally the event of Christ, and thereby a unity between the two Testaments would be established. Edwards used typology in this sense, but he astonishingly extended typology to the natural realm, beyond Scripture and beyond history. "External things are intended to be images of things spiritual, moral, and divine," declared Edwards. Perry Miller's interpretation, late in the 1940s, of this typologizing of nature, sparked a lively debate that continues to this day, and Janice Knight, in her essay "Typology," quickly reviews this debate and moves on to argue her own position. Knight's thesis is that Edwards' extension of typology to nature must be viewed in the context of Edwards' overall theological perspective, according to which God's inherently self-communicating nature moved him to create the universe. What God is moved by his nature to communicate in the finite realm is his own glory, and God's typological communications of the divine things in history and nature is part of what God is doing in and through his creation. This way of reading Edwards' typology, according to Knight, is consistent with his dynamic conception of God and God's relation to the world.
In his "Letter to the Trustees of the
In "Eschatology," Stephen J. Stein discusses Edwards' views of "the last things" in the three main phases of his adult life: his "early years of theological reflection, from the time of his schooling to 1733; the years dominated by his involvement with local revivals and with the Great Awakening in New England, from 1734 to 1748; and the last decade of his life, the period often identified as his most productive. Stein connects Edwards' views on eschatology with his personal and historical circumstances. At the end of the essay, five summary statements are offered.
"The 1200 or so sermons and the attendant sermon notebooks, scripture
notebooks, and miscellaneous manuscript writings now collected at Yale Beinecke
Library vividly illustrate the day-to-day working life of a great, but not
In "Missions and Native Americans," Gerald R. McDermott, shows that Edwards' mission work with the Native Americans between 1751 and 1757 was not just a result of circumstances but rather an activity that had a central importance in his theology. For Edwards, argues McDermott, missions are God's chief means for carrying out his work of redemption in history. Conversion is what starts the redemptive process, and without missions people would not be called to conversion. Therefore, missions are at the center of all that God and believers must do to accomplish the very end for which God created the world. It is not surprising, therefore, that Edwards was actively engaged in the affairs of the missions to Native Americans well before 1751. Edwards was the first to argue that missions was a vocation of all individual Christians. Also, through the widely read Life of David Brainerd and other books, concludes McDermott, Edwards played a formative role in the emergence of the modern missionary movement.
Edwards was a Puritan theologian—probably no one would quarrel with this
statement. However, it is quite another matter to explain exactly in what sense
Edwards the theologian is a Puritan. Harry S. Stout begins his essay "The
Puritans and Edwards" with a brief discussion of the recent attention that
scholarship has given to the interrelationship between the two, especially
Perry Miller's almost unchallenged revisionist interpretation that Edwards had
rejected the "federal theology" of the Puritans, which taught that God's
covenantal relationship, with its attendant rewards and punishments, existed
not only with individuals but also with nations. Stout then does a probing
analysis of the occasional and weekday sermons, delivered on days of fasting and
thanksgiving, that earlier scholars did not take into account. In these sermons,
Stout finds Edwards making references to
In "Edwards' Theology after Edwards," Mark Noll discusses the influence of
Edwards on those who followed him. Noll begins with two of Edwards' own
students, Joseph Bellamy and Samuel Hopkins, who modified some of their
teacher's major ideas as well as vivified them. The students of Edwards'
students—Jonathan Edwards, Jr., Nathanael Emmons, Asa Burton, and
others—appropriated Edwards' ideas also for their own purposes. Noll then
discusses nineteenth-century thinkers who were influenced by Edward, especially
Timothy Dwight and Nathaniel William Taylor, both at Yale, and Lyman Beecher,
the revivalist and social reformer. Noll pays particular attention to how
THE WORKS OF JONATHAN EDWARDS by Jonathan Edwards ($112.99, two volumes, library binding, cloth, 691 & 969 pages, Banner of Truth, ISBN: 0851513972)
The Banner of Truth edition is adequate for a personal library. It is based upon the 1834 collection of Edwards' writings, providing his major texts in in two hefty volumes with very small type. The Yale edition is a major work of scholarship that it easier on the eyes and that clears up many inaccuracies of the received texts. It also includes many texts not otherwise available. For any close reading of Edwards or for an analytical approach to the fuller theological system the newer editions are to be preferred.
The best anthology adequate for most survey purposes is A JONATHAN EDWARDS READER: by Jonathan Edwards, edited by John Edwin Smith, Harry S. Stout, and Kenneth P. Minkema ($16.00,paperback, 335 pages, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300062044) also available in HARDCOVER.
Chronology of Edwards' Life
The Spider Letter
Beauty of the World
Images of Divine Things
Notes on the Apocalypse
A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God
A Divine and Supernatural Light
A History of the Work of Redemption (Sermon I)
A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections
The Bad Book Case
An Humble Inquiry
Freedom of the Will
The Nature of True Virtue
Apostrophe to Sarah Pierpont
Receipt for Slave Venus
To Timothy Edwards, March 1, 1721
To George Whitefield, February 12, 1739/40
To Moses Lyman, May 10, 1742
To Joseph Bellamy, January 15, 1746/47
To Sarah Pierpont Edwards, June 22, 1748
To Thomas Foxcroft, May 24, 1749
To Esther Edwards Burr, March 28, 1733
To Thomas Prince, May 10, 1754
To the Trustees of the College of New Jersey, October 19, 1757
The Works of Jonathan Edwards Harry S. Stout, general editor
Though these volumes are expensive they represent topnotch scholarship about a thinker and theologian who in many ways has deeply defined American religiousness and values.
Volume 3 ORIGINAL SIN Edited by Clyde A. Holbrook ($75.00, CLOTH, 448 pages, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300011989) No paper edition
Volume 4 THE GREAT AWAKENING Edited by C. C. Goen ($75.00, CLOTH, 595 pages, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300014376) No paper edition
Volume 5 APOCALYPTIC WRITINGS Edited by Stephen J. Stein ($75.00, CLOTH, 501 pages, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300019459) No paper edition
Volume 6 SCIENTIFIC AND PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS Edited by Wallace E. Anderson ($75.00, CLOTH, 433 pages, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300022824) No paper edition
Volume 8 ETHICAL WRITINGS Edited by Paul Ramsey ($80.00, CLOTH, 791 pages, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300040202) no paper edition
Volume 9 A HISTORY OF THE WORK OF REDEMPTION Edited by John E. Wilson ($75.00, CLOTH, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300041551) no paper edition
Volume 10 SERMONS AND DISCOURSES, 1720-1723 Edited by Wilson H. Kimnech ($75.00, CLOTH, 670 pages, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300051360)
Volume 11 TYPOLOGICAL WRITINGS: 'Images of Divine Things' 'Types'/'Types of the Messiah' Edited by Wallace E. Anderson and Mason 1. Lowance, Jr., with David H. Watters ($75.00, CLOTH, 349 pages, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300053525) no paper edition
Volume 12 ECCLESIASTICAL WRITINGS: A Letter/ an Humble Inquiry/ Misrepresentations Corrected/ 'Narrative of Communion Controversy' Edited by David D. Hall ($75.00, CLOTH, 644 pages, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300058977) no paper edition
This volume includes four documents by Jonathan Edwards on the nature of the
church, documents that reveal his views on ecclesiology, congregational
autonomy, ordination, and admission to church membership and to the sacraments.
The first document, reprinted here for the first time since the eighteenth
century, is Edwards' defense of his fellow Hampshire County ministers in the
Robert Breck controversy of 1735-36. The other three documents relate to
Edwards' efforts to restrict admission to the sacraments at Northampton in
1749-50, actions that
ultimately led to his dismissal as pastor: An Humble Inquiry explicates his reasons for refuting his grandfather and predecessor Solomon Stoddard's open admission policy; Misrepresentations Corrected is Edwards' response to his cousin Solomon Williams' criticisms of the Humble Inquiry; and Edwards' untitled narrative, available before only in Sereno Dwight's 1829 edition and here newly re-edited, gives details his final conflict with his Northampton congregation. The
general introduction by David D. Hall places these writings in their contemporary polemical contexts and locates Edwards in a historical framework that highlights his Puritan, Congregational heritage and the tensions between lay and clerical piety. It also provides an important reassessment of Edwards' relationship to Stoddard in the light of Edwards' experience during and after the Great Awakening.
Volume 13 THE "MISCELLANIES, (Entry Nos. A-Z, Aa-Zz, 1-500) Edited by Thomas A. Schafer ($75.00, CLOTH, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300060599) no paper edition
Volume 14 SERMONS AND DISCOURSES, 1723-1729 Edited by Kenneth R Minkema ($75.00, CLOTH, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300068417) no paper edition
Volume 15 NOTES ON SCRIPTURE Edited by Stephen J. Stein ($80.00,CLOTH, pages, Yale University Press ISBN: 0300071981) no paper edition
This volume contains the first complete edition of Jonathan Edwards' private biblical notebook known as "Notes on Scripture," drawn from his own manuscripts. Compiled by Edwards over a period of nearly thirty-five years, this text confirms the centrality of the Bible in his thought.
The entries in this commentary range across the entire scriptural canon. This critical edition is the first to publish the contents of these manuscripts in the order in which he wrote them and without the license taken by an earlier, nineteenth-century editor. Edwards' entries reveal the creative ways in which he interpreted particular biblical texts and his fascination with typology, a hermeneutical approach he used to support his consuming Christological preoccupation. As an exegete, Edwards was frequently beholden to others in his day who also were exploring the worlds of biblical history and geography. His textual analysis in Notes on Scripture often drew on the scholarship of earlier commentators or on the writings of his contemporaries. This notebook documents a significant aspect of his engagement with the intellectual currents of his day, namely, his response to the challenge associated with the Enlightenment critique of biblical revelation. Edwards was unequivocal in affirming the authority of the Scripture. His lifelong preoccupation with the Bible evidenced in the pages of this private commentary provides a certain balance to earlier depictions of his thought that have emphasized the scientific and philosophical while overlooking the biblical dimension of his writings. Stephen J. Stein's introduction situates Edwards as an exegete in the larger cornmentarial tradition and in the intellectual world of eighteenth-century Western thought. Notes on Scripture provides direct access to this important aspect of one of America's most influential religious thinkers.
Volume 16 LETTERS AND PERSONAL WRITINGS Edited by George S. Clagborn ($80.00, CLOTH, 854 pages, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300072953)
This volume gathers together for the first time all known extant letters of Jonathan Edwards, along with his major personal writings. For more than three decades, George S. Claghorn has scoured America, Great Britain, and Scotland for letters and documents by and about Edwards. The result is an unparalleled compendium of 236 letters-including 116 never before published or never reprinted since Edwards' death-and four autobiographical texts: Edwards' meditation "On Sarah Pierpont," about his future wife, and "Diary," "Resolutions," and "Personal Narrative."
These letters and personal writings reveal the private man behind the treatises and sermons. They trace his relations with parents, siblings, college classmates, friends, and family, as well as with political, religious, and educational leaders of his day. New documents include Edwards' only known statement on slavery and letters on the Indian mission at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, that display Edwards' interest in Native Americans and his efforts on their behalf. These writings show the human face of Edwards as he applied theological and philosophical insights to the events of his daily life. They provide an unprecedented resource for understanding the man, his times, and his personal connections.
George S. Claghorn is professor of philosophy at West Chester University.
Volume 19: The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Volume 19: Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738 by Jonathan Edwards, edited by M. X. Lesser (Yale University Press) Jonathan Edwards achieved the greatest sustained mastery of the sermon form between January 1734 and December 1738, a time in which he also kindled his first revival. The Northampton revival spread to neighboring towns and villages, as did Edwards's renown. And the sermons of these years exhibit not only splendid rhetoric but also figural intricacies and tonal nuances that reveal his maturity as a writer. During this period Edwards delivered probably four hundred sermons and lectures. Of the fewer than half that survive, some extend the reach of the previous dozen years of his ministry, others engage speculative theological issues, others touch on pastoral life, and still others deal with conversion and, in time, declension. Edwards also wrote a full account of the Northampton revival, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, which was published in 1737 in London and Edinburgh and within a year was reprinted there, issued in Boston in three printings, and translated into German. In addition, near the end of the period Edwards put together Discourses on Various Important Subjects, five sermons about the Awakening and the only gathering of sermons he saw through the press. This is an especially important volume in his collect works. The verve and clarity of his sermons deserve repeated savor. Highly recommended.
More volumes are due out in the coming years. Some essential studies about Jonathan Edwards follow. It is highly selective but we hope we have highlighted central works of current scholarship.
AMERICA'S THEOLOGIAN: A Recommendation of Jonathan Edwards by Robert W. Jenson ($21.00, paperback, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0195077865) offers a well rounded introduction to the theological core of Edwards' writing. It is weaker in a philosophical and sociological appreciation of his writings. Jenson is one of the foremost Reformed tradition systematic theologians writing today. In many ways his systematic works can be seen as continuations of Edwards' vision. Following along the essays collected in JONATHAN EDWARDS AND THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE edited by Nathan O. Hatch & Harry S. Stout ($22.00, paperback, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 0195060776) provide a pluralistic historical perspective that shows connections in Edwards' work in our basic notions of law and governance as well as the religious longings of the Puritans.
A useful study
JONATHAN EDWARDS: A New Biography
by Iain H. Murray ($19.99, paperback, Banner of Truth,
ISBN: 0851517048) offers an forthright evangelical appreciation of the theological vision of Edwards. Murray is not shy about showing the piecmeal way many of Edwards' secular admirers deeply distort the context of his thought. This biography serves as an exceptional introduction to Edwards' Purtian vision that is from root to branch religious and only philosophical as a support. In many ways this evangelical understanding of Edwards represents a firm footing for the contemporary Christian Right not only in suppositions but also in views of justice.
Whether or not a biographer of Jonathan Edwards reveals his personal standpoint at the outset makes little difference, for inevitably it will soon be apparent. Edwards divided men in his lifetime and to no less degree he continues to divide his biographers. Certainly in the many books of which he is the subject there is no consensus of opinion. Almost the only statement about him which will command general acceptance is that he was a great man who was born in 1703 and died at the age of fifty-four in 1758. The nature of his greatness, the significance of his life and thought, an assessment of his character and writings -- on all these, and much else, judgments are divided.
One school of opinion has considered Edwards worthy of remembrance as America's first systematic philosopher and her 'greatest thinker' of the eighteenth century. Yale University Press reflected this viewpoint when they began their republication of Edwards' Works in 1957 with the most philosophical of all his writings, his Enquiry into the Modern prevailing Notions of that Freedom Of Will which is supposed to be essential to Moral Agency.
There are strong reasons for reacting this image of Edwards. Such an evaluation cannot be harmonized with the chief impression which Edwards made on his own contemporaries. 'The great philosopher' image does not belong to the eighteenth century, rather it came to prominence in the century after Edwards' own lifetime. Those who knew him best never put 'the philosopher' first. A fellow preacher, Gilbert Terment, announcing Edwards' death in a Philadelphia newspaper of March 28, 1758, described him as 'a great divine, divinity was his favourite study and the ministry his most delightful employment'. Another friend of Edwards, probably Samuel Finley, writing anonymously in the same year, believed that he was pre-cminently a spokesman for'practical and vital Christianity'. For Ezra Stiles, as for so many others, he was, in the first instance, 'a great Divine'. And this oft repeated opinion was not confined to the American colonies. John Newton of London (1725-1807), when faced on one occasion with the question, 'Who was the greatest divine of his era?' replied unhesitatingly, 'Edwards'.'
Many New Englanders of the next century, however, saw it differently. They were certain that if Edwards were to be appreciated at all it must not be in terms of his theology. For theology means 'creed' and Edwards' creed was -- thankfully -- a thing of the past. In the oft-cited words of William Ellery Charming, 'Calvinism has passed its meridian and is sinking to rise no more'. Of Edwards, Oliver Wendell Holmes was sure that, 'If he had lived a hundred years later and breathed the air of freedom, he could not have written with such old-world barbarism as we find in his volcanic sermons'.
In the later nineteenth century almost all who wrote sympathetically of Edwards felt it necessary to apologize for his beliefs. Only as a'philosopher', it seemed, could he retain some respectability. But this re-interpretation was bound to fail when it came to be scrutinized again in the light of the historical facts. The present century brought renewed study and new conclusions. As early as 1904 -- when most writers were still saying the opposite -- F. J. E. Woodbridge concluded an article on Edwards in The Philosophical Review with the words, 'We remember him, not as the greatest of American philosophers, but as the greatest of American Calvinists'. The plain fact is that Edwards' excursions into philosophy were only occasional and peripheral to his main thought; it was theology, or 'divinity', which belonged to the warp and woof of his life. Edwards' place in history is not alongside Locke, Berkeley or Kant. His life and impact were essentially religious.
This much is now commonly admitted and yet still without any general agreement. The most popular modern interpreters of Edwards hold that, as a religious figure, his is the greatness of religious 'tragedy' -- the 'tragedy' being that even for 'the greatest intellect in the history of American Christianity', his inherited Calvinistic beliefs were too strong for him to overcome. So argues Henry B. Parkes, the first of the modern biographers, in his Jonathan Edwards, The Fiery Puritan, 1930. With the exception of Arthur C. McGiffert, who is less inclined to criticize Edwards' doctrine, every other twentieth-century biographer of Edwards appears to agree with Parkes. For Ola Winslow, in her factually valuable Jonathan Edwards, he was a prisoner in an outworn, obsolete theological system -- 'his bondage seems almost a tragic pity'. Perry Miller, the bestknown twentieth-century writer on Edwards, puts it bluntly: 'The life of Edwards is a tragedy.... Because of his faith Edwards wrought incalculable harm'.'
A host of lesser-known writers repeat this same theme. 'Jonathan Edwards,' says Peter Gay, 'was the greatest tragic hero', intent upon 'rescuing the essence of the Puritan faith, on clarifying it, defending it, and preaching it to an age that did not wish to listen'.' Herbert W. Schneider laments: 'His philosophical insight was buried under the ruins of his religion. He failed to see the futility of insisting on the Puritan principles'.
Most of these writers, it should be said, are generous enough to consider that Edwards remains praiseworthy, for to have achieved what he did despite the handicap of his beliefs is greatness indeed. We must not, however, expect them to want to re-introduce the doctrine which Edwards taught.
Some recent views of Edwards pioneer ways of religious reading his
works among one of the more exciting is
JONATHAN EDWARDS AND THE CATHOLIC VISION OF SALVATION by Anri Morimoto
($33.50, hardcover, 178 pages, Pennsylvania State University Press, ISBN:
0271014539). Morimoto finds that Edwards's theology, once regarded as
disarrayed, precarious, and dangerously unorthodox, is in fact consistent
and integral to his general ontology and natural philosophy. By presenting
Edwards's vision of salvation as a
dynamic process of sharing God's excellence and holiness, Morimoto presents a new paradigm
that is radically inclusive, yet theologically responsible. This reworking of the implications of Edwards' work offers a Universalistic theme that was absent in the initial readings, more defined by sectarian controversies.
2. Conversion: The Infusion of Grace
3. Conversion: The New Internal Principle
4. Justification: God's Crowning of His Own Gift
5. Justification: Systemic Comparison
6. Sanctification and Glorification
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