Sweeney’s Booknotes: Edwards’ Sermons on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins

Kenneth P. Minkema, Adriaan C. Neele, and Bryan McCarthy, eds., Sermons by Jonathan Edwards on the Matthean Parables, Volume I, True and False Christians (on the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins) (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2012).

This previously unprinted sermon series on Jesus’ frightening parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matthew 25) is a gold mine for Edwards scholars and lay Christians alike. Preached in 1737-38, between the Connecticut Valley revival (1734-35) and New England’s Great Awakening (1740-42), it focused Northampton’s attention for a period of several weeks on the differences between true Christians and “hypocrites” (those who fooled others, and often themselves, about their standing before God)—a theme that would occupy Edwards for many years into the future, when he used this sermon series in writing his better-known spiritual treatises on the Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741), Some Thoughts concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1743), and Religious Affections (1746).

Edited by the standards of the letterpress edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards (26 volumes, Yale University Press, 1957-2008), these sermons are prefaced with a rudimentary chapter by Wilson Kimnach (general editor of Edwards’ sermons at Yale’s Jonathan Edwards Center) on the homiletical Edwards, “Edwards the Preacher” (13 pgs.), and a slightly longer chapter by Bryan McCarthy (formerly an editorial assistant at the Jonathan Edwards Center, now a doctoral student at Oxford) on the sermons’ “Historical Context” (19 pgs.).

Smartly presented, helpfully indexed, and priced to sell ($25), this volume should make it into the library of every serious Edwards scholar and many fans as well.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

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