Sweeney’s Booknotes: Edwards on Charity and Its Fruits

Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love, ed. Kyle Strobel (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).

This fifteen-sermon series on I Corinthians 13 is a wonderful example of Edwards’ preaching and theology. First delivered in Northampton between April and October in the year 1738, it was not printed until 1852 (in a bowdlerized edition produced by Edwards’ great-great-grandson, the Rev. Tryon Edwards, not “Tyron Edwards,” as he is named in the present volume). Restored and reprinted in its definitive edition by The Works of Jonathan Edwards (1989), it is available in hard copy in Yale’s vol. 8 (entitled Ethical Writings, a massive, 800-page tome that includes two other Edwards texts, produced by the late Paul Ramsey, who viewed this work as his crowning achievement) and online through the Jonathan Edwards Center in New Haven. But not until now is it available in a volume of its own, printed in paperback and priced for the general reader (on sale at Amazon for $14.85 last time I checked).

Strobel has made a few adjustments to Edwards’ eighteenth-century style (see pp. 31-32) but, for the most part, leaves the text as Yale has rendered it. His “main goal” is “to help people read Charity and Its Fruits well” (p. 30). With that in mind, he has peppered the text with explanatory notes and definitions of difficult terms. He has framed the whole with a helpful introduction (20 pgs.) and conclusion (16 pgs.), the latter of which aids Christians in making good on the sermons’ contents. And he has offered a brief reading list for those who want to go further in their study of Edwards’ writings.

This is a great buy for those who want to acquaint themselves with Edwards and his view of Christian charity. Scholars will continue to use the Yale edition of Charity, but other students and general readers will find here a great way to read these marvelous sermons. Like John Piper’s edition of God’s Passion for His Glory (i.e. Edwards’ Dissertation concerning the End for Which God Created the World), Strobel’s edition of Charity will make another Edwards gem accessible to thousands of new readers.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS

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