From the JEC Blog

Archive for July, 2012

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

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

Sweeney’s Booknotes: A Study Guide on Reading Religious Affections

Craig Biehl, Reading Religious Affections: A Study Guide to Jonathan Edwards’ Classic on the Nature of True Christianity (Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2012).

This is a very helpful study guide to one of the most important spiritual texts in all of history. It is designed as a teacher’s aid, a handy pedagogical supplement to Edwards’ own text. After its analytical outline of the study guide as a whole, a brief foreword by Ken Minkema of Yale University and a preface by Biehl himself, it offers a 20-module march through the structure, themes, and context of Edwards’ theological masterpiece. As teachers and students proceed, they are introduced to the Edwardses and their church historical context, given summaries and outlines of the main points of the treatise, provided with explanations of references that are difficult to follow, and presented with helpful questions for discussion.

I’ve never seen anything like this. I hope it will take away the fear some people feel when facing this tome. I recommend it for non-specialists in churches, home school settings, Christian high schools, even colleges with students eager to hear from Edwards on what he called the nature of true religion.

–By Douglas Sweeney, Director of the JEC at TEDS