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Archive for February, 2014

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Jonathan Edwards: Writings from the Great Awakening

Philip F. Gura, ed., Jonathan Edwards: Writings from the Great Awakening (New York: Library of America, 2013)

Edwards has finally made it into the Library of America, a prestigious set of volumes containing the most important work in American literary history.

The publishers in New York could not have a chosen a better person to serve as editor of this volume. Philip Gura teaches English in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written several books on American literary history, including Jonathan Edwards: America’s Evangelical (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005).

In this volume, he has reprinted much of the most important literature penned by Edwards during the so-called Great Awakening in New England.

  • A Faithful Narrative (1737/38)
  • Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741)
  • Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1742/43)1
  • “Personal Narrative” (published posthumously)
  • Seven sermons (only three of which were published in Edwards’ lifetime), including Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741)
  • Four letters that treat revival (only one of which was published in Edwards’ day).

In most cases, Gura has reprinted Edwards’ first editions, or has re-transcribed and printed Edwards’ manuscripts. In the case of the Faithful Narrative, however, he has printed the first American edition, corrected by Edwards and published in 1738. (Edwards felt the editors of the first London edition, printed in 1737, had revised and abridged too much, distorting the story Edwards told.) And in the case of the “Personal Narrative” (whose manuscript is lost), Gura has printed the version found in Samuel Hopkins’ Life and Character of the Late Reverend Mr. Jonathan Edwards (1765), the same as that used by the Yale Edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards.

Specialists will continue to use the versions of these texts published in the Yale Edition. But the appearance of Edwards’ writings in the Library of America ensures his lasting legacy in American belles lettres. Many thanks to Philip Gura for this beautiful anthology.


1 Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England was published in 1743 as reckoned by our new style calendars. It was published in 1742 by Edwards’ old style calendar, whose new year commenced in March.