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The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards

By John Carrick
April 2009 | Review by David Campbell


Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) is widely regarded not only as America's greatest theologian and philosopher, but also as one of her greatest preachers. It is a remarkable fact, however, that his preaching has been somewhat neglected, both in academic circles and in the Reformed churches. Published in the year that marks the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his death, this book successfully straddles the church's and the academy's interest in Edwards and supplies that omission.

  • Publisher: Banner of Truth
  • ISBN: 978-0851519838
  • Pages: 478
  • Price: £12.49
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Book Review

Jonathan Edwards has received a vast amount of scholarly attention in recent years. In Dr Carrick’s book it is specifically Edwards’ preaching that comes under the microscope. It receives a more thorough examination than has ever been attempted before.

It is impossible to do justice to Edwards’ preaching without understanding his life and times. Factors such as his age when he preached particular sermons; the philosophical and theological challenges to which he found it necessary to respond; his experiences of revival; the very different congregations to which he ministered during his career –– these and more need to be taken into account in any analysis of his sermons.

Dr Carrick has thoroughly researched these matters, and not the least interesting aspect of the book for the reviewer was the detailed attention paid to such background.

The sermon analysis itself covers every conceivable aspect of Edwards’ preaching. The topics range from Edwards’ God-centredness; his preaching of judgment; the twin themes of sovereignty and responsibility; and the preaching of heaven – to matters such as illustrations; introductions; conclusions; imagery; style; delivery; and the activity of the Holy Spirit.

A separate chapter is devoted to each of the 26 topics with opening and closing chapters on the astonishing legacy we have in Edwards’ life and works, and a contemporary and not uncritical assessment of him.

It is hard to select high points. The exploding of the notion that Edwards’ delivery was poor; the insistence that the impact of his preaching owed everything to the Holy Spirit; the warning to young preachers not to imitate Edwards’ thirteen hours’ study per day; the excerpts from his sermons on heaven –– these must suffice as examples.

Who will benefit most from this volume –– readers already acquainted with Edwards’ sermons or those who are not? Probably the former. Those who have yet to begin reading the sermons will hopefully be stimulated to make the attempt.

One minor quibble. For readers who don’t know Latin, the occasional untranslated Latin phrase may prove irritating. If there is a second edition a few more footnotes with the likes of us in mind will be helpful.

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