From Publishers Weekly
Although probably best known for his fire-and-brimstone sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," Jonathan Edwards led a rich intellectual and spiritual life that took him far beyond the pulpit in his contributions to colonial America. In this first critical biography in over 60 years, Marsden, a professor of history at Notre Dame, places Edwards squarely within the context of his times. Drawing on newly available sources in the Yale edition of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, he elegantly traces the details of Edwards's life, from his precocious childhood of observing God's handiwork in the natural world and his adolescent struggles with his faith to his powerful preaching in the revivals that dominated the Connecticut Valley in the First Great Awakening to his later modestly successful mission to the Indians. From his childhood, Edwards struggled to understand the sovereignty of God, and as he later developed his theology he placed the "religious affections" at the center of his notions about God's sovereignty. Marsden reminds us that Edwards struggled with his faith as he labored to write his treatises on the freedom of the will, the religious affections and the nature of true virtue. Marsden's elegant prose and vivid, vivacious storytelling brings Edwards to life. This magisterial and definitive biography reveals the complexities of Edwards's life and provides new appreciation for his commitment to fostering religious sensibilities in the increasingly secular world of his time. This is a beautifully written book about one of America's most important thinkers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
In the first full critical biography of Edwards in 60 years, a distinguished Notre Dame scholar humanizes America's greatest colonial clergyman, a man highly esteemed in his own time but since singled out for decades of abuse by Puritan-bashers. To be sure, Edwards' brimstone pulpit rhetoric (most famously deployed in his 1741 sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God") offends modern sensibilities. But Marsden--drawing heavily on recent scholarship--restores Edwards to an eighteenth-century New England where most shared his doctrines, though few could rival him in the power with which he preached them. Exceptional insight shines through a felicitous style as Marsden recounts how Edwards acquired that power, the intellectual rigor of his Yale studies gradually lending force to his intense spiritual vision. His rare gifts enabled Edwards to kindle the Great Awakening, emblazoning his name on the pages of American history. But in narrating Edwards' luminous achievements, Marsden also scrutinizes the periods of deep personal depression and probes the dark drama of jealousy that cost him his position of ecclesiastical prominence. The man who emerges from this tangle of triumph and travail defies the easy stereotypes of the hellfire preacher: tender in his pastoral care, passionate in his conjugal loyalty, joyous in his celebration of divine love, unintentionally democratic in his New Light theology. Neither alabaster saint nor cardboard hypocrite, the Edwards Marsden delivers will fascinate serious students of American culture and history. Bryce ChristensenCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved