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The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards Hardcover – August 1, 2008
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This large book is divided into twenty-eight chapters, which treat virtually every feature of Edwards' sermons, including introductions, doctrine, application, illustrations, conclusions, and much more. The chapters on "God-Centeredness" (ch. 2), "Introductions" (ch. 8), "Different Categories of Hearers" (ch. 16), and "The Spirit of God" (ch. 27) are particularly helpful. The last mentioned of these reveals the heart of Carrick's treatment of Edward's preaching. We must not simply view Edward's sermons from a literary standpoint, but from a homiletical and spiritual standpoint (444). As much as we have to learn from Edwards' rhetoric and style of preaching, the greatest lesson that we have to learn from him is dependence upon and confidence in the power of the Third Person in the Trinity in our preaching. This leaves readers with a carefully maintained balance between developing effective rhetorical methods in preaching, while simultaneously placing all hope and dependence upon the Spirit of God rather than upon those methods.
Edwards' use of application in his sermons is both gripping in its force and astonishing in its breadth and depth. One of the primary needs in modern preaching is to recover powerful and searching application that is deeply rooted in a thorough exposition of Scripture and a precise and clear understanding of theology. Edwards is perhaps one of the most preeminent examples of effective sermon application in the history of Christianity. This reason alone makes this book one that ministers cannot afford to pass by.
An interesting feature of this work is the manner in which the author has interwoven the historical context of Edwards' life with his treatment of Edwards's sermons. The result is that instead of reading as a bare list of citations and observations, the book presents a gripping narrative as well. It abounds with primary source evidence, much of which has been gleaned from the recently completed Yale edition of Edward's Works. The interaction with secondary literature is thorough as well, though it would have been useful to situate Edwards' preaching in the historic context of Reformed Orthodoxy in general. There is little to no emphasis or comparison of Edwards to contemporary or previous Reformed preaching. Although Edwards' lived during the transition between the era of Reformed Orthodoxy into the Enlightenment, several aspects of his preaching, such as "Confutation" (ch. 18) and "Objections and Answers" (ch. 22), have historical roots and precedents in Medieval Scholasticism as well as in subsequent so-called Protestant Scholasticism. That being said, the influence of theological methodology on Reformed Orthodox preaching is a topic that has been generally neglected.
The primary drawback to this book is the absence of subdivisions. In closely printed chapters that often reach twenty-pages, lacking divisions in the text can make reading cumbersome. The material is well organized and easy to follow, but clearly marked divisions in thought or argument help most readers read more effectively and retain a sense of progression and interest in the book.
Ministers who avail themselves of Carrick's labor of love on The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards will do good service both to themselves and to their congregations. The author both loves his subject and exemplifies the principles gleaned from it in his own preaching. May the Lord use this book to help produce a generation of wise and Spirit-filled preachers!
(Published Previously in Puritan Reformed Journal)
Many have called Edwards "the greatest philosopher-theologian yet to grace the American scene." And Edwards is best known for his stirring sermon: "Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God," yet there is so much more to Edwards the theologian, philosopher, and preacher. Edwards preached this legendary sermon before his Northampton congregation and later in the "impious Enfield." It is said that "Before the sermon was ended, the assembly appeared deeply impressed and bowed down, with an awful conviction of their sin and danger."
In this volume the reader learns that Edwards practiced the triadic art of sermonizing built upon Puritan form:
Edwards asserted: "It does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men's hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion in their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already. "
This famed preacher was a master of application and expert of offering striking illustrations. Additionally he aimed to provide effectual and memorable conclusions. His employment of the Biblical text was prominent, dominant, and necessary.
Edwards observes: "All truth is given by revelation, either general or special, and it must be received by reason. Reason is the God-given means for discovering the truth that God discloses, whether in his world or his Word. While God wants to reach the heart with truth, he does not bypass the mind."
Edwards rejoiced in the triune God and declared His majesty and awesome supremacy. If Spurgeon is the Prince of Preachers, then Edwards, under Christ and the Apostles, is the chief of Preachers. He loved God and sought to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever, starting while standing on the earthly soil.
Edwards adds: "And yet some people actually imagine that the revelation in God's Word is not enough to meet our needs. They think that God from time to time carries on an actual conversation with them, chatting with them, satisfying their doubts, testifying to His love for them, promising them support and blessings. As a result, their emotions soar; they are full of bubbling joy that is mixed with self-confidence and a high opinion of themselves. The foundation for these feelings, however, does not lie within the Bible itself, but instead rests on the sudden creations of their imaginations. These people are clearly deluded. God's Word is for all of us and each of us; He does not need to give particular messages to particular people."
The author provides a large yet captivating account of Edwards' approach to preaching the word of God in a faithful and effective manner. This volume makes a fine gift for your pastor, seminary student, and learned layman.
Edward offers this on the sufficiency of God's word: "And yet some people actually imagine that the revelation in God's Word is not enough to meet our needs. They think that God from time to time carries on an actual conversation with them, chatting with them, satisfying their doubts, testifying to His love for them, promising them support and blessings. As a result, their emotions soar; they are full of bubbling joy that is mixed with self-confidence and a high opinion of themselves. The foundation for these feelings, however, does not lie within the Bible itself, but instead rests on the sudden creations of their imaginations. These people are clearly deluded. God's Word is for all of us and each of us; He does not need to give particular messages to particular people."
Purchase this book and find great joy in the preaching of America's greatest preacher, theologian, and philosopher: Jonathan Edwards.
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