Jonathan Edwards 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.
Dr. Carrick demonstrates that Edwards was preaching and writing at a unique moment in history when the Puritan spirit and the spirit of the Enlightenment intersected; he traces the remarkable fall and rise of interest in the great American preacher-theologian in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; he interacts, both positively and critically, with the now complete Yale edition of Edward’s Works and also with the ever-burgeoning field of Edwards scholarship; and he cites extensively from Edward’s sermons, treatises, and Miscellanies in order to demonstrate the power and the profundity of his preaching and thought.
The author’s main focus is, throughout, primarily homiletical; but interwoven in the homiletical focus are theological, philosophical, historical, and biographical strands. He constantly seeks to place Edwards and his sermons in their New England context-indeed, in their wider eighteenth century transatlantic context-thus providing, wherever possible, the historical background for Edwards’ sermons.
The ‘New York period’, the ‘Great Apostasy’ at Yale, the Bolton interlude, the Yale tutorship, the Boston Lecture of 1731, the Enfield sermon, the Yale Commencement of 1741, the great revivals, the landmark funerals, the Edwards-Stoddard-Williams dynamic, the Communion controversy, the Farewell Sermon, the romance of the Stockbridge years-these are all treated within the context of a systematic analysis of Edward’s preaching under a number of different themes.
Dr. Carrick does not shrink from sounding a note of critique at certain points and he warns against the danger of slavishly imitating the New England preacher. But he is also clearly convinced of Edwards’ extraordinary greatness and of the tremendous value of his sermons for Christians today. ‘Iron sharpens iron’; and the iron of Edward’s marvellous expositions and applications is sure to sharpen the minds and souls of all those who study them carefully.