Book Review: A Sweet Flame by Haykin

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A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards

Tunneling behind the public lives of fervent Christians means sifting carefully through their personal letters. A quill pen and paper are the blank canvas for the soul laid bare. So naturally, letters are the best place for a beginner to study the piety of Jonathan Edwards. This was the purpose behind A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards edited by Michael A.G. Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books: 2007).

Haykin shows great pastoral care in assembling 28 of the most importance letters of Edwards. None are superfluous filler.

My favorite letters include the following: an amazing letter written to a woman whose church had no pastor and wondered how to pursue spiritual growth in the interim (pp. 41-47); a letter to Mrs. Edwards illuminating their uncommon union (pp. 93-94); a letter to George Whitefield (pp. 37-40); a letter to a woman suffering great personal loss that she gaze on the beauty of Christ (pp. 123-131); a beautiful parental letter to his daughter Mary pleading with her to consider the brevity of life and the importance of the eternal (pp. 107-109); the famous letter to Joseph Bellamy on books where Edwards recommends the theologies of Francis Turretin and Peter van Mastricht (83-88); and a letter on how to address contention in a church (pp. 67-75). This volume also includes letters of Sarah Edwards to Esther Burr and Susannah Edwards to Esther Burr on the death of Jonathan Edwards (pp. 159-162).

A Sweet Flame is a short work of only 190 small pages. The first 50 pages include introductory matters and an excellent 30-page essay by Haykin on the piety of Edwards. This is the second volume in the “Profiles of Reformed Spirituality” series that began last year with A Consuming Fire: The Piety of Alexander Whyte also edited by Haykin (Reformation Heritage Books: 2006).

This little book was carefully discerned in assembly. If you are searching for a great Summer read I would recommend A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards as one of the very best. Pastors wielding an efficient indexing system will find in these letters a multitude of sermon quotes on a glut of practical topics. But for a general audience, this little book is an excellent introduction to the deep piety of America’s finest theologian.

[Related: Looking for an introduction to the theology of Jonathan Edwards? A Conversation with Jonathan Edwards by Gary W. Crampton is excellent. Review forthcoming.]

Title: A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards
Editor: Michael A.G. Haykin
Reading level: 2.0/5.0 > not difficult
Boards: paperback
Pages: 190
Volumes: 1
Dust jacket: no
Binding: glue
Paper: normal
Topical index: no
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Reformation Heritage Books
Year: 2007
Price USD: $10.00/$7.50 from RHB
ISBN: 9781601780119

9 thoughts on “Book Review: A Sweet Flame by Haykin

  1. The next in the series, so I am told, is on the piety of John Owen. Dr. Ferguson is going to pen that one.

  2. I have really enjoyed both of these in the series and think that if they are circulated in the churches that people will have a better understanding of the history of reformed spirituality.

  3. This is a wonderful little book! I only wish the full correspondence of Edwards was available in a less expensive edition than the Yale. Thanks for the review Tony!

  4. thanks for the review. i just added it to my amazon wishlist. i have to agree with Mr. Benge, i wish that Edwards’ full correspondence was available somewhere other than the Yale set. actually, i hope that eventually the Yale set will either drop in price or be picked up by another publisher that has a little more sense when it comes to the price of their works. hopefully this will happen when Yale has completed the publishing of all the volumes. also holding out for a cheaper publishing of Luther’s complete works than is currently available.

  5. Cameo, the catch is that without the price of these volumes Yale could not have afforded the hours of work to assemble the set and would never have undertaken this project. The majority of Edwards’ works would remain in a form inaccessible to the masses. A catch 22 I suppose.

  6. thanks for the insight. i didn’t take the editorial process into account. nonetheless, hopefully the price will become more reasonable in the future.

  7. But this book is only $7.50- I am sure that Dr. Beeke would be happy to drop it 10% if you bought a number for your friends at Yale!

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