I would argue Jonathan Edwards is the greatest theologian in American history. Whether you agree or not, at some level we can all admit he was a unique theologian with few rivals. But Edwards the preacher? Was he dynamic? Did he read from his sermon notes in drab monotone? Were his sermons as complex as his books? For a man so widely respected for his theology, there remain many questions about the nature of his preaching.
With the completion of the Yale edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards, scholars are set to take Edwards research to a new level. John Carrick, a professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, was one of the first to jump at the opportunity. Carrick’s new book The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Banner of Truth, 2008), helps answer a number of these questions about Edwards the preacher. But the book reaches far beyond the style of Edwards as Carrick explores the theology, application, content, style, structure, motive, delivery, literary features, logic, and legacy of Edwards preaching. Whew. And Carrick includes a load of direct quotes from Edwards’s manuscripts to illustrate his conclusions.
I was encouraged to see Carrick work closely with Yale scholars. Kenneth Minkema, the Executive director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, and George Marsden, author of the definitive Edwards biography, answered questions and reviewed chapters of this book. And it shows. Carrick’s book captures some of the best research completed by the Yale folks on Edwards’s preaching, while giving Carrick a solid foundation to take a further step of evaluating Edwards from a reformed—and often a more spiritually substantive—perspective. For example, Carrick concludes chapter nine with these words: “’The power of most of Edwards’s sermons,’ insists Marsden ‘was their logic’—logic (we might add) sovereignty set ablaze by the Spirit of power” (p. 150). I applaud Carrick’s use of Yale research and his willingness to add deeper spiritual explanations when appropriate.
I found a number of excerpts helpful and instructive–Edwards use of logic in preaching; his belief that application was both mental (to think) and practical (to do); his ability to apply sermons to many hearers in diverse circumstances and heart conditions; a glimpse into the goals and motives behind his preaching; his use of imagery; his eternal perspective; and his use of the doctrine of hell to cause sinners to flee into the hands of the beautiful Savior.
Carrick’s chapter on Christ-Centeredness (pp. 97-112) is a superb synopsis of the beauty of Christ set forth in Edwards’s sermons. “It is important to note not only that Edwards constantly points to Christ in his preaching, but also that he provides what must rank as some of the loveliest detailed descriptions of Christ in the whole range of homiletical literature” (p. 103). The chapter concludes with an affirmation of what I have thought for some time: Edwards’s preaching ministry, when accumulated, reveals a man who was thoroughly cross-centered (pp. 111-112).
Banner of Truth has graciously granted us permission to post the table of contents, preface, and the entire first chapter—“The Edwards Legacy”—as a PDF download by clicking here (2.7MB). Take a moment to download and print this lengthily excerpt for a firsthand glimpse into this book.
The Banner of Truth has published another gem in 2008! John Carrick’s The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards will finish the year as one of our top 10 books of the year.
Title: The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards
Author: John Carrick
Boards: hardcover; black cloth and gold gilding
Pages: xi + 465
Dust jacket: yes
Topical index: no (a big bummer)
Scriptural index: yes (though not very important for a work like this)
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Price USD: $28.00 / $16.80 at WTSBooks