The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 22: Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742

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The sermons and discourses in this volume chart the rise and decline of the Great Awakening in Jonathan Edwards's parish in Northampton, Massachusetts, and beyond. A leading figure of the revival period, Edwards delivered potent and wide-ranging sermons during the years 1739–42. In this volume the transcript of the original manuscript of Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is reproduced for the first time, along with the text of its first printed edition.

Author Biography: Harry S. Stout is Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity at Yale University and general editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards. Nathan O. Hatch is Andrew V. Tackes Professor of History and provost at the University of Notre Dame. Kyle P. Farley is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300095722
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/5/2003
  • Series: The Works of Jonathan Edwards Series
  • Pages: 608
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Table of Contents


Editorial Committee....................v
List of Illustrations....................ix
Note to the Reader....................xi
Sermons and Discourses, 1739-1742 Preface to the Period....................3
Christ the Spiritual Sun....................48
The Means and Ends of Excommunication....................64
The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth....................80
God's Grace Carried On in Other Places....................103
Mercy and Not Sacrifice....................111
Zeal an Essential Virtue of a Christian....................136
The Danger of Corrupt Communication Among Young People....................156
Children Ought to Love the Lord Jesus Christ Above All....................167
The Subjects of a First Work of Grace May Need a New Conversion....................181
Gospel Ministers a Savor of Life or of Death....................203
Praying for the Spirit....................211
They Sing a New Song....................224
Bringing the Ark to Zion a Second Time....................245
Sinners in Zion....................262
Seeking After Christ....................285
Like Rain upon Mown Grass....................298
Youth Is Like a Flower That Is Cut Down....................319
God's Care for His Servants in Time of Public Commotions....................339
Importunate Prayer for Millennial Glory....................365
Mary's Remarkable Act....................378
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God....................400
Text of the First Printed Edition....................404
Transcript of the Original Manuscript....................418
The Blowing of theGreat Trumpet....................436
The Importance of Revival Among Heads of Families....................448
Aged Men and Women Joyfully Receiving Christ....................455
The Sorrows of the Bereaved Spread Before Jesus....................461
Seasons of Ingathering....................476
The Curse of Meroz....................490
Renewing Our Covenant with God....................509
Keeping the Presence of God....................519
Appendix: Dated Sermons, January 1739-December 1742....................537
General Index....................553
Index of Biblical Passages....................573
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First Chapter

The Works Of Jonathan Edwards

Volume 22: Sermons and Discourses 1739-1742
By Jonathan Edwards

Yale University Press

Copyright © 2003 Yale University
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-300-09572-2

Chapter One


In 1739, Edwards had history on his mind. Part of this history was local and personal-"history" as everyone understands the term. The great Northampton revival of 1734, which Edwards had led and chronicled in the internationally acclaimed Faithful Narrative, was a recent memory well on its way to becoming the new paradigm in the transatlantic history of revivalism. A Faithful Narrative not only vaulted Edwards to the forefront of revival practitioners and theorists, it also served as a template for all subsequent accounts. One of especial promise, written by the brash English itinerant George Whitefield, chronicled in autobiographical form Whitefield's own sensational revivals in the fields and urban centers of England.

In time-a very short time-Whitefield's dazzling evangelistic performances would play to colonial audiences everywhere, including a mighty "awakening" that would engulf Northampton. But in early 1739 Edwards knew only that his recent past was far more glorious than his present, and he was not well. Timothy Cutler, Edwards' former rector at Yale College and now anAnglican minister in Boston, described Edwards' "ill health" and doubted that he would live past the age of forty. Beyond his physical distress, and perhaps related to it, was a perceived loss of spiritual vitality within his congregation. Less discerning observers might not have been concerned. To all outward appearances, life in Northampton went on in good form: a new and much grander meetinghouse had been constructed with major assistance from the town's wealthiest families; Edwards himself received the highest pastoral salary in the land outside of Boston; and new members continued to be admitted to the church, albeit in reduced numbers.

But Edwards was no ordinary observer, and in each mark of vitality he saw signs of decay and approaching judgment. The meetinghouse was too much a tribute to affluence and privilege, its seating determined by wealth rather than spirituality. The construction of a new town house meant that Northampton's politics would be conducted outside of the meetinghouse, symbolizing a fracture between church and state that boded ill for both: politically, factional tensions between "court" and "country" parties would increase without the restraining influence of the church; ecclesiastically, the power of the church would be diminished as a civic-and civilizing-influence. Although Edwards' salary was generous, he had not won it without a fight, and it was often resented by many of the merchant "river gods" around him. Most ominous, church membership masked a deep-seated spiritual apathy and indifference to eternity where only years before devotion had burned bright and hot. How in practical terms, Edwards wondered, was the present to be redirected, and history-the history of 1734-reclaimed?

Speculative History

To this practical sense of history and yearning for a revival of Northampton's recent spiritual past Edwards added a more speculative preoccupation with history. This speculative interest in history had been long in the making and he was to wrestle with it for the rest of his life. Edwards sensed that the days of systematic theology were numbered. For theology (that is, orthodox theology) to survive, it would need to don new habiliments. By 1739 and even earlier, Edwards had begun to suspect that "history" was, in fact, larger than the antiquarian terms by which it was then known; indeed, it was larger than theology itself. In his evolving thought, carefully recorded and organized in reams of notebooks, commentaries, and sermons, history was emerging as nothing less than a container for the synthetic whole of theology and, indeed, of God's innermost self-revelation. Gone were parochial notions of history as genealogy or the simple chronicle of human achievements and sequential events. Gone, even, the larger but still theologically restrained notion, familiar to Puritans always, of history as the chronicle of "God's Wonder-Working Providence" on earth. Edwards had an even grander conception of history, capacious enough to contain all these ideas-and more.

Earlier Protestant thinkers such as Philipp Melanchthon, John Calvin, or William Ames had thought of theology as the ultimate canvas on which to record the being of God and his relationship to his creation. Whatever distance the Reformers may have traveled from Rome, they had still retained a Thomistic sense of systematic theology as the queen of the sciences. Edwards substituted history. His history was not the history of William Bradford or Cotton Mather, a mere recording of New England towns and their ministers under the nationalistic gloss of Magnalia Christi Americana. Nor, as John F. Wilson convincingly demonstrates, was it history in the emerging "Enlightenment" sense, the "scientific" history of politics and great men based strictly on empirical observation with no recourse to supernatural revelation. By comparison, Edwards' method was, in Wilson's terms, "profoundly unhistoriographical in any modern sense."

Alongside these modern senses of history, however, lies another, more mythic sense of history that is best labeled "metanarrative." The modern model of history, which we might label "historiographical" or, in Edwards' term, "actual" time, is simple chronology-history measured in minutes and years and recorded in written records. But as anthropologists and biblical scholars remind us, it is also possible to order and understand history in mythic terms, or, as Edwards put it, as "virtual" time-history as seen from God's time-transcending temporal perspective. Central to this model are separate but overlapping senses of time, as in the creation myths common to all religions. But, as we shall see, Edwards had an even larger story in mind: a narrative of "redemption." To frame the metanarrative of redemption, Edwards would employ historiographical time from every source he could lay his hands on, both sacred and secular. But he would also subject it to the most important time in the narrative, namely, divine time. For all his piety, perhaps because of his piety, Edwards was not afraid to see time from God's vantage point. He would take his narrative where his predecessors had been afraid to tread. If a majestic-enough story could be constructed, Edwards speculated, it could contain all the doctrines and philosophical underpinnings of systematic theology in a more compelling-and popularly accessible-format. In other words, a metanarrative method could do all that systematic theology, and for that matter historiography, could do and more.

Edwards' history incorporated philosophy, theology, and narrative into a synthetic whole. Earlier he had established the proposition that "heaven is a world of love," a metaphysical state infused with the innermost being and character of the Trinity. So too, he proposed, earth was a world of pulsating divine energy, and hell a perversion of love that set in motion the cosmic supernatural conflict between God and Satan with earth as the prize. What if the story of all three-heaven, earth, and hell-were integrated into one narrative, superior to systematic theology for its drama and to earthbound historiography for its prophetic inspiration?

While Edwards was intrigued by the idea of a narrative history, this does not imply that he was uninterested in theology or even that he would not identify himself as a preacher or theologian if forced to choose. In fact, Edwards often referred to his work as "divinity," and produced several treatises, most notably Original Sin, Concerning the End for Which God Created the World, and The Nature of True Virtue, that take on the aspect of a systematic theology. It is rather to say that Edwards early on came to sense-especially in his sermons-that the most effective way to realize the theologian's goal of knowledge of God was to abandon the synchronic methods of formal theology and "throw" the truths of "divinity" into the diachronic form of a history.

It is one of the greater ironies in the transmission of "Edwardsean" theology that virtually all of Edwards' protégés missed the point of his creative genius. While treasuring his philosophical treatises and arresting attacks on Arminianism, none of them, as Wilson observes, continued Edwards' "theological preoccupation with redemption as the grand and encompassing doctrine of the Christian religion."

Never in American intellectual history has there been a more glaring example of misplaced identity. When Edwards' foremost student, Samuel Hopkins, took it upon himself to write a systematic theology as a tribute to the supposed opus that Edwards never lived to complete, he created, in fact, the antithesis of what Edwards had hoped to achieve and in the process denuded Edwards' thought of its sublimity and mystery. The reason Edwards never wrote a systematic theology to contain all his concepts and doctrines was not that his life was cut short prematurely (John Calvin, after all, composed his first draft of the Institutes of the Christian Religion at age twenty-six) but that early in his career he turned away from the idea of writing a "Rational Account" and toward something different. History, not rational or systematic theology, would be the canvas on which his budding ideas ontheology, metaphysics, typology, psychology, language, and, most important, religious affections would find form and structure.

At the same time that Edwards discovered his true artistic genre, he located the organizing theme for this history as "salvation," or "redemption," the most sublime theme of all, grander even than creation. If Edwards' vision bore a close similarity to Scripture itself, that should not be surprising to modern scholars. Scripture narratives, as Erich Auerbach and Hans Frei have shown, represented a new literary form, a "realistic narrative." Edwards would have understood the findings of these modern scholars instantly. In some ways his vision was even grander than Scripture, for it would incorporate all revealed scriptural truths and then interlace them with ongoing narratives from church and "profane" history.

By 1739 Edwards had found a context in which to place and interpret all the turbulent events looming in the next two years. He would understand revivals on three levels interacting with three histories: the history of heaven and redemption; the history of earth, from the fall to the approaching millennium; and the history of hell and the horrors of damnation. In one way or another, each of these themes was to inform his preaching during the awakening. He strove mightily to bring his hearers into contact with these worlds and, by implication, with their own place in the history of planet Earth.

Long after the events of 1740-43, which vaulted him to even higher international acclaim, the narrative vision remained. In earlier volumes of this series, John F. Wilson and Wilson H. Kimnach have traced the enduring appeal of these speculations throughout Edwards' life. Over the years, through voluminous reading and careful notetaking, the history of redemption became his capstone ambition. In his regulatory notebook "Subjects of Inquiry," written in the 1750s, he made the following methodological notations:

Show how parallel, in many instances, historical evidence of a past age, by the testimony handed down to us, is to the evidence we have of what is present of the existence and estate of a distant country or nation that we have never seen.

And consider what may be argued from this, that we see, ourselves, to what degree truth is maintained in narration of things past, in our age, and so may argue how it will be through many such ages. For the ages are all continuing. The last half of our age is the first half of another, and so all are interlaced as it were. We argue in the same manner as we [do] concerning the truth of narrations concerning distant places; so far as we travel, we have opportunity to see with our own eyes how far truth is kept in its carriage through such a distance, etc.

By 1757, on the eve of his premature death, the grand vision had formally matured into nothing less than a Descartes-like new "method" for conceiving religion and thinking about God. When in that same year the Board of Trustees of the College of New Jersey invited Edwards to be their new president, he hesitated primarily because his history was not complete. In a sense, all his great treatises, written in six-month bursts between 1750 and 1757, were ingredients to be digested and embodied in the tri-partite narrative. Those who see "the end" of Edwards' scholarly career as his all-fronts assault on Arminianism and Deism miss the point. Those treatises were intended only to remove so much heterodox debris from the highway, so that the way would be cleared to his true destination: the narrative history of redemption. In his often-cited letter to the Board of Trustees, he revealed his ambition: "I have had on my mind and heart (which I long ago began, not with any view to publication) a great work, which I call A History of the Work of Redemption, a body of divinity in an entire new method, being thrown into the form of an history, considering the affair of Christian theology, as the whole of it, in each part, stands in reference to the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ; which I suppose is to be the grand design of all God's designs, and the summum and ultimum of all the divine operations and decrees; particularly considering all parts of the grand scheme in their historical order."

As he continued to describe his project to the Trustees, Edwards made plain how his New History would differ from prevailing notions in several particulars. First, it would be a history in which theology was subordinated to history, rather than vice versa. Second, and more shocking, Edwards went on in his letter to observe that his New History would be one that transcended space and recorded time, a history telling the simultaneous stories of three realms: "This history will be carried on with regard to all three worlds, heaven, earth and hell: considering the connected, successive events and alterations, in each so far as the Scriptures give any light; introducing all parts of divinity in that order which is most scriptural and most natural: which is a method which appears to me the most beautiful and entertaining, wherein every divine doctrine, will appear to greatest advantage in the brightest light, in the most striking manner, showing the admirable contexture and harmony of the whole." The word "method" carried with it steep claims, indeed, the highest claims.


Excerpted from The Works Of Jonathan Edwards by Jonathan Edwards Copyright © 2003 by Yale University. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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