This book is a collection of materials that was presented to the conference hosted by Desiring God Ministries in October 2003 to celebrate the 300th birthday of pastor/theologian/philosopher/reformer/Puritan Jonathan Edwards. Edwards is a giant in American Christian life, having help lead and direct the Great Awakening in the 1740s.
It is a wonderful, concise synopsis of Edwards’ life, family, ministry and teachings. Co-author Justin Taylor says in the book’s concluding chapter, “We often stuff ourselves with intellectual junk food while failing to feast upon the rich banquets that are available to us. We have become the unwitting co-conspirators to the ancient heresy that ‘the newer is the truer, only what is recent is decent, every shift of ground is a step forward, and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.’” (the latter quote from Os Guiness’ Fit Bodies, Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It).
In addition, he shares a quote from Dr. Martin Llyod-Jones:
My advice to you is: Read Jonathan Edwards. Stop going to so many meetings; stop craving for the various forms of entertainment which are so popular in evangelical circles at the present time. Learn to stay at home. Learn to read again, and do not merely read the exciting stories of certain modern people. Go back to something solid and deep and real. Are we losing the art of reading? Revivals have often started as the result of people reading volumes such as these… So read this man. Decide to do so. Read his sermons; read his practical treatises, and then go on to the great discourses on theological subjects.
And C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying,
It has always been one of my main endeavors as a teacher to persuade the young that first-hand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but it is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire… Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old.
Therefore, I’ve added Edwards’ two-volume work to my Amazon wishlist. This book has convinced me to read and drink deeply from this master of ministry and guide to the spiritual life in Christ.
It was Edwards who said, “The Christian life is not a sprint, but a marathon,” indicating that one cannot achieve what he desires with God overnight. It is a journey, a process of perfection as we learn to understand, surrender, and enjoy our relationship with God in Christ.
And it is the marked joy that sets Edwards apart from many. It is a wide misconception that the Puritans were a sad, mad lot. Rather, as Edwards is so eloquently able to portray, they were a joyful, passionate, hopeful people who discovered that “holiness is a duty of delight.”
Not only was the man prolific in his writings and effective in his ministry – in spite of being kicked out of the same church in which the Great Awakening began – but Edwards was a loving father and husband. To those who think that “family comes first” must necessarily mean occasional neglect of church and the equipping of saints, one has to marvel at Edwards ability to maintain a stunning schedule of preaching, traveling and pouring himself out for the Gospel and the result in his family and following generations:
In 1900 A.E. Winthrop conducted a study contrasting two families. One had hundreds of descendants who were a drain on society; the other was the Edwards family –
13 college presidents
100 lawyers and a dean of a law school
66 physicians and a dean of a medical school
80 holders of public office including –
3 U.S. Senators
mayors of large cities
governors of 3 states
a Vice President of the U.S.
a controller of the U.S. TreasuryMembers of the family wrote 135 books… edited 18 journals and periodicals. They entered the ministry in platoons and sent 100 missionaries overseas, as well as stocking many mission boards with lay trustees.
While I recommend this great book to you as an introduction to Edwards, I’d have to concur with the authors themselves – “Having read about Edwards, it is our hope that you would now turn to read Edwards for yourself.”