Jonathan Edwards and Preaching

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I recently finished reading The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards, by John Carrick. Edwards is by far my favorite preacher. I feel a connection with him through his writings and sermons. When I read one of his sermons, my heart is ushered into the presence of God in sweet and delightful communion. I think that is the main reason I admire the gifted Northampton preacher.

I found one aspect of the book particularly helpful: Edwards’ delivery. Carrick addresses various aspects of the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, from introductions to conclusions and everything in between. His treatment of Edwards’ delivery was a special blessing and encouragement to my soul. I share this with the hope that it may prove helpful and encouraging to someone else.

After spending several pages debunking the myth that Edwards was a boring preacher (pages 409-421), Carrick addresses the views of others on Edwards’ preaching. One gentlemen, a Dr. West of Stockbridge, is reported as answering Sereno Dwight’s question regarding the preaching of Jonathan Edwards with the following words:

               “But, if you mean by eloquence, the power of presenting an important truth before an audience, with overwhelming weight of argument, and with such intenseness of feeling, that the whole soul of the speaker is thrown into every part of the conception and delivery; so that the solemn attention of the whole audience is riveted, from the beginning to the close, and impressions are left that cannot be effaced; Mr Edwards was the most eloquent man I ever heard speak.”[1]

As a younger preacher, I found great encouragement in these words. In the midst of preachers like John Piper, R C Sproul, and David Platt, how in the world could I ever preach like them? My gifts are not like theirs. So, in my focus of other preachers I can easily become discouraged. Paul warns against this type of comparison (see 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 and 2 Corinthians 10:12). I found encouragement, because Jonathan Edwards may not have been the most boisterous preacher of his day (think of the fact that George Whitefield was a contemporary!). Yet, he was still a powerful preacher.

May God encourage our hearts, as we exercise and develop our gifts, to be preachers who faithfully preach the Word of Life.

[1] As quoted from Works, cxc in John Carrick, The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 429.

You can access Yale’s online edition of the works of Jonathan Edwards for free, here.