Saturday, June 16, 2007

On preaching

A good way to begin reading Edwards is to start with his sermons. I would recommend this (which is very cheap) and this as initial reading. Of course, we have a brief introduction to the sermons on our website here and we have many of the sermons free online here. Prof Wilson H. Kimnack wrote the main introduction to the sermons in the Yale edition (Volume 10) and also wrote the introduction to volume 25. He also has an essay on the sermons in The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards entitled 'The Sermons: Concept and Execution.'

In order to get an overview of the sermon corpus I highly commend beginning with Kimnach's essay in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards called 'Edwards the preacher.' It is the distillation of many years labors in the manuscripts and texts of Edwards' sermons and it is worth its weight in gold. WK offers an historical survey covering Edwards' life and develops some of the central changes and patterns in his preaching. There are many excellent essays in this volume, but it is worth the money to read this one.

Kimnach begins by noting that Edwards began his sermon training listening to his own father in the pulpit and the 'sermon of Edwards's youth was essentially the seventeenth-century Puritan sermon, as busy in its formal structure as the music of Johan Sebastian Bach. His father's baroque sermons could well have over fifty numbered heads (not to mention subheads), though the language was indeed plain (104).'

It is important to know one thing when reading the sermons - the highpoint of Edwards' homiletical endeavor, contrary to what one might naturally assume, was not the end of his life. Rather, the 'second phase of Edwards's preaching career, 1729-42, during which he began to employ the sermon primarily as an instrument of awakening and pastoral leadership, is the period of his most sustained and intensive homiletical effort (110) ... The publication of Edwards's five discourses in 1738 marked the high point of his pastoral preaching, and the sermons of the 1730s, taken as a whole, have a technical mastery and consistency of finish unmatched elsewhere in his career (115).'

This should help you know which years to look at first if you are reading the sermons here.


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