- - Friday, October 2, 2015

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is considered one of America’s first and most important philosophers and theologians.

Edwards served as a pastor, missionary, author, scholar and president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). His grandson, Aaron Burr, became the third vice president of the United States. Edwards was influential in the movement called the First Great Awakening, an experience of revival among the Christian churches of the thirteen colonies. 

I thought we’d honor Edwards‘ birthday (October 5) with some exposure to books about the man — both primary and secondary works. Though my shelf seems very full of Edwards works, I know of pastor-theologians who would call my collection “just getting started.”

One such man is Matthew Everhard, pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. He is finishing doctoral studies from the Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, with a dissertation focused on Jonathan Edwards.

So, what are some of the best books to read about and by Jonathan Edwards? Here is Pastor Everhard’s answer to that question.

Top 10 Jonathan Edwards Books, by Matthew Everhard

My topic has been narrowly focused on Jonathan Edwards‘ theology of joy. For anyone who has ever attempted to read Edwards, they will find his writings just dripping with joy-related language: happiness, rejoicing in Christ, the joys of heaven, the mutual love within the persons of the Trinity. Joy is everywhere! Rich language of light, the sun, fountains, rivers, and streams all emit Edwards‘ theology of Christian joy.

I’ve read deeply and broadly: books by Edwards and books about Edwards. I’ve read his treatises, sermons, and personal correspondences. I’ve read biographies about him and at least one biography from his own pen (David Brainerd). Everything is so good, it’s hard to pick. Nevertheless, I am going to attempt to recommend just one shelf-full of Edwards‘ books. Here then, are my top ten recommended works from or about the Northampton Revivalist (in no particular order).

1. Sermons of Jonathan Edwards. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson. 2005). If you are looking to find some of Edward’s best sermons like “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” or “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” this is the place to begin. [Reading Level: Moderate].

2. Sermons by Jonathan Edwards on the Matthean Parables: True and False Christians (On the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins). (Kenneth P. Minkema, Adriaan C. Neele, and Bryan K. Kimnach, eds. Vol. I. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books. 2012). What’s neat about this volume, is that unlike the above, this one is filled with previously unpublished sermons that just came into the public eye in 2012. [Reading Level: Challenging].

3. Charity and Its Fruits. (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth. 2005. Orig. pub. 1852.) Another of his major sermon series, converted into a treatise, this one focuses on the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 and features the glorious sermon “Heaven is a World of Love.” [Reading Level: Moderate].


4. The Religious Affections. (Mineola, NY: Dover. 2013. Orig. pub. 1746.). Likely Edwards’ most well-known treatise, this book looks at the powerful inclinations of the heart (love, joy, fear etc.) and uses them to help determine which religious experiences are true and which are false. A major work tied to the Great Awakening revivals of the 1740’s. [Reading Level: Difficult].

5. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards. With the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World.(Jonathan Edwards and John Piper. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1998. Orig. pub. 1765.). In this book, beloved pastor John Piper walks readers through JE’s easier-than-you-might-think treatise on God’s motivation for creating the universe. Hint: joy! [Reading Level: Moderate].


6. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. (George Marsden. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. 2003). Here is a 500 plus page work that masterfully takes readers through JE’s life and times. I cannot imagine doing serious study on Edwards without this volume. Another honorable mention in this category is Iain Murray’s work of a similar structure. [Reading Level: Moderate].

Popular Introductions

7. A God Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards. (John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds. Wheaton: Crossway. 2004). Many crisply written essays on Edwards and his theology from men like John Piper, Sam Storms, Mark Dever, and more. [Reading Level: Moderate].

8. Jonathan Edwards for Armchair Theologians. (James P. Byrd. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2008). A great little introduction to Jonathan Edwards with cartoons sprinkled throughout to help readers “get it.” Really! There are cartoons! [Reading Level: Entry].

9. God’s Grand Design: The Theological Vision of Jonathan Edwards. (Sean Michael Lucas. Wheaton: Crossway. 2011). An excellent little introduction of about 200 pages to Edwards‘ life and major thought categories. [Reading Level: Entry].

10. Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God. (Dane Ortlund. Stephen J. Nichols and Justin Taylor, eds. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 2014). A very helpful book that focuses primarily on Edwards‘ view of beauty but also considers: prayer, temptation, Scripture, gentleness and more. [Reading Level: Entry].


***This article originally appeared at AChristianManifesto.com


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