The Forgotten Edwards (PDF)



Jonathan Edwards Jr. (1745–1801) is well-known for his governmental theory of the atonement; however, aside from a biography produced in 1978 not much has been done to interact with his thinking on other theological matters. Further, he is often portrayed as a metaphysical preacher who drove away his congregation with cerebral abstractions. Accordingly, this received caricature also describes Edwards Jr. as distorting the Edwardsean legacy through theological innovation. This negative caricature of Edwards Jr was produced by the early liberalism of the Civil War era and has stuck to Edwards Jr. for nearly two hundred years. This treatise provides a greater interaction with primary sources, taking into account his upbringing, awakening, tragedy, pastoral challenges, as well as his actual pulpit notes.

Of particular interest to scholars will be the interaction with new source materials derived from the preaching manuscripts used in his weekly preaching ministry. Harry Stout has observed that the weekly sermon was the heart and soul of New Englanders prior to the American Revolution. Notably in this treatise, Edwards Jr.’s Sermon on the Mount Manuscripts, which cover his whole thirty-year pulpit ministry, are examined and found to be strongly reliant upon his father’s Religious Affections. Furthermore, Edwards Jr.’s systematic theology of the Holy Spirit demonstrates a received pneumatology, which is essentially the same as his father’s system. A received pneumatology can be reconstructed out of the student notebook of Maltby Gelston, as well as the published and unpublished sermons of Edwards Jr.

From primary documents this volume demonstrates how the younger Edwards’s is important to Edwardsean study. The thinking of Hopkins, Bellamy, and Edwards Jr. are relevant as receivers of Edwards Sr.’s thinking, but also as improvers of his thoughts. Without an adequate study of his son’s biography and writing, the Edwardsean theology has, at times, suffered from an apparent decline for failure to develop the thinking of the younger Edwards. This volume begins to address a lacuna in the New England Theological project.


The "other" Jonathan Edwards has never received the attention his work as New Haven pastor, dedicated theologian, and interpreter of his famous father's legacy deserves. With especially fruitful use of the younger Edwards' manuscript sermons, this carefully researched book goes a long way to redress that undeserved neglect. — Mark Noll, author of In the Beginning Was the Word: The Bible in American Public Life, 1492-1783

Jonathan Edwards, Jr. played a crucial but still largely unappreciated role as a conduit of his father's varied legacies. In this fine study by an up-and-coming scholar, that role is paid respect and Edwards Jr.'s own honor and legacy are defended against their critics, past and present. Many thanks to John Banks for coloring in our understanding of the Edwardsean tradition in Revolutionary America. — Douglas A. Sweeney, Dean of Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

This study offers an engaging account of a pastor and divine whose career included an early exposure to missions among Mohican and Mohawks, public debates about the culture of reason and Calvinism, the American Revolution, contestations over the abolition of slavery, and changes in the practice of collegiate education in New England. Based on deep original archival research and a solid grasp on current scholarship, it brings to life the complications and tensions in the career of the namesake son of Jonathan Edwards. In so doing, it gives us a humane and lucid narrative of theology and its relation to social life when America became a nation. — Mark Valeri, The Reverend Priscilla Wood Neaves Distinguished Professor, John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, Washington University in St. Louis


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The Forgotten Edwards (PDF)

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