Recently, my oldest daughter was informed which college she’ll attend while at Yale. This is the place she’ll live, eat, go to the library, form most of her friendships, etc., so this is no small news.
On the whole, I have great admiration for the Puritans and Jonathan Edwards (a well known 18th century pastor and theologian) so I’m giddy with excitement regarding my daughter’s assignment. Seriously, I almost wet myself when she told me the news. Good thing there was a bathroom nearby.
Yale publishes The Works of Jonathan Edwards, an exhaustive (and expensive) multi-volume set. Yale also is home to the Jonathan Edwards Center, the one place to go for research, education, and publication on all things Edwards.
There’s no shortage of Edwards material to read, but if you’re looking for a place to begin on a very general level, I highly commend three accessible books.
The first book is A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards, by Notre Dame historian George Marsden. The title, rather than referring to his life span or height, instead is a slim volume (especially in comparison to Marsden’s magisterial Jonathan Edwards: A Life), providing a helpful snapshot of Edwards. Start here.
The second book is A Jonathan Edwards Reader (various editors). It covers a variety of material from his sermons, letters, metaphysical works, and other topics.
The final book is The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader (various editors), providing ample breadth of Edwards’ preaching (which is far from arid or erudite).
If you view Edwards as a wig-wearing, joyless, scowl-faced man who wore dull-colored clothing and primarily understood God as vengeful and violently vindicative of humanity (i.e. his sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”–these books are especially for you. Read them, if only to get a better sense of Edwards’ significant historical influence on the United States. Yes, he was a deeply religious man, and he was not without his blemishes. Who is? But he was a great man, and a towering intellectual. (Deeply religious and intellectual? Scandalous!) Yale wouldn’t be Yale without him, let alone the United States. Find out why and read these books.