Few Christian leaders since the Reformation have been as gifted as Jonathan Edwards. A man of intense personal devotion to Christ, he was a leader of revival, and a creative Reformed theologian as well as being a missionary and a philosopher fully meriting Hugh Martin’s description of him as ‘that greatest of metaphysical divines’.
Yet it is likely that he would have preferred to be remembered simply as ‘pastor of the Church of Northampton’. Preached in 1738 (the same year that Edwards published A Narrative of Surprising Conversions), Charity and Its Fruits gives us an insight into his regular pulpit ministry in the years between the Northampton revival of 1735 and ‘the Great Awakening’ of 1740.
Entirely free from sentimentality this moving exposition of 1 Corinthians 13, like the better known Religious Affections, reveals Edwards’ insistence both that true Christian experience is ‘supernatural’- Spirit produced and Christ centered- and that ‘all true Christian grace tends to practice’. These sermons show how it is possible to steer between Arminianism on the one hand and Antinomianism on the other. The concluding chapter on heaven as a world of love is perhaps the most beautiful in all Edwards’s writings.
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