George M. Marsden
A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards
The author of the magisterial Jonathan Edwards
(2003) has written an entirely new book for Eerdmans' Library of Religious Biography. It is a work of grace, lit by affection for the great clergyman and understanding of his place and time: prerevolutionary New England, considering itself more British than colonial, still an ecclesiastical regime, in which a parson held as much or more authority as any secular officeholder. A scion of ministers, Edwards was upper crust, yet he became the chief apologist of The Great Awakening, which challenged local pastors and encouraged democracy among church members. Astonishingly busy and productive, he had eleven children, wrote voluminously, directed missions to the Indians, and faithfully attended church conventicles. A rigorous Calvinist and a keen student of nature, he believed in a personal God whose love required reciprocal love from the believer, not least because of the glorious gift of creation. Marsen calls him "a towering figure . . . of the first American revolution, the spiritual revolution of the awakening." Reading his lovely précis of Edwards is believing that assessment.