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Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography

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When it first appeared in 1987, this book was the first full-length life of Jonathan Edwards to appear for almost fifty years. In the meantime the Pastor of Northampton, Missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, and President of the New Jersey College (later Princeton) has been increasingly recognized as the greatest intellectual figure in eighteenth-century America. Never When it first appeared in 1987, this book was the first full-length life of Jonathan Edwards to appear for almost fifty years. In the meantime the Pastor of Northampton, Missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, and President of the New Jersey College (later Princeton) has been increasingly recognized as the greatest intellectual figure in eighteenth-century America. Never before has so much material by Edwards or such detailed studies of his thought been available. Yet many of those who have led this renaissance of Edwards studies remain personally out of sympathy with almost every one of their subject's personal convictions. Special interest therefore attaches to Iain H. Murrary's carefully-researched biography. Writing with the easy style, spiritual insight and sympathy with his subject which marks his other biographical works, Murray builds on the older lives of Edwards, but also harvests material from more recent studies. Iain Murray believes that Edwards cannot be understood apart from his faith. Only when seen first and foremost as a Christian do his life and writings make sense.


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When it first appeared in 1987, this book was the first full-length life of Jonathan Edwards to appear for almost fifty years. In the meantime the Pastor of Northampton, Missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, and President of the New Jersey College (later Princeton) has been increasingly recognized as the greatest intellectual figure in eighteenth-century America. Never When it first appeared in 1987, this book was the first full-length life of Jonathan Edwards to appear for almost fifty years. In the meantime the Pastor of Northampton, Missionary to the Indians in Stockbridge, and President of the New Jersey College (later Princeton) has been increasingly recognized as the greatest intellectual figure in eighteenth-century America. Never before has so much material by Edwards or such detailed studies of his thought been available. Yet many of those who have led this renaissance of Edwards studies remain personally out of sympathy with almost every one of their subject's personal convictions. Special interest therefore attaches to Iain H. Murrary's carefully-researched biography. Writing with the easy style, spiritual insight and sympathy with his subject which marks his other biographical works, Murray builds on the older lives of Edwards, but also harvests material from more recent studies. Iain Murray believes that Edwards cannot be understood apart from his faith. Only when seen first and foremost as a Christian do his life and writings make sense.

30 review for Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Ask the average American for a brief description of Jonathan Edwards, and, if you get anything more than a shrug or a blank stare, it will most likely be a caricature of a stolid Puritan unable to muster up emotion for anything but the fire-and-brimstone sermons that spew from his pulpit. And while that average American might be partially excused on the basis of simple ignorance, recent biographers of Edwards seem to share similar views. Those who have ostensibly had reason to study his teachin Ask the average American for a brief description of Jonathan Edwards, and, if you get anything more than a shrug or a blank stare, it will most likely be a caricature of a stolid Puritan unable to muster up emotion for anything but the fire-and-brimstone sermons that spew from his pulpit. And while that average American might be partially excused on the basis of simple ignorance, recent biographers of Edwards seem to share similar views. Those who have ostensibly had reason to study his teaching and theology have concluded, as did Perry Miller, that through his work “Edwards wrought incalculable harm.” Other biographers, while conceding the greatness of Edwards’ intellect, are not so charitable regarding his character. Even in his own day Edwards was viewed with some hostility; in 1750 his opponents succeeded in ousting him from the pulpit at Northampton, where he had served for 23 years. From these facts, it might seem as though the caricatured notions have some merit. But an investigation of the historical record will note much dissent. Edwards was highly regarded by many of his colleagues in the ministry, including John Newton, who called him, “the greatest divine of his era.” And Edwards’ earliest biographers, such as Samuel Hopkins, who knew him personally, paint a much more sympathetic picture. Opinion does not seem to be divided along chronological lines or by proximity to Edwards himself, yet there clearly is a division. What would lead some biographers to describe a man as a loving and able minister of the Gospel, while others label him a theological tyrant? Iain Murray, who places himself unapologetically in the former camp, offers an explanation in the introduction to his account of Edwards’ life and work. The varied responses to Edwards’ life, Murray posits, stem from the beliefs to which he unwaveringly held. Reaction against the Calvinism that was at the heart of Puritan theology, in which man is utterly dependent upon the sovereign work of God for salvation, may seem natural to the age of rationalism in the century following Edwards’ death. Indeed, it was in the midst of that era that Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of Edwards that, “If he had lived a hundred years later and breathed the air of freedom, he would not have written with such old-world barbarism as we find in his volcanic sermons.” Yet there is nothing new under the sun; Edwards wrote of his own Calvinistic forebears that they were under attack from “gentlemen possessed of that noble and generous freedom of thought which happily prevails in this age of light and inquiry” as having “their minds shackled, living in the gloomy caves of superstition.” It should come as no surprise that men in their hubris would reject any teaching which leaves them guilty and powerless before the throne of a just and holy God. And while the supreme sovereignty of God is shot through every page of sacred Scripture, that idea has fallen out of favor even within the church. Even in Puritan New England there were many seeking to rewrite God’s Word in a form more palatable to their consciences, and it was Edwards’ design, both in his sermons and in his writings, to defend the truth of God as he discovered it in the Bible. Edwards rightly understood, as Murray relates, “why the things of the gospel seem so tasteless and insipid to natural men.” That Word is, as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, the fragrance of life to the living, but the stench of death to the dying. Edwards’ life and work was committed to the propagation of the truths found in Scripture, for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners. Murray’s chronicle of that life and work affirms the central importance of the beliefs held by its subject. Consequently, one’s reaction to this biography will largely be determined by how one stands in relation to the original idea, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For those “possessed of that noble and generous freedom of thought,” Murray’s work will seem only a doomed attempt to defend a man clinging desperately to an outmoded philosophy from an age of ignorance. For those of us “living in the gloomy caves of superstition,” who consider ourselves the theological descendants of Edwards and the tradition he inherited, this book affords a humbling and thought-provoking look at one of the greatest thinkers America has produced. Happily for the reader, Murray’s work is much more than simply grounded in sound doctrine. Because of his reverence for his subject, the author is at pains to present as accurate a portrait of Edwards and his family as possible. He does this by digging deep into the primary sources; not only the many surviving sermons and writings by Edwards, but the letters exchanged between himself and his family, acquaintances, and colleagues. In the candid words penned by, to, and about Edwards the reader finds a picture of a man who was a tender, devoted husband and father, a faithful friend, and a gentle if oft concerned shepherd of his flock, all of which contrast sharply with the strong and unyielding Gospel apologist found in his published writing. And while Murray certainly agrees with Edwards’ theology, he is not always uncritical of the means and methods he used. In chronicling Edwards’ battles against the false notions and heresies of his day, Murray is faithful to present both the successes and failings, while offering commentary which goes quite beyond the reactionary knee-jerks of the opposition. This is an exhaustively researched, fully human rendering of a man who, for all his intellectual prowess, still recognized himself humbly as a sinner saved by grace. Many have viewed Jonathan Edwards as a great man crippled by his devotion to a failed philosophy. Others, and Iain Murray is certainly among them, have lauded him as a simple man allowed to grasp, and in turn to reflect and communicate, the great glory of Almighty God. Regardless of an individual’s personal persuasion, the technical merits of Murray’s account warrant a reading by all. The truths which Edwards taught and defended are as relevant to the church today as they have been throughout the ages. May God grant us more men with the ability and resolve of Edwards, devoted leaders committed to minister for our good, and for His glory.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bambi Moore

    Wonderful!! I’m grateful for the life of Jonathan Edwards and all he (and his family!) have taught the church through his gifted mind and example of standing fully on the truth even at severe costs.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rui Cadima

    A great reading. Jonathan Edwards has become one of my mentors. I've taken up the habit of writing notes in my Bible and in different notebooks from him. It was so encouraging to see the difficulties he went through without ever losing faith in God. I'm really motivated to read the man himself after reading this biography. It focuses more on his personal life rather than his theology (that was the purpose for which I bought it). And it has lots of quotations from Edwards himself and his family and A great reading. Jonathan Edwards has become one of my mentors. I've taken up the habit of writing notes in my Bible and in different notebooks from him. It was so encouraging to see the difficulties he went through without ever losing faith in God. I'm really motivated to read the man himself after reading this biography. It focuses more on his personal life rather than his theology (that was the purpose for which I bought it). And it has lots of quotations from Edwards himself and his family and friends. Definitely worth a read as a way of getting to know this amazing brother who is now at rest with the Lord.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Drew Miller

    I would venture to say that few people in church history or history in general are more misunderstood than Jonathan Edwards. Edwards rarely gets the credit he deserves. Ian Murray does a phenomenal job in removing the fog that surrounds the person and work of Jonathan Edwards.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Batchelor

    I knew that Edwards was unpopular at points, but I had no idea just how difficult his ministry was. Praise God that he stayed faithful, and we can benefit from him today. Also, Murray knows how to write biographies that give appropriate background information but are just a paragraph away from erupting into doxological reflection.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Derek Brown

    I have been recently observing an unfortunate phenomenon: Jonathan Edwards is not well known. My referencing of Edwards in conversation has usually been met with an astonishing, “Who?” or, the caricature of the angry, downcast, miserable, depressed, joy-stealing preacher of “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” springs to mind and immediately prejudices the hearer against considering anything positive about the rural pastor from North Hampton, Connecticut. Sadly, this trend has settled in amon I have been recently observing an unfortunate phenomenon: Jonathan Edwards is not well known. My referencing of Edwards in conversation has usually been met with an astonishing, “Who?” or, the caricature of the angry, downcast, miserable, depressed, joy-stealing preacher of “Sinners in the hands of an angry God,” springs to mind and immediately prejudices the hearer against considering anything positive about the rural pastor from North Hampton, Connecticut. Sadly, this trend has settled in among those who should know and love him best: the Church of Jesus Christ. I certainly do not directly blame the Church for casting Edwards’ life and ministry aside and remaining ignorant of the truth he labored to give to God’s people for their health and spiritual good. It is probably mostly the fault of the secular schoolbooks and scholarly critics that speak of Edwards from heavily biased opinion and from misinterpretations his life and teaching. This has, regrettably, painted a picture of Edwards in the minds of Americans that is very unlike the original. And how tragic! The God-exalting, Christ-centered, humble, love-filled life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards has provided us with deeply satisfying, spiritually nourishing, life-giving, fruit-bearing sustenance for our souls, and yet we have forsaken this well of pure water because we have come to believe, essentially, that it is contaminated! Let us not be content to allow secular authors and critics to have the sole voice to speak to us about our founding fathers! O that we would reclaim that original portrait of this great man from the theft of misinterpretation and place it back securely in its proper place: the Church of Jesus Christ, so that all people can come, see, and enjoy! Iain Murray, with great skill and spiritual insight, has certainly provided us with the means to do just that in his book, 'Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography.' With this book, Murray has provided us with an accurate, edifying, truthful account of Edwards’ life that not only examines his theological convictions, but also demonstrates how those convictions flourished in his everyday life. Edwards is portrayed in real life, with real struggles, real passions, real heartbreak, in the context of a real family, supported, and held up by a God who was more real than all the aforementioned. Along with a detailed, evangelical interpretation of Edwards life, thought and ministry, Murray provides many excerpts from Edwards’ pen that are helpful and practical for any reader. Most notable is Edwards’ keen insight on the issue of spiritual pride. Edwards writes, “Spiritual pride is a most monstrous thing. If it be not discerned, and vigorously opposed in the very beginning, it very often soon raises persons above their teachers, and supposed spiritual fathers, and sets them out of the reach of all rule and instruction, as I have seen in innumerable instances” (341). It can be safely assumed that Edwards saw the ‘beginnings’ of such pride when he personally wrote a young lay-man who had taken the pulpit during a time when the regular pastor was absent, instructing him to stop this practice. In the letter that Murray supplies, we read from Edwards, “I am fully satisfied by the account your father has given me, that you have lately gone out of the way of your duty, and done that which did not belong to you, in exhorting public congregations…I hope you will consider the matter, and for the future, avoid doing thus. You ought to do what good you can, by private, brotherly, humble admonitions and counsels; but ‘tis too much for you to exhort public congregations” (222). Murray also supplies essential quotes from Edwards regarding proper understanding of the Great Awakening, true conversion, and pastoral study, just to name a few. Without making an unnecessary overstatement, I can easily that Murray’s 'New Biography' has been one of the most edifying and helpful books I have ever read. I often take it back off my shelf to reflect and meditate on significant portions of the book. It is well-written, detailed, thorough, extremely helpful, very interesting, and will provide the reader with a clear understanding of the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards; not to mention a solid introduction to his theological thought. I heartily recommend it!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cam Spigle

    Edwards commitment to the church in spite of church hurt and trauma is inspirational! He quietly and persistently entrusted himself to God through it all. Edwards’s incredible story comes to life by the gifted storytelling of Iain Murray! Highly recommended!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jon Delamarter

    The most personally influential biography I have read to date. Jonathan Edwards was an incredibly godly, intelligent, dedicated, and flawed man, a giant in any generation. This book shook me deeply and left me with an enduring passion and commitment to be a godly churchman, to love and support my elders and pastors well. And when I am tempted to think I have it all together, I remember that Jonathan Edwards was a slaveholder. If a man of his caliber could have such a glaring blindspot in his bel The most personally influential biography I have read to date. Jonathan Edwards was an incredibly godly, intelligent, dedicated, and flawed man, a giant in any generation. This book shook me deeply and left me with an enduring passion and commitment to be a godly churchman, to love and support my elders and pastors well. And when I am tempted to think I have it all together, I remember that Jonathan Edwards was a slaveholder. If a man of his caliber could have such a glaring blindspot in his belief and practice, then I must walk humbly before God and my fellow man.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Stellar. I will (hopefully) be a better pastor and, more importantly, a better follower of Jesus because of this book. The faith, intellect, and example of Edwards (and many of his contemporaries) stirred my affections for Christ. Also, though I am a relative newcomer to Edwards, I appreciated Murray's interaction with other biographies, and his clear, reasoned argumentation on points of contention. Stellar. I will (hopefully) be a better pastor and, more importantly, a better follower of Jesus because of this book. The faith, intellect, and example of Edwards (and many of his contemporaries) stirred my affections for Christ. Also, though I am a relative newcomer to Edwards, I appreciated Murray's interaction with other biographies, and his clear, reasoned argumentation on points of contention.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

    I loved this book, although it took me several months to finish it. It is interesting to see the same conflicts over and over in the church of Christ. Men are still the same as they were back then and we face the same problems over and over. It is very encouraging to read of Edwards' convictions remaining strong and how he made the best use of time. I loved this book, although it took me several months to finish it. It is interesting to see the same conflicts over and over in the church of Christ. Men are still the same as they were back then and we face the same problems over and over. It is very encouraging to read of Edwards' convictions remaining strong and how he made the best use of time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    The standard biography on Edwards until Marsden's. It reads a lot more warmly than Marsden's bio, and both cover very different ground. Deals a lot more with Edwards' theology, though a lot less critically. I read it several times. The standard biography on Edwards until Marsden's. It reads a lot more warmly than Marsden's bio, and both cover very different ground. Deals a lot more with Edwards' theology, though a lot less critically. I read it several times.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mike E.

    INTRODUCTION Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography is a comprehensive portrait of the prolific author and influential puritan pastor of the eighteenth century. Murray, unlike many of Edwards’ biographers, shares his subject’s Calvinistic theological convictions. The result, as one might expect from a sympathetic author, is a book which brings the reader not only closer to Jonathan Edwards, the Christian and pastor, but also transports the reader back to an eighteenth century British Co INTRODUCTION Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography is a comprehensive portrait of the prolific author and influential puritan pastor of the eighteenth century. Murray, unlike many of Edwards’ biographers, shares his subject’s Calvinistic theological convictions. The result, as one might expect from a sympathetic author, is a book which brings the reader not only closer to Jonathan Edwards, the Christian and pastor, but also transports the reader back to an eighteenth century British Colonial America where transportation was by horseback and the Sabbath was a holy day without work or play. In sum, Murray’s work is a delightful and enjoyable journey through the life of one of America’s greatest pastors and thinkers. Murray constantly cites and quotes original documents throughout the book, many at substantial length. This adds a wonderful touch to the book, as well as drive home his theses which often contradicts that of Edwards’ other biographers. If Murray’s book has a weakness, it is that he paints an almost angelic view of the mighty puritan pastor. Rarely does he show the reader any of Edwards’ weaknesses. Nonetheless, this is a marvelous book and even if Murray does perhaps err on the side of over-elevating Edwards, it is far better than what many have done--dismissed the substance of his writings. Ela Winslow, Edwards definitive biographer according to Evans, sadly “mourned that his brilliance was lost in the theological system which was beginning to decay, and even though his ideas were fresh and buoyant, they came to be identified with formal Calvinism and hence were rejected.”1 BIRTH TO DISMISSAL Murray devotes the majority of his biography to the period of Edward’s life from birth, on October 5, 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut to his dismissal from his pastorate in Northampton. Edwards preached his “Farewell Sermon” on July 1, 1750. This period of Edwards’ life occupies eighteen of twenty-three chapters. This quantity of A New Biography aligned with this period of his life is quite appropriate seeing as Edwards was a pastor and spent the majority of his time preparing sermons and tending to his flock. Those who dismiss Edwards’ theology focus more on his later, “philosophical” writings. One of the astounding facts of Edwards’ childhood is that he had ten sisters all of whom grew to be six feet tall!2 Jonathan’s father was a graduate of Harvard, ordained in March 1695 and pastored until his death in East Windsor.3 One of the few comments included by Murray which presents a deficiency of Edwards is the fact that his parents were slave-owners. Later, Edwards himself owned slaves. However, it appears that he treated his slaves with care and friendliness uncommon in that day. Edwards’ conversion took place in May or June of 1721, at the age of 17.4 God brought Edwards to Christ through the study of Scripture. A class of people existed in Edwards’ day which is absent in contemporary American evangelicalism. Many people in that day were church attendees, godly in respect to their character, but were yet awaiting a regenerating miracle of God to bring them to Christ and to validly adopt the title “Christian” or “professor.” I have never met anyone who wants to know Christ but yet is waiting for Him to save him. This seemed to be common in Edwards’ day. Edwards writes of his conversion in his Personal Narrative, “As I read the words, [1Tim. 1:17] there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before.”5 Edwards conversion was the guiding event in his life. His life was changed and everything that he would do in the future would be done with a purpose to glorify God. Though he was brilliant and wrote early in life in the areas of science and nature (Natural Philosophy and “Spider”) his life was to be consumed by a love of Christ. This love would eventually lead him to write influential theological works, to pastor and to move to the frontier to evangelize native American Indians. Edwards, like many called to ministry, simply was not content or at peace doing anything but the Lord’s work. After graduating from Yale, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees, he pastored a short time at a Presbyterian church in New York. Then he accepted an invitation to be a tutor at Yale, where he remained for two years. In 1726, after two years at Yale he received a call to minister at Northampton to work under his revered grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. Murray tells the reader that Edwards accepted the call “at once” and “his spirits brightened” upon leaving Yale for the ministry.6 Less than a year later Edwards married Sarah Pierrepont. Next to his conversion, this was probably the most significant event in his life. Behind every godly man there is usually a godly woman. One writer comments, “Perhaps no event of Mr. Edwards’ life had a more close connexion with his subsequent comfort and usefulness than his marriage.”7 Two years later Mr. Stoddard died and Edwards was to become the sole pastor at Northampton. The shoes which he now had to fill had been worn for more than fifty years by one of the most popular and prestigious pastors of New England. As it would later turn out, he would not wear the shoes of his grandfather to the shining expectations of the congregation. During Edwards ministry, two famous periods of revival broke out, the first from 1734-37, the second during 1740-42. Edwards defended the legitimacy of these revivals or awakenings in letters and in published works entitled Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England and later and most definitively, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. He understood the majority of the unusual emotional and physical responses of persons during the awakenings as due to the efficacy of the Spirit of God and not as out of control emotionalism. Though he admits that there certainly was some of the latter, it was not to spoil or tarnish the true work of God. In sum, Edwards believed that a true work of God would result in a changed life and holy living characterized by permanence and longevity. Edwards summarizes his thoughts on the revivals, “We should distinguish the good from the bad, and not judge of the whole by the part.”8 After the revivals he was to write two major works while in Northampton. First, Religious Affections was written in 1746. Like most of Edwards works, Affections was to have much greater readership after his departure from this world. His last work while at Northampton is his most read, An Account of the Life of the Late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd. David Brainerd, a missionary to the Indians, arrived at the Edwards’ home unannounced and then began a wonderful but short friendship between two men whose lives were characterized with, and uniquely united by, a deep love for God. Brainerd died while staying with Edwards, six months after he arrived. The impact of Brainerd’s life and mission upon Edwards was disproportionate to the short duration in which they were friends. Murray writes, The coming of Brainerd to Northampton was an event of far-reaching importance in Edwards’ life. While the opposite result might have been expected, the presence of a dying man, through many weeks, was uplifting to Edwards.”9 The arrival, friendship and departure was surely a display of God’s sovereign preparatory plan. Edwards’ future was about to change drastically, and in hindsight, one can see the fingerprint of God upon the arrival of Brainerd. The presence of this mighty missionary only heightened Edwards compassion for concerts of prayer for revival and a burden for those with no knowledge of God or His Word, like the near-by Indians on the frontier. Edwards’ pastorate in Northampton was an arduous and formidable journey. The Williams family, full of power and wealth did not care for Edwards and were often taking aim at him. As mentioned, he followed in the footsteps of a legend and ultimately his own people rejected him as their pastor for departing from a tradition that his popular grandfather had introduced to the church. Solomon Stoddard had allowed unbelievers to enter into church membership and communion, with the view that the communion table would be a means by which some would be converted. Solomon himself came to know Christ during his leadership in a communion service and suggests that the unregenerate may participate in communion, “because this ordinance has a proper tendency in its own to convert men.”10 Edwards, after much study and thought came to the unwavering conviction that communion and membership were for those who were regenerate and that the unregenerate should not be admitted. He expresses his departure from what had become normative at Northampton, “If any person should offer to come into the church without a profession of godliness, I must decline being active in his admission.”11 Edwards’ conviction when applied and disclosed to the church caused an obstreperous stir. Though it was not a short battle or dismissal, ultimately he was dismissed by his congregation by a 20-2 vote.12 MISSIONARY FRONTIER TO DEATH After not receiving a call to a pastorate for what seems to be an incredibly long time13 for such a gifted preacher, Edwards received an invitation to go to Stockbridge and be a missionary to the Housatonic Indians and to shepherd a few white frontiers people. It is at this time in Murray’s work that he mentions, perhaps, another fault of Edwards. Could Edwards have avoided his dismissal from Northampton had he been more of a initiator? In chapters sixteen and seventeen Murray hints at the fact that though Edwards would entertain with great hospitality and yield complete attention to any who came to him, he made few house calls--which was customary for a pastor in that day. Murray comments that Edwards simply found his sermon preparation, writing and study to be more profitable and in alignment with his gifts. Since his gifts were exercised best in the study that is where he spent the majority of his time. Perhaps Edwards as missionary is the least known aspect of his career because it was during this time that he wrote his major works, including Freedom of the Will, True Virtue and Original Sin which are center stage subjects of academicians today. Edwards, after struggling at first, has a substantial ministry to the Indians, white people and literary production. He remains in Stockbridge for over six years until reluctantly accepting a call from the College of New Jersey to be its president. Three months after arriving in New Jersey on March 22, 1758, at the age of 54, Jonathan Edwards died due to a small pox inoculation. CONCLUSION AND QUESTIONS Iain H. Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography is a fabulous portrait of the life and ministry of Jonathan Edwards. Murray’s documentation forcefully validates his theses and when he refutes another biographer’s thesis, it is done convincingly and with verifiable evidence, not meaningless fluff. Edwards life is wonderfully communicated to the Christian reader. Amazingly, the book would be profitable for a secular person to read if he was interested in Edwards. However, one who is not hospitable to Christ would find the portrayal unrealistic and one-sided. However, the facts seem to point to the reality that Edwards was a godly man and simply left behind few faults for a Christian to point to. While Murray finds little to point a finger at, he does mention that Edwards owned slaves and was not terribly sociable and this may have contributed to his congregation’s eventual termination of him as their pastor. ========== 1 W. Glyn Evans, “Jonathan Edwards-Puritan Paradox,” Bib Sac, Vol 124: #493, Jan 1967 (52). 2 Murray, 9. 3 Ibid., 7. 4 Ibid., 35. 5 Ibid. 6 Murray, 73. 7 Samuel Miller, cited by Murray, 91. 8 Thoughts Concerning the Revival of Religion, as cited by Murray, 245. 9 Murray, 305. 10 Solomon Stoddard, cited by Murray, 273. 11 cited by Murray, 275. 12 Jonathan Edwards On-Line, Trigsted 13 July 1, 1750 he preached his farewell sermon and his ministry at Stockbridge officially began August 8, 1751, Murray, 368. 14 Murray, 297, citing Works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Josiah Durfee

    Ahh, this is difficult for me. I love Edward’s commitment to his studies but he seemed distant from his own people. He wouldn't make a point to visit other members of the congregation, sometimes he might if they were really sick, and he was hard to relate to since he isolated himself from almost all distractions. He was an academically driven pastor in a village of farmers, which is excellent, but he was not nearly as condescending as I think he should have been. He was an okay preacher who was Ahh, this is difficult for me. I love Edward’s commitment to his studies but he seemed distant from his own people. He wouldn't make a point to visit other members of the congregation, sometimes he might if they were really sick, and he was hard to relate to since he isolated himself from almost all distractions. He was an academically driven pastor in a village of farmers, which is excellent, but he was not nearly as condescending as I think he should have been. He was an okay preacher who was used incredibly by God. As a leader, he seemed to delay on matters that could have been addressed immediately, such as the communion controversy in 1749-50, which lead to a majority vote against him to leave. Even though he had served at this church in Northhampton for 23 years! Incredibly though he still thought God had more for him to do so he moved into a village on the Western front to serve the Indians placing him in danger of frequent attacks. // Aside from all the wonderful things we know about Jonathan Edwards, yes I love (and have read) his religious affections, invaluably insightful, I love his ambition to pursue holiness in the way by creating a set of resolutions to follow early on in his life. But, to be honest, Edward’s is hard to understand today since he was not a people-person. He was a book-person. You need both, and he made many compromises. I feel as though the effect he had on posterity came at the expense of his own people. // What I love most about reading this book though, was reading about how human he was, he dealt with a tremendous amount of criticism. Especially when he started questioning many of the behaviors/signs of religion as well as the conversions during the Great Awakening by calling them inauthentic. And what was up with Israel and Solomon Williams? They are the textbook nightmares for every pastor. Ian Murray could have written a better book too, 3/5 stars.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Calvin Fletcher

    This was a fascinating read. I'll save my comments on Edwards as many volumes could be written on the man. It is important for readers to recognize that this biography was published BEFORE Marsden's, hence why Murray doesn't engage with Marsden. What makes Murray's account so valuable is the theology of Murray interestingly enough. Although not in total agreement, Iain Murray sees eye to eye with a lot of Jonathan Edward's theology and as such can write from a perspective that others can't. For This was a fascinating read. I'll save my comments on Edwards as many volumes could be written on the man. It is important for readers to recognize that this biography was published BEFORE Marsden's, hence why Murray doesn't engage with Marsden. What makes Murray's account so valuable is the theology of Murray interestingly enough. Although not in total agreement, Iain Murray sees eye to eye with a lot of Jonathan Edward's theology and as such can write from a perspective that others can't. For example, the implications of a Calvinistic framework when it comes to revival. Secular writers may be able to write broadly on Edwards views on revival as opposed to his contemporaries but they cannot understand the underlying theology behind the respective views. This is what makes Murray's biography so incredibly valuable. Where it may potentially suffer is that this book verges on being a hagiography and I choose the word "verges" very carefully. There are some instances where Murray engages and somewhat critiques Edwards but for the most part this book is extremely supportive of what Edwards did. Whilst this may be a fair position to take I think most readers of biographies would prefer to have an author critically analyse someone's life, both positives and negatives so that the person we are left with isn't merely a perfect human being, but someone with moral and intellectual struggles. If you are not a Christian I would still recommend this book but it is worth noting it is written from a Christian perspective. It is marvellously written and a very motivating book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James Hogan

    My second favourite biography of all time...and one of my very favourite books ever. I hadn't read it in a few years and I thought it was time. And yes - it was as encouraging and inspiring and convicting as ever. I do love it so. One of the great men of God, humble and longing to please God in all things. Would I possess even a small fraction of his love and passion for God. Murray's writing is - as always - enthralling and uplifting and supremely factual, while also seeking to glorify God in t My second favourite biography of all time...and one of my very favourite books ever. I hadn't read it in a few years and I thought it was time. And yes - it was as encouraging and inspiring and convicting as ever. I do love it so. One of the great men of God, humble and longing to please God in all things. Would I possess even a small fraction of his love and passion for God. Murray's writing is - as always - enthralling and uplifting and supremely factual, while also seeking to glorify God in the telling of a story of a man. The book is truly a story of the works of God, not the works of man. And that is what I love. And this book did something all good books should do - it got me pointed to my next read - now reading the diary of David Brainerd, which has continued to deeply convict and encourage me. Oh that I might be more conscious of God and His glories and less desirous of mine own.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Godinho

    This is a great book. Edwards' study habits inspire me (13hrs a day!). I look forward to reading his complete works. For anyone who is like me and has a tendency to be hyper critical of the Church and other Christians, this one is for you: "To wait to see a work of God without blemishes and faults, is to be like a fool 'waiting at the riverside to have the water all run by'. 'A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected.'" This is a great book. Edwards' study habits inspire me (13hrs a day!). I look forward to reading his complete works. For anyone who is like me and has a tendency to be hyper critical of the Church and other Christians, this one is for you: "To wait to see a work of God without blemishes and faults, is to be like a fool 'waiting at the riverside to have the water all run by'. 'A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected.'"

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenia Rand

    Had to read it for work. Was really disgusted by the attempt to gloss over the fact that Edwards was a slave owner. The story of being a missionary to the Native Americans is handled poorly and disrespectfully to the Native tribes. Not surprising, exactly, but unpleasant nonetheless.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Peter LeDuc

    Awesome. Great overview of His life and thought. Murray showed that his influence is far from over.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ian Rees

    Fascinating account of one of America's great preachers, teachers, philosphers and thinkers. Humbling to read of his devotion, spirituality and hard work. Fascinating account of one of America's great preachers, teachers, philosphers and thinkers. Humbling to read of his devotion, spirituality and hard work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Darby Hughes

    Great in content, tone, and theological insight.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Pippin

    Favorite biography I’ve read to date, makes me admire Rev Edwards all the more. It also makes me want to devour every work of his I can get my hands on.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Coram Deo Church

    Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography is not currently available at local libraries.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Rollo

    Another good biography. It is not as balanced and detailed as Marsden, but Murray achieves his goal: introducing the reader to Edwards so you will go read his works.

  24. 4 out of 5

    James

    Review on the way.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Jonathan Edwards is often considered as the greatest (if not one of the greatest) theologian in the history of the American Church. But how much do you know about him? His family? And the context he lives in? In comes, Iain Murray’s ‘Jonathan Edwards - A New Biography’. Murray first explains his own presuppositions about Edwards and on the biography he has written. Murray then traced the life of Jonathan Edwards chronologically, starting from the first generation of Edwards who came to New Englan Jonathan Edwards is often considered as the greatest (if not one of the greatest) theologian in the history of the American Church. But how much do you know about him? His family? And the context he lives in? In comes, Iain Murray’s ‘Jonathan Edwards - A New Biography’. Murray first explains his own presuppositions about Edwards and on the biography he has written. Murray then traced the life of Jonathan Edwards chronologically, starting from the first generation of Edwards who came to New England, till the death of Edwards, and also some of his family members. Along the way, the family members of Jonathan Edwards, was given ample space to let the reader know not just about Edwards, but also about he family that he had, especially his wife and his 2 daughters, Jerusha and Esther. Murray has done a thorough job by quoting many times, from primary sources, and help any reader see the context that Edwards was in. Not only so, Murray often gives helpful insights and comments on the situation. Jonathan Edwards, warts and all was presented in this biography. The last chapter talks about how Edwards has been “forgotten” in the past, and is now slowly reaching a wider readership in this generation. Hopefully this book will spur even more readers to read Edwards for themselves. Although this is definitely not the book I would recommend as a first introduction of a biography to Jonathan Edwards, it deserves careful study, and any Edwards scholar or Edwards enthusiast cannot miss out on this volume, but the reader has to be warn, it’s over 470+ pages and is not for the faint-hearted or the uninitiated. I myself have also “given up” along the way and slowly continued till I was done with the book. Hopefully you’re gain from this book a much better understanding of Edwards, his family and his time. Rating: 4/5

  26. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    Far from the fire and brimstone stiff Edwards was caricatured to be in my high school education, I learned of a man who was zealous for truth even when it would effect his demise, because he was confident of God's love and sovereignty. I also got to peek into his affectionate relationships with his wife and children and dear friends through exchanged letters. And of his brilliance, quoting Lyman Beecher: "'But for his piety, he might have been a skeptic more dangerous than Hume or Voltaire; and Far from the fire and brimstone stiff Edwards was caricatured to be in my high school education, I learned of a man who was zealous for truth even when it would effect his demise, because he was confident of God's love and sovereignty. I also got to peek into his affectionate relationships with his wife and children and dear friends through exchanged letters. And of his brilliance, quoting Lyman Beecher: "'But for his piety, he might have been a skeptic more dangerous than Hume or Voltaire; and but for the command of his religion over all his powers, he might have been one of the most dangerous, as he certainly was one of the most original and fearless of speculators. But the attractions of his heart to God kept him in his orbit, and enabled him to go forth, and survey, and adjust the relations of the moral universe without becoming a wandering star.'" And of holiness, rather than being a choking starch collar, is "for the Christian...[the] beauty of the God whom he has been brought to know and, having now a principle of holiness in his own nature, he delights in God and seeks to be like him." I also liked this quote Iain Murray added from a review of religious thought since Edward's time: "'Has religious liberalism...failed where a philosophy of life has no business to fail? Has modern religion glossed over the stern facts of life with a saccharine sentimentality about the fatherhood of God? Has it taken the iron out of its ethic? Sin does not disappear just because it is not talked about or recognized.'" -Arthur Cushman McGiffert, Author

  27. 5 out of 5

    RevRonR

    I read this book a few years ago but learning about the life of this influential godly man and pastor/theologian still resonates with me to this day. It was clear to me, and most likely to those who read this book, that the author is very sympathetic to the Calvinistic principles of Jonathan Edwards. There is nothing wrong with that but it could be a barrier to defending some controversial actions and positions Edwards took with his congregation at times (such as the youth problem and Communion I read this book a few years ago but learning about the life of this influential godly man and pastor/theologian still resonates with me to this day. It was clear to me, and most likely to those who read this book, that the author is very sympathetic to the Calvinistic principles of Jonathan Edwards. There is nothing wrong with that but it could be a barrier to defending some controversial actions and positions Edwards took with his congregation at times (such as the youth problem and Communion issues) by seeing other ways to address it instead of simply defending Edwards. It is clear when you read biographies of Edwards that he was not the best with groups. He undoubtedly loved his congregation and the souls of men, but group dynamics was not his specialty. Writing, philosophy, theology, and apologetics were his strengths. Now, this does not in any way knock down this pillar of Christianity. Edwards lived an exemplary Christian life and was highly influential in his time because of it. This book's greatest value is that it displays this well, yet leaves out some of the context of the times in which he lives. Ian Murray has written some solid historical books that have served well in modern times to promote and preserve the Calvinistic Christian heritage that he and many others believe in. This book is a great fit in that mold and will be highly valued by those who read it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    I bought the book Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain H. Murray for a family member. Initially she told me she liked it but as she read, she got frustrated. She actually gave up on it and gave it to me. I just finished reading it myself. It took a while. The book lacks direction is one of its main faults. Rather than guiding and interpreting the life of Jonathan Edwards, it seems like the author accumulates many facts. Murray seems to go into depth on issues which for me which would have s I bought the book Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain H. Murray for a family member. Initially she told me she liked it but as she read, she got frustrated. She actually gave up on it and gave it to me. I just finished reading it myself. It took a while. The book lacks direction is one of its main faults. Rather than guiding and interpreting the life of Jonathan Edwards, it seems like the author accumulates many facts. Murray seems to go into depth on issues which for me which would have served the average reader better by summarizing the issue or by excising the material altogether. This book best serves someone with a strong interest in history and lover of detail. If you desire to learn a bit of church history, historical theology, or be inspired by a great Christian man, you should look for another biography. If you are a researcher into theology, religious life in early America, or history of America you might find this book useful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cole Brandon

    Murray infers in his introduction that he took on this project because of his dissatisfaction with other Edward bios. Thus his whole project is a reaction, aimed at countering non-evangelical perspectives on the life of JE. Perhaps it needed done, nevertheless it is dry task.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynette

    Aug. 1722 - "All his personal papers from this period indicate that a new master interest possessed him: it was to enjoy the Word of God. 'I had then,' he later wrote, 'and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and these sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food comm Aug. 1722 - "All his personal papers from this period indicate that a new master interest possessed him: it was to enjoy the Word of God. 'I had then,' he later wrote, 'and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy Scriptures, of any book whatsoever. Oftentimes in reading it every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and these sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I couldn't get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence to see the wonders contained in it, and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.'" (page 41)

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