Jonathan Edwards and the Gospel of Love

Article excerpt

Jonathan Edwards and the Gospel of Love. By Ronald Story. (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012. Pp. ix, 165. $22.95.)

This slender volume on Jonathan Edwards [1703-1758] is a reading pleasure and most suitable to anyone interested in the times and reflections of one of New England's most notable Puritans. It is well organized, is meticulously researched, and offers original insight into Edwards's thinking. It is a must read for any serious student or scholar of the Edwardian era in New England.

Ronald Story's research is based largely on Edwards's Works as well as several secondary sources such as those of Ola Winslow and Perry Miller, historians whose classical treatment of Edwards is in sharp contrast to that of Story. Story agrees with earlier historians regarding Edwards's efforts to reconcile the rationalism of Isaac Newton and John Locke with Calvinist theology. But even more important in defining Edwards was his role in "fomenting, furthering and defending" early eighteenth-century revivalism (17). Story asserts that Edwards was a "scold." His "hellfire and brimstone" sermons focused on the internal torment of the soul and the eternal damnation of hell, which is best exemplified by Edwards's most famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

Although Story agrees with these earlier interpretations of Edwards's thinking, he argues that historians have overlooked the fact that only a small fraction of his thousand sermons reflect his "scold" philosophy. In fact, it is just the opposite. Story documents Edwards's extensive use of metaphors that involve light, beauty, harmony, and sweetness, all common modifiers in his sermons. …