An Edwardsian Lost and Found
THE LEGACY OF JONATHAN EDWARDS IN ASIA
I FOUND THE book sitting unassumingly on a shelf at the home of a JapaneseAmerican family near Princeton, New Jersey. The house belonged to an elderly woman who was well into her eighties, with a fading memory and declining dexterity. She lived mostly in her memories of prewar Japan, before she and her entire family immigrated to the West Coast. At times, she would go out of the house on foot to buy some tofu at the local store—a store misplaced in her memory from her hometown in rural Okayama to present-day New Jersey. After immigrating to the United States, she experienced unspeakable hardships during World War II in the internment camp. She then moved to the East Coast after the war, where she eventually spent a happy life with successful children. But every time she went out to her imaginary tofu store, she would become lost in the reality of late-twentieth-century urban traffic. One of her daughters, a senior curator at Princeton University’s Gest Library, lived with her and decided to hire someone to be her daytime companion while she was at work. Our families knew each other from the church, and so my wife took on the role of caretaker. I myself had just started studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, and that day I had happened to have lunch with them.
The book I found on the shelf, though dusty and tinged yellow-brown over time, still declared its title clearly: The God of Wrath.1 I had barely begun my Edwards studies at the time, but the moment I saw it I knew that it was a volume of Jonathan Edwards’s sermons in Japanese translation. Published in 1948, it was the very first translation ever to appear in the Japanese language, and arguably the first in any Asian language, but the book had long been forgotten. I had never seen it in Japan, nor had I seen any mention of it