Edwards’s Funeral Sermons: David Brainerd

David Brainerd was clearly very dear to Jonathan Edwards.

The young evangelist to the native Indians, whose journal has become one of the most endearing classics of missionary devotion/biography, held a special place in Jonathan Edwards’s heart. For one, the young Brainerd had a special relationship with Edwards’s daughter Jerusha, who nursed him during his dying days. For two, Edwards edited Brianerd’s journals himself, becoming his best selling book during his own lifetime. For three, Brainerd died in Edwards’s own home and the Puritan preacher performed his funeral sermon on October 12th, 1747, three days after the young evangelist died from tuberculosis.

This funeral sermon, entitled, True Saints, When Absent from the Body, Are Present with the Lord, is contained in the Hendrickson edition of Jonathan Edwards’s sermons, and is a stellar example of a Puritan funeral sermon. Like most Puritan sermons, it was long, filled with doctrine, avoided sentimentality and superficiality at all costs (so ubiquitous in modern eulogies today), and was aimed to pierce the heart.

Edwards is working upon the text of 2 Corinthians 5:8 which says, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” As with almost all sermons of Jonathan Edwards, he does not depart from his standard tripartite formulation of text, doctrine, application. So, in the opening paragraphs, Edwards gives a brief contextual analysis from the Apostle Paul’s Corinthian correspondence. In so doing, Edwards reminds his hearers of the Apostle’s own courage in facing both danger and death in order to bring the Gospel to places where it has yet to be heard. Edwards’s own hearers would have no doubt made immediate connections to Brainerd’s own life and ministry among the Indians.

From this, Edwards deduces the following doctrine: “Departed souls of saints go to be with Christ in the following respects…” Then Edwards gives several implications including: “they go to dwell in the same abode with the glorified human nature of Christ” (p. 417); “the souls of true saints, when they leave their bodies at death, go to be with Christ, as they go to dwell in the immediate, full and constant sight or view of him” (p. 420); “departed souls of saints are with Christ, as they enjoy a glorious and immediate intercourse and converse with him” (p. 422) and a few others.

What Edwards is trying to do here, approaching from multiple angles, is to assure his hearers that those who have been converted to Christ, do immediately and without hindrance go directly into the blessed and glorious presence of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, who reigns in Trinitarian splendor with the Father and Spirit. There is no waiting. There is no delay. There is no place of purgation (contra: Roman Catholicism). After death, comes the blessed state.

As he gives this great assurance, Edwards ruminates on one of his favorite theological doctrines: the Beatific Vision. This is the concept that Heaven largely consists of a joyous, active, gazing upon the eternal beauty, majesty, and wonder of the divine nature of Jesus Christ. Far from “eternally green golf courses” and cartoonish views of heaven as clouds, harps, and halos, Edwards reveals the very thing that makes Heaven so heavenly – Christ is gloriously, dominantly, present.

He says,

Their beatifical vision of God is in Christ, who is that brightness or effulgence of God’s glory, by which His glory shines forth in Heaven, to the view of saints and angels there, as well as here on earth. This is the Sun of righteousness, that is not only the light of the world, but is also the sun that enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem; by whose bright beams it is that the glory of God shines forth there, to the enlightening and making happy of all the glorious inhabitants. (p. 420).

In this way, True Saints, becomes a joyful expression of eschatological gospel realities. Edwards makes sure his hearers know that this is not a somber occasion, but one for true rejoicing for God’s people. He stocks the sermon with language of “Christ’s kingly majesty,” “ineffable delight,” and “infinite complacence.”

By way of application, Edwards looks to the gifts and graces that Brainerd had which showed his own longing for Heaven most clearly. We note that it is not until late in the sermon that Edwards even mentions Brainerd specifically. This sermon is more about Jesus Christ then the deceased, that much is clear. When Edwards does draw the young missionary into the view of the mourners gathered through his oratory, he shows many of the ways that Brainerd lived in such a manner as to bring the heavenly Beatific Vision into better perspective through the missionary’s mortal pilgrimage here on earth.

He mentions several things in particular: Brainerd’s natural talents of mind and social disposition, his extraordinary piety as a lover of Jesus Christ, and especially his willingness to endure loss and hardship for the sake of the Gospel. In one place, Edwards extols,

He in his whole course acted as one who had indeed sold all for Christ, and had entirely devoted himself to God, and made his glory the highest end, and was fully determined to spend his whole time and strength in his service (p. 439).

By this point, many hearers in the congregation (not to mention modern readers) have not only heard a good bit about Heaven, but in a uniquely Edwardsean way were able to “see” and “taste” it. Not only that, but they have been given an example of a man (Brainerd) who lived in such a way through his selflessness and sacrifice that those beauties and joys were shown manifestly in his life.

Edwards then concludes the sermon with a post-script. In this portion, (noted separately on pages 444 – 448 of the Hendrickson edition), Edwards gives a fuller treatment of the details of Brainerd’s life than he was able to do in the main portions of the spoken sermon.


Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: Voiced by Max McClean

Here is a YouTube Video featuring Edwards’s most well known sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In this video, the great Max McClean reads the sermon in the distinguished voice and ethos that only he can perform.

This sermon, and many others of Edwards’s most well known pieces of pulpit oratory can be found in the Hendrickson version of Jonathan Edwards’s sermons. 

John Erskine & Jonathan Edwards: Truth Unified An Ocean Apart

The following article is used with permission by the author from his own website, tobyeasley.org. Dr. Toby Easley (D.Min., Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), is a theologian, author, and independent speaker  who has twenty-nine years of public speaking and instructional experience. 

John Erskine was Scottish born seven years after the Colonial American Jonathan Edwards but their life spans would end up differing by more than twenty-seven and half years. However, the years of their lives that juxtapose from 1721 to 1758, eventually kindled a true kindred spirit through Edwards’s writings on the American spiritual awakening and Erskine’s generosity to send European books.

1460770340 Erskine was born into a family that had financial means and many expected him to follow his father in a life’s vocation of jurisprudence. Nevertheless, he sensed the calling of God upon his life to enter the ministry and focus on the eternal realm. According to Jonathan Yeager, Erskine’s preaching differed from Edwards by simplifying “his sermons in the manner that the leading rhetorician George Campbell taught: to use only a few subordinate points to support one main argument…As opposed to many former Calvinist divines, Erskine did not ramble on in his discourses, using intricate and hard-to-follow metaphysical assumptions.”

As the 1740’s passed and the early 1750’s brought many trials into Edwards’s life, Erskine served as a means of encouragement through the letters they exchanged. Edwards shared many of the details of his ejection from his Northampton pulpit and his concerns for the future of his entire family. All throughout these difficult years, Erskine remained a faithful friend, correspondent, and crucial supplier of books that would have otherwise been unavailable to Edwards. Yeager also accurately claimed, “Since the number of bookshops in America paled by comparison to Britain, Edwards benefited from a patron who resided near a publishing epicenter like Edinburgh.”

Although Erskine and Edwards realized many of the intellectual ideas coming out of Europe were contrary to theirs, both men desired to read the conflicting doctrines.  Erskine certainly had the intellectual capacity to think and speak against doctrinal error but Edwards could also wield the pen as an apologist and polemicist! Edwards was not only concerned about the doctrinal tremors at Harvard and Yale, he was becoming more aware of the doctrinal shift throughout Europe. After pastoring for almost two and a half decades in Northampton, he had reason for concern regarding the younger generation and the doctrinal movement within the Congregational Churches. On July 5, 1750, Edwards wrote a letter to Erskine and in sadness expressed, “I desire your fervent prayers for me and those who have heretofore been my people. I know not what will become of them. There seems to be the utmost danger that the younger generations will be carried away with Arminianism, as with a flood.” Bit-by-Bit, his prophetic words came true regarding the abandonment of Reformation Theology, and acceleration toward an Arminian majority in the two centuries following his death.

Erskine on the other side of the Atlantic lived into the early nineteenth-century and continued to impact theological discussions. During his ministry as a younger man he had stood against the Arminian principles of Wesley, and warned the Scottish people against his Methodist soteriology. Erskine’s influence within Scotland during the Eighteenth-century helped preserve the Calvinistic soteriology among Presbyterians and stifled the growth of Wesley’s Methodist groups inside Scotland. Although Erskine and Edwards lived on separate continents and ministered across the Atlantic Ocean from one another, they both had the foresight to discern the doctrinal changes of the Enlightenment and its far-reaching effects.

A Faithful Proclaimer of God’s Word: Jonathan Edwards (David P. Barshinger)

This article originally appeared at the official website of  Credo Magazine  on April 12, 2016.  It is reprinted here at EdwardsStudies.com with permission.

The full article can be found in the new print edition of Credo Magazine entitled, “Preach the Word: Preachers Who Changed the World.” David Barshinger (Ph.D., Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is an editor in the book division at Crossway, and has taught as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University and Trinity Christian College. He is the author of Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture. 


Edwards Credo Magazine

Dangling like a spider over tongues of fire. Standing before floodgates holding back furious waters. Targeted with an arrow waiting to be drunk with your blood. These images of the sinner’s condition have both captivated and horrified listeners and readers ever since Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) preached his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in the hot summer of 1741. Those who heard him give this sermon in Enfield, Connecticut, on July 8 of that year became so terrified that they screamed out in the middle of it, “Oh, I am going to Hell,” and “What shall I do to be Sav[e]d?” Their shrieking forced Edwards to stop preaching so he and the other pastors present could minister to the congregation.

While perhaps the most dramatic response to one of his sermons that Edwards ever encountered, this event was just one in a long preaching ministry stretching from 1720 to 1758. Edwards would eventually be remembered more for his contributions to theology, yet his preaching played an important role in promoting revival in his congregation and throughout New England.

Aiming at hearts

The common depiction of Edwards is that of a stilted, rigid, wig-wearing figure reading his sermons in a monotone voice that lulled his listeners to sleep. Edwards was certainly no George Whitefield (1714–1770)—Edwards’s younger contemporary and the far better known preacher of the day—but the evidence suggests a more complicated picture than this caricature portrays.

During his first years in Northampton, Massachusetts, Edwards served as an assistant to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard (1643–1729), a well-respected pastor who called preachers to deliver their sermons without notes. For years Edwards felt slightly embarrassed that he could not manage to preach without writing his sermons out in full. Over time, though, Edwards loosened up, inspired in large part by a local visit from none other than Whitefield. After seeing Whitefield’s effect on his congregation—and feeling it himself (Edwards was brought to tears at his preaching)—Edwards worked harder at preaching extemporaneously, to the point that by the end of his career, he was often speaking from bare outlines.

Ultimately, Edwards preached to the hearts of his listeners, and he understood that how he delivered his sermon played a role in reaching them. As he explained in Religious Affections, Edwards believed that one of the main reasons God ordained the preaching of his Word was “the impressing divine things on the hearts and affections of men.” And he defended “an appearance of affection and earnestness in the manner of delivery” so long as it was “agreeable to the nature of the subject” and affected the listeners “with nothing but truth.” Edwards thus devoted himself to the earnest preaching of truth that penetrated the heart. …

[Read the rest here].

2014 Jonathan Edwards Conference in England

Here are all the talks from the 2014 Jonathan Edwards Conference in England. Edwards for the Church


Gerry McDermott: Directing Souls: What Pastors Today Can Learn From
Edwards’ Ministry
With questions
Without questions

William Schweitzer: Faithful Ministers are Conduits of the Means of Grace
With questions
Without questions

Stephen Nichols: Edwards and the Bible
With questions
Without questions

Roy Mellor: When the Road is Rough: Staying With What Matters Most
With questions
Without questions

Douglas Sweeney: Edwards on the Divinity, Necessity, and Power of the Word
of God in the World
With questions
Without questions

Michael Brautigam: Our God is an Awesome God: Sharing Jonathan Edwards’
Vision of God’s Excellencies
With questions
Without questions

Nicholas Batzig: Jonathan Edwards: Preaching Christ in the Song of Songs
With questions
Without questions

All Speakers: Panel Discussion

Kevin Bidwell: Morning Devotions Day 1
Without hymns
With hymns

Eric Alldritt: Morning Devotions Day 2
Without hymns
With hymns

William Macleod: Sermon on Revival
Full service
Reading and sermon only


Jonathan Edwards’s “Observations on the Trinity” (Synopsis)

Observations on the Trinity is not to be confused with Jonathan Edwards’s other short piece on the godhead, entitled An Essay on the Trinity, although readers are likely to confuse them easily for two good reasons.

For one, they are both housed under the same roof – both short works come in the 1971 edition of Treatise on Grace & Other Posthumous Writings, edited by Paul Helm. For two, both essays are about the same size in length (the former is only 17 pages, the latter a little more at about 30). For this reason, when people mention “that little essay Edwards wrote about the Trinity,” even some of the most advanced Edwards scholars need to take a step back and say to themselves “Wait, which one is that again?”

Jonathan Edwards Observations on the Trinity

I’ve already written on An Essay on the Trinity here. So I won’t recover that ground again, other than to simply say that this slightly longer work focuses on the persons of the Trinity in relation to one another. Edwards uses the so-called psychological model to describe how the persons can be one, and yet distinct. Edwards says that the Father is “God in the prime,” the Son is God’s perfect knowledge of Himself, and the Holy Spirit is God’s joy between the Father and Son. Each person is fully divine and yet retains distinct person-hood in relationship to the other.

In Observations, Edwards is more concerned with the economical (note: he spells it “oeconomical”) relationship between the Three Persons. Thus, it is fair to summarize both by saying that An Essay is about the doctrine of the ontological Trinity (God’s nature in being) and Observations is about the doctrine of the economical Trinity (the relationship between the Three Persons in terms of role and service to one another).

Observations begins with a fairly straightforward statement:

“There is a subordination of the persons of the Trinity, in their actions with respect to the creature; that one acts from another, and under another, and with a dependence on another in their actings, and particularly in what they act in the affairs of man’s redemption.” (p. 77).

This key statement sets the stage for all that follows. Like most Reformed theologians, Edwards will then argue for most of the rest of the essay that the Son is subject to the Father’s authority with respect to His role as the Redeemer of humanity. In a complementarian way, the Son is no less glorious or divine than the Father, but is subject to the Father with respect to His service as the God-Man by going on the mission to save humanity at His incarnation. Here, we must distinguish between the Three Persons’ worth (all are equal in divine splendor) and role (one submits to the other).

He says, “It is very manifest that the persons of the Trinity are not inferior one to another in glory and excellence of nature.” (p. 77). True enough. But this shared glory will be manifested in service one to the other in the saving of mankind. The Father appoints the Son (p. 81); the Son confers His Spirit upon the Church (p. 90).

With respect to the Father and Son, Edwards avers that they were already in an economical relationship of subordination before the Covenant of Redemption was made. He thinks this is quite important. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit too was economically subordinate to Father and Son before – and apart from – the Covenant of Redemption. Thus, Edwards seems reticent to consign subordination between persons merely to redemptive history. Rather, this is something “natural” to their eternal relationship with one another, and would have been so even without a plan to redeem the world.

To be clear, let’s define the term “Covenant of Redemption.” In some forms of covenant theology, God is understood to have undertaken a covenant – before the creation of the world and within the persons of the Trinity – to redeem humanity. This covenant is seen to undergird the Covenant of Grace (or: the New Covenant) mentioned in the Scriptures. In this way, Reformed thinkers (including Edwards) speak of the Father and Son making a covenant together to agree to redeem the elect. The Father sends the Son and assigns to Him the great task of being the God-Man and the atoning sacrifice; the Son willingly accepts the task and consents to it freely.

He says, “It is evident by the Scripture” (here we should presume he means John 17, although he does not say so explicitly), “that there is an eternal covenant between some of the persons of the Trinity, about the particular affairs of men’s redemption” (p. 80).

Edwards sees this as an agreement, however, only between two persons, the Father and the Son. Curiously, he does not believe that the Holy Spirit was a party of the covenant (p. 92) although Edwards believes the Holy Spirit “agrees” with, it and is “concerned” with it as it relates to the glory of the Holy Trinity (p. 93).

Edwards stresses that this economical subordination existed prior to the making of the covenant, as he is zealous to preserve this fact: only the subordination of the Son of God as it pertains to His humiliation is meritorious for purchasing human redemption. Thus, Christ’s subordination to the Father does not merit our salvation in regard to the pre-covenant, natural subordination of Son to Father. If this were so, Edwards argues, then the Spirit’s subordination to Father and Son would likewise be meritorious as well, which is clearly not the case. Thus the subordination that does merit our salvation is only that which is subsequent to the Covenant of Redemption; i.e. that humiliation in the incarnation that Christ willingly and freely undertook in the covenant.

So why does all this concern Edwards? Probably three reasons stand out as to why Edwards wrote Observations on the Trinity. First, Edwards is determined to understand the interrelationships between the Three Persons of the Trinity. He is not content to merely accept mystery for mystery’s sake. Edwards tends to attempt to push the envelope of human understanding as far as he can take it. We should respect him the more for this.

Second, Edwards is also concerned to defend both the equality of the Father, Son, and Spirit in terms of worth and honor, as well as to explain how it is possible for one to serve the other in humility. Scripture, he is convinced, teaches both. Again we should agree with this notion, even if we disagree with him on some of his particulars. Why the Holy Spirit cannot be a party of the covenant is not entirely clear to this writer. Nevertheless, we are right to emulate Edwards in preserving the shared divine worth of the Three Persons while seeing biblical subordination between them.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Edwards is always anxious to defend the great glories of the godhead in the marvelous actions of redemption to save the elect. In many ways, this is part and parcel of his entire theological project. Jonathan Edwards is transfixed on understanding, savoring,and glorying in God’s great works of redemption -even those that took place long before God created the world.

Rev. Matthew Everhard is the general editor of Edwardsstudies.com and the pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. 



Owen Strachan on the Legacy of Jonathan Edwards

In this short video, Owen Strachan talks about the series of five short introductions to the life and influence of Jonathan Edwards that he and his adviser Douglas Sweeney wrote together in 2010. These introductory booklets (about 160 pages each, compact layout) can be purchased together or separately.

If you have not yet checked out this series, the series titles consist of very short introductions to Edwards’s thought on: beauty, the love of God, the good life, true Christianity, and Heaven and Hell. 

Hand-Sewn Edition of My Edwards Dissertation: “A Theology of Joy: Jonathan Edwards and Eternal Happiness”

At EdwardsStudies.com, we are constantly pressing the envelope for Jonathan Edwards geekiness. Not only do we review scholarly books by and about the eighteenth century puritan, but we also engage in a level of nerdy conversation rivaled only by Star Trek fans and Comic Con attendees.

In this short video, I debut my own hand-bound edition of my dissertation which I have written and intend to defend at Reformed Theological Seminary on Friday, April 15th. The dissertation is entitled “A Theology of Joy: Jonathan Edwards and Eternal Happiness in the Holy Trinity.” In this work, I have attempted to survey Edwards’s understanding of happiness, especially that holy happiness that centers on the glory of God as revealed in the Gospel.

In the dissertation, I survey some of Edwards’s most well known works (Religious Affection, The End for which God Created the World, the Resolutions) as well as some of his lesser known works (Essay on the Trinity, True and False Christians etc.)

In making this hand-bound edition of my dissertation, I attempted to create something that might have looked like a book that Edwards could have pulled off his own shelf. It is bound in cowhide leather with a suede liner, and all of the signatures (sewn groups of 32 pages) are hand-stitched by yours truly. Edwards would be proud – especially since he sewed many of the notebooks he used in his Miscellanies and other personal books.

Take a look!

Visual Theology: Edwards and Natural Types & Spiritual Antitypes

Dr. Rob Boss has been treating readers of EdwardsStudies.com and the rest of the internet to some of the most visually stunning info-graphic-style videos on Jonathan Edwards’s typology. Having done much of his work on Edwards’s views of typology by studying Images of Divine Things, Boss attempts to help Edwards scholars make the connections between what the Northampton Puritan saw in the natural world with what he believed to be reality in the spiritual world.

[See also our interview with Dr. Boss on his “Elemental Theology” here]. 

Each of the videos is short: just 30 seconds long or so, and follows the route that Edwards takes mentally in connecting natural types with their spiritual fulfillment:

Fleece of Sheep:

Climbing Mountains:

Rivers and Streams:

Upcoming Edwards Conference 2016

The Jonathan Edwards Conference is coming again June 9th and 10th at the Radison Blu Hotel in Durham. Speakers include: Michael BräutigamIain D CampbellGerald McDermottRoy MellorIain MurrayWilliam SchweitzerDouglas Sweeney, and Guy Waters.

Conference speakers will be focusing on the theme: “Jonathan Edwards, For the Church: The Ministry and Means of Grace” corresponding the the 2015 book of the same title with chapters contributed by the conference speakers. [But the book here]. 

Edwards for the Church

Per the official website:

Jonathan Edwards For the Church is a conference to encourage the church in the UK.  In a day of confusion, we pray it would be in the hands of Almighty God an instrument for reformation and revival.  The topic for 2016 is one that delighted and animated Jonathan Edwards throughout his fruitful life: the Glory of God.  Come join us; the speakers will have ministers or men training for ministry particularly in mind as they prepare, but all of God’s people are welcome.

A notable feature of the recovery of the Reformed faith in the United Kingdom was God’s use of American theologian Jonathan Edwards in the ministries and lives of the leaders. Thomas Chalmers, Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Pink, John Murray, and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones all considered the discovery of Edwards’ writings as turning points in their ministries. Indeed, it is at least possible that the qualitative influence of Edwards has been greater here than it has been among the American church. Jonathan Edwards for the Church seeks to promote such usefulness in a new generation.