The preaching of Jonathan Edwards
I purchased my copy of Marsden’s biography Jonathan Edwards: A Life at CLC this Spring (two days after visiting Edwards’ grave in Princeton). It has become one of my favorite biographies just behind Dallimore’s George Whitefield. Edwards had a powerful preaching style stemming from his intellectual gifts and seriousness with divine things.
“Although Edwards had none of the dramatic gestures of a Whitefield or a Tennent and was said to preach as though he were staring at the bell-rope in the back of the meetinghouse, he could be remarkably compelling. An admirer described his delivery as ‘easy, natural and very solemn. He had not a strong, loud voice; but appeared with such gravity and solemnity, and spake with such distinctness, clearness and precision; his words were so full of ideas, set in such a plain and striking light, that few speakers have been so able to demand the attention of an audience as he.’ Through sheer intensity he generated emotion. ‘His words often discovered a great degree of inward fervor, without much noise or external emotion, and fell with great weight on the minds of his hearers. He made but little motion of his head or hands in his desk, but spake so as to discover the motion of his own heart, which tended in the most natural and effectual manner to move and affect others.’ The combination of controlled but transparent emotion, heartfelt sincerity both in admonition and compassion, inexorable logic, and biblical themes could draw people into sensing the reality of ideas long familiar.”
- George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale: 2003) p. 220