Jonathan Edwards: Light and Heat In the Pulpit

Jonathan Edwards was a preacher who was used of God to bring about revival. His preaching style was nothing less then a recovery of the type of preaching which helped spawn the Reformation and bring about a return to the gospel in the Church. Edwards railed against the common view and practice of his age which made preaching a display of knowledge rather then the means of communicating grace through the word of God. Rather then a cold and tempered discourse Edwards saw his day needing something more then what was being done in the pulpits of his day. Edwards says in regards to preaching:

An increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not what is so much needed by our people as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light, and have no heat. How much has there been of this sort of knowledge , in the Christian world, in this age! Was there ever an age wherein strength and preparation of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinction, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound?…Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored as to have their hearts touched, and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching which has the greatest tendency to do this. (Iain Murray , Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography, pp. 126-127.)

This is also true of the present day and age. Even in this present day and age what people need more then information is an encounter with the living God, through the preached word, which will impact their heart. This feeling of the true nature and need for preaching guided how Edwards preached the gospel. Iain Murray in his work on Edwards addresses what has been a popular misconception regarding the preaching style of Edwards. Whereas many think Edwards read from a full manuscript Murray makes it very clear that this assumption does not appear to hold true. Murray says, “Thus, in his later ministry at least, Edwards would have agreed with Grosart who asserts that the practice of reading sermons, ‘except in rare instances, quenches all real eloquence’ and ‘breaks the spell of influence which ought to bind a speaker and his audience'( Ibid., pp. 190-191).

Edwards provides an example for preachers of the gospel, in that we to must seek to connect to the audience to whom we are preaching. Edwards example if followed would give greater freedom in the pulpit, so that one would not feel constrained by their manuscript. This however does not give license for a minister to fail to prepare, not having a manuscript does not mean that one has not studied the message they are seeking to preach to the congregation.


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