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Summary

Here is a work of absorbing interest to students of the religion of Colonial America, and especially to those desiring a knowledge of the theology of one of the greatest Puritan divines.

Dr. Gerstner actually presents Jonathan Edwards’ doctrines in a form more readily grasped than Edwards himself does in his own sermons and manuscripts. For in no one of these did Edwards systematize his theology; he offered a piecemeal according to the nature of the occasion or the text on which he spoke suggested. Dr. Gerstner has done the systematizing in this book, gathering material for each of Edwards’ subject from many different sources, a number of them hitherto unpublished, identifying each as he goes along and interspersing his work with many direct quotes. The result is a well-organized and highly readable compendium of the heart of this great man’s thought.

As an evangelist Edwards’ chief concern was saving souls; as a Puritan, he believed relatively few souls would be saved; and as a Calvinist, he believed God had preordained who those souls would be. In the face of this predestination, just what “step” the individual could take to seek his salvation and possibly escape an eternity in hell is the main theme of this book. But it is not the only theme.

Many of Edwards’ other teachings show that he was by no means solely concerned with fire and brimstone. His doctrine of the new birth, his correlation of “faith” with “work,” his denouncement of melancholy, his belief in happiness as a by-product—these and many other teachings will appeal to most readers.


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