The Homiletical Skill of Jonathan Edwards -- By: John D. Hannah

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:633 (Jan 2002)
Article: The Homiletical Skill of Jonathan Edwards
Author: John D. Hannah

The Homiletical Skill
of Jonathan Edwards

John D. Hannah

John D. Hannah is Chairman and Distinguished Professor of Historical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.

Abarren rationalism—mind without heart—plagues much of the church today. And heart without mind is just as tragic, leading to a rootless professionalism. Jonathan Edwards, eighteenth-century American Puritan, balanced these two elements of the inner man in a remarkable way. This preacher-theologian-philosopher took learning about God as seriously as loving and obeying Him. In his preaching Edwards joined his deep passion for the knowledge of God with his sincere love for God.

Preaching, Edwards said, must be concerned not only with the content of the message but also with the audience to whom the message is presented. To him, preaching is the act of conveying the Word of God to others in such a way that the hearers eagerly embrace and live out the truth.

Edwards’s Emphases in His Preaching

Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut. His father Timothy was a prominent pastor in the Connecticut River Valley. Though brought up in a pious home, Jonathan was not converted until after he began his graduate work at Yale University. As he walked through a meadow near his home, contemplating the implications of God’s sovereignty and the affirmations in 1 Timothy 1:17 that “the only God” is “King eternal, immortal, [and] invisible,” he experienced what he described as an “inward, sweet delight in God and divine things,” “a sense of the glory of the divine being, a new sense,” and “a sweet sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God.”1

Edwards described the essence of his conversion as delighting in the holiness of God and the doctrines of the gospel. He wrote, “The holiness of God has always appeared to me the most lovely of all His attributes. The doctrines of God’s absolute sovereignty, and free grace, in showing mercy to whom he would show mercy; and man’s absolute dependence on the operation of God’s Holy Spirit, have very much appeared to me as sweet and glorious doctrines.”2

Having trained for the ministry, Edwards made preaching his lifework. “Edwards was first and foremost a preacher and pastor leading souls to the truth as he saw it and interpreting the religious experiences of his listeners. His primary tool in achieving these goals was the sermon, the spoken word of God, which in the Reformed tradition that s...

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