Reason, Revelation, and Preaching: An Unpublished Ordination Sermon by Jonathan Edwards -- By: Kenneth P. Minkema

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 03:2 (Summer 1999)
Article: Reason, Revelation, and Preaching: An Unpublished Ordination Sermon by Jonathan Edwards
Author: Kenneth P. Minkema


Reason, Revelation, and Preaching:
An Unpublished Ordination Sermon by Jonathan Edwards

Kenneth P. Minkema

Richard A. Bailey

Dr. Kenneth P. Minkema is the Executive Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards and Lecturer in Church History at Yale University. He is the editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 14, Sermons and Discourses, 1723–1729 (New Haven, 1997), and co-editor of The Sermon Notebook of Samuel Parris, 1689–1694 (Boston, 1994), A Jonathan Edwards Reader (New Haven, 1995), and The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader (New Haven, 1999).

Richard A. Bailey is an Editorial Assistant of SBJT and was responsible for the majority of the transcription of this sermon. He is presently pursuing a Master of Divinity in Biblical and Theological Studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Editor’s Note: SBJT would like to thank the following for their assistance in the publication of this sermon: Dr. Kenneth P. Minkema, Executive Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards; Dr. Peter J. Thuesen, Assistant Editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards; Dr. Helen Westra, Professor of English at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan; and Mrs. Doris M. Dickinson, Curator of The Stone House Museum for the Belchertown Historical Association in Belchertown, Massachusetts.

Historical Context

The sermon printed below, and made available here for the first time, was preached by the great early American theologian Jonathan Edwards. It is an ordination sermon delivered on May 7, 1740, at the installation of Edward Billing as the pastor of Cold Spring (later Belchertown), Massachusetts. Billing, born in Hatfield, Massachusetts, had graduated from Harvard College in 1731 and taken his M.A. in 1734. After several years of preaching and surveying, he had accepted a call to the newly settled town of Cold Spring in February 1740, which had paved the way for his upcoming ordination.

The following sermon is important not only for what it reveals about Edwards’s conception of the ministry but also for what it tells us about his views on the relation of reason and revelation, and the implication of that relation for the minister’s office. Including several passages that appear to be taken nearly verbatim from his personal writings, this sermon also demonstrates the importance of Edwards’s notebooks, particularly his “Miscellanies,” in the development of his thought.

In the spring of 1740 when he was composing advice for his friend Edward Billing and Billing’s new congregation, Edwards had already distinguished himself at Northampton, Massachusetts, as a controversialist and revivalist. In sermons from the early 1730s, such as God Gl...

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