Jonathan Edwards achieved the greatest sustained mastery of the sermon form between January 1734 and December 1738—a time in which he also kindled his first revival. The Northampton revival spread to neighboring towns and villages, as did Edwards’ renown. And the sermons of these years exhibit not only splendid rhetoric but also figural intricacies and tonal nuances that reveal his maturity as a writer.
During this period Edwards delivered probably four hundred sermons and lectures. Of the fewer than half that survive, some extend the reach of the previous dozen years of his ministry, others engage speculative theological issues, others touch on pastoral life, and still others deal with conversion and, in time, declension. Edwards also wrote a full account of the Northampton revival, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, which was published in 1737 in London and Edinburgh and within a year was reprinted there, issued in Boston in three printings, and translated into German. In addition, near the end of the period Edwards put together Discourses on Various Important Subjects, five sermons about the Awakening and the only gathering of sermons he saw through the press.
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M. X. Lesser is Emeritus Professor of English at Northeastern University.