Friday, July 30, 2010

Works of Jonathan Edwards - Vol. 26 - Catalogues of Books

So the last volume in the Yale edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards is slightly and very interestingly different - it's called a "Catalogue of Books" and really is just that - a catalogue. Yale describe it as;

"A notebook he kept of books of interest, especially titles he hoped to acquire, and entries from his “Account Book” a ledger in which he noted books loaned to family, parishioners, and fellow clergy".

Why on earth would a book like this be interesting to anyone but someone with a bibliophile bent?

1. It's interesting historically.

The editorial notes that the "Catalogue" affords us an expansive and insightful insight into eighteenth century America and the books available to Christians there. It notes that the colonials depended on developments across the Atlantic in Britain. Jonathan Edwards apparently was an avid newspaper reader. The editorial notes;

"Edwards abiding interest in "signs of the times" meant that he was an indefatigable source collector. Newspapers were one important source on the progress of God's Kingdom".

That last statement gripped me. Nowadays many Christians read newspapers to get glum about the state of the world. Jonathan Edwards read newspapers to "see if I could not find some news favorable to the interest of religion in the world". I love that!

2. It's interesting theologically.

Jonathan Edwards is recognised by most as a theological and spiritual hero. This volume is an incredible and exciting insight into what drove and what interested him.

The editorial notes;

"Edwards was firmly grounded in the Reformed scholasticism of his forebears. Like his father and grandfather he read what Cotton Mather called; "Good old Puritan Divinity".

I found this an interesting insight into Edwards working day;

"Despite his position as sole pastor to perhaps thirteen hundred people, Edwards tried to spend around thirteen hours a day alone in his study".

I wonder how many modern pastors manage that. How we may ask? The editorial says;

"He attempted to do this by minimizing pastoral visits except in emergencies - he judged himself better suited to the contemplative life - and even by skipping dinner with his family on many occasions. Bible study and sermon preparation occupied most of his time but he also added steadily to his "Miscellanies" and other notebooks".

I particularly identified with this comment in the editorial;

"Over the next three decades Edwards notebooks would increasingly reflect his omnivorous reading as he searched for intellectual allies and antagonists, sometimes copying long extracts from his latest book acquisition".

3. It is Stirring Spiritually.

I have frequently found myself personally struggling with my love for books and my desire for more of the Presence of God and more spiritual encounters. I love reading, I love studying, I love building a theological library - but then I see men and women of God like Rob Rufus who speak of having an encounter with the manifest Presence of God every day and I hunger for that so much! I feel such a spiritual pgymy in comparison! And a volume like this shows me that it does not have to be an opposing war - books in fact should testify of the amazing spiritual encounters and journeys that are available in the Christian life. And any books that do not are not worth reading.

Gone are the days when we had to choose between "Word and Spirit" - as Terry Virgo says in this wonderful video, we can have both!

Terry Virgo: Being Reformed and Charismatic from Jubilee Church on Vimeo.

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