A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George M. Marsden

Marsden, George M. A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. Grand Rapids, Mich: William B. Eerdmans Pub, 2008.

While on a road trip, I decided to listen to the audio book, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards by George Marsden.   At only eight chapters, a preface, acknowledgments, and a conclusion, the book is relatively short and seemed about right for my return trip from San Fransico to Salt Lake (to include some breaks away from the book).

Marsden sets out to paint a picture of Edwards as a revolutionary, although one unlike those of Edwards' day.  To assist in drawing this comparison, the book opens with a lengthy discussion of Benjamin Franklin, and more specifically Silence Dogood, the fictitious editorial writer used by Franklin.  Into the second chapter, Edwards' family and Edward himself become the primary subject of the work.  Marsden journeys through Edwards' life at a rapid pace; yet at times slowing down to nearly a halt in order to discuss a finner detail or event here and there.  From Edwards' ministry ambitions to the early awaking and then the First Great Awakening a decade later, interesting details are offered.  From being voted out of the pulpit to venturing into a Native American mission to becoming the president of Yale, many speculations of Edwards' emotions supply much food for thought.  And finally Marsden concludes with a comparison of Edwards and other revolutionaries like Benjamin Franklin.

I found this book enjoyable although I nearly gave up on the work at the end of the first chapter.  The exploration of Franklin and Silence Dogood was an odd way to start and didn't leave me with a desire to hear more.  It was boring.  However, things changed quickly in the second chapter and then I found myself wanting to continue all they way to the end of Edwards's life.  At the conclusion however, Franklin comes back into the picture and a commentary is offered.  Marsden speculates what may have happened had Edwards lived into the Revolutionary War, as did Franklin.  Here, Masden offers many thoughts on materialism, deism, and the social order.  Marsden certainly seems to know Edwards but the conclusion assumed Edwards would not have changed.  Edwards was, from what I gather from this book, a consistent man, but wars and age often change people.  Personally, I could have started reading in chapter two and avoided the conclusion.  Had I done so, I believe I would have had an enjoyable, informative, and interesting biography of Edwards.  I could have done without the commentary.   None-the-less, I enjoyed A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards and would recommend it to anyone interested in this period of history, Jonathan Edwards, or serving in the pastorate.

*I have no material connection to this book, financial or otherwise.