An 18th-century collection of essays based on Jonathan Edwards’s sermons from his preaching at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Who was Jonathan Edwards?

At the age of 17, while studying at Yale College, Jonathan Edwards underwent a religious conversion that would change the course of his life forever. Since that moment, realising the absolute sovereignty of God, Edwards claimed to see everything shining with a kind of ‘divine glory’. He would go onto become one of America’s most preeminent theological and philosophical thinkers and a leader of the revivalist movement.

Why is it so important?

This work was printed in 1738 during the Great Awakening – a series of religious revivals that swept through parts of America in the 1730s and 40s. During 1734–1735 the spread of revivalism in Hampshire and Connecticut was like nothing New England had seen before. Edwards states that ‘God’s power and grace’ was pouring out over the town of Northampton. The sermons contained in the book, Edwards believed, kindled the revivalist movement that took place through the Connecticut River Valley in the mid-1730s. They were full of vigour: repent your sins and embrace faith, so when you fall before God you will be saved. He believed that they helped to trigger a number of religious conversions and revivals among the townspeople of Northampton and beyond. He published the discourses in a bid to spread revivalism farther than the confines of his church, and to help lead people to the path of righteousness further afield than his immediate parish.

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