A Sweet Flame: Piety in the Letters of Jonathan Edwards
A Life Well Lived in Christ
A Sweet Flame, edited and introduced by Michael A.G. Haykin is a delightful book. It is a quick read and should be on everyoneÃ¢ÂÂs reading list. It provides twenty-eight letters that span the life and ministry of Rev. Jonathan Edwards. After having studied a number of biographies on Edwards, this book is a surprising joy. We get a glimpse into the heart and thought life of Edwards by reading his letters to his children, other ministers, theologians, and his beloved wife Sarah. A few letters are added from Sarah and Susannah that illustrate the godliness of his wife and children. As a bonus, Haykin includes in the appendix EdwardsÃ¢ÂÂ last will and the inventory of his estate (pgs. 163-165).
These letters provide an intimate portrait of EdwardsÃ¢ÂÂ triumphs and trials. We discover a sincere faith in his sovereign God and a deep felt commitment to a personal relationship with the Lord. Edwards mentions the revivals that occurred during his father TimothyÃ¢ÂÂs ministry and also during the Great Awakening. We discover EdwardsÃ¢ÂÂ life and ministry through the difficulties of his era as he mentions EnglandÃ¢ÂÂs war with France and the numerous trials with sickness and death in his family. His letters to John Erskine and Joseph Bellamy peer into the pain of the controversy he experienced as a pastor when he addressed the topic of who should be admitted to the LordÃ¢ÂÂs Supper in his church at Northhampton. Edwards leans upon the Lord and requests prayer through this time, showing us all to lean upon God during our own trials, persecutions, and difficulties. It is inspiring to see EdwardsÃ¢ÂÂ hunger for learning GodÃ¢ÂÂs Word as he comments about various theological works he cherished or the numerous books he was interested in reading. EdwardsÃ¢ÂÂ reveals his apologetic concerns about the dangers of Arminianism and Unitarianism. It is heartwarming to see that he had a band of brothers who encouraged him in his service to the Lord, especially during his darkest times. EdwardsÃ¢ÂÂ letter to a young woman named Deborah Hatheway, who requested advice about how to live the Christian life, is a special treat wherein he provides seventeen points on Christian living and demonstrates his practical and pastoral concern for GodÃ¢ÂÂs people (pgs. 42-47). This one letter is worth the weight of the book.
All-in-all, HaykinÃ¢ÂÂs collection of letters provides inspiration for Christians of all ages to walk closely with the Lord, depending upon His sovereign grace and providential care. Even non-Christians can benefit by reading this beloved and faithful ChristianÃ¢ÂÂs letters, discovering what it means to live for Christ according to GodÃ¢ÂÂs word. These letters give evidence to real Christian faith in this world and show the sweat aroma of a life well lived in the service of God.
May 10, 2013