A History of the Work of Redemption by Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards may have been the first theologian to attempt what we now call “Biblical Theology” as compared with “Systematic.” He intended to write, “a body of divinity in an entire new method, being thrown into the form of a history; considering the affair of Christian Theology, as the whole of it, in each part, stands in reference to the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ… particularly considering all parts of the grand scheme, in their historical order.” Alas, he died before he was able to complete this “body of divinity,” and what we have is the sermons he preached from which he intended to develop a more thorough theology.
What we do have is breathtaking. It is the biblical counterpart to his philosophical The End for Which God Created the World. Where the latter is a tightly woven argument showing that God’s own glory is the ultimate end in the creation of the world, this work shows how that purpose has been worked out throughout all of history. Where the former shows Edwards’s unparalleled analytic and theological abilities, this work puts on display how thoroughly biblical his mind was. He was much more than America’s greatest philosopher; his mind was saturated with scripture to a degree that most will never experience.
The book is split into 3 sections: “From the Fall of Man to the Incarnation of Christ,” “From the Incarnation to His Resurrection,” and “From the Resurrection to the End of the World.” I found all three parts to be enlightening, but particularly the first two which deal specifically with Biblical history.
The book reads much more easily than his philosophical works. He simply moves from one event to another: “next we notice,” “here we observe,” etc. What he notices and observes, from start to finish, is how every single event in history relates to God’s great purpose of redemption in Christ Jesus. It is the original Jesus on Every Page. There is no overt hermeutic on display, covenant or otherwise. Edwards simply shows how every single event in history either prepares the world for Christ’s first or second comings, and the great purposes He accomplished and will accomplish in them.
If you want to see the big picture of the Bible, the unifying thread that runs through every page of Scripture you need to read this book. If you want a framework from which to understand the events of history, biblical or otherwise, and the way God orchestrates everything for his purposes, this is the book for you. Those interested in Biblical Theology ought to read this book.
I found myself exulting in the wonder that is the Bible, in the glorious person of Christ, in the love of our sovereign God who works all things after the counsel of His own will. I found myself greatly encouraged and filled with confidence to serve a God like this who’s plan cannot fail. This may be my favorite work of Edwards’s yet. I cannot recommend it highly enough.