An Edwards Systematic Theology

A page from Jonathan Edwards Miscellanies journal
  • Prolegommena
  • Theology Proper
  • Anthropology & Covenant Theology
  • Soteriology
  • Ecclesialogy
  • Eschatology
Ever wish Jonathan Edwards wrote a systematic theology?

Well.. he did..
Kinda.

Ok, no. Technically he didn’t write a systematic theology. However, he did write on nearly every theological topic under the sun. The key is knowing where in all his volumous writings to look. 

Enter Edwards’ Miscellanies.

One could probably create a vocation locating all of Edwards’ writings on each systematic subject. The sheer mass of them is enough to daunt any average reader in attempting to organize them by topic. However, his Miscellanies volumes lend themselves particularly well to the purpose of topical systematic theology reading. Mostly, this is due to size. Edwards wrote like a puritan – meaning, he knew how to get long winded. The Miscellanies are ideal because they usually don’t get too long winded. They act more like a typical systematic theology treatment on a given subject. 

Miscellan…who’s? What are those?’

Jonathan Edwards’ Miscellanies are his series of private notebooks where he jotted down his thoughts on a myriad of subjects. The entries vary in size. Some are 20 pages or more; others are only a single sentence. Most are around a paragraph of rich, meaty, theological brilliance. He also wrote on every big systematic theology subject extensively (at least as far as I’ve been able to search out). 

Up until just a few years ago, Edwards’ Miscellanies were only available to Jonathan Edwards scholars (with the exception of a few toward the back of volume 2 of his 2 volume set (mostly on angels)). However with the publishing of Yale’s Works of Jonathan Edwards, anyone can now read what the 18th century theologian thought on literally anything of theological importance to him. Yes, I know, the volumes are very spendy. The cheapest ones are available at Logos Bible software and the 4 digital volumes are a whopping $40 each! And gird your loins before looking at the price of the physical copies! I’d contend that these books are worth the price, but if, like most people, you can’t justify throwing down hundreds of dollars on the personal notebooks of a dead theologian, don’t worry. There’s hope!

The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University has put all of Edwards massive corpus for free online at yale.edwards.edu. The volumes must have had a considerable amount of work put in to them judging by Edwards tiny scribbled handwriting in the pic above. And it’s very good of the Jonathan Edwards Center to put them up online for free. 

Maybe you’re wondering how to find your way around inside the actual volumes. Personal notebooks full of tiny jotted random thoughts on nearly every theological subject doesn’t sound like an easy place to navigate around in. Edwards helps us here in being one of the most meticulous theologians I’ve ever read. He includes a massive subject index in the beginning of his first miscellany volume. This makes navigating his Miscellanies very manageable (especially if you own the Logos Bible Software volumes that have each of his index entries hyperlinked to the article (we won’t talk about how they forgot to tag one of the volumes). 

This post is more or less a personal fascination of mine with Edwards’ theology. I’ve wanted to go through Edwards’ Miscellanies for a very long time. I’ve dabbled in them a lot; a whole lot. But I only recently considered reorganizing them all to become a single massive organized systematic theology. This project of organizing the miscellanies into a systematic theological construct will be an undertaking to say the least. I figured I’d need to share this with somebody if I did it, so I wasn’t the only one to be able to read Edwards in this way. So, here it is. It won’t all be up at once. As far as a finish date, don’t hold your breath on it being anytime soon. I’m going to progressively post it all as I work on it. And I’ll be working on it as I read it. And I’m a slow reader… 

In a series of future posts I plan to go through every one of his entries referenced in his front index and put them in the order of a systematic theology. I’d like to also include links to the Yale free pages so you can read Edwards as a systematic in all it’s glory right here! So far, I have finished his Prologema to systematic theology via his Miscellanies (see the link above). It’s a shorter section than the rest, and it took a significant amount of time… so, this’ll be a long time coming. 

My plan is to release these over a series of 6 more posts (that I’ll link above) divided into the major systematic divisions as follows: Prologema, Theology Proper, Covenant Theology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology respectively. I’ll include a couple extra sections as well for a final post – Edwards has a lot in his Miscellanies that doesn’t necessarily fit well into a systematic theology (apologetics, comments on Bible books, etc.). This may be a year, to several year process… hopefully it’s on the shorter side. 

Note on the content in the links above: The entries are numbered, and typically in the order that Edwards referenced them in his front index. They are almost always from first written to last written. Often they flow smoothly from one to the next as Edwards completes some of his previous thoughts in the subsequent entries. However, they’re sometimes a bit scattered from each other as well. They’ll be best read in the order that Edwards put them down in. 

I hope this is a blessing to you. Enjoy!