Jonathan Edwards, the Art of Printing, and the Internet

Pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards loved books, which probably doesn’t surprise you. However, the following quote, updated from his sermon “Christian Knowledge” (1739), might surprise you. Here, Edwards praises the tremendous spiritual value of the printing press.

The printing press?

Yes!

But why?

Edwards praised the printing press because in his day it exponentially multiplied the number and quality of books it put into the hands of anyone who wanted them. Take a look:

We have advantages not only over the Old Testament saints, but also over New Testament Christians of earlier eras. This is especially true because of the advent of the art of printing. What a benefit God has given us in this! Bibles and other books of theology and divinity are now multiplied in abundance. These are easier to use than they’ve ever been before, and they are much less expensive than they’ve ever been before. You have tremendous resources at your fingertips! Those of bygone generations did not have such wonderful tools to aid their study. Do not neglect these wonderful advantages that you have been given! What a shame if you let them all go to waste!

I just wonder what Edwards would say if he lived in our day of numerous Bible translations / commentaries / Bible dictionaries / concordances / Greek and Hebrew texts and learning tools / great classics of the Christian faith (like Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards himself) / theological journals / and a ton of other resources — All of them free to access online 24 hours a day, every single day!

What would he say about the fact that right this moment, Christians all over the world can listen to or read tens of thousands of sermons from the likes of John Piper, John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, R.C. Sproul, and thousands of other faithful preachers? What would he say about the fact that Christians can “attend” every session of the best conferences with a click of their finger?

What would he say about Kindles and other e-readers? I fancy Edwards would have filled his Kindle to the brim!

If his quote from “Christian Knowledge” is any indication of how he would react to modern technology (and the study advantages it gives our generation), I think he would say something like this:

“Christians today have tremendous advantages over all Christians from past generations! The printing press was wonderful, but you today have a million times more opportunities to access the best study resources available in the world today. Average Christians can easily access libraries of resources, including the highest and best-written theological journals in the world—without even leaving their easy chair! What an amazing blessing from God you have been given!”

More than likely, he would finish his statement with the same words he used in his sermon:

Do not neglect these wonderful advantages that you have been given! What a shame if you let them all go to waste!



Jonathan Edwards’ classic treatise
Updated for today’s readers
View on Amazon


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