There are strengths and weaknesses to the book by Kimnach et al. Its strength is its comprehensiveness and its utility in the classroom environment. The background essays included in the compilation help dispel some of the myths and simplistic caricatures surrounding the personal of Jonathan Edwards. The book’s attempt to link the Sermon with the socio-historical phenomenon of the Great Awakening is of immeasurable value to students and lay readers. It also traces Edwards’ opinions on conversion, as well as his take on Puritan methods for Christian propaganda. The book succeeds in making 18th century theology intelligible to twenty-first century minds, but it accomplishes this with grace and ease and transparency of thought that is the envy of any who have taught American religious history. For example, esoteric concepts like the “sovereignty of God, predestination of the elect, origin of sin, and divine justice” are all neatly explained and weaved together into a logical whole that is easy for students to understand.
As for the shortcomings in the book by Kimnach et al, it falls short in including leading commentators on Edwardian scholarship. Perry Miller was included, but conspicuous by his absence is George Marsden. Instead of these noted figures, popular cultural icons were included, which has the effect of diluting scholarly rigor. The views of Mark Twain, Robert Lowell, Edwin H. Cady and Marilynne Robinson are all interesting, but are not directly focused on Edwards and his key scholarship. Other inclusions are more perplexing. For example, Teddy Roosevelt and participants in the Toronto Blessing are a bit out of place in the context of the book. Despite these drawbacks, the casebook is still offers value for students and will be of use in the classroom. (Kimnach et. al. 12)
The anecdotal recapturing of the sermon experience is one of the highlights of the work by Stephan Turley. For example, the immediate reaction of the congregation upon hearing the sermon is noted thus: “…before the Sermon was done there was a great moaning & crying out throughout the whole house: what Shall I do to be Saved–oh I am going to Hell–of what shall I do for a Christ, etc. The shrieks & cries were piercing & amazing (qtd. in Medlicott 218).” (Turley 78) Another positive feature of the book is its location of Edwards’ famous sermon in the context of larger American sermonic literature. To this extent the book is a continuation of the work by scholars Wilson Kimnach and Helen Westra, who excelled in documenting the evolution of American Christianity.