I couldn't encourage you enough to read the works of Jonathan Edwards. My best advice would be to lay aside all the scary things and harsh words your high school history teacher may have said about the man, put your knowledge of his sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God on hold, and pray that the Lord would grant you a glimpse of insight into the depths of Edwards' spiritual and intellecutal ocean. From what little of him I have been able to read, I have benefitted greatly. It would be worth your time to check this man out. Praise the Lord for enabling and empowering men like Jonathan Edwards.
Whether we are aware of it or not, most contemporary Calvinists are deeply indebted to Edwards. His defense of Calvinism in works such as Freedom of the Will have made a deep and lasting impact on Reformed theology. It did not take me long to realize that much of what I believe, much of what I have taught to others and much of what has been passed down to me originated with Edwards. A lifelong student of the Bible, he wrestled with the great doctrines of the Scriptures and expounded them for countless generations of other Christians. Truly his impact can hardly be exaggerated.
As I read about Jonathan Edwards, I could not help but draw comparisons to some of the great pastors and theologians who have lived since, but especially of John Piper who, in so many ways, is an Edwards to this generation. Piper has been so profoundly impacted by Edwards and, as I understand it, considers himself a teacher who brings before this generation the great work of men like Owen and Edwards. From what I know of his teaching and his life, he certainly does seem to exemplify the teachings and the ideals of his historical hero. Much of what has come from the mouth and the pen of Piper came first from the pen of Edwards.
Edwards is a towering figure in the history of the church and one whose impact will continue to be felt, I am sure, until the Lord returns. He lived a life that seemed both too difficult and too short. And yet he wasted scarcely a moment, dedicating his life to the great cause of defending and expounding biblical truths. This book surely presents Edwards as he was--a man who, though certainly flawed and sinful, was used greatly by God. Though he may have been brilliant in intellect, what makes Edwards such an important figure is his love for the Lord and his dedication to knowing Him more. These are ideals we can all imitate and all strive towards.
cc: Excerpts from Tim Challies review of George Marsden's biography on Edwards.