Heroes of the Faith: Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards was a Puritan preacher and philosopher. He is considered by many to be America’s greatest theologian.
He was born on October 5, 1703 in the Connecticut Colony. He was the fifth of eleven children born to Timothy and Esther Stoddard Edwards. He was also their only son.
In 1716, he entered Yale College. He took a great interest in science and the discoveries of Isaac Newton and had a great appreciation for the beauty found in nature.
In early 1727, he became an ordained minister and assistant to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was a strong scholar, spending thirteen hours a day in study.
That same year, he married seventeen year old Sarah Pierpont. Her faith greatly impressed him four years earlier and would prove a great inspiration for him. She is described as “a bright and cheerful disposition, a practical housekeeper, a model wife and the mother of his 11 children.” The couple would have eight daughter and three sons.
He wrote of his wife, “She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after those seasons in which this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, and to wander in the fields and on the mountains, and seems to have someone invisible always conversing with her.”
The couple is said to have a fulfilling and happy union.
Two years later, his grandfather died leaving him as the sole minister of a large and wealthy congregation.
He preached the “Public Lecture” in Boston on July 8, 1731. Two years later, a Protestant revival began and reached a great intensity the following year.
In the 1735 a number of suicides in the area, who Edwards said presumed were taken by Satan, left him shaken. This led the first wave of the revival.
Shortly there after, he met George Whitefield and the two men teamed together to share the gospel.
Revival again sprang up and in 1741, Edwards preached his most popular sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut. He is said to have preached in a “quiet, emotive voice”.
One observer wrote, “He scarcely gestured or even moved, and he made no attempt by the elegance of his style or the beauty of his pictures to gratify the taste and fascinate the imagination.” Instead he convinced “with overwhelming weight of argument and with such intenseness of feeling.”
By 1744, his preaching had become unpopular. He was ostracized by his own congregation before finally being dismissed. He remained in town and continued to preach in the church when the congregation requested. His last sermon was on 2 Corinthians 1:14.
Upon being dismissed from the pastorate, he ministered to the Mohican Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, having declined other pastorate offers. He preached to the Indians through the use of an interpreter.
In 1757, his son-in-law, Aaron Burr, Sr. died and he traveled to the College of New Jersey to take the younger man’s place as president. He required the senior class write an essays on assignments in theology each week.
A strong supporter of smallpox inoculations, he received the immunization. However, his poor health was not receptive and he died on March 22, 1758 in Princeton, New Jersey. He was fifty-four years of age. He was buried in Princeton Cemetery.
His large range of writings and sermons lived on and continued to influence many in the years to come.
The third Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr, was Jonathan Edwards grandson. Aaron Burr, Jr. was Vice President to Thomas Jefferson and best remembered for his duel in which Alexander Hamilton died.