Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703 to Timothy and Esther Edwards. His father was a minister in East Windsor, Connecticut, who tutored young boys for college. His mother Esther was daughter of Reverend Solomon Stoddard, of Northampton, Mass.

Jonathan was the fifth child and only boy of eleven children. His sister Esther wrote a semi-humorous tract on the immateriality of the soul, which is often attributed to Jonathan. He started Yale in September when he was not yet thirteen, and graduated four years later as valedictorian, he received his Masters three years later. In his youth he was unable to accept the Calvinistic Sovereignty of God, he once wrote, “From my childhood up my mind has been full of objections against the doctrines of God’s sovereignty….it used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me” But in 1721 he was convicted, one he called a ‘delightful conviction’ He was meditating on 1 Timothy 1:17, and later remarked, “As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before… I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven; and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever!” From that point on, Edwards delighted in the sovereignty of God.

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Edwards later recognized this as his conversion to Christ. As an adult he was “Widely acknowledged to be Americas most important and original Philosophical Theologian” In the years 1722-23 he was a ‘stated supply’ [a clergyman employed to supply a pulpit for a definite time, but not established as a preacher] in a small Presbyterian Church in New York City, they invited him to stay, but he declined the call. He spent two months in study at his home, in 1724-26 he was one of two tutors at Yale, and he earned himself the name ‘Pillar Tutor’ for his steadfast loyalty to the college and its orthodox teaching. On February 15, 1727, Edwards was ordained minister at Northampton and assistant to his grandfather Solomon Stoddard. In the same year he married Sarah Pierpont, then seventeen she was the daughter of James Pierpont, the head founder of Yale College.

Her relationship with God was a constant inspiration to her husband. He was critical in the first Great Awakening; he oversaw the first ‘fires’ of revival in 1733-35 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He wrote what is probably the most widely known sermon ever preached, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He also wrote the books The End for which God created the World, along with The Life of David Brainerd and Religious Affections. The Religious Revival of 1733 began in Northampton and reached such intensity in the winter of 1723 and into the spring it threatened business of the town. In six months nearly three hundred were admitted into the church, this helped Edwards study the stages and varieties of conversion, he recorded it in his book A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton.

[1737] A year later he published Discourses in Various Important Subjects. The five sermons which proved most affective in the Revival, and of these, none, he said, was so affective as that on The Justice of God in the Damnations of Sinners. From the text ‘That every mouth may be stopped’ He published another sermon in 1734, A Divine Supernatural Light, Immediately imparted to the Soul by the Spirit of God. By 1735 the Revival spread past the Connecticut River Valley, almost as far New Jersey. But over the summer of 1735 the revival took a terrible and dark turn, some New Englanders where shaken by the revivals but not converted.

And they became convinced of their inexorable damnation. Edwards wrote that ‘multitudes’ felt urged [presumably by Satan] to take their own lives, at least two people took their own lives in the depths of their spiritual duress. One of which was his uncle Joseph Hawley II, from Edward’s own congregation. It is not known if others took their lives, but the suicide craze ended the wave of the revival. In 1749 Edwards published a memoir about David Brainerd, who had lived with his family for many months and had died in Northampton in 1747.

In February 16, 1758 Edwards became the President of the College of New Jersey [now Princeton] he gave weekly essay assignments on Theology to the senior class. Almost immediately becoming president, Edwards, a strong supporter of the smallpox inoculations, decided to take it himself to help convince others to take it as well. But never having strong health he died of the inoculations on March 22, 1758. He was buried in the Princeton Cemetery. Edwards had three sons and eight daughters.

All Christians should find admiration and encouragement in his doctrine and life. I myself am greatly inspired and humbled by this man of God, I find myself looking to his past words and preaching for inspiration in prayer. I pray every day for those great and powerful “fires of Awakening’ to spread through our world today, for the state our world is in now is deeply troubling and sinful. Jonathan Edwards is one of the most famous figures of the Great Awakening, turning hundreds to Christ and Salvation. He was truly, a man of God.