Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary The Life of Jonathan Edwards A Paper Submitted to Dr. Gregory Tomlin In Partial Fulfillment Of the Requirements for the Course American Christianity CHHI 692 Table of Contents Abstract3 Biographical Outline4-5 Survey of Edwards Life5-18 Work Written By Jonathan Edwards19-20 Bibliography21-22 Abstract Through out Jonathan Edwards’ life he focused on preaching and expressing his views and feelings on how people should live their lives and practice the faith. He was very influential in the first great awakening.
He also gave various sermons and wrote multiple books and essays (that influenced many future people and organizations) on how to live life and worship God. Biographical Outline Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in Connecticut. There he shared a life with his father (Timothy Edwards, who was a minister in East Windsor, Connecticut), his mother (Esther Stoddard, the daughter of Rev. Solomon Stoddard), and ten sisters. His parents made sure that their children were brought up to know God on a personal level.
After completing his home studies (with his parents), Edwards decided (at the young age of 13) to continue his education by attending Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut, where he studied divinity. He studied there working on his B. D. for two years. After his graduation, he decided to focus his knowledge in the areas theology. After preaching at a Presbyterian church in New York City for less than a year, he decided to return to college (Yale) to receive his M. A. degree. On completion of his schooling, he joined his grandfather as an associate pastor at Northampton.
In July of 1727 he married Sarah Pierpont, and over the years they had eleven children. In the early part of their marriage, Edwards’ grandfather died, and he had to take on the task of preaching, alone. This event began his life as a true preacher. Through out the rest of his life he focused on preaching and expressing his views and feelings on how people should live their lives and practice the faith. He was very influential in the first great awakening. He gave various sermons and wrote multiple books and essays on how to live life and worship God.
Edwards was known for his views on women. During his time many people felt women should focus their life in the household, but Edwards felt that they were equal to men, and could also hold important positions in life. This could be preaching the gospel to others and or explaining the fascinations and or discoveries of science (which he also enjoyed). Throughout his life he enjoyed education of not only himself, but also all of the people around him. Survey of Edwards’ Life Edwards’ Early Years Jonathan Edwards was born on October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut.
He was born to two parents, who were firm believers of God and His power, Timothy Edwards and Ester Stoddard. Edwards father, Timothy Edwards, was a pastor of a church their in East Windsor, Connecticut, and his mother, Esther Stoddard, was the daughter of Solomon Stoddard (a pastor of the church in Northampton, Massachusetts). Edwards’ parents were blessed with 11 children. Among those eleven children, he was the only boy (so he probably had a lot to live up too). His parents, who grew up in the Puritan age, raised him and his siblings in a Puritan atmosphere and upbringing.
They were home schooled, while being taught the importance of putting all of your faith into the Lord. After his schooling, at home, was completed, Edwards decided to continue his education by attending Yale College (in New Haven, Connecticut). While he was there he studied various subjects, including science, divinity, and theology, giving him a well-rounded and objective education. During his studies he managed to find extra time to write multiple intriguing essays. He graduated in September 1720, as the valedictorian of his class, with a degree in divinity.
Once Edwards completed his college studies at Yale College, he decided to try out preaching. He began his journey at a small Presbyterian church in New York City. There he was a clergyman. He stayed there for almost a year. Then decided to leave for more education. He returned to Yale to tutor others and to continue his education. In early 1727 Edwards decided to join his grandfather at his church (Northampton). There he held the position of assistant minister. Since he was still considered a student minister, between his time ministering, he would spend his extra time studying and increasing his knowledge.
Also during the same year Edwards decided to marry his love, Sarah. She was the daughter of the founder of Yale College. Although she was young (the mere age of seventeen), she was devoted to her spiritual love for God. She was truly an inspiration for Edwards and had been since she was 13 years old. Throughout their marriage she was a wonderful wife and friend. She made sure her husband and their eleven children were taken care of in every way. She was a true role model to her children and her husband. In 1729, early within the year, Edwards’ grandfather (Solomon Stoddard) died. Upon is death, Edwards was left with the huge task of taking on the ministry of his grandfather’s church (Northampton) all by his self. This church was a well – known and attended church, and was one of the largest in the area. Edwards and The Great Awakening In 1731 Edwards wrote, preached, and published one of his famous sermons. He shared his sermon, which was called God Glorified – In Man’s Dependence, with the people of Boston. This sermon revolved around the topic of Arminianism (stereological thought that involves the Protestant Community, which is based on Dutch Reformed theologian, Jacobus Arminius).
Edwards’ main focus with this sermon was to let people know that God gave them the power of faith to help lead them to salvation. In1733 a revival began right there at Edwards’ church (Northampton). By the spring of the next year the revival reached huge heights. Within six months of the revival’s beginning, nearly three hundred people had come to the church to participate. The increased activity there at the church also gave him the idea and the opportunity to study the process of conversion (which he documented in his essay, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton).
Eventually the entire revival was documented (by Edwards) through multiple essays, which Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners became the most effective. By the year of 1735, the revival that began with Edwards’ church had expanded. The revival had gone from the grounds of Northampton to New Jersey. With the expansion of the revival, the numbers of doubters grew. There were many people throughout New England who doubted Edwards’ sincerity of God’s Words, and felt that he was leading his flock of believers (new and old) to ultimate damnation.
These doubts got so great that some people felt the urge to commit suicide (with a few actually completing the act). These acts and feeling of suicide ultimately ended this revival. Talk of the revival spread all the way to England and Scotland. People in other countries (across seas) were aware of what was going on in America, and they were intrigued. One person, in particular, who became interested in Northampton and Edwards, was George Whitefield. He was an Anglican Protestant minister, who eventually helped spread the Great Awakening to Britain.
In 1739 Whitefield traveled to the Thirteen Colonies (the initial British colonies established, between the time of 1607 to 1733, on the Atlantic Coast of North America) on a revival tour. While he was touring he met Edwards’ acquaintance. While in America he preached at Edwards’ church. The sermon was so touching (as he reminded Edwards and his congregation of the purpose of the revival that had occurred earlier) that most of the congregation cried (along with Edwards) as Whitefield spoke. The sermon was so inspiring that the revival came back to life.
People remember what the whole point to the revival was, a chance to bring people to God. The sermon also inspired Edwards. This was during the time that he preached the sermon the made him known. In 1741 Edwards went to Enfield, Connecticut, and preached his famous sermon, Sinners in the hands of an Angry God. In this sermon he reminded people of Hell (through vivid imagery and scripture). He felt that this was what the people needed to return them to the path of righteousness. Although there were many people who Edwards brought back to the revival, there were still some who were leery of the movement.
Some of these people consisted of conservative Congregationalist ministers. These ministers were leery for various reasons, one in particular were the actions that consumed people during the movement. Some of these actions consisted of barking, crying out, yelling, body movements, etc. In the movement’s defense, Edwards published a work called The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. In his work he stated the reactions of these people were not one way or another the actions of God.
Shortly after publishing this work he published a couple of apologizes stating that he was incorrect and that the divine visitation does take over the body (in the writing Thoughts on the Revival in New England). These new views came in part from the actions of his wife during the movement. Regardless of Edwards’ words on body movements and conversion people took notice of the effect that the gospel seemed to have on the people who participated in these revivals. The people who were promoting The Great Awaking took the body movements as true reactions to conversion.
Even though many people had taken Edwards’ words that he previously spoken, on the topic of bodily movements and conversion (even though he tried to retract his options and views on the topic), and ran with them, he still tried to let people know that he had changed his position and views on the topic. He preached at his church (Northampton), in the attempt to share and spread his new feelings and to explain why his feelings had changed. During the years of 1742 and 1746, Edwards had a group of his sermons published called Religious Affections.
This famous group of sermons expresses his views on conversion. It also described how true conversion occurs and that the only way a person can be saved is if they truly believe, have faith, and accept that Jesus Christ died for man’s sins. Without the previous criteria a person cannot be saved. During the years between 1747 and 1749, Edwards published various works regarding religion and beliefs. A couple in particular regarded a movement in Scotland and David Brainerd. In 1747 Edwards joined a movement that was in Scotland. It was called the Concert in Prayer.
After his involvement in the movement he decided to document his experience in his writing called An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. Then in 1749 another one of his writing was published. This writing involved the conversion and confessions of David Brainerd. During the time in question, Brainerd was living in Edwards’ church (Northampton) and was being attended to by Edwards’ daughter (Jerusha).
Rumors were floating around that the two, Jerusha and David, were engaged, but of course there were no documents to back up the rumors. Women and Their Importance Throughout Edward’s life, he tried to instill in the people who surrounded him the importance of a woman. He wanted people to know that women were just as important as men were and that they should work together as a team to help each other. These views were instilled in him as a child. His mother and sisters took care of the duties around the house and helped him and his father throughout childhood.
Edwards also expressed is views about women when it came to his wife Sarah. He felt that men and women were equal and promoted gender equality. In his day – to – day duties and even his sermons, he promoted Equality. For example, he would stress the fact that The Bible states that Eve is the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20), giving her one of the most important roles of life. There is no one more important than a child’s mother. He continuously focused on various characters throughout The Bible, giving equal considerations to many of the women that it mentions. Some of the names include women like Eve, Sarah, Anna, Mary, etc.
He was clearly (and possibly dangerously) a head of his time, with his views on women and equality. His Fascination With Science During this time, many new advances were beginning to surface. People were beginning to look into various areas, like how electricity worked and if and how it could be reproduced and other various things. Edwards took an interest in science early on and decided to broaden his education (which included science) in college. In college he was so interested in how things worked that he wrote various papers on philosophy, optics, flying spiders, light, etc.
He basically tried to investigate and observe as much as he could (or that peaked his curiosity). While some people shied away from science, Edwards was drawn to the laws of nature. Many people during this time felt that science disregarded God and religion. While these opinions were circulating, Edwards felt that the laws of nature came from God and were in itself part of His care and wisdom. Since God and science went hand and hand, science did not threaten faith or spirituality. His Later Years During the early years of Northampton, Edwards’ grandfather (Solomon Stoddard) established the church with specific guidelines and rules.
One of the more important guidelines was that members of the church must be baptized to participate in different church activities. Events like the Lord’s Supper, was a reminder and a converting ordinance. People who were not baptized could come to the church for sermons, but other activities needed membership and baptism to participate. Problems began to arise there in the church, around 1748, when Edwards began to publicly voice his opinions with his grand – father’s views. He felt that church membership should require more criteria. This included things like clothing, entertainment, reading materials, etc.
One particular event was when Edwards published a list of people from his congregation that were accused of reading inappropriate reading materials. This list included people that were being accused along with any witnesses that were called. The problem that got the congregation in an uproar was the fact that the list, that he published, did not distinguse between the accused and the witnesses. Everyone on the list was looked at as guilty, in the eyes of anyone who read the list. The people who were found guilty were disciplined for their actions.
As a result of the whole incident, the relationship between Edwards and the congregation deteriorated. The situation created tension between him and many of the people within the community. People began to think of him and label him as a trouble maker and no fun. Edwards’ and his church became very unpopular. Many people resented him and very few people wanted to be involved with his church. For many years after the situation with the published names, very few people expressed interest in being members of his church. The few that did show interest, were met with numerous and outrageous qualifications that they refused to follow.
Even though many people from all over would come to hear his sermons, his own congregation was not at all fond of him. Since there was so much tension between Edwards and his congregation, the council of the church had to serve as a mediator. Eventually the council and the church felt they needed to deal with Edwards and all of his recent changes and opinions. In this meeting, the council and the members of the church decided to suspend his privileges to preach there at Northampton, and when the vote ended up going to the town meeting, it was also confirmed and Edwards preaching privileges were ended.
Although Edwards was no longer a minister there at Northampton, he continued to live there in the town. And he seemed to not hold any ill will regarding the congregation’s final decision. Occasionally the congregation would ask him to come and preach a sermon or two. This process went on until 1751. In the next few years, Edwards was invited to preach in Scotland and Virginia, but he decided to decline. He also chose to decline invitations to a church in Stockbridge and a chance to mission to the Housatonic Indians. He did spend time with the Indians, preaching to them now and then.
He also took time to write various books. One in particular was called Humble Relation (Reply to Williams), which spoke on full communion. There were many other writings that involved God and morality. In 1757 Edwards son – in – law (Reverend Aaron Burr), which was married to his daughter Esther and was the son of the future US vice – president Aaron Burr, died and Edwards decided to take his place as the president of the College of New Jersey (Princeton University). But shortly after accepting his new position, Edwards became sick and died. Edwards was a firm supporter of the new small pox inoculations.
To show his support, he decided to also get the inoculation. Because he was never in excellent health, he developed complications from the inoculation and died on March 22, 1758. His Legacy Edwards was a Calvinist and believed in those views. Edwards and the people who followed him were known as the New Light Calvinist ministers. Some of his followers included Samuel Hopkins, Gideon Hawley, Joseph Bellamy and many others. Most of his followers lived in the New England area, comprising a great population size. His followers also became great citizens, this included US vice – presidents, college presidents, etc.
Edwards’s writings and his beliefs were great influential readings during his day and even today. Many laws, rules, regulations, etc. were drawn from his writings. Some of the things Edwards’ writings influenced were the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions missionaries, The Missionary Herald, The Banner of Truth Trust, etc. Works Written By Jonathan Edwards (not inclusive) •A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God •Charity and its Fruits •Christian Charity or The Duty of Charity to the Poor, Explained and Enforced •Concerning the End for Which God Created The World Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God •Freedom of the Will •A History of the Work of Redemption including a View of Church History •The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, Missionary to the Indians •The Nature of True Virtue •Original Sin •Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival in New England and the Way it Ought to be Acknowledged and Promoted •A Treaste Concerning Religious Affections •Atonement (Governmental view) •Colonial America •Congregational church •Great Awakening •Mission House (Stockbridge, Massachusetts) •Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God •Jonathan Edwards College Argument form Beauty •American philosophy •List of American philosophers •Ivy League Presidents •New England Dwight family Bibliography Bearskin, Douglas L. “Jonathan Edwards, Enthusiast? Radical Revivalism and the Great Awakening in the Connecticut Valley. ” Church History 74 (2005): 683-739. http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. liberty. edu:2048/ehost/detail? vid=4&hid=11&sid=a18c3fe2-bd1d-4992-b657-7c6bfe30e3fe%40sessionmgr15&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=19448230. Beck, Peter. “Fall of man and the failure of Jonathan Edwards. ” Evangelical Quarterly 79 (2007): 209-225. http://web. bscohost. com. ezproxy. liberty. edu:2048/ehost/detail? vid=3&hid=11&sid=a18c3fe2-bd1d-4992-b657-7c6bfe30e3fe%40sessionmgr15&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=25338906. Crisp, Oliver D. “Jonathan Edwards on the Divine Nature. ” Journal of Reformed Theology 3 (2009): 175-201. http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. liberty. edu:2048/ehost/detail? vid=3&hid=11&sid=a18c3fe2-bd1d-4992-b657-7c6bfe30e3fe%40sessionmgr15&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=42316446. Duban, James. “A Reverent and Obedient Evolution: Jonathan Edwards, the New Science, and the Socialism of Henry James Sr. Journal of Speculative Philosophy 23 (2009): 244-261. http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. liberty. edu:2048/ehost/detail? vid=3&hid=11&sid=a18c3fe2-bd1d-4992-b657-7c6bfe30e3fe%40sessionmgr15&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl. Miller, Gordon. “Jonathan Edwards’ sublime book of nature. ” History Today 46 (July 1996): 29. http://web. ebscohost. com. ezproxy. liberty. edu:2048/ehost/detail? vid=4&hid=11&sid=a18c3fe2-bd1d-4992-b657-7c6bfe30e3fe%40sessionmgr15&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#db=a9h&AN=9607212980. Wikipedia. “Jonathan Edwards. ” http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Jonathan_Edwards_(theologian).