A Leader of the Great Awakening
One of the first leaders of the Great Awakening in New England, a preacher, theologian, and missionary to the Native Americans was Jonathan Edwards, who is considered by many to be the greatest American theologian ever. Jonathon Edwards was born in October 5, 1703, into a Christian family, the only son out of 10 daughters to Reverend Timothy Edwards and his gifted wife, Esther Stoddard. His father and his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, were both preachers and so he grew up in the atmosphere that belonged to preachers and theologians. He was educated under the watchful eyes of his father. He was a bright youngster and learned very rapidly. At the young age of six, he started to learn the Latin language, and at the age of nine, he wrote an article or paper on the issue of souls. When he was twelve, he wrote an incredibly excellent essay on the topic of revival. Such was the intensity of his studies that when he was thirteen, he was sent to Yale University.
From childhood, his mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. It used to be like a horrible doctrine to him. But he wrote later of a change, “But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God…” At his time in the University of Yale, Mr Edwards read a verse that as he wrote later on, “The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things… was on reading those words in Timothy 1:17…As I read the words, there came into my soul… a sense of the glory of the Divine Being…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 forever! I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of Scripture to myself.” He grasped through this verse that God was powerful and mighty and would save. God was sovereign! The verse in I Timothy 1:17 was, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Edwards knew that he was saved, because Scripture said Jesus had paid for his sins, and he believed it. He knew that God had given him great joy and wonder in his presence.
Four years after entering Yale University he graduated and taught for three years in the same institute. In around 1727 his aged grandfather, asked him to come to the church in Northampton, Massachusetts, to assist him with the responsibilities at the church there, an invitation that Jonathan accepted.
He married that same year a godly young woman of great virtue, seventeen year old Sarah Pierpont. Sarah's spiritual devotion was without peer, and her relationship with God had long proved an inspiration to Edwards—he first remarked on her great piety when she was a mere 13 years old. She was of a bright and cheerful disposition, a practical housekeeper, a model wife and the mother of his eleven children, who included Esther Edwards. Their home was Christ-centred and there was comfort and rest to anyone who visited them. Three years after arriving in Northampton, Solomon Stoddard died, leaving to his grandson the difficult task of the sole ministerial charge of one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the colony, and one proud of its morality, its culture and its reputation
For about seven years he was pastor, labouring and preaching among the people, before a revival or awakening of great strength came in 1734 to 1735. Edwards preached that salvation was by grace, through faith alone and he also preached against the transgression and arrogance of men’s hearts, warning them that God dealt with sin and punished evil. On July 8, 1741, Edwards preached a sermon that has been termed as, “one of the greatest sermons of history’ the sermon was entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” After he had finished his sermon, nearly five hundred men, women and children were saved and came to Christ. In the winter of 1734 and the following spring, the revival reached such intensity that it threatened the business of the town. By 1735, the revival had also spread—and popped up independently—across the Connecticut River Valley, and perhaps as far as New Jersey. He later spoke about that great revival in his church in one of his books, “Presently upon this a great… concern about the great things of religion and eternal world become universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and all ages… all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things was soon thrown by… Other discourse [talk] than of the things of religion would scarcely [hardly] be tolerated in any company.”
In March 22, 1758, he died of complications from a smallpox immunization at the approximate age of fifty-five shortly after beginning the presidency at the College of New Jersey (later to be named Princeton University). Sarah Edwards, his wife, passed away on October 2 of the same year. In the six-month period during the revival, more than three hundred people were saved in his church through Mr. Edwards’ sermons, preaching, prayer and life. Edwards is often remembered for his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, however, we observe him as furthermore a minister whose emphasis was on the grace and mercy of God, and on His love as well as His Sovereignty in all things. He is considered by many to be the greatest American theologian ever.
Jonathon Edwards has passed on to us three great things: His sermons and books such as the famous, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections” (which many Reformed Evangelicals read even today), “The End For Which God Created the World”, “The Life of David Brainerd”, (which served to inspire thousands of missionaries throughout the nineteenth century) and numerous other treasure gems that we can’t record here. He also has past down to us the rich legacy of the Great Awakening in his church through the record of his book, “A Narrative of Surprising Conversions”, and that God is able to make a revival among his people in all generations (a generation like ours) just like he did in Edwards’ church in his day. The last and perhaps the most profound legacy he left us with, is his own life and that of his family. His godly life has left an incredible legacy in American history and has inspired men and women of faith from all nationalities. Mr. Jonathon Edwards stands among the most influential theologians in all of Church History!
Love in Him
Love in Him