“Let us never forget that truth, distorted and exaggerated, can become the mother of the most dangerous heresies.”
No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country. (Source: Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).)
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Jonathan Edwards was an American puritan theologian and philosopher. He was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Timothy Edwards, pastor of East Windsor. Jonathan was the only son in a family of eleven children. He entered Yale in September, 1716 before his 13th birthday and graduated four years later as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later.
In 1727 he was ordained minister at Northampton and assistant to his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was a student minister, not a visiting pastor, his rule being thirteen hours of study a day. In the same year, he married Sarah Pierpont, then age seventeen, daughter of James Pierpont, a founder of Yale. In total, Jonathan and Sarah had eleven children.
Solomon Stoddard died on February 11th, 1729, leaving his grandson in charge of one of the largest and wealthiest congregations in the colony. Throughout his time in Northampton his preaching brought remarkable religious revivals. Jonathan Edwards was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s.
When Jonathan Edwards preached, his expressionless face, and sober clothing were quickly forgotten. His was a devoted heart intent on rightly dividing the word of truth. His method was scholarship on fire for God. Edwards’ tongue must have been like a sharp two-edged sword to his attentive hearers. His words must have been as painful to their hearts and consciences. Nevertheless, men gave heed, repented, and were saved. Before Edwards’ spiritual hurricane, the crowd collapsed. Some fell to the earth as if pole-axed. Others, with heads bowed, clung onto the posts of the temple as if afraid of falling into the nethermost depths of hell.
Edwards, however, would not continue his grandfather’s practice of open communion. Stoddard, his grandfather, believed that communion was a “converting ordinance.” Edwards became convinced that this practice was harmful and his public disagreement with the idea caused his dismissal in 1750.
Edwards then moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a frontier settlement, where he ministered to a small congregation and served as missionary to the Housatonic Indians. There, having more time for study and writing, he completed his celebrated work, The Freedom of the Will (1754).
Edwards was elected president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) in early 1758. He was a popular choice, for he had been a friend of the College since its inception and was the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time. On March 22, 1758, he died of fever at the age of fifty-four following an experimental inoculation for smallpox and was buried in the President’s Lot in the Princeton cemetery beside his son-in-law, Aaron Burr.
We see today a thin crust, a very thin crust of morality, which keeps America from complete collapse. In this perilous hour we need a whole generation of preachers like Edward!
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, Church Leadership, History, Preaching | Tagged: Aaron Burr, College of New Jersey, God, James Pierpont, Jonathan Edwards, Princeton University, Solomon Stoddard, United States | Comments Off