Jonathan Edwards
(1703–1758)

Passionate theologian

At age 14, Jonathan Edwards, already a student at Yale University, read philosopher John Locke with more delight “than the most greedy miser finds when gathering up handfuls of silver and gold, from some newly discovered treasure.”

He also treasured spiritual qualities. At age 17, after a period of distress, he said holiness was revealed to him as a ravishing, divine beauty. His heart panted “to lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be all, that I might become as a little child.”

This rare blend of spiritual passion and searching intellect, in fact, characterized Edwards throughout his Connecticut childhood, his marriage (to Sarah Pierpont in 1727), and his ministry.

By 1729, he had become sole preacher of a Northampton, Massachusetts, parish. Five years later his preaching on justification by faith sparked an awakening.

It was not due to theatrics. 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."

In December 1734, there were six sudden conversions. By spring, there were about thirty a week. The revival spread throughout Connecticut. Wrote Edwards in A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1737), “It was no longer the tavern, but the minister’s house that was thronged.”

Edwards was sought out by Whitefield during Whitefield’s 1740 pass through New England. Edwards invited Whitefield to preach and reported, “The congregation was extraordinarily melted … almost the whole assembly ...

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