Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jonathan & Sarah Edwards: An Uncommon Union (Part 1)

Jonathan Edwards was a great man of God who was mightily used by the Lord in the Great Awakening of the 18th century. He was a mighty pastor-theologian whose words are still read with profit today. But as the saying goes, “Behind every great man is a good woman”. This was certainly the case with the New England preacher. In this series of posts, I want to give readers a glimpse into the “uncommon union” between Jonathan and Sarah Edwards.

Jonathan was born in 1703, eighty years after the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America. In Edwards’ time the English speaking population were subject to attack from Native Americans. The great European powers England and France fought for control of the New World. Jonathan Edwards was the son of a Congregationalist minister. He was converted in 1721, being given a “sense of new things” on reading 1 Timothy 1:17,

"From about that that time, I began to have new apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time meditation on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his Pearson, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him."

Edwards first met his wife to be, Sarah Pierrpont when studying at Yale College. He probably spotted the attractive young girl sitting next to her widowed mother in the congregation of First Church, New Haven. Sarah was only thirteen at the time, but the twenty year old Edwards was deeply impressed by what he had heard about her deep piety,

"They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that Great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for any thing, except to mediate upon him - that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up to heaven; being assured the he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight for ever."

Like Jonathan, Sarah was a child of the manse. She was the daughter of James Pierrpont, who was minister at New Haven from 1685 until his death in 1714. He was remembered as ‘clear, lively and impressive’ preacher who was ‘eminent in the gift of prayer.’ Pierrpont was a leading man in Connecticut. He played a prominent role in establishing Yale College. Sarah’s mother, Mary was the grand-daughter of the great Puritan divine, Thomas Hooker.

They married in 1727. Sarah was 17 and Jonathan 23. According to Samuel Miller, “Perhaps no event of Mr. Edwards’ life had a more close connexion with his subsequent comfort and usefulness than this marriage.” Soon Edwards was settled at the assistant pastor to his grandfather Solomon Stoddard in Northampton. Stoddard had served the congregation for 60 eventful years. Edwards became sole pastor on Stoddard's death. Northampton was to be the scene of the some of the greatest triumphs and tragedies in the lives of Jonathan and Sarah. Together they had eleven children, ten girls and one boy.
* Notes of a talk given at our Penknap Ladies' Meeting.


David R. Nelson said...

I too am a Virginian pastor on "voluntary exile" in upstate New York where there are more cows than people . . . and also much snow!

Thank you for including Edwards' view of Sarah in your blog. I am quoting you in my blog. I did some seminary work on Edwards and Thomas Boston and have found both of them stirring reminders of grace abounding in holy humility. God bless you!

Exiled Preacher said...

Thanks David. There's more to come.