JONATHAN EDWARDS was born to the Reverend Timothy Edwards and his wife Ester, October 5, 1703. He was the fifth of eleven born to the Reverend; who made their home in East Windsor, Connecticut. Being from an evangelical Puritan household, he was also expected to study and learn the Bible as well as the strict tenants of Calvinism.
The debates over his Reformed Calvinist faith and the “liberal” movements captivated his thoughts and his pen. He considered Anglican Arminianism and Deism to be heresy that stood in direct opposition to his Reformed Puritan upbringing. He synthesized Protestant Calvinism with Newtonian physics and Locke’s psychology.
Beauty, to Edwards was an essential aspect of any entity. Beauty subsisted in harmony of agreement of its parts. Today we can see that this contribution still exists in modern ethics. At his graduation at Yale, Edwards gave the valedictorian speech to his graduating class. By now he was well grounded in philosophy. After this he spent two years in New Haven studying theology.
Edwards came to Northampton, Massachusetts on August 29, 1726 to assist Solomon Stoddard, a famous revivalist and Edwards’ grandfather. Interestingly, Edwards was considered a scholar-pastor, where his rule for himself was to study 13 hours a day. Upon the death of Stoddard on February 11, 1729 he took the helm of the largest and most influential church outside of Boston. Out of necessity, his attentions turned from the theoretical to practical divinity.
Edwards would remain the under-shepherd at Northampton for nearly twenty-four years. What is commonly known as the “First Great Awakening” found its initial stirrings here, beginning in 1734. Edwards oversaw these mighty moves of the Spirit and became internationally known as a revivalist. He published A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in 1738 that served as a model for revivalists here and abroad. Noted as the best sermon ever preached, Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God (1741) was preached to a Northampton congregation in the midst of revival fervor.
During these precious winds of renewal of faith, critics discounted the conversions of many supposing them to be illusory or the work of the devil. Yet, Edwards bloomed in his writings. Many of the writings were crafted as sermons that were delivered to the Congregation at Northampton; yet, these manuscripts served as brilliant apologetics to shut the mouth of the scoffer. In these writings, Edwards endeavored to isolate and define the true marks of sainthood and genuine conversion. Some of these works are Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival (1742), A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746), and The Life of David Brainerd (1749).
It would seem that in developing these thoughts on true conversion Edwards became somewhat pious and self-righteous. He began to strongly question the position of his predecessor concerning the admittance of congregants to the sacraments; which...