Jonathan Edwards

Biographical Sketch by Daniel Park, Biola University

jonathan_edwards

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14 and July 3, 1723. 

Summary of life:

1703: Born on October 5, in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Reverend Timothy and Esther Edwards who had ten daughters (six after Edwards’ birth)

1716-1720: Studies undergraduate (BA) at Yale College

1721-1722: Studies graduate (MA) at Yale College: in spring of 1721, experiences spiritual awakening (cf. Personal Narrative)

1722-1723: Ministers in a Presbyterian church in New York, beginning his “Diary,” “Resolutions,” “Miscellanies,” and writing The Mind

1724-1726: Becomes senior tutor at Yale

1726: Becomes associate minister of the First Church of Northampton in Massachusetts, under influential grandfather, Solomon Stoddard

1727: Marries Sarah Pierpont on July 28, later having 11 children (eight daughters and three sons)

1728: Becomes father to first child

1729: Succeeds Stoddard, now deceased, as pastor of the church in Northampton

1734: Brings about First Great Awakening through series of sermons published as Justification by Faith (1738).

1737: Publishes A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, defending the revival

1741: Preaches “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Enfield, Connecticut

1746: Publishes Religious Affections, explaining true conversion

1749: Publishes The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, significantly influencing domestic and foreign missionary movements

1750: Dismissed as pastor of the church in Northampton, with 230 males congregants voting for the decision, 23 against

1751-1757: Becomes pastor and missionary to Native Americans in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, pastoring a small English congregation and evangelizing 150 Mohican and Mohawk families, while writing most of his major works

including Freedom of Will (1754) and Original Sin (1758) as well as The Nature of True Virtue and The End for Which God Created the World (published posthumously in 1765)

1757: Accepts presidency at College of New Jersey (later Princeton University)

1758: Assumes presidency on February 16, dying on March 22 following complications from smallpox inoculation (buried in Princeton Cemetery)

Influence and Recognition:

Who influenced Edwards:

  • Isaac Newton in relation to his natural philosophy
  • John Locke in relation to his epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophical psychology
  • Nicholas Malebranche in relation to his metaphysics
  • John Calvin per his Reformed heritage
  • Peter van Maastricht (his works introduced by wife, Sarah): Theoreticapractica theologia, of which he said was “as much better than Turretin or any other book in the world, excepting the Bible.”
    • Francis Turretin
  • John Calvin
  • Augustine
  • Puritans including John Bunyan, John Owen, etc.

Who did Edwards influence?

  • Contemporary theologians including George Whitefield and John Wesley
  • Reformed tradition heretofore
    • Robert Murray M’Cheyne
    • C. Ryle
    • Princeton theologians including B. B. Warfield, John Gresham Machen, Geerhardus Vos
    • Martyn Lloyd-Jones
    • Modern theologians including John Piper, R. C. Sproul, Steve Lawson, Sinclair Ferguson, etc.
    • Reformed seminaries such as Westminster Theological Seminary
  • Missionaries including Francis Asbury, Thomas Coke, William Carey, Henry Martyn, Robert Morrison, Samuel Mills, Fredrick Schwartz, David Livingstone, and Andrew Murray; also Jim Eliott (via The Life and Diary of David Brainerd).

What was Edwards known for?

  • Jonathan Edwards was known for sundry roles, some include: (arguably) America’s first revivalist preacher, America’s first philosopher, Reformed pastor, Reformed theologian — in a word, Puritan.

Key Theological Ideas:

  • Soteriology (Calvinism)
    • Determinism
    • Pietism
    • Covenant of Redemption
  • ‘New Light Calvinism’(as opposed to ‘Old Calvinism’)
  • God’s glory and man’s enjoyment thereof

Works:

Types: Mystical, polemical, sermons, treatises, systematic works, etc.

  • Theological and philosophical treaties on determinism, ethics, and metaphysics.
  • Autobiography related to personal conversion
  • Biography on David Brainerd
  • History on the Great Awakening and redemptive history
  • Letters addressed to people such as George Whitefield and John Wesley
  • Sermons

Major Works: What are his/her most famous works?

  • Concerning the End for Which God Created the World — Edwards argues against the claim that human happiness was the end for which God created the world. Instead, the magnification of God’s glory and name was the end. Hereby, Human happiness is an extension of that end, but not the end itself.
  • A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God — Edwards delineates the process of conversion according to examples set in Northampton, Massachusetts at the start of the Great Awakening, which was derived from Edward’s congregation in 1734.
  • Freedom of the Will — Edwards argues that moral responsibility is not inconsistent with God’s determination of all events contra Arminianism.
  • A History of the Work of Redemption — Albeit it was never finished, Edwards sought to trace God’s redemptive work from the fall to the present church age.
  • The Life and Diary of David Brainerd — Edward recounts David Brainerd life, particularly his life as missionary to the Delaware Indians of New Jersey.
  • The Nature of True Virtue (counterpart to Concerning the End for Which God Created the World) — Edwards argues that true virtue is not predicated on self-love or earth-bound selfishness, but a selfless desire for God’s glory.
  • Original Sin — Edward defends the doctrine of original sin.
  • Religious Affections — Edward explains how true conversion occurs. Both emotion and intellect are involved, yet “converting grace” is that which brings about this conversion.

Secondary Works:

 

  • John Carrick’s The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards
  • John Piper and Justin Taylor’s (editors) A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards
  • John Piper and Jonathan Edward’s God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards
  • George Marsden’s Jonathan Edwards: A Life
  • Iain Murray’s. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography
  • Kyle Strobel’s Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love
  • Michael McClymond and Gerlad McDermott’s The Theology of Jonathan Edwards
  • Sang Hyun Lee’s (editor) The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards
  • Stephen J. Stein’s (editor) The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards

Bibliography:

 

  • Lee, Sang Hyun. The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.
  • Marsden, George M. Jonathan Edwards: A Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Murray, Iain Hamish. Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987.
  • Piper, John, and Jonathan Edwards. God’s Passion for His Glory: Living the Vision of Jonathan Edwards, with the Complete Text of The End for Which God Created the World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006.
  • Stein, Stephen J. The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
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