Jonathan Edwards Essay Research Paper Jonathan EdwardsLearning

Jonathan Edwards Essay, Research Paper

Jonathan Edwards

Learning as a child is like writing in stone. Learning when you are

old is as if you were writing in sand. A fitting quote for Jonathan

Edwards, a man who helped define the New World through theology and

philosophy when the struggling New England colonies were still in their

infancy. Through his strong vision he believed the people could not return

to the past nor be satisfied with the present and for this he is a prime

example of a Calvinist and will be remembered among all who study this

early culture as a devoted preacher, an acute philosophical thinker, and a

shepherd of souls.

Jonathan Edwards was born on October fifth 1703 in the city of East

Windsor Connecticut and was the only son among ten daughters.

Edward s father was Timothy Edwards, who was a respectable pastor.

Edwards’ mother was Esther Stoddard. She can be considered more

famous than her husband because she was the daughter of Reverend

Solomon, a Puritan if there ever was one. He was the spiritual leader of

the town of Northampton, Massachusetts for 57 years. Reverend

Stoddard gained fame for winning a debate against Increase Mather on the

validity of the Half-way convenant. The Half-way covenant allowed

non-converters to be baptized, but they could not receive communion.

Two years before Stoddard s death, his grandson Jonathan Edwards rose

from assistant pastor to pastor. Jonathan Edwards spent a lot of his time

fighting against his grandfather s progress, saying he would admit to his

sacrament only those who gave satisfactory evidence of being truly

converted, siding with Mather on the matter. He was dismissed for this

reason in 1750, having alienated his entire congregation.

However Jonathan Edwards did learn much from his grandfather

and father about the importance of studying hard. As soon as he could

hold a pen he was learning to write. His father taught him several

languages such as Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. At the age of six he could

conjugate Latin verbs. At the age of six I learned how to spell my last

name, but up until then I swear we were running neck and neck. His early

mastery of these languages would later help him be an expert Bible scholar

and a powerful Bible messenger. If he lived today he would have spent

most of his time dodging spitwads and generally being mad fun of, as he

would often spend 14 hours a day studying. Starting at the age of twelve,

Jonathan Edwards became an acute observer of nature and wrote for a

naturalist in England an account of his observations on spiders, but

Edwards also loved to study about other insects. He watched insects

closely, especially ants, citing God’s word in Proverbs 6:6, which says, “Go

to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” and Proverbs

30:25, “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in

the summer.” — saying we should admire the great diligence of the ants.

Edwards was interested in science and living creatures because he felt that

it helped him to understand the mind of the God who made all things with


At the age of 13, Jonathan Edwards entered Yale College. It was

there that Edwards studied theology. In 1720 at age 17 Edwards

graduated from Yale, first in his class. Early in his pastoral career,

Edwards struggled with the meaning of true revival and wondered what

he could do to get his congregation to experience revival. His generation

was the second generation of the Puritans and Edwards saw a decline in

the spiritual zeal needed to continue the spread of the kingdom of God.

Edwards became focused on revival stating that they were at war

with a devil that was constantly trying to corrupt their new land. This is

why God’s church can never be satisfied or content. It must always make

every effort to enter through that narrow door of salvation. So Edwards

began a series of sermons with more prayer, in order to wake up the sleepy

congregation that had become too involved with their own business and

everyday life and not with Christ and his kingdom. In 1731, he preached a

message called, “God glorified in man’s dependence.” In it, he attacks the

liberal argument that sin was merely a condition of ignorance. He

believed that human sin was an inherent enmity against God and that

salvation meant a change of heart.

This challenged complacent believers (the modern day equivalent of

Easter and Christmas Christians) to earnestly, sincerely and thoroughly

search their hearts of sins and beg for forgiveness. He believed such

earnest soul searching by individuals was a step toward salvation. In 1733

he preached a message called “A Divine and Supernatural Light.” He

stressed that real Christianity requires encounters with the truth, but that

the truth must be illuminated by the presence of the Holy Spirit and that

only this can produce a sense of divine excellency of the things revealed in

the word of God. One of the effects of this encounter will be a delight in

the glory of God. He stated, “The convert does not merely rationally

believe that God is glorious, but has a sense of the gloriousness of God in

his heart there is a sense of the loveliness of God’s holiness.” Edwards

was writing from personal experience. When he first encountered the

Scripture under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, his life began to

change. Part of this new Spirit-driven concern in the young Edwards at

that time was a fervent interest in revival and the extension of Christ’s


In the following year, 1734, Edwards began a series of sermons

about justification by faith. The main message was called, “Justification

by faith alone.” He said, “Justification comes not through good works, but

through faith.” He defined faith in terms of total response to Christ, of one

being in Christ. Edwards always stressed the central theme of the

religious experience or “sense of the heart” as he called it.

He believed in not dwelling on the past and stayed away from

causing a stir over how the church may have changed, unlike other

pastors. He did this not out of lack of respect for the past but under the

realization that this was a new era of religion. He was fond of saying

History was the unfolding of God s design and every happening in the

existence of man is properly understood only when we can perceive its

place in the great divine work of redemption. — simply meaning that

change is not horrible.

In the year of 1734, revival began to break out in Northampton,

Massachusetts. It began among the young people who had been drifting

away from the church. If a nation is to be revived spiritually, then it must

first come from its young people. The young are essential for they are not

fixed-minded or corrupt like old people. Young people tend to be more

eager to learn and pure in their desires. Acts 2:17 says, “In the last days,

God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters

will prophesy, your young men will see visions .” Young people,

especially those of college age were the best ones from which a spiritual

revival could take place. They are the hope of the country and its future.

And even many young people can bring their parents to the Kingdom of

God. Many young people wanted to meet with Edwards personally after

his sermons to have discussions.

In that year of 1734, a great change began to occur among the

people. There was a great and earnest concern about the things of God

and eternal life. An intense conviction of sin was nearly universal among

those responding to the Northampton revival. Deeper sins like pride and

envy were now the focus. Some people were even convicted that they

were not more convicted. That one kind of left me scratching my head. In

his early years, Edwards could not manage with all the small talk needed

for parish visitation. But now many came to Edwards personally to his

office to have Bible study. This revival of 1734 was the spark that was

fanned into flame along the whole East Coast until or about 1743. Some

more of the signs of this great revival were, for one, personal thirst and

desire for God for each individual. Secondly, the sharing of the gospel,

which was previously directed mainly from clergy to laity, now flowed in

new channels—from wives to husbands, even from children to parents.

Over a short period of time, hundreds came to Christ. Towns seemed to be

full of the presence of God. Edwards wrote,

“The town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it was never so full of

love, nor joy, and yet so full of distress as it was then it was a time of joy

in families on account of salvation being brought unto them; parents

rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives.”

Edwards wrote about this revival in 1736 in a work called “A Faithful

Narrative of the Surprising Work of God.” He interpreted the religious

revival as evidence of God’s redemptive work in New England. Later he

wrote “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God” in 1741

and “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival” in 1743. In both of

these works, he defended the revival as an authentic religious experience.

Edwards was very demanding upon his congregation. But it was in a good

way so that they would be true and sincere to God, who sees and judges

the heart. For instance in 1742, he drew up a covenant for his congregation

to sign, binding them to live their faith visibly. But Jonathan Edwards is

most noted for his famous sermon he delivered in 1741 called “Sinners in

the Hands of an Angry God.” This sermon created spiritual panic among

the congregation who heard it. His key verse was Deuteronomy 32:35

which says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will

slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” In this

sermon he stated that the rebellious man is far too small and weak to resist

the judgment of God which was sure to come.

He said in his sermon,

“There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any moment out of hell, but

the mere pleasure of God Hell, the very expression of divine wrath, is

prepared; the fire is made ready; the furnace is hot now; the flames do now

rage and glow Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten

covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that

they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen.”

The response of the audience? It scared the hell into them with many

screaming and weeping. This sermon has the true meaning of the fire and

brimstone preaching.

In his numerous reaches wondering into the will of God, Edwards

came to two definitive conclusions that changed the way he lived and

taught. The first, was that human history will end several thousand years

after evil is crushed so we may experience every blessing God has given


The second, was that the new world of America would be a major

part of world history between the present and end of the millennium. He

thought it was the closest place to heaven there was. He believed the New

World was discovered in order that the new and most glorious state of

God s church on Earth might commence there, that God might choose to

begin in it a new world of cultural respect when he creates the new heaven

and new Earth. The start of this miracle was supposed to take place in

New England.

His interest in natural science was continued in his mature years.

He advanced a theory of atoms, he demonstrated that the fixed stars are

suns, he made interesting studies on the growth of trees and on the

formation of river channels, he studied the principles of sound, the cause

of colors, and the tendencies of winds, and anticipated Franklin’s discovery

of the nature of the lightning. In one of his comments later in his life,

Edwards said that God had not hidden the treasures of knowledge in

nature to make things difficult for man, but to challenge his inquiring

spirit and curiosity.

On March 22, 1758 Edwards succumbed to a case of small pox

leaving behind his wife, eleven children, and a legacy. That driven quality

a person gets when they know they re capable of something is felt then the

same as it is now and as one of the first to embody that American attitude

and realize things would never be as they were before, his efforts, even

seeing the state of our religion today, have made an imprint on our




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