Rev. Jonathan Edwards

Discussion in 'Free-For-All Archives' started by Ray Berrian, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. Ray Berrian

    Ray Berrian
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    Reverend Edwards certainly can be called the premier Christian thinker of the North American continent. He was the spokesperson for Puritan Calvinistic theology. Edwards' great, great, grandfather was Richard Edwards was an ordained minister having both the Bachelor's and Master's degrees from St. John's College, Oxford. Jonathan was one of eleven children in his family. He was educated through his father and then at Collegiate School which two years later was named Yale College. He received his Master in Arts from said college.

    Records show that Jonathan was ordained as pastor in Northampton church on February 15, 1727. The homestead was on King Street. His typical day was to rise at four in the morning and light a single candle and for fourteen hours every day he would study volumes of theology and, as the author says, perhaps classics in English literature. He was eloquent and made powerful impressions on the minds of his audience. His sermon manuscripts were carefully written out in a tiny booklet stitched together by hand that was place inside an oversized Bible.

    He wrote many excellent messages three of which are: "A Divine and Supernatural Light", "Justification by Faith Alone", and "Sinner's in the Hands of an Angry God", the latter being preached at Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741.

    He went against his famous grandfather Rev. Stoddard who taught the "Half-Way Covenant" which allowed the unregenerate to receive Holy Communion as long as they were not 'scandalous' in their way of life. As time progressed he was asked to leave his church because of various things which turned out to be providential.

    Wealthy Christians from England supported Edwards and his large family who moved to Stockbridge to minister to native Indians and a few white families. Jonathan ministered there for seven years, teaching the Indians English and the Bible.

    Edward's third daughter, Esther, was married to a thirty-six old Presbyterian minister who was President of the New Jersey College, later named Princeton. The husband was Aaron Burr. The mother's death was unexpected and she left Sally, age four and Aaron age two. This Aaron Burr would become the vice-president of the United States.

    Rev. Jonathan Edwards greatest achievement was his election to become Princeton Seminary's President and America's foremost theologian to date.

    He was moved by God to a prestigious pastorate in Northampton to an Indian outpost, to that of seminary president.

    His great interest in study and books made him very articulate in his presentation of the Christian Gospel.

    He went to be with the Lord on March 22, 1758 at age fifty-four.
     
  2. billwald

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    Edwards read his sermons in a monotone. These days he wouldn't have a viable congregation. "Sinners In The Hands of an Angry God" would get him laughed out of town.
     
  3. Monergist

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    I agree with a statement I heard on RC Sproul's program a few days ago that went something like this:

    "I don't know if you can say Edwards is in a class by himself, but I do know that whatever class he is in-- It wouldn't take long to call the roll!"

    [​IMG]
     
  4. padredurand

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    I worked for a Christian radio station and recorded "Sinners" in its entirety. Monotone or not it runs nearly 40 minutes! I played it one Sunday morning instead of preaching. (It took over twenty hours to record and edit. Preaching and the associated study would have been easier!) After all these years, Edwards' words still move people to repentance. Folks were openly weeping, some were mad, others were saved, and God was glorified.
     
  5. Bugman

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    If Edwards was alive today he may not have a huge congergation but he would likely have the most holy one. Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God would turn a lot of people away but it would bring in those who were serious about their faith to a deeper understnading of it.

    Bryan
    SDG
     
  6. pastorjeff

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    I have a different understanding of congregation size. I believe if we preach and teach the Word of God ( Not pet issues) That people will be drawn to the church because the church will be growing spiritually. I believe men like Edwards would attract a large congregation today because of the sincear Biblical messages preached. The growth wouldn't happen overnight, but it would happen. Sometimes I think we tend to be suspect of large and growing churchs.
     
  7. gb93433

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    I know of a preacher whose church grew from 75 to almost 600 in six years winning people to Christ. The pastor was dilihg but the deacons did not like it that most of the new people coming were former Mormons and being won to Christ.

    The same thing happened to me. The church had gone from 90 to 220 in less than two years. Most of them becoming new believers. The deacons asked me to leave. I asked them if they saw any sin or anything wrong with my preaching. They said, "No." There was one reason they didn't come right out and say. I found out later when non-believers and others from other churches told me.

    Read the following article.

    Leadership Journal, Winter 2003

    Preacher in the Hands of an Angry Church

    Jonathan Edwards's church kicked him out after 23 years of ministry, but the crisis proved his greatness was not merely intellectual.
    by Chris Armstrong

    As messy dismissals of ministers go, the 1750 ejection of Jonathan Edwards by his Northampton congregation was among the messiest. The fact that it involved the greatest theologian in American history—the central figure of the Great Awakening—is almost beside the point. The fact that it took place in a New England fast moving from theocratic "city on a hill" to democratic home of liberty is more relevant.

    But another aspect is worth a closer look: Friends and enemies alike agreed that in the long, degenerating discontent, Edwards continued to love and pray for—or at least tolerate and refrain from attacking—his people, even when they bared their fangs.

    Salary controversies and power struggles marked his ministry during the 1740s. In the infamous "bad book" episode of 1744, some teen boys in the church distributed a midwife's manual, using it to taunt and make suggestive comments in front of girls. When the culprits were summoned before the church, their response, according to documents of the proceedings, was "contemptuous . . . toward the authority of this Church."

    Edwards chose to read before the church a list containing, indiscriminately, the names of both the young distributors as well as the purported witnesses. Some parents were outraged at Edwards.

    Another issue was Edwards's personality and style as a minister. At the outset of his ministry at Northampton, for example, he decided that he would not pay the customary regular visits to his congregants, but would rather come to their side only when called in cases of sickness or other emergency. This made him seem, to some in the church, cold and distant.

    An Edwards "disciple," Samuel Hopkins, later wrote that this practice was not due to lack of affection and concern for his people: "For their good he was always writing, contriving, labouring; for them he had poured out ten thousand fervent prayers; and they were dear to him above any other people under heaven."

    Rather, Edwards had made a clear-eyed assessment of his own gifts and decided that he was unable to match the graceful gregariousness of those ministers who had a "knack at introducing profitable, religious discourse in a free, natural, and . . . undesigned way."

    Thus he would "do the greatest good to souls . . . by preaching and writing, and conversing with persons under religious impressions in his study, where he encouraged all such to repair."

    Edwards's ministry might yet have endured, however, were it not for the death of his uncle, Colonel John Stoddard, in 1748. Born in 1682, 21 years before Edwards, the colonel had built a friendship with his nephew. A sharp thinker, a county judge, and a savvy politician, John was a militia colonel who had become commander-in-chief of the Massachusetts western frontier by 1744. Stoddard wore—at least in the secular sphere—the mantle of his father and Edwards's grandfather, "pope" of the Connecticut Valley, Solomon Stoddard.

    Edwards found himself often leaning on his uncle's influence to navigate the affairs of the church. Thus when Stoddard died, Edwards lost not only an uncle but a powerful ally and confidante.

    As Ian Murray put it in his biography of Edwards: "There would be no open criticism of Edwards as long as Stoddard sat appreciatively in his pew beneath the pulpit in the meeting-house Sunday by Sunday." Once the colonel was gone, however, that changed dramatically.

    Stoddard's heir-apparent as Hampshire County's leading figure was Edwards's cousin Israel Williams, a Harvard graduate, imperious in manner and implacably set against Edwards. In his early nineteenth-century biography, descendant S. E. Dwight named Israel and several others of the Williams clan as having "religious sentiments [that] differed widely from" those of Edwards. Their opposition soon became "a settled and personal hostility." Williams served as counselor and ringleader to Edwards's opponents. Joining this opposition were another cousin, Joseph Hawley Jr., 21 years Edwards's junior.

    Visible saints, hidden agendas
    The same year John Stoddard died, an event finally pushed the hostile faction into open revolt.

    For years, Edwards had been uncomfortable with the lenient policy on membership and communion set by his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, Edwards's predecessor at Northampton. Stoddard had allowed almost anyone to join and to partake, hoping that membership and communion might encourage true conversion. In 1748, Edwards changed the policy and told an applicant for church membership that he must first make a public "profession of godliness."

    Thus Edwards rejected the "Halfway Covenant"—the longstanding compromise of the Puritans who had, generations after planting their religious colonies, found their church membership dwindling. That compromise had reversed the traditional Puritan requirement that new church members be "visible saints," godly in word and deed.

    When the congregation saw that Edwards intended to return to the earlier, stricter Puritan position, demanding not only a profession of faith, but also evidence of repentance and holiness, a firestorm arose. Many of the church's leading members felt Edwards's innovation was a direct threat.

    Two revivals had produced many converts, but, as biographer Patricia Tracy put it, "Men and women who had been recognized as visible saints in Northampton still wallowed in clandestine immorality and flagrant pride."

    Though Edwards knew, as he notes in his letters, that he was likely to lose his pastorate as a result, he stuck to his principles.

    A council of the congregation put a moratorium on new memberships until the issue of criteria could be resolved. Edwards told them he planned to preach on his reasons for changing the policy. They forbade him to do so. Edwards began to write a book on the matter. Few read it, and too late to do much good.

    In 1750, a council was called to consider whether the congregation would dismiss its minister. No one doubted what the conclusion would be.

    Edwards's friend David Hall noted in his diary the minister's reaction when on June 22, 1750, the council handed down its decision:

    "That faithful witness received the shock, unshaken. I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance the whole week but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of the reach of his enemies and whose treasure was not only a future but a present good . . . even to the astonishment of many who could not be at rest without his dismission."

    46 and unemployed
    Edwards wrote that he now found himself a 46-year-old ex-minister "fitted for no other business but study," with a large family to provide for. Although he knew "we are in the hands of God, and I bless him, I am not anxious concerning his disposal of us," he fretted over his situation in letters to friends. Yet neither the distressing conditions nor the continuing antagonism of his opponents drew him out to open attack.

    Remarkably (and partly because of financial need), Edwards agreed to continue preaching at the church while they searched for a replacement. But his Farewell Sermon also indicates he acted out of continued concern for the flock. He continued through mid-November, despite the Town maliciously barring him, a month after his dismissal, from using its common grazing land.

    Finally in December 1750, after an anxious autumn during which he had even considered removing his entire family to Scotland to accept an invitation there, Edwards accepted a charge in Massachusetts's "wild west," the Indian town of Stockbridge. There he would labor the rest of his life, pursue his theological thinking to its most brilliant heights, and create one of the most enduring missionary biographies of all time, the life story of his young friend David Brainerd.

    Belated praise
    In 1760, his former enemy, cousin Joseph Hawley, wrote to Edwards's friend David Hall, confessing that "vast pride, self-sufficiency, ambition, and vanity" had animated his leadership in the "melancholy contention" with Edwards. He repented of his earlier failure to render the respect due Edwards as a "most able, diligent and faithful pastor."

    Hawley concluded, "I am most sorely sensible that nothing but that infinite grace and mercy which saved some of the betrayers and murderers of our blessed Lord, and the persecutors of his martyrs, can pardon me; in which alone I hope for pardon, for the sake of Christ, whose blood, blessed by God, cleanseth from all sin."

    On June 22, 1900, exactly 150 years after Edwards's dismissal, a group gathered at the First Church in Northampton to unveil a bronze memorial.

    H. Norman Gardiner, a professor of philosophy at Smith College and chairman of the memorial committee, characterized Edwards's ejection as "a public rejection and banishment" that remained "a source of reproach to his church and people." He noted the "hatred, malice, and uncharitableness which characterized the opposition to him," for which, to Gardiner, no apology either contemporary or modern could atone.

    Edwards would have disagreed, arguing instead that even such deeply wounding actions as the aggravated and wrongful dismissal of a pastor from his pulpit of 23 years are not unforgivable. In that understanding, as in so much else, Edwards was far ahead both of his enemies and of many of us today.

    For 2003 Christian History magazine is publishing an issue commemorating the 300th anniversary of Edwards's birth. For information visit www.christianhistory.net
    Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
    Leadership Journal, Winter 2003, Vol. XXV, No. 1, Page 52
     
  8. Johnv

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    The problem with "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is that it's not a completely accurate scriptural portrayal of God. God is primarily a God of love, and Edwards' sermon portrays him primarily as a God of hate.

    It's a great sermon, but it's based on emotion more than scripture. If someone were to give that sermon today, we'd probably be calling him a false teacher, something Edwards definitely was not.
     
  9. Monergist

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    I guess I should go ahead and warn that I'm not very sympathetic to that view. Actually both views; the view of God and the view of Edwards' sermon.

    A more relevant topic for a sermon today would be-- as someone else calls it-- "God in the Hands of Angry Sinners." Modern 'christian' culture has decided that it cannot have anything to do with a God who hates sin (and sinners) and have created a pitiful little 'god' who sincerely wants to love everyone if they would just let him. Somehow we've lost out on the glory of God-- we don't see the wretchedness of sin and the punishment it deserves, and so we don't see the Love of God, either.

    Edwards understood very well the love of God and the wrath of God. He knew heaven as well as hell. We need more of his type today.
     
  10. Joseph_Botwinick

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    I am thinking that I could find just as many references to God's justice and wrath as I could to his love in the Bible. To say that he is primarily a God of love, I think, is a flawed view of God.

    Joseph Botwinick
     
  11. GrannyGumbo

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    Search through history & the sermons of Jonathan Edwards or Whitefield, or Wesley. Look to Spurgeon, or Moody, or Billy Sunday, or any other preacher of old who actually had an impact on history & on society.

    You will quickly see a marked, sharp contrast between their proclamations & those of today. We see in today's church a Jesus Christ whose character has been seriously compromised. The Jesus of today is far from the man that lived 2000 years ago.

    America needs to get back to the REAL God of the Bible.
     
  12. tamborine lady

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    [​IMG]

    Amen Granny!!

    Thats what's wrong with a lot of the world today, they don't know the REAL Jesus.

    Even some Christians don't know the real Jesus.

    Preach on girl.

    [​IMG]

    Peace,

    Tam
     

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