Preacher during "The Great Awakening"
by Rit Nosotro
First Published:: 2003
“wrapt and swallowed up in God”
Born in Windsor, Connecticut, Jonathan Edwards grew up in a Puritan home. His father was a devout minister who took care of the farm as well as his parishioners. Jonathan took pleasure in the outdoors as a child and learned many things from his studies of nature. Even as a young boy, Edwards made amazing scientific observations which he recorded that he could very well have become a brilliant scientist; however, his religious background gave him a deeper passion to become a minister like his father. Edwards awe of God’s majesty seen through his nature walks and described his experience as being “wrapt and swallowed up in God.” Though very young, he demonstrated his maturity through his desire to learn not only about nature but more importantly, about God.
At the age of 13, Jonathan Edwards entered Yale College (previously known as Collegiate School of Connecticut) where he studied Latin, Greek, Hebrew, geometry, rhetoric, logic and theology. Before the close of his second year at Yale, Jonathan’s life changed radically when he was converted. From there on out, God was real to Edwards and his life was transformed forever. Jonathan graduated in 1720 but remained at Yale to prepare for ministry.
In 1722, Edwards was asked to pastor a church in New York. During that period of his life Jonathan devoured the scriptures however, the church soon ran out of funds to pay him and he had to move back to Connecticut. He then accepted the offer to teach at Yale and became head administrator as well as teacher. This time was full of wearisome tasks and depression and he soon became terribly sick. He remained ill for four months and suffered from lengthy sicknesses almost every year afterwards.
After teaching at the college, Jonathan Edwards turned back to the ministry. He became the assistant pastor of Northhampton, Massachusets where he served alongside his grandfather. After two years his grandfather died and Edwards took full responsibility of the church. During that time, Jonathan married a woman named Sarah Pierrepont who was 6 years younger than he. Jonathan became well known and loved as he served his congregation.
During the period known as The Great Awakening, Edwards wrote many works such as “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival”, “A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections”, and "The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” each work spoke on the difference between false belief and the truth. He discovered new philosophies and provoked much emotion from his readers.
Jonathan Edwards was also one of the many evangelists who contributed to the Great Awakening. He began preaching in a different manner by using gestures and walking across the platform as he preached. This new style of preaching produced a new response as well. There was often screaming, crying and fainting as the crowds became eager to hear about the Lord and turn their lives over to Him. It was during this time that Edwards preached his famous sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” On July 8, 1741 he preached this message to his congregation. The emotional response from the audience was so overwhelming that he couldn’t finish his message because so many wanted to know how they could become saved. His sermon caused the people to see their need for a savior and led many to their knees in repentance. It was then that the revival impacted his church and sparked a flame among his parishioners.
Jonathan Edwards later accepted the position of President at the College of New Jersey. (later renamed Princeton University) However, he stayed only for a few months because he died from smallpox on March 22, 1758.
Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jonathan Edwards. Philedelphia: Chelsea House Publishers,
The Life of Jonathan Edwards. Yale University. April 15 2004