Biography of Jonathan Edwards


JONATHAN EDWARDS, was born at Windsor, in the State of Connecticut, on the 5th of October, 1703, entered Yale College in 1716, took his degree of B.A. in the following year, and in 1722, was licensed to preach the gospel. Towards the close of 1723, he was appointed tutor in Yale College, an office which he filled with distinguished success. In 1726, he accepted an invitation to become colleague to his maternal grandfather, Mr. Stoddard, in a church at Northampton, and was ordained in February, 1727. Here he labored with intense zeal for more than twenty-three years, at the end of which period he was dismissed by his congregation. The immediate cause of the rupture between him and his hearers, was his insisting that no unconverted person should approach the Lord's Table; but some years before, he had alienated the regards of a large number of the influential members of the church, by denouncing the reading and circulation of certain books which were immoral and injurious, and by attempting to make a public example of the offenders. Edwards was a powerful and impressive preacher, sombre and even gloomy in his religious opinions and sentiments, but earnest, unaffected, and nobly conscientious. During the famous "revival" of 1740-1741, he was much sought after as a preacher, and is in fact often regarded asthe originator of that movement. Certain it is that as early as 1734, a local manifestation of religion had taken place in his own parish, of which he published an account, entitled "A Faithful Narrative of the surprising work of God, in the Conversion of many Hundred Souls in Northampton."

After his dismissal in 1750, Edwards became a missionary among the Indians of Massachusetts. While residing at Stockbridge in that State, he composed his famous treatise on the "Freedom of the Will," and "Original Sin." In 1757, he was chosen president of Princeton College, New Jersey, whither he proceeded in January, 1758, but was cut off by smallpox, on the 22nd of March of the same year.

Edwards will always be considered a master in dogmatic theology. Calvanism had probably never had so powerful a defender. According to the late Robert Hall, "he ranks with the brightest luminaries of the Christian Church, not excluding any country or any age since the Apostolic." His great characteristics are depth and comprehensiveness of argument; and few theological writings are more worthy of patient study than those of this illustrious divine.