“When D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones read his paper on “Jonathan Edwards and the· Crucial Importance of Revival” at the Westminster Conference in 1976, he confessed that the paper was “one of the most difficult tasks I have ever attempted. Part of the reason for this, Lloyd-Jones admitted, was the immense influence Edwards had had upon him personally. But there was also the fact that Edwards was a spiritual and theological giant. “I am tempted,” Lloyd-Jones said, “perhaps foolishly, to compare the Puritans to the Alps, Luther and Calvin to the Himalayas, and Jonathan Edwards to Mount Everest!” And as he faced “this great peak pointing up to heaven,” Lloyd-Jones continued, he could feel like a weak “little climber.” Michael A.G. Haykin
Edwards’s ministerial career officially began in 1722 with a brief sojourn of eight months in New York City. Disagreements had arisen between the English members of the First Presbyterian Church and the Scots-Irish majority, led by Scottish minister James Anderson. The English eventually withdrew and began meeting separately.
Edwards accepted their invitation to preach for them. Of this brief ministry Edwards wrote: “I went to New York to preach and my longings after God and holiness were much increased. I felt a burning desire to be in everything conformed to the blessed image of Christ…how I should be more holy and live more holily…. The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness, to be with God and to spend my eternity in Holy Communion with Christ.”
Approximately one year later, in April 1723, Edward’s father persuaded him to return to Connecticut. After he had completed work for a master’s degree at Yale, he spoke at commencement exercises. The title of his address was “A Sinner is Not Justified before God except through the Righteousness of Christ obtained by Faith.” That November, Edwards took a call to the parish church at Bolton, about fifteen miles east of Hartford, Connecticut.
In 1724, Edwards returned to New Haven to serve as tutor at Yale College. Yale was in an upheaval due to the decision of Rector Timothy Cutler in 1722 to abandon Congregationalism and revert to the Church of England. No suitable candidate would agree to take his place, so the college was in the hands of a temporary rector. Each local minister served for a month in rotation, while the forty or so students were left in the care of two tutors. The students were disorderly adding discipline to the heavy burden of Edwards’s teaching duties. Edwards remained there until 1726, when he received a summons from the people of Northampton, Massachusetts, to come upriver and serve as assistant to his aged grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. Edwards was installed there on February 15, 1727, and became sole minister of the parish church upon the death of Stoddard in 1729. He would serve there as pastor for the next 21 years.
While he was in New Haven, Edwards befriended Sarah Pierrepont, who he met when he was sixteen years old and she was only thirteen. Friendship grew into romance and they were married eight years later in 1727 after Edwards was settled at Northampton. Edwards later described his wife as a model of true conversion in Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion (1743). Their eleven children were the beginning of a large extended family that greatly impacted the life and history of New England.
Samuel Hopkins, one of Edwards’ first biographers, wrote of Sarah, “She made it her rule to speak well of all, so far as she could with truth and justice to herself and others. Thus she was tender of everyone’s character, even of those who injured or spoke evil of her.”
Hopkins continues, “In the midst of his (Jonathan’s) complicated labors, Edwards found at home one who was in every sense a help mate for him, one who made their common dwelling the abode of order and neatness, of peace and comfort, of harmony and love, to all its inmates, and of kindness and hospitability to the friend, the visitant, and the stranger.”
Soli deo Gloria!