Jonathan Edwards: His New York City Ministry.

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.” (Isaiah 3:10 (ESV)

During the years 1722-1723, Jonathan Edwards completed his master’s degree from Yale and began an interim pastoral ministry in New York City. The church was a small Scottish Presbyterian church located near Broadway and Wall Street.

From information derived from historical documents, it is most likely that of the initial ten sermons Jonathan Edwards prepared to preach, his first biblical text was from Isaiah 3:10. The emphasis on the sermon was the joy of the Christian.

“When a man is enlightened savingly by Christ, he is, as it were, brought into a new world. The excellency of the (Christian) religion and the glorious mysteries of the gospel seemed as a strange thing to him before, but now…he sees with his own eyes and admires and is astonished, ” wrote Edwards.

Edwards’ atypical sermon structure was as follows: from the text, to doctrine, to application. Edwards had to discipline himself that his spiritual energy and enthusiasm did not overshadow proper and conventional 18th century decorum. In other words, Edwards strove to balance enthusiasm for the text with a proper exposition and understanding of the text.

Chief among Edwards’ sermon themes was true conversion and the evidences of true conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Zeal in the external exercises of religion proves nothing,” he explained.

Edwards’ extra-biblical readings during this time were books written by his maternal grandfather and pastor, Solomon Stoddard. Stoddard was the best-known living author, concerning the biblical gospel and conversion to the same, in New England at the time.

During the year 1722 as he recalled his time spent in New York. “My longings after God and holiness, were much increased. Pure and humble, holy and heavenly, Christianity appeared exceeding amiable to me. I felt a burning desire to be in everything a complete Christian; and conformed to the blessed image of Christ; and that I might live, in all things, according to the pure, sweet and blessed rules of the gospel.”

“It was my continual strife, day and night, and constant inquiry, how I should be more holy and live more holily and more becoming a child of God and a disciple of Christ. I now sought more an increase of grace and holiness, and a holy life, with much more earnestness than ever I sought grace before I had it.”

The Presbyterian Church of which Edwards provided pulpit supply was the result of a church split. A dissatisfied minority withdrew from the majority congregation and began meeting in their own building. It was during Edwards’ preaching ministry that the smaller congregation realized their error in leaving. Edward also believed a reunion was in the best interests of all concerned.

Since a reunion of the congregation was eminent, Edwards understood that he would no longer be needed. He decided to leave New York during April, 1723.

Edwards returned home to East Windsor, Conn. There is little documentation as to what Edwards did and thought during the summer days of 1723. One diary entry of Edwards, during that time, says, “I now plainly perceive what great obligation I am under to love and honour my parents. I have great reason to believe that their counsel and education have been my making.”

It was during these remaining days of 1723, in considering what he now would do in the ministry, that Edwards sensed God’s call for him to return to Yale as a tutor. This he did so. He returned to Yale in June, 1724.

Have a blessed day in the Lord. May you serve Him where He has sovereignly placed you.

Soli deo Gloria!    

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