Jonathan Edwards: Tutor at Yale.

Jonathan Edwards: “That good and sensible man …that great man.” – John Wesley

Jonathan Edwards returned to Yale College in June, 1724. He would serve as one of two tutors until 1726. However, the position of tutor during that time was more than just being a professor, lecturer and instructor. It involved administrative leadership of the college.

Edwards biographer, George Marsden, explains, “He (Edwards) was one of the two tutors at Yale tasked with leading the college in the absence of a rector, or president. Yale’s previous rector, Timothy Cutler, lost his position when he defected to the Anglican Church. After two years, he had not been replaced.”

In spite of the Yale’s trustee’s best efforts to fill the rector vacancy themselves on a rotating basis, it seems that from 1722 to 1726 Yale was virtually without a president. Edwards agreed to assume the position but not without some reservations.

Edwards biographer Iain Murray states, “A tutorship would represent a loss of freedom to plan his days his own way, and in addition to the study and teaching required of him, he knew that there would necessarily be many time-consuming commitments in the administration of the student body.”

Along with his studies, teaching and administrative responsibilities, Edwards was responsible for at least forty and up to sixty students. While this period of time was 300 years ago, it should be noted that college students then were as college students are today. While there were rules and behavioral standards in place, Yale students often disregarded these codes of conduct. Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV) applies here when the text says, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Having completed his first year as a tutor, Edwards became seriously ill. In September, 1725, Edwards became sick and attempted to come home to East Windsor. He made it as far as to the home of Isaac Stiles, the minister of North Haven. Nursed by his mother Esther, Edwards remained in the Stiles’ parsonage for three months, Eventually, Edwards regained his health. However, he came to the conclusion that being a tutor at Yale was not where he most wanted to be. During his long recovery, he prayed to the Lord for guidance.

The rector vacancy was finally filled in September, 1726. Elisha Williams, a popular tutor when Yale was located at Wethersfield, received the appointment to assume the same responsibilities at the college’s relatively new location in New Haven.

It was in August of 1726 that the church in Northampton, pastored by his maternal grandfather Solomon Stoddard, invited Edwards to become assistant pastor. Stoddard was well into his eighties and needed help where he had been pastor for nearly a half century. It was at Northampton that Edwards would serve the Lord for the next twenty-three years of his life. He would become known as Mr. Edwards of Northampton.  

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!    

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