“Mr. Edwards is a solid, excellent Christian…I think I have not seen his fellow in all New England.” – George Whitefield, October 17, 1740.
Jonathan Edwards accepted the call to be an assistant to Pastor Solomon Stoddard, his maternal grandfather, in 1727. Having served as pastor for well over fifty years in Northampton and at the age of 83, Stoddard needed assistance. With several previous, prospective candidates not succeeding in the position, the church leaders approached Edwards.
Edward’s biographer Steven J. Lawson explains, “Jonathan was ordained as his associate on Feb. 15, 1727, with the understanding that Stoddard would train young Edwards to succeed him.”
Solomon Stoddard began serving as pastor of the Northampton Church in 1670.His predecessor, Eleazer Mather, died and the pastoral search committee extended an invitation to the twenty-six year old Harvard graduate. In March 1670, having recently married Esther Mather, Solomon began preaching in the Northampton pulpit and would officially became the pastor in April 1672.
Stoddard believed that the “experience of the grace of God was the first necessity of a minister. Every learned and moral man is not a sincere convert, and so not able to speak exactly and experimentally to such things as souls want to be instructed in.”
In spite of Stoddard’s fifty-seven year ministry, the town of Northampton physically remained the same. It continued to be a farming community. Except for a few tradesmen and professionals, the people remained bonded to the soil.
Edwards’ biographer Iain Murray states, “Corn and wheat were sown in spring, calves and lambs were born and cared for. Then came hay-making and harvest, and before winter, apples were stored, animals slaughtered, and fields ploughed. Timber felling and wood cutting were constant necessities for building, for furniture and, not least, for hearting because there was to be no coal used in New England until after 1830. Country life was thus marked by an immobility and sameness. From week to week, and year to year, life went on as usual.”
The townspeople, of upward to 1,000, lived close together and close to nature. However, it was their weekly church involvement that truly bound them together with cords that, at least on the surface, could not be broken.
Murray explains, “Almost the whole population would be at the one meeting house on Sunday mornings and again at 2 pm in the afternoon, at which times, it is said, sermons might last for two hours. The church also expected a ‘lecture’ on Thursday afternoons at 2 pm. Communal life indeed revolved around the church and even the town-meetings were held in the meeting house at Northampton until the late 1730’s when a separate building was erected for that purpose.”
The Northampton church had a membership of approximately 400-500. However, this does not mean that all were converted followers of Jesus Christ. We will address this subject when next we meet because this issue would play a significant part in Edward’s ministry at Northampton.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!
2 Replies to “Jonathan Edwards: Northampton.”
Hi Tom, I enjoyed reading this as I’ve been to Northampton numerous times back in the mid ’70s. Interesting to read about the town in it’s early days. We had missionary friends who served in Northampton during the ’70s and ’80s, built up a small “church” of believers and influenced others throughout the community. The work was hard and reaped little reward but it is my understanding that those who trusted Christ through their ministry are still following Him. Interesting to think that Jonathan Edwards had such influence 250 years prior. Ron had two big thick books of the entire works of Jonathan Edwards that I gave to Bob Winter a few years ago as Bob indicated that he had great admiration for the man. I’m enjoying your shared bio. Hope all is well with you.Elizabeth Hartzler
Elizabeth, Thank you for your kind comments. An update on the Clothiers. I am teaching at Grace Theological Seminary. It’s part-time which is preferable, what with my blog, a soon to launched podcast and volunteer work at our Fort Wayne church. Diana jokes that my semi-retirement seems to be involving 40 hours of various activities.
Earlier this spring, Di was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is a non-aggressive type, for which we are thankful. She is on hormone therapy for three to six months. Surgery for the removal of a tumor may occur sometime this December. So far, there have been no side effects from the medicine. We are also thankful that she has no other cancer. We would appreciate your prayers. My best to those young men of yours. Have a blessed day.