Jonathan Edwards: The Torch is Passed.    

“Jonathan Edwards unites comprehensiveness of view, with minuteness of investigation, beyond any writer I am acquainted with. He was the greatest of the sons of men.” – Robert Hall, 1866.

What do we mean when we say the torch is passed? The metaphorical expression refers to giving one’s job or duties to another person. It alludes to the ancient Greek torch race, in which a lighted torch was passed from one runner to the next. The phrase is usually invoked when an older individual relinquishes their responsibilities to a younger protégé.

Upon the death of Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards assumed the pastoral responsibilities of the church at Northampton. It is one thing to be an assistant to the pastor, but another situation entirely when you become the pastor and are responsible for the spiritual health and wellbeing of a congregation. The individual in question no longer is playing second fiddle, but now occupies the position of the concert master.  

Edwards had the responsibility of the preaching of God’s Word three times week to a biblically literate congregation. Stoddard had faithfully discipled his flock for over five decades. Therefore, the expectations for Stoddard’s successor were high.

Edwards soon discovered that he would need as much time as possible to adequately prepare to preach and teach. The resulting theological output which Edwards produced in his sermon manuscripts and books is truly amazing. He was truly up to the task.

Edwards possessed a different personality than his grandfather. Solomon Stoddard was sanguine in temperament and was the life of any gathering along with being a fluent conversationalist. Stoddard was also a strongly opinionated individual. Edwards once remarked, “Mr. Stoddard, though an eminently holy man, was naturally of a dogmatic temper.”

Edwards, in contrast, was melancholier in temperament. He enjoyed quiet and solitary contemplation in the wilderness of the Connecticut River Valley. He was reserved and quiet; both in the pulpit and in most social settings.

“The people noticed that, unlike many minsters, Edwards did not intend to be part-time farmer, yet even so he seemed to have no time on his hands. From the outset it was not his custom to pull his horse and pass the time of day with his many parishioners. The world of crops and cattle was clearly not his principle interest. He lived somewhat apart and socially distant. He was clearly related to the men who wore white shirts rather than the common checkered ones,”  states Edwards’ biographer Iain Murray..

Edwards’ passion was not only to preach the Word of God, but also to give himself wholly to the study of the same. He took to heart the instruction from the Apostle Paul contained in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Soli deo Gloria!

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