Jonathan Edwards: The College of New Jersey.

Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ daughter Esther was born in 1732 in Northampton, MA. She was the third of their eleven children and was named after her father’s mother and grandmother. She grew up in Northampton and was content to live there until the congregation removed her father from the pastorate in 1750 when she was eighteen.

Esther accompanied her parents in 1751 to their new ministry among the Native Americans in Stockbridge, MA. It was there that she met and eventually married Aaron Burr, Sr.

One historian writes, “In 1752, Esther married Aaron Burr, Sr. She was just seventeen when she received her first and only marriage proposal, Aaron Burr, Sr. was the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). In 1754 Esther had a daughter named Sarah nicknamed Sally and in 1756 she gave birth to Aaron Burr, Jr. who would become vice president of the United States (1801–05). The marriage seems to have been a happy one. Esther, however, desperately missed her friends and close-knit family. Her new husband’s duties frequently kept him away from home, and Esther found her own responsibilities as the wife of a university president and prominent minister. Esther managed the affairs of the household and hosted many of the scholars of the school at her home.”

The College of New Jersey had originally been located in Pennsylvania. It was moved across the Delaware River to Newark. It was decided, due to its more central location in the colony, to move the college to the village of Princeton.

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols explains, “Edwards was the great theologian of the Awakening, and (George) Whitefield was the great evangelist of the Awakening. They were joined by a whole cast of others. Gilbert Tennent was an Irish immigrant and famous Presbyterian minister. He preached a sermon titled “The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry.” The sermon, as one might imagine, helped lead to a split in the Presbyterian church between the New Side and the Old Side. (In the Congregational churches, where Edwards roamed, the split was referred to as New Lights and Old Lights.) Another factor in the split was disagreement over ministerial training, especially concerning the training provided at the Log College in Neshaminy, Pa., which was founded and led by Gilbert Tennent’s father, William. The college moved east across the Delaware River and was renamed The College of New Jersey before it received the name Princeton. For two generations Princeton University provided well-trained and confessional Presbyterian ministers as well as lawyers and physicians. In 1812, Princeton Theological Seminary was founded to take on the task of training ministers. That great legacy of Princeton, which endured through the time of J. Gresham Machen in the 1920s, all started at the First Great Awakening.”

Aaron Burr Sr. died while he was still president of the college in 1757 at the age of forty-one. His legacy was of a man who became worn out in his service for the LORD.

Four days following Burr’s death, the first Commencement of the College at Princeton took place. The pursuit for a new president immediately was undertaken.  It should be no surprise that Jonathan Edwards was seriously considered and asked to assume the presidency.

Edwards was initially reluctant to accept the offer and office. While he supported the school, he was content to remain in Stockbridge where he remained convinced that was where God wanted him to be.

Persistent interactions between the college leadership and Edwards eventually resulted in Edwards accepting the position as President of Princeton. A new ministry for America’s foremost colonial theologian was about to begin.

Take the time today to consider how the LORD has led you throughout the many circumstances and situations in your own life. Have a blessed day in the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

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