“The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean. Therefore, it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for, or set our hearts on, anything else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?” – Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards arrived on the Princeton campus in January, 1758. Prior to leaving Stockbridge for Princeton, Edwards said goodbye to his immediate family. His wife Sarah, and the rest of the Edwards’ family, remained in Stockbridge due to the harsh winter conditions. Edwards’ daughter, Susannah, wrote, “My father took leave of all his people and family and affectionately; as if he knew he should not come again.”
Edwards’ inauguration as the third president of Princeton took place on February 16, 1758. In many minds, Princeton would become the single greatest influencer for orthodox, Reformed theology in America.
Edwards biographer Iain Murray explains, “Edwards set about his new work in a spirit which suggested nothing of the tears of January 4 (his departure from Stockbridge).” With his daughter Esther, her two children, and another daughter, Lucy, already at Princeton, he was not as lonely as he could have been, and had been in the first months at Stockbridge.
Edwards preached every Sunday in the college hall. He introduced the senior class to a variety of questions on divinity of which they would need to prepare to answer and discuss in class. This new tactic was met with great enthusiasm.
One author writes, “During this time, Mr. Edwards seemed to enjoy an uncommon degree of the presence of God. He told his daughters he once had great exercise, concern and fear (regarding the presidency of Princeton). It now appeared, so far as he could see, that he was called of God to that place and work, He would cheerfully devote himself to it leaving himself and the event with God, to order what seemed to Him good.”
What seemed good to God for Edwards would be a brief tenure at Princeton. This would then be followed by an eternity in heaven upon his death.
Hymnwriter William Cowper (1731-1800) expressed the providential work of God in the following verse.
1 God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
2 You fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
3 His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
4 Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
Soli deo Gloria!