7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:7–8 (ESV)
Jonathan Edwards left a lasting and enduring legacy of books and sermons. He lived an exemplary life dedicated to living for the glory of God. In his excellent biography of Edwards, George Marsden provides some thought provoking perspective on the 18th century pastor and theologian who continues to edify the 21st century church.
“Edwards spent his whole life preparing to die. As he often reminded his congregations, those who were sitting comfortably one Sabbath might be in the grave by the next. For those who spurned God’s Spirit, life was like walking on a rotten canvas, and at any moment they might suddenly ﬁnd themselves plunged simply by the weight of their sins into everlasting hell. By contrast, if one had experienced God’s transforming work, then death would be a release in which one was borne upward to see Christ’s glory. Holding to that hope, Edwards worked constantly to cultivate gratitude, praise, worship, and dependence on his Savior.”
Edwards was not a perfect man and this series in no way attempts to imply otherwise. In spite of his failings, Edwards attempted each day to see Christ’s love in everything, to live according to God’s Word, and to give up worldly pleasures in anticipation of that spiritual union with Christ that his physical death would bring.
Marsden explains, “In an era when life was precarious and when on every return home one had to hope one would not be greeted by a new grave, the Edwards family had been remarkably free from such sorrows. At the beginning of 1758, when Edwards accepted the position at Princeton, both his parents were still living. His father, though failing, was in his eighty-ninth year. His mother was in ﬁne health and would live until 1771, dying at age ninety-eight.”
Edwards would not enjoy such longevity of earthly life. Neither would his daughter Esther. She would soon die from a similar reaction, as her father, to the smallpox vaccine.
Sarah Edwards did not arrive in Princeton until that summer of 1758. When she did arrive, Dr. Steven J. Lawson states, “she stood over the fresh graves of her son-in-law, her husband and her daughter. Then she herself contracted dysentery and died Oct. 2, 1758. Sarah was buried next to her husband in the Princeton Cemetery.”
Edwards’ grandson Timothy Dwight, in writing about his grandfather, said, “It was the glory of this great man, that he had no love for innovation… To the Scriptures he yielded the most profound reverence and the most implicit confidence.”
Soli deo Gloria!