Jonathan Edwards: 4 Great Paragraphs (Part 2)

Posted at Ligonier Ministries

FROM Jun 03, 2013 Category: Articles

On to our second paragraph. In my study of great leaders and thinkers, I find special enjoyment perusing the letters of the same. In letters to friends and family members, we see the worldview of the historical figure boiled down, and the personality on display. This is valuable in the case of Edwards, for true to his regional roots, he did not write a great deal about himself.

In Edwards’ interaction with his family, we gain a sense for his spiritual seriousness, but also for his tender love of his children. In a letter to his daughter Esther, dated May 27, 1755, we see both of these qualities on display:

Dear Child,

Though you are a great way off from us, yet you are not out of our minds: I am full of concern for you, often think of you, and often pray for you. Though you are at so great a distance from us, and from all your relations, yet this is a comfort to us, that the same God that is here, is also at Onohquaga; and that though you are out of our sight and out of our reach, you are always in God’s hands, who is infinitely gracious; and we can go to him, and commit you to his care and mercy. Take heed that you don’t forget or neglect him. Always set God before your eyes, and live in his fear, and seek him every day with all diligence: for ‘tis he, and he only can make you happy or miserable, as he pleases; and your life and health, and the eternal salvation of your soul, and your all in this life and that which is to come, depends on his will and pleasure.

The week before last, on Thursday, David died; whom you knew and used to play with, and who used to live at our house. His soul is gone into the eternal world. Whether he was prepared for death, we don’t know. This is a loud call of God to you to prepare for death. You see that they that are young die, as well as those that are old: David was not very much older than you. Remember what Christ has said, that you must be born again, or you never can see the kingdom of God. Never give yourself any rest, unless you have good evidence that you are converted and become a new creature. We hope that God will preserve your life and health, and return you to Stockbridge again in safety; but always remember that life is uncertain: you know not how soon you must die, and therefore had need to be always ready.

I am,

Your tender and affectionate father,

Jonathan Edwards. (Works 16, 666-67)

I realize that I have contravened the rules of the game and cited not one but two paragraphs. You must excuse me. I did so because this section shows what a godly father Jonathan Edwards was. If we only encounter the thundering Edwards of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” we will miss the fatherly side of the man. What a strong spiritual guide he was—speaking plainly but winsomely to his children to lead them to Christ. There is sobriety in these words, but also, in eighteenth-century form, deep affection and love.