Men of Revival
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The Great Awakening

Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703 in East Windsor, CT to a minister, Timothy Edwards, and Reverend Solomon Stoddard’s daughter, Esther. His father and older sisters groomed the only boy of 11 children for college. He began his scholarly career attending Yale College just shy of 13 years old.

Jonathan Edwards began his studies in the field of natural science. After graduating in 1720, he studied theology for two

years, but maintained his interest in science. He differed from many clergymen and scholars at the time in that he saw the natural world as a sign of God’s great works rather than separate from them. He often sought out the solitude of nature to worship and pray.

 

Written Prayer for his life

Between the years 1720 to 1726 he prayerfully penned his Resolutions, which outlined how he would live his life. The recurring theme of the Resolutions, a sort of written prayer for his life, aimed to constantly remind Edwards that all of his actions should be for the glory of God and if he were to forget that, he must repent immediately and resolve to try harder. His Resolutions also embraced wasting no time, living as to have no regrets upon death, and to approach food and drink with the strictest restraint in the spirit of the practice of fasting.

In Northampton in the year 1727, Jonathan Edwards became an ordained minister. He was the assistant to Solomon Stoddard, his grandfather. It was during that same year that he took Sarah Pierpont, a spiritually devoted woman, to become his wife.
In 1729, Solomon Stoddard died, leaving Edwards as the sole minister of the church. His prayerfully prepared sermons urged his parishioners to return to the stricter tenets of the Puritan religion, including the regular practice of fasting. Jonathan Edwards led his flock with his quiet, poignant style of preaching, believing that the Bible and his sermons should be in the “language of the people” to bring about deeper understanding. Prayer, repentance, and redemption were far more important than the priestly trappings and extravagant style of living so common to the monarchy.

Preaching in Boston in 1732, Edwards delivered the “Public Lecture”. This was the first time he spoke out publicly against Arminianism, or the belief that man had complete control over his destination. By contrast, Edwards believed, as did all of The Great Awakening preachers, that God had complete control over humankind’s redemption. It was God that granted individuals the faith they needed to find redemption. It was paramount that people prayed with all their might and listened to what the Bible had to say in the hope of becoming one of the blessed, and escaping the torments of Hell.

 

George Whitefield

Jonathan Edwards met up with George Whitefield during a revival tour running from 1739-1740. Both men were impassioned preachers, spreading the word throughout the Thirteen Colonies about Christ’s love, and that love’s transforming power. Revivals were springing up everywhere, teaching the belief that all were lost without the grace of God.

Jonathan Edwards’ followers called themselves the New Light Calvinists. Filling many New England area pastorates, they continued to spread Edwards’ ideals. Although Jonathan Edwards died in 1758, his belief system and Resolutions, among his other written works, continue to have an influence on Christian groups and individuals.

 

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