Jonathan Edwards was a zealous pastor who never forgot for a moment that his own family was a part of that flock, and that he had been appointed to be a shepherd to these sheep also, those within his own fold. He was ever concerned for the salvation of the souls of men, all men, not overlooking those closest to him. He never for one moment assumed that his own children were of the elect. George Perry Norris describes him as a “tender brooding parent.”
[In the Edwards family] there was never an attempt to shield them from depressing experiences, death or taxes. This was an evil world. There was “vinegar in life.” There were “frowns from heaven.” The children were aware of it. And each one, when a shadow fell across his path, had been taught first of all to anxiously examine himself to discover if this were the chastening rod of God. No circumstance was considered apart from the hand of the Almighty. If, after careful prayerful analysis, he felt his course was right, he continued serene in his position in the midst of conflict.
[Sarah Edwards in writing to her daughter Esther at the death of her husband, Jonathan, said], “My Very Dear Child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.”
[Sarah Edwards] did not permit this soul communion to interfere with her daily duties and tasks, but somewhere in her busy schedule there was always time for a quiet walk with God. The children early learned to respect their father’s study hours, but they also recognized these times which were necessary for their mother, these moments when she needed to be alone to lose herself in God. They sensed their mother was Martha; but also she was Mary who sat at the feet of her Lord.
When all were in their places Father said grace and, excusing himself, left the family to retire to his study. He frequently spent thirteen hours a day studying. He managed this amazing amount of time by husbanding every hour of the day. He usually arose at four in the morning, indulging himself in the later rising time of five in the winter. In this way he was far along in his studies while the household slept. He preferred to eat alone, usually certain foods which he had by experimentation discovered kept his mind and body most sprightly. This morning he did not eat the rich menu which Venus set before the rest of the household, the home-cured bacon and the delicious hot breads. But at the end of the meal, he rejoined his family for morning devotions.
[Jonathan Edwards wrote of Sarah], “They say there is a young lady in (New Haven) who is loved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him… she has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in their affection… you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful… She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind…. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.”
[Esther Edwards Burr at the death of her husband Aaron said], “Had not God supported me by these two considerations: first, by showing the right he has to his own creatures, to dispose of them when and in what manner he pleases; and secondly, by enabling me to follow him beyond the grave, into the eternal world, and there to view him in unspeakable glory and happiness, freed from all sin and sorrow; I should, long before this, have been sunk among the dead, and been covered with the clods of the valley- God has side ends in all that he doth. This thing did not come upon me by chance; and I rejoice that I am in the hands of such a God.”
[Jonathan Edwards] seemed to manage very well by what he said rather than how he said it. There was always the memory of Enfield. In that village, in his calm way he had preached a sermon on “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The content of the message had so grabbed hold of his congregation that people held on in terror to the pews lest they slip into the great abyss of hell which they saw yawning at their feet.
Jonathan Edwards is described as a husband and father whose care and oversight of his family was thoroughly spiritual. He took seriously anything that troubled his children, and would save the evening hours to be spent in prayer and close fellowship with his family. Primarily concerned for the condition of their souls, Edwards taught each of his children to earnestly seek salvation, “to have God our friend, and to be united to Christ.”
[Though Jonathan Edwards] was intellectually brilliant and theologically commanding, his true greatness lay in his indefatigable zeal for the glory of God.
No theologian in the history of Christianity held a higher or stronger view of God’s majesty, sovereignty, glory and power than Jonathan Edwards (Roger Olson).
The glory of God was his supreme object, whether engaged in his devotional exercises, his studies, his social intercourse, the discharge of his public ministry, or in the publication of his writings. All inferior motives seem to have been without any discernible influence upon him (Sereno Dwight).
[Edwards] set the Lord always before him; encouraging upon all occasions an earnest concern for the glory of God, the grand object for which he desired to live both upon earth and in heaven, an object compared with which all other things seemed in his view but trifles. If this were attained, all his desires were satisfied; but if this were lost or imperfectly gained, his soul was filled with anguish (Sereno Dwight).
Does any of us know what an incredible thing it is that (Jonathan Edwards), who was a small-town pastor for 23 years in a church of 600 people, a missionary to Indians for 7 years, who reared 11 faithful children, who worked without the help of electric light, or word-processors or quick correspondence, or even sufficient paper to write on, who lived only until he was 54, and who died with a library of 300 books – that this man led one of the greatest awakenings of modern times, wrote theological books that have ministered for 200 years and did more for the modern missionary movement than anyone of his generation?
Consider the impact of one godly father, Jonathan Edwards. This famous early American pastor, writer, and one-time president of Princeton University had 11 children. Of his known male descendants:
More than 300 became pastors, missionaries or theological professors
120 were professors at various universities;
110 became attorneys;
60 were prominent authors;
30 were judges;
14 became presidents of universities or colleges;
3 served in the U.S. Congress;
1 became vice president of the United States.