Jonathan Edwards

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For the former Senator from North Carolina, see John Edwards


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Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) was a Minister of a Congregationalist church in Northampton, Massachusetts during the Great Awakening. He is best known as the author of the classic "fire and brimstone" sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. However, his most important contribution to the awakening was his book, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising work of God (London, 1737), which provided guidance to other clergy as to how to conduct a revival.

He began his advanced education when he went to Yale University at age 13 and graduated as valedictorian at 17. He was serving as the president of Princeton University when he received the smallpox inoculation, having been assured it would be safe. However, it was very dangerous and killed him.

His inspiring preaching helped start the Great Awakening, which became a huge religious revival that helped unite the colonies prior to the American Revolution. Like most eighteenth century Congregationalists (who were derived from the seventeenth century "Puritan" church), Edwards was a Calvinist; however, traditional Calvinist maintain that only the elect, who had been chosen before the creation of the world, could achieve salvation.[1] By the time of the Great Awakening, most Calvinist clergy had altered their views that one could alter their eternal fate (which was the point of most of Edward's sermons).

Aaron Burr was a grandson of Jonathan Edwards through one of Edwards' daughters. Burr by no means followed his grandfather: in addition to his murder of Alexander Hamilton during a duel, he openly had an affair with a woman married to a British soldier (though after her husband's death in battle, he married her) as well as several others during his lifetime.


"Of all of the kinds of knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important." -- Jonathan Edwards

See also




  • Iain H. Murray "Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography" (Banner of Truth Trust, 1987)

Frank Lambert, Inventing the “Great Awakening” (Princeton University Press, 1999)