Jonathan Edwards: An Awakening of Heart and Mind
by Kenneth Samples
A sense of God’s majesty combined with desire for deep spiritual intimacy characterizes one of America’s greatest evangelical thinkers.1 Known as the theologian of God’s sovereignty, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) made enduring contributions in the fields of theology, philosophy, and the psychology of religion. A nurturing pastor, frontier missionary, and bold revivalist preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Edwards exemplifies a man who integrated reason (the mind) and personal devotion (the heart) in unwavering dedication to the sovereign God revealed in creation and Scripture. These convictions helped Edwards stand firm during a time when a new “enlightenment” threatened Christianity, much as it does today.
Born October 5, 1703 in East Windsor, Connecticut (part of New England in colonial America), Jonathan Edwards descended from a family of highly regarded clergymen. His father, Timothy Edwards, was a Congregationalist pastor as was his mother’s father. The fifth of eleven children, Jonathan was his parents’ only son. He “grew up in an atmosphere of Puritan piety, affection and learning.”2
Vigorous academic instruction at home led a precocious preteen Edwards to write a sophisticated essay on the immateriality of the human soul. At this same tender age, he also penned essays on the flying spider and on the rainbow—the first written expressions of a lifelong interest in the natural world. Scholars have noted that these writings “reveal remarkable powers of observation and deduction.”3 Edwards’ writing concerning rainbows clearly implies his early mastery of the optical theories set forth by Sir Isaac Newton.4
As a child, Edwards began jotting down his reflections and observations on various topics in a notebook––a practice that continued throughout his entire life. He later incorporated these notes in his writings. Upon his death, he left nine volumes of notebooks entitled “Miscellaneous Observations,” containing some 1,360 entries.
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