Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jonathan Edwards

Princeton, New Jersey.  Visited May 2008

I'm kicking off I See Dead People with one of my spiritual heroes - Jonathan Edwards. Edwards lived from 1703 to 1758. He was a pastor/theologian who ministered most of his life in New England. Edwards is closely associated with the Great Awakening, a wide-spread spiritual revival which occurred during his pastorate in Northampton, MA 1734-35. He wrote about the experience of revival, and wise understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in his book A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (common title).

The only remnant of the church in Northampton where
Jonathan Edwards served as pastor - the stone step
leading into the meeting house. 

One of the things I appreciate about JE was that he understood his weaknesses and worked against them his whole life. For example, he wasn’t what you’d call a people person, which is a problem for a guy trying to pastor a church. But he fought that tendency by opening up his home and life to others, even folks who didn’t always see things his way.  Edwards was a man who wanted to live out the faith as if God is really who He says He is.

Jonathan Edwards was named first president of the College of New Jersey (which became Princeton University) in 1758, but died that same year after contracting small pox from a small pox vaccine. His daughter, who was with him at the time also contracted the disease and died about the same time, leaving small children orphaned. Edward's wife Sarah, who was preparing to move to New Jersey at the time, came down to care for her grandchildren. Sadly, she too fell ill and died in Princeton a few months after her husband and is buried with him.

Andy and fellow JE fan John Shaw with
Edwards at Old Princeton

Edwards final known words: "Trust in God and you need not fear."

Jonathan Edwards is buried at Old Princeton Cemetery (not to be confused with Princeton Seminary), among a number of great Princeton theologians (maybe to appear here in the future). Well worth a visit.

If you want to read a great bio of Jonathan Edwards, check out George Marsden's Jonathan Edwards - A Life.  If you want a great place to start reading Edwards (not an easy task, the man was thick with ideas!) I suggest his Charity and Its Fruits, an exposition of 1 Corinthians 13. Here's a favorite quote from that book:

Church history buffs on a Great Awakening tour August 2012

Sarah Edwards plaque on the Edwards crypt


"As you have not made yourself, so you were not made for yourself. You are neither the author nor the end of your own being. Nor is it you that uphold yourself in being, or that provide for yourself, or that are dependent on yourself. There is Another that hath made you, and preserves you, and provides for you, and on whom you are dependent; and He hath made you for Himself, and for the good of your fellow creatures, and not only for yourself. He has placed before you higher and nobler ends than self, even the welfare of your fellowmen, and of society, and the interests of His kingdom; and for these you ought to labor and live, not only in time, but for eternity." (180-81)

Others blog subjects buried at Princeton Cemetery:
Benjamin B Warfield


  1. Well, well...who knew we had such an odd interest in common. Cemeteries, that is...although I like JE also. I love cemeteries...the older, the better. I have actually only seen one famous grave, Benjamin Franklin's at Christ Church Cemetery in Philly. Visiting that beautiful resting place led me to read "Bring Out Your Dead" about the 1793 Yellow Fever plague that hit Philadelphia...that was my "vacation reading" while we were away just last month. I love the history of old places and cemeteries seem especialy fascinating. Apparently, my parents used to take me for walks in a cemetery near their home when I was a wee babe...maybe that's where I get it from :) Thankfully, Steve also finds them interesting and is usually up for checking out old cemeteries too. I'll be looking forward to your next post~

    Rachel G.

  2. We love checking out old cemeteries, too ...especially taking rubbings of epitaphs on the really old graves. Many are rich in wonderful reflections on the godly character and lives of the departed. Not a cemetery, but if you ever find yourself in the Berkshires, "Mission House" on Main Street in Stockbridge, MA, built 1739, is owned and operated by the Trustees of Reservations and is the home of the first missionary to the Mohican Indians, the Rev. John Sergeant. It is filled with original antiques, including Jonathan Edwards writing desk from time he spent there. Apparently he was a very tall man and his desk is anything but. We stumbled upon it by accident during a vacation in the mid 90's ...the guide told us Edwards spent hours hunched over this small desk writing by oil lamp, pouring out his sermons and works. Enjoying your blog, Andy!