Small Collection 072 Ephemera of Jonathan Edwards
Scope and Contents
The materials in this collection contain Northampton church meeting minutes, a receipt page, and engraved print. Meeting minutes consist of four hand-written documents. The first, dated 1 May 1748, concerns a mistaken payment source for Edwards’ salary, which was corrected to be drawn from the proper treasury. The second document, dated January 1749-1750 records the appointment of a committee to confer with Edwards and to travel to Boston to obtain more information regarding Edwards’ book on reversing Solomon Stoddard’s policy on open communion. If no information on the book was available, the committee resolved to appoint a respondent to address Edwards’ position. The third document, also dated January 1749-1750, records appointment of another committee to dissuade Edwards from preaching his views on communion. The fourth document is a set of receipt notations, presumably in Edwards' handwriting, listing salary payments, payments made and received, and loans of a book and pamphlets. Transcripts of each document are included in the folder. There is also a photograph of a print depicting Jonathan Edwards.
- Created: 1748-1750
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
Biographical or Historical Information
Jonathan Edwards was the only son of Rev. Timothy and Esther Stoddard Edwards in a family of eleven children. He was born October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut, and experienced his first conversion at age ten after one of his father's annual revivals. A brilliant student, Edwards graduated from Yale with highest honors at seventeen; while studying theology at Yale graduate school, he experienced a second major spiritual experience which had a lasting impact on his life.
His first pastorate (1722), was at the First Presbyterian Church in New York City, followed by a second assignment to a church in Bolton, Connecticut, in 1723. In 1724, he accepted a tutoring position at Yale, but left after a breakdown in health in 1725. In the fall of 1726, he was offered an assistant pastorate in the Congregational Church, Northampton, Massachusetts, where his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, was pastor. Edwards became his successor when Stoddard died in 1729. The six hundred member parish was regarded as the most important in western Massachusetts at this time. During these years, he married Sarah Pierrepont from New Haven, great-granddaughter of Thomas Hooker, who became an important counter-balance to Edwards' propensity to books, solitude, and forthright speech.
Problems with his congregation arose over Edwards' dogmatic preaching stressing a total sovereignty of God. His denunciatory sermons, which appealed to fear, however, assisted in the conversion of a notorious town "company-keeper" which in turn was the first conversion of a revival which touched virtually the entire town in December 1734. His "Narrative of the Surprising Word of God," (1736), was one of the primary sources for the Great Awakening which swept the colonies. This had ended by 1742 and reaction set in; no new members were added to Edwards' church between 1744 and 1748.
When a new applicant for membership finally attempted to join the church, Edwards enforced his policy of insisting on a mature confession of faith after baptism before allowing the partaking of communion. This was a contradiction of Solomon Stoddard's Half-Way Covenant which had allowed baptized adults to become church members if they did not lead "scandalous" lives, in spite of not having made an adult confession of faith. Their children would become non-voting church members. Edwards had followed Stoddard's practice, though privately disapproving, until 1746 when he published his views. Edwards' reversal of Stoddard's policy led to strong congregational reaction and refusal to accept his stand. His view on communion had been preceded by an unpopular discipline of young people reading forbidden books, causing him to anticipate a break with his congregation. He was ousted as pastor of the church on June 22, 1750, by due process of Congregational procedure.
Because lifetime pastorates were the norm, his removal had the effect of public banishment. He turned to writing and working with Indians and in 1757 was called to the presidency of Princeton. Before he could assume these duties, Edwards died in March 1758.
Language of Materials
Accruals and Additions
The materials in this collection were purchased by the Billy Graham Center Archives in 1979 and 1980.
- Small Collection 072 Ephemera of Jonathan Edwards
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