Jonathan Edwards and Fatherhood, Part 2

Here is the second part of John Fanella’s material on Jonathan Edwards and fathers.

A Tribute to a Godly Father – Jonathan Edwards – Part 2

On this Father’s day, we continue our tribute to Jonathan Edwards. Let me begin by sharing a couple of humorous stories about this godly father.

His family life was a little bit scandalous. Six of his eleven children were born on a Sunday. In Colonial America, they believed that children were born on the same day of the week on which they were conceived. So the congregation believed the Pastor was up to a lot more than preaching on Sundays.

Another humorous story involves his daughter Sarah. She had a horrible temper. When a young man asked Pastor Edwards for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he said no. The young man was crushed. “But I love her, and she loves me,” he pleaded. “That makes no difference,” Edwards replied; “she isn’t worthy of you.” “But she is a Christian, isn’t she?” the young man argued. “Yes,” said Edwards, “but the grace of God can live with some people with whom no one else could ever live.”

On a more serious note, Edwards also knew suffering. His daughter Jerusha died of a high fever at just 17 years old. She was the most pious of the girls. She was considered “the flower of the family.”

He preached her funeral sermon from Job 14:2, “He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” (KJV). He found comfort in knowing Jerusha was with the Lord, and used the sermon to warn others to be prepared for their own death.

Another painful event happened in 1750 when Jonathan Edwards was voted out of his congregation. One of the reasons was because he wanted to serve communion only to people who had openly professed their faith in Christ.

His grandfather served communion to anyone who was baptized, whether they ever openly professed their faith or not. This, among other issues, turned the congregation against him, and they voted him out. He ended up moving to Stockbridge, MA and became a Missionary Pastor to Native Americans.

But it would be from this remote mission to Native Americans that Edwards would write some of the most important books in the history of our nation – including “Religious Affections” and “The Freedom of the Will.”

One of the lessons Jonathan tried to teach his children was to trust in the sovereign hand of God in all things. Today we may say, “God has a reason for everything.”

God seems to have used all these experiences to forge in the hearts of the Edwards’ children a faith and resolve for good that would last generations and literally sway our entire nation.

In 1757, Edwards received an invitation to become the President of the College of New Jersey (which later became Princeton University). He accepted.

But on March 22, 1758, Edwards died of complications from a smallpox inoculation.

The last words he wrote were to his daughter Lucy:

“Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you…As my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.”

When his wife Sarah got the news, she wrote a letter to their daughter Esther that sums up his life and influence.

“O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left to us.”

Edwards’ life and legacy are a testimony to the words of Proverbs 20:7- “The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.”