Jonathan Edwards, His Character, Teaching, And Influence -- By: Joseph P. Thompson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 018:72 (Oct 1861)
Article: Jonathan Edwards, His Character, Teaching, And Influence
Author: Joseph P. Thompson


Jonathan Edwards, His Character, Teaching, And Influence1

Joseph P. Thompson

When Jonathan Edwards, at the age of fifty-four, was chosen to the Presidency of Nassau Hall, at Princeton, New Jersey, he alleged as difficulties in the way of accepting “that important and arduous office,” — first, “his own defects, unfitting him for such an undertaking,” and secondly, that “course of employ in his study, which had long engaged and swallowed up his mind, and been the chief entertain-

ment and delight of his life.” Of defects he wrote: “I have a constitution in many respects peculiarly unhappy, attended with flaccid solids; vapid, sizy, and scarce fluids, and a low tide of spirits; often occasioning a kind of childish weakness and contemptibleness of speech, presence, and demeanor, with a disagreeable dulness and stiffness, much unfitting me for conversation, but more especially for the government of a college. I am also deficient,” he continues, “in some parts of learning, particularly in algebra and the higher parts of mathematics, and in the Greek classics; my Greek learning having been chiefly in the New Testament.”2 Such was the modest and evidently candid estimate which Edwards gave of his constitutional temperament and his acquirements in scholarship, as related to the Presidency of a college. What the detractors of Paul said of him at Corinth, Jonathan Edwards wrote of himself, — that “his bodily presence was weak, and his speech contemptible.” Yet the pen of Edwards, like the letters of Paul, was “weighty and powerful,” and when he turned from his own defects, — “many of which,” said he, “are generally known, besides others which my own heart is conscious of,” — and enumerated to the Trustees the studies in which he found “the delight of his life,” unfolding his method of study, and sketching the plans of his projected works, Edwards drew a psychological portrait of himself that looks upon us still with a calm and sacred majesty.

First, describing his habit of pursuing to the utmost anything “that seemed to promise light in any weighty point,” and the materials of thought he had thus accumulated; next, expressing his earnest desire to write out “many things against most of the prevailing errors of the day;” he proceeds to sketch “a great work “which he “had long had on his mind and heart,” “a History of the Work of Redemption,” a body of divinity in the form of a history; “beginning,” he says, “from eternity, and descending from

thence to...

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