The “Little Church”: Raising A Spiritual Family With Jonathan Edwards -- By: Peter Beck

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 02:1 (Jan 2010)
Article: The “Little Church”: Raising A Spiritual Family With Jonathan Edwards
Author: Peter Beck


The “Little Church”: Raising A Spiritual Family With Jonathan Edwards

Peter Beck

Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules.1

The spiritual nurture of the family, God’s “little church,” Jonathan Edwards reminded his auditors on his last day as their pastor, is of greater import than even the ministry of the local church. “Family education and order,” he told the rebellious parishioners in Northampton, “are some of the chief means of grace.” Failure to raise one’s children in the grace and admonition of the Lord tends toward weakened spiritual efforts on all fronts. Faithful diligence, however, feeds greater works of grace in every other area of life.2

Today, Edwards is known for many things. Commonly recognized as America’s greatest philosopher, his reputation as an exemplar theologian is well deserved. Likewise, his acclaim as a preacher and promoter of piety is well founded. Over the 250 years since his premature death, much has been said about Edwards’s thought. Thousands of books and articles of varying lengths have seemingly touched upon every conceivable area of his life and thought. Yet, much remains left untouched, just below the surface of an overwhelming sea of sermon manuscripts and unpublished material. One such piece of the Edwardsean puzzle that has been heretofore glossed over is his views on the family and the spiritual role of the family unit.3

This essay will attempt to unlock some of the treasures of Edwards’s theology of the family for the purpose of teaching another generation that which the great Puritan knew so well: the parent’s greatest duty is to seek and promote the salvation of his child. Said Edwards, “If you love your children, it concerns you a great deal more to take care and pains that they may be safe in Christ and have God’s seal set upon them, than to provide earthly things for ’em.”4

Spiritual Life In The “Little Church”

A Christian family is as it were a little church and commonwealth by itself, and the head of the family has more advantage in his little community to promote religion than ministers have in congregations.5

In the Edwards home, the birth of every child was marked carefully in the family Bible, a wedding gift to Jonathan and Sarah. Every child was thus, from birth, dedicated to ...

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