City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was a revivalist preacher, philosopher, and Protestant theologian. His initial affiliation inside Protestantism was Calvinist and Congregational. His colonial followers later distinguished themselves from other Congregationalists as “New Lights” (endorsing the Great Awakening), as opposed to "Old Lights” (non-revivalists). Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologians,” and one of the US greatest intellectuals. Edwards’ theological work is broad in scope, but he was rooted in Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage. Recent studies have emphasized how thoroughly Edwards grounded his life’s work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset. Edwards played a critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first revivals in 1733–35 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Edwards delivered the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, a classic of early American literature, during another revival in 1741, following George Whitefield’s tour of the Thirteen Colonies. Edwards is well known for his many books, The End For Which God Created the World, The Life of David Brainerd, which inspired thousands of missionaries throughout the 19th century, and Religious Affections, which many Reformed Evangelicals still read today. Edwards died from a smallpox inoculation shortly after beginning the presidency at the College of New Jersey (Princeton). He was the grandfather of Aaron Burr, third Vice President of the United States.