If anyone seemed justified in getting even, it was Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), Puritan pastor in Northampton, Massachusetts. Continue reading . . .
If anyone seemed justified in getting even, it was Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), Puritan pastor in Northampton, Massachusetts. In December of 1748, Edwards told a man who applied for church membership that he must give a credible testimony that he had been born again before he would be admitted to the Lord’s Table. This sounds routine to us, but in eighteenth-century New England it was revolutionary. Until the time Edwards took a firm stand, no profession of saving faith was required.
The opposition Edwards faced was hostile and vindictive. All that he asked for was an opportunity to explain his views from the pulpit. He even wrote a book on the subject. But the governing church council refused his request and few people even bothered to read his written defense.
The attack on Edwards was less theological than personal. But why? He hadn’t committed adultery or stolen money from the offering plate or slacked off in the preparation of his sermons. Perhaps no one has ever been less like a twenty-first-century televangelist than this Puritan pastor! So why was he persecuted?
There were several factors in addition to his opposition to treating the Lord’s Supper as a “converting” ordinance (i.e., an ordinance freely given to those lacking a credible Christian testimony in hopes that the Spirit would use their participation as a means to convert them to saving faith). Edwards and his wife Sarah had eleven children, prompting him to seek an increase in salary. That didn’t go over well. Then there was the practice of “bundling” among the town’s youth. With their parents’ permission, they would cuddle and embrace beneath blankets