jtrhart

Jonathan Edwards Whirlwind Weekend; Take 2

In travel on January 14, 2008 at 10:37 pm

This past weekend Libby and I were able to spend a few days in the New England area, touring a few sites that were of particular interest to us…ok mostly to me, but Libby had fun too! From Wikipedia:

Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758) was a colonial American Congregational preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans. Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian”. He is known as one of the greatest and most profound of American theologians and revivalists. His work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Calvinist theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage. His fire-and-brimstone sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” emphasized the just wrath of God against sin and contrasted it with the provision of God for salvation; the intensity of his preaching sometimes resulted in members of the audience fainting, swooning, and other more obtrusive reactions. The swooning and other behaviors in his audience caught him up in a controversy over “bodily effects” of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

It is hard to sum up Edwards in one paragraph, so I would suggest reading more about him.

Our trip included a visit to Northampton, MA, then we stopped in NYC to hear Tim Keller preach again, then we made a quick jet to Princeton, NJ.

Northampton, MA – this is where Edwards began his ministry. I have to say the town seems to have forgotten its past in this respect. If you didn’t know who Edwards was before visiting the town, you probably wouldn’t find out before leaving. This is not to say that it is not worth a visit to the town, one site in particular made the trip an absolute joy.

  1. Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center has a section devoted to Jonathan Edwards and the life of the town during his ministry there.
    historic northampton museum outside

    historic northampton museum

  2. First Churches is the site where Edwards’ church met. It is not the original building; only a circular step remains of the original building with a small plaque to describe it. Inside you will find a bas-relief memorial to Edwards, although the building was closed when we were there. The building location is right in the center of town on the main road. In the 1700s it would have been a meeting house for all types of community events other than Sunday Morning services. Today, it doesn’t seem to have the same draw. The main street is lined with small boutique stores which seems to be where the townspeople spend the majority of their time.
    First Churches

    First Churches stepping stone

  3. The Edwards Church was started in 1833 but named its church after Jonathan Edwards. There are portraits of Jonathan and Sarah inside although this building was also closed when we were there.
    edwards church
  4. The Manse was the residence of Edwards’ grandfather Solomon Stoddard. It is privately owned today so a tour was not possible.
    the manse
  5. 127 King St. is the original location of Edwards’ homestead, where his wife Sarah provided housing to all types of travelers and missionaries in addition to raising their eleven children. The actual home is no longer there, what’s in its place now?
    st. valentines church
    A Roman Catholic church.
    edwards square
  6. Bridge Street Cemetery has a memorial to the Edwards family and is the burial place of his daughter Jerusha, who died when she was only 17.
    burial site of Jerusha Edwards
  7. The Forbes Library is not an historical site with regards to Jonathan Edwards, but, for me, this was the gem of the entire trip. There is a fabulous woman working in the library who spent quite some time showing us a few handwritten letters from Edwards as well as some of his handwritten sermons. The sermons he wrote were far to small to be read with the naked eye and she described to us that Edwards had a photographic memory and did not have a need to re-read the sermons he wrote out. She was very knowledgeable in the history of Northampton and, being a believer, has devoted much of her research to Edwards himself. This insight she gave us was far better than any of the historic sites we visited and both Libby and I left feeling uplifted from the time she graciously spent with us. Outside the library, they have kept a doorstep from Edwards’ homestead and setup a small plaque to describe it.
    doorstep from jonathan edwards' homestead

In all, the town is a great place to visit if you would like to see more of the history surround Jonathan Edwards. Obviously, the town has changed much physically since the 1700s but walking around gives you a feel for what the layout of the town would have been back then. With the church building so prominently in the central part of town, it is apparent how active the church was in the affairs of the town. Edwards’ home was only a few blocks away and would not have been very far for him to travel back and forth between the two.

After driving down through New York City to hear Tim Keller preach again (more on that tomorrow), Libby and I made a quick stop at the Princeton Cemetery, where Edwards was buried along side many other men who were president of Princeton University.

Edwards grave

edwards grave plaque

So ends our trip. Libby and I had a great time, I would like to go back and drive through Yale and see the collection there sometime and also go back to Northampton and see the sites when they are actually open. I would highly recommend this type of trip for anyone who has studied the life of Jonathan Edwards.

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  1. […] (The doorstep from Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ home is at the Forbes Library in Northampton; the photo shown here is by JTR Heart, original image here.) […]

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