Billy Graham Center

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent.]

Small Collection 72 - Ephemera of Jonathan Edwards Sr.

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Small Collection 72 [February 23, 1996]

Edwards, Jonathan Sr.; 1703-1758

Ephemera; 1748-1750

1 Folder, Negative, Photograph


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.


Jonathan Edwards was the only son of Rev. Timothy and Esther Stoddard Edwards in a family of eleven children. He was born October 5, 1703, in East Windsor, Connecticut, and experienced his first conversion at age ten after one of his father's annual revivals. A brilliant student, Edwards graduated from Yale with highest honors at seventeen; while studying theology at Yale graduate school, he experienced a second major spiritual experience which had a lasting impact on his life.

His first pastorate (1722), was at the First Presbyterian Church in New York City, followed by a second assignment to a church in Bolton, Connecticut, in 1723. In 1724, he accepted a tutoring position at Yale, but left after a breakdown in health in 1725. In the fall of 1726, he was offered an assistant pastorate in the Congregational Church, Northampton, Massachusetts, where his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, was pastor. Edwards became his successor when Stoddard died in 1729. The six hundred member parish was regarded as the most important in western Massachusetts at this time. During these years, he married Sarah Pierrepont from New Haven, great-granddaughter of Thomas Hooker, who became an important counter-balance to Edwards' propensity to books, solitude, and forthright speech.

Problems with his congregation arose over Edwards' dogmatic preaching stressing a total sovereignty of God. His denunciatory sermons, which appealed to fear, however, assisted in the conversion of a notorious town "company-keeper" which in turn was the first conversion of a revival which touched virtually the entire town in December 1734. His "Narrative of the Surprising Word of God," (1736), was one of the primary sources for the Great Awakening which swept the colonies. This had ended by 1742 and reaction set in; no new members were added to Edwards' church between 1744 and 1748.

When a new applicant for membership finally attempted to join the church, Edwards enforced his policy of insisting on a mature confession of faith after baptism before allowing the partaking of communion. This was a contradiction of Solomon Stoddard's Half-Way Covenant which had allowed baptized adults to become church members if they did not lead "scandalous" lives, in spite of not having made an adult confession of faith. Their children would become non-voting church members. Edwards had followed Stoddard's practice, though privately disapproving, until 1746 when he published his views. Edwards' reversal of Stoddard's policy led to strong congregational reaction and refusal to accept his stand. His view on communion had been preceded by an unpopular discipline of young people reading forbidden books, causing him to anticipate a break with his congregation. He was ousted as pastor of the church on June 22, 1750, by due process of Congregational procedure.

Because lifetime pastorates were the norm, his removal had the effect of public banishment. He turned to writing and working with Indians and in 1757 was called to the presidency of Princeton. Before he could assume these duties, Edwards died in March 1758.

Scope and Content

Materials in this collection consist of four sheets, three of which are handwritten minutes of meetings of Edwards' congregation at Northampton in 1748, 1749, and 1750. The fourth is a page from a receipt book, probably in Edwards' handwriting, dated 1749-1750.

Document #1, May 1748, concerns a mistaken payment source for Edwards' salary, amended to be drawn from the proper treasury. Document #2, January 1749-1750, is a record of appointment of a committee to confer with Edwards, and to be sent to Boston for information in order to respond to Edwards' book on communicants. If this was not forthcoming, an individual was designated to write an answer to the issue. Document #3, January 1749-1750, records the the appointment of a committee to dissuade Edwards from preaching his views on communicants. Document #4 is a set of receipt notations, presumed to be in Edwards' hand, listing salary payments, payments made and received, and loans of a book and pamphlets. Transcripts of each document are included in the folder. There is also a photograph of a print depicting Jonathan Edwards.


The materials for this collection were received by the Center in November 1979 from Mickey Wells and purchased at auction for the Archives by Terry Alford at Waverly Books, Waverly, Pennsylvania.

Accession 79-134, 80-154 No date


Accession 79-134 Type of material: Negatives

The following items are located in the NEGATIVE FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below. All the negatives are black and white, unless otherwise noted.


EDWARDS, JONATHAN. Negative of an engraved print of Jonathan Edwards. 1 b&w.


Accession 79-134 Type of material: Photographs

The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the the beginning of each entry below.


EDWARDS, JONATHAN. Engraved print of Jonathan Edwards. 1 b&w.

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Last Revised: 4/15/99
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005