Church Foundations

Sarah Edwards

By Brandon Markette

Someone once said, "Behind every great man their stands a great woman." Certainly Jonathan Edwards is one example of this statement. Edwards is rightly counted one of the greatest minds the Americas every produced. His writing still influences Christians, today. But Edwards did not live in a vacuum. He lived with a family — a wife, Sarah, and 11 children. History records Edwards as an attentive, loving husband and father who believed his family to be a major part of his ministry. Not only do we remember Jonathan Edwards, but also his wife whom he saw as an example of Christian faith and a life lived for the glory of God.

Sarah Pierpont was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1710 to James and Mary Pierpont. Her father pastored First Church in New Haven and took part in founding Yale University. The Pierponts raised their daughter with the class and sophistication expected from a family whose lineage includes the first Mayor of New York. They educated her well, teaching her theology in addition to the skills necessary in society of the time. This upbringing produced a Christian woman who became such a helpmate for her husband, Jonathan, that the famous evangelist George Whitefield prayed for God to bring him such a woman.

At the age of 13, Sarah Pierpont met 20-year-old Jonathan Edwards. It was, no doubt, an awkward meeting, but Edwards was taken with Sarah immediately. After that first meeting, he wrote of her:
They say there is a young lady from New Haven who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on him — that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love, favor and delight, forever.
This paragraph reveals the bind that brought these two quite different people into an amazing marriage. Though Jonathan was an intellectual, given to abstract thought, Sarah was concrete, able to remember the day-to-day tasks necessary to running a household. Whereas Jonathan was reserved, even withdrawn, Sarah was socially proficient. Those differences prove to be a strength in this marriage because of their passionate faith that bound them together. After four years of courtship, Jonathan and Sarah married in 1726.

During their marriage, Sarah performed many of the roles expected of wives in that time. She gave birth to 11 children. She managed the Edwards' home. But she didn't do so because of social expectations and pressures. Her leadership in her family ministry, which many of her social peers looked down upon, proves Sarah was not beholden to society's expectations. No, Sarah viewed this work as a significant part of her own ministry. She saw these tasks as assisting her husband's work. That was her God-given, and God-glorifying, task.

For Jonathan Edwards, Sarah provided a living example of authentic conversion and spirituality. In 1742, while Jonathan was away, Sarah endured an ecstatic spiritual experience that even required enlisting the aid of others in the housework. Upon his return, Jonathan listened closely to everything his wife could recall, taking copious notes. Convinced that this was a work of God, Edwards described his wife's experience in his 1743 work, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England.

In addition to her roles of wife, mother, and Christian example, Sarah also served as what we might call a sounding board. After the Northampton Church dismissed her husband, the family moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. There Jonathan pastored a Native American congregation and wrote. Each evening Sarah would listen as her husband read to her the fruit of the day's labor, no doubt helping him complete such works as his famous Freedom of the Will.

Perhaps the best way to see this godly woman's character is from her own hand. In 1756, Sarah bid farewell to Jonathan, as he traveled to accept the presidency of Princeton and comfort their widowed daughter. Just a few, short months later, Jonathan Edwards died from small pox. When Sarah received word of Jonathan's death she wrote a short letter to her daughter. In it Sarah showed remarkable maturity, trust, and an unmatched love for God. She wrote:
My very dear child!
         What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.
         Your affectionate mother,
         Sarah Edwards
The Edwards' children are also a testimony to their mother's godliness. Sarah Edwards was the wife of Jonathan Edwards, but we remember her for much more than her marriage relationship. In all that she did, Sarah Edwards exemplified a passionate faith and exemplified a life lived for the glory of God.


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Published 3-24-2014