Eternal Torment for the Wicked: Unavoidable and Intolerable – Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards – (1703-1758), American Puritan theologian and philosopher Edwards was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, to Timothy Edwards, pastor of East Windsor, and Esther Edwards. The only son in a family of eleven children, he entered Yale in September, 1716 when he was not yet thirteen and graduated four years later (1720) as valedictorian. He received his Masters three years later.
As a youth, Edwards was unable to accept the Calvinist sovereignty of God. He once wrote, “From my childhood up my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God’s sovereignty It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me.” However, in 1721 he came to the conviction, one he called a “delightful conviction.” He was meditating on 1 Timothy 1:17, and later remarked, “As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before I thought with myself, how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven; and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever!” From that point on, Edwards delighted in the sovereignty of God. Edwards later recognized this as his conversion to Christ.
In 1727 he was ordained minister at Northampton and assistant to his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard. He was a student minister, not a visiting pastor, his rule being thirteen hours of study a day. In the same year, he married Sarah Pierpont, then age seventeen, daughter of James Pierpont (1659-1714), a founder of Yale, originally called the Collegiate School. In total, Jonathan and Sarah had eleven children.
Jonathan Edwards was a key figure in what has come to be called the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s.
Written in 1746 during the First Great Awakening, Religious Affections remains an important and challenging Christian treatise. Concerned that many people do not display true “religious affections,” Jonathan Edwards attempts to “discern…wherein true religion does consist.” Balancing between extreme “intellectualism” and extreme “emotionalism,” Edwards argues that emotions are an important part of true religion, but that one must distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate emotions. He provides both “negative” or unreliable signs of true religious emotions, and “positive” or reliable signs of true religious emotions. Religious Affections is thus profitable for study even today, and many contemporary theologians and pastors have found Edward’s work insightful and significant. For its historical importance and its continuing insights, Religious Affections is highly recommended.