George Marsden Recounts Jonathan Edwards’ Death

When I read George Marsden’s biography of Jonathan Edwards, I was overwhelmed by the former’s theological and historical acumen. There is a reason why he is a household name in American Religious History and why he led a group of scholars known as the Evangelical Mafia – within the ranks of the historical guild. This man is giant among boys when it comes to doing religious history! Well..enough of that.

Toward the end of the book, like all other biographies, Marsden recounts the final words of Edwards as the latter was knocking on death’s door. These are the words captured by Edwards’ daughter, Lucy:

Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now like to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father, who will never fail you.

Edwards died in Princeton, NJ, away from his wife and children (except Lucy), for they were still in Stockbridge, MA, waiting for spring to come. Edwards worked tirelessly as a theologian/pastor, but more importantly, he shepherded his family even as death came calling.

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One thought on “George Marsden Recounts Jonathan Edwards’ Death

  1. I have always appreciated Edwards concern for the spiritual condition of his children. Look at this short excerpt from his letter to his son Timothy:
    Stockbridge, April 1, 1753

    My Dear Child,

    Before you will receive this letter, the matter will doubtless be determined, as to your having the smallpox. You will either be sick with that distemper, or will be past danger of having it, from any infection taken in your voyage. But whether you are sick or well, like to die or like to live, I hope you are earnestly seeking your salvation. I am sure there is a great deal of reason it should be so, considering the warnings you have had in word and in providence.

    That which you met with, in your passage from New York to Newark, which was the occasion of your fever, was indeed a remarkable mine, a dispensation full of instruction, and a very loud call of God to you, to make haste and not to delay in the great business of religion. If you now have that distemper, which you have been threatened with, you are separated from your earthly friends; none of them must come to see you; and if you should die of it, you have already taken a final and everlasting leave of them while you are yet alive, not to have the comfort of their presence and immediate care, and never to see them again in the land of the living. And if you have escaped that distemper, it is by a remarkable providence that you are preserved. And your having been so exposed to it, must certainly be a loud call of God, not to trust in earthly friends, or anything here below. Young persons are very apt to trust in parents and friends, when they are sick, or when they think of being on a deathbed. But this providence remarkably teaches you the need of a better friend, and a better parent, than earthly parents are; one who is everywhere present, and all-sufficient; that can’t be kept off by infectious distempers; who is able to save from death or to make happy in death; to save from eternal misery and to bestow eternal life.

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