At the turn of the Eighteenth-century there were changes in the air from Europe to New England. New books from across the Atlantic were already arriving at Harvard with new authors and an assortment of ideas. The eighteenth century would develop as a key time in the “Enlightenment” era, and also be known as a century of “Great Awakening.” Many exchanges regarding man’s ability to reason in relation to the Bible stimulated thought, research, and controversy. Yale College would also emerge in Connecticut among many clergymen who had studied at Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Even though Jonathan Edwards may have anticipated his academic journey following the same course as his father and grandfather at Harvard, his life would take a new turn. After graduating from Yale College with his Baccalaureate degree in 1720, and his Masters degree in 1723, Edwards would go on to serve under his grandfather at Northampton, and became the Senior Pastor when Stoddard died in 1729. As Edwards preached for the next eleven years, he was focused on the local church and a small awakening did occur in the mid-1730s. All through the years however, Edwards stayed informed about people and events at home and across the Atlantic. In 1740 he wrote to the itinerant preacher from England, George Whitefield, pleading with him to make his way west to Northampton, Massachusetts.
Once the “Great Awakening” broke out in New England, Edwards also began a transatlantic exchange of letters with several individuals in Scotland. One of the leaders in Scotland was Rev. James Robe. Robe, Erskine, and other Scottish ministers had read Edwards’ writings documenting his accounts of spiritual awakening in America. What Edwards did not realize at the time, was that God would also move in a great way among the churches in Scotland.
In a letter dated May 12, 1743, Edwards expressed to Robe, “Pleasant and joyful are the accounts which we have lately had from Scotland, concerning the kingdom of our God there, for which we and the world are specially indebted to you, who have honored your dear Lord, and refreshed and served his church, by the accounts you have published…Future generations will own themselves indebted to you for those accounts. I congratulate you, dear Sir, on the advantages God has put you under to favor the church of God with a narrative of his glorious works, by having made you the instrument of so much of them, and giving you such glorious success in your own congregation.” In closing his letter to Robe, he urged his friends in Scotland, “don’t forget New England; and don’t forget your affectionate and obliged brother and servant, and unworthy fellow-laborer, Jonathan Edwards.”~TKE~
Dr. Toby Easley
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