Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) was a preacher, theologian, and missionary to Native Americans. Edwards “is widely acknowledged to be America’s most important and original philosophical theologian, “and one of America’s greatest intellectuals.”
Edwards’s theological work is very broad in scope, but he is often associated with his defense of Reformed theology, the metaphysics of theological determinism, and the Puritan heritage. Recent studies have emphasized how thoroughly Edwards grounded his life’s work on conceptions of beauty, harmony, and ethical fittingness, and how central The Enlightenment was to his mindset.
Edwards played a very critical role in shaping the First Great Awakening, and oversaw some of the first fires of revival in 1733–1735 at his church in Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards delivered the sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, a classic of early American literature, during another wave of revival in 1741, following George Whitefield’s tour of the Thirteen Colonies.
Edwards is widely known for his many books: The End For Which God Created the World; The Life of David Brainerd, which served to inspire thousands of missionaries throughout the nineteenth century; and Religious Affections, which many Reformed Evangelicals read even today. Edwards died from a smallpox inoculation shortly after beginning the presidency at the College of New Jersey (later to be named Princeton University), and was the grandfather of Aaron Burr.
For more on Edwards, see John Piper’s message, “A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later.”