9 October 2000
Jonathan Edwards, a serious student with few friends and little patience for a social life, somehow won the heart of a bright, friendly, and well-to-do young lady by the name of Sarah Pierrepont. Their attraction to each other was based on something that transcended their seemingly different personalities: their passionate love for Jesus Christ. As they spoke of Him and grew closer to Him, they found themselves growing closer to each other. One can see that God planned their union, for Sarah was definitely a "helper suitable" for Jonathan. She complimented him as he supported her, and as they dedicated all they had to the Lord, He used them for his glory.
The Lord prepared Sarah for the life she was to lead with Jonathan. She grew up in the church, the daughter of a minister, so she was familiar with the constant demands of life in a parsonage and the constant scrutiny of critical parishioners. Pierrepont was a highly respected name, and Sarah's childhood was very comfortable. Although education of women was not looked upon favorably in this time, Sarah received a substantial education from tutors at home. She was raised as a "young lady of quality," and learned proper manners and good posture, so that "by the time Sarah became the uneasy object of Edward's awkward advances she stood instinctively with a lifted chin" (Dodds 16). Her upbringing prepared her for her role as hostess, housewife, and mother as well as a helpmate, intellectual partner, and companion of Jonathan Edwards. They were married on July 28, 1727 (Miller 40).
Altogether, Sarah and Jonathan had eleven children. With a constant flow of guests to the parsonage, one can only imagine the endless cooking, cleaning and nursing done by Sarah. She rarely raised her voice to her children; instead she sought to "train them in ways of independent judgment and reasonableness, always explaining to them why she asked them to do thus and so" (McGiffert 92-3). She would go to Jonathan if she had problems with the children, and he would always support her completely. They were a parenting partnership, and their marriage was a testimony that their children would remember. Working together to raise a family, the Edwards' had a significant influence on the shaping of America. By 1900, the single marriage had produced
100 lawyers, and a dean of an outstanding law school
80 holders of public office:
mayors of three large cities
governors of three large states
a Vice President of the US
a controller of the US Treasury (Dodds 38).
'It was a happy circumstance that he could trust everything... to the care of Mrs. Edwards with entire safety and undoubting confidence...she spared no pains in conforming to his inclination and rendering everything in the family agreeable and pleasant; accounting it her greatest glory and there wherein she could best serve God and her generation, to be the means in this way of promoting his usefulness and happiness' (Dodds 35).Sarah's religious experiences also influenced Jonathan's opinions on the Great Awakening. She was overcome with intense religious emotions and visions under his preaching about which she wrote the account used by Jonathan in Some Thoughts.
It started with simply a soft criticism from Edwards about how she may have been a little rude to a gentleman. He then left for the weekend, and she broke down. Her cheerfulness and patience had turned to insecurity and turmoil as she wrestled with God. She analyzed herself, and found that she has two chief cares in this world, "1st, my own good name and fair reputation among men... 2ndly And, more especially, the esteem and love and kind treatment of my husband" (Dodds 98). Edwards comment hit hard where she hurt most, and she crumbled. At this time, she was also jealous of another younger minister who had come to fill Jonathan's place in his absence. She hated the idea that the people might respond to him rather than Jonathan. She was fiercely protective of her husband's honor. Her turmoil lasted for only a short while, and then she was lifted up with heavenly visions and overwhelmed with the comfort and love of God. She felt herself ready to renounce the opinion of others, the love of her close friends, even the esteem of her husband for the love of God (Miller 204-5). This experience produced a lasting feeling of assurance and rest in God that Jonathan would marvel at for the rest of his life. He wrote of this experience in Some Thoughts, and passionately defended its validity. He believed strongly that her experience was from God:
'Now if such things are enthusiasm, and the fruits of a distempered brain, let my brain be evermore possessed of that happy distemper! If this be distraction, I pray God that the world of mankind may be all seized with this benign, sweet, beneficent, beatifical, glorious distraction' (Miller 205).
As Jonathan Edwards was on his deathbed, he thought of his wife from whom he had learned so much. After a long and productive life, wherein he resolved to live every bit to the fullest, he said, " '...give my kindest leave to my dear wife and tell her that the uncommon union which has so long existed 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'" (McGiffert 212). Jonathan Edwards died March 22, 1758 (22).
In her grief, Sarah clung to her faith and leaned heavily on the One who they both had always loved. The death of her daughter Esther shortly after Jonathan's placed another weight of sadness on Sarah's shoulders, yet despite her sadness she sought to raise Esther's children. Even after Jonathan's death, Sarah seized opportunities to support him and make his work for the Lord further known. She encouraged Hopkins to write Edwards Memoirs after his death (McGiffert 167). Not meant remain a widow, Sarah was hit by a dysentery epidemic at the age of forty-nine. Because of the physical and emotional strain of the past six months, she had no strength to resist it (Dodds 199). One who was with her in her last days reported, " 'she apprehended her death was near, when she expressed her entire resignation to God and her desire that he might be glorified in all things; and that she might be enabled to glorify him to the last; and continued in such a temper, calm and resigned, till she died" (Dodds 200).
Sarah and Jonathan had a marriage that is a testimony to all generations. They encouraged each other's strengths and compensated for each other's weaknesses. As God brought Eve to Adam to be his companion and helpmate, so God brought Sarah to Jonathan. He orchestrated their lives so that their union was a beautiful and lasting testimony to the world. Loving each other in God's will, they paint a beautiful picture of God's plan for marriage.
Dodds, Elizabeth D. Marriage to a Difficult Man. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press,1976.
This book provided the most detailed account of Sarah's personal life and relationship with Jonathan. It also provided valuable information about the events in Jonathan's life and how Sarah reacted. Dodds pays less attention to dates and hard facts and more to personal details.
Tracy, Patricia J. Jonathan Edwards, Pastor. New York: Hill and Wang, 1979.
This book provided additional information on Sarah's influence on Religious Affections and her spiritual experiences. It focused mostly on her relationship to Jonathan concerning the church.
McGiffert, Arthur C. Jonathan Edwards. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1892.
This biography focused on Jonathan but did provide some valuable information on Sarah's relationship with her husband and her home life.
Miller, Perry. Jonathan Edwards. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973.
This book gave information on Sarah's experiences and fears, and some background information.
Winslow, Ola E. Jonathan Edwards. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1940.
This book gave valuable Information on Sarah's personal experiences- specifically her romance, way of life, religious experiences, and death.