When Evangelist George Whitefield visited the American colonial town of Northampton, he had the privilege of staying with Jonathan and Sarah Edwards and their family.
Edwards and Whitefield – Similarities and Differences
Edwards and Whitefield shared many similarities. They were both highly respected Christian leaders, they both had a reputation as powerful preachers, they were both Calvinistic in their theological outlook.
But there, the similarities ended. Their style of preaching was very different. Edwards was a careful, logical teacher. Whitefield was all life and fire, thunder and lightning.
Edwards was a meticulous writer, crafting pamphlets for publication. Whitefield barely had the time to check the proof copies of manuscripts of his sermons and had the disappointment of seeing very poor versions of his sermons in print without his permission.
Edwards was a settled Pastor overseeing a local congregation, and very much a responsible Pastor of one parish. Whitefield, on the other hand, had declared that the whole world was now his parish and lived a life of itinerant preaching.
Edwards was a family man, with a godly wife and several children. Whitefield was still single, and still waiting for the love of his life to come along.
Whitefield longs for family life
Describing the private times he enjoyed with the Edwards family, Whitefield wrote,
‘Felt wonderful satisfaction in being at the house of Mr. Edwards. He is a son himself, and hath also a Daughter of Abraham for his wife.
‘A sweeter couple I have not yet seen. Their children were dressed not in silks and satins, but plain, as become the children of those who, in all things, ought to be examples of Christian simplicity.’
Whitefield Prays for a Wife
Speaking of Sarah Edwards Whitefield wrote, ‘She is a woman adorned with a meek and quiet spirit, talked feelingly and solidly of the things of God, and seemed to be such a help-meet for her husband, that she caused me to renew those prayers, which, for some months, I have put up to God, that he would be pleased to send me a Daughter of Abraham to be my wife.
‘I find, upon many accounts, it is my duty to marry. Lord I desire to have no choice of my own. Thou knowest my circumstances; thou knowest I only desire to marry in and for thee.
‘Thou didst choose a Rebecca for Isaac, choose one for me to be a help-meet for me, in carrying on that great work committed to my charge. Lord, hear me, Lord, let my cry come unto thee.’ (George Whitefield Journals, Banner of Truth, ps. 475-477)
It may sound strange to us that his future wife might not be a ‘choice of his own’. Surely his choice ought to come into it? But, humbly though somewhat self-consciously (he knew his Journals were being published and read avidly), he is merely expressing that he wants God’s will for his life and is nervous of messing it up himself.
It is a good thing to pray, and to take counsel from friends, to honestly ask God and Pastors for help and guidance.
He did eventually marry and found happiness. His friend John Wesley also married. But that’s another story for another time…
For more resources on Jonathan and Sarah Edwards visit the excellent Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University
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© 2009 Lex Loizides