A Walk through Northampton

It’s not often when a family of five with three kids five years and under decide on the spur of the moment, on a crisp Saturday morning in November, to drive nearly two hours for a history lesson.

That’s exactly what we did yesterday. And it was completely worth it.

Around 8am, my wife, half serious, half joking, said, “Let’s go to New Haven” (in Connecticut, where Yale is located). A two hour and 40 minute drive—a bit ambitious. I suggested we drive to Northampton, MA, a bit closer. That’s where Jonathan Edwards lived and ministered from 1726-1750. As a pastor and someone who has read and benefited from the life and ministry of Edwards, I’ve wanted to visit for some time. “Really? Are you serious?” Bailey, our five year-old, asked with a hesitant, yet anticipatory smile. Yes! Fifty minutes later, snacks were packed, all were dressed and in the van. Day trip here we come.

We spent the entire afternoon walking (with a little bit of driving…lots of little legs in our crew) around Northampton. Relive the journey with us here.

Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center
We were clueless about where to go and what to see. We thought this museum was a good place to start. It’s small and quiet with no visible Edwards artifacts. “I’m a fan of Edwards. Is there anything you can point us to?” I asked the curator. She showed me two original printed copies of sermons from Edwards. Bingo.

Below, on the left is his farewell sermon after he was dismissed (i.e. fired—yes, Jonathan Edwards was fired by his congregation). It was preached in 1750 and published in 1751. On the right is A Divine and Supernatural Light (which I had the pleasure of reading a few years ago). It was preached in 1734.


The curator then showed us a guide for a walking tour throughout the town. Bingo #2.

The Bridge Street Cemetery
We began at the end. On resurrection ground.


Jonathan and Sarah Edwards are buried at Princeton Cemetery in New Jersey, but their cenotaphs are located here. You can see the surname “Edwards” at the bottom of the large monument (left). It has their names and birth/death dates on the front and the names and dates of their eleven children on the other three sides. Jonathan Edwards’ individual cenotaph is on the right.


There were other graves we wanted to see. I couldn’t find Solomon Stoddard, Edwards’ grandfather, the prominent Northampton pastor who preached at the church before Edwards. Carly, not even realizing who she had found at the time, took this photo. She said later that she had a sense, probably given by God, that “this was an important man.” She was right.


We found the gravesite of David Brainerd, a missionary to Native Americans, who died at age 29. His stone could have said, “Here lies a man who did not waste his life.”


We told our kids today, as we often do, that those who know Jesus will rise with new bodies someday. On Resurrection Day. As I walked this cemetery, set in the birthplace of the Great Awakening, I couldn’t help but wonder, How many of these souls first trusted in Jesus during that revival? How many of their family came to Jesus in the years following? How glorious will the celebration be in this place when Jesus returns?

On to the meeting house.

Meetinghouse Hill
The Meetinghouse is where the town gathered for all sorts of things, including worship. The First Meetinghouse stood from 1655-1661. Edwards preached in the Second and Third Meetinghouses. The Fourth Meetinghouse was destroyed by fire. Pictured below, still standing today, is the “Fifth Meetinghouse,” built in 1878.


Walking in to the house, we stood on a semi-circle step (you can see it in the picture on the left) which was one of the original steps of the Third Meetinghouse. Sunday after Sunday, Edwards walked over this slab as he went to preach the gospel to his congregation.


Inside, a memorial tablet of Edwards that was unveiled in 1900.


Near the front of the room, just to the right of the pulpit, rested a door with several notes tacked to it. They are affirmations of what “I do not believe [in].” To say that these notes are in this location is ironic is a massive understatement. Edwards, who proclaimed the sovereignty, supremacy, and goodness of God in all things (including evil), the definite atonement of Christ on the cross, and the judgment of God on unrepentant sinners, would have been appalled.

It grieved and angered our hearts, too.


On to the Edwards’ home.

Edwards’ Homestead
The Edwards’ actual home no longer exists. The adjacent street was renamed Edwards Square in his honor (top).  The homestead was made up of dozens of acres on King Street in Northampton. A Catholic church (more irony) now stands where his home was located (bottom left and center).


Across the street was a cafe and bakery. It had been a long day. We needed a snack. Jonathan probably never had the pleasure of enjoying a chocolate chip cookie. We enjoyed a few for him.

On to The Edwards church.

The Edwards Church
Founded in 1833 when the number of people outgrew the First Congregational Church’s  “meetinghouse,” this church was named in honor of Edwards. The current version was built in 1958 (left). On the side of the building is a stone tile of Edwards, one of four tiles depicting scenes of early religious life in the area (right).


We had to walk along Main Street to get here. I later told Carly that while we walked, “I felt alone. Like we—the five of us—were alone.” It’s difficult to describe. We are heirs of the theology and heart of Edwards. It became evident on our walk that Northampton, the cradle of the Great Awakening, is not. Carly, in her wise, clear, and concise way articulated it: “I know what you mean. It felt oppressive.” 

One more stop. On to the library.

Forbes Library
In the rear of the library was another semi-circle stone—a granite doorstep from the Edwards’ homestead.


After Edwards was dismissed from his church, he became a missionary to Native Americans. I’m no Edwards—not even close. But for me, as pastor and soon-to-be missionary in an area with many Native Americans, to have my family stand on the stoop that Jonathan and Sarah and their eleven children would have walked on hour after hour, day after day, was perhaps the most serene and wonderful moment of the day.

As we drove home in the dark, overlooking a faint orange and purple sunset hovering above the Berkshires, I said to Carly, “Today made him a bit more real to me. I’m thankful for that. I can’t wait to meet him.” She agreed.

And someday, on Resurrection Day, if not before, we will.


Monday Miscellanies: Future State

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

897. Future State: Immortality of the Soul

They which deny that the First Cause of all things, that has regulated and disposed nature and animates the world, is properly an intelligent, voluntary agent, yet can’t deny but that it acts like one, in the highest and most perfect manner conceivable: disposing and ordering things with respect, one to another, for final causes, and in proportion and harmony and due respect to that which is future, or a good hereafter to be obtained; because this is notorious fact, in millions of instances everyday before our eyes. And if so, why may we not suppose that it will cause things to come to pass in such a regularity, proportion and harmony of events in the intelligent world, and not leave all in the utmost confusion, and to end in confusion—the evil happy, and the good miserable, the worst highest, and the best kept in subjection?


Monday Miscellanies: Happiness and the End of Creation

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

87. Happiness

‘Tis evident that the end of man’s creation must needs be happiness, from the motive of God’s creating the world, which could be nothing else but his goodness. If it be said that the end of man’s creation might be that He might manifest his power, wisdom, holiness or justice, so I say too. But the question is, why God would make known his power, wisdom, etc. What could move him to will, that there should be some beings that might know his power and wisdom? It could be nothing else but his goodness.

This is the question: what moved God to exercise and make known these attributes? We are not speaking of subordinate ends but of the ultimate end, of that motive into which all others may be resolved. ‘Tis a very proper question, to ask what attribute moved God to exert his power, but ’tis not proper to ask what moved God to exert his goodness; for this is the notion of goodness, an inclination to show goodness. Therefore such a question would be no more proper than this, [namely] what inclines God to exert his inclination to exert goodness—which is nonsense, for it is an asking and answering a question in the same words. God’s power is shown no otherwise than by his powerfully bringing about some end. The very notion of wisdom is, wisely contriving for an end; and if there be no end proposed, whatever is done is not wisdom. Wherefore, if God created the world merely from goodness, every whit of this goodness must necessarily ultimately terminate in the consciousness of the creation; for the world is no other way capable of receiving goodness in any measure. But intelligent beings are the consciousness of the world; the end, therefore, of their creation must necessarily be that they may receive the goodness of God, that is, that they may be happy.

It appears also from the nature of happiness, which is the perception of excellency; for intelligent beings are created to be the consciousness of the universe, they they may perceive what God is and does. This can be nothing else but to perceive the excellency of what he is and does. Yea, he is nothing but excellency; and all that he does, nothing but excellent.

92. End of Creation

How then can it be said that God has made all things for himself, if it is certain that the highest end of the creation was the communication of happiness? I answer, that which is done for the gratifying of a natural inclination of God may very properly be said to be done for God. God takes complacence [satisfaction] in communicating felicity [happiness], and he made all things for this complacence. His complacence in this, in making [us] happy, was the end of the creation. Revelation 4:11, “For thy pleasure they are and were created.” See No. 581.


Monday Miscellanies: Planets

A guest post by Jonathan Edwards

1303. Planets

The uncertainty of their being inhabited: That some of the planets are such huge things, so vastly bigger than the globe of the earth, is no certain sign of their being inhabited. This planet we dwell upon may, nevertheless, be as it were elected to infinitely greater and more important purposes. Such an election there is with regard to the seed of plants and animals. Where there is one that is used for the purposes for which they are fitted, to produce a future plant or animal, vast multitudes are, as it were, thrown away in divine providence. Those seeds are as great a work of God, perhaps, as the bodies of Saturn or Jupiter, notwithstanding their vast bulk. The greatness of the bulk is but a shadow of greatness or importance. Nevertheless, they may [be], as it were, rejected and neglected of God, when a far lesser body may be chosen before them, as ’tis with divine election as exercised among mankind. A poor child may be infinitely more made of by God than some mighty potentate that rules over a large empire, though such a prince is like a vast, huge body in comparison with the other. But truly his greatness is but the shadow of greatness.


The Holy Spirit or a Bad Piece of Beef?

Cathedra-HolySpirit 2Have you ever wondered how to know if something is from the Holy Spirit or something else? You feel something warm inside at a concert or revival meeting. Your church has a wave of emotions come over the congregation at a service. A person says they have a message from God for you. You feel a tug of the heart to stop and talk to a total stranger at the mall.

Chances are, you have wondered about these or similar things before. We ask, “Is this the Holy Spirit? Is it my fragile mind, a guise of Satan, or a bad burrito?” Thankfully, some great thinkers, like Jonathan Edwards, have gone before us and thought about these kinds of questions.

Edwards was a master at discerning the work of the Spirit. He wrote a little booklet about it called Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Edwards lived and ministered in the thick of the Great Awakening–a time of great revival in New England. His theology of the Spirit’s work was thus formulated in the crucible of everyday ministry, not in the sanitized study of a theoretical theologian. He was ruthlessly biblical in his approach, and 1 John 4 was an especially helpful guide for him. From Scripture, Edwards found five marks, or signals, that the Spirit is at work:

  1. Treasuring Jesus: When something happens and people fix their gaze upon the Jesus revealed in Scripture and upon what he has accomplished in the gospel, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God. 
  2. Hating Evil: When something opposes the work and interests of Satan, and when sin is exposed and killed, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God.
  3. Loving Scripture: When something moves people toward an increased love and desire for the Bible and its rich and layered truth, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God. 
  4. Discerning Truth and Error: When something enlightens people to believe in, embrace, and apply truth as it is seen in Scripture, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God.
  5. Loving God and People: When something produces sincere love for God and other people, you can be sure it is the Spirit of God.

Much more could be said, but this is clarifying, convicting, and comforting! As we encounter happenings, feelings, or urges and run them through this “grid,” we will be able to discern the work of the Spirit. Even more, let’s pray for the Spirit to work so that we continually see these five marks evident in our individual and corporate lives!