The Rigorous Discipline of Jonathan Edwards

Edwards usually rose at four or five in the morning in order to spend thirteen hours in his study.  In his only diary entry during his early years in Northampton he wrote, in January 1728, “I think Christ has recommended rising early in the morning, by his rising from the grave very early.”  The discipline was part of a constant, heroic effort to make his life a type of Christ.  He began the day with private prayers followed by family prayers, by candlelight in winter.  Each meal was accompanied by household devotions, and at the end of each day Sarah joined him in his study for prayers.  Jonathan kept secret the rest of his daily devotional routine, following Jesus’ command to pray in secret.  Throughout the day, his goal was to remain constantly with a sense of living in the presence of God, as difficult as that might be.  Often he added secret days of fasting and additional prayers.

His work was also a service to God in the many hours each day he devoted to study.  As Daniel Walker Howe has observed, if one is looking for the prototype of the work ethic in colonial America, it would be better to look to Edwards than Benjamin Franklin.  As Edwards saw it, the discipline of work was part of his worship of God, an offering of his time to God.  Moreover, huge amounts of work were directed towards knowing the ways of God.  In addition to carefully crafting lengthy sermons each week, he was deeply engaged in biblical study, a daily activity that produced several major notebooks filled with his tiny writing.

Copied from Jonathan Edwards: A Life by George Marsden.

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