Jonathan Edwards, Healer of Rifts

Today the power was out at work mid-morning. We were sent away to lunch early but then expected to return, and then sent home when it was determined the power would likely remain off for most of the afternoon. so I had twice as many commutes today as I normally do, during which I was listening to Steven J. Lawson lecture on the great American puritan Jonathan Edwards.

I was particularly struck by a story about Edwards’ 8-month internship at a Presbyterian church in New York City (at which time he wrote the Resolutions). This small congregation had split from its parent church not because of theological or doctrinal agreements (they had none), but because of matters of polity. After 8 months under Edwards’ preaching, Lawson said, the congregation decided to return to the very church they had left.

Douglas Sweeney puts it this way,

Within a year, their schism was healed, thanks in part to Edwards’ ministry. Anderson resigned the pulpit at First Presbyterian and Edwards’ flock returned to its former pasture. Despite the brief and rocky history of this wayward congregation, though, its people treated Edwards well and gave him room to grow. By all accounts, his first pastorate proved a blessing to all concerned.

I suppose the story loses some impact when you consider that one who had offended the disaffected had resigned; you don’t know if the other pastor’s resignation is a cause, or an effect, or merely incidental. Regardless, that’s a nice legacy to leave. Most modern American churches are centered around their pastor, rather than the flock. In Edwards’ time, for the most part, the flock was the flock, with exceptions in large towns like New York where you had people from different religious backgrounds (the city was mainly Anglican). It’s good to see the flock reunited.


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