Jonathan Edwards was an 18th-century clergymen and author, and president of what is now Princeton University, who is remembered primarily for his powerful preaching and writing. His sermons and published works helped launch the Great Awakening in 1734-35 and the geographically more extensive revival in 1740-41. From 1716 to 1718, Edwards was one of 14 college students at what became Yale, who, along with their teacher, Elisha Williams, worshiped at First Church's second Meetinghouse.
Edwards remains relevant today because he wrote eloquently of his struggle with the question of what it means to truly be a Christian. He came to believe that each of us needs a conversion experience-to be born again, as some put it. When he applied this to his parishioners at the Congregational church in Northampton, Massachusetts-where he had served as pastor for many years and where his grandfather had been pastor before him-he was rejected by the congregation.
Edwards is remembered at First Church through our Jonathan Edwards Room in the church’s Morgan House, with a sitting area, books and periodicals by and about Edwards, and a replica of his unique rotating desk. At Yale, Edwards is remembered by having one of its colleges named for him. To Yale students these days, it’s known simply as “JE.”