SARAH PIERPONT, who became the wife of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, was the daughter of James Pierpont, the minister at New Haven. Her grandfather was John Pierpont, who settled in Roxbury, Mass. He was the son of Sir John Pierpont of Nottingham, in England. Her father was one of the founders of Yale College, trustee, and professor of moral philosophy. She was also descended from the Rev. Thomas Hooker, known as ‘the father of Connecticut churches.”
Mr. Edwards was desirous of being married at once…
…but she replied with a refusal to marry until she was seventeen, and when he insisted by declaring that “patience was not a virtue,” she still adhered to her refusal, and they were not married until July 26, 1727.
She certainly would have received commendation from President Roosevelt, and perhaps have been awarded a medal, for in less than twenty-two years she became the mother of eleven children.
Prof. Louis Albert Banks gives an interesting account of their courtship and family life: Soon after coming to Northampton, Edwards decided to seek him a wife. While in New Haven, in attendance on Yale College, he had first heard of Sarah Pierpont, who is described as a young woman of marvelous beauty. When young Edwards was only twenty years old, and this girl thirteen, he wrote a paragraph concerning her, which the famous Dr. Chalmers is said to have greatly admired because of its eloquence.
“They say there is a certain young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate on Him; that she expects after a while to be received up where He is, to be raised up out of the world, and caught up into Heaven; being assured that He loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from Him always. There she is to dwell with Him and to be ravished with His love and delight forever.
Therefore if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards and cares naught for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind, and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this great Being. She is of a wonderful calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this great God has manifested Himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure, and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have someone invisible always convening with her.”
Sarah Pierpont Edwards seems to have been worthy of the eloquent description of her lover.
The famous George Whitefield, visiting them many years afterwards, and spending several days at Northampton, left his impression of his visit in his diary in the following paragraph:
“On the Sabbath felt wonderful satisfaction at 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 seen. Their children were dressed, not in silks and satins, but plain, as becomes the children of those who in all things ought to be examples of Christian simplicity.
She is a woman adorned with a meek and quiet spirit, and talked so feelingly and so solidly on the things of God, and seemed to be such an helpmate to her husband, that she caused me renew those prayers which for some months I have put up to God, that he would 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.”
Mrs. Edwards’ character has been fully and carefully considered in many volumes, and in magazine and newspaper articles. It is possible here to mention only a few of the things in which she is said to have excelled, and to have set an example worthy of the imitation of all. She is said to have become remarkably religious at the age of five years.
During her life she was eminent for her piety. Religious conversation was her delight, and she promoted it whenever possible.
The friends of true religion, and those who were ready to engage in religious conversation, were her peculiar friends and intimates. She took delight in the religious duties of the closet and highly prized social worship. It was her custom to attend private meetings of religious worship that were kept up at Northampton while Mr. Edwards lived there. She paid proper deference to her husband, and treated him with decency and respect at all times. As he was of a weakly and infirm constitution, and was peculiar and exact in his diet, she spared no pains to conform to his inclinations, and made things agreeable and comfortable for him. No person of discernment could be conversant with the family without observing the great harmony and mutual love that subsisted between them. She bore her own troubles with patient cheerfulness and good humor.
She was a good economist, managing her household affairs with discretion. She was very careful that nothing should be wasted or lost. She took almost the whole care of the temporal affairs of the family within doors and without, and in this she was peculiarly suited to Mr. Edwards’ disposition, who chose to have no care of worldly business.
She had an excellent way of governing her children. She knew how to make them respect and obey her cheerfully. She seldom struck her children a blow, and if any correction was needful, it was not given in a passion. When she had occasion to reprove or rebuke, she would do it in a few words and in a calm and gentle manner. In her directions or reproofs, she addressed herself to the reason of her children. Quarrelling and contention, such as frequently takes place among children, was not known among them. She was sensible in many respects that the chief care of forming children by government and instruction naturally lies on mothers, as they are generally with their children in their most pliable age, when they commonly receive impressions and their characters are formed for life. As the law of kindness was in her tongue, so her hands were not withheld from beneficence and charity.
She was always a friend and patroness of the poor and helpless, and did much in acts of charity as well as in commending it to others on all occasions. She was remarkable for her kindness to her friends, and visitors who came to see Mr. Edwards. She would spare no pains to make them welcome and provide for their comfort and convenience. She made it a rule to speak well of all, so far as she could with truth and justice to herself and others.
She was not wont to dwell with delight on the imperfections or failings of any; and when she heard persons speaking ill of others, she would say what she thought she could with truth and justice in their excuse.
Lucy was the fifth child and fifth daughter of Mr. Edwards. She attended her father in his last sickness. When he became sensible that he could not survive, he called her to him and addressed her in a few words, which were taken down in writing as nearly as could be recollected:
It seems to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you; therefore give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she shall be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now like to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you. And as to my funeral, I would have it to be like Mr. Burr’s; and any additional sum of money that might be expected to be laid out that way, I would have it disposed of to charitable uses.”
The Mr. Burr to whom he referred was his son-in-law, President Aaron Burr, of the College of New Jersey. He had ordered on his deathbed that nothing should be expended but what would be agreeable to the dictates of Christian decency, and that the sum that must be expended at a modish funeral, over and above the necessary cost of a decent one, should be given to the poor, out of his estate.
At the present day, appeals are often made through the newspapers that the cost of funerals may be reduced. The author of the work from which the above quotation is made, in commenting upon the request made by President Burr and President Edwards in regard to their funerals, said, in 1799: “It is to be wished and hoped that the laudable example of these two presidents, in which they bear their dying testimony against a practice so unchristian, and of such bad tendency so many ways, may have some good effect.” It is evident that some reforms progress very slowly, for the tendency, during the past hundred years, has undoubtedly been to increase the outlay for funeral expenses rather than to decrease them.
The prevailing increase in expenditure at the present time comes in the way of more expensive coffins, or caskets, and the long retinue of carriages which follow the deceased to the grave. In the olden days it was the custom to give away a great number of costly mourning scarfs, and there was, as the old chroniclers say, a consumption of a great quantity of spirituous liquors.
President Edwards said but very little during his sickness. Just before his death, some persons who sat in the room expressed deep regret at the great loss to the college and to religion in general. To their surprise, not imagining that he had heard or would ever speak another word, he said: “Trust in God and ye need not fear.” These were his last words.
The physician who inoculated and constantly attended him wrote as follows to his wife:
“Never did any mortal man more clearly and fully evidence the sincerity of all his professions, by one continued, universal, calm, cheerful resignation and patient submission to the divine will, through every stage of his disease, than he. Not so much as one discontented expression, nor the least appearance of murmuring through the whole. And never did any person expire with more perfect freedom from pain: not so much as one distorted hair, but in the most proper sense of the words, he really fell asleep.”
As the same physician who inoculated President Edwards performed a like service for Mrs. Esther Burr, he is probably the medical gentleman who, after her death, said that he could call her disease by no name but that of a messenger sent suddenly to call her out of the world.
From the old volume from which so much valuable information has been obtained, we extract the following:
Mrs. Sarah Edwards, the amiable consort of President Edwards, did not long survive him. In September she set out in good health on a journey to Philadelphia, to take care of her two orphan grandchildren, which were now in that city, and had been since the death of Mrs. Burr. As they had no relations in those parts, Mrs. Edwards proposed to take them into her own family. She arrived there by the way of Princeton, September 21, in good health, having had a comfortable journey, but in a few days she was suddenly seized with a violent complaint which put an end to her life on the fifth day, October 2, 1758, in the 49th year of her age. She said not much in her sickness. On the morning of the day she died, she apprehended her death was near; when she expressed her entire resignation to God, and desired that God might be glorified in all things; and that she might be enabled to glorify him to the last: and continued in such a temper, calm and resigned, till she died.
Her remains were carried to Princeton, which is about forty miles from Philadelphia, and deposited with Mr. Edwards’. Thus, they who were in their lives remarkably lovely and pleasant, in their death were not much divided. Here lie the father and mother, the son and daughter, who are laid together in the grave, within the space of a little more than a year, though a few months ago their dwelling was more than 150 miles apart. Two presidents of the same college and their consorts, than whom it will doubtless be hard to find four person more valuable and useful; in a few months are cut off from the earth forever; and by a remarkable providence are put, as it were, into one grave! And we the survivors are left under the gloomy apprehension that these righteous are taken away from the evil to come!
Surely America is greatly emptied by these deaths! How much knowledge, wisdom, holiness is gone from the earth forever! And where are they who shall make good their ground!
Taken from , THEODOSIA THE FIRST GENTLEWOMAN OF HER TIME, Chapter 5, Great Grandmother – Sarah Pierpont.