Judith Nicholls writes ...
This book made me a little nostalgic. Christian biography was considered essential for discipling young Christians then. It’s still not a bad corrective to the “what’s in it for me” nature of much contemporary Christian literature. For this book comprises brief accounts of the lives of five astonishing women who differ in background, status, education and ethnicity but are consumed by a passion to serve the Lord Jesus whatever the cost.
Sarah Edwards - Faithful in the Mundane (1710-1758)
Although remote in time, Sarah Edwards’ life will resonate with many women. Her husband, Jonathan, was the famous preacher of the Great Awakening whose influence on both the church and the nation of the USA is incalculable. A beautiful and accomplished young woman her life with the intense Jonathan could be described as one of domestic drudgery and fearsome expectations. That may ring bells for some! Yet her focus on Jesus enabled her to transform the mundane. Samuel Hopkins, one of a long line of apprentice pastors to ship up on the Edwards’ doorstep describes Sarah’s sensitive concern for him (keep in mind that at this time she had seven children ranging in age from thirteen to one):
I told her I was in a Christless, graceless state … upon which she entered into a free conversation and … told me she has prayed respecting me since I had been in her family; that she trusted I should receive light and comfort and doubted not that God intended to do great things by me.Hopkins remained a great admirer and later became a leader of the abolitionist movement.
The great English preacher George Whitfield prayed for a marriage like that of the Edwards but Jonathan’s criticism of her at a traumatic time in their ministry brought on a spiritual crisis. Complete physical breakdown preceded a sense of blissful fellowship with God. This incident highlights an important issue in reading biography. How do we evaluate what we are told? Piper clearly regards Sarah’s experience as a work of the Holy Spirit. Other writers psychologise what happened. The biblical test of any “spiritual” experience is whether or not it results in more godly behaviour and devotion to Jesus. Jonathan Edwards was in no doubt. He noted of his wife:
A great meekness and gentleness, and benevolence of spirit and behaviour, and aPicture from www.bookforum.com: John Badger, Sarah Edwards, ca. 1740, oil on canvas.
great alteration in those things that formerly used to be the person’s