Sarah Edwards :Faithful Women (Rerun)

My younger daughters and I are reading through Noel Piper's Faithful Women, which profiles five "ordinary women" who serve an extraordinary God. Once again, I have been so encouraged by reading about Sarah Edwards. I started to write a post about her, but remembered that I already had done so when I first read this book four years ago. So, here's a re-run. 

People who knew Sarah usually mentioned her beauty and ability to put people at ease. In some ways she was very different from her introverted husband, but they were also similar. Both were highly intelligent, loved music, and were devoted to the Lord. They had met at least by the time Jonathan was nineteen and she was thirteen. From notes he left in a Greek grammar book, he was clearly pretty distracted by this young lady. Two years later they were engaged, and married in another two years. Marriage was good for Jonathan. Mrs. Piper writes:
Marsden says, “By fall 1727 [about three months after the wedding] Jonathan had dramatically recovered his spiritual bearing, specifically his ability to find the spiritual intensity he had lost for three years.”
What made the difference? Perhaps he was better fitted for a church situation than for the academic setting at Yale where he taught before accepting the pastoral position. It also seems likely that the recovery was closely related to their marriage. For at least three years prior to this, in addition to his rigorous academic pursuits, he had also been restraining himself sexually and yearning for the day when he and Sarah would be one. When their life together began, he was like a new man. He had found his earthly home and haven.

Sarah’s role was chiefly to free her husband “to pursue the philosophical, scientific, and theological wrestlings that made him the man we honor.” Jonathan was apparently not the easiest person to be married to, (one famous biography of Sarah is called Marriage to a Difficult Man), but Sarah worked to make their home a happy place for him, creating an atmosphere where he was free to work and think. I love this quote from Samuel Hopkins, a man who lived with them a while:

While she uniformly paid a becoming deference to her husband and treated him with entire respect, she spared no pains in conforming to his inclination and rendering everything in the family agreeable and pleasant; accounting it her greatest glory and there wherein she could best serve God and her generation {and ours, we might add}, to be the means in this way of promoting his usefulness and happiness.

In our age, women are told we need to seek our own ministry. I remember years ago when Tim was interviewing for a youth pastor position being asked, “But what will your ministry be?” I told my questioner that I viewed my role as supportive of Tim. We planned to use our home for hospitality and I would work alongside him, especially with young women. This didn’t satisfy the woman. “But what about YOUR ministry?” I told her I would probably also teach young children and work with moms, since I was doing that then (and now), but I don’t think I ever really satisfied her.

Women are made to be their husband’s helpers, not the converse. Our chief ministry should be helping our husband’s to do the work God has called him to, and working along side him. His vision should become our vision. And we should not minimize the importance of making the home a secure, warm, peaceful, welcoming place for our husband, children, and guests.

Sarah Edwards wasn’t just a wife. She was also a mother of eleven children, all of whom survived to at least adolescence, which was not at all a given in colonial America. You’ve probably heard of the remarkable accomplishments of the Edwards offspring. Samuel Hopkins had this to say about how Sarah managed her brood:
She had an excellent way of governing her children; she knew how to make them regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blows…If any correction was necessary, she did not administer it in a passion; and when she had occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words, without warmth [that is, vehemence] and noise…

Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or disobedience in the child…wisely reflecting that until a child will obey his parents he can never be brought to obey God.

There’s much more, including about Sarah’s walk with the Lord, but I’ve been too wordy already. No, wait – one more story, dear to my chocolate-loving heart. One reason we know some details of the Edwards’ family life is that they saved scraps of paper – old bills, shopping lists, first drafts of letters. Paper was expensive, so Jonathan would sew these scraps together and then write his sermons on the clean side. Apparently many of the shopping lists included a reminder to her husband to not forget to buy chocolate!

And there are four more such profiles in Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God. Each one leaves me asking if I would be found faithful in such circumstances. Every woman ought to read this book!


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