Nature and the Mind: Early Writings
B ORN on October 5, 1703, Jonathan Edwards spent the first thirteen years of his life in East Windsor, Connecticut. His father, Timothy Edwards, was pastor of this community and his mother, Esther, was the daughter of the famous, influential minister of Northampton, Solomon Stoddard ( 1643-1729). Although a frontier village, East Windsor was a fairly settled agricultural community in which, as in most typical small New England towns of the time, religion was an integral part of daily activity. Within these relatively sedate surroundings, young Jonathan's curiosity about God and nature was nurtured. During this time he doubtless may have heard -- perhaps at the dinner table -- something of the controversy Grandfather Stoddard had recently provoked over who should be permitted to partake of the Lord's Supper, but most likely it did not much concern him then. How could he have intuited that the liberalizing eddies of his grandfather's practice would eventually become painfully real to him when, in later years, he would find it necessary to swim against the current of its influence?
Fortunately, several of Jonathan's early writings have been preserved. These documents reveal an alert and inquisitive mind. The precollegiate essays on spiders and the rainbow are representative of this mind, both reflecting a special sensitivity to the physical world as well as to the relation between nature and God. Nature, for Jonathan, directs one's mind to the Creator. The essay on spiders implies more than the boy may have been aware of, for in relating nature and God he conveys the impression that man in some