PURITANISM still maintained its hold on New England when Jonathan Edwards, the only son in a large family, was born in East Windsor, Connecticut, on October 5, 1703. He was taught at home, but his education certainly did not suffer from it, for he knew enough to be admitted to Yale College at the early age of less than thirteen.
At the college he became interested in the works of Newton and Locke. From the former he learned the importance of thinking logically from causes to effects, or vice versa; from the latter he assimilated the idea that all knowledge without exception has its ultimate source in sensations. But the familiar five senses did not seem quite sufficient to him to account for the needs of religion; so he found it necessary to postulate the sixth, "supernatural," sense and arrived at a philosophy not unlike Berkeley's subjective idealism, according to which data of experience are the only reality, thus making the matter underlying the senses totally superfluous. This philosophy was expressed in his youthful "Notes on the Mind," but remained unknown to his contemporaries.
On graduation from the college ( 1720), Edwards went, as minister, first to New York, but soon joined ( 1726) his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, a congregational pastor in Northampton, Mass., where he spent altogether twenty-five years. Unorthodox and passionate, sometimes awe-inspiring in his preaching, he aroused much opposition among the more liberal elements, but also much enthusiasm among those coming in direct contact with him. He was responsible for the first religious revival in America, begun in 1734 in his own church and gradually extended through the colonies.
Jonathan Edwards himself led a life of stern discipline and hard work. However, he also demanded much of his followers, so much in fact that in the course of years he alienated many of them and acquired as many enemies as admirers. Finally his enemies prevailed and he was dismissed ( 1750) from his church. Then he became missionary to the Indians around Stockbridge where he devoted much of his leisure time to study and writing, even though