Ahhh….young love. Now it might disturb you that Edwards was 20 when he wrote this about his future wife, Sarah. Yet keep in mind that it was four years before they married and the age of Sarah was normative for females to marry in the 1700’s. The words below were written on a leaf on one of Edwards’ student books.
“They say there is a 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 treasures, she disregards it and cares not 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 anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of 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 conversing with her.”
That was impressive. I don’t know if I am more taken by the theological depth of Edwards at 20 or the apparent godliness of his 13 year-old future bride.
For the interest of those reading this blog post, I will write about the apparent godliness of a 13 year-old.
I have two daughters, Maddy, who is 11 and Ensley, who is 8. Both daughters have professed a commitment to trust in Christ alone for their salvation. Yet it is hard to imagine this degree of piety from either of them in the next two to five years.
Please understand I am not demeaning the current degree of godliness of my daughters. Their piety certainly exceeded mine at their age. And I am not naïve to the fact that blossoming love often sees the cup as perpetually “half full”, rather than “half empty”. Yet even if Edwards’ assessment was only half true, this was an exceptional young woman.
Here are a couple thoughts:
Edwards never mentions her external beauty.
I understand there could be many explanations for this. Maybe Edwards thought it but never said it. Maybe he struggled thinking that he shouldn’t care about it. Maybe she really was ugly. Here is the point: Edwards cared more about her inner, spiritual beauty. This is what ALL MEN SHOULD FIRST care about.
1 Peter 3:3-4 Do not let your adorning be external- the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing- 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.
It is hard to do this today. Our media elevates physical beauty. The idols of girls today are airbrushed, perfectly portrayed on teen magazines. Teenage plastic surgery is at an all-time high. The images on the internet leave a lasting imprint on the minds of young (and old) men and when they can’t find it in the natural world, it is there waiting for them in the fantasy world of their laptops.
And yet I am quickly reminded that there is “nothing new under the sun”. Proverbs 5 speaks of the dangers of the “forbidden woman”.
Proverbs 5:1-5 My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, 2 that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. 3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, 4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; 6 she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
Crazy. Not much difference between 950 B.C. and 2012 A.D.
Edwards spent time observing her life.
Though his account may initially cause you to wonder if he had voyeuristic tendencies, the reality is that he truly knew her because he patiently watched her.
Is there wisdom in Edwards’ approach? I think so. How well do you truly know someone on a date? Two dates? Three dates? The reality is that “you know them as well as they want to be known”. Edwards saw something within her that had NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM, but HAD EVERYTHING TO DO WITH her relationship with the “Great Being”.
Now unfortunately, Edwards did not leave any additional information about their four-year courtship, so we don’t know how this practically played out. Did he ask questions of the family? Did their families hang out together? Did Edwards make it a habit to walk by their property? Again, those details are unknown. But what is known is that Edwards was convinced of her love for God and maybe….some young men will find this to be a helpful paradigm as God leads you to your chosen mate.