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Jonathan Edwards on Leadership

images-2Jonathan Edwards was a revered New England preacher, theologian, and missionary of the 18th century. He is still considered to have possessed one of the greatest minds this country has ever witnessed. He was a graduate of Yale University and one of the influencers of the 1st Great Awakening. He penned such notable works as A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, The Life and Diary of David Brainerd, and A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God. The Jonathan Edwards Center at the Yale University Library contains nearly all of his works online and makes them accesible.

Edwards was a leader. His influence was broad and lasts until this very day. He established a practice of having apprentice ministers live in his home and in the homes of other older ministers. This created a dynamic legacy of New England pastors. Certainly much of Edward’s vast influence came through his writing, and does so still today. He challenged much of the popular thinking of his day. Edwards was also widely known for his great acts of charity, even in buying a negro slave girl to secure her freedom. He and his wife Sarah regularly opened their home to those in need. He was no stranger to criticism, as no true leader ever should be. His profound influence was in both word and deed.

Here are some quotes that I took from his writings that I believe relate to the life of every leader.

Of all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important.

Resolved, never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life.

A truly humble man is sensible of his natural distance from God; of his dependence on Him; of the insufficiency of his own power and wisdom; and that it is by God’s power that he is upheld and provided for, and that he needs God’s wisdom to lead and guide him, and His might to enable him to do what he ought to do for Him.

Resolved, that I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

Seek not to grow in knowledge chiefly for the sake of applause, and to enable you to dispute with others; but seek it for the benefit of your souls.

Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility.

Such is man’s nature, that he is very inactive and lazy unless he is influenced by some affection, either love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, or some other. These affections we see to be the springs that set men agoing, in all the affairs of life, and engage them in all their pursuits: these are the things that put men forward, and carry them along.

Love is the sum of all virtue, and love disposes us to good.

I assert that nothing ever comes to pass without a cause.

Temples have their images; and we see what influence they have always had over a great part of mankind. But, in truth, the ideas and images in men’s minds are the invisible powers that constantly govern them; and to these they all pay universally a ready submission.

A man of a right spirit is not a man of narrow and private views, but is greatly interested and concerned for the good of the community to which he belongs, and particularly of the city or village in which he resides, and for the true welfare of the society of which he is a member.

Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.