I love observing older women and learning how to act from them (and how not to act!). I was recently chatting with another pastor’s wife and was thanking her for being such a good example to me. Her life is characterized by a walk that fears God: humility, kindness, goodness and a life free from evil speaking and malice of any sort.
Actions always speak louder than words. Palladius, an early church historian , wrote to a friend these words:
“Words and syllables do not constitute teaching, for some teachers possess great words but live disreputable in the extreme.”
Sadly, many Christians know and profess all the right things, but live devilish lives.
So today, I want to share with you a glimpse into the character of Sarah Edwards,(1709-1758) wife of Jonathan Edwards. Her husband is the well-known preacher of the Great Awakening and is famous for his sermon, “Sinner In The Hands of an Angry God.”
These are excerpts taken from the book Memoirs of Jonathan Edwards:
On being a suitable helper to her husband:
She proved, also, an invaluable [support] to Mr. Edwards, in the duties of his profession, not only by her excellent example, but by her active efforts in doing good.
“She was,” says Dr. Hopkins, “eminent for her piety…religious conversation was her delight; and, as far as propriety permitted, she promoted it in all companies. Her religious conversation showed at once her clear comprehension of spiritual and divine things, and the deep impression which they had made upon her mind.”
It was not merely conversation about religion—about its truths, or duties, or its actual state—its doctrines or triumphs—or the character and conduct of its friends and ministers: it was religion itself;—that supreme love to God, to his kingdom and his glory, which, abounding in the heart, flows forth spontaneously, in the daily conversation and the daily life.
Her thought life:
Her mind appeared to attend to spiritual and divine things constantly, on all occasions, and in every condition and business of life. Secret prayer was her uniform practice, and appeared to be the source of daily enjoyment.
“She made it her rule to speak well of all, so far as she could with truth and justice to herself and others. She was not wont to dwell with delight on the imperfections and failings of any; and when she heard persons speaking ill of others, she would say what she thought she could with truth and justice in their excuse, or divert the obloquy, by mentioning those things that were commend-able in them. Thus she was tender of every one’s character, even of those who injured and spoke evil of her; and carefully guarded against the too common vice of evil speaking and backbiting.”
Treatment of those who mistreated her:
She could bear injuries and reproach with great calmness, without any disposition to render evil for evil; but, on the contrary, was ready to pity and forgive those who appeared to be her enemies.”
How she dealt with her children:
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. She seldom punished them; and in speaking to them used gentle and pleasant words.
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 and with all calmness and gentleness of mind.
In her directions and reproofs in matters of importance, she would address herself to the reason of her children, that they might not only know her inclination and will, but at the same time be convinced of the reasonableness of it. She had need to speak but once; she was cheerfully obeyed; murmuring and answering again were not known among them.
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, however young, until its will was brought into submission to the will of its parents; wisely reflecting, that until a child will obey his parents, he can never be brought to obey God.
Letter to her daughter three days after the death of her husband, Jonathan, showing her trust in God.
“My very dear child,
What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives: and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.
Your ever affectionate mother,
Sarah’s marriage was anything but perfect. Her husband had severe bouts of depression, and they lived in a time of civil unrest and spiritual warfare. Although they had their “highs” in life, they survived their “lows” by anchoring their soul on the only ONE who never changes, and who is always faithful. Sarah kept her home pleasant. She was known to walk through town singing and humming quietly to herself and had the testimony of being a joyful Christian. Adjectives used for her in the memoirs included: joyful, pious, godly, holy, appropriate, kind.
I am thankful that I can read her testimony ALL these years later and still be blessed by her good life. That tells me that MY life and my testimony, if lived in a way that pleases God, can also be an encouragement for women who follow after me.
But lives lived like Sarah’s do not just happen. They require a desire for the Holy One. They are focused and God-fearing. Not easily distracted.
May God give us the grace to follow Him as we should.