In 1758, Jonathan Edward’s son-in-law, the president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), died. Trustees asked Edwards to assume the role.
I was stunned to read about how Edwards made his decision.
While Mr. Edwards was in the state of suspense alluded to in his letter to the trustees of the college, he determined to ask the advice of a number of gentlemen in the ministry, on whose judgment and friendship he could rely, and to act accordingly.
So far so good. But Edwards wasn’t just asking for friendly advice. He was putting his future in their hands.
The gentlemen invited to the council, at his desire, and that of his people, met at Stockbridge, January 4, 1758; and, having heard the application of the agents of the college, and their reasons in support of it; Mr. Edwards’s own representation of the matter; and what his people had to say, by way of objection, against his removal; determined that it was his duty to accept of the invitation to the presidency of the college. When they published their judgment and advice to Mr. Edwards and his people, he appeared uncommonly moved and affected with it, and fell into tears on the occasion, which was very unusual for him, in the presence of others; and soon after, he said to the gentlemen who had given their advice, that it was matter of wonder to him, that they could so easily, as they appeared to do, get over the objections he had made against his removal. But, as he thought it his duty to be directed by their advice, he should now endeavour cheerfully to undertake it, believing he was in the way of his duty. (The Works of Jonathan Edwards)
He didn’t ask for their advice and make the decision himself. He even spoke against accepting the position. Yet he entrusted himself to the wisdom of others, submitting himself to their final decision.
It makes me realize how individualistic we’ve become in decision making.
Earlier this week, Justin Taylor wrote:
As it applies to Christians discerning calling, it’s important to remember that our callings (whether to marriage, to a job, in a new life direction) should not discerned by the individual alone (autonomy) or everyone (democracy) but rather by good counselors (a trusted community).
Good and radical advice.