Jonathan Edwards was around ten years older than George Whitefield. Both were involved in the famous revivals of the 1730’s and 40’s. Edwards and Whitefield did meet and were both interested in promoting revival, so they had common ground. However, as George Marsden notes, Edwards was somewhat critical of Whitefield. Below is Marsden’s summary of Edwards’ criticism:
“Never one to put politeness above principle, Edwards had already taken the young man aside and spoken to him privately about the danger of relying on ‘impulses.’ Whitefield and many of his fellow awakeners were following what they took to be direct leadings from God’s Spirit. They would, after intense prayer about a decision, become convinced that God was directly telling them what they should do. Edwards believed such ‘impressions’ were often products of the imagination rather than ‘impulses from above.’ He strongly favored prayerful spiritual intensity accompanied by wonderful images of God’s grace, and so forth. But for Edwards, these ecstatic experiences had to be disciplined by the rational mind, informed by Scripture. The point was crucial. If everyone who had intense spiritual experiences could claim special messages from God, there would be no way of checking all sorts of errors and delusions.”
George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards: A Life, p. 211-212.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015
“Christ will not refuse to save the greatest sinners, who in a right manner come to God for mercy; for this is his work. It is his business to be a Savior of sinners; it is the work upon which he came into the world; and therefore he will not object to it. He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matt 9.13). Sin is the very evil which he came into the world to remedy: therefore he will not object to any man, that [though] he is very sinful. The more sinful he is, the more need of Christ.”
“The sinfulness of man was the reason of Christ’s coming into the world; this is the very misery from which he came to deliver men. The more they have of it, the more they have of being delivered. ‘They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick’ (Matt 9.12). The physician will not make it an objection against healing a man who applies to him, that he stands in great need of his help. If a physician of compassion comes along the sick and wounded, surely he will not refuse to heal those that stand in most need of healing, if he be able to heal them.”
“Christ doth not pity sinners because they are worthy, but because they need his pity.”
Quotes are from a sermon by Jonathan Edwards titled “Pardon for the Greatest Sinners” based on Psalm 25.11. It is found in Jonathan Edwards on Knowing Christ (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1997).