[excerpted from THE CHRISTIAN OBSERVER, Vol. XXXI, No. 23 (5 June 1852): 89, column 5.]
THE FAMILY OF PRESIDENT EDWARDS.
It was an unspeakable privilege in the view of the late President [Jonathan] Edwards, that when surrounded by a young and growing family, and when his duty to his people, especially in seasons of revival, necessarily occupied his whole attention, he could safely commit his children to the wisdom and piety, the love and faithfulness of their mother [Sarah Pierpont Edwards]. Her views of the responsibility of parents were large and comprehensive. “She thought that, as a parent, she had great and important duties to do toward her children before they were capable of government and instruction. For them she constantly and earnestly prayed, and bore them on her heart before God, in all her secret and most solemn addresses to him; and that, even before they were born. The prospect of her becoming a mother of a rational, immortal creature, which came into existence in an undone and infinitely dreadful state, was sufficient to lead her to bow before God daily for His blessing on it; even redemption and eternal life by Jesus Christ. So that, through all the pain, labor, and sorrow which attended her being the mother of children, she was in travail for them that they should be born of God.
She regularly prayed with her children, from a very early period, and, as there is the best reason to believe, with great earnestness and importunity. Being thoroughly sensible that, in many respects, the chief care of forming children by government and instruction, naturally lies on mothers, as they are most with their children at an age when they commonly receive impressions that are permanent, and have great influence in forming the character for life, she was very careful to do her part in this important business. When she foresaw or met with any special difficulty in this matter, she was wont to apply to her husband for advice and assistance; and on such occasions they would both attend to it, as a matter of the utmost importance. 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 a few words, without warmth and noise, 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. In their manners they were uncommonly respectful to their parents. When their parents came into the room, they all rose instinctively from their seats, and never resumed them until their parents were seated; and when either parent was speaking, no matter with whom they had been conversing, they were all immediately silent and attentive. The kind and gentle treatment they received from their mother, while she strictly and punctiliously maintained her parental authority, seemed naturally to beget and promote a filial respect and affection, and to lead them to a mild, tender treatment of each other. Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family wholly unknown. She carefully observed the first appearance of resentment and ill-will in her young children, toward any person whatever, and did not connive at it, as many who have the care of children do, but was careful to show her displeasure, and suppress it to the utmost; yet not by angry, wrathful words, which often provoke children to wrath, and stir up their irascible passions, rather than abate 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 its parents, he can never be brought to obey God.