Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) on "Presidential" Qualities

Okay.  Jonathan Edwards didn't actually write specifically about U.S. Presidents.  He was about 30 years old when George Washington was born, and would himself die about 30 years before Washington would begin serving as our first President.

However, he did preach once on the qualities of good rulers.

The sermon was entitled "God's Awful Judgment in the Breaking and Withering of the Strong Rods of a Community."

The text was Ezekiel 19:12 "Her strong rods were broken and withered." 

By "strong rods" is meant Good Rulers.  And the occasion of this sermon was the funeral of the Honorable John Stoddard (died 1748), member of the Majesty's council, chief justice of the court of Common Pleas, judge and chief colonel of the regiment.  A well respected leader.

In the sermon, and based upon Scripture, Jonathan Edwards outlined 5 qualities which make a ruler a  "strong rod." 

Here they are - somewhat abridged.  You can find them in full-length in Volume 2 of his Works, p. 36-37 (or ONLINE). 

1)  First, one qualification of rulers whence they may properly be denominated strong rods, is a great ability for the management of public affairs.  This is the case, when they who stand in a place of public authority are men of great natural abilities, men of uncommon strength of reason and largeness of understanding; especially when they have a remarkable genius for government, a peculiar turn of mind fitting them to gain an extraordinary understanding in things of that nature.  They have acquired great skill in public affairs, and things requisite to be known in order to their wise, prudent, and effectual management.

2)  Second, when they have not only great understanding, but largeness of heart, and a greatness and nobleness of disposition, this is another qualification that belongs to the character of a “strong rod.”  It greatly establishes his authority, and causes others to stand in awe of him, when they see him to be a man of greatness of mind, one that abhors those things that are mean and sordid, and not capable of a compliance with them: one that is of a public spirit, and not of a private narrow disposition; a man of honor, and not of mean artifice and clandestine management, for filthy lucre; one that abhors trifling and impertinence, or to waste away his time, that should be spent in the service of God, his king, and his country, in vain amusements and diversions, and in the pursuit of the gratifications of sensual appetites.

3) Third, when those that are in authority are endowed with much of a spirit of government, this is another thing that entitles them to the denomination of “strong rods.”  They not only are men of great understanding and wisdom in affairs that appertain to government, but have also a peculiar talent at using their knowledge, and exerting themselves in this great and important business, according to their great understanding in it. They are men of eminent fortitude, are not afraid of the faces of men, and are not afraid to do the part that properly belongs to them as rulers, though they meet with great opposition, and the spirits of men are greatly irritated by it.

4)  Fourth, stability and firmness of integrity, fidelity, and piety, in the exercise of authority, is another thing that greatly contributes to, and is very essential in, the character of a “strong rod.”   He is not only a man of strong reason and great discerning to know what is just, but is a man of strict integrity and righteousness, firm and immovable in the execution of justice and judgment.

5)  Fifth, and lastly, it also contributes to that strength of a man in authority by which he may be denominated a “strong rod,” when he is in such circumstances as give him advantage for the exercise of his strength for the public good; as his being a person of honorable descent, of a distinguished education, a man of estate, one advanced in years, one that has long been in authority, so that it is become as it were natural for the people to pay him deference, to reverence him, to be influenced and governed by him, and to submit to his authority.


1)  Great Ability to Manage Public Affairs
2)  Largeness of Heart - a Great and Nobel Disposition
3)  A Spirit of Government - Talent to Use Knowledge, Not Afraid of Men
4)  Integrity, Fidelity & Piety
5)  Possesses the Needed Circumstances for Ruling and the Respect of Others

These are the things Edwards' says constitute "Strong Rods" in the role of government.

May the Lord raise up such individuals in our day.

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