One thing that has not received very much attention in regards to Jonathan Edwards is his pastoral gift. While his writings are extremely helpful in theological matters, they fail to tell us much about his own pastoral experience and ability.
A caricature can begin to emerge of a man with a detached personality, intellectually engaged in doctrinal theory but aloof and lacking practical know how—a poor pastor indeed. However, there are a number of stories from Edwards' life that paint a drastically different picture.
Here are three, taken mostly from George Marsden's biography. I share these stories not to boast in the ability of Edwards, but to boast in our awesome God who bestowed upon him such pastoral giftedness, for the building up of the Church.
1) Edwards' first call to the pastorate, at age 19, was to a splinter church (a recent church split) in New York. He labored to reconcile the church he was pastoring to its mother. He accomplished his aim in two years, working himself out of the pastorate.
His ability to shepherd a whole church, full of anger and hurt over a recent division, back to submission and unity with its former rival shows amazing pastoral prowess. Those of you who have been a part of a church after a split know what kind of feat was accomplished in this work.
2) James Davenport was a radical and sensational itinerant preacher during the Great Awakening who was extremely divisive. Davenport encouraged congregations to leave their pastors, led corporate fits of passion which sometimes involved the burning of theological books and clothes (one of which led to the burning of his last pair of trousers), and frequently claimed to hear the very voice of God. Davenport stirred up all of New England, and many church leaders attempted to confront him. But that only aggravated Davenport's wild and divisive ministry.
Edwards was asked to try and win Davenport, but he insisted that a delegation of pastors go with him. A year after this delegation met with Davenport, and two weeks after Edwards met with him privately, Davenport wrote a public letter expressing repentance for separatism, burning books and clothes, and wrongfully judging others. Davenport admitted that in much of his ministry he had been led by a false spirit.
When is the last time you heard of a preacher or minister like Davenport coming around to a submissive and sound disposition? Edwards didn't completely write Davenport off (like many other pastors did), but took the time and energy to invest in this wayward minister, in such a way that actually moved him to repent. This shows amazing pastoral competence and wisdom!...