Marriage to a Difficult Man: Part II

Sarah Edwards portrait: Google Images
Sarah Edwards portrait: Google Images

Sarah’s Flair for House-keeping

She was the kind of woman who took the trouble to tie her hair with a ribbon for breakfast when many wives came down tousled; who spent an extra minute to stamp a design on a block of home-churned butter; who knew how to give a flourish to simple dishes with parsley, spearmint or sage, all grown in a square of herbs by the kitchen door; who, when she had a bowl of peas to shell, would take it out into the sunshine in the garden. She put in day lilies, hollyhocks, pansies, pinks–the flowers women loved to plant on the frontier, for it gave them a sense of putting down roots.  (31)

Reviewer Jennifer Lee muses further on Sarah’s homey housekeeping, efficiency tempered by composure:

She knew how to keep a house clean at its vitals, without stuffy cupboards left unaired or parlors sealed off. The house was open, used, full of clues that the family living in it had vivid interests. Books were left on tables, actually being read, not used as parlor props. There would be needlepoint on a rack by a sunny window and a lute in a corner. Esther, singing, might be putting up a hem for Sukey [Susannah] while a boy did his Latin lesson. It was the opposite of the kind of house where things were preserved in mothballs in locked boxed. Its ambience was of windows flung open, of easy access.


Key to Harmony in Their Uncommon Union

Contrary to popular belief, the author of the fiery sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” observed quiet passion in the pulpit but also preached on grace and redemption. And he treated Sarah “as a fully mature being, as a person whose conversation entertained him, whose spirit nourished his own religious life, whose presence gave him repose.” (35) Likewise, Sarah “let him be sure of her steady love, and then freed him to think.” (66)

A woman of charm, practicality and tact, Sarah like her mate was strong as iron, realizing that “she had chosen to marry the sort of man who did not give in when he believed a matter of deep principle was at stake.” (112)

Cover: Google Images
Cover: Google Images

Edwards’ Parting Words to Sarah

Remembering the love of his life, the charming but stalwart Sarah, who wore a “pea-green satin brocade with a bold pattern” to their wedding (24), Jonathan Edwards spoke these words “not about heaven or hell, or about books or theories.” He spoke of Sarah:

Give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her that the uncommon union which has so long subsisted between us has been of such a nature as I trust is spiritual and therefore will continue forever.  (201)

*  *  *

Coming next: Laundry at the Longeneckers


15 thoughts on “Marriage to a Difficult Man: Part II

  1. We were both writing about love and marriage (and history) this morning! 🙂
    Have you read Laurel Ulrich’s Good Wives? She discusses the various images of women/wives in colonial New England.


  2. What beautiful words for a husband to speak of his wife after they had endured the rough patches of marriage! That’s when you know the emotion has crossed from infatuation into abiding love.


    1. A wife couldn’t hope for more. I’m not sure that marriage on earth exists beyond the grave, but apparently Jonathan Edwards thought so. Anyway, he expressed a heart-felt sentiment and tribute to their amazing relationship.


  3. I’ve long been interested in Jonathan Edwards since my seminary days when my favorite professor, a Jonathan Edwards scholar – at the time wring a book on his theology which I now have tucked away on my book shelf – talked so enthusiastically about him. A love of mutual respect, honor, trust and the focus on something greater is rare but most definitely real – totally unlike what modern culture perceives it to be, however. Thank you for sharing these lovely thoughts and quotes. A great reminder of the richness of heart that can and does exist.


    1. I’m happy to see your smiling face once again and your comment about your favorite professor being an Edwardsian scholar. Before I read this book, I would have shrunk at the idea of knowing more of their history, but now that I know a fuller story, I would welcome it.

      The American History I was taught seemed to pigeon-hole people, maybe to simplify the learning while inadvertently distorting the portrait. Thanks for the enlightenment, Dorothy.


  4. Marian, I love Jonathan Edwards’ parting words to his wife, Sarah. There would be many more happy marriages if more couples shared a mutual respect of one another and treated each other as if the other was truly special as Jonathan did to Sarah. Beautiful!


    1. Beautiful and surprising, don’t you think, Judy? History has painted him as a shrill zealot, not a man of controlled, scholarly passion. I suspect he probably has his wife to thank for that. Ha!


  5. What a lovely love and respect they had for each other. They respected each other’s role in life and complimented each other. This is what I tell young couples that I encounter, especially when they are contemplating divorce. I tell them that a marriage is about a commitment to each other. If we live our lives with our spouse loving them and know we have bumps in the road we work them out. Work hard to stay together.

    The wonderful blessing comes when we look back relieved that we made it through that hurdle. Funny when my husband asked me to marry him I told to think what he’s asking me. Because I’m going to be a widow before I would be a divorcee. He said that’s fine I still want to marry you. 27 years later we are still together and renewed our wedding vows last year before 280 guests. I have been blessed and we love each other very much, an answer to prayer. My hope is that my daughters and granddaughters would find such a love as God has blessed me with and that my sons would great husbands and fathers.


    1. Thank you for your heart-warming testimony, Gloria. You commented that you would be a widow before becoming a divorcee. I once heard that Ruth Graham, wife of Billy Graham, was asked, “Have you ever thought of divorce?” Her reply: “Murder, yes, but divorce, no!”


      1. Oh how funny to know that Ruth Graham would think the same as me. I feel very honored.
        Amazing marian that the cover you have on this blog is my pastors wife it didn’t connect til I started doing this reading on Jonathan and Sarah when I googled their name different site came up then one on you tube curious I opened it to see and so pleasantly surprised to see that it is our own Maggie Rowe playing the part of Sarah. What a small world. Then I notice she the face on the cover of your book on this blog. She is so gifted and anointed by God adorned by her husband and children and our congregation.


        1. Amazing! I would never have known about your own Maggie Rowe playing the part of Sarah Edwards. I agree . . . small world. The image came up as one of the Google images of the book cover.


  6. Sigh…a soulful love letter from a man to his wife of many years gets me every time. Thank you for this peek into their life, An uncommon and spiritual union. Thank you, Marian.


    1. You’re welcome, Elaine. From your own blogposts, I know that you and Vic shared on a deep, spiritual level as well. Thanks for your adding to our conversation here.


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