Jonathan Edwards was born in East Windsor, Connecticut in 1703. He was a fourth generation Protestant minister. His father was the Reverend Timothy Edwards and his mother was Esther Stoddard Edwards. Her father (Jonathan's grandfather) was the Reverend Solomon Stoddard of Northampton, Massachusetts, one of the most famous religious leaders in New England. With this family background, Jonathan Edwards was groomed to be a minister himself.
He was a dutiful student, studying up to 13 hours a day, and he went to Yale in 1716. He married in 1727. Solomon, his grandfather, died in 1729 and Jonathan succeeded him as minister in Northampton. Influenced by John Locke (English philosopher, 1632-1704), Edwards believed that people must do more than just know and read religious philosophy. They must be emotionally moved by religious doctrine and beliefs. He wanted to bring back the original zeal practiced by early Puritans in the New World. Edwards and his grandfather, Solomon, were leaders of the first "Great Awakening," a movement designed to encourage people to have a deeper connection with Jesus Christ. The idea was to "wake" them up and encourage them to take their faith much more seriously and personally.
Edwards' most famous sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is designed to do just this. He tries to put the fear of God into his listeners to motivate them to have a genuine conversion experience, a transformative personal connection with God.