Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703. He entered Yale College at age 13 and graduated with honors. He became a pastor and his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God,” started the Great Awakening, a revival involving numerous preachers which swept America, uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution which prepared America for the Restoration. Jonathan Edwards ultimately became President of Princeton College. The Edwards’ descendants included:
- 1 U.S. Vice-President,
- 3 U.S. Senators,
- 3 governors,
- 3 mayors,
- 13 college presidents,
- 30 judges,
- 65 professors,
- 80 public office holders,
- 100 lawyers and
- 100 missionaries.
At the same time the Edwards were living, another family named the Jukes was also living on the same area. In 1877, while visiting New York’s prisons, a reporter named Richard Dugdale found 42 inmates all descending from one man, named Max Jukes, Max was born in 1720, just a few years after Jonathan Edwards. Max was a hard drinker, irreverent, and uneducated. Max Jukes descendants included:
- 7 murderers,
- 60 thieves,
- 50 women of debauchery,
- 130 other convicts.
- 310 paupers, who, combined spent 2,300 years in poorhouses, and
- 400 physically wrecked by indulgent living.
Max Jukes descendants ultimately cost the state more than $1,250,000 due to their crimes and imprisonments.
These contrasting legacies provide an example of the impact of small and simple things can have on our lives and a stark reminder that agency and accountability are always linked. How a parent raises their child — the love they give, the values they teach, the emotional environment they offer, the education they provide — influences not only their children but the four generations to follow.
What a challenging thought! If someone studied your descendants four generations from now, what would you want them to discover? Do you want an Edwards’ legacy or a Jukes’ legacy? The life you live will determine the legacy you leave! You are building a great legacy, good or bad.