The five generation rule: Jonathan Edwards versus Max Jukes


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Jonathan Edwards was the President of Princeton University for a few months. We have the best collection of articles on human psychology and self help. Also interfaith tolerance

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July 1, 2017 by Larry Ballard

Jonathan Edwards, was a Puritan Preacher in the 1700s.  He was one of the most respected preachers in his day. He attended Yale at the age of thirteen and later went on to become the president of Princeton college. He married his wife Sara in 1727 and they were blessed with eleven children. Every night when Mr. Edwards was home, he would spend an hour conversing with his family and then praying a blessing over each child. Jonathan and his wife Sarah passed on a great, godly legacy to their eleven children.

An American educator, A.E. Winship decided to trace the descendants of Jonathan Edwards almost 150 years after his death.  His findings are remarkable, especially when compared to another man from the same time period known as Max Jukes.

Jonathan Edwards’ legacy includes: 1 U.S. Vice-President, 1 Dean of a law school, 1 dean of a medical school, 3 U.S. Senators, 3 governors, 3 mayors, 13 college presidents, 30 judges, 60 doctors, 65 professors, 75 Military officers, 80 public office holders, 100 lawyers, 100 clergymen, and 285 college graduates.

How may this be explained? Edwards was a godly man, but he was also hard working, intelligent and moral. Furthermore, Winship states, “Much of the capacity and talent, intensity and character of the more than 1,400 of Edwards’ family is due to Mrs. Edwards.”

Max Jukes’ legacy came to people’s attention when the family trees of 42 different men in the New York prison system were traced back to him. He lived in New York at about the same period as Edwards. The Jukes family originally was studied by sociologist Richard L. Dugdale in 1877.

Jukes’ descendants included: 7 murderers, 60 thieves, 190 prostitutes, 150 other convicts, 310 paupers, and 440 who were physically wrecked by addiction to alcohol. Of the 1,200 descendants that were studied, 300 died prematurely.

These contrasting legacies provide an example of what some call the five-generation rule. “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, either for good or evil.” What a challenging thought! If someone studied your descendants four generations later, 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!


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2 replies

  1. Jonathan Edwards, elected president five days after the death of his son-in-law, Aaron Burr Sr., was a popular choice. A friend of the College since its inception, he was the most eminent American philosopher-theologian of his time. Initially, Edwards refused to take on “such a new and great business in the decline of life,” explaining that he considered himself deficient in health, temperament, and some branches of learning. He was finally persuaded by a group of ministers that it was his duty to accept. He arrived in Princeton in late January 1758, where he preached in the College chapel and gave out questions in divinity to the senior class to study before coming together to discuss them — an 18th-century seminar.

    As author of the celebrated work The Freedom of the Will, he was respectfully received by the undergraduates, who spoke of the “light and instruction” he communicated.

    He died only two months after taking office of a fever following a smallpox inoculation and was buried in a special corner of the Princeton cemetery called “the President’s Lot.”

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