In his Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Carlisle, Penn.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), Iain Murray describes some of Edwards’ study habits as a pastor, which Edwards’ first biographer Samuel Hopkins famously described as “thirteen hours, every day”:
“It is a further reminder that Edwards’ time in his study was not spent in self-centered interests that the evenings alone before the public duties of the Lord’s Day . . .. All the hard work of another week was done, his sermons were prepared, and as he prayed them over — in the light of the needs of his people — a fire was kindled which made him impatient for the hour when the church bell would summon Northampton to join in the praise of God.” (146)
Murray adds this commentary:
“In terms of the understanding of the ministerial office then existing, and the practice of other men, the duration was by no means extraordinary. If it was excessive in one direction there can be no doubt that the routine of our contemporary Christian ministry is excessive in another, and that the basic reason why so much church busyness accomplishes so little at the present time is that private spiritual priorities have been neglected. In the words of A. W. Tozer, “Our religious activities should be so ordered in such a way as to have plenty of time for the cultivation of the fruits of solitude and silence.
“Edwards would certainly have agreed with James Stalker who, when speaking of the efficacy of a minister, writes, ‘Unless he has spent the week with God and received Divine communications, it would be better not to enter the pulpit or open his mouth on Sunday at all. . . . A ministry of growing power must be one of the growing experience. . . . Power for work like ours is only to be acquired in secret. . . . The hearers may not know why their minister, with all his gifts, does not make a religious impression on them; but is because he is not himself a spiritual power.'” (147; citing The Preacher and His Models, 1892, pp 52-55)