(1643–1729), Congregational clergyman, graduated from Harvard (1662), served as the college librarian (1667–74), was for a time a chaplain in Barbados (1667–69), and became pastor at Northampton (1672–1729). One of the most influential men in Massachusetts, he was concerned not only with theology but also with governmental policy and public morals. He was an early champion of the Half-Way Covenant, and introduced in his church the practice called Stoddardianism, which required merely a profession of faith and repentance, and not a relation of a personal experience of grace, as the prerequisite for the communion and other privileges of full church membership. He defended this policy against the attacks of Increase Mather in The Doctrine of Instituted Churches (1700), The Inexcusableness of Neglecting the Worship of God, Under a Pretense of Being in an Unconverted Condition (1708), and An Appeal to the Learned (1709). In these pamphlets he also advocated a national church and the vesting of greater power in the clergy. In An Answer to Some Cases of Conscience Respecting the Country (1722), he attacked contemporary foibles, immorality, wigs, lavish dress, and undue bibulousness. His belief that ministers should frighten congregations with threats of damnation is expounded in The Efficacy of the Fear of Hell To Restrain Men from Sin (1713) and A Guide to Christ (1714). His grandson, Jonathan Edwards, who followed him at Northampton, did not believe in Stoddardianism.
From The Oxford Companion to American Literature in Oxford Reference.