Jonathan Edwards: A Life
George M. Marsden
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In this definitive and long-awaited biography, Jonathan Edwards emerges as both a great American and a brilliant Christian. George Marsden evokes the world of colonial New England in which Edwards was reared—a frontier civilization at the center of a conflict between Native Americans, French Catholics, and English Protestants. Drawing on newly available sources, Marsden demonstrates how these cultural and religious battles shaped Edwards’s life and thought. Marsden reveals Edwards as a complex thinker and human being who struggled to reconcile his Puritan heritage with the secular, modern world emerging out of the Enlightenment. In this, Edwards’s life anticipated the deep contradictions of our American culture.
Meticulously researched and beautifully composed, this biography offers a compelling portrait of an eminent American.
before the Hampshire Association, and Edwards was chosen to draft a response.8 Edwards viewed the accusation regarding slaveholding as insincere and saw his primary job as defending the authority of a fellow minister. That he would do so is especially striking because he probably shared the suspicions that Doolittle had unorthodox and Old Light leanings. Edwards’ jottings for his arguments are incomplete and often hard to interpret. Nonetheless he is clear that he believed that the dissidents
1743 the Old Light legislature took a more extreme step to inhibit church separations: it repealed a 1708 statute that recognized the right to religious dissent. Dissenting groups could still appeal to the Assembly for relief from having to support Connecticut’s established churches, but they would have to prove that they truly were neither congregationalist nor presbyterian. Cousin Elisha Williams, formerly Yale rector, now engaged in business and politics, became the principal New Light
rest is from New England’s most often used authoritative creed, the Westminster Confession of Faith, chaps. 12–15. The confession can be found, among other places, in Creeds of the Churches, 3d ed., ed., John Leith (Atlanta: John Knox, 1982). 10. William K. B. Stoever, “A Faire and Easie Way to Heaven”: Covenant Theology and Antinomianism in Early Massachusetts (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1978), 63–67 and passim, provides a lucid account of the subtleties of the New England
heard as long as they continue in the allowance of sin” (Works of Edwards summaries). 17. Sermon, Joshua 7:12, “Fast for the Occasion of War with France” (June 28, 1744). 18. Sermon, I King 8:44–45, “Fast for Success in Expedition against Cape Breton” (April 4, 1745). On the widespread millennial interpretations of the Louisbourg victory in New England, see Nathan Hatch, The Sacred Cause of Liberty: Republican Thought and the Millennium in Revolutionary New England (New Haven: Yale University
2 vols. (Northampton, Mass., 1898, 1902), 2: 177–78. How many were living in 1747 is not clear. 2. Edwards to Joseph Bellamy, June 11, 1747, Works, 14: 223. 3. At the time of Jonathan’s death eleven years later, the family owned one armchair and twenty chairs, presumably straight. They owned one table, plus a writing table, a book table, and Edwards’ elaborate, many-compartmented desk. The family also owned two foot wheels, a great wheel, a carding machine, a substantial store of cloth, and