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Dr. C. Mather preaches excellently from Ps. 37. Trust in the Lord, etc., only spake of the Sun being in the centre of our system. I think it inconvenient to assert such problems.
His membership in the Royal Society, to which he forwarded his Curiosa Americana, encouraged him to keep abreast of current scientific thought; and it was from this source that he got the idea of inoculation for smallpox, which he urged upon the people of Boston so insistently that a war of pamphlets broke out. When we remember that during ninety years only two books on medicine were published in New Englandone a popular pharmacopeia and the other a hand-book on smallpox prevention—it is suggestive that within a few months sixteen papers on inoculation came from the press. In this case the minister was in advance of the physicians.
If the influence of the ministers was commanding, it was due in part to their indisputable vigour, and in part, it must be acknowledged, to their control of the means of publicity. The complete domination of the press they regarded as their perquisite; and they swayed public opinion sometimes by means not wholly to their credit. Those who opposed their policies experienced difficulties in gaining a hearing. Thus Robert Calef, who attacked the Mathers because of the witchcraft business, found it desirable to send his manuscript to London for publication, and John Wise probably sent his manuscript of The Churches Quarrel Espoused to New York." Complaints were heard that the press was closed. In the preface to The Gospel Order Revived, by T. Woodbridge and other malcontents, published in New York in 1700,
The Reader is desired to take Notice that the Press in Boston is so much under the aw of the Reverend Author, whom we answer, and his Friends, that we could not obtain of the Printer there to print the following Sheets, which is the true Reason why we have sent the Copy so far for its Impression and where it was printed with some Difficulty.
When James Franklin spoke out roundly against the tyranny of the ministers, they induced the magistrates to teach him respect by throwing him into the common gaol. It was
See Bibliography on this point.
a serious matter to offend the hierarchy, even in the days of its decline, and far more serious to attack. But the days of its domination were numbered, and after 1720 the secular authority of the Puritan divines swiftly decayed. The old dream of a Kingdom of God was giving way, under pressure of economic circumstance, to the new dream of a commonwealth of free citizens. The theological age was to be followed by a political age, and in this later world of thought the Puritan divines were unfitted to remain leaders of the people.
ONATHAN EDWARDS was born at Windsor, Connecticut,
in 1703. He belonged, unlike his great contemporary
Franklin in this, to the "Brahmin families" of America, his father being a distinguished graduate of Harvard and a minister of high standing, his mother being the daughter of Solomon Stoddard, a revered pastor of Northampton, Massachusetts, and a religious author of repute. Jonathan, one of eleven children, showed extraordinary precocity. There is preserved a letter of his, written apparently in his twelfth year, in which he retorts upon certain materialistic opinions of his correspondent with an easiness of banter not common to a boy; and another document, from about the same period, an elaborate account of the habits of spiders, displays a keenness of observation and a vividness of style uncommon at any age.
He studied at Yale, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1720, before his seventeenth birthday. While at college he continued his interest in scientific observations, but his main concern was naturally with theology and moral philosophy. As a sophomore he read Locke On the Human Understanding, with the delight of a “greedy miser" in "some newly discovered treas
Some time after reading Locke and before graduation he wrote down a series of reflections, preparatory to a great metaphysical treatise of his own, which can be compared only with the Commonplace Book kept by Berkeley a few years earlier for the same purpose. In the section of “Notes on the Mind” this entry is found: "Our perceptions or ideas, that we passively receive by our bodies, are communicated to us
immediately by God.” Now Berkeley's Principles and his Hylas and Philonous appeared in 1710 and 1713 respectively, and the question has been raised, and not answered, whether this Berkeleian sentiment was borrowed from one of these books or was original with Edwards. Possibly the youthful philosopher was following a line of thought suggested by the English disciples of Malebranche, possibly he reached his point of view directly from Locke; in any case his life-work was to carry on the Lockian philosophy from the point where the Berkeleian idealism left off.
After graduation Edwards remained for two years at Yale, preparing for the ministry. In 1722 he was called to a Presbyterian church in New York. Here he preached acceptably for eight months, returning then to his father's house, and later to New Haven, where he held the position of tutor in the college. In 1727 he went to Northampton as colleague, and became in due time successor, to his grandfather. Almost immediately after ordination he married Sarah Pierrepont, like himself of the Brahmin caste, whom he had known as a young girl, and whose beauty of body and soul he had described in a passage of ecstatic wonder.
“They say,” he began, being himself then twenty and the object of his adoration thirteen, "there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that great Being who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight."
The marriage, notwithstanding this romantic rapture, proved eminently wise.
Like a good many other men of his age Edwards lived his inner life, so to speak, on paper. There is therefore nothing peculiar or priggish in the fact that at the beginning of his religious career he should have written out a set of formal resolutions, which he vowed to read over, and did read over, at stated intervals in order to keep watch on his spiritual progress. A number of these resolutions have been printed, as has also a part of the diary kept at about the same time. Neither of these documents, the time of their writing considered, contains anything remarkable. But it is quite otherwise with the private reflections which he wrote out some twenty years later (about 1743) at Northampton, apparently on some occasion of reading over his youthful diary. In these we have an autobiographical fragment that, for intensity of absorption in the idea of God and for convincing power of utterance, can be likened to the Confessions of St. Augustine, while it unites to this religious fervour a romantic feeling for nature foreign to the Bishop of Hippo's' mind and prophetic of a movement that was to sweep over the world many years after Edwards's death. A few extracts from this document (not so well known as it would have been if it had not been printed with the works of a thorny metaphysician) must be given for their biographical and literary interest:
From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty, in choosing whom he would to eternal life, and rejecting whom he pleased; leaving them eternally to perish, and be everlastingly tormented in hell. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to mo. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God. . . . I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God's sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has very often appeared exceeding pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not SO.
The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever, Amen. As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being.
Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father's pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them