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first “ Almanac,” in 1725, by Nathaniel Ames; three Nathaniel years before James Franklin published the “Rhode “Almanac,“ Island Almanac," which preceded “Poor Richard."
It is a long step, in every sense of the word, from those we have been studying to the next name we shall consider. Jonathan Edwards is the one really Jonathan
Edwards, great man of this period. He was unquestionably 1703-1758. one of the keenest intellects and strongest spirits of the world's history. His work, while not of a character to attract general interest now, has been very powerful in its influence over thoughtful minds; and, directly or indirectly, by attraction or repulsion, it is responsible for much of the serious thoughtful writing of the last century. He is too exclusively thought of as a great theologian, and especially as a preacher, in terrible forms, of future punishment. It is true that, with a creative imagination, and with masterful command of language, he expressed what was generally believed as to future punishment; and the result is awful in its gloomy grandeur. In this respect it is not out of place to call him the Dante of the Pulpit. But this does not represent the most important or the most characteristic side of his mind. His “Freedom of the Will” is one of the greatest, and for two generations was to America one of the most influential, works of philosophy. He was also a keen observer of nature and student of the human mind, and described the working of the human affections in a book which has been a classic of Christian devotion. He was a leader in practical affairs also, and sacrificed everything dear to him in
his professional life to what he felt to be an important moral issue.
He was born at East Windsor, Connecticut, in 1703; graduated at Yale, 1719; ordained at Northampton, Massachusetts, 1727; went to Stockbridge as missionary to the Indians, 1751; was installed as president of Princeton College in 1758, and died the same year. I will take for specimens of the work of Edwards some brief extracts showing different aspects of his many-sided nature. And first a single sentence from the famous sermon, “ Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” will be enough to represent that well-known phase of his thinking. In reading this, bear in mind that, to Edwards' thinking, a sinner was one who deliberately, by choice, set his will against that of God; and God was felt to be the centre and source of all conceivable wisdom, goodness, and power. Toleration of evil was to him utterly inconsistent with perfect goodness; and the “sinner" is here conceived of as having chosen evil instead of God.
“ Sinners in The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one
you and is dreadfully provoked ; his wrath towards you
way of thinking about God and man. Place in contrast with it a passage in which Edwards comes very near to the most attractive forms of modern Christian thinking. This selection is taken from a volume called “Observations concerning the Scripture Oeconomy of the Trinity,” edited by Egbert C. Smyth, and published in 1880:
This seems very
So that, when we are delighted with flowery meadows, and gentle breezes of wind, we may consider that we see only the emanations of the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ. When we behold the fragrant rose and lily, we see His love and purity. So the green trees, and fields, and singing of birds are the emanations of His infinite joy and benignity. The easiness and naturalness of trees and birds are shadows of His beauty and loveliness. The crystal rivers and murmuring streams are the footsteps of His favor, grace, and beauty.
Better known, and letting us into the very heart of this great man, is the following, written in 1723, for no eyes but his own, and describing the lady who afterward was his wife :
They say 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, and that she hardly cares for anything except to meditate on him—that she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the riches of its treasures, she disregards it and cares not for it,