The Biblical World of Jonathan Edwards

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èque de l’école des chartes 147 (1989): 473-502. On American participation in the republic of letters, see Norman S. Fiering, “The Transatlantic Republic of Letters: A Note on the Circulation of Learned Periodicals to Early Eighteenth-Century America,” William and Mary Quarterly 33 (October 1976): 642-60; Ned C. Landsman, From Colonials to Provincials: American Thought and Culture, 1680-1760, Twayne’s American Thought and Culture Series (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1997), 31-56; David D. Hall, “Learned Culture in the Eighteenth Century,” in A History of the Book in America, vol. 1, The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World, ed. Hugh Amory and David D. Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 411-33; Alison Searle, “‘Though I am a Stranger to You by Face, yet in Neere Bonds by Faith’: A Transatlantic Puritan Republic of Letters,” Early American Literature 43 (June 2008): 277-308; and Susan Manning and Francis D. Cogliano, eds., The Atlantic Enlightenment, Ashgate Series in Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Studies (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2008). On Edwards and the republic, see Peter J. Thuesen, “Editor’s Introduction,” WJE, 26:20-28, 33-36, 75-82; Brown, Jonathan Edwards and the Bible, 1-26; and Thuesen, “Jonathan Edwards and the Transatlantic World of Books,” 43-54. Edwards developed his “Catalogue” (in part) on the basis of his reading in the eighteen volumes of the English periodical, The Present State of the Republick of Letters, published monthly from 1728-36 and owned by a local ministerial association.

128 On the notion of a religious, Christian, or evangelical Enlightenment, see Hugh Trevor-Roper, “The Religious Origins of the Enlightenment,” in Trevor-Roper, The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century: Religion, the Reformation, and Social Change (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1967), 179-218, noting that here and in Trevor-Roper’s other work on the period his enlightened Christians tended toward a broad-minded Arminianism at odds with Edwards’ program; Pershing Vartanian, “Cotton Mather and the Puritan Transition into the Enlightenment,” Early American Literature 7 (Winter 1973): 213-24; Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain, 1-74; Ned C. Landsman, “Presbyterians and Provincial Society: The Evangelical Enlightenment in the West of Scotland, 1740-1775,” in Sociability and Society in Eighteenth-Century Scotland, ed. John Dwyer and Richard B. Sher (Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 1993), 194-209; Frank Shuffelton, “Introduction,” in The American Enlightenment, ed. Frank Shuffelton, Library of the History of Ideas (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 1993), x; William M. Shea and Peter A. Huff, eds., Knowledge and Belief in America: Enlightenment Traditions and Modern Religious Thought, Woodrow Wilson Center Series (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Thomas O’Connor, An Irish Theologian in Enlightenment France: Luke Joseph Hooke, 1714-96 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1995); Nina Reid-Maroney, Philadelphia’s Enlightenment, 1740-1800: Kingdom of Christ, Empire of Reason, Contributions to the Study of World History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2001); Robert Sullivan, “Rethinking Christianity in Enlightened Europe,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 34 (Winter 2001): 298-309; Jonathan Sheehan, “Enlightenment, Religion, and the Enigma of Secularization: A Review Essay,” American Historical Review 108 (October 2003): 1061-1080; Gertrude Himmelfarb, The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 204-17; David Sorkin, “Geneva’s ‘Enlightened Orthodoxy’: The Middle Way of Jacob Vernet (1698-1789),” Church History 74 (June 2005): 286-305; Helena Rosenblatt, “The Christian Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 7, Enlightenment, Reawakening and Revolution, 1660-1815, ed. Stewart J. Brown and Timothy Tackett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 283-301, whose definition of Christian Enlightenment, including as it does an optimistic anthropology and an emphasis on tolerance, is too narrow to include the likes of Edwards; James Delbourgo, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 200-238, 278-83, for his perspective on the “American tradition of zealous spiritual interpretations of nature” (218); Catherine A. Brekus, “Sarah Osborn’s Enlightenment: Reimagining Eighteenth-Century Intellectual History,” in The Religious History of American Women: Reimagining the Past, ed. Catherine A. Brekus (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 108-41; David Sorkin, The Religious Enlightenment: Protestants, Jews, and Catholics from London to Vienna, Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), though, like Rosenblatt (above), Sorkin defines the religious Enlightenment as a non-dogmatic movement of religious tolerationists, which tends to rule out figures such as Edwards; Jeffrey D. Burson, “Towards a New Comparative History of European Enlightenments: The Problem of Enlightenment Theology in France and the Study of Eighteenth-Century Europe,” Intellectual History Review 18 (July 2008): 173-87; Jonathan Yeager, “Puritan or Enlightened? John Erskine and the Transition of Scottish Evangelical Theology,” Evangelical Quarterly 80 (2008): 237-53; John Fea, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America, Early American Studies (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); Daniel W. Howe, “John Witherspoon and the Transatlantic Enlightenment,” in The Atlantic Enlightenment, Ashgate Series in Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Studies (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2008), 61; Reiner Smolinski, “How to Go to Heaven, or How Heaven Goes? Natural Science and Interpretation in Cotton Mather’s ‘Biblia Americana’ (1693-1728),” New England Quarterly 81 (June 2008): 278-329; Kathryn Duncan, ed., Religion in the Age of Reason: A Transatlantic Study of the Long Eighteenth Century, AMS Studies in the Eighteenth Century (New York: AMS Press, 2009); Jeffrey D. Burson, The Rise and Fall of Theological Enlightenment: Jean-Martin de Prades and Ideological Polarization in Eighteenth-Century France (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010); Ned C. Landsman, Crossroads of Empire: The Middle Colonies in British North America, Regional Perspectives on Early America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), 144-81; Ulrich L. Lehner and Michael Printy, eds., A Companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition (Leiden: Brill, 2010); Jeffrey D. Burson, “Claude G. Buffier and the Maturation of the Jesuit Synthesis in the Age of Enlightenment,” Intellectual History Review 21 (December 2011): 449-72; Sarah Rivett, The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 271-335; Yeager, Enlightened Evangelicalism, 16-21, 200-208, and passim; Catherine A. Brekus, Sarah Osborn’s World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America, New Directions in Narrative History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 8-11 and passim; and the new scholarly journal, Religion in the Age of the Enlightenment, ed. Brett C. McInelly of Brigham Young University and published in New York by AMS Press.

129 For an introduction to the history of Enlightenment studies, see Lynn Hunt, with Margaret Jacob, “Enlightenment Studies,” in Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, 1:418-30. For the views of Hazard and Gay, see especially Paul Hazard, European Thought in the Eighteenth Century: From Montesquieu to Lessing, trans. J. Lewis May (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954; orig. La Pensée Européenne au XVIIIème Siècle, de Montesquieu à Lessing, 3 vols. [Paris: Boivin et Cie, 1946]); and Peter Gay, The Enlightenment, an Interpretation: The Rise of Modern Paganism (New York: Knopf, 1966). That their views remain popular and largely detrimental to our understanding of Edwards is obvious in works like Gary Wills, Head and Heart: A History of Christianity in America (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), who tells his story as a struggle between “enlightened” and “evangelical” tendencies within America and claims that “it is hard to see . . . how Edwards could be considered as a major figure in the American Enlightenment” (114); and Jose R. Torre, “General Introduction,” The Enlightenment in America, 1720-1825, 4 vols. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008), 1:vii-xix, who views his subject as a movement away from Calvinism and, thus, decided not to include Edwards in this sizeable anthology.

130 Israel’s perspective is most easily seen in a brief (276 pg.) distillation of the teleological argument laid out in his three-volume magnum opus on the subject: Jonathan Israel, A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010). For the trilogy itself, see Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Jonathan I. Israel, Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man, 1670-1752 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); and Jonathan I. Israel, Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights, 1750-1790 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

131 Use of the English word “Enlightenment” in reference to a system of early modern Western thought dates from ca. 1865 as a translation of Aufklärung. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), 5:268.

132 On the moderate or conservative face of the British Enlightenment, see especially Margaret C. Jacob, The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689-1720 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976); J. G. A. Pocock, “Post-Puritan England and the Problem of the Enlightenment,” in Culture and Politics from Puritanism to the Enlightenment, ed. Perez Zagorin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 91-112; John G. A. Pocock, “Clergy and Commerce: The Conservative Enlightenment in England,” in L’Età dei lumi: studi storici sul Settecento europeo in onore di Franco Venturi, vol. 1 (Napoli: Jovene, 1985), 525-62; J. G. A. Pocock, “Conservative Enlightenment and Democratic Revolutions: The American and French Cases in British Perspective,” Government and Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics 24 (January 1989): 81-105; B. W. Young, Religion and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century England: Theological Debate from Locke to Burke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998); and Porter, The Creation of the Modern World, 1-23, 99.

133 On these themes, see also John Redwood, Reason, Ridicule and Religion: The Age of Enlightenment in England, 1660-1750 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976); Jeanne Bignami-Odier, “Prophecies Concerning the Later Stuarts,” in Prophecy and Millenarianism: Essays in Honour of Marjorie Reeves, ed. Ann Williams (Essex, U.K.: Longman, 1980), 271; R. M. Burns, The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1981); Donald Davie, Dissentient Voice: The Ward-Phillips Lectures for 1980 with Some Related Pieces, University of Notre Dame Ward-Phillips Lectures in English Language and Literature (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982); John Gascoigne, Cambridge in the Age of the Enlightenment: Science, Religion and Politics from the Restoration to the French Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Henry D. Rack, Reasonable Enthusiast: John Wesley and the Rise of Methodism (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1989); Peter Harrison, “Religion” and the Religions in the English Enlightenment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Winship, Seers of God; Peter Harrison, The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998); Alexandra Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999); Phyllis Mack, “Religious Dissenters in Enlightenment England,” History Workshop Journal 49 (2000): 1-23; Robert G. Ingram, “William Warburton, Divine Action, and Enlightened Christianity,” in Religious Identities in Britain, 1660-1832, ed. Gibson and Ingram, 97-117; Jane Shaw, Miracles in Enlightenment England (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006); Peter Marshall and Alexandra Walsham, eds., Angels in the Early Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Killeen and Forshaw, eds., The Word and the World; Phyllis Mack, Heart Religion in the British Enlightenment: Gender and Emotion in Early Methodism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Jitse M. van der Meer and Richard J. Oosterhoff, “God, Scripture, and the Rise of Modern Science (1200-1700): Notes in the Margin of Harrison’s Hypothesis,” in Nature and Scripture in the Abrahamic Religions: Up to 1700, vol. 2, ed. Jitse M. van der Meer and Scott Mandelbrote, Brill’s Series in Church History (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 363-96; James E. Bradley, “The Changing Shape of Religious Ideas in Enlightened England,” in Seeing Things Their Way: Intellectual History and the Return of Religion, ed. Alister Chapman, John Coffey, and Brad S. Gregory (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009), 175-201; Henry D. Rack, “A Man of Reason and Religion? John Wesley and the Enlightenment,” Wesley and Methodist Studies, vol. 1, ed. Geordan Hammond and David Rainey (Manchester: Didsbury Press, 2009), 2-17; Rena Denton, “Enlightened Thought Devised from Biblical Principles,” and Robert G. Ingram, “‘The Weight of Historical Evidence’: Conyers Middleton and the Eighteenth-Century Miracles Debate,” both in Religion, Politics and Dissent, 1660-1832, ed. Cornwall and Gibson, 51-63, 85-109; Euan Cameron, Enchanted Europe: Superstition, Reason, and Religion, 1250-1750 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 241-315; and the religiosity presumed in much of Ruth Savage, ed., Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain: New Case Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

134 On the biblical exegesis of “Enlightenment” luminaries such as Newton, Locke, and Priestley, see William Whitla, ed., Sir Isaac Newton’s Daniel and the Apocalypse: With an Introductory Study of the Nature and the Cause of Unbelief, of Miracles and Prophecy (London: John Murray, 1922); H. McLachlan, ed., Sir Isaac Newton: Theological Manuscripts (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1950); Richard H. Popkin, “The Third Force in 17th Century Philosophy: Scepticism, Science and Biblical Prophecy,” Nouvelles de la république des letters 3 (Spring 1983): 35-63; Richard H. Popkin, “The Religious Background of Seventeenth-Century Philosophy,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 25 (January 1987): 35-50; John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians, 2 vols., ed. Arthur W. Wainwright, The Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), which is only the best known of Locke’s biblical publications; Richard H. Popkin, Millenarianism and Messianism in English Literature and Thought, 1650-1800: Clark Library Lectures, 1981-1982 (Leiden: Brill, 1988); Maria Cristina Pitassi, Le philosophe et l’écriture: John Locke exégète de Saint Paul, Cahiers de la Revue de théologie et de philosophie (Genève: Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie, 1990); Richard H. Popkin, The Third Force in Seventeenth Century Thought, Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1992); Richard H. Popkin, “Introduction,” in The Books of Nature and Scripture: Recent Essays on Natural Philosophy, Theology, and Biblical Criticism in the Netherlands of Spinoza’s Time and the British Isles of Newton’s Time, ed. James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin, Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publisehrs, 1994), ix-x; S. J. Barnett, “The Prophetic Thought of Sir Isaac Newton, Its Origin and Context,” in Prophecy: The Power of Inspired Language in History, 1300-2000, ed. Bertrand Taithe and Tim Thornton, Themes in History (Stroud, U.K.: Sutton Publishing, 1997), 101-16; N. Hitchin, “The Evidence of Things Seen: Georgian Churchmen and Biblical Prophecy,” in Prophecy, ed. Taithe and Thornton, 119-39; Stephen D. Snobelen, “Isaac Newton, Heretic: The Strategies of a Nicodemite,” British Journal for the History of Science 32 (December 1999): 381-419; S. J. Barnett, ed., Isaac Newton’s Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John: A Critical Edition, Mellen Critical Editions and Translations (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999); James E. Force and Richard H. Popkin, eds., Newton and Religion: Context, Nature, and Influence (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1999); Kim Ian Parker, The Biblical Politics of John Locke (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2004); Robert E. Schofield, The Enlightened Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1773 to 1804 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004), 210, 383; Stephen D. Snobelen, Isaac Newton, Heretic: Alchemy, the Apocalypse and the Making of Modern Science (London: Icon Books, forthcoming); and the online effort to publish all of Newton’s writings, which is revolutionizing our understanding of his work and its biblical foundations, The Newton Project, based at the University of Sussex (

135 For more on Edwards and the Enlightenment, see especially John E. Smith, “Puritanism and Enlightenment: Edwards and Franklin,” in Shea and Huff, eds., Knowledge and Belief in America, 195-226; McDermott, Jonathan Edwards Confronts the Gods; Allen C. Guelzo, “Edwards, Jonathan,” in Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, 1:390-92; Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of History; Avihu Zakai, “The Age of Enlightenment,” in The Cambridge Companion to Jonathan Edwards, 80-99; Avihu Zakai, Jonathan Edwards’s Philosophy of Nature: The Re-enchantment of the World in the Age of Scientific Reasoning (London: T & T Clark, 2010); and Louis Benjamin Rolsky, “Edwards and the Enlightenment: Mapping the Secular within the Covenanted Community,” REA: A Journal of Religion, Education and the Arts 7 (2011), available online at

136 The work of these writers read by Edwards included Issac Newton, Opticks . . . (London: Sam. Smith and Benj. Walford, 1704); Isaac Newton, The Chronology of the Ancient Kingdoms Amended . . . (London: J. Tonson, J. Osborn, and T. Longman, 1728); John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, 7th ed., 2 vols. (London: J. Churchill and Samuel Manship, 1716); Thomas Chubb, A Collection of Tracts, on Various Subjects (London: T. Cox, 1730); Hugo Grotius, The Truth of the Christian Religion . . ., 2d ed. (London: J. and P. Knapton, 1719); Francis Hutcheson, An Essay on the Nature and Conduct of the Passions and Affections. With Illustrations on the Moral Sense, 2d ed. (London: James and John Knapton et al., 1730); Andrew Michael (Chevalier) Ramsay, The Philosophical Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion . . ., 2 vols. (Glasgow: Robert Foulis, 1748-1749); Andrew Michael (Chevalier) Ramsay, The Travels of Cyrus. To Which Is Annexed, a Discourse upon the Theology and Mythology of the Pagans, 8th ed. (London: James Bettenham, 1752); and Matthew Tindal, Christianity as Old as the Creation . . . (London: s.n., 1730). See WJE, 26:324, 445, 448, 450, 455, 458-59, 466, and passim.

137 Edwards, “Miscellanies” No. 351, WJE, 13:426-27. On this theme, see also Edwards, “Profitable Hearers of the Word,” in WJE, 14:246-47; and Edwards, “Miscellanies” No. 139, WJE, 13:296-97, where he noted, “I am convinced that there are many things in religion and the Scriptures that are made difficult on purpose to try men, and to exercise their faith and scruting, and to hinder the proud and self-sufficient.”

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