After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology

By Oliver D. Crisp; Douglas A. Sweeney | Go to book overview

13
Jonathan Edwards, Edwardsian
Theologies, and the Presbyterians

Mark Noll

IT WAS NO surprise that Presbyterians took a great interest in Jonathan Edwards and the theologians of New England who claimed Edwards as their progenitor. One reason for the interest came from the circumstances of Edwards’s life. It was not just that as a young man he had ministered to a Presbyterian church in New York City and then as a mature pastor-theologian agreed to serve as president of the Presbyterian-dominated College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Even more, after his dismissal from Northampton, Edwards corresponded with leading Scottish Presbyterians about the possibility of moving to Scotland and taking a pulpit in the Kirk. The prospect of Jonathan Edwards theologically active for fifteen or twenty years in the Scotland of David Hume, Thomas Reid, and a young Adam Smith leaves unrealized one of the great might-have-beens in the whole history of Christian theology. Documented as fact from that exchange, however, are the personal preferences that Edwards recorded in a letter from 1750 and that many later Presbyterians loved to quote. While conceding that some things about the Church of Scotland might be improved, Edwards also stated:

As to my subscribing to the substance of the Westminster Confession,
there would be no difficulty: and as to the Presbyterian government, I
have long been perfectly out of conceit with our unsettled, independent,
confused way of church government in this land. And the Presbyterian
way has ever appeared to me most agreeable to the Word of God, and
the reason and nature of things.1

-178-

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