Puritan Rhetoric: The Issue of Emotion in Religion

Puritan Rhetoric: The Issue of Emotion in Religion

Puritan Rhetoric: The Issue of Emotion in Religion

Puritan Rhetoric: The Issue of Emotion in Religion


The nature of Puritanism in America and the role of emotion in religion is the subject of this important and useful collection of five religious orations, discussed and appraised by Professor White for students of Puritanism and rhetoric. The five orations presented here consist of three by Jonathan Edwards, "Future Punishment," "Distinguishing Marks," and "The Nature of the Affections"; one by Charles Chauncy, "Enthusiasm Described and Caution'd Against"; and one by Ebenezer Gay, "Natural Religion, as Distinguished from Revealed."

In the first or introductory part of the book, Professor White discusses in considerable detail the broader implications of the confrontation between rationalists and revivalists in New England, represented by the following orations, during this most important upheaval in the Colonies prior to the Revolution. The orations themselves are arranged to represent the force and counterforce of reason versus emotionalism and the precarious balance maintained momentarily and, eventually, lost. And in the third part of the book Professor White provides critical analysis and suggested appraisal for further interpretation and inquiry.


By David Potter

There have been occasions during the past ten years when my equilibrium and sleep have been disturbed by the capering of a chorus straight from Gilbert and Sullivan: "An editor's life is not a happy one." Bleak thoughts have been engendered. Consider: one offends old friends by rejecting new proposals, distresses the director of his press by seeming ignorance of the economic realities of publishing, and infuriates the community of academic critics by saving money at the expense of adequate indices and footnotes. and all the while one worries-about his lack of specific knowledge in an area, about the maintenance of standards, about possible rejection of a volume (and the series) by the scholarly public.

Happily, no nightmares accompanied the manuscript of Eugene E. White's Puritan Rhetoric: the Issue of Emotion in Religion. I sought the volume when friend White announced its availability. Director Sternberg gladly agreed to extensive footnoting. the subject matter was familiar and dear to me. Indeed, Gordon L. Thomas and I were deeply disappointed that publishing costs and consequent restrictions on the length of our volume allowed us to include only one of the sermons, the Chauncy item, in our Colonial Idiom. Finally, the reputation of Dr. White, buttressed by his Winans Award-winning "Master Holdsworth and 'A Knowledge Very Useful and Necessary,'" the Speech Communication Association's Golden Anniversary Award for "Puritan Preaching and the Authority of God," and his impressive bibliography of articles and reviews should more than satisfy the questioning attitude of most scholars whether in rhetoric, history, or theology.

In short, I believe that this slim volume should add tremendously by virtue of its contents and methodology to the understanding of a germinal period in our history.

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