Law and Providence in Joseph Bellamy's New England: The Origins of the New Divinity in Revolutionary America

Law and Providence in Joseph Bellamy's New England: The Origins of the New Divinity in Revolutionary America

Law and Providence in Joseph Bellamy's New England: The Origins of the New Divinity in Revolutionary America

Law and Providence in Joseph Bellamy's New England: The Origins of the New Divinity in Revolutionary America

Synopsis

This study of religious thought and social life in early America focuses on the career of Joseph Bellamy (1719-1790), a Connecticut Calvinist minister noted chiefly for his role in originating the New Divinity--the influential theological movement that evolved from the writings of Bellamy's teacher, Jonathan Edwards. Tracing Bellamy's contributions as a preacher, noted controversialist, and church leader from the Great Awakening to the American Revolution, Mark Valeri explores why the New Divinity was so immensely popular. Set in social contexts such as the emergent market economy, the war against France, and the politics of rebellion, Valeri shows, Bellamy's story reveals much about the relationship between religion and public issues in colonial New England.

Excerpt

Among the wares that Boston dockworkers unloaded from a ship on a summer day in 1755, we might imagine, was a large package, damp and heavy after its long voyage from Scotland. It was addressed from "J. Erskine, Edinburgh" to "S. Kneeland, bookseller, Boston, New England." the parcel lay for a few hours on the wharf before a messenger came, signed for it, and lugged it up to Queenstreet. At the shop, Samuel Kneeland cut open the cover and quickly thumbed through the books. He set aside and bundled nine of them and the next day sent them along with a rider to Hartford. During the next ten days several travelers carried the parcel to the inland trading town of Litchfield, where a militia captain on his way to Danbury agreed to take the books to a small village some fifteen miles away. After a morning's ride, the captain knocked at the door of the village's parsonage and handed the somewhat worn package to the large, deep-voiced man who shared courtesies and a draught of cider. the pastor then took the parcel upstairs to the study, sat at his desk, and read the address: "To the Rev. Joseph Bellamy, Bethlem." Inside the wrapper was a short note--a bill, Bellamy presumed. He put aside the note and opened the books: Johan Friedrich Staupfer's five-volume Institutiones Theologae Polemicae, David Hume's Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, the third earl of Shaftesbury's Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, and Francis Hutcheson two-volume A System of Moral Philosophy. Before looking more carefully at these publications from Zurich, London, and Glasgow, the Calvinist parson put them on his shelves. They sat incongruously next to older copies . . .

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