The Writings of Jonathan Edwards: Theme, Motif, and Style

By William J. Scheick | Go to book overview

[6]
Pastor and Prophet: Conclusion

A s one might expect, contemporary assessments of Edwards' work were mixed. Ezra Stiles speculated in his diary that within a generation Edwards' writings would "pass into as transient Notice perhaps scarce above Oblivion, as Willard or Twiss, or Norton; and when Posterity occasionally comes across them in the Rubbish of Libraries, the rare Characters who may read & be pleased with them, will be looked upon as singular & whimsical."1Gilbert Tennant, on the other hand, spoke of him as an "ascending Elijah."2 Later Samuel Hopkins would write: " President Edwards, in the esteem of all the judicious, who were well acquainted with him, either personally, or by his writings, was one of the greatest -- best -- and most useful of men, that have lived in this age."3 More recent assessments have been somewhat more uniform, generally viewing Edwards as one of the most brilliant defenders of Puritanism.

With regard to Edwards' appraisal of his own life and work, it is difficult to know for certain what he felt. The Northampton failure weighed heavily upon his mind; yet the success of his writings must have seemed a sign of divine favor. Ultimately, as the "Personal Narrative" indicates, the question of success or failure was meaningless when asked within a temporal frame of reference. One's outward circumstances, though they indeed mean something, are frequently bewildering to the person involved in them. Even

____________________
1
The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, ed. Franklin Bowditch Dexter, 3:275.
2
See David Bostwick, Self Disclaimed, and Christ Exalted, pp. 31-32.
3
Samuel Hopkins, Life and Character of Edwards, p. 1.

-140-

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The Writings of Jonathan Edwards: Theme, Motif, and Style
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Title Page 1
  • [1] - Nature and the Mind: Early Writings 3
  • [2] - Reason and Intuition: Early Sermons 17
  • [3] - Parents and Children: Works of the Postrevival Period 40
  • [4] - Affections and the Self: Writings During The Great Awakening 67
  • [5] - Virtue and Identity: Last Works 112
  • [6] - Pastor and Prophet: Conclusion 140
  • Works Cited 151
  • Index 155
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