Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
An early convert to Calvinism, Jonathan Edwards was ordained minister of First Church, Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1727, and through such provocative sermons as “God Glorified in Man’s Dependence” (1731), “A Divine and Supernatural Light” (1733), and “Justification by Faith Alone” (1734) became a central figure in the religious revival in New England that came to be known as the “Great Awakening.” Among his other important works are Freedom of the Will (1754), The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended (1758), and The Nature of True Virtue (1765).
In the preface to his Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Edwards contends that there is no more important question than that concerning the distinguishing features of those who are truly religious and pious. The practical problem of distinguishing the truly pious from the fervent pretenders to piety arose in the spiritual excitement of the Great Awakening, during which it became difficult, if not impossible, to separate the truly holy from those whose emotional intensity and frenetic activity gave them the appearance but not the reality of virtue and piety.
Edwards was troubled, both spiritually and intellectually, by the confusion of emotionalism with true virtue. “There is indeed something very mysterious in it,” he writes, “that so much good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God.”...
(The entire section is 1968 words.)
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