George Marsden on Jonathan Edwards’ Surrender

Today is the Birthday of ‘America’s Theologian.’

Almost all his life had been preparing for this moment. He had often preached to others about how they should be ready for death and righteous judgment at any minute, and he disciplined himself with a regimen of devotion so that he would be prepared. In the weeks when he was wasting away he must have wondered why God would take him when he had so much to do. But submission to the mysteries of God’s love beyond human understanding was at the heart of his theology. When he knew the end was near, he dictated a message to be sent to Sarah in Stockbridge, to “give the kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union, which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever.”

I have never been a real fan of Jonathan Edwards, or the of the Puritan intrusion into the heritage of these United States; however, I can recognize a sound man when I see one. One of things that I admire about the Puritans those that they birthed, or birthed them, is their preparation in mind of the things that may or may not come, and the certainty of that which comes to us all.


You Might Also Like

34 Replies to “George Marsden on Jonathan Edwards’ Surrender”

  1. “Puritan intrusion”? Joel, did not the Puritans first found America? And Jonathan Edwards, a certain must read for the original American Colonial revival. “Sinners In the Hand of an Angry God!” Check me if I am wrong, but did and does not Edwards promote much of the American Calvinism? At least with people like Cornelius Van Til, and very conservative Presbyterian’s?
    Fr. R.

    1. No, the Puritans did not found American. Yes, they established a few colonies in New England (Mass.) but liberal Baptists founded Rhode Island, but you forget the Catholics in Maryland and Florida, the debtors in Georgia, those in the southern Colonies, and the Quakers in Penn. Further, colonial Virginia was founded by a trading company and stocked with CoE (a group that the Puritans cared less for)

      Edwards did promote American Calvinism, and in a real way, helped to shape the Great Awakenings, for better or worse.

  2. I was also wondering what the Puritan intrusion was only because I’ve never heard of it. What negative impact did they have? I like the Puritans the more I read of them and I’d probably be Puritan if I wasn’t Reformed even though there really isn’t such a thing nowadays.

    1. Jeff,

      The Puritans instituted genocide, the witch trials, the notion that we are the new Israel, that poverty is a sin, that pluralism in American society was evil – I could go on. While their basic beliefs may have been something to admire – especially the rigorist view against sin – their early attempts at framing this country in my opinion is something we have yet to recover from.

      I am not speaking about Calvinism, Jeff, so don’t get me mistaken.

      1. I think there is a big difference between American and English Puritans. At least during the beginning of the American version at Plymouth? But I am not an American. But I would agree with Jeff here. The shape of the American Church and Colonies must have had great Puritan effect… Yes? But what happened with both deism and the early American leaders?
        Fr. R.

        1. I remind you, that of the 13 colonies, only 1 or 2 were founded by Puritans. By the time of the Revolution, they had ceased to be.

  3. Gotta defend my home boy, Johnny E.

    Before you jump on him, make a point to read George Marden’s biography of Edwards. Follow that up with Iain Murray’s biography of J.E. Then thumb through the altogether secular Encyclopedia Brittianica and read where they call him “America’s greatest intellectual.” Enabled by the grace of God, Edwards and George Whitefield were instrumental in the conversion of thousands during the First Great Awakening. Many of his sermons can only be summed up as “stunning.”

    As to the Puritans, their historical heritage to Western civilization is immeasurable. I’d point you to J. I. Packer’s excellent “A Quest For Godliness,” a series of essays on the Puritans:

    In one of the essays in the referenced book, Packer builds an extended metaphor where, within the expansive forest of great Christians, the Puritans are the giant redwoods:

    “As Redwoods attract the eye, because they overtop other trees, so the mature holiness and seasoned fortitude of the great Puritans shine before us as a kind of beacon light, overtopping the stature of the majority of Christians in most eras, and certainly so in this age of crushing urban collectivism, when Western Christians sometimes feel and often look like ants on an anthill and puppets on a string .”

    Edwards and the Puritans suffer narrow stereotypes that I suspect originate in high school English classes.


    1. While I may not agree fully with Edwards’ Calvinism, I find that his work in the years preceding the Great Awakening(s) gave an immeasurable foundation to the real Christian America. He alone can be given credit for a religious revival which stirred the hearts of men and women in this country, and must more attention should be given to him on this day. Perhaps when he reaches the 500 mark? Whether we agree with those who followed him and claimed his banner, he was a remarkable man who feared God, spoke out against the sins of society, and called for a revolution of the heart.

        1. I think that without Edwards, though, the movement would have been without the ‘brain’ – not to diminish the Wesleys, but Edwards was intellectual, and unlike the Wesley’s production, absent a lot of the emotionalism.

          1. Edwards certainly contributed to the theological framework for the FGA, the intellectual component, if you will, but Whitefield provided much of the fire.

          2. It is a myth to think that John Wesley was not a brain himself! He in reality was well ahead of Whitefield in thinking and writing. The English Methodist movement lasted over a generation! In large part to John Wesley. I would suggest reading two good older books on J. Wesley and his theology: The Theology of John Wesley, by William R. Cannon (an American). And also the Swedish Lutheran, Harald Lindstrom’s classic work on Wesley: Wesley And Sanctification.
            Without the Wesley’s the whole of Evangelicalism would be so much the poorer! (American and UK)
            Fr. R.

          3. No, I am not saying that John wasn’t a brain – but Edwards, based here, provided the brain and the push.

            Of course, this debate is a lot better than most – no, my guy started the revival, no my guy did!

            I love the Wesley’s, like Edwards, and coming around to respect Calvin more and more!

          4. I am only seeking to balance the subject with the Wesley’s. Of course I do not know American history that well, compared to the British. But I have read Jonathan Edwards quite a bit also. Most profound and certainly worthly of the high American place!

            As I have said, on the doctrine of grace and salvation the Wesley brothers are closer to Calvin, than the Arminian.

            Calvin, well he is one of the Fathers of the lasting biblical truth, that the Church must always be reforming itself, by the Word of God alone! Of course with and in the Holy Spirit (in and over the Word).

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.