English Literature I
December 10, 2011
Jonathan Edwards at a Crossroad of Puritanism and Enlightenment
Jonathan Edwards is a fascinating individual in eighteenth century literature and one of the most important figures of his time. He is the son and grandson of Puritan preachers and a product of a Puritan background. He is known as an Enlightenment philosopher, theologian, orator, and scientist. Edwards is a leading figure in the early years of the “Great Awakening”, a period of bringing Puritans back to their former religion and reintroducing old practices, which spread rapidly from Northampton to Massachusetts to Connecticut. Edwards writing style was shaped by his upbringing and education and strict Puritan influences. Intense passion and feeling is the driving force behind his writings. The rise and fall in his life as a preacher from being popular to being dismissed is similar to his own personal moments of revelation to moments of utter despair.
Early Puritan themes in writing consisted of practical and purposeful matters. Puritan writers sought to glorify God by being humble especially in writing. Rules were very strict and possibly led to Edwards strive for perfection in many aspects of his life. Edwards “belonged to an elite extended family that was part of the ruling class of clergy”. From a young age, religion was a major force in his life. In Puritan life, the head of the family was the father who had “authority over families and households.” The Puritan belief consisted of ultimate “Sovereignty to God” in all things. It must also be noted that “good order” was “enforced by strict surveillance” and the consequences was “strict punishment.” Edwards remained loyal to the “theology inherited from seventeenth century Puritans” as regards the ” Sovereignty to God” meaning God got credit for anything good that happened, particularly in relation to “salvation” (Marsden 3). To attain an accurate view of