previous next

[75] prided themselves on being of a cool and logical temperament. Hence Wigglesworth's most serious charge against Whitefield is that of irrationality. Enthusiasm, he explains, is a charge of a higher nature than perhaps people are generally aware of. The nature of enthusiasm is to make a man imagine that almost any thought which bears strongly upon his mind is from the Spirit of God, when at the same time he has no proof that it is. In short, to be of an enthusiastic turn is no such innocent weakness as people imagine.

This was Wigglesworth's caveat to the public. Whitefield might have made it out a mere half-penny testimonial had it not been succeeded by the formidable work of Charles Chauncy. This was the volume entitled Seasonable thoughts on the state of religion in New England (1743). That state, in the eyes of the pastor of the First Church in Boston, was, in one word, bad. The preaching of “disorderly walkers,” especially their well-advertised preaching in other men's parishes, it was argued, would lead, should it become the general practice, to the entire dissolution of our church state. But besides the evil effect upon the body politic, there was that upon the human body. With remarkable acumen, Chauncy points out the abnormalities in the practices of revivalism. The new lights, he recounts, lay very much stress on the “extraordinaries,” such as agitations, outcries, swoonings, as though they were some marks of a just conviction of sin. This is their inference, but the real fact is that the influence of awful words and fearful gestures is no other than “a mechanical impression on animal nature.” And the same natural explanation holds for the joy of the new lights. It may have its rise in the animal nature, for some have made it evident, by their after lives, that their joy was only a sudden flash, a spark of their own kindling. And when this is expressed among some sorts of people by singing through the streets and in ferryboats, from whatever cause it sprang it is certainly one of the most incongruous ways of expressing religious joy.

It must not be inferred from these strictures that Chauncy was a sour Puritan, averse to people's happiness. The contrary was the truth. His objections lay in the superficial and ephemeral character of the religious emotions among the new lights. Their joy was evidently but the reaction of relief from

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Puritan (Ohio, United States) (1)
New England (United States) (1)

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Charles Chauncy (3)
Edward Wigglesworth (2)
George Whitefield (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1743 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: