Chapter 22: divines and moralists, 1783-1860
The writings of the American
clergy between the Revolution and the Civil War
have Jonathan Edwards1
fQr their point of departure, and carry onward the tendencies he brought to a focus.
Let us rather say two focuses: for Edwards
is great precisely in the intensity with which he manifests a tough-mindedness and a tender-mindedness that are universal.
He is at once dogmatist and mystic; he works out his theology into dualistic metaphysics, yet he knows himself to be one with God; though he philosophizes away the Freedom of the Will, and preaches Hell for sinners, yet he meditates also the Benevolence of the Deity, and is translated into mystical rhapsodies upon the divine love and upon Nature as its symbol and emanation.
The primacy he gives to motivation places him with those who insist that reward and punishment must be held up before depraved mankind to keep it even outwardly decent; his insistence upon an inner light and a love for universal being faces him toward the believers in man's essential goodness and perfectibility.
He never reconciled these tendencies in his own thinking; nor have they been reconciled since in that American literature which in various phases, mixtures, and proportions they have continued to colour.
Historically, at the close of the American Revolution
the tender-minded derive from the Cambridge Platonists
and their successors the English
Their thought is developed by Shaftesbury
and the ‘benevolists’; favoured by Berkeley
; much re-enforced by the works of Paley
, and by Butler