previous next


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 deists. Their thought is developed by Shaftesbury and the ‘benevolists’; favoured by Berkeley; much re-enforced by the works of Paley, and by Butler's

1 See Book I, Chap. IV for Edwards. For divines other than Congregational and Unitarian see Book III, Chap. XVII.

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.

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.
Jonathan Edwards (3)
Unitarian (1)
Shaftesbury (1)
Paley (1)
Joseph Butler (1)
Berkeley (1)
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.
1783 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: