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Jonathan Edwards and the Development of American Democracy
Unformatted Document Text:  Harris 3 show the impact of Edwards’s ideas on democratic theory, particularly on the development of individualism in the United States, I will focus at length on his arguments about revivalism and the emotions, the half-way covenant and membership, and personalized virtue. I will conclude with brief discussions of his ideas about epistemology and the impact of his theology as mediated by the New Divinity. Revivalism The issue of revivalism led to waves of support, attacks, and responses by both supporters and attackers. For our present inquiry it is important to lay out the sequence of Edwards’s writings on revival along with responses by Charles Chauncy in order see how the argument progresses. In 1737, Edwards composed his Faithful Narrative of Surprising Conversions, giving his eyewitness account of revivals in Northampton, followed in 1739 by his History of the Work of Redemption. In 1740 he released his Personal Narrative, recounting his own religious experiences, followed the next year by two of his most important sermons, Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In 1743 he published Some Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England, in response to two pamphlets by Chauncy, Against Revivalism (1742) and Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England (1743). Finally, in 1746 Edwards published his Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. With this last treatise Edwards moved past ad hoc and piecemeal support for particular revivals toward a comprehensive theological defense of the role of some elements of the emotions in proper religious life. Edwards showed nearly unabashed support for the preachers that fostered the beginnings of revival movements in New England. Though many charged them with upsetting the careful

Authors: Harris, John.
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Harris 3
show the impact of Edwards’s ideas on democratic theory, particularly on the development of
individualism in the United States, I will focus at length on his arguments about revivalism and
the emotions, the half-way covenant and membership, and personalized virtue. I will conclude
with brief discussions of his ideas about epistemology and the impact of his theology as
mediated by the New Divinity.
Revivalism
The issue of revivalism led to waves of support, attacks, and responses by both supporters
and attackers. For our present inquiry it is important to lay out the sequence of Edwards’s
writings on revival along with responses by Charles Chauncy in order see how the argument
progresses. In 1737, Edwards composed his Faithful Narrative of Surprising Conversions,
giving his eyewitness account of revivals in Northampton, followed in 1739 by his History of the
Work of Redemption. In 1740 he released his Personal Narrative, recounting his own religious
experiences, followed the next year by two of his most important sermons, Distinguishing Marks
of the Work of the Spirit of God and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. In 1743 he
published Some Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England, in response to two
pamphlets by Chauncy, Against Revivalism (1742) and Seasonable Thoughts on the State of
Religion in New England (1743). Finally, in 1746 Edwards published his Treatise Concerning
the Religious Affections. With this last treatise Edwards moved past ad hoc and piecemeal
support for particular revivals toward a comprehensive theological defense of the role of some
elements of the emotions in proper religious life.
Edwards showed nearly unabashed support for the preachers that fostered the beginnings
of revival movements in New England. Though many charged them with upsetting the careful


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