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Outlines of English and American Literature
Jonathan Edwards
by Long, William J.


The most famous works of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) are the so-called Freedom of the Will and the Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections; but these are hard reading, not to be lightly undertaken. It is from the author's minor and neglected works that one receives the impression that he was a very great and noble man, shackled by a terrible theology. By his scholarship, his rare sincerity, his love of truth, his original mind and his transparent style of writing he exercised probably a greater influence at home and abroad than any other writer of the colonial era. In Whittier's poem "The Preacher" there is a tribute to the tender humanity of Edwards, following this picture of his stern thinking:

  In the church of the wilderness Edwards wrought,
  Shaping his creed at the forge of thought;
  And with Thor's own hammer welded and bent
  The iron links of his argument,
  Which strove to grasp in its mighty span
  The purpose of God and the fate of man.


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