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.