Jonathan Edwards's Scottish connection and the eighteenth-century Scottish evangelical revival, 1735-1750
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In the second half of the twentieth century, the life and work of Jonathan Edwards, the eighteenth-century New England minister of Northampton, Massachusetts, has received increased scholarly attention. Questions of the nature and extent of his influence have informed much of this revival of interest. For two centuries theologians, philosophers and historians have claimed that Jonathan Edwards significantly influenced eighteenth-century Scottish religious thought, and yet little scholarly attention has been invested in this area of Edwards's studies. The central focus of this thesis has been to shed additional light on this neglected but celebrated side of Edwards's life and ministry. This study is an investigation of the formative period of Edwards's Scottish connection. It began with the publication of his A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in Scotland in 1737 and his subsequent connection with the Scottish revival of 1742. The relationship was then further developed through the publication of five other major works of Edwards in Scotland during the years 1742 to 1749, and his correspondence with a coterie of evangelical ministers from the Church of Scotland. At the heart of this connection was the pursuit of true religion that undergird the ministries of Edwards and his Scottish counterparts. More specifically, the influence Edwards exercised on Scottish evangelicalism during this formative period was the result, first, of his articulation of a Reformed, evangelical and enlightened conception of true piety which he used to promote and defend the revivals and, second, the cooperation and support he received from the Scottish ministers he corresponded with. What this study shows is that the cooperative relationship between Edwards and his Scottish counterparts helped usher in a new era of Scottish Calvinism. With their combined abilities, creative vision and enterprising spirit they forged a new evangelical paradigm for Scottish Calvinism. The revival was the catalyst for this new movement and Edwards was its theological architect. Scottish revivalists used Edwards's Faithful Narrative to inspire and promote the revival and his Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God to defend and manage it. Edwards's conception of true piety together with the revival helped redefine Scottish evangelical Calvinism by adapting it from its old didactic role within a godly commonwealth to a mission oriented role where the faith of the individual became prominent and the pursuit of sanctification, not salvation, defined the Christian's life. These emphases were further developed among Scottish evangelicals following the revival by the continuing efforts of Edwards and his Scottish friends. Prominent among these efforts were three additional works of Edwards and the international enterprise known as the United Concert for Prayer that was organized and orchestrated by Scottish evangelicals. One of the most far-reaching results was the growth of Scottish overseas missions. Finally, this study indicates that Edwards's revival writings provide an important starting point for understanding the theological and spiritual preoccupations of Scottish evangelicalism in the second half of the eighteenth century; and that Edwards's contribution to Scottish evangelicalism and modern evangelicalism generally cannot be properly understood without an understanding of his relationship to his Scottish correspondents.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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