This course delves into the mid-eighteenth-century Protestant evangelical revival in New England from the perspective of one of its major figures, Jonathan Edwards, pastor of Northampton, Massachusetts, an epicenter of transatlantic evangelical culture at the time. During the decade from 1734 to 1744, Edwards oversaw two “awakenings” in his congregation and participated in many other such religious episodes across New England and beyond. Edwards’ experience as a pastor, as apologist, and as critic reveals how the revivals ebbed and flowed, ultimately lending to long-lasting divisions in American religious life and providing a basis for modern evangelicalism on the one hand and liberal theology on the other.
Readings will consist mostly of sermons (many of them previously unpublished), though augmented by other selections by Edwards and by contemporary documents. The construction and structure of sermons will be examined, their preaching strategies evaluated, and their contextual references to both local and international events highlighted.
The class format will be a mixture of lectures that introduce and frame the texts, and of discussion around the texts themselves and related issues. Participants can expect readings amounting to approximately fifty pages per day. All readings will be made available online by the instructors through the Jonathan Edwards Center’s website, edwards.yale.edu.
Schedule (subject to revision):
Day 1: 1734-35
-Selected sermons and other documents highlighting the Connecticut Valley Revival at Northampton and regional events
Day 2: 1736-1740
-Selected sermons and other documents reflecting Edwards’ efforts following the Connecticut Valley Revival, periodic epidemics, and the visit of George Whitefield
Day 3: 1741
-Selected sermons by Edwards and other documents from the enthusiastic heights of the “Great Awakening” in New England
Day 4: 1742
-Selected sermons by Jonathan and the “Experiences” of Sarah Pierpont Edwards, illustrating the increasingly corporeal nature of religion, and the issues it raised
Day 5: 1743-44
-Selected sermons and other documents showing the downturn of the “work of the Spirit,” the extremism of pro- and anti-revival factions, and the culmination of the backlash against embodied spirituality in the “Bad Book” Case