Old, Rested, and Reformed: Reflections on the Recovery of Edwards


  • George Marsden


American Religious History


I first encountered the genius of Jonathan Edwards here at the Yale Divinity School. It was, I think, during the fall of 1963 when I was taking a course with Sydney Ahlstrom on American religious history—or Theology in America—pretty much same thing for Ahlstrom. It happened that I roomed at the Divinity School and I had discovered that the Day Missions Reading Room of the library here was a very pleasant location to read. On this occasion, I believe I was reading Douglass Elwood’s Philosophical Theology of Jonathan Edwards where he points out the role of beauty in Edwards’s experience and thought, and was quoting at length from A Divine and Supernatural Light. I still have the book and have underlined with x’s and arrows where Ellwood says: “The ‘spiritual sense’ is without any long chain of arguments: ‘the argument is but one and the evidence direct.’ It is overpowering and all-conquering.” And then he quotes from Edwards’s sermon: “God is God and distinguished . . . chiefly by his divine beauty, which is infinitely diverse from other beauty.” And “The ‘new sense’ enables the mind to rise above the sensuous to the appreciation of spiritual beaut."