A Providential Plumbline for Pastoral Practice: Edwards’s Exposition of the Kingdom of God


  • Rhys Bezzant


American Religious History


Eighteenth-century revivalism served both disruption and order. It was disruptive in as far as it acknowledged decentralised authority and gave new religious prominence to human agency, international initiatives, new strategies for ministry, and permitted eschatological, sometimes apocalyptic, agendas to drive experience. Indeed, Winiarski has recently portrayed the movement in New England as dangerously divisive.[1]On the other hand, thinkers like Jonathan Edwards were concerned about the ultimate harmony of both the created and the uncreated spheres, taught systematically about the dignified and unified purposes of history, and sought to cultivate heroic leadership in the church that would function like a tiller, to keep the boat steady and on course. His wig was a sign of his desire for order, though on a good day he was patient of expressions of ardour as well. What, then, was coursing through Edwards’s heart when he prayed these familiar words “Thy Kingdom come”? The phrase can be heard as a plea for the establishment of God’s harmonious rule in the new creation, or for the dissolution of this world’s order, and begs the question which of these might be primary in God’s design. To ask questions of the Kingdom is to ask some of the most fundamental questions in theological inquiry

[1] Douglas L. Winiarski, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light: Experiencing Religious Awakenings in Eighteenth-Century New England (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017.