Jonathan Edwards in Scotland: An Alternate History


  • Mark Noll




When in the fall of 1750 John Erskine received a letter from Jonathan Edwards, written in July of that year, Erskine characteristically went into action. Also characteristic for Erskine when it came to his American connections was the effectiveness of that action. Immediately from his Kirkintilloch parish in Dunbartonshire, he contacted the Rev. James Robe in nearby Kilsyth. A year earlier Robe had shown Erskine a letter from Edwards in which the American had reported on “the general very dark and melancholy . . . present state of religion in these parts of the world.” (275). But the paragraph of the letter to Robe that caught Erskine’s eye—and which he commented on to Robe at the time—was what Edwards had reported about the recent organization of an informal association of Massachusetts ministers who had “applied themselves . . . earnestly to invent means for the promoting of religion.”