A Brilliant Baptist Luminary: Jonathan Maxcy and the Light of New Divinity Theology as Reflected in His Sermons


  • Michael R. Cooper Jr.


The Edwardsean tradition, beginning with Jonathan Edwards and carried forth by his followers, had a unique influence on religious and social life between the two Awakenings. Like the Presbyterians and Congregationalists, Baptists also felt the ripple effects. Baptists were shaped by the Edwardsean tradition on both sides of the Atlantic. In particular, Baptists in the Southern states were formed by Edwardseanism. As Obbie Tyler Todd writes, “With the help of Jonathan Edwards and the Edwardseans, they delivered the faith of their Baptist ancestors to the brave new Southern world.” One Edwardsean Baptist wielded a considerable influence, the “brilliant luminary,” Jonathan Maxcy (1768-1820).


[1] Noll writes, “A sustained curve of rising membership does appear among the Baptists in New England and on the southern frontier.” Mark Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 162. For a historical sketch of the Baptist movement, also see Thomas S. Kidd and Barry Hankins, Baptists in America: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); and Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A. G. Haykin, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2015).

[2] Various works have mentioned this influence: Michael A. G. Haykin, “Great Admirers of the Transatlantic Divinity: Some Chapters in the Story of Baptist Edwardsianism,” in After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology, ed. Oliver D. Crisp and Douglas A. Sweeney (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 197-207; Gregory A. Wills, “The SBJT Forum: Overlooked Shapers of Evangelism,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 3, no. 1 (Spring 1999): 87-91. As they relate particularly to Edwardsean revivalism, see these two chapters: Michael A. G. Haykin, “The Lord is Doing Great Things, and Answering Prayer Everywhere”: The Revival of the Calvinistic Baptists in the Long Eighteenth Century” and Tom J. Nettles, “Baptist Revivals in America in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” in Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition, ed. Robert Davis Smart, Michael A. G. Haykin, and Ian Hugh Clary (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016). See also Tom J. Nettles, “Edwards and His Impact on Baptists,” Founders Journal (Summer 2003): 1-18. In particular, scholars have explored the Edwardsean influence in Andrew Fuller: see Chris Chun, The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards in the Theology of Andrew Fuller, Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 162 (Boston: Brill, 2012); Ryan Rindels, Andrew Fuller’s Theology of Revival: Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in Spiritual Renewal (Eugene OR: Pickwick Publications, 2021); Obbie Tyler Todd, A Baptist at the Crossroads: The Atonement in the Writings of Richard Furman 1755-1825 (Eugene OR: Pickwick Publications, 2021).

[3] Obbie Tyler Todd, Southern Edwardseans: The Southern Baptist Legacy of Jonathan Edwards (Gottingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2022). The inspiration and content of this article draws heavily from Todd’s groundbreaking research.

[4] Todd, Southern Edwardseans, 29.

[5] Romeo Elton, The Literary Remains of the Rev. Jonathan Maxcy, D. D. (New York: Published by A. V. Blake, 1844), 20.