Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1993

Department 1

Civil War Era Studies

Department 2



Thomas Chalmers once wrote in admiration of Jonathan Edwards that "I have long esteemed him as the greatest of theologians, combining in a degree that is unexampled the profoundly intellectual with the devotedly spiritual and sacred, and realizing in his own person a most rare yet more beautiful harmony between the simplicity of the Christian pastor on the one hand, and, on the other, all the strength and prowess of a giant in philosophy. And yet, despite Chalmer's insistence on balancing Edwards's intellectial eminence with his spirituality, the spiritual structures of Jonathan Edwards remain very much an unexplored territory. Although Edwards's student, Samuel Hopkins, remembered that Edwards was "frequent and punctual" in "secret prayer" and "often kept days of fasting and prayer, and set apart portions of time for devout meditiation on spiritual and eternal things, as part of his religious exercises in retirement," nevertheless even Hopkins found Edwards's practice of devotional life very much a closed book. "He made a secret of such exercises" and "nothing can be said of them but what his papers discover, and what may be fairly inferred from circumstances." Still, as Chalmers indicated, it is difficult to read Edwards, even at his most philosophical, and not find that Edwards's spiritual disciplines were intimately bound up with his pastoral and intellectual life. [excerpt]

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