Jonathan Edwards saw God in nature; was he a forerunner of Transcendentalism?


From Jonathan Edwards’s “Personal Narrative,” which scholars say was written at some point after January 1739 (the essay was not published until after his death in 1758):

“God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything: in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things: in the meantime, singing forth with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce anything, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning. Formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. I used to be a person uncommonly terrified with thunder: and it used to strike me with terror, when I saw a thunderstorm rising. But now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God at the first appearance of a thunderstorm. And used to take the opportunity at such times, to fix myself to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder: which often times was exceeding entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. And while I viewed, used to spend my time, as it always seemed natural to me, to sing or chant forth my meditations; to speak my thoughts in soliloquies, and speak with a singing voice.”

From the late American literature scholar James D. Hart:

“In the second of [Edwards’s] Dissertations, ‘Concerning the End for Which God Created the World’ (written 1755), he returned to the mystic pantheism of his youth, declaring the world to be an emanation of God’s infinite fullness, created to express His glory. Since He is the supreme excellence, He loves the world as He is infused into it. In this, Edwards’s tendency to negate the personal, Hebraic concept of God and to view Him as an infinite being foreshadows Transcendentalism.” (writing in The Concise Oxford Companion to American Literature)

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2 responses to “Jonathan Edwards saw God in nature; was he a forerunner of Transcendentalism?

  1. no…he was just a good calvinist 🙂

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