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After Jonathan EdwardsThe Courses of the New England Theology$
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Oliver D. Crisp and Douglas A. Sweeney

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199756292

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756292.001.0001

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We Can If We Will

We Can If We Will

Regeneration and Benevolence

(p.63) 4 We Can If We Will
After Jonathan Edwards

James P. Byrd

Oxford University Press

In Edwards’s thought, conversion was intimately connected to morality. Though the great moral philosophers of the Enlightenment claimed all people could be perfectly moral through their own efforts, for Edwards only the truly converted could be truly virtuous. Morality was closely related to spirituality. Only those with transformed affections could truly love as God loves. This intimate relationship between conversion and ethics then remained a persistent yet controversial theme in American theology. Historians recognize that successors of Edwards developed his ideas for benevolence in various directions, often agreeing but often departing from the “letter” of his ethical law to apply its “spirit” to urgent ethical issues. This chapter examines the connection between conversion and ethics in New England theology after Edwards, focusing specifically on case studies of slavery, war, and the biblical themes through which ministers envisioned these moral crises in relation to religious experience.

Keywords:   Jonathan Edwards, war, moral philosophy, benevolence, ethics, slavery

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