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SOME MAKERS OF AMERICAN LITERATURE
THE MAN OF THE WORLD AND THE
MAN OF GOD
A DRAMATIC CONTRAST
DO not know who first called attention to the
dramatic contrast between those giant contemporaries, Jonathan Edwards, and Benjamin Franklin. I made it the subject of a public lecture twentyfive years ago, and rather flattered myself on being the first to advertise it. Later, on reading an essay by Leslie Stephen, I found that he had made a passing allusion to it in 1874. As a matter of fact, it is so salient that hundreds of students must have observed it. The latest is the accomplished critic, Carl van Doren, who has placed extracts from both writers cheek-by-jowl in one convenient volume. If the pages of that little book could become selfconscious, there would be civil war within the covers.
These two colonial Americans, taken together, reveal every conspicuous trait in American character. Each had to a high degree what the other had not;
each was the other's complement. If we could take the best in both, and unite the combination in one person, we should have the ideal American.
They were strictly contemporary. Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703, and Benjamin Franklin in 1706. Edwards, however, died in 1758, whilst Franklin lived on until 1790.
The man of the world long survived the man of God.
Although both of these men were born in New England, their intellectual lives were as far asunder as east and west. Edwards's father and grandfather were clergymen: he was a graduate of Yale: a member of the Yale faculty: a preacher in New York and in Northampton: a missionary to the Indians, not in Oklahoma, but in Massachusetts: and he closed
closed his career President of Princeton.
At the age of ten, he wrote an essay ridiculing the materialistic conception of the soul. As a man he spent thirteen hours a day in the acquisition of learning, and his favourite studies were Logic, Philosophy, and Metaphysics—studies that for some reason Milton placed in the curriculum of hell.
Others apart sat on a hill retir'd
His Resolutions and his Diary show his constant introspection; in those days everyone wrote resolutions, and everyone kept—a diary. He was burdened with that terrible conviction of sin, which seems the least of all modern worries, but which, in colonial days, was at once the cause of mental anguish and yet of rock-like stability of character. The outward life of Edwards seems tame and uneventful; his inner life was wildly exciting, a series of astounding adventures. He scaled vertiginous heights; he fell into unspeakable depths. The Slough of Despond alternated with the Delectable Mountains, from which he had glimpses of the glories of the saints of God.
“My support was in contemplations of the heavenly state; as I find in my Diary for May 1, 1723. It was a comfort to think of that state where there is fulness of joy; where reigns heavenly, calm, and delightful love, without alloy; where there are continually the dearest expressions of this love. .. Where those persons who appear so lovely in this world, will really be inexpressibly more lovely and full of love to us. And how sweetly will the mutual lovers join together to sing the praises of God and the Lamb. ...I continued much in the same frame, in the general, as when at New-York, till I went to New Haven, as tutor in the college. After I went to New-Haven I sunk in religion.”
We see that Yale was as desperately wicked a place two hundred years ago as all its enemies admit it to be today.
After he had been a member of the Yale Faculty