Gentle Puritan [ePub]

by Edmund S. Morgan

Ezra was a great man. He was orthodox but liberal and gracious, while seeking ecumenical unity amongst the American Churches. He believed that Christian sects were as important as local bodies, but that all were flawed in some way and therefor humility, graciousness and kindness should prevail amongst men who served Christ.

He improved the American college system by raising the standards and ceremony of Yale through a thorough and excellent liberal arts education. He was a great preacher, pastor and scholar. He did not diminish the role of Yale in providing preachers, he made them better candidates and improved the learned professions in his state and the United States.

He was not a fan of the New Divinity School of thought as it strayed from "Edwardian Divinity" as he understood it. He believed the New divinity was hyper-Calvinistic and that it offered those who most needed the good news nothing but contempt and vitriol. Stiles was an "old Light" but resembled the Puritans more than the "New Light" preachers like Whitfield, which gave way to the new divinity and the rise, ultimately, of the anti-clericalism that weakened the faith and the church in Connecticut.

His vantage point was such as to give his criticism of the Great awakening and new divinity legitimacy, given the years he lived (which allowed him to witness the fruits of the movement), his generosity and intimate relationship with key players. He believed pastors retired to their ivory towers at the close of the 18th century and spawned the decline of the church in Connecticut.

He always had time for those who disagreed with him and was universally respected for his piety, faith, learning, generous spirit, principled stance and graciousness. He had some warts, arrogance and touches of worldliness, that often tempts big minds in academia but he is a great man in the heritage of the American Church.

This book covers a lot and was very dense. Morgan's work always ranks high in my estimation and this book did not disappoint. One of the best chapters was called "the books he didn't write" about Stiles' encyclopedic knowledge.

I would like to expand my understanding of the period and infighting amongst Calvinists during this period.

24.07.2011

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