There is no arguing that the two ideas of Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Paine were different in many ways yet they shared similar characteristics. Edwards message on one hand was to utilize pathos in his everyday beliefs, Paine’s message emphasized in ethos to convey his message that the soldiers needed to fight in the Revolutionary War instead of giving up.
Edwards tries to persuade his listeners through urgency and fear emotions. Throughout the text he explains how non-believers and sinners are doomed to hell as a consequence. Paine focused on scientific facts. He had a grand vision for society: he was anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly.
Jonathan Edwards and his wife Sarah Pierpoint both had a very strong connection to church environments. It wasn’t until he was dismissed by his parish in 1750 because of different point of views for Calvinism. He was known to speak out against the false. Jonathan argued that enlightenment ideas of self-interest from an ethical basis and insisted on true godly virtue.
Edwards talked a lot of the devil and God sides with democracy and society. In his passage, he explains how he views Devils relationship with God. “ The Devil stands ready to fall upon them ,and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him, he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke xi.12. The Devils watch them; they are ever by them, at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should with draw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls.” Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741). Page 11
The passage below explained well how he felt about the moral necessity of the people. I understood it as that he perfectly understood the inconsistency with mankind on behaviors and false hypocrisy. He knew that through the ways of God, people count find the good in themselves.
“…[T]his (praising,blaming,rewarding,punishing) is not all inconsistent with the natural apprehensions of mankind, and that sense of things which is found every where in the common people who are furthest from having their thoughts perverted from their natural channel, by metaphysical and philosophical subtilties; but, on the contrary, altogether agreeable to ,and the very voice and dictate of this natural and vulgar Sense.” Edwards, Freedom of the Will (1754).
Edwards believed so strongly in God’s power to control and define a person. “There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints.” Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (1741). Jonathan Edward’s purpose for preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” was to inform his audience that we need to rectify our ways of life and change from our wicked ways.
Thomas on the other hand was born in England in 1737. He was a deist. He stayed in England until he was nearly forty years old where he practiced talents such as a stay maker, sailor, and teacher. Once he came to America he briefly worked as a journalist and clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly. He then returned to England and was imprisoned for a time because of his vocal objections to the Execution of Louis XVI. He and Edwards share this in common from getting dismissed by his parish for his views to imprisonment. He was set free in November 1794 at the request of James Monroe. Years later in 1802 he decided to return to America and he passed away seven years later in 1809.
From the reading, “ His persistent trust in reason and reverence for nature punctuate Paine’s political tracts.” Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, Page 30. Throughout this brief tract, Paine enumerates the excesses of Christianity as it is practiced in the eighteenth century.
Thomas Paine went by “The Age of Reason, Part 1, is that the creation itself, not the Bible, is the book of God and, therefore, is the only volume that enables s to discover that God exists, that God is Benevolent, and that God’s knowledge, like this power, is immeasurable.” Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, Page 31. Paine believed we can learn from God’s own generosity and benevolence to treat others with liberality and with compassion. “ Even as God gives us life and what we need to enjoy it, so too are we, as God’s most intelligent creatures, obligated to do for others as He had done for us.” Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, Page 31.
The book states “ We choose Paine, rather than some less prominent religious rationalist or deist, because he managed, without starting out as an American, to ignite the Revolution and to announce many of the ideas and ideals that induced cautious colonists to become committed revolutionaries.” Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine, Page 32. He is greatly respected for this and his bravery if you may say for all he contributed to and sacrificed for his ideas and voice.
“Do we want to contemplate his power? We see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate his wisdom? We see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible Whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? We see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? We see it in his not withholding that abundance even from the unthankful. In fine, do we want to know what God is? Search not the book called scripture, which any human hand might make, but the scripture called the Creation.” Paine, The Age of Reason, Part 1 (1794) Page 43. This explained how Paine choose to question God and the power. He had the skill and ability to do so and although it had its consequences like being imprisoned he had the will power to do so.
When you start to compare both Edwards and Paine’s ideas to a day like today you look at it as a stepping stone for activists and leaders who speak up for what they believe in. We still have unfair imprisonments/tyranny all over the world today. We have a nation who is divided with decisions for or against on many of the Law System and who also voice out like they did and get consequences.
In conclusion, Paine lived for questioning anything and demanded answers and to be heard. I think Edwards was more of a persuader on convincing people to believe what and how he did. You can say both had a strong passion for sticking to their opinions. Both took a stand and will be remembered for it in History.
- Stanlick, Nancy A., and Bruce S. Silver. Philosophy in America. Prentice Hall, 2004.
- “Chapter 1 Jonathan Edwards The Great Awakening and Beyond.” Philosophy in America, by Nancy A. Stanlick and Bruce S. Silver, Prentice Hall, 2004.
- “Chapter 2 Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine The Enlightenment in America.” Philosophy in America, by Nancy A. Stanlick and Bruce S. Silver, Prentice Hall, 2004, pp. 29–50.