Jonathan Edwards V. Anne Bradstreet

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Jonathan Edwards v. Anne Bradstreet In a number of his writings, specifically “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Jonathan Edwards preaches literal fear of an arbitrary, unpredictable and vengeful God. Anne Bradstreet, on the other hand, believed (with human error) in a loving, trustworthy God. It seems almost impossible that these two views trace their origins to a common source. I will seek in this piece to uncover the fundamental discrepancy in the works of Bradstreet and Edwards. In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Edwards brings into question the salvation of anyone who has not been “born again.” He never directly questions his own salvation, but declares that many in the congregation to which he is speaking will soon find themselves burning in hell. The only hope he offers for escaping from the fiery pits of eternal damnation is a metaphorical call to flock to the open arms of Jesus. Considering that he was speaking to a congregation of Puritans, such an ultimatum would seem superfluous: were they not all there for the purpose of seeking God’s mercy? Or perhaps Edwards was speaking to those Puritans like Anne Bradstreet in all their human imperfection. Unlike Edwards, Bradstreet’s writings reveal belief in a loving and forgiving God, one in whom her salvation need not be questioned despite her acknowledged failings and occasional doubt that we saw in “To My Dear Children.” Bradstreet’s imagery of God in “Some Verses upon the Burning” stands in potent juxtaposition to Edwards’ claims: Thou hast an house on high erect, Framed by that might Architect, With glory richly furnished, Stands permanent though this be fled. (43-46). Contrary to Edwards’ capricious, wrathful picture of God Bradstreet here describes a God who comforts, whose goodness is permanent and trustworthy. Perhaps the most

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