How Did Jonathan Edwards Influence American Culture

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Two outstanding American figures, Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards, greatly influenced American culture during and following the periods of the Great Awakening and the Age of Reason. The Great Awakening was an era of spiritual rejuvenation whereas the Age of Reason, or Enlightenment, was an era of scientific reasoning (Perkins and Perkins, Reason 157). Through the convergence of Edward’s views on spiritual humanity and Franklin’s views on rational humanity, American culture has evolved into a more diverse and progressive society. Inspirational literature was a catalyst in the formation of Jonathan Edwards’ perspectives on the methods of attaining a more fulfilling life. In the beginning, Edwards faced external and internal conflicts…show more content…
Throughout Edward’s journey, he experienced periods of doubt of his own inner holiness and reflected on his past ways. However, he seemed to return to his spirituality for solace and comfort. As a youth, he spent long periods of time in religious talk and prayer with comrades (Edwards, Narrative 181). He engaged some of his schoolmates in building a shanty for prayer and private reflection (Edwards, Narrative 181). His early dedication to his quest for spirituality was reflected in everything he did, almost making him a recluse. However, upon growing older, his exposure to college life led him astray (Edwards, Narrative 181). The ways of the world seemed to tempt Edwards as well as most common men to give in to undesirable ways and inner conflicts of right and wrong. In recognizing his past indiscretions, he searched for an inner forgiveness and return to faith. This struggle is not an unknown phenomenon of man today. Most challenge their inner beliefs and morality at some point in life. In Edwards’ case, he came to realize that he felt more strongly that God’s salvation and goodness superseded any reasonable and logical reason. His premise was that one should not only believe in the Spirit of God, but feel God’s divinity within oneself (Edwards, Divine 167). He found biblical quotes that turned him away from those desires and helped him focus on his goals.…show more content…
It is not unusual to find people quoting some of Franklin’s common sense advice. His insight into humanism and man’s folly gave use to the popularity of his own literary works (Franklin 218). Franklin’s progressive thinking led to the broadening of the study of science and promoting experimentation. His desire to make life easier led to his many successful inventions as well as public services. That parallels modern day inventors and scientists who continually search for the advancement of mankind. His inner unrest motivated and drove him to defy his early religious experiences and draw on his experiences in the real world. Many people today challenge old beliefs and promote radical change in what is acceptable and what is ethical. Like so many prominent figures in history, his open-minded philosophy on life was in harmony with many people today. Franklin’s influence on society can be found in many areas of our own society.
Franklin’s inner search for spirituality was not solely focused on “God” or a Sovereign Being, but on man deciding for himself whether to choose good over evil in the best interest of mankind around him. His premise centered on man’s moral virtues of temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humanity (Franklin 216). Franklin felt that through the practice of perfecting these virtues, one
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