By J. Rixey Ruffin
William Bentley, pastor in Salem, Massachusetts from 1783 to his loss of life in 1819, used to be not like an individual else in America's founding new release, for he had come to specified conclusions approximately how most sensible to keep up a conventional knowing of Christianity in a global ever altering through the forces of the Enlightenment. Like a few of his contemporaries, Bentley preached a liberal Christianity, with its benevolent God and salvation via ethical dwelling, yet he-and in New England he alone-also preached a rational Christianity, one who provided new and radical claims in regards to the energy of God and the attributes of Jesus. Drawing on over one thousand of Bentley's sermons, J. Rixey Ruffin strains the evolution of Bentley's theology. Neither liberal nor deist, Bentley used to be in its place what Ruffin calls a "Christian naturalist," a believer within the biblical God and within the crucial Christian narrative but additionally in God's unwillingness to intrude in nature after the Resurrection. In adopting this sort of place, Bentley had driven his religion so far as he may possibly towards rationalism whereas nonetheless, he suggestion, calling it Christianity. yet this publication is as a lot a social and political background of Salem within the early republic because it is an highbrow biography; it not just delineates Bentley's rules, yet maybe extra very important, it unravels their social and political outcomes. utilizing Bentley's outstanding diary and an enormous archive of newspaper money owed, tax files, and electoral returns, Ruffin brings to existence the sailors, widows, captains and retailers who lived with Bentley within the jap parish of Salem. A Paradise of cause is a examine of the highbrow and tangible results of rational faith in mercantile Salem, of theology and philosophy but in addition of ideology: of the social politics of race and sophistication and gender, the ecclesiastical politics of multinational and dissent, the ideological politics of republicanism and classical liberalism, and the get together politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism. In bringing to mild the interesting lifestyles and considered considered one of early New England's best ancient figures, Ruffin bargains a clean viewpoint at the formative negotiations among Christianity and the Enlightenment within the years of America's founding.
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Additional info for A Paradise of Reason: William Bentley and Enlightenment Christianity in the Early Republic
16 Perhaps his appointment was a favor from a neighborhood friend, since he served under artilleryman William Burbeck, a member of Revere’s Freemason lodge. It was a position that suited Joshua Bentley well, and he was even able to get work there for William’s fourteen-year-old brother, John. 17 William Bentley, however, sat out the war. He was in Cambridge when ﬁghting broke out several miles away, but like many of his classmates he took no part. When the half-dozen brick buildings around Harvard Yard were commandeered by American troops in April of 1775 and the school was forced to reconvene in Concord, Bentley went there, too.
Diman closed by trying to rally Prince and the other ministers, ‘‘however ill we may be treated,’’ to bring sinners to salvation ‘‘at this time of great degeneracy and wickedness,’’ but he was alone in his crusade. Barnard was getting along swimmingly with his church, Prince’s prospects looked bright, and neither considered the time to be one of degeneracy or wickedness. ’’35 But Diman’s ministry was no joking matter either to him or to the members of the East Church. He refused their formal request that he step down but did agree, in April of 1783, to audit possible assistants.
But real or not, the persona of the Distressed Old Man reﬂected exactly what was at stake between Calvinism and Arminianism, at least from the perspective of Arminians like Bentley, namely that Calvinism’s false claims about an inability to love God imperiled not God but the believer. The Old Man had come to believe that his soul was quite in danger. ‘‘Oh! ’’ Blackness of darkness forever and ever seemed to be my just portion from the Lord—I have had no comfort in hearing my old minister go on with his cannots, and I dare not tell him that he is preaching souls to hell—I dare not tell anybody what I feel, what horrours upon horrours harass and torture my mind—sin now appears to me an evil inﬁnitely greater than ever it did before—I see it in all my imaginations, feelings, and actions—I feel myself an accursed creature—I cannot eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor labour, nor converse as I used to do—I choose no more to be seen among men of the world— the well-cultivated farms and the well-fraught stores, the coffers of gold and silver have lost all their charms.