Quotable: Edwards

How happy will that state be, when neither divine nor human learning shall be confined and imprisoned within only two or three nations of Europe, but shall be diffused all over the world, and this lower world shall be all over covered with light, the various parts of it mutually enlightening each other; when the most barbarous nations shall become as bright and polite as England; when ignorant heathen lands shall be stocked with most powerful divines and most learned philosophers; when we shall from time to time have the most excellent books and wonderful performances brought from one end of the earth and another to surprise us … when we shall have the great advantage of the sentiments of men of the most distant nations, different circumstances, custom and tempers; [when] learning shall not be restrained [by] the particular humor of a nation or their singular way of treating of things; when the distant extremes of the world shall shake hands together and all nations shall be acquainted, and they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise.”

Edwards, “Miscellanies,” a-500, 212-13

It is a tragedy that Edwards dream was not realized, that the educated nations would become the most barbarous. This is a legitimate tragedy. It is tempting to scoff at his naivety as if this is the only thing to be learned at such a ridiculous dream. But I wonder if we should instead hang our heads in sadness when we consider how the modern thirst for learning Edwards so obviously embraced turned so viciously on his metaphysical grounding. As science was making its advances who was there to notice the corresponding loss of faith? It is a tragedy that this glorious vision was never fulfilled:

“And they shall all join the forces of their minds in exploring the glories of the Creator, their hearts in loving and adoring him, their hands in serving him, and their voices in making the world to ring with his praise.”

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