chapter  5
21 Pages

The Typology of Mission, from Edwards to Independence

The Puritans invented the sacred history of New England; the eighteenth-century clergy helped establish the concept of America's mission. Scholars have frequently traced the influence of millennialism in American history back to the Edwardsean revivals, because of what they assumed to be a fundamental shift in New England theology. Edwards's postmillennial outlook drew out the proto-cultural tendencies of the New England Way. Edwards had recast this into a variation of Daniel's apocalyptic scheme of the Four Empires, and by and large it was the Puritan-Edwardsean version that the eighteenth-century colonists adopted, transferring their proof-text as they did so from scripture to the story of America. Edwards's enthusiasm about the French and Indian War is a striking testament to the continuities between revivalist and civil millennialism. A Canaan of Liberty! The phrase offers a convenient index to the growth of the myth. The development of the Anglo-American colonies, as Edwards conceived this, stretched indefinitely into the age of the spirit.