Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gerald McDermott Looks at Jonathan Edwards Career as a Missionary

Lots of professors of religion and history consider Jonathan Edwards to be a hot topic right now. Mostly they are studying either his abstract thinking or his life in a white world. Nevertheless, his years as the missionary at Stockbridge, Massachusetts haven't been completely neglected. In an earlier post, I told you about Rachel Wheeler's recent book. In addition to Wheeler, Gerald McDermott (pictured), professor of religion at Roanoke College, has done research on what Edwards was like as a missionary and what he thought about Indians.

McDermott contributed the 17th chapter to The Princeton Companion to Jonathan Edwards. The chapter title is "Missions and Native Americans."

Here's what McDermott had to say:

Page 262-263: "Edwards' first sermon to the Indians at Stockbridge was on Acts 11:12-13, the story of the Roman Centurion Cornelius, a devout man who knew nothing about Jesus Christ. Edwards compared himself to Peter and the Indians to Cornelius."

Maybe it is no coincidence that Cornelius was a fairly common name among the Stockbridge Mohicans. (One of them, Cornelius Aaron from the Chicks family, was a minister in the first half of the 1900's.)

Page 268: "In her careful study of the Stockbridge sermons, Rachel Wheeler notes that Edwards spoke of salvation more to the Indians and spoke of judgement and wrath more to his 'English' auditors."

Page 269: "Edwards concluded that Indian hostility to whites in North America was God's judgement on Euro-Americans for their treatment of Native Americans: defrauding and killing them, poisoning them with alcohol, and depriving them of the gospel.... [Thus Edwards] acknowledged the humanity of Native Americans in a way that most of his compatriots did not."

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