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John Calvin

(1509-1564)

John Calvin, the forerunner of the Reformed tradition, leaves his imprint upon Edwards in a variety of ways. The Reformer's influence especially pervades Edwards's writings and sermons on the Arminian controversy, including Freedom of the Will (1754) and Original Sin (1758).

Calvin's most significant contribution to Edwards's thought is related to the Puritan theologian's doctrine of the "new sense." While this doctrine owes something to British empiricist John Locke (see below), Edwards forged it with help from John Calvin. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote of a "sense of sweetness" (sensus suavitatis), that is, the believer's newfound ability, through the regenerating and illuminating work of the Spirit, to see the truth and beauty of the gospel.

Edwards uses this expression throughout his writings as he describes his new relation to God and the world. The river valley was sweet, the words of the Psalmist were sweet, the young lady in New Haven whom he would eventually marry was bestowed with the sweetness from God, and, above all, Christ's work was "sweet and glorious … like green pastures" to his soul.

Solomon Stoddard

(1643-1729)

While Edwards learned how to preach from Puritan sermon manuals, he learned most from the "Connecticut River Valley School of Preaching." This informal school had a faculty of two: Timothy Edwards and Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan's father and maternal grandfather, respectively.

The young Edwards's grandfather wielded an impressive influence. Dubbed the "Pope of the Connecticut River Valley," he was held in such veneration that in his old age (tradition has it) a crude highway was built from Boston to Northampton to transport him to Harvard commencements. ...

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