Thunderstorms & Flying Spiders
Puritans were "people of one Book," right? Not Jonathan Edwards. He was a person of two books: the Bible and the book of nature. Nature was the showplace of God's glory and the reflection of his beauty.
In his Personal Narrative, the great theologian recalls of his days as a young Christian in love with God: "I often used to sit and view the moon, for a long time; and so in the daytime, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things." Hardly the austere Puritan.
To be fair to the Puritans, during the first, killing winters they had spent in New England, its howling wilderness had seemed to offer little in way of glory and beauty. By Edwards's day, that landscape had become at least partly tamed. It was easier, now, to look out one's window or stroll one's fields and see the hand of a benevolent God at work all around.
But even in this gentler age, young Jonathan stood out among his Christian contemporaries for the theological intensity of his love for nature.
Saved in "God's country"
In one sense, it all started at his conversion, around the age of 17. "The appearance of everything was altered … " he remembered in his Personal Narrative. "There seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost everything." After his conversion, "God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind."
Edwards was especially captivated by the power and majesty of thunderstorms. Whereas before his conversion, they had terrified him, now he found them "sweet":
"I felt God at the first appearance ...