Wednesday, 27 February 2013

New Issue of Jonathan Edwards Studies

The new issue of Jonathan Edwards Studies is now available online.

In the Historical Documents section, you will see my "Unpublished Letter from John Erskine to Jonathan Edwards."

While I was researching at the Howard Gottlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, I discovered a letter by John Erskine to Jonathan Edwards. Most scholars have assumed that no letters from Erskine to Edwards have survived. I believe that the reason why this letter has remained unknown is that it is listed in the archive's catalog as addressed to Thomas Foxcroft, rather than Edwards. Since there has been very little scholarship on Foxcroft (and thus very few people have probably consulted his manuscript collection), it has remained unpublished, and presumably unknown.

After Jonathan Edwards Studies was launched, I noticed that there was a section in the journal for historical documents. I then contacted Ken Minkema to ask if the journal would be interested in my annotated transcription of the letter. I'm glad to see it now published, as it represents one of the last letters written to Edwards.

Here is my abstract:

In roughly a year before Edwards’s death, the Scottish minister John Erskine wrote to Edwards informing him that Freedom of the Will was being misappropriated in Scotland in order to affirm Lord Kames’s views on liberty as expressed in his Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion (1751). Encouraged by Erskine to write a response that could be published, Edwards explained the differences he had with Kames’s Essays in a letter on July 25, 1757. Erskine’s first attempt to convince an Edinburgh bookseller named “Miller” to publish Edwards’s letter was not successful, and so he looked to Glasgow to get it published using the connections of John Witherspoon and Thomas Walker. Eventually Edwards’s July 25 letter to Erskine appeared in 1758 as Remarks on the Essays, on the Principles of Morality, and Natural Religion. In a Letter to a Minister of the Church of Scotland. Besides giving an update on his collection of subscriptions for Edwards’s forthcoming book on Original Sin, Erskine also relayed information in his letter on the latest prophetic musings by the Scottish evangelical minister David Imrie of St. Mungo in Dumfriesshire. As this is the only known extant letter from Erskine to Edwards, it provides a rare opportunity to hear from his most frequent Scottish correspondent.

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