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READING NOTES: EDWARDS AND HAWTHORNE

This week, you are reading Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Minister’s Black Veil.” Though they are decades apart in their publications, the connections between the story and the sermon are strong and Hawthorne’s literature was heavily influenced by his feelings toward Puritanism.

Jonathan Edwards was a brilliant and dedicated man who inherited a life of religious authority and respect. He earned a degree at Yale and studied theology after university. He rose in prominence as a religious man who, following in his Reverend grandfather’s footsteps, believed in and preached that man cannot only understand Christianity or religious ideas but must, in fact, experience delight in God and be moved spiritually by those ideas. This was the distinguishing characteristic of religious revivalism, known now as the Great Awakening.For much of his early career as Reverend, Edwards’ followers grew, but people began to turn away as his religious fervor became too intense and unappealing.

In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards considers the biblical line “Their foot shall slide in due time” and its meaning as an expression of God’s will. The wicked man walks a precarious path, and when he slips, God will not hold him up. Moreover, God’s pleasure is all that keeps the wicked man standing. So, in other words, the wicked man does not fall only because God has not desired it. Edwards says that God hates the wicked man: “The God that holds you…abhors you” (436). He is creating a sense of imminent danger or urgency and juxtaposing it with the hope of escaping that danger through salvation. Something you can consider as you read:

Who is Edwards referring to when he says “wicked man”? What type of person?

How can mankind achieve salvation according to his sermon?

Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “The Minister’s Black Veil,” may be best known for his novel, The Scarlett Letter. However, Hawthorne is a prolific writer who often expresses antagonistic attitudes toward falsehood and the selfish and superficial nature of mankind. His ancestors were prominent Puritans who took part in the Salem witch trials, a legacy that Hawthorne is not quick to associate with. Hawthorne was a patriot and a Christian, but he often expresses in his literature that man’s faith is often only superficial. We can see a correspondence with Edwards’ opinions of faith here.

In “The Minister’s Black Veil,” Mr. Hooper becomes the object of suspicion because of the black veil covering his face. Clearly, the veil is symbolic; however, what precisely does it symbolize? Members of the community attempt to decipher its meaning, though they imagine that it must be something terrible. As for Mr. Hooper, he seems disturbed by his own appearance but determined to suffer under the veil until after death. You may consider Mr. Hooper’s last lines, before his death, in attempting to interpret the symbol of the veil. Consider, too, the connection between the paragraph in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that begins at the bottom of 439 and continues through 440 and the symbol of the veil.

What is the purpose of a veil? Relative to the topic of religion, sin, and salvation, where does the veil fit in?READING NOTES: EDWARDS AND HAWTHORNE

This week, you are reading Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Minister’s Black Veil.” Though they are decades apart in their publications, the connections between the story and the sermon are strong and Hawthorne’s literature was heavily influenced by his feelings toward Puritanism.

Jonathan Edwards was a brilliant and dedicated man who inherited a life of religious authority and respect. He earned a degree at Yale and studied theology after university. He rose in prominence as a religious man who, following in his Reverend grandfather’s footsteps, believed in and preached that man cannot only understand Christianity or religious ideas but must, in fact, experience delight in God and be moved spiritually by those ideas. This was the distinguishing characteristic of religious revivalism, known now as the Great Awakening.For much of his early career as Reverend, Edwards’ followers grew, but people began to turn away as his religious fervor became too intense and unappealing.

In “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Edwards considers the biblical line “Their foot shall slide in due time” and its meaning as an expression of God’s will. The wicked man walks a precarious path, and when he slips, God will not hold him up. Moreover, God’s pleasure is all that keeps the wicked man standing. So, in other words, the wicked man does not fall only because God has not desired it. Edwards says that God hates the wicked man: “The God that holds you…abhors you” (436). He is creating a sense of imminent danger or urgency and juxtaposing it with the hope of escaping that danger through salvation. Something you can consider as you read:

Who is Edwards referring to when he says “wicked man”? What type of person?

How can mankind achieve salvation according to his sermon?

Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of “The Minister’s Black Veil,” may be best known for his novel, The Scarlett Letter. However, Hawthorne is a prolific writer who often expresses antagonistic attitudes toward falsehood and the selfish and superficial nature of mankind. His ancestors were prominent Puritans who took part in the Salem witch trials, a legacy that Hawthorne is not quick to associate with. Hawthorne was a patriot and a Christian, but he often expresses in his literature that man’s faith is often only superficial. We can see a correspondence with Edwards’ opinions of faith here.

In “The Minister’s Black Veil,” Mr. Hooper becomes the object of suspicion because of the black veil covering his face. Clearly, the veil is symbolic; however, what precisely does it symbolize? Members of the community attempt to decipher its meaning, though they imagine that it must be something terrible. As for Mr. Hooper, he seems disturbed by his own appearance but determined to suffer under the veil until after death. You may consider Mr. Hooper’s last lines, before his death, in attempting to interpret the symbol of the veil. Consider, too, the connection between the paragraph in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” that begins at the bottom of 439 and continues through 440 and the symbol of the veil.

What is the purpose of a veil? Relative to the topic of religion, sin, and salvation, where does the veil fit in?

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