Saturday, May 4, 2013

Princeton, The training Ground Of The New Lights

Murray N. Rothbart writes in his book 'Conceived in Liberty':
'During this period (second half of 18th century), many of the New Light ministers, under pressure of establishment persecution in several colonies, began to move towards a libertarian position. Elisha Williams was a New Light. The Reverend Samuel Davies, leader of the Southern New Side Presbyterians, declared in 1751 that people had a "legal as well as natural right to follow their own judgment," and to gauge governmental authority against the great principles of natural justice. Davies' focus, of course, was on religious aspects of liberty. Princeton, the training ground of the New Lights, soon developed as a libertarian center.'
In A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1737), Jonathan Edwards, Princeton's third president, describes his congregants vivid experiences with grace as causing a "new light" in their perspective on sin and atonement.

When John Witherspoon arrived in Princeton August 1768 every window in the multipurpose college building, Nassau Hall, was illuminated by candle. A not so subtle reference to this new light?

Samuel Davies' sermons and work are a rich source for understanding the direct link between The New Lights and (Calvinist) political engagement.

Samuel Davies' sermon An Enrollment of Our Names in Heaven—the Noblest Source of Joy (January 14, 1759) demonstrates once again the centrality of our missionary citizenship in Calvinism and Calvinist political engagement.

B.J. Gorrell did a sermon on Samuel Davies and the reunion of 1758. Interesting reflections.

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