Thursday, September 06, 2007

'the public good': ministers and magistrates

Edwards' preaching frequently addressed public issues and those with public roles - no shy pietism from Jonathan! Gerald McDermott tracks all sorts of aspects of this in his book One Holy and Happy Society: The Public Theology of Jonathan Edwards (The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992). In particular, he notes that:

'Edwards did not shrink from telling rulers how they ought to behave. In a 1738 sermon, the pastor-turned-political theorist lectured the handful of magistrates in the congregation (and the voters who elected them) that good rulers would serve the public good, not their own private interests.' (122)

Here is the section from Charity and Its Fruits:

'Especially will a Christian spirit dispose those who stand in a public capacity, such as ministers and magistrates and all public officers, to seek the public good. It will dispose magistrates to act as the fathers of the commonwealth with that care and concern for the public good that the father of a family has for the family, watchful against any public dangers, forward to improve their power to promote the public benefit, not being governed by selfish views in their administrations, seeking only or mainly to enrich themselves, or make themselves great, and advance themselves on the spoils of others as wicked rulers very often do. A Christian spirit will dispose ministers not to seek their own, not merely to seek a maintenance, aiming to get what they can out of their people to enrich themselves and their families, and to clothe themselves with the fleeces of their flock. But a Christian spirit will dispose them mainly to seek the good of their flock, to feed their souls as a good shepherd feeds his flock, and carefully watches over it, to lead it to good pasture, and defend it from wolves and other beasts of prey.' Works, 8, 261-262.


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