Fragment I

“Late in the spring of 1735 the first sinister note was struck in the attempted suicide of Thomas Stebbins, a man of weak mentality. Several weeks later Joseph Hawley, one of the chief men of the town and uncle to Jonathan Edwards, “cut his throat on Lord’s Day morning” and died immediately. The community was aghast. “An awful Providence,” wrote Ebenezer Hunt in his Journal. A fast was appointed, and the congregation prostrated itself before God. But the turning point had come: the spell was broken, the emotional climate changed at once, and the long-delayed reaction set in. For the first time sobered men and women began to question the wholesomeness of the excitement under which they had been living. As a matter of fact, the limit of endurable ecstasies had been reached; but before equilibrium could be established and life could proceed normally once more there were to be many blots on the record. Hawley’s death proved to be only the beginning, even in suicides. “Multitudes,” to quote the pastor’s own word, were impelled to do likewise, feeling it “urged upon them as if somebody had spoke to them ‘Cut your own throat. Now is a good opportunity.‘”

Jonathan Edwards – Ola E. Winslow

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