The New Israelite Republic I

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and the gates twelve angels; And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.

Revelation 21:1-2, 11-12, 21

At right: Jonathan Edwards. A History of the Work of Redemption, containing the outlines of a body of divinity in a method entirely new. Worcester, Massachusetts: [Printed] by Isaiah Thomas & Leonard Worcester, for Isaiah Thomas. Sold at his bookstore in Worcester, and by him and Company in Boston, 1792.

As nationalist ambitions increased in the United States, so did reading of the Book of Revelation. Though he was one of the brightest minds of the billowing republic, Jonathan Edwards identified the Catholic Church with the Whore of Babylon that the Book of Revelation claimed would devour Christians at the end of time--a view held by many American theologians. His works A History of the Work of Redemption and the more modestly titled Two Dissertations were theological masterpieces that thoroughly rewrote the "order of times" common in most Anglo-American theology to include all history--from the garden of Eden through the life of Christ to the final paradise on earth. Like other works of the time, these profound treatises also granted the leading role in this cosmic drama to the inhabitants of New England.


At right: Samuel Mather. An Attempt to Shew, that America must be Known to the Ancients, made at the request, and to gratify the curiosity, of an inquisitive gentleman. To which is added an appendix, concerning the American colonies, and some modern managements against them. By an American Englishman. Pastor of a church in Boston, New-England. Boston: Printed by J. Kneeland, in Milk-Street, for T. Leverett, and H. Knox, in Cornhill, 1773. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.

Samuel Mather did likewise, although he also attempted to argue that America was known to the ancient Greeks, and the thanksgiving sermon of Thomas Barnard, proclaimed that America was a nation "peculiarly favoured of heaven." In the works of Yale University's Timothy Dwight, however, the identification of the new American republic and the chosen people of Israel was a common theme.

At right: Timothy Dwight. The Conquest of Canaan, a poem, in eleven books. Hartford: Printed by Elisha Babcock, 1785. From the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature.

The poem The Conquest of Canaan makes use of this motif, to which Dwight added no small amount of conspiratorial paranoia in his Duty of Americans, which identified the Bavarian Illuminati and French philosophy as the chief perils of the time. Dwight's fear of the Illuminati snowballed in his Discourse on Some Events of the Last Century and his address to new bachelors of Yale entitled The Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy. Among such works that raised Dwight's hackles, we might well imagine Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason. The part of Paine's great work displayed here, entitled Examination of the Passages in the New Testament is largely concerned with refuting "so-called" prophecies, and is infidel philosophy if there ever was any.

At right: Thomas Barnard. A sermon, delivered on the day of national thanksgiving, February 19, 1795. Salem: Printed by Thomas C. Cushing, Essex-street, 1795. From the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History.