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Old Brick

Old Brick: Charles Chauncy of Boston, 1705-1787

Edward M. Griffin
Copyright Date: 1980
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt0t2
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  • Book Info
    Old Brick
    Book Description:

    Charles Chauncy is remembered today as the chief antagonist of Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening of the 1740s, yet his contemporaries knew him as a powerful, influential figure in his own right. During his 60-year tenure as pastor of Boston’s First Church (the “Old Brick”) Chauncy involved himself in most of the important issues of the century. Not only did he aggressively oppose the emotional revivalism of the Great Awakening, but he was also a bold pamphleteer and preacher in support of the American Revolution. Old Brick, the first full-scale biography of Charles Chauncy, makes it possible to consider Chauncy a figure worthy of study and to take a fresh look at eighteenth-century New England in light of the tradition Chauncy represents.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6271-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Frequently historians studying the intellectual life of the eighteenth-century Anglo-American colonies and of the young United States have emphasized the evangelical wing of Congregationalism on one hand and secular Deism on the other. The great representative of the former is Jonathan Edwards; of the latter, Benjamin Franklin. As Perry Miller has put it: “The intellectual history—or, if you will, the spiritual history—of the United States has been dramatized by a series of pairs of personalities, contemporaneous and contrasting, which have become avatars of the contradictory thrusts within our effort to find or to create a national identity.” Such...

  5. Prologue
    (pp. 9-10)

    Cotton Mather, at sixty-four a year away from his death, but still sturdy and imposing, stepped forward and clasped the right hand of young Charles Chauncy of Boston. For Chauncy, small, thin, and only twenty-two, it was a moment of great importance. In accepting the traditional right hand of fellowship from the venerable Mather, he was stepping into the ranks of Congregationalist ministers—ranks whose number had included his famous great-grandfather, the second president of Harvard College. He was placing himself in association with men of stature and responsibility—men of God—such as those gathered around him in Boston’s...

  6. CHAPTER ONE A Boston Lad
    (pp. 11-15)

    Every November fifth young Bostonians from the South End of town snakedanced through the early evening chill to the beat of drums and the accompaniment of bells and whistles. The torches they carried through the streets flickered on their wildly painted faces and sent shadows across their ragged and brightly patched costumes. It was Pope’s Day, an annual event to celebrate the foiling of the attempt by Catholics in 1605 to blow up Parliament in the so-called gunpowder plot. At the center of the procession the men and boys dragged “the pope’s carriage”—a long wagon supporting a large platform....

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Young Harvard Scholar
    (pp. 16-25)

    Chauncy went to Harvard during troubled times at the college. Starting in 1717, the year he entered, John Leverett, the college president, was “in almost continual hot water.” The Boston press became critical of the college and the misbehavior of its students. Serious discontent had developed among the faculty, and Leverett had to deal with growing dismay among powerful New England political and religious leaders over the liberal tendencies they accused the school of fostering.¹

    Elected president in 1708, Leverett had managed early in his administration to put the school on sound financial footing, but he suddenly saw his position...

  8. CHAPTER THREE A “Godly, Faithful Man”
    (pp. 26-36)

    Chauncy spent the morning of January 1, 1730 at the deathbed of Judge Samuel Sewall. Death was a daily visitor to the affairs of an eighteenth-century minister. To read the journal of any of them is to travel from sickbed to sickbed, prayer to prayer, funeral to funeral. A young pastor quickly came to know most of the ways men die—his daily rounds took care of that part of his education. During the first three years of his ministry Charles Chauncy had stood at many deathbeds and attended the funerals of many men, but few were so dear to...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR After the Surprising Conversions
    (pp. 37-45)

    The surprising conversions took place in Northampton during the mid-1730s.¹ The pastor there was young Jonathan Edwards, a man two years older than Chauncy and a graduate of Yale College. Edwards had followed his famous grandfather Solomon Stoddard (1643–1729) to the ministry of this northwestern town, and like his predecessor he was able to produce there a “harvest of souls.” Within a few years after Edwards’s settlement many people in Northampton began to take stock of their spiritual condition. Religious concern and activity quickened, especially among the younger men and women. Beginning in 1733 this awakening continued into the...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Outpouring of the Holy Ghost
    (pp. 46-70)

    Throughout 1739, while Chauncy’s fellow ministers were helping the cause ofA Faithful Narrative, the Boston papers carried frequent notices of the extraordinary success, in the southern and middle colonies of America, of another young revivalist preacher. His name was George Whitefield. An Oxford graduate, in 1739 he had been ordained a priest in the Church of England and had come to America to preach in Georgia. He was a rebel within the Anglican camp, charging his church with heretically abandoning the Calvinism on which it had been established. In 1740 Whitefield made his way to New England and brought...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Words in Season
    (pp. 71-93)

    As Chauncy became convinced that the Awakening had deteriorated into something approaching mass hysteria, he began to consider the movement dangerous and threatening. He saw himself threatened personally by enthusiasts such as Davenport. He saw his religious beliefs strongly challenged, especially as Jonathan Edwards, a brilliant adversary, began to publish formidable theoretical defenses of the Awakening. He saw his very way of life as a minister threatened by the divisive results of itineracy and censoriousness. And he saw his vision of a chosen people united in a sacred religious mission challenged by the separatism and dissension ripping Congregationalism apart. He...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN After the Great Awakening
    (pp. 94-108)

    Between 1745 and 1760 Chauncy’s life and ideas changed significantly, although not so dramatically and suddenly as in the earlier years of his ministry. He was forty years old in 1745; his children were growing up; his community was expanding and developing rapidly; the colonies were being called upon to participate in a series of wars. Ten years later he was a grandfather and something of a senior statesman among New England clergy. By then he was also a heretic in doctrine, while he remained a Puritan in temperament.

    During the last years of the 1740s Chauncy was preoccupied with...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT A Body of Divinity
    (pp. 109-125)

    When Chauncy rode out for his health or to visit friends, he improved his time on horseback or in his carriage by meditating upon the nature of God and humans. His habit of deep thought gained him a reputation for absent-mindedness, but he was not woolgathering. He had set himself the task, after the Great Awakening, of working out a grand plan, a new “Body of Divinity” that squared with his own ideas of reason, with revelation, and with his own experience.¹

    His temperament and principles were essentially Puritan. With his emphasis on the Bible as authoritative for faith, on...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Liberty, Civil and Religious
    (pp. 126-143)

    Chauncy may have kept his ideas to himself because of timidity, but he was not ordinarily timid. He may have doubted his conclusions and set his manuscripts aside until he could be sure he was correct; but as early as 1754 the letters he wrote about his investigations were confident and assured, and in subsequent correspondence, before the publication ofThe Mystery hid from Ages, he firmly reiterated his position. There is a further possibility: he may have feared a reaction so violent that it would seriously damage New England Congregationalism, already shaky from the disruptive effects of the Awakening...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Divinity, Zeal, Rancor, and Revenge
    (pp. 144-158)

    From the time of the Stamp Act until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War Chauncy caught the public eye more than at any time since the Great Awakening. Mayhew was dead; some other ministers, such as Ezra Stiles, had withdrawn from the political scene after concluding that politics and religion did not mix. Chauncy, however, had always assumed that they did mix. In the 1770s he became recognized by the Congregationalists as their defender against “Anglican scheming” and by the people of Boston as a pugnacious champion of political liberty—even rebellion—in the face of governmental tyranny. During this...

  16. CHAPTER ELEVEN Exile and Return
    (pp. 159-167)

    More than fifteen thousand New Englanders massed outside Boston immediately after the battles of Lexington and Concord, effectively sealing off the town from the countryside. Boston was a city besieged. Besides the usual problems of a besieged commander, Gage faced other difficulties, for he had thousands of anti-British patriots, Chauncy among them, shut up within the town. If he decided to engage the provincial army, disorganized as it was, who could tell what these citizens of Boston would do in the absence of his troops? It seemed best at first to sit tight, letting no one in or out, and...

  17. CHAPTER TWELVE Pudding and Pies
    (pp. 168-182)

    After Foxcroft had been left incapacitated by a crippling stroke in 1762, the burden of pastoral duties at the First Church fell almost exclusively upon Chauncy. Since that time he had begun to think seriously about his own successor. He arranged for stopgap help in case of his sickness or sudden death, asking the church to permit any ordained minister in regular standing to administer the sacraments in an emergency. Increasingly he sought help with the preaching duties.¹ In his younger days he boasted that he could write faster than any man alive, often composing his second sermon of the...

  18. Abbreviations
    (pp. 184-184)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 185-216)
  20. The Works of Charles Chauncy
    (pp. 219-230)
  21. Index
    (pp. 233-248)